Faceless Elements

Short fiction
By R. Niche

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"Customers have moved from being faceless elements of market share to a powerful force that can pick and choose as they please. Let me give you an example of the first wave of the trend."

— George Harvey, President of Unitel Communications

1. Sometimes waking up at night I hear the ripping of flesh. But its only the sound of me grating and grinding my teeth. Is that what wakes me, or is it the dream? I want to remember what I'm dreaming, what I don't say when I clench my teeth at night. Does it stop me from screaming, from talking out the names that I'm afraid to speak. I am so tired of lying, so tired. Afraid that they will know. My body fills up with unspoken words.

I find myself crying at night, sobbing, when its been a beautiful day. Happy. Laughed all day so why do I cry at night? Even the laughter cannot fill those empty spaces. Alone at night, untouched, alone. Muffle the tears, stuff blankets into my face, crying alone.

You aren't here. I miss...inane conversations. One of the few times I feel normal, when we're having those ridiculous conversations. Inanity prevents insanity.The left hand of sanity. My clenched sore teeth.

2. Sometimes she wakes up at night smelling fried eggs. In a few seconds the smell disappears into the humming of the clock. Into that insistent green glow telling her its five in the morning. What wakes her up at five? Click, she imagines that the sun has just risen when she awakes. Towards the window there is only darkness, not touched by sun. Fried eggs. She remembers not to stretch. Awaking too much fragments the memory of the dream.

What smells? The oil, the butter, not the eggs. A smell that gets into the skin, into the hair into a leather jacket not hers, a car not hers. Sitting in the passenger seat, smelling. Long black hair. Not her. A hand resting on a gear shift, long fingers, white touched with black hair Driving where? Her eyes do not see the road, all she sees is fingers touched with black hair So small this car so closed. If she leaned over to touch the radio, her nipple would caress the arm. Stretching her tongue, she could touch the ear. The lobe at the tip of her tongue, flicking the earring, moving inwards, making clicking flesh-flesh sounds. But she doesn't. Silence and the smell of fried eggs.

Slowly her hand reaches out into silence, touching on the white hand. Pleasure at seeing skin against skin so different. Brown over white. She grasps and turns over the hand, brings it to her mouth, gently tracing curves. Long fingers, soft palm. Tongue pressing circles in the centre, pressing.

The dream disintegrates. Desperately she searches for the essence, but it goes no further. The strain of trying to push it further gives her a headache. Defeat, at five in the morning. She cannot sleep.

Breathe in. She sees the roundness of the belly even when she lies flat. No matter how hard she tries, that little kudoo of a stomach will not flatten out. She smoothes her hand over it, pulling at the belly hair converging into a line near her belly button. It moves up and disappears into that space between her breasts.

Closing her eyes tighter, she tries to push the dream into existence again. The strain of trying to fall back into the dreamworld makes her grate her teeth, and her right temple starts to throb. It goes no further She is awake.

3. It is night. Alone in her room she listens to ghazals whose words she does not understand. Voices and music that provide the same comfort that her doll did when she was young. Lying in her bed she would place it by her side in the langa and kurta her mother had made for it, and it's eyelids would drop closed.

She imagined that the doll was her child. Even after she cropped the long blonde hair close to the plastic head, she still loved and was comforted by it. Her doll and her music. In the music she heard her voice singing to a love she never had, and another voice responding. But now she knows it is a kucha comfort, uncooked/ungrown, untouched, only imagined. It made the ghazals more poignant, more precise.

Tired, she starts another letter.

I miss you. When are you coming back. We need to talk soon, letters just don't do it. Not enough...

She stops. The banality of forced letter writing is the most unpalatable thing in the world to read and write. What is there to tell anyways? Her life of waking and sleeping simply becomes boring after awhile. Waking, sleeping, dreaming...nothing happens. Nothing ever happens.

4. There was this photo of a banal man in the paper today. He killed 52 people. Often he tasted them too. LURID TRIAL TOLD OF MUTILATIONS, FREQUENT EATING OF TONGUES AND SEXUAL ORGANS. What, is the tongue not a sexual organ? Or the skin? It should've read FREQUENT EATING OF TONGUE AND GENITALS or just FREQUENT EATING OF POTENTIAL SEXUAL ORGANS. They could never find him for the past twelve years because he had an absolutely banal public character You know, like your neighbour, or your high school geography teacher, or your son.This man was someone's husband too, someone's father. So close to each other yet they never suspected.

The image of the banal man from Russia, the mass murderer (maybe it had something to do with Communism—found only after the collapse of the Empire?). Reminds me of Rick Gibson. Remember? Mr. l-eat-human-testicles-as-a-performance-artist and the Almost-Snuffer-of-Sniffy-the-Rat fame? Difference being that Rick Gibson gets a few bucks for what he does (on a small scale really) and the banal man gets shot in the back of the head. Executed, Russian style. Banal Man needs someone to recontextualize his work, put a new spin on things: THE FLESH CARVER—Creating Asexual Beings And Other Investigations in Gender. "Sick! sick!" you say, "Institutionalize her."

Institutionalize me? Too late, it's already been done. I work in an office. I go to a university. Even my home feels like an institution. My room is my cell-block. Visitors require permission from my mother-warden and by special permission of my father-governer Is any of this true? How can it be?

TRUE OR FALSE The Banal Man from Russia ate his victims' sexual organs because his desires were never touched, never tasted by anyone. Ingesting sex would make it so much more pure.

TRUE OR FALSE The Banal Man was bisexual because he killed and ate substantial amounts of both men (20) and women (35).

MULTIPLE CHOICE Your dreams and fantasies taken to their fruition would: A) involve killing and mutilations; 8) involve pain; C) be considered pornographic; D) would simply be erotic; E) all of the above and more.

WRITE AN ESSAY The Banal Man had sexual dreams and simply felt the need to act them out. What are the implications on the justice system of such a statement?

WRITE A BOOK The Banal Man is not unusual but a normal outcome of this technological society. He is a normal abnormality.

I stopped believing my dreams could become true the day a Banal Man entered my life. No one is untouchable.

Frieze and handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
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R. Niche is a young writer in angst. Her inspirations have been The Globe and Mail and Kafka, who she's never read, of course.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
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