Electric Locusts

Woman on the verge of a fridge. A short story.

Wanda moved slowly towards the fridge in her claustrophobic little studio flat, stood in front of the stained white monolith for a moment or two, and then opened it wide, with majestic pathos. It was empty. She knew it would be, but intermittently checked it, as if she was waiting for it to change its mind, and start producing food out of decompressed air.

She was beyond regular hunger, and steadily moving towards hallucinatory starvation, having not eaten for three and a half days. She did have sugar in the house and instant coffee, so she mainlined that, as she feverishly scribbled down notes to her former selves – the prodigy, the siren, the intellectual, the hedonist, the fraud…

She stopped with the fraud. Wanda couldn’t relate to being one, yet this was how she got kicked out of her last job. For stealing ideas. Actually, the exact words of her former boss were: “Nicking ideas, and infecting people with misery.”

Wanda was not an enthusiastic employee, but she was not a thief, and even when she did eavesdrop and write down her colleagues thoughts and conversations, she made sure that the ideas become hers through transmutation. She would cut up her notes, and ceremoniously drop the shredded pieces on the floor, then join them together, randomly, like the Beats did, until she found new meaning, and the essence of it became a part of who she was.

There was reason to this, there was art, spirituality even, Wanda always did this, even as a young girl, not knowing that what she was doing had its rightful place in literary history, in the history of art. And when she did find out, as a teen, she wore this magpie badge with pride. Her refined taste was her passport to the world, and her ability to pick the best from everyone and mix it into a wonderful, glamorous cocktail of ‘Wanda’ kept her grounded, kept her busy, and above all, kept her desired. Many had drunk from the Wanda cup and found, if not salvation, then certainly high-grade entertainment, and that should have been enough for her, but it wasn’t.

There was an emptiness. A deep, all-consuming, hungry, rancid hole that sucked up all her triumphs, and spit out bile and accusations. She named the void mother of all pits and joked about it at parties, and everyone laughed and thought that she was so random, and witty, and charming.

And then it went downhill, and down the drain, and flat on the ground, until she stopped being careful about her method and stopped mixing & matching, fine-tuning & scratching, and started to copy/paste and quote people back to people, entirely oblivious to her mechanical errors, or so it would seem.

There was a bug in the system. An insect that crawled out of that gaping hole and started to nibble its way into her dazzling mind, confusing it, tricking it, deleting entries, adding trivia any self-respecting magpie would discard without a moment of hesitation. The banality of her condition infuriated her. It cost her people, it cost her money. Wanda’s value began to plummet in the eyes of her minions, and they quickly abandoned her, searching for a new queen-bee to fetch honey for. She wouldn’t get the sparkly new jobs she craved, and had to settle for ones she was offered. Marketing and sales, inevitably, where no one would judge her state of mind harshly. She thought. But even salesmen have limits to their patience. Commission knows no pity.

So Wanda crashed. And then she spent all her money, mostly loans and credit, on crashing even more. Because her misery needed to be grand in order to be valid. She had to challenge that emptiness, explode within it, set all her cells on fire, soar over the city, cast a shadow on its shadow, engulf it in her own darkness, see how far her powers go.

And then, one day, she stopped spinning. She woke up, and didn’t have anything. No job, no money, and very soon, she would have no home. But Wanda found that incredibly freeing. A butterfly in a storm – crushed to bits, but in triumphant celestial glory.

She slept for a few days, ate whatever remains of food she had, locked herself in, switched all her devices off, and she waited.

The first day without food Wanda felt weak, teary, victimised, but by the third day she felt ecstatic. Every time she would march to the fridge it would appear even larger that the previous time, emptier too, but brighter, like a spaceship, about to deliver the seeds of creation to yet another planet.

Wanda was that planet. She was going to be fertilised, she could feel it approaching, this bounty, cornucopia of food, ideas, thoughts, feelings. It would materialise from thin air. In the fridge. She just needed to wait. And while waiting she needed to write her experience down, like a message in a bottle, from the future, to herself, to her former identities, to everyone on this Earth, as this was gold, this experience was pure gold.

The seventh day she saw it. A tiny shadow passed by the fridge. Then another came along. And another. Wanda could not follow all the activity, her eyes were dry, her sight blurry, but she was eager, so happy, shaking in anticipation. There must be a way they all go in. A tunnel of transmutation!

She opened the fridge, it was empty. But not for long, Wanda thought. She was beaming with pride. This is it, this is how it starts, with shadows becoming matter, with nothingness conjuring light, the void creating life, it just needs the right vessel, like this appliance is now, like I could be!

Then the light in the fridge started to flicker and fail.

Wanda let out a sharp cry. She began to sway the fridge back and forth, violently, and the light went out entirely. She then pulled it back with all the strength she had left in her, and plunged into the wires behind. The blow was instantaneous. Wanda flew back through the air. Then, she seemed to be floating above ground.

When she was hovering over the room, Wanda noticed an army of locusts coming out of the electrical socket, fluorescent and terrifying, growing in number, until her motionless body below, on the floor, was covered in them.

She was in awe. Suddenly, her shape was a creature from a different universe, a beautiful abomination. Wanda’s heart was filled with joy – such warmth, such kindness she received from these beings. Finally she understood what it meant to be loved. To be respected. To merge with all that there is. The price of creation.

Then, she slowly drifted down, into her body – a goose feather floating in the air on a busy poultry farm. Mundane and unnoticed.

Wanda opened her eyes, and moved her right middle finger.

© Milana Vujkov, Demolition Road: Electric Locusts, 2014

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