by Laura Gentile
‘Do you believe in God, Persephone?’ The fat-fingered man of power, Donatien de Dystopia, croaked in her ear, salivating through his onion-embalmed breath and drawing his threatening fantasies onto her leg. Persephone’s stomach revolted against the all too familiar touch, against her incorporated passivity, her fear and tongue shuddering inside her dry mouth, she embellished the warm-skinned monster in front of her once more.
‘Our gods operate on very different levels. Yours is an avid embracer of suffocated torment and an effortless creator of vast ruins.’
‘Are you a ruin, child? The political situation is critical. Stay alert. Wrong rhetoric is circulating around these premises. Watch your back. You cannot trust a paranoid man with a weapon and the streets are full of them. Protection quickly escalates into felony. You are safe here in the dome, but don’t let chaos develop your courage, girl. My eyes are on you. I will be the preliminary replacement of authority here. What kind of faith keeps you going, I wonder? Ours? Mine? As you let me in, invite me in, luring me in, isn’t it an old tale that still rings true? I wish I could take an extensive look at the images festering in your brain. Images plucked from the brain traveling lower and lower to the wasteland that I cherish in need of such urgent salvation.’
The rotten dominie intensified the pressure on Persephone’s thighs. Thighs that just got used to the scent and warmth of menstrual blood. Every word he uttered landed on her body with sharp drops of vile spit, his eyes lusting after her olive-skinned bosom. She perceived the swelling heat of his loins, her breath finding no escape as he bathed her body in panic.
‘A ruin is born out of neglect and warfare. Of neglect I know nothing. I wish I could. War, however, is the poison that I know all too well as it has never stopped defiling my organs, seeking my destruction and finding pleasure in my resistance.
Images distort themselves as they travel or as people carry them along in their mouths and hands; they always end up twisted until they are to themselves unrecognisable. I metamorphose my own body. The camouflaging colours inside of me change so drastically that not even I follow their scheming stream. They are alarming. Antagonising you. I keep repressing them, their evolution and their unprecedented outbreak. You have never seen such a basic element possessing a straightforward eloquence unparalleled.’
Her eyes were staring out of the moonlit window, barely blinking, delusional and pale, her face harbouring the warm tears crackling upon their expulsion. The dominie glanced at her wetted pants, his crotch bursting, delighted to be the prime and sole witness to her assumed humiliation, her institutional submission and need for his re-education, tampering indoctrination, penetration, him, unknowing of the female element.
The political situation is fragile, he thought, everybody is on edge, the focus lies elsewhere. Who cares about one silent girl, especially an orphaned one, a girl who wets herself in his office, in his professional sphere, on this expensive chair. No, this must have consequences. How dare she? He can help. He can set an example with the body of this girl, the new system starts now. This is the perfect opportunity to get his message across. Rise to new heights in his career, a mentor indeed, assembling all the reverence he can get. This girl needs to be taught a lesson, giving him attitude, a fragile one that is so easy to crush, he bends it according to his own ideals.
The dominie leaned forward, putting his red-bluish thumb on places that she tried to numb, rendering them unresponsive to his devastating touch. These are lessons to be taught, he preached to himself seeking absolution during his misdemeanour. Teach them early on, obedience and conformity, the keys for survival. Persephone could not move and she did not see him anymore. She became a statue inside of her own body, beneath the vivid flesh, the unlawful sensations, her shrieking skin, shrivelling, attaching itself to objects, to immobility, whilst he imprinted her body with his squalor. Resembling the inconnue de la Seine she shut down, repressing the pain originating from outside, he saw a slight smile on her lips, she was biting her tongue, her inner self dancing with death, her body unreactive as memory sets in later, touch comes back later, shame and disgust overwhelm afterwards, not now, now she stares at a moon that hides behind clouds, an invisible one, revealing its imaginary echoes to her.
‘Get these pants off. Look at the mess you made, girl. Stinking up my office, this cannot go on. How old are you? I will excuse your behaviour this time. Let me be gentle to you. You need my guidance. Don’t you worry. I will warm you up. Your secret is safe with me, but you need to learn the errors of your ways, do you understand?’
He sweated and licked his slavering lips as he himself unbuttoned her pants, tasting the horny sweat dribbling out of his ejaculating pores. Every fibre of his body reeked of anticipation to tear this girl apart. She deliriously leaned on his shoulders like a cracked doll as he got each leg out of her pants and underpants, like a father who helps his drowsy daughter out of her shoes and clothes, preparing her for a good night’s sleep.
Persephone thought of her dead father, of warm scented water. Her mind did it again, relocation, associating, fleeing, pretending the moment is not real, effacing the bad for the good passed. That is how she loses control, how she harms herself in the aftermath, letting the present happen to her, letting this man cripple her, losing all her faith as fear paralyses her to offer her protection because the deviating depths of this man are endless. The image of her mother came back to haunt her as she divulged that the good was bad, her mother with the worn-out facecloth, how deeply she rubbed and rubbed the guilt of her father away, the daughter standing naked and petrified in the bathtub trusting her mother’s touch, trusting everybody’s touch because if it feels good it is good. This is tenderness, this is love, this is a good thing, this is how families show their love, you are so special little Persephone. There is no good to be trusted. You cannot trust your father’s God. Trust your own God. Be vigilant of disguises. Her heart gave her a push as her memory had dug up the truth, her gut awaking her body to revolt, to stand up for herself and end this man’s ruining actions. In a liberating gesture she grabbed the dominie’s golden cross from his desk with all her power and held it up right into his face.
‘Look at his naked punctured body! Look at it! In whose name are you touching me? In whose name are you preaching to me? Look at my body, look at your ways! Look at what you did, look at my goddamn face! Can you see your God there, you blasphemer? I will set you afire. I will make you burn. Do you even understand what you are seeing? Who is he to you? Who am I to you?’ She screeched as he violently grabbed her elbow, holding it behind her back, pushing his weight on her half-naked body, biting the ear on her wildly shaking head.
‘Witch! Beast! Traitor! Who is he to me you ask? Who are you to me? I will show you.’ He grasped the cross from her fist, spat on it and the head of Christ vanished into an underworld of pain. Her face glided violently back and forth on the dark polished wood, the executioner’s block. The dominie observed her effervescent body, forcing her neck down like a chicken, and pulled the cross out of her body. He smashed it right in front of her face to contemplate her
indiscretions, errors and madness. He glanced remorselessly at the wound he created. To him, she was still the helpless fruit inviting him to bite, his fruit, her lively juice, his pomegranate. The old hackling man was hungrier than ever, crime made him lust for more, curious to explore new extremes. He put a mask over his face and his apathetic eyes were overshadowed. Due to Persephone’s harrowing roaring, a few encased sentinels burst into the gothic room and were awaiting an order from the gallivanting dominie.
‘What a daughter of joy! I release her from all misery and sin. I cleanse your soul, Persephone. This is how we proceed with traitors. I know what goes on in that head of yours. And one push. And another. I will deal with her properly. This is how it is done here. I know what is going on. I can handle you! Fox-trotting like a witch! Want to break ranks! You will succumb to the male body, do you hear me? I will get you for this. Do you really think that I am that blind? I have observed your relationship with Dolores with utter impatience, now I am free to act. Now I will destroy you lot. You will honour our behavioural codes and subject yourself to the male form. You will breed and give birth to our offspring as many thrusts as it takes, I will get you there. Stay, you watchmen, and watch the new law arising from the ashes, you will be needed here sooner or later.’ The sentinels aligned and watched, their faces covered, unseen, their allegiance clear.
‘You and your fits, Persephone. I give you a vision you won’t forget, punishing you according to my almighty virtues! Behold your punishment! My domain everlasting! Ad astra! Ad astra!’ No word could she bring forth, her force collapsed under his tyranny, punishing her, punishing her. The rabid bloodhound quivered and moaned like a buffalo, his stream fertilising her like poison ivy, cramping, imposing and exacting.
‘Creep, screech, creep, bite, swallow, no more,
Woman. Engrossed, dry, salty candles, drip
Die, drop, woman. Deserted daughter, yield,
Love, woman, die, for now, forever.
Die. We throw stones, disgorged you are.
We eat your marshland souls, women.
Acid to your veins, belladonna hearts, memories unfold.’
‘Ah she knows her school prayer! By heart, by heart! This witch thinks she has a heart! I taught her well!’ The dominie laughed, mizzling like a gnarled snake.
‘The liar recognises his manipulative tune. How false they sound in my voice. Brand me, laugh at me, scorn me, tell me how inferior I am to you, take me to the scaffold, I will take you with me in some way or another, my soul will never rest until I have quenched every particle of your miserable existence! Leave your bilious remains in me, that is my domain, mauled minds may be resurrected. Legi intellexi condemnavi!’ She ranted in tears, enduring his last dolorous crush.
‘Sentinel Hador, send Dolores in here, but first put this robe on the disobedient harlot, I do not want the halls to smell like piss. Your time is up, Persephone. This defiance will cost you. I will make a woman out of you.’ He hissed and disrobed his mask, hiding it behind the mirror beclouded by darkness.
Persephone stumbled amongst two pairs of muscular arms, fainting halfway, hyperventilating, sensing the tingling blood running down her legs. As her body was dragged through the candlelit corridors filled with aromatic mists and decorated with blue, enchanting roses, her womb became a burden to her, she towed it with her through these echoing halls of educative sin. And then her face appeared in her mind. She thought of poor Dolores, a dream, a seed, a flame she was, facing him, opposed to him, the demon of a god he deformed, misinterpreted and abused. The atmosphere was cryptic, the sky rumbled with its Delphic haze, its sizzling, miffed stars adjusting to the cold, its enigmatic, sanguine moon looking like a sickle ready to strike too soon.
The puerile choir started singing, raising their angelic voices, praising a voluptuous aura unfelt. Persephone could feel the pain insufflating these almighty words, veiled words, contaminating words of the depraved elegy expressed by the choir. The sentinels halted in front of a window throttled by the thick walls. She witnessed buxom, naked women riding masked, masterful men like fanatical thunderbirds on the muddy streets; elegant, disguised women enlivened by the blossoming instrument of scruffy, criminal men trying to survive by penetrating flesh in the Risucchian gutters; children burying expensive masks and being punished for it by their lawful parents and scorching ghosts tormented to ashes spluttering in the manhole.
‘De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine! De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine!’ Persephone whispered desperately, touching her belly which watered the scion of a venomous plant. Her fingers clenched and she gnashed her teeth. Suddenly she recognised the ghostlike silhouette of Dolores accompanied by two watchmen rushing through the melodious halls. She stopped in front of Persephone who voiced a tune of relief acknowledging her unharmed. They escaped the tightness of the watchmen’s grip, embracing each other in forlorn harmony and ominous agony. Dolores caressed Persephone’s hair, silencing her grievance and trauma. Their tears moistened each other’s faces until the guards pulled them apart by their hair. The dominie approached them out of nowhere.
‘My dear Dolores, tonight you shall die.’ The dominie grinned in his diabolic way as he ordered Sentinel Hador to keep Persephone’s mouth shut.
‘I already know. I do not live in oblivion, dominie. Aren’t you going to ask my forgiveness first before you send me to a place that knows more of your disgracefulness than my alleged misbehaviour? Aren’t you afraid that your doom sheds light on my innocence in the land where you have no power whatsoever?’
‘Mind your tongue you frivolous heretic! I will leave no proof of your existence on this here earth, Dolores. Henceforth, you are nobody. I will send you into complete nothingness and no one believes in ghosts. I will take all your stories away from you both.’
‘My requiem will be the breath on every river, the song of every treetop, the fuel to every fire you evoke until it takes hold of you when you least expect it, the condemnation to happen, what you yourself create will come back to plague you. Do not think of me as a dead face, I will hunt you down when your eyes are closed and you will see that when you look at me, you see your own plight.’
‘You blasphemous godforsaken misfit, the ideas and hope you nourish are lost and will cost you your life! I will end you now, Dolores.’
‘Good, it is time you stop talking, dominie. This is your only power, how temporary indeed. A yes-man, a rapist, a sociopath, you doom all generations. Who knows where I will go. Who knows how long the shadow of your actions will be. We shall see. What Persephone and I stand for will outlast your brainwashing terror in the long run. You can’t see that far ahead.’
‘That is the credo, the cavernous illusion you want to die for, you foul child?’
She glared haughtily and with a tragic elation at Persephone she blinked.
‘You will burn, Satan’s bitch! Burn! Burn! Burn!’ He barked and hit her in the face.
All the sentinels grasped her tightly and rushed her out of the castle, convicted, silently, she stepped alongside her beliefs and values. The dominie remained in the hallway with Persephone who was crying apocalyptically, hoarsely, disrootedly. Her simmering sobbing left the dominie ice-cold, hammering her body against the wall, holding her face to force her to observe the execution from the window.
‘Let me go to her! Leave her alone! Please do not do this! Don’t you believe in Hell you unscrupulous madman?’ The dominie clasped his belt.
‘I believe in the one she is going to in just a few moments. I pity you. Look where your idea of love brought you. Look at her, the error of your thinking, everything falling apart. Are you that blind? Look what happens to your kind? When will you change? Can’t you see the same fate awaiting you? What would you do without my never-ending mercy?’
Dolores was standing on the scaffold, looking up to the window. Maybe at Persephone. In hope, in vain. People were circling her, gleeful, as if death were a ceremonial spectacle.
Persephone lashed out her head against the dominie’s nose and kicked his gut with her knee as hard as she could. When his heavy body hit the ground she took advantage of his isolating her on every occasion and ran away as fast as she possibly could.
Dolores was sullied by excreta, spit and flammable liquids. Everybody was staring at her, bullying her, disgracing and shaming her body and sexuality, mocking her ability to love. She soaked it all up. Projections assembled on her persona, the selected scapegoat of everything that goes wrong, the failure, the sexual girl to blame for everything. Bound to an erect chunk of wood she could not move. She awaited her death and tried to breathe amidst the fumes of sheer hatred and malice. This is what Dolores looked like on the pyre, on the night she died. Like a woman carved onto wood, ready to set sail, age fifteen.
They set her on fire, Dolores in flames, her body unpaintable, she squawked, her voice rattled high through the smoke until she was silenced, silence in the coal, the coal of a girl, the coal of a dream as fragile and vulnerable as her proper flesh, the coal of a free thinker, her lover too late to save her.
Persephone rushed into the furry woods, still weeping, still suffering. Outcast. Humanity shred to pieces. Her love in ashes. Her heart suffocated. Very soon, she simply knew, a child in her womb. Many scars on her lap. She desired to wring her belly out, the fertilised womb of a girl-loving girl, a survivor with detrimental wounds. A heart with irreparable bruises, a life without shame in the Gomorrah of the shameless. Of those who preach hollowly. Of those whose prayers torment and provoke severe heartache never to be lamented. No eulogies, no absolutions. No more apologies prior to the act to rinse off the damage and mistake and another and another.
‘City of the schizophrenic, city of the godless. Words of exclusion, sick words that will not be healed. There is no healing herb, one was burned, what is growing in my body?’
Persephone survived and for months she wandered through the flora and fauna of the forest and secluded villages where she was unknown, hunting, killing, crying, drinking, absorbing, not forgetting. A dehumanised outcast, an isolated creature sought by the beasts of the human race. Still carrying her raw child. Still carrying her child inside of her. The fruit of a monster. Frightening her. His reign continued in her body. Preaching and scratching.
I haul you with me. My open wound.
You are my thought, my endlessness, Dolores.
Do not wither, do not wither, Dolores.
You are my dream, my hope, my despair.
Cherish me. Our belief. Your martyrdom.
Poor girl, my girl, my love, our pain, Dolores.
Why does everything female need to end in death so soon, so wickedly,
To assure the survival of our kin? Is that how we learn our lessons?
To bring ourselves forth into the future, standing tall? Dolores?
Persephone felt the contractions of the child and was reminded of the hammering hacks of the dominie destroying her. She thought of her disembodied past, her youth that felt so far away and unrealistic now, amputated even. Her free days of carelessness shared with Dolores, the one who showed her how to love because what the hell did she know of love and sincere and unblemished tenderness in the first place? The intense earthquakes of their relationship, their intimate laughter, how they loved one another in the uttermost darkness as the world swept itself away.
The contractions increased.
There was a moment in the past when they had to grow up, to question, to read, to discover, to break the rules. A moment of utterance, of counter ovations. The candles shone at night in the basement illuminating books revealing poetry and prose and ideas from the black market. Their souls lived on the impulsive stimulus of the prohibited. A perilous delight during stormy times.
Persephone gave birth to her child, her forced child. She was breathing heavily, staring at this human being, being hers, being his. Her blood glued on her girl like lava, like it glued on the hands of the dominie who never gave up seeking her in his established dictatorial theocracy.
The mother’s hands were nibbling, her tongue hung loose, her nipples petrified. The girl she gave birth to drooled over her breast, but the mother was benumbed. She held up her obnoxious child thinking of Donatien, smelling him, enduring him.
The girl sickened the heart of her mother. Her hands curled like the tail of a scorpion, a worm, the maggot, the stench, the tongue of Donatien. Her voluptuous body trembled like hundreds of pismires enjoying each other haphazardly. Her pulse drummed like Donatien’s prayers, his euphoria for spreading his pestiferous hatred.
Murderer. Murderer. You stink and execute.
Covered by a baneful cloak.
Hiding the portentous beast.
Supporting the frivolous liar.
Realising the slavering hypocrite.
Raped by the rumpled father. Father, you executioner.
Persephone squeezed the child’s tiny hands, struggle, struggle. She held her up, the girl got lost in her mother’s eyes, eyes that had lost touch with reality.
Her mother is a survivor, what will does she nourish? Does she back down? What does her mother miss and what has she never found out? Two forces unbearable, not to be combined. Innocence and revenge. The heat of knowledge. The fear of the present. The consequences in the future. Struggle, struggle, mama. What did this rape do to you, mama? The requiem goes on and on. Sing, praise, follow, hush! Heat. Dolores. I feel you. I lose my mind… so softly, slither, slither. Mama?
Persephone was walking in the moonlight, her daughter breathing in her slippery arms of disturbed motherhood, red moon, shine! Whoring man, bleed. Creep, screech, creep. Father. She glanced at the whispering stars, hers disappeared. In the moonlight she dunked her legs into the dazzling river water, her baby in her hands.
Her eyes ignoring, her heart cold, her mind absent. The daughter can’t swim, Persephone. Dolores couldn’t fight the flames. You were helpless in his hands, when he devoured you.
The daughter can’t swim, Persephone.
Hear our elegy, the choir sings it just for you.
The daughter has no name, Persephone.
Hear us, listen to the choir.
Persephone evanesced, her eyes clear, the vision becoming a cruel truth, the child blubbering. His stream.
She held one lifeless finger of her baby in her mighty hand, staring at the stars.
‘Ad astra! Ad astra.’