rough lindenwood panels surrounding
shouts of accented English
the Chinese girl
saying she had to follow, it was wounded
cold wind, specks of snow
laboured attempt to shift left leg
tearing his own wounds
alpine postcard, wooden panels
white cup, white floating bowl
‘can rest, I’ll take care of you’
spinning wooden panels
The Italian followed him past the event horizon and into the café he used to go to in Marcory, telling him to eat some soup, or drink it, whichever verb he preferred, as it would give him his strength back and possibly heal the neck wound too.
Patrice tried losing himself in the scooters and cars blurring past outside, but they’d been replaced by the alpine postcard scene, jagged, snow peaks with a huge brush of forest in the foreground
and a hovering bowl in the closer foreground
the woman’s face skewed, tilted,
it’s soup made from home-grown vegetables
picked especially for you
‘Where?’ came out of his mouth along with the sharpened image of the window that wasn’t a postcard, the room that wasn’t lodged inside a pocket within a black hole, and the woman in a white nightgown and deep red neckband, who was still speaking Italian, telling him soup was just this meal, not a long term diet.
‘Where?’ he repeated, reaching his hand out towards the woman’s arm and catching her hair instead.
Her hand stayed on the bowl, her cheek leaning into Patrice’s knuckles.
‘My home,’ she replied, most of it hushed breath.
Patrice pulled his hand back, the abruptness of the movement opening the cut on his neck. The pain was blunt, but grabbed-memory of worse pain nulled it.
‘Soup,’ the woman said, pushing the bowl towards his mouth.
‘Where is here? Your home…’
‘Soup first, then rest.’
‘Please…is it Vicenza?’
She put the bowl down on the bedside table and ran her finger down his leg. ‘Vicenza is not far. But it is also not near. You can stay until your strength returns.’
How did I end up here was the next question in Patrice’s head, but her finger was on his thigh, still moving upwards…
‘Need to go…’ he said, shifting so far across the bed that he slipped off and landed head-first on the surprisingly hard floor.
Fourteen spinning wooden boards materialised
plus the woman’s distant voice
‘your hand, clumsy French man,’
abandoning him to
as he slipped back into the black hole.
Both his old house in Treichville,
and the primary school opposite
were full of half-friends and blurs and
him on the slope leading to the sports field
trying to balance his plastic cup
then in the yard, roaming
searching for his wife
finding couples he didn’t know arguing about Ernst
not art, great art, not art, great art
and a white woman
in a dirty white gown
red scarf tight around her neck
telling him it was okay
her skin would warm up eventually,
you’ll get used to it.
Light and snow and wooden panelled walls
a talisman with flower, key, moon, chicken
an open door
he was awake again
aware of the woman’s hair next to him, the pale skin of her shoulder, the red neck band choking her out.
Vicenza, he thought, pushing the blanket away and sliding off the bed onto the cold floor. His clothes were missing, even his pants, but there was a Neon Kropotkin t-shirt and adidas trackies and
his Roma jacket, stained with dried blood on the collar, most of it his own, some of it the Krsnik’s.
‘You’re leaving?’ asked the woman, her head turned in an almost unnatural way, eyes pastel blue.
Patrice stumbled to the chair, picking up the Roma jacket and holding it over his dick, the entire archive of human consciousness ordering him to get back in the bed, merge with the lunatic woman who’d cleaned up your wounds, and
a vague outline of his wife agreeing
merge with her, Patrice
merge, merge, merge, merge
yet his hand was already on the door and beyond that there was a cabin type room that he noticed just enough to know that there was a fireplace and a fire, and another door straight ahead, with another, larger talisman pinned up, and
jacket on, he ran out into the flip side of the alpine postcard, through the dark gaps between the trees, thinking of the woman in the bed, the monster who’d brought him to her, the Chinese Joanna who’d left him to die
no, tried to help him then left him to die
no, ran after he’d told her to
let him save her as his final act before
a bed with a naked witch feeding him soup and
the cold of the snow finally broke through, to his neck wound and the soles of his feet, forcing him earthwards in a slow tumble, mouth sliding impossibly onto an icy twig and holding it there like a dog as another twig careened off onto the frozen surface of the river nearby, cracking it and
he commanded his legs up
but it was mutiny
reflected audibly by a louder cracking sound
the river skin breaking
He woke up not in the snow, but on the bed.
Naked, with a warm towel on his head.
A quick scan of the room told him nothing had changed. It was still snowing outside, or had been snowing. The jagged snow peaks and dark forest endured, as did the eerie talisman.
‘She was crying with wild entreaty, the way one vomits,’ said a voice close by, in soft Italian.
Thankfully the woman with pastel blue eyes wasn’t in the bed with him, she was sat cross-legged on the chair, reading from a blank-covered book in one hand.
‘So unsettled by love and the sense of her nakedness that her voice shrank in her throat.’
Patrice could understand about half of the words, and guess a few others, but he was too dazed to put any of it together. And curious. As to how she’d got him back into the bed. Did someone assist her? Was there a second person in this cottage?
And where the fuck were they? His mental state wasn’t the clearest, but he was certain he’d run at least a mile. And seen nothing.
Not even lights or smoke or music from a neighbouring house.
‘She was weeping, in her wild nakedness, as she approached my bed, which to me was a death bed.’
‘How did I come back here?’ he asked in serviceable Italian, putting a hand up to his neck and patting a dry, obviously fresh bandage.
She looked up from the book, smiling awkwardly.
‘Someone carried me?’
Uncrossed her legs.
Stood up from the chair.
‘Where is this?’
Placed the book on the bedside table.
Glided closer to the bed.
‘Who are you? A private nurse?’
Lifted the blanket up.
‘What are you doing?’
Climbed on top of him.
Took hold of his semi-hard dick and positioned it against herself.
Put her spare hand against his bandage, and said, ‘you are strong enough now. It will help.’
‘Non, arret. I’m married, I have a-…’
He swatted away her wrist and turned on his side, forcing her off…then catching her by the arm before she tumbled all the way down to the floor.
They hung in that position, painted by an imagined Varo, caught in the sub-space pocket between fuck and better not, or fuck and would like to but wife.
Finally, Patrice shuffled back and set up his left arm as a lower guard, saying again that he was married, and he just wanted to go home.
The woman stood up and straightened her gown, adjusted her red neck band then walked to the bedside table. There was a cup and a plate of bread, which she looked at for an uncomfortably long time, so uncomfortably long that Patrice started rehearsing sorry lines in his head.
‘You need sustenance,’ she said, finally, pouring what looked like coffee from the cup evenly over the bread. ‘To fix your brain.’
Bringing the plate over to the bed, she tilted her head and offered it to him.
Bread on a coffee puddle.
‘I’m not hungry,’ he lied, pulling the blanket up to his neck wound.
She stared at him, head tilting a few milimetres more
then put the plate on the blanket beside his arm
Pulling on the adidas trackies, and the Roma jacket, Patrice scanned the room for socks and shoes and was about to head out into the main cabin room to expand the search when the woman appeared in the doorway, holding a fold-up map.
‘This will guide you back to Vicenza,’ she said, holding it out towards him.
He took it, avoiding the pastel blue eyes as best he could…then remembered how soothing they were and looked right into them.
‘Thank you…’ he mumbled, failing to think of anything beyond, except let me swim inside you and please don’t have a knife in that hand behind your back.
Misinterpreting, the woman told him her name was Damijana.
‘Patrice…’ he replied, a little slow.
‘From Vicenza, you can find your wife, Patrice,’ she continued, guiding him by the sleeve out into the main cabin. ‘If you get lost again, if your strength should desert you, call my name and I will come.’
‘I will be okay.’
Damijana pushed him a little further then detached her hand from his waist and diverted to the fire place. There was a totem on one side – a winged, amphibious creature with human limbs – and she placed her right hand on the head of it.
Unsure what else to say, Patrice muttered a supplementary thank you then pulled on the door handle and walked out, his cheek brushing against the talisman as he went.
The river he’d seen the last time hadn’t been an hallucination, which was a good sign, but it also didn’t appear to be on the map.
In fact, nothing did.
The small village that was supposed to be just beyond the forest may have been real, but he had no way to tell as there was no end point to the terrain, just lines and lines of trees and the shadowed strips between them, and there was no distance key on the map, so he had no idea if he was one kilometre off or a hundred.
After an hour or so of treading breadcrumb snow prints alongside the frozen river, he pulled out the map again, rotated it, whispered REVEAL, blew on it
then threw it at the ground in frustration.
At that exact moment, either from a pagan dimension or one cloaked mockingly in front of his face, a gust of wind sailed through the forest, scooping up the map and carrying it in Dada fashion over and into a tiny fishing hole in the ice.
Fuck all the mothers would’ve been the normal response, but the map was useless anyway and the bigger concern was the swirling mist advancing from the other side of the river, plus the zig-zagging trees and
the black holes growing from different sky points
‘Help…’ he screamed, unable to hear if his own voice had body to it, ‘Damijana.’
The name travelled outwards and nowhere
lost in the burgeoning mist cloud
not even shrill enough to make birds fly out of the canopy in annoyance.
Damijana, he thought, swiping at the mist.
Dami of Jana
You worked with him again, didn’t you?
You saw him again
You did this
You worked with him and he did this, you let him do this, you didn’t do anything to
Stop, please, I didn’t
Patrice woke up repeating the words to warm air.
‘Didn’t see him, he was-…’
The room had sucked him back in and the alpine postcard was set to night mode. The talisman on the bedside table. No plates or cups. Human noises from the cabin room. Oddly warm air.
He pushed off the blanket and pressed his feet to the floor.
Waiting out a few seconds to make sure there was no residual dizziness, he lifted himself fully up and put on the Neon Kropotkin t-shirt.
In the room outside, the noises increased in volume. Either an argument in slurred Italian or intense fucking.
Edging forward with first day ninja footsteps, he put a fingertip against the door and pushed open a small gap.
He was half right.
The back of Damijana was upright and swaying by the fireplace, a naked man with a beard beneath her. Most of the noises were coming from him, punctuated with random shouts of ‘fuck me witch,’ and then a shift to ‘take that big pagan dick’ as he manoeuvred her around into the dog position.
No, no, no, no…
Patrice looked back into the bedroom, at the postcard window, wondering if it had a latch he could unhook.
Front door was clearly out of the question, and he couldn’t stay where he was cos at some point they might get bored of the fireplace and come in and then
what would he say?
Hi, I’m the guy she was trying to fuck while you were away.
If it was her boyfriend…
The noises outside became grunts and bursts of fucking witch whore over and over, the aggressiveness of the latter pushing Patrice back to the gap in the door.
A cold shiver ran up the length of his arm, all the way to his neck wound.
The man had Damijana on her back and was looming over her, pushing in with hard, staggered thrusts, his hand tight around her throat.
Was this consensual?
Patrice wiped his palm on the door frame, looking back at the wall, the bedside table, anywhere for a weapon.
The key of the talisman could potentially work, but…
Outside, the man changed tack, grabbing a horse whip hanging to the side of the fire and using it on Damijana’s stomach.
One thrust, one fucking witch whore, one lash of the whip.
Stuck to the wooden floorboards, Patrice stood there and watched, lost on a hundred different channels, trying desperately to think of advice columns he’d read or films he’d seen or reality shows he’d slept through where this kind of sex play was normal.
And then the woman spoke,
‘I can’t take it anymore, please, I can’t take it,’
and that was the switch.
Grabbing the talisman in his left hand, the Roma jacket in the other, Patrice flipped his brain to Crowley mode and rushed out.
The man was too busy with his whipping routine to notice the blur of movement, and when he did finally detect it, he must have thought it was a mirage as he just knelt there, frozen with his dick at the gates, watching the Roma jacket fly towards his head.
Then he changed to thinking it was a bat, his hands flailing and then grappling with the jacket, throwing it on the couch only to have the talisman land on his neck and
after that, Patrice’s hand
hitting his cheek, his temple, his jaw, then pushing him back against the table with all the candles on.
‘Back…’ shouted Patrice, grabbing the winged totem creature and waving it at the man, who spat out blood and slouched back against the table, allowing another candle to drop on his head.
Hearing heavy breathing behind him, Patrice turned and saw Damijana pulling herself up to her feet, bones cracking someplace.
‘He was hurting you,’ Patrice said, halfway between a question and a statement of fact.
‘Unoriginal,’ she whispered in reply, making no attempt to cover herself.
‘Predictable, feeble. Still, I would’ve tolerated him…’
Patrice reached with his free hand for the Roma jacket, handing it to her.
‘…for a short while.’
The sound of the last word was drowned out by more cracking sounds, Damijana’s neck twisting left, her back bending, the spine feeding its way out like loose string…
Patrice stood there, totem hanging limp from his hand, watching her transform. Die horribly. Something.
Then closed his eyes a second after the final form emerged; the top of the spine like an adder attached to the base of her back, the skin and flesh draped forward like a chunky bib.
The cracking sounds resumed, followed by screams from the man, and finally silence.
Patrice opened one eye.
The spine creature was still there, its mouth feeding on the broken corpse, the Damijana aspect asleep.
Then it stopped and
the metamorphosis reversed itself, this time on fast forward, Damijana’s flesh and skin wrapping itself back around the deviant spine and
with pastel blue eyes active
sealing itself up with a final flourish of cracks and blood squelches.
‘Teamwork…’ Damijana said, tilting her head and, for the first time, smiling.
Patrice nodded, threw the totem at the naked monster, and ran towards the door
knocking the talisman off as he yanked it open
then picking it up and throwing that at her too.
It missed by a metre, but he didn’t care, he was already sprinting
shoeless through the snow
into the forest
images of sapient spines cruising after him
swiping through the canopy
digging ancillary bones into his chest and
a branch came to life, hooking his foot and bringing him down diagonally onto the river ice
his cheek slip-scraping against it
ears picking up the cracking sound
not bones this time but
He stared up as the black hole swelled behemoth and sucked him in, soaked his flesh in cold entropy,
the dark branches in the window above his only respite and
please don’t appear, please don’t appear, please don’t appear, please don’t
but it did
the woman’s face
those pastel blue eyes
red neck band refastened
staring down into his pocket river abyss
letting him know
that there was worse
much worse than the Krsnik
Head in a dome
scientists speaking solely in Twi
a glass cylinder
you can take a little more
you have a good head
a little more
the giant scientist detaching his arm and using it to press a large red button that activated a green haze that
created the woman
in a transparent lab coat
her pastel blue eyes telling him, in a marginally electronic tone that
she’d been alone in the cottage for a long time
was accustomed to it
but recently more men had come, possibly due to this internet machine they’d told her about.
Patrice rubbed his head and watched as the other scientists blinked out one by one until finally only the pastel blue-eyed woman creature remained.
He opened his eyes, unsurprised to see her sitting on the chair in the usual white gown/red neck band combo, cross-legged, spine intact, left hand resting softly on the back of his.
‘Ah, you are awake. Did you hear what I said?’
She nodded, patting his hand.
‘You bring me back here…again.’
‘The river is quite cold this time of year.’
Patrice pulled his hand away, but not far enough, her fingers crawling after it and settling on the back of his wrist.
‘If you’re referring to motive…well, to repeat myself, I have been alone here for a long time. Since my father died. The only respite from my solitude is the occasional male visitor. Most of them turn out to be iterations of my father, and are dealt with, yet sometimes…I receive surprises, like you. At least, it appears that way. Perhaps it will wear off as you regain your full strength. I do not know. But it has already been more than a week…so perhaps not.’
‘Eleven days to be precise. Most of that time you were unconscious. Blood loss.’
‘And the police…they did not come?’
‘It is a remote place. Not easy to find…’
‘So they don’t know I’m here…’
‘…not easy to leave. No, they do not.’
‘Are you going to kill me?’ Patrice muttered, watching her nails run through the hairs on his forearm.
‘If I did that, how would you be reunited with your wife?’
He closed his eyes, not sure if he’d heard right.
‘You do want to see her again, don’t you?’
‘I can’t…the forest, it’s too dense. Won’t let me leave.’
‘Incorrect. It will not let you leave me.’
‘I don’t understand.’
She left his wrist and stood up, moving over to the window. ‘I’ve been in this cottage my whole life. If you plucked out my eyes, I could still describe every molecule of it. Could still walk around and perform all my daily functions, by touch alone. I find that…enervating…somehow.’ She turned back, fixing her red neck band. ‘I will take you to Vicenza, Patrice. As a guide.’
‘Take me?’ He rubbed his head again, trying to block out the spine slaughter from the previous night. ‘I don’t know if-…’
‘You do not need to squirm. I have no intention of harming you.’
‘The world is far more interesting with you in it. I believe that is a quote from somewhere.’
‘Innately, yes. Your behaviour. Even the way you say help, or let me drown in that accent.’
‘I can’t remember…’
She moved her hand onto his hair and weaved her way through it, across to his ear.
‘Get some more rest. We’ll leave for Vicenza in the morning.’
‘We can really go there?’
‘In a matter of hours. Rest, please.’
He flinched as her fingernail moved onto his stubble, then settled into a dream-like haze as she leaned down and kissed his cheek.
The room shimmered, the black hole returned
its darkness dotted with pastel blue and
detached spines with smiling faces
Saying, ‘hi there
would you be one of the good ones?’
Despite doubts and nightmares dramatizing said doubts along abstract lines, they did leave the cottage together the next morning, him in his blood-stained Roma top, her in a Juventus bubble jacket.
When he first saw her in it, he laughed
asking if she knew who that team was, who any of the players were, but then she reeled off a list of the current first team plus subs and he laughed again, saying she was truly a mystery.
‘One of my previous visitors was a Juventus supporter,’ Damijana replied, pointing at a path trailing left through the forest.
‘He talked endlessly about football. It was quite a relief when he tried to strangle me.’
Patrice looked right, checking for another path, or another crack in the river ice.
‘Perhaps it’s best if we don’t talk about past men,’ she said, squeezing his gloved hand.
After about an hour of overbearing canopy and unverified wildlife noise, they came across a small village.
It wasn’t the Vicenza he was semi-hoping for, but Patrice clapped his hands anyway, telling Damijana she was a sky-born genius.
‘This is my nieghbourhood,’ she replied, caustic, stopping next to a car and stroking its bonnet. ‘Though it looks a lot different now. Not so much horse shit on the road.’
‘You’ve never seen a car before?’
‘That is what this is called?’
‘Yes. It’s the modern version of a horse…basically.’
A gruff male voice shouted from across the street, telling them to get away from his baby. Damijana kept her hand on the bonnet, confused.
‘I said, get your fucking hands off it,’ repeated the man, who was planet-sized and coming their way, rolling up his sleeves and honing in on the black guy.
‘Sorry, she was just curious,’ replied Patrice, pulling Damijana away by the sleeve of her Juventus jacket.
‘Hey, you okay?’ the man asked, switching targets. ‘Is he bothering you?’
Damijana tilted her head, one of her neck bones making a cracking sound that made Patrice say oh fuck and the Italian mutter fucking weirdo, witch psycho as he backed off, clipping someone’s else’s car on the way.
‘Seems like cars are very valuable,’ she said, straightening her head and taking Patrice’s hand.
‘Oui, to some people. Come on, let’s see if there’s a bus or train around here.’
They kept going, eventually finding the bus station and discovering as Joanna had before that Italian buses were erratic and the next one wasn’t until the next morning.
‘We’ll have to stay here for the night,’ said Damijana, sticking hands in her jacket pocket.
‘That might be difficult,’ Patrice replied. ‘I don’t have any money. Or even my phone.’
‘Don’t worry, it’s on me.’ Damijana pulled her hands out and showed off two wallets, part of a fifty euro note sticking out at the top.
‘Where did you get those?’
‘Come, this street here. Let us find somewhere with a nice view of the slopes.’
Being a small village omitted from the main tourist roster meant that there was only one hostel with a view of the slopes, but the good news was, almost all of the rooms were vacant.
And the hostel lady was quite amiable too, signing them in without any weird looks and offering them a basket of fresh fruit in case they got hungry after dinner.
She even spoke a bit of French to Patrice, somehow guessing that he was from the Ivory Coast and asking if that’s where the two of them met.
‘We’re not a couple,’ he clarified, sitting down in front of the only computer in the hostel and logging into his e-mail.
‘He’s married,’ added Damijana, putting her hands on Patrice’s shoulders and starting up a light massage.
‘I see,’ said the hostel lady, squinting, then pretending to spot something that needed dusting in the corner and dashing off.
‘I don’t think she believed us,’ said Damijana, moving her fingers down Patrice’s back.
There was no response.
‘A bad letter?’ she asked, leaning closer to the screen, attempting to sound out the foreign words.
Patrice muttered something in French, letting his body slump forward. Then re-read the e-mail.
‘From your wife?’
After going through it three times, he laughed and said, ‘good for you,’ in Italian.
‘For who? What does it say?’
Patrice said it didn’t matter, it was just basic talk from his wife, then looked around at the small book shelf nearby – with a sign saying HOSTEL LIBRARY on the wall above – and nodded.
‘How about a bit of reading?’
‘I don’t mind.’
‘Can practise my Italian more.’
‘A lot of my vocabulary is outdated. From a different era. With the exception of the some film and football slang.’
‘I can understand it okay.’
‘Yes, that is odd. Perhaps it is not that bad. Hmm, I shall read something modern and see…’
Settling into the two cushioned chairs next to the bookshelf, Patrice and Damijana grabbed My Brilliant Friend // Ferrante and Prison Notebooks // Gramsci and, after an hour of muttering the words out loud, traded thoughts.
To Patrice, it was mostly blank as he was just trying to understand the text, whereas, to Damijana, both books were a little bit tedious as they were all about Italy.
What she really wanted was to read foreign stuff, like books from Mongolia or the Ivory Coast.
‘Don’t think there’s any here.’
‘In Vicenza then.’
‘Maybe not there also.’
‘Not even a translated script?’
‘It is not that popular. Some Nigerian writers can maybe do it, but…not that common.’
‘Okay. Then I’ll have to go there myself. With you.’
Patrice shifted position in his seat, his eyes going back down to Ferrante.
‘You wife wouldn’t approve?’
There was something unbearable in the things, in the people, in the buildings, in the streets that, only if you reinvented it all, as in a game, became acceptable.
He looked up, the words he’d just read non-existent. The thoughts in his head scattered. The image of a poster sketch of a child on his wife’s stomach. Her voice telling him to stop blaming himself. And the echo coming back, telling him it was all his fault. The pictures of her and the shadow at the pyramids. The man who now shared her bed, who had nicknames for her, who had put a stronger seed in her belly.
He could feel the wetness building in his eyes but there was no point going back to the book and pretending.
She’d just keep prodding and
it was done
before that even
better just to say it out loud and
Confess to a monster?
A pretty, sometime monster with pastel blue eyes…
Patrice closed the book in his hand and leaned forward, telling Damijana in one long burst everything
rubbing the yellow part of his ring as he spoke
then finally slumping back in his seat and mumbling,
‘there, a surprise.’
The room they’d been given had a black and white portrait of Italo Svevo, a crucifix, one double bed and no covers for Patrice to use on the floor.
Didn’t matter either way, as when he suggested it, Damijana said if he tried to sleep on the floor, she would too, and as the bed was generally more comfortable, then they should both sleep there.
And watch the hanging TV.
‘You’ve never seen one before?’
‘Not outside of photographs. Do I have to press a button to open it?’
‘Err…remote is okay.’ Patrice picked up the control from the desk and sat down on the side of the bed. He was still wearing his Roma jacket even though the radiator was on, while Damijana had stripped down to nothing as soon as the door had closed behind her, and was now under the duvet with the fresh fruit bowl on her lap.
‘I think there’s a nightgown in the cupboard,’ he said again, keeping his eyes on the TV.
‘Do they have foreign films?’ she countered, taking a banana out of the bowl and sticking it straight in her mouth.
She stopped, mid-bite.
‘You have to peel it first…’
‘The banana. We don’t eat the skin.’
She took it out of her mouth and examined the bite marks. Then fumbled with the top of the banana, finally managing to pull a strip from the top.
Patrice leaned across and tried to help her, then laughed when he saw the bite marks.
‘First time I’ve eaten a banana,’ she said, taking a bite.
He stared at her chewing, the pastel blue eyes looking back at him, the hair rambling down over her shoulders, the upper slope of her breasts, the ecstasy of being together with
She leaned forward, kissing his lips, wrapping her arm around the back of his neck and pulling him down on top of her
the jacket coming off, the Neon Kropotkin t-shirt
his hands everywhere
hers on the stem of his dick
rubbing it against herself and then smothering his protests of I can’t, I can’t with the palm of her hand and guiding him inside.
Patrice looked down, all senses locked in tight, thoughts Derridean, anxious, euphoric
the dogged fear of cumming within seconds
the urge to go faster
full purple nihilist and
then the other man appeared, the corpse with the horsewhip
calling her a fucking witch whore
and his wife
laying rigid beside them
asking why he never did it this way with her
with no phone
not deserving of
He stopped mid-stroke, staring down at Damijana’s pastel blue eyes.
‘Don’t say I can’t,’ she told him, smiling.
He opened his mouth, stuck.
‘Don’t say it.’
Her hand slipped round his back and the fingernails trailed down the spine, and again, she pulled him in, bringing his whole body down in the same motion, whispering, ‘hold me tight, fuck me,’ into his neck wound.
After it was done, they lay on the bed, heads at the same level on the same pillow, with Patrice glancing at the back of Damijana’s neck every few seconds.
‘It’s sleeping,’ she said, finally, putting a hand on his cheek and guiding him back to her face.
She took his hand and kissed the back of it. ‘Maybe to never waken again.’
‘I could be attacked by a strange man.’
‘Not something I want to think about, but it could happen. If you left me alone somewhere.’
Patrice kissed her soft on the lips and let her guide his hand over her breasts, then down farther…
‘Told you it was sleeping,’ Damijana said again, smiling as she rolled off Patrice and over to the remote control. ‘Shall we watch TV?’
‘You know how to work that?’ he asked, his breathing still a bit ragged.
She pressed the ON button and pointed at the screen as it flashed on.
Soon enough, she figured out that it was connected to the internet and asked Patrice to pick a country.
‘For film selection?’
‘Err…action. No, wait…horror. Horror’s better.’
She gave a stern look then started flicking through the maze of options until she found the search function, making Patrice laugh again as the button had search written right next to it.
‘Indian horror films,’ she said, typing it out.
The first one was monochrome and labelled Madhumati. The rating was good so Patrice gave her the greenlight to click on it.
‘What are we gonna do next?’ asked Patrice, as the film started.
‘Adventures,’ she replied, laying back down next to him and placing the remote control on his chest.
‘That might not be easy.’
‘I don’t have a passport.’
She mouthed back the word, frowning at the Indian woman on the screen. ‘What’s a passport?’
‘Merde…’ said Patrice in French, whistling out breath then spotting the half-peeled banana on the carpet and laughing
laughing like he had at the castle
until he heard a bone crack.
‘We’ll figure it out,’ he said quickly, stroking the back of Damijana’s neck, peering down at the line of her spine as, on the TV screen, an Indian woman climbed up onto a balcony, her face muted