by Kieran Perry
“What is it?”
“I… I don’t know. It looks like a door.”
“Do you think so?” she paused, cherry red paint dripping from the corners of her lips, “I don’t think so, looks more like a window to me.”
Adrian laughed, he had to laugh, of course she’d say it was a window, when he thought it was a door. She’d call it black if he called it blue, a cat if he called it a parrot. Dearest Appleby, the twin that had survived. She was Adrian’s daughter, not that Appleby had a mother, though the mother of machines was a mother of sorts. She was the first, a discovery, an experiment, a failure cloaked in something like success. And how close they’d been.
“Don’t pick.” Adrian swatted at Appleby’s upper right arm, she had started clawing at a cist-like lump protruding from her neck. A yellow spot, turning green beneath the surface, sweating. “One day they might be able to remove him from you, one day he might get a body of his own.”
“But it itches.” Appleby groaned, instinctively reaching back up with gnarled fingers, split nails longing to have away at the lump on her neck. If I picks it loose then I’ll be free, no more chains to bind me.
Adrian swatted once more, lacking in effort, tired. So very tired. How long had they spent in this, this white-washed box of a room, staring at what might have been a door or possibly a window. The room itself was tiled, glass pillars holding up a ceiling from which a stray breeze came wafting down. Oranges. That’s what Adrian could smell, not fresh fruit, but something warm, something rotten. Oranges, though Appleby would call it lemons, maybe tangerines. Whatever it was, it was far too high for them to reach.
“I want to go home.” Appleby’s lower arms sulked against the floor, dragging up the powder in which the tiles had been laced.
“You’d better not put your fingers in your mouth.” Adrian warned, wiping cherry red paint from his brow. Where had it come from? The paint in this room of stark white with glass pillars. There were no buckets, no brushes, and yet somehow Appleby had found enough to cover not just her face but her entire body in the substance. All but dry, save the droplets falling from her lips.
“How much longer?” Appleby cast her gaze up at the ceiling, eyes rolling loosely in their sockets, “I’m bored, Adrian. I’m-bored-I’m-bored-I’m-bored…”
“I know.” Adrian’s voice clapped out against the far walls of the white box in which they were contained, returning in an echo, a song now on repeat.
“Why don’t you open it, Adrian?” Appleby placed eighteen fingers on the door that might have been a window, and started drumming each one rhythmically against the not-so-solid surface.
Adrian watched in mild fascination as the glass pillars responded to the sound, ebbing as if made from water, their very image falling from the ceiling to the ground in what appeared to be a waterfall like fashion. And behind the water Adrian could see numbers, numerals swimming upstream, fighting the current. Pale, blue-lit numerals – Appleby would call them green – spinning, blinking in and out of life; a triangle and then a circle, an eye and then an ear, a face and then a body, a body becomes a girl, a girl is chased down one dark alley way.
“Enough.” Adrian muttered, the memory too sore.
“I’m sorry, Adrian.” Appleby’s fingers slid carefully from off the not-so-solid surface, creeping into the pockets of a trench coat spotted in the cherry paint that covered every inch of skin.
She must have taken it off, the coat, to paint herself so fully.
“Do you love me, daddy?” Appleby’s bright, cherry lips pounced on Adrian’s cold cheek, leaving there an imprint of her mouth, of her.
“I have to go now.” more to himself, than anyone, staring at the door that might have been a window. “I can’t stay here forever.”
“We’re going home?” Appleby smiled, and the lump upon her neck, it smiled too.
Adrian shook his head, pushing Appleby aside, contorting his body in such a way that he might fit through that strange, lingering shape of a doorway, of a window, of a passage from this place unto another.
“Please don’t leave me, daddy.” Appleby was crying, though her face was set in stone. She grabbed at Adrian’s right foot as it hung there in the air halfway through the doorway, and she bit it, blunt teeth tearing first through trouser cloth to meet then with flesh, and finally with bone. She pulled his boot from his foot, too many fingers wrapping round the sock-laden escapee, then carefully she peeled the woollen layer from the foot, tongue savouring the taste of salt.
“You’ll be forever with me.” the last words that Adrian would hear before he fainted, unable to cope with the searing pain of those blunt instruments that sought to tear his foot from off his leg. In his delirium he started thinking of the woman in the alley way, a lover meant to be his wife one day? Did she have a name? What made him chose her, chase her, had he known what he would find? Was that a crime enough to warrant what action he took thereafter?
You’ll be forever with me. Her face, floating in the water, behind the glass pillars of that stark white room. That room and its keeper, Appleby, the itch she couldn’t scratch. One day she might be free, if she’d beyond the window to the door, take the handle, walk on through. Don’t leave me, daddy.
When Adrian came too he found himself inside a cardboard box, a smell like oranges seeping in through holes cut in the lid. There was no light, though. And the air was stale, the box barely big enough to sit upright in.
By the Gods was it cold, and as Adrian groped to pull his coat tighter around him, he realised he was naked now. My foot. Gone. A stump having taken its place – healed over, wrapped in baking foil.
He pushed on the sides of the box, on the ceiling, still so tired, lacking force. None would budge. Trapped, again. And then came a softly spoke cry from in the dark, from in a space not nearly big enough to hide its secrets.
Spoken as one voice, though Adrian was certain he’d heard two; “Daddy, when will we be going home?”
Throat dry, Adrian tried to swallow, his muscles seizing up, his body daring him to move. Ever-so-slowly his eyes were adjusting to the dark, two shadows moving close beside him. And behind him?
“What is it?”
The two voices spoke as one, “I think it’s a door.”
Adrian began to cry, a man broken, both in body and in mind. For he didn’t see a door, not this time.