About a year ago, I wrote a short story. I don’t think that I could get it published for reasons that may become obvious, so I want to post it here. But it is a story that my headmates like to call “the most triggering short story on the face of the earth”. So, um. I know this multi-system blog is generally trigger warning free, but I am going to put trigger warnings here because I don’t want to carelessly hurt another system.
This doesn’t have blow-by-blow accounts of abuse or anything that would normally be labeled as “graphic”, but it is VERY symbolically and emotionally triggering. It deals with themes of religious trauma – specifically sa religious trauma, csa from a very young age, narcissitic abuse from guardian figures and fellow victims, and codependence. Also, I personally think that the content is triggering and evocative even if it wouldn’t normally be called “graphic”. It’s just…me at my most honest and I am part of one of the trauma holder subsystems in my system. Please be careful.
But yeah, here it is. If you’ve decided against reading it, don’t read past this paragraph.
John, the Beloved
I enter The Room, and the Archangel is waiting for me. Most angels have a mathematical appearance, a slip of the brain attempting to communicate in extra dimensions, and Nathaniel is no different. He is made entirely of cubes of varying sizes, floating as though magnetically repelled from each other, but forced into unity by a greater power. They rotate and pop in and out of reality, but currently take on the rough shape of a faceless man, white from head to toe.
The archangel is able to take on any shape that he likes – a door, a puppeteer, a table, a mother. And he can program your strings into any creature that he likes – a bunny, a field mouse, a tin gutter to house an unpleasant and pushy spider.
You might not like it, but you have to do as you’re told. That’s all you are, after all, just a wisp of static and pre-programmed motions. If you don’t follow them, you won’t be anything at all. If you don’t follow them, somebody else will have to come out and have wires threaded through the hollows of their bones.
I know where to kneel; I know what to say; I know the rhythm of the song. I know how to keep the angel happy so that it doesn’t have to hurt.
Today was a good day; he let me finish the song. I didn’t mess up; I didn’t get hurt. Nathaniel holds me in his lap and talks to the other angels while I suck my thumb, trying to taste myself rather than tasting him. He runs his hands over my body, absentminded, but my body is made out of static, so it doesn’t matter. It’s nice to be held without being yelled at, and if I don’t struggle or squirm he won’t pay any attention to me and I won’t have to turn back into a doll. I can only be a boy when nobody will notice. And if I’m good, he won’t give me away to somebody else. It’s a lot scarier when the angel is a stranger, when you don’t know their rhythm and you can’t breathe.
Once upon a time, the Good Fairy from the song followed me home and made a nest in my head. I call it a nest, but it’s neater than my own room, of course. Something like a silver cup lined with rabbit down.
She finds a way to turn all words into their own song – words from my mother, mostly – so that I’ll always have strings and I’ll always be able to be something. Puppets need masters to keep from turning into a puddle of rags in the attic.
I like to find corners where nobody is meant to go – under chairs or between furniture as long as it’s not dusty. The spaces aren’t used to being visited, and so they don’t put on blazing colors for you. They study you a while, uncertain, and then wrap you up in silence. It’s the best kind of place to read.
There’s nothing all that nice about the world of angels and songs and adults and moms who laugh at you for things that make you happy. I belong here, in the corners where nobody looks for you, letting the books unveil their deepest joys. If I have to have strings made of words, I’d much rather make my own out of a story.
I don’t want anybody to make fun of the stories the way that Mom makes fun of me. In payment for turning my head into a better place than the adults’ world, I listen to the books, utterly still, and I never laugh unless they want me to.
After my fifth birthday, we leave the angels behind. I know that there will be other songs, other strings, because I know that this is what adults like. But at the next church, we meet a little girl.
She doesn’t just have to slip other peoples’ strings on and off like I do. Nobody will let her make her own. She isn’t able to take off the worst ones, even when she’s home; she always has to keep them in reserve. She’s younger than me, and she’s already learned how to eat her own heart to keep it away from everybody else with teeth.
I will be your story. I will be your corner where nobody bothers to look.
I know how to follow a song to perfection, and how to handle getting hurt when you mess up the rhythm. And so, year by year, I weave the most intricate set of strings I’ve ever worn. When I mess up, she punishes me, and so it’s easy to snip the wires from their frame and re-attach them to where she wants them to be.
I’m making my own song; nobody’s making it for me. I have the scissors to prove it in my own hands. And the girl settles into the shape of my strings’ frame like she was born for it. I’m in control of the strings and she’s in control of me. We’re making our own song, melting into each other, and so we have to be happy. It’s nobody else’s fault if we’re not.Published in