Picture by Zhuo Cheng on Unsplash

Fever Dream

Content warning: this piece contains language/themes that may be triggering to some people

The lonely red bus she rode on would be her last. 

It was a normal ‘day’ for her. She woke up at 5pm, and got out of bed only because she knew she had to eat to live and her empty fridge called for a trip to Lidl. But she’d take a shower first, wanting to look perhaps presentable to anyone that may look her way. 

And that shower had taken her two hours. 

Eyes closed, under the almost unbearably hot water, she saw a bright-green-red-rimmed dot at the back of her eyelids. Which then turned into a red-rimmed black dot once she opened her eyes. It quickly disappeared. 

Gatsby’s green light was gone. She cringed at herself for the thought. 

As she washed herself, Mona clawed at her back, where she knew her skin was darker. Skin curled under her nails from where her mother had told her to scrub harder. And as she did so, she glanced at her forearm, smiling ruefully. Thinking of the self-deprecating ‘barcode’ jokes she’d made on Twitter, the evening before right after she had thrown away the bloodied—

Mona thought she might cry, but she didn’t. She wished she did. She wished someone would stick their hand into her chest, squeeze her heart, so that she would recognise what it meant to be alive, the pain of more than existing. 

I should put a trigger warning to my thoughts.

Later, as Mona walked towards her stop, she paid a ridiculous amount of attention to her measured gait. Regal, she thought to herself, I am regal. She fancied herself a lost queen, or empress. A descendant of an esteemed lineage, far away, Eastern — perhaps Southeastern — where she would be bowed to, awed and feared. And perhaps a queen wronged because, afterall, she thought, the truth was built to bend. Because deep inside, oh-so-deep down in her aching heart, Mona felt she’d been robbed of something so great. 

I am regal she’d chant to herself. 

Yes, of course. Regal on the disgraced roads of Newham, where Mona would be queen of nothing but the five pounds that would only cover her bus journey and perhaps three wings and chips for dinner. 

Regal indeed. 

The dismal streets she strutted on — a mask of self-important disinterest wiping away all the compassion she knew she had — were a patchwork of cracked concrete. The words ‘sordid negligence’ floated in her mind along with all sorts of other jargon. The cacophony in her mind never ceased. Like a fount of shattered crystals, obsessive images of ruling in another world rained upon conscience. 

Mona’s foot stubbed into the air, and she tripped over her own feet. Scowling and face heating, she told herself she shouldn’t show weakness to anyone who might be watching — no one was — for the road was long and full of shadows. Here, she wouldn’t even be able to connect with Mother Earth, or Gaia, or Terra, or Jörð, or Allah. 

The bus arrived and as she stepped upon it, she mocked herself. The arrogant tilt of her chin so falsely appropriated a status that she didn’t and would never be able to dream of truly having. 

She sat on a chair, crossing one knee over the other. Mona imagined herself sitting on a throne, looking down her nose at subjects. Or, in this case, the ugly patterned floor. 

A newspaper on the seat across from her fell miserably onto the dirty floor. She looked at it and her gaze hardened, hardened at the face of a rich man in a suit slapped large above the red Ladbroke advert. She hated his face. She imagined he’d have her on a plate, eat her whole and spit out the parts he didn’t like. His dog would come close, and the man would chortle ‘what a shit of a woman… now you’ll be shit of a dog’ as the beast too would ravage her pieces. 

As she arrived at her stop, she stepped on that face and saw that it was good. 

Anyone like me would do that, she thought.

Stepping off the bus with attempted grace, she sauntered (she hoped) through an alleyway shortcut, uncaring of its suspiciously dark nature. Mona would conceit herself indestructible of course.

And at the other side, the other side of it all, she came upon a crossroad and out of those large shadows — ones she’d dare not let herself admit she feared — came a gangly, hobbling silhouette, ambling its way towards her. 

A faceless man.

The faceless man stabbed her and tossed her to the concrete. It wanted none of her. Her only jumper soaked her blood until that too was raped from her. And on that late November night, she bled, her stomach bloating. Not long after, all that she hated ripped its way out of her womb, rejected her even as she birthed it. It sneered and laughed as it scampered away with the faceless man towards a stolen light-mountain. There, they celebrated.  

The colours of her skin bled away, leaving only white and in an outcry, she bit into the ground, enamel shattering, and swallowed crumbs of grey matter. She changed, small, smaller yet, and turned into a runt of a black sparrowhawk – caw, caw, caw – dreaming of a distant peacock throne. 

The winds of the November night tossed the flailing bird this way and that. It bashed into a lamppost and fell miserably onto the tarmac, only moments before a set of headlights and rubber drove over it. 

Regal? No. Roadkill. 

Such was the fate of the Great Mona who had never been alive. Such was the fate of the Great Mona who had only lived. 

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