Posted on: September 25th, 2010 Keshav 2015

By Garrett Ashley

Keshav gurgles. VRUUU.

“Come Christmas we will get you a real dog,” says Rajesh. “The kind with four hairy legs and a tail that really wags. We will name him SHATTERING SOUL just like your grandfather.”

Yamu frowns. She likes her new pet just fine. Even if he is covered with rust and city grime. Even if he has five metal legs on each side and tall thin eyes that see in every direction. “But what about Keshav? Where will he go?”

“Back where you found it,” says Rajesh. His forehead wrinkles when he is anxious. And arguing with little girls exhausts him. He is a wrinkled, tired old man. “How many were there?”

“Not many,” says Yamu. She crosses her fingers when her father isn’t looking. “He has creaky joints; I want to take care of him.”

“You cannot even care for yourself,” says Rajesh. He picks Keshav up. Fleshy cold beneath the machine’s overcooked belly. Grunt. “And too heavy for my daughter.”

Keshav tried to break free. Its ten kicking legs reminded Rajesh of a freshly speared crab. No no no no, cries Yamu. Where are you taking him?

“You’ll see,” he says.

He locks his daughter inside. He can hear her inside the house kicking and screaming. A child trying to break free. She is not ready, he thinks. But he starts the car anyway. He drives towards the scrap plant but the streets are backed up like always. There are a million people just on Siddipet Road alone. When the car is completely stopped Keshav moves across the torn leather passenger seat and crawls up the window to look out. Its iron claws peck at the glass and annoys Rajesh.

“Get down,” he says. First kindly and then in anger. “People will see me with you.”

Keshav cries. It is more of a steady buzz but Rajesh recognizes machine jargon better than some humans. He sees out the passenger window an elderly man selling young pugs. He goes to the man and asks which is the best with young children.

“None,” says the vendor. “But they are all good with old men.”

He pays the vendor and returns to the car with the smallest pug. “I will call you Sophia,” he says. Keshav squeaks. Rajesh winces. “What?” he says. “I think Sophia is a good name. What kind of name is Keshav? Not a robot name. A real animal needs a real name. Who named you?”

Keshav used eight legs to spell YAMV in the air.

“Stupid girl,” says Rajesh. His forehead wrinkles.

At home Yamu plays with her hair and draws pictures of her dead mother. She dreams that her father will not cry himself to sleep at night. She is sorry for all of the kicking. And purple is not a good color for hair. But that is the only crayon she has. The skies are purple. The trees and the dust and the clouds. Soon Yamu will be sick of the color.

After school ends she wants to be an astronaut. But Rajesh says she will never grow that old. That young children only go to the moon before they die. Rajesh says she will never die. That he will not let her as long as he is alive.

Yamu loves her father but she isn’t sure about what love really is. Or if her love really matters. She wonders if the old man would be any different if she didn’t hug or kiss him before going to bed. If she was just an object of his mourning curiosity. One day she will ask Rajesh before running away.

A knock at the door. Her father is home. He lets himself in and picks up his daughter. “You are heavy,” he says. He looks down into his shirt pocket. Sophia peeks out at the little girl and makes her scream.

“What is that?”

“A present for me,” says Rajesh.

Keshav walks through the door behind him. “And if I let you keep Keshav you have to change his name first.”

Yamu loves her father. She thinks she truly does. She kisses his icy cheeks and smiles.

“And you have to tighten his bolts and varnish his shell and oil his joints immediately. If you don’t do these things often he might break.”

“We’ll change together every day,” says Yamu. She calls Keshav into her room and they play until nightfall. Rajesh takes Sophia into his and does the same.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories | 3 Comments »

Posted on: September 12th, 2010 A Whispering Voice

by Elizabeth Creith

Goldilocks stalks the forest walks in ragged socks, regretting the courage that made her so bold as to pillage the cottage of porridge, too hot or too cold. Now she wanders alone the Grimm landscape of story, weary and sorry. Her tattered dress hangs on wasted flesh, her spirit trapped buzzing in marrow-hollow bones.

That spice that so enchanted her tongue, was it cinnamon, ginger, allspice? No spice, that flavour, but a spell like a mace. Whose bed has she slept in, to rise so changed?

Now that no-spice is all she craves, her hunger raves, her gluttonous appetite cannot be salved by poisoned apples or stepson stew.

Autumn winds rise cold, leaves fall, red and gold. Forest falls away behind, before her feet the road unrolls, a king’s road, flagstoned, clicking on her foot-bones. Thymey banks on either side, purple flowers long dried, bees fled, sleep under snow instead.

The road winds lower, a bridge passes over. She hears a hoarse whispering; is it a troll?

“Ah, Goldilocks, there thou gangest! If thy mother knew thy fate….”

That hoarse whispering, a horse whispering, the skull nailed to the bricks below the bridge. When winds wind under, a whistling whispering voice calls out.

“Come near, child, come listen. On you I smell the spell once worked on me as well; we cannot die, you and I. I am Falada; my princess has left me alone. She bound me as her witness here, then gained her throne, forgot these bones. No burial for us, my dear; we will diminish, year by year, until we are nothing but a voice, a whisper, a moan in the air; unless we bare ourselves of our bones, we must bear our immortality as whistles for the wind. Alas, I am nailed to mine.”

“Bare ourselves of our bones? I am hardly more than bare bone already, rags of dress on shreds of flesh.”

“You must bare yourself three times – flesh from clothes, bones from flesh, soul from bones. Unharnessed, unfleshed, but nailed to these stones, sheltered, preserved, I cannot shed my bones.” Falada ground his teeth. “No freedom for me. But you can be free.”

Goldilocks shook her tatters of dress to shreds in the road, her flesh and her bones to shards on the stones. A voice on the air, she chuckled and said,

“Wise Falada, thanks. I will visit you again.”

Now she whirls through the world, stalks where she will, walks in the dark, in forest and park, a whispering voice that might be in your head. A flickering flash at the edge of your eye, a sigh, a grinding of bones into bread, a creak in the floors, a breath behind doors.

Who’s sleeping under your bed?