The room flickered in the mushroom glow of the TV, dark and light, moonlight, twilight, shade and shimmer. The bed wrapped itself around her like a mother cat, circling her pain in softness and warmth.
Poor White Trash Rampant on a Field of Garbage
Dirty Words (Rating-R)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Nested Frames
A Few of My Favorite Things

White Roses

By Alllie

...balls of light began to float up like helium filled balloons, reaching her and exploding on her dark wings, some leaving bright circles, others washing down their sides in a slowly dimming haze of color as beautiful as fading fireworks.

The planes hid in the high darkness, flew beyond sight, beyond sound, shadowing the stars, sending down force and fire with the careful eye of a draftsman drawing a line - thinking "let it fly here and hit there" - a silent line, its path so true that prey not in the flickering square of the video screen need not cringe, though they did. A thousand shells were sent up, trying in vain to reach the enemy unseen, untouchable, more distant than the clouds and as immune from punishment a hail storm, a hell storm. Sparklers of light materialized with a sound deeper than drums as explosives detonated and steel and concrete gave way at its blow. The lights rising or falling through the sky were better than fireworks and louder. High in the thin, cold air the jets droned steadily, deadily on. Then the machines begin to drift a little to the left or right and then back, as though they had lost their way and turned sniffing from side to side, like dogs on the track of new game. They began to swerve and make angry circles, the drone of their engines roughing to a savage buzz. The wings trembled and the steel, the aluminum, the magnesium made a terrible sound as it half cracked away from the fuselage. The wings became transparent, veined, as delicately gnarled as an old man's hands and their noisy quivering increased. The bodies thickened and yellow and black stripes grew on a softer skin as they metamorphosed into furious, fat hornets, swarming, their anger reinforcing itself and then suddenly they darted down and alighted on her bare breasts, digging their spiny toes into her tender flesh, stabbing tiny poisonous daggers into her paled skin, striking again and again with the berserker joy of a maddened insect untill the pain filled her with an agony stifling her breath and whipping her heart. Her mind reached out trying to force them away, trying to pull herself out of it. It was like trying to pull herself from the bottom of a well with arms weak and trembling. With a breathless effort, her heart pounding, she wrenched herself out of her dream and opened her eyes to CNN and a reporter exuberantly describing the bombing of Baghdad. The dream faded but the pain did not. She fumbled with a small button, pushed it and felt a tiny wave of disorientation as the morphine hit her.

The room flickered in the mushroom glow of the TV, dark and light, moonlight, twilight, shade and shimmer. The bed wrapped itself around her like a mother cat, circling her pain in softness and warmth. She snuggled into the comfort of clean sheets, white blankets, gave herself over to a sterile facade arranged to sustain the illusion that even the worst of life can be controlled, subdued, forced into compliance with the desires of a single species, of a single person. She wondered if the people of Baghdad had any illusion of control tonight as the lights that flickered through their sky brought not just bright and frightening images but real death. She flicked the TV from channel to channel but there was only one show on, the side show of distant horror and death interspersed with commercials for weapons systems, free commercials that would have cost the arms industry millions but now all the networks called them news and cheerily showed them for free, as filler to distract their audience from the fact that they had few facts to give as the anchors, the correspondents, repeated the same sparse information again and again. Only the shills for those who profited from these weapons had much to say as they praised their products, insisting that money spent on it was well spent and tyrants in far places watched and remembered.

On a vampire quest a skeleton wrapped in white entered her room muttering soft nothings. Bony fingers pulled up her gown to examine the white bandages taped to her chest, searching for blood with a hand it had only now retrieved from an icy locker in the morgue. The quivering light shimmered on its cheek bones, but could not reach the dark hollow of its eye. Then down with her night clothes and up with her bed clothes and the skeleton rattled away, looking for death, its master, in other rooms, in other beds, making sure the sick were sick to death and that the dying did not die in peace.

She twisted and turned trying to find some ease but pain and death had disturbed her high, prying away the little comfort she had found, like an evil brother who would steal your covers just to hear you cry and then deny he had ever touched you. She took another hit of the morphine, one every six minute was the limit, but only 20 in 4 hours. If she pulled it down faster than that or used up what the technological wonder would give her then she would have to take from her own hard won and long saved stash of drugs, maybe some Percocet or Phenaphen with Coedine. She did not plan to allow anyone else decide if she would hurt or not. Not as long as there was any way she could control it herself.

Soft sounds, hiss and mutter. Distant voices, quiet halls, soft shoes, the squeak of rubber against linoleum. The very building seemed to mutter, the soft calls of thousands of souls, more pain and death than Dachau, but the cleanliness kept the ghosts at bay, the cool sheets, the shiny floors, the soft night voices muffled them, muted their screams as they cried and complained, whispered of their suffering or lamented their deaths, dying, they claimed, just as they were finally about to achieve happiness, fulfillment, some satisfaction in life, if only they had not had to die just then. If only, they cried, they had another chance. They muttered and moaned, cried and screamed in soft distant whispers she couldn't quite, could almost understand, and then mixed with their screams the distant whine of a police car, or an ambulance, or an air raid siren - then

There was a clear blue sky, as silent as a picture, as still as emptiness can make alone. A bruise appeared on the sheet of blue, a dark ugly spreading thing that was pain to look at, a thing that grew and replicated as the sky was struck again by black and grey, as violence struck at the indifference of a perfect sky - proving that even it was not immune from the struggle below, that even it must submit, must suffer and be destroyed. The wounds spread until the sky was gray, then black as the soot and oil from a thousand burning oil wells joined to obliterate clear blue from the colors things where allowed to be. The palate changed to gray, the gray of concrete broken into fragments, crushed into rubble that clawed all that trod on it, to black, the soot black of oily smoke, of asphalt, of the darkness inside a tomb, to brown, the rusty brown of tangled steel. People were painted with the ashen faces of fear and the bright red of new blood.

She found herself in the dark sky, a huge butterfly, moving slowly, in slow motion flexing her wings with a languid wave that was more show than support. It took so little to keep her aloft in the heavy air. The soot and oil darkened her wings until they were black velvet, the tiny scales of their giant surfaces as dark as the starless sky, as soft as the dark clouds, but with the iridescent rainbow shimmer of oil on water. She stirred the heavy air with her soft wings, their sounds as muffled as silk falling on cotton, and she watched the city below. The lights, the few white lights, the many fires, their red and gold were like jewels in the darkness. No people, just a spectacle. To watch, to appreciate, as she floated and soared, no pain just a picture. At least, no pain for her. A spotlight lanced the sky, spoiling its perfect inky blackness, sweeping around like a sword wielded by a blind hand. It caught her shadow, picked out her nearly invisible form. Slowly at first, then with increasing speed and density, balls of light began to float up like helium filled balloons, reaching her and exploding on her dark wings, some leaving bright circles, others washing down their sides in a slowly dimming haze of color as beautiful as fading fireworks. The light made patterns in the darkness that gave beauty to the night. She lazily moved her wings until she was up beyond the sooty clouds and then admired herself in the dim light, certainly, she thought, as pretty as the stars. She giggled to herself and thought how glad she was that she was not human and below, that she could enjoy the images of suffering and destruction without being forced to feel pain or pity, just interest and an aesthetic appreciation. War was pretty, wasn't it? It always got good ratings. It wouldn't be any fun at all to be human, to be weak and forced to suffer for the sins of the powerful. She floated with the stars until the wing muscles in her chest begin to ache, the pain growing greater and greater until she could not bear another beat of her wings and ripped them away out of her body and begin to fall, down through the stars, down through the dark clouds into a dim light, into pain, into a white room with a hazy TV showing scenes of death and destruction, and this time the pain did not yield to the morphine. She waited as the clock ticked away the minutes and Baghdad burned and people cowered in their basements frozen in fear. At last the time passed and with another brief sting the pain faded. But not completely.

Her eyes closed, drifting in a fuzzy picture, nagged by pain, watching the shadows moving across the backs of her eyelids turned to flowers, white flowers, big white roses, their petals drooping, folded back from their pistils, their whiteness filling her vision, bright, so bright they were painful to look at as cold fingers pulled at her clothes and one voice tried to make itself heard over the hiss and squeak of the ghosts. Finally the touch, the sound stopped but the bright flowers remained. She squinted her closed eyes, wrinkled her forehead, pulled back her lips in a frozen grimace as the ceiling blew away, leaving the jagged edges of a wounded building dripping dust into the sun's bright white light, making a haze of powder that settled on the sheets, on her body, until her skin was as gray as the concrete and as still and hard. She could move but her body could not and she refused to leave without it. None of that astral projection stuff for her. She began to hear struggling, muttering sounds, then a door was pushed open with a grunt. Someone walked to her side but she couldn't turn her body's head to see who. There was a clear voice, not the grumbling of dead shadows, but something foreign whose words she couldn't understand. A hand touched her arm, tried to move it but it was stiff, stiff from shoulder to wrist. The hand let go and the stumbling footsteps went away leaving her in the dust with the sun prying at her eyelids, trying to force them open more than a slit.

A bird drifted through the white sky, glided down to the rough skylight last night had left in the roof. It peered down into the opening, cocking its head this way and that and then flew its sooty self down to her cheek. It peered up into the slits of her eyes as though trying to see a worm in a hole. Then it reached out and pulled her eyelashes. It pecked at her eyes, trying to open them to the sun and she couldn't move or breathe, couldn't ignore the bird or force it away. She concentrated and at last moved her arm and threw it over her eyes. The arm tingled as, freed from the pressure of her body, it slowly came awake. In the shade of her arm, protected from the white glare of the light at the head of her bed, the light the nurse had forgotten to turn off, she was able to open her eyes. She moaned and shifted her weight, turned herself so she could reach the button for the morphine then gave herself a hit. When the pain eased she tried all the buttons on the control panel of her bed, trying to turn the damn thing off but it was the light controlled from beside the door. She whimpered in frustration and anger at the thought of getting up to turn it off. The nurse would not find turning off the light a high priority activity. It might be an hour before she could get anyone to bring her darkness and leave her in peace. She took another buzz of the morphine and with many moans and cries slowly inched herself off the bed and over to the chair holding her bag. She rummaged through it with her left hand, feeling through bills and checks, pill bottles and pens, and, at the bottom of her overstuffed purse, found the cold metal of the vise grip. She had brought it with her just for this, by no means unique, situation. The nurses would sometimes do it four or five times a night. She had learned a hospital was a bad place to be sick. She stood up and crept crying to the door, trailing the tubes and wires leading to an IV pole and, attached to it, a gray box labeled Patient Controlled Anesthesia. The light was on a dimmer knob. She had trouble adjusting the vise grip because she couldn't move her arm without agony, but she was finally able to wrench the knob away leaving the light in a permanent off position. Now the lights could only be turned on by the buttons at the head of the bed and could be turned off from them as well. Now she could control it herself. Until they fixed it and she lost that little control again. Exhausted and dragging the paraphernalia of illness in her wake, she finally made her way to the soft, clean sheets, and, gritting her teeth, managed to insert herself between them.

She put on some little headphones and turned on a tape that hissed like the sound in a shell. She shook with pain for a time then, in the darkness, drifted into the sea. Slowly the sound of surf drowned out the ghosts. The creak of a sailboat, the lapping of water obliterated the imagined sounds of bombs. She slowly drifted to a place where phantoms didn't whisper outside her door or stare over the end of her bed. She lay on a smooth wooden deck under a golden sun. There was a wind cooling her and flapping a sail overhead. She crawled to the edge of the deck, careful of her arm and chest, and looked down into the day glow blue waters then slipped head first over the side, her breasts suddenly gone, her arms replaced by flat things without fingers and her skin not tender but cool and rubbery, as slick as a beach ball, as solid as a tire. She went straight to the bottom and buried her enormous new nose in the sand and hung there, upside down, listening to the chuck, grunt, and click of a thousand fish. Effortlessly she propelled herself to nearby coral reef, thinking whatever her body was instead of hip and legs and feet (she couldn't see that part), it worked better in the water than even the plastic swimfins she had had as a child. She hung over the reef, head down, and watched rainbows and flowers swimming around in the shape of fishes. She pushed herself a little closer to the mottled brown surface and saw a little neon sign on a tiny fish. It was velvet black with a clear, nearly invisible tail and was covered with a rash of glowing neon spots, brighter blue than those come-along lights lining an airport runway taking you into someplace new. At her approach it darted into a hole in the coral. She could see it moving in the blackness, no shape, just the neon dots, shinning as bright as the tracers in the sky over Baghdad. Where it was finally dawn and the night was drifting away leaving sadness and smoke, pain and fear.


Copyright Alllie 2002