Authors: Tim Waggoner
* * *
At 5:15 I hear the sound of the men pulling up outside. Liana’s decided to cook by herself tonight, and I can tell she’s excited, and more than a little nervous, about flying solo in the kitchen.
Since she’s busy, I know she won’t see me hurry to the bedroom and peer through the blinds. The Sons of Babel van is back in the same space, and the men climb out. They go around to the side door, slide it open, and each of them takes out two white plastic garbage bags stuffed full and hanging heavy. They shut the door and carry the bags up the front steps and into the building.
Gray-Hair looks in my direction before he enters, just for a second, and I think he smiles, but then he’s gone and I’m not sure I saw anything.
I hear them clomping up the stairs to their apartment, hear their door open and bang shut. I go to the living room and look up at the ceiling as they walk above me. A moment later the patio door slides open, and I hear them clomp down the back stairs, talking and laughing, sounding like regular Joes who just got home from a day on the job.
The garbage cans are located directly outside our kitchen window—not the most aesthetic design choice the builders made—and I hear the sound of Liana closing the blinds. She doesn’t want the men looking in at her. Good. I don’t want them looking at her, either.
I hear them dump their trash, the bags falling into the thick plastic containers with the high-pitched sound of glass striking glass, some of it breaking before it all settles. It takes a little while until they’re finished. They have six bags to toss, and from the sound of it, they’re all filled with glass. Bottles, I think, dozens and dozens of them. I imagine that they’re dumping the empties of all the booze they drank at work today, but they’re only three men. They couldn’t possibly drink six garbage bags’ worth of alcohol in one day, not and remain sober enough to function.
Maybe there were more people working at the job site, I tell myself. Maybe these three just got stuck with bringing home everyone’s empties.
Liana’s dinner is spaghetti. She makes it exactly the same way I did for her during her first night here. I mean,
down to the last detail. When she serves it, she smiles.
“I like spaghetti,” she says.
I smile back.
When we’re done eating and the dishes are rinsed and put in the washer, I get the trash ready to take out. Liana’s sitting on the couch, CNN on, the sound muted, while she writes in her journal. The instant I step out onto the patio, I hear them on the deck above me. There are cigarette butts on the ground beneath the deck, and I know our neighbors have been tossing them down here. They’ve got a small radio playing, but the music is quieter than I expect, given how loud Mr. Mustache was playing his “sound” yesterday. The music is unpleasant, possessing a lurching, spastic, atonal quality that grates on my ears. I smell cooking, hear meat sizzling, and I figure they’ve got a little charcoal grill there. We’re not supposed to have grills of any sort here. Rules of the complex. They consider grills a fire hazard. I guess our new neighbors didn’t bother to read their lease.
I don’t look up at them as I head for the trash containers. They’re talking with each other, but softly. I get the sense they’re not speaking English, though, just like I thought when Liana spoke with Gray-Hair yesterday. I try not to think about her talking to him, try not to think about what else she might have done with him—and the other two—if they are the men she wanted to get away from.
I’ve been trying not to think about those kinds of things a lot lately.
My single plastic garbage bag isn’t all that full, certainly not full enough to need taken out, but I’m curious to see what the men threw out earlier. The garbage containers are hidden from view by a high wooden wall, and the stairs to their deck cover the top. They won’t be able to see me snooping. There are three large green plastic containers. I pick the one on my right and lift the lid. There are a couple garbage bags inside, and I reach in and run my hand across the plastic. I can feel bottles inside, dozens of them, different sizes and shapes. Some are obviously beer bottles, some wine bottles, some hard liquor. Other objects are mixed in with the bottles, but they’re more difficult to identify. They’re hard and thin, sometimes straight, sometimes curving, with jagged ends, as if whatever they are, they’ve been broken into smaller pieces.
I close the lid and check the second container. More bags, also filled with bottles and hard pieces of something. The third container has garbage bags, too, but I don’t reach in to check them, for resting atop the plastic is a bloody mass of fur. I stare at it for a moment, shocked, and I remember coming out here last night and being startled by the raccoon attempting to raid the trash. Seems like something got hold of the poor guy and really did a number on him. A coyote, maybe. I’ve heard rumors they’ve moved into the suburbs around here over the last few years, though I’ve never seen one. I figure one of the complex employees—a maintenance person, most likely—found the raccoon carcass earlier and tossed it in the garbage. But the trash bags are beneath the raccoon’s remains. That means its body was deposited here recently, after the men upstairs got home. Then I notice something else. The entire raccoon isn’t here, just its blood-smeared pelt. The animal has been skinned, and the rest of it…
The smell of cooking meat wafts down to me from the upper deck.
I close the lid on the raccoon skin and put my trash in the middle container. Then I walk back into my patio, close the gate behind me, and head for my door. I notice a few more cigarette butts on the ground, a couple of them still smoldering. I’m careful not to look too closely at the men on the deck, smoking, laughing, drinking, listening to strange music—their
—while they wait for their dinner to finish cooking. I feel their gazes upon me as I go inside, but none of them say anything to me, and as I close the patio door and lock it, relief washes over me. Until I think about how small and fragile the lock on the patio door is, and how easily it could be forced open.
For the first time in my life, I wish I owned a gun.
* * *
That night, Liana and I get ready for bed, doing our best to ignore the clomping footsteps and the sound of men shooting what seems like endless streams of piss into the toilet above us. There’s music and laughter even though it’s after eleven.
I finish brushing my teeth, spit, rinse, and put my brush back in the holder.
“Sounds like they’re having a party up there,” I say.
Liana is standing next to me at the bathroom counter, watching herself in the mirror while she flosses with precise, deliberate motions. She’s absorbed in the process, fascinated by it, and she’s completely unselfconscious about her nakedness, which makes me feel awkward for wearing my underwear. Neither of us has said anything formal about it, but it’s understood that I’ll be sleeping in the bed with her tonight. It’s my place now.
“Ignore them,” she says. “They seek only to distract us.”
Does she speak from personal experience? I’m afraid so, but I’m more afraid to have it confirmed.
I slip off my underwear before we get into bed, and though she cuddles up to me and starts nibbling on my neck, I’m not ready to make love. The clomping still comes and goes above us, men pissing, the rush of water through pipes as they flush their toilet over and over, like they’re toddlers fascinated with watching water spiral down the john.
“I’m thinking of calling the rental office tomorrow to check how long I’ve got left on my lease. See how much of a penalty I’ll have to pay if I move early.”
Liana doesn’t say anything, but she stops nibbling.
“We shouldn’t have to put up with this racket every night,” I add. By saying “we,” I hope she understands that I want her to move with me.
“They told you they would only be here for a short time,” she says.
“Until they finish the job they came to do.”
She doesn’t reply to this.
The conversation and laughter above us gets louder, as if they’ve moved their party to the bedroom.
“We could go check into a motel tonight,” I offer. “We might stand a better chance of getting some sleep that way.”
Liana shakes her head.
“You don’t have to be afraid of them. Whatever else they are—and they’re many things—in the end they are still just flesh and blood. This is your home. Our home. I’ve never had a home before, not a real one. I don’t intend to give it up easily.”
She takes my chin in her hand and turns my face to hers, as if she wants me to see the seriousness in her eyes. Then she kisses me, and despite the noise upstairs we make love, and after a while all I can hear is our breathing and the beating of our hearts.
* * *
I come first tonight, and when I’m done shuddering and regain a measure of control over myself, I roll off Liana and begin gently stroking her clitoris with my forefinger. She moans softly and writhes on the sheet. I keep my hand where it’s at and sit up and scoot down a bit so I can use my other hand, too. She’s dripping wet, and my finger slides into her easily. I soon add a second finger, then a third. I continue rubbing her clit while I move my fingers in and out of her with long, slow strokes. I focus all my attention on the sound of her breathing, the little noises she makes in the back of her throat, the way her body moves, and especially the ripple and flutter of her vaginal muscles. These cues let me know when to go faster and deeper, when to slow down and go more shallowly, when to keep my fingers pistoning straight and when to move them in circular motions.
I can feel her excitement building, like the electric charge in the air before a thunderstorm, and I know her orgasm is going to be a powerful one.
Then, as they did when we first attempted to make love, the muscles of her vaginal canal grip my hand and pull it deeper inside her. I’m prepared for it this time, so I don’t freak out, although the sensation is damned strange. But I can’t deny it’s erotic in its own bizarre way, as my stiffening cock can testify to.
Liana’s breath is coming in short gasps now, and her entire body is quivering. Her eyes are closed, she’s biting her lower lip, and she’s rolling the nipples of both breasts between her index fingers. My hand is inside her up to the mid-forearm, but there’s still enough laxity inside her for me to move it a little, so I find a rhythm that she responds to with a deep moan and keep at it. Eventually I can feel something soft, round, and slick brush the tips of my fingers, as if something is descending from within her body. I sense that whatever is it, if I stretched my fingers toward it, I could wrap them around it and pull it all the way out. It should be a horrible thought, the idea of removing part of Liana’s body, but it doesn’t feel as if I’d be mutilating her. The whatever-it-is doesn’t feel as if it’s attached to her. It feels separate, like something that’s meant to come out, like…well, like an egg.
“Yes,” Liana whispers. “Oh, yes!”
She wants me to do it. To take hold of the thing and pull it out of her. And despite how fucking weird the idea is, part of me wants to. My cock is so hard it feels like the skin might tear any second.
I almost do it. I start to take hold of the object, squeeze its soft, rubbery substance between my fingers—making Liana take in a sharp hiss of air—but I chicken out in the end. I let it go and withdraw my hand to just inside her vagina and concentrate on making her come. She does eventually, although the whatever-it-is remains inside her. Her orgasm is small and she doesn’t seem to enjoy it all that much, and while she doesn’t say anything, I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
* * *
We lie in the dark for a while. Liana eventually drifts off, but I remain wide wake.
I can’t stop picturing Liana with the men upstairs. At first, I imagine her with them one on one, having sex with them in every position I can think of. The sex is always humiliating and rough—too rough—and Liana ends up with scratches, bruises, even bite marks. And when they’ve come, they violate her with whatever objects are close to hand. Bottles, tool handles, even a handful of sharpened pencils. In these dark fantasies of mine she hates what’s being done to her, and yet on some level she enjoys it. This last detail shames me, especially since it turns me on. Then I imagine the three of them doing her at once. Sometimes she blows one while jacking off the other two. Sometimes all three have a swordfight in her mouth. Other times she takes one in each hole. I imagine Liana whimpering as the Spindlekin violently thrust into her over and over, but the sounds escaping from deep in her throat seem comprised as much of pleasure as of pain.
I’m having rape fantasies about my lover, except it’s other men doing the raping. How twisted is that?
Up to this point in my life I’ve considered myself as having a fairly healthy attitude toward sex. But tonight I feel…tainted somehow. Almost as if Liana’s given me some kind of emotional and spiritual STD. I know the abuse she suffered wasn’t her fault, and I know better than to blame the victim. But no matter how hard I try to suppress the thought, part of me can’t help wondering if there wasn’t some reason she stayed with them as long as she did. That maybe some part of her wanted or even needed to.
I want to be a support for her, a sturdy rock that she can cling to, a soft bower where she can find shelter and rest when the rain’s done, a warm, glowing light that dispels the cold darkness she’s lived in for so long. And I hope I’ve succeeded, at least in part. But despite this, I turn toward her in the dark, look at her shadowy sleeping form and think,
How could you?
And I feel so ashamed and so small-hearted.