When I’m at Dad’s the rain smells like freshly cut grass and wood smoke. First thing in the morning Dad checks the weather. “Supposed to rain later, better get out there and mow the lawns. I can see the flowers.” Robyn gets up and wraps her fluffy robe around her. “How about I light the fire?” I flip on the jug and make us all cups of tea. The fire’s roaring by the time Dad comes in smelling like grass and petrol. “Go have a shower Terry, you stink,” Robyn calls from the kitchen. The rain starts to fall. The sweetness of the decapitated daisies fills the house and as I open the door to the fire to place more wood on the flames, the smoke seeps out with the heat. I lie on the rug in front of the fire and sip my tea.
The rain pings off the bottom of the small, tin dinghy and I tuck my body as far into the bow as I can manage. Dad’s silhouette is black against a deep plum sky. His hands grip the worn, wooden oars and his body moves mechanically, propelling us through the choppy river. I look over the edge of the boat into the murky depths. I’ve never seen the river look so dark, so rough, and so unknown. I imagine the monster that lives under the water that changes colour with the sky so you can’t see it lurking below. It’s watching us, waiting. The boat jerks with the current and I wonder if the monster is trying to capsize us. I can’t recognise where we are or how far we have to go, the riverbanks are hidden on the dark horizon. As the boat turns a bend in the river we start to sway again.
I’m afraid of the truth
Not the all encompassing
Truth of that which is known
But your truth
The truth that could say
That like my looks your
Love for me has faded
Eroded by waves of time
The truth that could say
That the things that once
Endeared you to me are now
Noxious gas suffocating you
My quirkiness makes you cringe
My inadequacy with words, wearisome
My flaws magnified until they’re all you see
It’s not me, it’s not you, it’s us
It’s hard to remember when I first felt this urge, to fill the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t lack for anything at the farm. We had plenty of food, all the fruit and vegetables you could possibly eat, but it never satisfied me. I was very rarely alone yet loneliness had always followed me down the white corridors into the crowded dining hall. I wanted to reach out and touch someone, but that wasn’t allowed. In the shower when I had some privacy, I would touch myself the way that Max touches me now, pretending that it was someone else, pretending that they cared about me. Not in the way that Sweetie and Pip cared.
As the ship charged through the sea away, from the farm toward the unknown, I lay in bed in anticipation. I was alone and completely naked, blissing out at the tingling in my toes. I could feel the space where the air caressed my skin and tickled the hairs on my arm. I could feel the light layer of sweat evaporate as my breathing slowed. The taste of his skin danced on my tongue, salty, savoury, satisfying. The smell of sex hung in the air, it was a warm blanket that wrapped around me. My nipples pointed to the ceiling as they tingled from the memory of Max’s lips. A knock on the door broke the spell and I panicked, grabbing the sheet and pulling it to my chest.
By the time we had got to the dock the sky had clouded over and it was grey and cold. We unloaded the bus right by the sea and half the people made their way to a large boat that sat on the water looming over us. The rest branched off and hopped in cars, taking a road that curved around the coast.
“They live in the guard’s quarters while they’re working. There are some nice apartments on this island but most of us live on the mainland when we have time off. It’s good to get away.”
Looking back I realise I may have been using him. Not using him to help me escape the farm I was an animal in. I used him to escape my reality. In Max’s body I found food for my soul. The day I found out I was being farmed for my offspring and eventually my flesh, at the time I didn’t let myself think about what that meant. In my world up until that point I was brought up believing a comet had hit earth and wiped out all of the animals and most of the people. We were told that we were all that was left, so we had to do everything we could to keep the human race alive. Lies.
Recently I’ve been wondering if I made the right choice. Sleepless nights stalk me. When we’re lying in bed his breath fills the air, filling me with doubt. He inevitably rolls over toward me draping his arms and legs over me as if I were his possession. I haven’t gotten used to sleeping with someone else. His every move wakes me from my restless dreams. Dreams of white walls, white uniforms, and electric fences that hum a gentle lullaby. Sometimes I see their faces, the faces of friends I need to forget, but it’s only been a month. The blinds across our bedroom window haunt me. They look like bars I used to watch the sunrise through, the rays scattering light that sparkled like diamonds on the walls. Now neon lights throw a dancing kaleidoscope of colours on the ceiling, taunting me. I have to move on. I need to stop thinking of that place.