Autumnal Equinox 2003
LOOD WELLS IN THE scratches on my wrists, tiny droplets of blood like the teardrops of garnet that sparkle in Evie's favorite necklace. I stare at the liquid, ruby red in the moonlight, then turn to stare at Lora. She sits in her appointed chair, a serene smile on her face, still wearing one of Evie's creations from early this morning. Lora sees everything.
I watch her for some sign of movement, but find none. Now that Evie's work is done, Lora sits in the corner awaiting tomorrow when she'll model another fashion and discourse with Evie. She never speaks to Drew.
I swallow hard, thinking of Drew, Evie's husband. He works in a bank somewhere, making money so Evie can design her clothes, the perfect relationship that only Lora sees. I sniff, tears stinging my eyes. I cannot cry.
"God damn it!" I sob into the night, hoping the moon and the blood erase my pain. My chest heaves with unfulfilled emotions, a turmoil of hate, love, and sadness that drive me to my knees.
Lora watches, silent.
I had answered an ad for a maid so long ago. Damn me for doing that. They wanted someone to clean their house, and I needed spring break money. It seemed so easy at first.
I remember Drew during the interview, so debonair next to his beautiful wife, Evie. They laughed, passed around champagne to celebrate my arrival, and we told stories of how it had been once. We spoke of the nouveau riche, their hedonistic ways in buying company figures, such as Lora, simply to play a game of chess in the parlor. Some lived with a company figure for each day of the week, I thought, then paused not knowing from where the words had come.
My fist clenches in frustration. Blood pools; hard beads of scarlet liquid rush forth to meet the moonlight. I swallow at the sudden, stinging pain. Lora watches, her eyes holding much.
"I counted on you, Lora," I sob quietly, not wanting to wake Evie and Drew. "I counted on you."
I saw her during my interview, the assured company figure that followed Evie around the house. Lora modeled, then would sit and talk with Evie for a while. Those simple conversations helped her mistress, I think, inspired her to greater heights in fashion. I scrubbed floors or toilets, whatever hit Evie's fancy.
Spring break passed, leaving me in this dreadful Gothic house. I couldn't leave, not with the possibility that Lora might tell me something. She saw them during the day, bodies writhing on the oriental rug as Drew came home to sate some hunger that he feared feeding elsewhere. Their moans echoed through the grate. I listened, but I did not see.
My wrists hurt. I watch the blood rise to the surface, washed away by the tears falling from my eyes. It makes no sense for me to do this, I think, but I have no choice. I cannot stay in this house, listening to Evie and Drew's rutting, when I know it should be me. Drew has many women; I would be but one more.
Lora passes judgment on me. Her eyes silent. I see the button to activate her, know she would recall every horrid memory of his hands pressed to Evie's flesh so I can sit there and relive the experience. They designed you to bring joy, Lora. Why don't you bring some into my life?
My hand trembles as I reach for her, like a drowning woman reaching for a rope. I stop, glance upstairs, and realize that Lora might wake them. Evie sleeps light, forcing Drew to take his conquests elsewhere. He could have taken me anywhere.
I stop and stare at my wrists. Maybe I should plunge the knife deeper, after all, I've sat here for months without Lora telling me any of what she sees. I want to know. I have to hear what her optical sensors tell her.
This is madness, this sitting here and bawling. I should staunch the flow of blood, sit up, and maybe get on with my life. It matters little if Drew wants me, for I want him, and I get everything I want, usually. Oh Lora, why won't you tell me what you see?
Night upon night I've called to you, sat at your feet and expected to hear your voice. Remember our first night together, Lora. I sat at your feet like an adoring puppy, looking up at your silent beauty. You said nothing, keeping your secrets to yourself, and I envied you. My heart burned that you sat beside Evie, listening to her delicate voice, then wearing the beautiful clothes she made. They created you for aesthetic enjoyment. Damn it, where's my enjoyment?
The second night after I had arrived progressed the same as the first and the next night after that. You spoke of nothing, though you saw much. I hear them, Lora; you cannot lie. I swallow against the upshot of tears choking my throat. Tell me, Lora.
I've sat here at your feet every night for more than two months. Can't you pity me enough to say something? Details mean nothing, Lora, just tell me how they looked. What he said or what she said matters little in the game of life. I need to know, Lora.
My arms hurt. Blood drips from my wrist to rush over my hand, the flow not stemmed by my emotions. I pick up the kitchen knife, stolen during my forays around the house, and watch the moonlight dance across the smooth blade. My destiny lies in this cold steel, I think. My soul pulses to feel the metal colliding with thin flesh once more, but I cannot go now. Lora sees so much.
I wish I could be like you, Lora, designed only to please. Maybe then I might not have been raped, I might not have been beaten. I think of Drew, of the way his hands would feel against my skin, sliding in the heat of passion, but I cannot bear his touch. Loving Drew leaves me with the horrific memories of my attacker, and that is not love.
Tears cloud my eyes. I hover at a paradox of victory and defeat. I've won, for I've survived these hellish months without Drew, watching him from afar as he ruts with Evie. Losing hurts. By my not being able to have him, I lost the battle of wills, like two she-wolves fighting over the alpha, but no fight ever happened. I rolled over, played dead like some boy's stupid dog, and now look at where I am.
I kneel, beseeching Lora. In the moonlight I appear to be praying, and perhaps that is what I am doing, asking the deity of technology to take my pain away, to do what therapists and psychologists could not--make me whole. My heart pounds. I lift my bloodied wrists to her, an offering.
Lora sits quietly, her plastic ears not hearing my prayers. I sob, the tears flowing in a torrent down my face, making it sticky with sorrow. Her creator built her for pleasure, simple company while the husband is away, and she cannot give that to me. I have no husband who works, no spouse to care for me when I am ill. My heart lurches, thinking of everything that Drew and I could have had.
Through the sheen of tears, Lora appears real. I hear the words she softly speaks to Evie, soft commentaries on politics and art. She speaks of no pleasure for herself, dreams of no man to take her away in his arms. What kind of existence do you have, Lora?
I sniff, seeing the blood on my wrists congealing into a mottled red line. It seeps no more, stems its own flow to give me back my life.
Lora smiles, her ruby lips painted by some artists hand; she cannot smile on her own. I reach to give her life. I falter, my hand shaking so badly I cannot reach the tiny red switch imbedded in her neck. I keen, the sounds bursting through the room with the clarity of Evie's new stereo. The knife falls from my hand to clatter on the floor.
I cannot stop the momentum I have built. Lora will not speak to me of love, and that is all my ears wish to hear. Time has no meaning to me; the idea of waiting until I am ready for love is abhorrent. I must hear Lora speak, if only to tell the tales I fear.
Help me! My mind screams as I reach for Lora once more. This time, my finger connects with the red button. A satisfying click fills the room, and Lora lives.
She blinks once, turning her head to orient herself. Looking down, I see the sparkle of shellac in her eyes, a sparkle I once carried with me. Lora bends over, her synthetic hands closing around the knife. She lifts it, stares at it as if it were a foreign object, then hands the blade to me.
"Do you know what you are doing?" I ask, my voice rusty from tears. I take the knife, using it to crease my skin. A pleasant pain rushes through my wrists. They hurt, and I am happy.
Lora watches my motions with the knife, a thoughtful look crossing her plastic features. She reaches to her own wrist, draws a line up the vein with her finger. A harsh, metallic chuckle echoes in the room.
"Hush," I whisper. "You'll wake Evie."
Lora shakes her head. "Evie will not wake tonight. She lies sated in Drew's arms."
"Don't tell me that!" My words hiss into the night, sounding like a leaky balloon that knows life is far, far too short.
Lora gasps, a hiss of machinery only, not the real sound. "You lay at my feet every night, wanting to hear the moans she makes and the power of his touch. I shall not speak if you don't wish me to."
Sorrow crosses her face, or was it a figment of my imagination? How could anything that mechanical feel sorrow? Does she not know the pain I am going through? I want to hear, yes, but I cannot bear it. Drew will never touch me, and that scares me more than the nightmares that plague my sleep.
Lora bends over to run her fingers over my bloodied wrists. Expectantly, she watches moonlight flash from the knife in my hands. Our eyes meet, my brown irises meeting her mechanical green ones. Recognition flashes for a moment, banked by reality. The company figure straightens, then inclines her head. "What will you do?"
Her words fill my heart with sorrow, for that is the one question that I cannot answer. I stare at the knife as if someone else held it. The blood coagulated on the blade. It is mine, I think hesitantly, as if my mind had ceased to work. Lora wants something, wants me to take action. "I've never seen death."
Her words float over my senses. Her existence as a pleasure piece kept her from the grim realities of life. Evil lived only in the fringes of her memories.
I can give her death.
The thought buoyed me out of my dark depression. Love seemed meaningless beneath the onslaught of my revelation. I held a gift. The ability to show Lora death meant more to me than my own life. She'd watched Drew and Evie attempt to make life, preventing its conception with only a thin scrap of latex and a few pills, yet this beautiful creature of pleasure had never seen death.
She existed as a piece of plastic, meant only for good. Which one of us has the worse life, I wonder with the realization that she held no emotion? Lora ran through life in a euphoric haze, programmed that way. Her moods never swung, her body never ached. What a pity to live that way.
"I can give you this," I whisper to her, blowing a kiss into the night air. "You live for pleasure, now experience pain."
I slash the knife into my wrists, reopening clotted wounds. Blood pours forth. Awareness fades. Blackness encroaches upon my vision.
"Thank you," Lora whispers.
© 2003 Mary K. Wilson, all rights reserved
Autumnal Equinox 2003 Issue, Updated September 20, 2003
BLOOD ROSE is Copyright © M. W. Worthen.
"What Lora Saw"