The Luminol Reels
By Laura Ellen Joyce
This is the last reel he sent you.
His hand feels cool on your sutures.
Hired assassins gleam at you with needles.
Their knives jolt into dullness.
They cover your flesh with folds of paper.
In the dollhouse.
You lie with angled limbs like rigor.
The reel slices to show your opening—born without a hole. Instead you have a gathered ruche of skin that peaks, like the tip of a Hokusai wave. You have a shuttered gap, a hoarding.
There is no slit for shedding wastes and they fill you up.
You take a shucking knife and slide it through the crest. It is over quickly. A gush of fluids cleans out of you and splatters gore.
Threads of red hair loop you shut. There is a tiny hole, to avoid disease.
This is in real time. But in the depths.
Listen to all of the instructions and do not flinch at the butcher's strange request.
If it is not her, it will be you. You must remember that when inside this reel.
Outside, the sky will have a black look, above the dead-eyed, shuttered night.
You will be better off inside.
On the altar there is a cloth, darkly stained, deeper than red.
The butcher wears a matching robe. She tells you it is the colour of mourning.
Set the girl down amongst the butcher's dainty offerings:
Plum heart, brown lung. Balletic half-pigs, their sides pierced dry.
The taste of filthy pennies fills your mouth as you bring down the cleaver, like a monstrance stiff with blood.
At this point, catch the bloody pearl.
If there are twins, they must be sutured with the assistance of this reel.
All twins will be blasted with freckles, bound by a widow's peak. Surgery can take place on their tenth birthday.
Once you are gowned, spray their cunts with white foam that smells like custard of baby fat. Scrape it off so that the foam and the mess of hair comes away leaving raised sores on their prickly skins. Do not put your mouth near that. Go on, they will say, in a teasing voice, and not even that gently they will try to push you down towards that bare red place. If they do, you must lick and kiss and tongue. You must feel every bump as you flick over the flesh and think of each pore, bacteria—a yellowy jelly that might burst at any time—in your vulnerable mouth. Blackheads will scud their thighs where sweat collects; blue, dense. Put two thumbnails around the toxic place and let the poison flow away. Scrub the pore out with salt and lime.
Following the operation, keep them sticky with pig lard, soft on their scars, where the heads are fused. If you have an unsteady hand their circuitry will come loose; blue sparks will fizz along their stomachs, intestines, shoulders, where the cord wraps them tight. Phantom limbs will give them pain and they will not keep silent.
Bearbaiting begins in Gold. All participants must drink luminol margaritas.
You will awaken underneath a tree. The bear cub will be at your side, licking your face clean of dried blood, whimpering. You will sit up, see that you are in the shantytown on the other side of the desert. Your ribs will ache as though you have been dragged all the way there.
The gold flags of the province are tied to the branches of the tree, and every one of the adobe and corrugated metal shelters is painted in heaven metals.
The second stage is to eat the fruit. It will be shimmering gold and a viscous syrup pours out—sharp and salty, it will refresh your thirst. You will feel weightless and stand on your damaged limbs, ready to run at the mama bear, take your weapon out and kill her cold.
There will seem to be a wide pool, and beside it a patch of lush grass where bears lie in a naked tumble. You stare at their beauty and begin to touch them, suck the blue salt from their matted fur. Tears will roll down, the bears will put their big hands all over your back, stroking it, pummelling it, kissing you.
You will scream, you will vomit. It will all be horror—the desert a black slick flooding your eyes. You will see the edge of the desert, trails of blackened bones, coyotes and carrion. Clouds of insects buzz low, flanking you, sucking blood-fat.
The smell is rotten in the desert. Putrefaction is scrambled in the heat. Some of the girls lie with their faces missing, brains leaking from the dead zone, but with their right arms or feet still covered in creamy flesh.
Relief can be gained by visiting the mass grave. Run your fingers through their hair and breathe in their sharp, violent scents. Lie on top of them, rolling your heavy body over theirs, catching blue-black hair in your teeth and tasting their sweet perspiration where it collects underneath the fester and damp of their corpses.
The bearpits run the length of the plant. Beneath the factory and the ovens and the dormitories. Behind the stage. There are passages between the zones—passages that have been reinforced to carry domestic product, vats of acid, barrows full of girls. Along these passages are cages and bearpits. Creels of the fresh or near dead are stored there. Some for the cadaver shows, some for the bears.
The white baby bear cries for her lover, the nudist.
She birthed a baby before she died—a muted, hairless spod that the bear sings to and squeezes. The nudist's ashes have been scattered through the zone.
A luminol mass is held for her once a year.
A walk across the desert—in plastic heels, heart-shaped sunglasses, chewing gum, drinking cherry wine, wearing a sequined bustier—is a film cliché.
Sunglasses snapped, sequins scattered, wine syruping into blue sand, bustier torn and rusty—is a parable.
Decide on your option before the reel begins.
The sand had been clean once; a virgin sheet of white, soft and clean as cocaine. But now, there was the factory. Now the sand was a glitter of blue.
There were stories about the desert—the parable of Old Jack, the parable of the Child Killer. But the girls still came. They came at midnight, they came early in the morning. They walked in bare feet carrying plastic grocery bags with their uniforms, food, rape alarms. Keys were splayed in their palms, knifed out. The buses did not come at night, nor in the early morning. The women came to the desert, walked over the bodies they found there, careful to avoid falling down into the mass graves, the limb-filled holes of the desert.
The sky is black, the sand so clotted with human that it reflects nothing. There is no wind, no water. The only way to cross is to take metallic salts every forty paces.
To walk across the desert is to conquer fear.