Folly in the Eyes of Men
When the bubbles stopped coming out she started running. Through the bedroom door, past the living room, then outside, crossed the front lawn and darted ahead.
Left on Stovington, a right at Old Man’s, across the hospital yard and down the 56 stairs that led to the river. With the hefty stench of the docks, her heart calmed down as if it were suppressed by a large stone plate. And just like a small, 13 year old, stupid little girl, she kept on running because she didn’t see a reason not to.
Pa drowned her dog. She knew it was coming too, and for two weeks she kept him in her room, hoping, making herself believe they would forget. That they had forgotten. But another mouth to feed, be it a dog’s was hard to forget, and this morning she woke up and looked through the thin lace curtains and saw Pa’s big back, and the last few bubbles climbing up and popping.
And so she kicked the ground, kicked it again, and with each crack of her bare white ankles, she ran faster.
She slipped on the damp green moss, slid down the sleazy with oyster an other diversified goo river dock and fell in with a slurp. She opened her eyes to a blurred green and gray, more greasy than wet, and for some reason milkshake came to mind. The river was cold and chunky. A bit like Jerry’s Chocolate Volcano Deluxe. A bit like Mr. Stup’a’s Sweet and Sour Pineapple Surprise. A bit like the objective portrayal of the sound gliergk.
Pulling herself up, her hair was heavy with river flora and fauna, which seemed to favor the color green and weighted and pulled her head back like a dozen small salt-lake hands, wishing she’d stay just a little while longer. For the ocean near the docks, a small frail girl was, on the contrary, like a fresh gulp of air.
She didn’t think much of the fall, or her now overall green tint, but blushed just in case there was somebody to see. She was that kind of girl.
Everything is a big deal when you are 13. And Folly was 12, which made it an even bigger deal, because she couldn’t be just anybody. She was Folly, 12 years old, and she knew it very well, since nobody ever stopped reminding her. Especially how she was twe-lve and not thir-teen. She knew a lot of things for a 12 year old, but above all she knew that she had to be a Big Girl.
And now, like a Big Girl who Gets Up after she Falls, Folly was already up and running, not bothering to stop, pumping her little heart full of adrenaline, just as a Big Girl would. Her light yellow and blue satin dress pressed against her flat body made for the image of a running beach-line, and made shiwsh-swooshing sounds as the tempo increased.
As Folly ran, she spat out river water and for a moment wondered why it wasn’t red like when M’a spat in the sink the other night. She must be doing something wrong. Other people always seemed to be under that impression and it started to creep up on Folly. Like an invisible somebody, always watching from the shadows, waiting for her to fall or tear her dress, anything which wasn’t Big Girl-like anyway, just so he could come out and laugh and point and tell M’a and Pa.
She half-turned the corner and with a magnificent firework rocket-like acceleration hit her toes all the way to her pinky on a building with golden bricks. The gold didn’t make her feel better at all (something Pa would never understand), and so she hopped on her left leg for a bit, still trying to tumble-run as she did so, until she remembered to grit her teeth and then she kept on going.
Her small white feet were a sandy red by now, leaving little smudged petals of dirty crimson on the dry, dusty pavement with each leap she took. In between her toes was a bit of aquamarine paint from the grass behind the fence she jumped, some mud from the park and of course green moss and slime which remained, untouched, from her meeting with the docks. She could almost swear that she felt eggshells somewhere in there as well.
But it felt uncomfortably warm there, in the small gaps between her toes, so she tried running even faster, maybe even through some grass or puddles, to get it off. Warm slime therapy was not Folly’s idea of embracing freedom. Nor it was her idea of seeking answers, for that matter.
The salty river water was drying on her palms, leaving small white crusts as it evaporated in the air, but still dripped from her dress down her feet and made Folly flinch more than once with the way it became chilly from the wind ahead.
Mindlessly Folly ran the road she had always ran when upset, going through the narrow spaces between houses, under stairways and over slippery and clogged with wine barrels canals with the swiftness and grace a growing child of the streets and an often beat guest at home would begin demonstrating at a certain age. And in that brief moment of the History of the Universe, when the streets gave her wings and she flew in them with youthful glee and happy, careless joy, the world seemed more beautiful because of it.
And then Things Happened Really Fast.
That seemed to be an awful common way for tings to happen to 12 year-olds, Folly was well acquainted with that by now. Sometimes the world would just start spinning and spinning and it wouldn’t really stop for quite a while, would it now, until it assumed that particular position, which it so selfishly desired. No, no it would not stop. Like a child twisting and turning in a bed of toys, trying to get rid of an itch. Only now Folly was a toy and she didn’t like that. Not one bit. Benny Moskowitz said he had the same thing happen to him when he hit his head on that radiator last summer after spinning around the yard of his parents’ lake house down by Kred lake, but Folly had something completely different in mind.
Its was like letting go of the chains at the swings when you reach the top, or keeping your eyes open when sliding down Morrow Hill in winter time. It was that thing that adults seemed to have had too much or too little from when they were kids and so now were always sad and bitter-angry. Kids had just enough. And it was a good thing. To Folly, anyway.
While she was falling, Folly went through in her mind why she had started running in the first place. Its hard for a 12 year old to keep everything in check. For just any 12 year old, that is. It wasn’t hard for Folly. It wasn’t hard for Big Girls. When you were falling down with what in three hundred years would be considered terminal human velocity, when someone smart enough would invent the terms, Folly felt it good to know exactly what let do that speedy unraveling of events.
Forgetting the hole was there, however, was dumb. And the fall would hurt a lot, like most falls did, Folly though, and for a second wished it were true. But she knew that this fall in particular indeed had the falling part in common with other falls, but little else. Neither the landing, nor the destination. Nothing else, really.
Folly would often forget and remember things periodically and sometimes something important like watering the potatoes, or searching for food and good things through Ms. Timiddle’s big black buckets would slip through her frail (oh how she hated that word) memory and then M’a would put That Face on. And she’d keep it, stern and unwavering, piercing with blame, precisely until the second Pa’d come home. And then she’d start being happy again for some reason. But Pa was never one to smile or be happy, and it made Folly shake and get dizzy most of the time she was around him.
Folly entertained several thoughts while falling: First of all, she decreed that the concrete below shall be deemed in more trouble than her little white feet, because she wasn’t in a mood to get hurt anymore today. The concrete could formally object, of course, but she would see to it that it is to no avail. Second, that she really wanted to land on her Pa. Her third thought was to edge her heels a bit so it’d sting him more, but it was cut short.
And Folly fell. At about that time, when she was quite close to breaking, well, everything, it would be no lie to say that a golden flower found it absolutely imperative to energetically sprite up and about under her and soften her fall like a big shiny cloud of soft aroma and nectar. This was His home, after all, and Folly should have expected as much. Last time, when she had come with Turnip, it had been a fountain of warm air and clean sheep wool, which gently let them down and disappeared.
The big, golden flower bed, which stood right under the shaft she had been falling through for the better part of the afternoon, was better than her square of wood and second hand doormat-turned-blanket she had at home. So she spent some time lying down, until she felt angry again and her elbows started itching, and she buried them hissing with spite in the sunshine-yellow petals below her, pushed and got up. She really wished she had landed on Pa.
And she started going ahead, because she wanted to. She really did. And the floor was cold and wet, and there were things, bugs, mice walking around, and soon the air became heavy and acquired a presence of its own. She might just wanted to go home now...
But she knew better than that. Better than all of that. Folly was a big girl. And this day, she would spend it with her very best friend. Like a Big Girl would. And they would see if she even thought about asking for permission.
She went through a heavy, rotting door, then a second, a third one, across a balcony overseeing a big tank full of yuck, up one set of stairs, down two, and now the narrow ledge leading to a big, dimmed crack was already half exhausted under her steady step. Below: a vast, dark nothing. Just a lot of air and darkness, and this time, she was sure, no bed to land on.
Where most people would be wrong is to think that Folly was grossed out by the bugs and mice. Or the smell of rotting clothes with soup still on them. Or the way the walls which you had to touch for balance were sticky and smelled like you had just peed yourself, but sprayed on everything else too. The rails were sweating with slimy-warm piss and perspiration. The very fist time she had been here, sure. Maybe she had been scared. Maybe she didn’t want to follow the voice
per-say. Maybe she didn’t exactly have that in mind for her afternoon and maybe she did pee once or twice. Maybe a rat ran by, and maybe she screamed. Maybe she cried to be let out of there, maybe even cried for Pa to come and save her. And then maybe, in a dark, dark room...
But now, she was a Big Girl. And being one, she walked with a straight back, angry at everything that made her scared. She questioned how come she always found her way around this place. She didn’t know, but it looked like a neat skill, so she kept it to herself, as if asking, or thinking about it too much would ruin it. Ruin the magic. That’s how she felt most times talking to Him. That if she asked just one thing, everything would disappear, and that she would just wake up, feeling the cold chill of overnight-left water, and this time she would see her Pa’s face from the other side, from the shallow bottom of a slightly larger bucket. That she’d just wake up drowning, being drowned in 6 inches of dirty rain muck and toilet water, string hands leaving purple on her neck, her Pa laughing for the first time... Folly lived in a world of extremes.
Visiting here was always worth it. Always fun. Always there was Him to talk to. Always that gentle, soothing look. She could feel like a happy puppet with a smile stitched to her face that never disappeared. That’s how she looked too, most times when she was where she was going now. She couldn’t not be happy. Even the double negative wasn’t hard to swallow when she thought about how she felt – an unconditional glee and calmness.
After a short little while, every time, chains would make their way through and become part of the scenery. As much as there could be a scenery in a catacomb 2600 feet below the docks, below Old Man’s, below Pa and M’a and everything. But with their quiet rattle and the way you knew you couldn’t break free if these iron snakes, bleeding rust and sewage, handing from the walls and falling into the darkness ever decided to wake up and look for a snack, they were spooky and Folly walked quietly, just in case. Soon the snakes became dragons and the dragons were bigger. A single chain link took Folly 83 steps to walk or climb across. She kept dead quiet.
She was alone here. That much she knew. But soon she wouldn’t be and that filled her with a sense of excitement and childish joy, which was brewing steadily someplace underneath the crusty face locked for some time now into an angry pout at Pa, and at Life. She’d heard about Life, as in that she knew it wasn’t easy and that it was never fair, or something. Right now, she just knew she was really angry at whoever even started this stupid thing.
More chains. Blooming in flowers of wet and sill somehow dusty rust, climbing the walls of brick and slime and shit like a green vine in early spring. Spikes began showing through the chain links and soon it were the chains which wrapped around thick, razor sharp pikes and cones, all black and shining. Soon it was the mighty dragons who were trapped, impaled on what looked like matter created only to kill, slowly and painfully and surely.
The bright red signs were always there with letters written with immense passion
but they meant nothing to Folly, and so she went on. She didn’t know where. She just went and she knew that she would soon get there. There, where she was supposed to be. There, by His side.
Her M’a was in the back of her head and her Pa was under her feet every time she stepped. She didn’t know her little brother, but she loved him. An unconditional thing, which Folly, truth be told, understood better than any of the adults around her, and of course kept to herself. Maybe when he grew up, they could come here together. Meet Him together. They could all be friends then.
And suddenly the image of Pa (just ‘nother mouth to feed) drowning the baby. Her little brother not knowing whats going on, playing with the water, then trying to scream, swallowing the stale liquid and mosquitoes drowning inside and finally drowning, slashed through her mind like a sword driven up by sisterly fear. Now Folly walked faster. She would run if it wasn’t for the thousand-year old instinct of not-getting-impaled.
On and on she went, until the passages started getting narrower than a dog’s hole, and the stench of death (and somehow injustice) so unbearable, that Folly felt sick with cotton in her dry mouth, dizzy, and she found it hard to breathe. She was getting close.
On the skin of her cheek, Folly felt a breath of air coming out of a small hole, an ugly crack in the wall, and not light, but darkness stemmed from it. It sizzled on Folly’s eyes like a small mist of acid as she started going through, holding her breath and sucking in her tummy. There He was. Finally.
She squeezed and turned and wiggled like the worms in the wet planks back home and she went through, her dress somehow still whole.
Now she was at the Big Place.
She thought she saw the night sky and the stars above, but remembered it was around noon time, and what looked like stars were just holes for air. That is how high the room she went into was. Every staircase she went down, every hole she crawled through, a total counting more than 8 miles in descent according to a book tossed and burned a long time ago, seemed stretched out from bottom to top, laid bare for Folly to see and be proud of.
Her small steps echoed. After the first few breaths her chest stopped burning and she could open her eyes. Her mind felt clear and a strange sense of peacefulness started wrapping around her. Folly, being a child, she knew it was only to cover for the shock of what she was stepping in. For the way the thick, syrupy goo of chunky blood that never set wrapped around her, somehow gratefully. All around her, a vast cave of nothingness and dark.
A complicated word for Folly, but you can bet anything she felt exactly what it was supposed to mean. And it was scary. She only just started paying attention where things weren’t, rather than where they were. It would be fair to say that it was because she never forgot how to do the second thing, she stepped back and pressed herself as hard as she could against the wall. Then, the nothing moved.
The stench. The rattling of metal chains and the sound and smell of flesh being stretched, scratched and torn made her close her eyes. The trickling of new warm liquid into the pool made it rise to her waist, then to her chest.
And the big (no)thing moved and shifted, and the floors flooded further with the thick, tangerine fluid, which was warm and like the air, now had a presence of its own.
And then Folly thought it was about time now.
“Hi...”, but her throat clogged and screeched. She coughed and said, “Its me.”
Mountains turned towards Folly. The wind reeked of deep hatred and anger and cries of pain and anguish rattled alongside the chains as they made the blood shake and stirr, filling the air with a dread which felt much like rusted needles.
“Folly...”, an ancient whisper. Folly heard it echo from the top of the room.
“Can you lift me up now? I still don’t know how to swim.”
A chuckle, nothing short of it, the way a canyon would smirk, the way an ocean would giggle. Big. Magnanimous.
With the salty friction of chains and a rain of blood puddles - of corroded, vile life-juice, a single link slowly made its way and sank down in front of Folly, so she could stand in it, hold on to its sides and say without yelling:
“Pa drowned Turnip...” She held to the rust, and started contemplating on it on her own, until she reached the top. And then she did not spare Him the vast thing her thoughts gave life to, that one big moment her whole mind and soul sprang up. Folly would grow by the end of it, and would finally be a Big Girl. She just knew it. And so she recited, hardly taking a breath, the magnum opus of a small girl of age 12, just as it came out:
“Forgive me, God, for I have sinned”, our little girl began. “I forgot your food today, but I was sad...”
And the ancient nothing, that giant, roaring mass of flesh, that reservoir of decaying glory, that standing prisoner, more metal than bone, that minister of all things bigger than men, dying in a sea of puss and rotting blood took the little girl, took our little Folly to the top and on his hand, as she kept talking, proud with her triumph over herself from yesterday, blushing with excitement of days to come, of adventures to be had, his fingers falling apart with rot and tissue both burned and eaten to show not white, but yellow and brown bone, Folly’s feet sinking in its skin and flesh, and before she could finish her words, spoken with the heavy, but flying heart of a child taking a step forward, He took her by her left leg, and pinched by two bones soon to be dust she hung upside down, to a place of warmth, a hot and heavy cave between two decaying boulders made brown and purple, and crushed and chewed more and more and Folly could not scream.
“I was hungry.”
That night the city shook with screams of demented agony, bitter hatred and remorse, but the chains were heavy and the spikes were sharp and soon the world under the empty heavens was quiet, with only the feasts of drunken men to look over them all.
Andrey Guenov is a 20 year old student who enjoys reading and writing probably more than he should in this day and age. He is currently moving back and forth between Europe, London & surroundings, and New York.