And thus the woman walked with the baby bundled on her back, her knees trembling and her lips parched for both want of water and uttering far too many curses against all gods that she could remember. She saw in the grains of sand, burning bright red against the setting sun, the gleam in the eyes of each of her fellow citizens the last she saw them, on the day she had been banished. She imagined each one of them now, feasting on the bounty of the purple fruit, drinking dew water collected from the thick leaves of the city’s trees — by forcing those images into her mind, her goal was to raise the fury of the pariah and the rage of the disgraced. And yet, nothing came. In vain she stared at the sand, thinking of her previous countrymen, imagining she was crushing them to bits, trying to work up her anger. There was nothing there. True to her crime and their words, she was empty.
Moving her attention to her own body, she ran her fingers against her skin. The blisters on her feet, the skeletal muscles, the terrible stench of sweat dried and layered many times over, the blood that came out of bruised fingers and scratches and falls.
She sat on the sand, took the baby off her back and cradled it in her arms, hoping to distract the infant from its hunger, which, she knew, would be eternal. The child would only ever provide sustenance, never be sustained itself. Little information emitter; tender white noise generator. Her stomach rumbled. Would she resist it this time? A metaphysical emptiness claimed to be filled in ways both esoteric and mundane.
Perhaps a kiss would suffice, this time? She gave it a little peck on the cheek. The buzzing inside her stomach subsided and moved simultaneously towards her urethra and her fingertips. Holding the baby in one arm, she wrote in the sand.
“…cause tusk vilified vituperate activate infinite physique pathogenesis unexplored rather rather octillion shawl, soon instantly unthought manual blur burr burp decadent nonfat inefficiency recessivity impinged unhinged inflected. Honorarium reduction rhubarb armed metallic cortical cryonics saccharin suprasaccharin overdose oratorial homosexual typical topical foetus manipulator stirring nervousness paperweight metaphysics cadastral uncertainty ulcer…”
Each word that bled from her fingers was like a grain of sugar dropped from her palate into her tongue. There was sweet spite in her gestures, and tender violence as well. Not the brutality of the butcher, nor the precision of the marksman, but the joy of something stillborn which was still grateful for the duration of its life. She wetted herself as she continued.
“…blood taste like groundlessness reason insubstantial gains under thumb pain reflective regurgitation leaves alone eyes agate skin obsidian obscured aimlessness…”
For each word and each grain of sugar, a pixel died in her vision. At first these invisible punctures seemed to sing with a loud pop when they appeared, but as words were conjured with the wave of a hand, sounds became muffled and distant. The baby chuckled. She was a conduit.
“…emollient emolument recolonise scaled ova winterised spinster and ageist tumescence accredit ikons of readership the hotheaded goons egotistically ceased legitimising…”
A tiny hand grabbed her finger. The baby looked at her and its eyes were cold white spheres that did not so much shine as they seemed made matter so compressed it glowed.
She bore an intimate relationship with the void in every facet of her life: in that which she attracted (tragic characters on their way to losing their minds), in that which she sought (lunatics, maniacs, psychotics), in that which she ate (foods which held meaning, which she could associate with a memory, a story, an event, as if trying to fulfil a need deeper than physical nutrition), the way she spoke (as if she bled words in a thin trickle that was about to disappear altogether).
This situation was fitting, somehow. She stood up, rocking the baby on her arms, humming a cacophonous lullaby.
[^1]: An odd encounter from when she was twenty years-old came to her mind as she wrote. An astrologer appeared at the entrance of her home, peddling their knowledge in exchange for a mouthful of fruit and an ear to listen to their words. The woman could find no reason not to entertain the elderly mystic and agreed. After a decent meal — fruit steamed and then quickly seared on a sizzling pan — the astrologer opened their mouth as if to speak. The woman’s next memory is of waking up in a hospital bed and discovering her residence had been sealed off for the public good: the astrologer had never stopped speaking and their words forced the condensed madness of all things into the minds of anyone who listened. For many weeks, if someone were to stray too close to the house, they would hear the mystic’s voice speaking tirelessly, night and day, without any pause. Months later, the astrologer died and their words disappeared. The house, though it remained locked, haemorrhaged silence, an abhorrent absence of sound, an aural void that seemed to pull the non-listener towards its centre, as if one had suddenly chanced upon a steep cognitive curvature.