Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I lay in the dark and listened, uncertain what awoke me. Nights rarely passed undisturbed any longer - too many hours of the day were spent wondering what the next few hours might bring that I don’t think anybody in the house slept well any longer. Although Wolf did not seem to be having too much problem. He lay on the bed beside me as always, over the covers and clutching his gun, but his breathing was low and steady, and I eased myself to the floor as carefully as I could. It was bad enough knowing your nightwatchman was sleeping. Even worse to be the one who woke him up.
I crossed the room without turning the light on, pissed in the pot and then moved to the window. Three weeks. That’s how long I’d been here; that’s how long it was since I last set foot outside. And that had been hard at first, so hard. But the more I learned the more I adapted, and the last news report that I heard on the TV made me so mad that I almost kicked the tube.
“I was not kidnapped,” I swore. “I’m a guest.” A guest, true, whose movements were limited, but that was to keep me secure from the world’s prying eyes. I knew I was here of my own free will, and had permission to leave whenever I chose. But however many thousands of people who’d seen me on the news or on the front pages, or the reward posters gummed up around town by my parents, they weren’t going to believe that. Or even understand it. So I stayed indoors eating Poptarts and cereal, cheap take-out Chinese and runnin’ on Dunkin.
The street outside was dark, of course, and apart from the occasional headlamp that swept down from the crossroads, deserted. Across the street, a light went on in an upstairs room and I smiled. Something must have disturbed their sleep as well.
I listened for voices elsewhere in the house; heard nothing, but of course that meant nothing. In a house full of trained urban guerillas, most of them with some form of military background or other, I’d hardly expect them to be banging around if they thought there was anything to be at all concerned about. Another reason why I never strayed from my room, even for the bathroom, once the lights went out at night. You never knew what might be lying in wait.
I made my back to the bed, feeling my way around the few sticks of furniture, the desk and my own clothes scattered in heaps where I’d dropped them, exhausted, at the end of a long day on the firing range - a basement lined with mattresses and egg cartons, with three crudely caricatured politicians for targets. I’d been asleep before Wolf even took up his post, and as I settled back into bed alongside him, I realized just how accustomed I had grown to his presence.
He had never touched me. Not even on the first night when, tearful, bound and sometimes gagged, the rest of the gang had delighted in humiliating and tormenting me, and a physical assault could only have been a brutal thought or two away. Instead, he lay silently down on the bed alongside me, his body pointedly not touching mine and when, at some point, I shifted and my foot touched his leg, he moved that away as well.
We talked, of course we did. Alone or with the others, deep into the night. Revolutionary theory, guerilla tactics. Our General had drawn up a long list of sympathizers whom he claimed were either on our side, or who he felt could be drawn over to our struggle. Many were public figures, Hollywood icons and rock’n’roll superstars, and Wolf had been charged with making contact with the latter crew, because a song or two from them would make all the difference to us.
So we talked about that as well, and those were the conversations I enjoyed, just kicking back in our bedroom at night (how strange to call it “our” room, in a world where all property was strictly communal), like the college-aged kids that we used to be, discussing our favorite records. Then the lights would go out at 10 on the dot... we used to listen for the sound of the basement door creaking, as the general went down to pull out the fuse... and I would retire to sleep, while Wolf stayed alert for intruders.
Tonight was different. Tonight, we talked about me. How the world should be told that I was no longer a victim, how the police should be warned to consider me an enemy. How my parents should learn that I considered myself orphaned.
The General raised the subject, which surprised me. I’d known for days how I felt about the cause, and the rest of our cell seemed to accept that. He remained suspicious, though; he thought I might be playing a trick, and every word out of his mouth from then on had been designed to somehow trip me up. I guess I’d passed all his tests at last, or maybe this was the final one and he wanted to see just how far the heiress was willing to go before breeding and background jerked her back to her old self.
I answered the unspoken question for him. “As far as I need to.”
I was lying on my side, facing Wolf. Despite the darkness, enough glow shone through the window for me to trace his silhouette against the whitewashed walls, and my eyes lay on the bulge on his lap, the pump action shotgun from which he had never been parted, which needed just one flick of the safety catch to send it roaring to lethal life. The safety catch that he only engaged after i pointed out to him one night that, if he insisted on sleeping throughout his guard duty, he’d better do something to avoid any nocturnal discharging. I certainly didn’t want to wake up with one leg blown off because he’d been dreaming about twiddling his thumbs, and once he’d accepted that possibly he did drift off once or twice (and that was a battle in itself) he agreed.
I raised a hand slowly and gently touched a fingertip to the barrel. I had always loved guns, to my mother’s disgust, although my father and brothers were delighted by that. My father taught me to shoot a gun, my brothers taught me to clean one, and even when I was too young or too busy to join them on a hunting trip, they knew I’d be impatiently waiting at home, happy to strip down their weapons and put them back, sparkling new. Wolf’s barrel felt coarse and gritty. I doubted whether it had ever seen the business end of a rag full of Froglube.
My finger traced the barrel down to the stock, so long, so smooth, so unbelievably hard. I danced around the trigger and scraped a nail across the safety. Then the butt, hard wood but splintered, pocked by poor care, bruised and abraded. Wolf told me he’d had the weapon for years and it felt like it, but I wondered what he’d been using it for if he’d had it that long. A weapon like this was scarcely used for hunting, and - present circumstances notwithstanding - wasn’t your average home protection gear either.
The general warned me that Wolf was a bad ‘un, which was why I’d been left in his charge. How many lives had this weapon taken or altered? How many skulls had its butt crushed, how many bones had it broken? I let the backs of my fingers trace back up the stock, then trail the length of the barrel again. One teased the muzzle, felt the dryness within. It’ll be a wonder if this thing doesn’t blow itself up, the very next time Wolf goes to fire it, I thought, and I thought of something pops once said as we read about a bank job in the paper one day. Guns are wasted on the majority of the people who use them. A gun is a thing of beauty and grace, to be treated as well as a car or a lover. And like a car or a lover, if you let it decay, then it will pay you back.
I shifted my weight, careful not to disturb the sleeper. My finger below the barrel, raising it slightly, my head leaning forward, the muzzle to my mouth. I closed my lip on the cold, acrid metal, sucking gently, eyes closed as my mind raced. Beside me, Wolf slumbered on, inside me, an image began to form. An image lit by bright flood lights, an image played out on an unmade bed, an image spooling through the movie camera that I’d seen the General toying with as he talked of our next missive to the outside world.
A missive in which I would star.
A missive in which I would fuck a gun.
Every other photograph, home movie and scrap of paper mentioning me has been shown on every TV show in the country. But I wonder if they’ll show that on the nightly news?
Posted by Jenny Swallows at 3:22 AM