Wondering if they see, if they somehow smell it: the worm of tension in my belly, its parasite babes crawling inches beneath my skin. A stink of dread worse than any rot or filth, as we sidle in, the room already wretched, foul with the funk of those gone before:
Ancient, stinking carpets, stained ceiling, grime-smeared windows in which the dessicated corpses of gnats and blue-bottles gather. Their effect to make the world outside; the sports field, reduced to mire in the current rains, the steel fences surrounding it, the familiar roads and streets and neighbourhoods beyond, to seem almost unreal, projections on mist, mirages or smeared paintings.
Only this real: this dimly lit, stinking room, the claustrophobic corridor outside, the naked brick walls, chipped and broken and scrawled with meaningless graffiti, stick-figures bearing exaggerated breasts and malformed erections. Promises of perversity that the pen holders have no experience or comprehension of, outside of internet pornography.
The only reality, for the next three hours; an eternity, a desolation, in which I'll wander and weep, barely present, though I'll scribble what they ask, answer when called on; respond in all the right ways and places. The mannequin they demand.
A familiar urge; to stand and walk out, ignore the cries and threats of Mr. Hutton, knowing that the strings are illusory, that there's little he can do to stop me.
Anticipating, imagining; that sense of freedom, the rush in my belly, the tingling in my fingers, how sweet the air will taste in comparison to this.
Almost, almost, the urge trembling me in my chair, making me lurch in it, but not enough.
Meaningless, animal noise, wittering I can't stand, that sounds like cockroaches in the walls, my marrow, beetles burrowing, eating them and my mind hollow.
If only. If only they'd spill out, seethe through the cracks in the walls or ceiling, make them scream and flee... bring down the building around us. At least that would be something.
But no; the noise diminishes, receding like a wave, as the lesson starts, as the grey sky presses down on the false, painted world outside, threatening to crush it, to smother it beneath its weight. A dead lover, having a heart attack in the midst of fucking. I read about that somewhere, some hooker handcuffed to a hotel bed, the client sweating and moaning atop her having some sort of stroke, almost smothering her, by the time anyone found them.
Hardly hearing...the growls and barks from the front of the classroom, Mr. Hutton threatening detentions and letters home for those who won't comply, who tug and tear at their strings, who ignore them as though they're not there.
A throb between my temples, another worm; twin to the one in my belly, or maybe its mate, pulsing awake, unfurling through the meat of my mind.
Begging it to burst out, to press through my eyes, rear up from my bleeding face for them to see, for them to scream and vomit and faint at the sight of. Maybe its mate will follow, burrowing through my belly to coil up, to twine with it, so that they might mate and flower together, showering the screaming animals with their young.
The thought of it making me smile; seeing them claw at themselves, watching them scurry and gag and choke, maggot-children eating through their idiot eyes, their slack, burning faces, finding some secret place inside; some forgotten dream or abandoned memory where they can grow, where they can swell and flower in their turns.
Yes. In love with that, the idea of it, as Mr. Hutton starts to drawl, scrawling on the whiteboard, as people whisper, as notes pass, as giggles slowly build.
Knowing the rhythm of it; more familiar than the music of my own home or heartbeat: waiting, waiting...
Familiar barks, the man's eyes burning black as coals, as they rove over the class, as I meet them, as they flicker away from me, seeing nothing they want, finding no purchase.
Sad and trembling man, balding and brown-jumpered and pepper haired. What kind of worm will you give birth to, how vast and trembling and fat will it be, when it bursts from your withered heart?
I want it. Want it so much. As earnestly as the old pyrophile fantasies; every one of them combusting in their seats, going up in flames around me, gasping, unable to scream as their fat melts, their skins bubble and blister, Hutton not knowing what to do, screaming in their place, as they fuse to their plastic seats, as the fires die. Nothing left in the aftermath but blackened, indistinguishable skeletons clutching at their desks, only the names scrawled on their workbooks identifying them.
Wanting this more, though I know it will never be, too disappointed by past prayers, knowing that there are no angels to answer. Almost convincing myself I feel it; a welcome pressure behind my eyes, a thrilling nausea in my belly, as he snarls and threatens and bellows, as he sends Jimmy Lanscombe to stand in the corridor, the boy provoking mass laughter as he flips a middle finger on his way out.
Clutching my desk, trembling, trying to bite down on what rises in my throat. Not wanting them to hear, to see, until it's time; until the worm is ready to be born...
Slathering silver from the corners of my mouth, suddenly, moronically self conscious. What if nothing comes, what if nothing emerges, and it's all some hopeless delusion? Mind and body acting in hideous concert to try and make an impossible dream true?
Knowing otherwise, when I lurch back, when convlusions wrack me, lightning arcing from scalp to soles, searing my spine black, when my mind becomes a tempest and the world washes red. Pain, oh yes! Pain as I've always dreamed, in every emergence or transformation; in the agonies of wings bursting from my back, of my chrysalis skin splitting and sloughing away to allow the wolf-thing within its time in the moonlight.
But not imagined, not this time; experienced.
Choking screams, echoed by others around the room as I clutch my desk, gouging runnels in the cheap ply-wood with my fingernails. Thrashing as Hutton barks for calm, so distant, beyond the red and black washing the world, beyond the wastes I have walked, that I see now with my waking eyes, knowing that I'll walk there soon with flesh and blood feet.
Pain, as my eyes burst, as burning tears pour down my cheeks, somehow still seeing, still seeing, as the parasite I have conjured, made meat in my desperation, squirm free, twin heads rearing up from the ruin of my face, blossoming hydra-like, myraid smaller lengths emerging from within.
Seeing. Through them, their eyeless, seething heads, sensing in ways I never dreamed, before now.
Seeing it all; the decay in the walls, the spiders and beetles and vermin in their warrens, the ghosts of this place; echoes of similar despair, accrued over decades, seeped into every inch and fibre of the place.
Them. The screaming ones, the weeping and vomiting as they flee, as they scrabble for the door. Hutton, as he barks commands, attempting to maintain a dream of order where there is none, never was and never will be.
Their despairs and accruing disappointments; poisoned revelations that the world refuses to be as they desire, as they've been promised. Diseased dreams; longings and fantasies they will never tell, not even to their most intimate and trusted.
Smiling at him, as his dead eyes find me. Seeing so much; the hereditary sickness slowly unravelling his entrails, his hatred for his Father, that drove him from home at the age of fifteen. The ghosts of ex wives; three at the last count, the death of love and the hope of it not driving him to suicide, but a dogged despair; a living that endures, despite lamenting its every moment.
Smiling, as similar songs erupt from neighbouring classrooms, as others, like and unlike, realise prayers that no angels would ever answer.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.