Volcanoes and Hurricanes
by Caitlin Cording
Sometimes my skin itches, but not like on the surface where all my freckles and scars are visible. It itches in a place my nails can’t dig. It’s as though there’s something trapped between the layers—something that wriggles and squirms and yearns to gush through my pores. Sometimes I hear my brain buzzing, and when it does, it conjures memories that sting. I prefer silence for that reason. Stillness too. Whenever I take a bath, I hold my breath and stay as still as I can so the water can’t slosh around. Sometimes I envision myself in a lake and duck underneath. When my throat starts burning like there’s larva spurting from my stomach, I break the surface and gulp the steamy air.
I suppose if I had to label it, I’d call it a need for control. I don’t know why I need it. I guess I just like to be reminded the world can be paused sometimes—that the heart of the hurricane is a serene one, and I can stay there, in its eye, and observe mass destruction without being a part of it.
Is that it? I need to believe one’s soul can find peace even in the midst of chaos. Is peace what I’m truly seeking here?
I run my finger over the barrel’s grooves and its scaly leather handle and contemplate the plausibility of this theory. I give it a three out of ten and sigh. My breath vaporises. It shouldn’t be this cold in here. I touch the radiator, then snatch back my hand. It’s not cold in here.
More insight. I’ve got to jot that down.
I grab my diary from the top drawer, take a moment to study the planets and stars adorning its cover, then open to the relevant page and scan the list entitled, Epiphanies in Order of Appearance.
1. I can leave my body
2. I see things; ghosts?
3. I hear voices
4. They tell me to do things
With each day that passes since that day, I’ve learnt something new about myself. Or maybe it’s an old personality quirk I never realised I had until now.
I scrawl, ‘5. My surroundings do not affect my body temperature,’ and slam shut the notebook. It makes a satisfying clap. I smile. Okay, maybe I do like some noises.
My gaze shifts to the gun.
The gun is heavier than I expected. At best guess, I’d say it’s about the weight of a standard garden-fence brick. I’m glad. It’s nice to have something solid to hold in my most unpredictable moments. I like the sense of power deadly things give me. Holding them reminds me that I still have choices, that I’m still the one in charge of my own body and mind. It helps me to remember that this descent into madness isn’t perpetual—not if I use the deadly things to do something about it, to make it end.
The handle creaks as I twist, and the door squeals when I pull it toward me. A peculiar smell, akin to burning plastic, wafts in my direction. Wrinkling my nose and fighting the urge to run to my diary, I tiptoe over the landing. Treading the threadbare carpet and taking care to dodge the griping floorboards, I chew my bottom lip until blood fills my mouth. It tastes just how I reckon the gun would taste if I bit it—metallic. Imagining myself as the Pink Panther, I ease through the gap between the door and its splintered frame and into my dad’s bedroom.
He snores. Not that I didn’t know that already. I did. But tonight the snores seem different somehow. Deeper, louder, more … grunting. His arms encircle his girlfriend, and he’s drooling on her hair. If I were to paint the scene on canvas, I’d name it, ‘Lying in a Bed of Lies.’
My index finger traces the trigger’s smooth curve.
Just the fact he’s sleeping taunts me. And the fact he can sleep so Goddamn soundly, with his limbs tangled in crisp sheets, is testimony to how little he cares about what he did to me—how nothing has changed for him since he stole my innocence. He’s not the one with a hornets nest inside his head, or the one with the impenetrable itch. I doubt he feels the need to pour all his secrets onto the pages of a fucking diary.
The injustice of it all rises in me. I gulp. He omits a snort, and I snarl.
Sometimes I think of myself in terms of a natural disaster, as if I’ve always been an explosive volcano. My gut a molten chamber and I’m about to erupt.
I know I am.
Raising the gun, I wonder if I’ll blaze like a comet or crash like a fallen meteorite. I gnaw on my inner cheek and cock the hammer. I don’t care anymore. All I care about is unleashing this larva and escaping this black hole where he’s imprisoned me.
I watch him tug her closer to him and slide down so his naked torso is pressed against her back. I wonder if his chest hair is prickling her exposed skin and making it itch. I wonder if the smell of his sour breath makes her feel dirty. I’ll bet it does. I’ll bet she wants to soak in the bath.
The invisible noose around my neck tightens until it crushes my windpipe. Voices start to whisper, stirring the air around me and making it whirl until it forms a hurricane.
I push the gun harder into my temple and squeeze.
*This story won FIRST PLACE in the Reader Writer Lounge national short story context on August 31, 2018.
Caitlin Cording wants to live in a world where love letters are always handwritten, ice cream vans come around in the winter, and watching funny cat videos online every day is a legal requirement.
When she’s not wrestling with the thesaurus or bashing the keyboard, you can find her snoozing in the back row of the cinema, or writhing in the local tattoo parlour’s chair.
From the foot-swelling world of retail, to the back-aching world of call centres, Caitlin has worked a variety of jobs. Now a full-time freelance writer, she is working toward finishing her first novel for young adults.
Learn more about Caitlin at twitter.com/caitlin_cording.