Friday, April 23, 2010

Penny Farthing: Part the Third

And so continues our weird tale:

      It had been some time since I slept well. Something nagged at me so that I could not close my eyes for more than a minute or two before I was jerked back into wakefulness. This went on for a day or two, and after the first day, I took it into my head to disconnect the telephone so that its jangling would not add to my troubles. Thus, it was no longer possible for anyone to contact me unless they came in person to clamor at my door. I had drawn the blackout curtains, so it was only possible for me to discern day from night by studying, in my wakeful moments, the frail beam of light that emanated from the centimeter crack between the edge of the curtain and the window ledge.
      On perhaps the evening of the second day, at last I retrieved from my bedside drawer the Polaroid photograph of the dead girl, and drawing back a corner of the curtain, studied her blue face in the blue light. In the faint glow from the window, her livid features became more lifelike, and her once-vacant eyes seemed to lock onto mine.
      I started. This was not the voice of Victoria Reynolds. She was dead, and furthermore, a photograph.  I shook the Polaroid absently, as one does when one is waiting for one to develop, and then studied it again. She turned her face to me.
      “Have you considered why I’m dead?” she asked. Now that was her voice! Now I was on firmer ground.
      “The police have been unable to determine a motive,” I told her smugly.
      “But you know,” she persisted. It seemed as though her lips did not move, that her words came from the gash in her throat. But I dismissed this notion as a morbid fantasy; after all, if she were speaking from her throat, her words would undoubtedly be muffled by the shoulder pads that had been sliced from her dress and jammed into the wound, and her words had come out quite clear.
      Easy now. You don’t owe her a thing, Penny. You don’t owe her a goddamn thing.
      “Why don’t you leave me alone?” I asked Victoria. “I’m trying to sleep.”
      “Yeah, good luck with that,” Victoria replied, and distinctly I heard the familiar snap of her gum.
      Gum? Observe her lips - is she chewing? How could she snap her gum?
      “I don’t know!”
      Victoria blinked. “I’m sorry, are you still talking to me?”
      “No.” I glared at her. “I was talking to me.”
      Atta girl.
      I crammed the photograph back into the drawer, then fell back upon the pillows, drumming my fingertips on my forehead.
      You need a manicure.
      “What I need, actually, is sweet repose.”
      I’m just trying to help.
      Talking with Victoria had not helped. Talking with myself was worse still. Talking to anyone else required leaving off trying to sleep, dressing, and forcing myself to face another human face. It could be done. I checked the bedside clock. Eli’s was still open if I was so inclined. I considered my options, and then hauled myself out of bed.

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