Or, rather, two such nights — a dream based on two actual experiences, from the beginning of the fifth chapter of Mistress of Woodland, my novel-in-progress. Goes well with my mood tonight. (Well, okay: I’m in the grey. This excerpt is about being in the pit. There’s a difference.)
It was bedtime. Tonight Will was the storyteller. He didn’t need the book. He couldn’t read yet, and besides, he knew this bedtime story by heart.
“Get the knife!” it began. They’d locked the knives and scissors away several nights ago, all except a Swiss army knife and a Buck knife brought out from hiding from time to time to slice carrots or peel potatoes.
“Get it now!” his story went on. “Get the knife! Do it!”
His arms were crossed over his chest. His hands and fingers, tucked under his arms, were met by Rachel’s hands reaching forth from under his armpits. She held his wrists firmly in the hold Charlotte had taught her the morning after his terrible first rampage, three weeks after his arrival in Alaska.
“Get it!” he said. “Get it now!” He strained against her hold on his wrists. His legs strained against Megan’s hands holding his ankles pressed to the bed. Constrained by their strength, he turned his anger inward. “Kill me!” he demanded. “Get the knife! Do it!”
Suddenly he bucked up from his heels, twisting violently in an attempt to free his legs. But Megan held on. He gave up and his body went slack in Rachel’s embrace. She didn’t like this story, but she didn’t let go. Her eyes met Megan’s. They said nothing. The first few nights they’d tried to soothe or reason away his violence, but there were no words to ease him where he lay. So now they simply held on — one hour, two hours — and rode it out, night after night.
She’d gone too lax: all at once he yanked his left arm free, jackknifed his body, and slammed his skull against her breastbone. She cried out. She waved her right hand about, trying to recapture his left wrist. Megan dived forward to pin him against the bed, and Rachel caught his wrist, but not before he bent down to clamp his teeth into her forearm. She cried out, but she had his wrist and yanked it hard, pulling him upright against her chest. Goddamn little bastard! Shit, that hurt!
A bruise suddenly appeared on her forearm, red darkening surrealistically to lurid purple and blueblack. Green and yellow washed in until the bruise was a near twin to the one he’d chomped into her other forearm the week before.
“A matching pair!” her supervisor exclaimed from the doorway. Dr. Riley, passing her office on his way to teach class, glanced in. “You need a pair of those leather gauntlets attack dog trainers use.”
She didn’t have gauntlets, but she had a firm grasp on her wrist. “Get the knife!” she said to Megan, but Megan wouldn’t get it. Right hand on left wrist, Rachel plunged it in anyway, thrust the non-blade with force into her belly just below her navel: once, twice. The hole remained, that chasm in her belly containing the Milky Way shorn of all of its stars, empty of everything but her loneliness and despair. “Get it!” she said to Megan, wanting to saw the hole from her flesh, but Megan, eyes brimful with worry and fear, didn’t know where Sharon kept the butcher knife. “It’s in the kitchen,” Rachel told her, “right of the sink, second drawer down,” but it would be nine years before she met Megan, and Rachel was too drunk to get the knife herself. “Do it!” she cried out, but Lori and Sharon were asleep in the back of the trailer. She lay alone in the night between the couch and the coffee table. She didn’t really want to die, she just wanted the hole (fists plunging down on her belly) gone. Gone. Gone. Gone.