?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Red Wall by Christopher Buehlman

« previous entry | next entry »
Jul. 24th, 2012 | 03:16 pm

            You find yourself in what might be described as a box.
            Or a room.
            Or a cell.
            All three work just fine.
            White floor and ceiling.
            Two grey walls facing each other.
            One black wall.
            One red wall.
            Facing each other.
            Silence.
            If you are comfortable with your own nudity, then nude you are; otherwise, put yourself in clothes of your choosing, so long as they do not tell you who you are or where you were or how you got here.
            You do not know these things.
            The temperature is neither warm nor cool.
          
            Furnishings:          One chair, armless.
                                         One toilet.  
            Items of note:        One roll of toilet paper.
                                          One axe, fireman sized, hung from pegs.
                                          One large, clear tank of water with spigot.

            You call out some variant of ‘Hello!’   
            A voice above responds similarly, as does a voice below you, although these are barely audible through the material of floor and ceiling.
            The one above you stomps.
            You stomp at the one below.
            The one below, after a pause, pounds on his or her ceiling; you stand on your chair and find that you can reach your ceiling to do the same.
            Now you stomp for your lower neighbor as your higher neighbor stomps for you.
            “Do you have a chair?” Higher yells.
            “Yes,” you say, then ask the same question of Lower.
            Yes.
            “Do you have an axe?”
            “Yes”
            As does Lower.
            “Is there someone above you?” you say to Higher.
            “Yes.”
            A moment later Lower asks the same question.
            Nobody else can think of anything to say for quite some time.
            You use the toilet.
            You get thirsty.
            You drink from the spigot.
            You get hungry.
            You drink from the spigot.
            If you’re libidinous by nature, you masturbate.
  
            Later,
            (Three hours? A day?)
            Higher says
            “There’s food past the black wall. Use the axe. Pass it on.”
            You pass it on.
            Lower thanks you after a moment, and you realize you’ve been rude, so you thank Higher.
            The axe awaits.
            You tap the black wall with the axe-head.
            Gently at first.
            Then a little harder.
            The exact nature of the material is irrelevant, but let’s just agree that it is tough, but thin.
            Axeable.
            You swing.
            The axe bites.
            Again.
            Again.
            Light and debris.
            Something moving on the other side!
            You put your eye to the hole you’ve made. 
            A lamb.
            A fucking lamb.
            In a room just like yours, minus furnishings.
            Just a trough of water.
            Droppings.
            A black wall beyond.
            Baaa! Says the lamb.
            Chips on the floor from where you axed through, some of them red side up.
            You step back from the hole.
            Muffled banging above and below; Higher and Lower are axing their black walls, too.
            No way I’m eating a lamb, you think, or some variant thereof.
            You ask the others.
            Higher found a rabbit.
            Lower found a piglet.
            Silence.
            Time passes.
            You drink.
            You nap.
            You talk with your neighbors.
            The lamb bleats.
            You get hungry.

            It might be the next day when you hear Lower at the axe.
            Faintly, faintly, a pig squeals.
            You’re just.
            So.
            Hungry.

            “Did you eat the pig?”
            “Yes.”
            “Raw?”
            “Yes. It was good.”

            At length, when you can bear your hunger no more, you decide to eat the lamb.
            You pick up the axe.
            Five minutes of work and you’ll be through.           
            You peek through the hole (strangely vaginal), and see the lamb against the far wall, looking at you.
            Its muzzle is dripping.
            It just took water at the trough.
            Now it’s shivering.  
            Scared of you.
            It should be.
            Your mouth waters despite yourself.
            You are just about to swing your axe when you hear a very loud banging from below.
            Much louder than before.
            Lower is yelling something incoherent.
            What the hell is Lower doing?
            More banging.
            Then Lower starts screaming.
            Keeps screaming.            
            Stops screaming.
            You stomp the floor.
            Silence from below.
            From above, Higher asks what is happening.
            You stomp again.
            Something pounds the floor just beneath you now, much harder than Lower did.
            Something that didn’t have to stand on a chair.
            Almost knocks you down.
            You start shaking.
            If you have a nervous disposition, you lose control of your bladder.
            It bangs again.
            But the floor holds.
            It doesn’t bang again for a long while.
            Whatever it was is gone.
            You regain control of your breath.
            You tell Higher you’re okay.            
            The lamb bleats.
            You’re not hungry now.
            You do something between passing out and sleeping.
            Counting sheep!
            But only for a moment before you sit up, not sure.
            If something tapped.
            Quite tentatively.
            It did!
            There it is again!
            On your red wall.



____________________________________________
This LJIdol entry is for "Champions Week", in which we must recruit a friend to write for us. The prompt was "Turtles All the Way Down".

Christopher Buehlman is a writer and performer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is the winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize in Poetry and a finalist for the 2008 Forward Prize for best poem (UK). He spent his twenties and thirties touring renaissance festivals with his very popular show Christophe the Insultor, Verbal Mercenary. He is the author of Those Across the River, a gothic horror novel, and Between Two Fires, coming out this fall from Penguin.

Tags: ,

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {15}

m_malcontent

(no subject)

from: m_malcontent
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
Link

Wild and weird...awesome tale.

Reply | Thread

Kristen

(no subject)

from: pixiebelle
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
Link

That was really cool. I loved the structure of this and the fact that it's a horror poem. I think you've mentioned the one book before? I might have to check it out :)

Reply | Thread

mollyq

(no subject)

from: mollyq
date: Jul. 27th, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
Link

Those Across the River was one that you don't put down till it's over. Chilling and equally, if not more, creepy as Red Wall.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Shar

(no subject)

from: sharya
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Link

Great take on the prompt and really unique structure :)

Reply | Thread

notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Link

Amazing format!

Reply | Thread

An Arthur Dent waiting to happen

(no subject)

from: beldar
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
Link

Cool. Makes me want to watch "Cube" again. =)

Reply | Thread

alycewilson

(no subject)

from: alycewilson
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
Link

Very disturbing!

Reply | Thread

Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
Link

Very unique take! I enjoyed the unusaual style and structure. I have never read anything like it before!

Reply | Thread

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
Link

Hoo, boy-- it's almost unfair to have a writer of this renown and caliber in your arsenal. As if you needed it!

I could tell right away what the prompt was here-- it just jumps out of the stark setting, made imeediately clear.

“There’s food past the black wall. Use the axe. Pass it on.”
Boy, I would hate to describe finding a live animal behind the black wall as "food." And they're all vulnerable animals-- a rabbit, a baby sheep and a baby pig.

But only for a moment before you sit up, not sure.
If something tapped.
Quite tentatively.
It did!
There it is again!
On your red wall.

Eee! It's never over until you're dead, is it? It could be that you're the food for something off to the side now. :0

Reply | Thread

A useful container

(no subject)

from: thexphial
date: Jul. 25th, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
Link

Your use of second person is really good here. Nicely creepy!

Reply | Thread

Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Jul. 26th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC)
Link

Ooh - this was weird but good. Poor Lower. I guess Middleman is next on the chopping block!

Reply | Thread

Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.

(no subject)

from: n3m3sis42
date: Jul. 26th, 2012 08:07 am (UTC)
Link

Oh boy. I really don't normally enjoy poetry, but this was worth it. It made me think of the movie Cube, but it's an old concept, right?

Reply | Thread

blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Jul. 26th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
Link

I was afraid of where this was going... and then it did!

Creeeeeepy good!

Reply | Thread

java_fiend

(no subject)

from: java_fiend
date: Jul. 26th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
Link

This is pretty freaking amazing. Vivid and creepy... I love it.

Reply | Thread

mollyq

(no subject)

from: mollyq
date: Jul. 27th, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
Link

First, thanks for reminding me that I still have a livejournal, I've been too long away. Second, freaking awesome. I wanted so bad for this to be a good and creepy tale and you followed through adventurously, Mr. Buehlman.

Reply | Thread