Inside the Dollhouse

We only move some of the time. It’s sporadic. There is silence, a long quiet relaxation. Dominique is propped up against the toilet, and Leonardo is next to her sitting on the stove. The others are all piled in what is definitively the kids’ room, as it’s the one with the cradle and the swingset. I’m in the room above, under the sofa. Then, so sudden that our breath would catch if we had any lungs, the hand of Fate swoops in and plucks up Dom and shakes her, upside down. Her hair sways, brushes the floor, and then she’s tossed to land with a clunk in the corner.

Later, when everything is over, Leonardo is in the room with me. He’s looking at me, flat eyes gleaming in his faraway face. He’s dipped in the shadow that splays across the room. I look back at him. I know he doesn’t believe in Fate, in the things that move us. Just because the hand flashes in and out of our lives, isn’t there all the time, moves too quickly to see. I’ve seen it, though. I’ve seen the pain and the destruction it causes – why, AshleyBelle was thrown half across the world. Sometimes we can hear her calling out, half-crushed, gathering dust alone under a bookshelf. Sometimes we can hear Marianna calling back. Their voices are the only noises that ever really interrupt the silence when Fate’s not around.

When Fate is around, it’s often noisy. There are shrieks and cries, from Fate I mean, but often the muted sadness that escapes us as we’re separated or bent backwards. But even the hand of Fate thumping against the floor or a body seems loud to us, with our small ears and small lives. It makes an awful lot of noise thrashing about, and then when it’s gone again the quiet presses sudden and hard against us. We collect ourselves slowly, figuring out where we’ve ended up and where our loved ones are.

The rest of the time we wait for Fate to come rearrange our lives again. We wait – AshleyBelle under the bookshelf, Dominique hanging out of the refrigerator, Marianna’s plaintive voice still sounding through the body-strewn rooms. Eventually the hand of Fate will come through and we will scatter again. We wait, upside down and sprawled on the floor, for something to happen.

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Becoming God

Luke was a follower of his very own school of religious thought. It was somewhere in between Method acting and, perhaps, that vague soppy brand of spirituality that tells you to believe in something, anything, so hard you nearly strain your faith muscle. So rather like a lot of religion, actually. Luke was just the first to really put it into practice in this way, and he knew this. Knowing it, he reckoned himself just about a god. So he thought of the Judeo-Christian god that had scowled down on him from the stormy heavens all his life, and he imagined himself that god.

He closed his eyes, and he focused really hard, and he did this on the linoleum floor of his ratty apartment. Luke stayed there, too, for two days. He drank a bit of flat soda that was in the cup he’d cleverly reminded himself to put there, and he got very hungry but eventually stopped noticing. Then, all at once, it clicked and shifted into place and sunk into him and then he was God.

He could peer down on all the world and zoom in to see what people were doing and twist toward people’s thoughts and examine their ideas and somehow he could do all of this at once. It was fascinating and confusing and beautiful and bewildering and very very ugly at times. He swapped views from a woman reading poetry to a child holding its sick mother’s hand to a bird lazily circling the top of a mountain where two hikers were slowly running out of food. He looked at lovers fighting and children squabbling and criminals shooting at each other in desperate spurts. He saw babies crying and people kissing and the long sad sigh of a man who had almost thought that today he wouldn’t be alone again. He saw all of this and more, spinning from one head to another and reading one person’s “fuck that, I don’t like him anyway” and another’s “my God, though, what will I do?” He descended into the gritty details of people’s lives, and the mind-numbing boredom of sitting in the waiting room or standing uncomfortably in line or typing for another long afternoon in the confines of a cubicle. He sat in on courtrooms and classrooms and bedrooms. He watched people until he became them, winding himself into bones and sinews until he saw through their eyes. All of their eyes, every godforsaken orb among them.

Somewhere, distant, Luke was aware that he couldn’t feel his own body anymore. He was too entwined in everyone else’s, and his muscles weren’t aching with the strain of it. His soul was tired. His mind was sore. He concentrated again, pushed away the people and stamped on the pain. With a shove and a wrench he was free of the burden of the world and he opened his own eyes in his own familiar ratty apartment. He lay on the floor for a long while, blinking slowly, and then he got up.