by Roberta SchulbergGoro
The old Enclave Folkadir
Part III - Sentience
I was swept to this house remote from my original home of crowded streets, smiles from passersby, and shared community by the necessity of finding sustenance during the turmoil years of neighborhood displacement and job scarcity. Three years earlier, I would never have believed I'd consent to a position or residence so far from the bustling world I knew and now I cannot find my way back again. The world is breaking apart, receding like an expanding universe thinning by the mechanics of inertia, vacated spaces becoming abyssal gaps of separation, an encroaching vacuum insinuating, taking possession. People once known fade away, unexplained, into the emptiness. Bit by bit past associates are lost, contacts missing, telephones are reported "no longer in service." The curtainless windows of neighbors' apartments reveal empty rooms and the buildings of the enclave, once containing residences inhabited by the taciturn, are now filled with abandoned apartments become completely silent. The speakers at the solarium, instead of becoming more familiar through time have, one-by-one, retreated into the abyss, the solarium bit-by-bit deserted, the few remaining plastic-strung chairs grimy and overturned with lack of attention. The quality of the still-maintained sparse greenery has fallen from dullness to despondency. No one crosses the little bridge to the gazebo. The meeting hall, before ignored, is now locked. The nearby dangerously trafficked roads continue on to razed, deserted ones leading nowhere.
My walks through the grounds of the enclave have become less frequent, finding there only rare occasional, unfamiliar figures who answer my greetings with mechanical remarks and quick withdrawal. Within the apartment, the unceasing dull yacketies of floating complainants drone on as they have for months, the resulting reaction permitting that offensive swarm a sense of victory over my attitude of disregard by their having caused its replacement with blunted unresponsiveness. Escalation of threat has been continuous since my first hearing the voices and there has been added to the manifold grimness yet other dismal dimensions. Articulate but silent unseen beings cryptically call attention to their effectual presence. Objects, light in weight, have moved without apparent cause. Cups have slid across countertops. A dish sponge, placed on the flat ledge of the sink, with insistent repetition rolled, as if by minor shoves, into the basin after having, several times, been put back in its place on the ledge. The original cause of the disturbances hounding this castaway enclave being unknown, there is no way to know whether the unreported, unregulated, technologically advanced actions of the intruders derive from a single or a multiple threat, or whether the unexplainable movements originate from the same point as the voices. Besides sounds and displacements there are indications of unheard and unseen footed entry into the apartment. Food prepared for myself and placed in the freezer was mysteriously removed, reappearing weeks later in the same place, the container and its contents still perfectly fresh. Some small keepsakes, of no monetary value, placed on a cabinet near my bed disappeared between night and morning. Its apparent the intruders want to create the most effect with the smallest of detectable acts, eager to cause anger and disruption by having me confront Ma'am Driftwater regarding these incidents of disappearance. But there are other events less easily explainable than merely attributing them to pranks by Ma'am Driftwater. Unmomentous events requiring the carrying of heavier objects than Ma'am Driftwater could manage have been staged by unidentified tresspassers, calling attention to the probability of spatially close but unmet presences. A very large sack of old potatoes was put into the nearly empty refrigerator potato bin of the locked apartment during an outing to the foodstore by Ma'am Driftwater and me. The large cache of old potatoes, unexpected but left in place in the bin, caused a smelly rot on all the new ones before the damage was realized. This might have been intended to cause a casting of blame on me, as cook and kitchen help. The unobserved comings and goings in such minor mischief warns of the major harm the intruders might inflict if they decide against restraint. A more ominous event was the displacement of a beverage bottle standing on one kitchen countertop suddenly shifting in space and appearing, not there, but on a second countertop along the opposite wall, a transference which occurred while I was, according to my own awareness, awake, active and present in the room. This apparently innocuous manoevre of hide-and-seek, attempting a playfulness and in itself comparatively unthreatening, suggests menacing capabilities, among them the possibility of their closing-in physically for attack after cutting off the consciousness of inhabitants. Perhaps these unseen, close-by and materially active trespassers, invisible, but leaving traceries along the rim of an abyss, are themselves victims, local people controlled from a distance, suffering cutoff of their own consciousness' and at risk of suffering penalties for having performed questionable acts of which they have no memory. These occurrences can never be discussed with Ma'am Driftwater who imperiously avoids all conversation.
The workday in the apartment is long and the week sabbathless, but the duties of the house are light and do not, alone, explain the daily morning fatigue, the waking to an ethereal space which seems itself a thickly stuffed quilt of nagging, achy sleep wound round and round muffling the morning arising. Throughout the night pain causes awakening to hear murmured threats of death or worse before being allowed release again into disturbed slumber. The voices forewarn of pain and crippling which they seem, at least in part, able to bring about. Body dysfunctions which cannot be attributed to "psychological" conditions follow after threats. Aches are attached to censure for minor household mishaps and to complaints of laziness, lack of effort, conceit, and headstrong defiance. Diseases are aggravated by their disapprovals. Hunger or morbid lack of hunger, nausea, distortions of the senses, are applied by their word as quickly and easily as a brushstroke to a wall. Dawn can bring miserable awareness of a dreadful physical change having taken place during the night such as the thick hairy covering of my arms and hands, lasting for days, which I awoke to find one morning and the coloration of my body quartered into brown and white, for weeks particolored like a jester's costume. Obesity was delivered right in the middle of the day as I suddenly slumped and stupified. I became shorter and swollen almost to the extreme of inability to move, ache replacing elasticity. The cure of lesions and almost normal slenderization achieved through the health efforts of months, upon the anger of the voices, instantly changed back to a replay of aggravated obesity and lesions. Extreme morning exhaustion has caused me to wonder whether my body, unconscious in sleep through most of the night, had been exchanged for another more mistreated one, with one not having slept for days. Yet, in spite of pain, torpor, and worry, one must rise to the day's activities. The day's duties must be performed and the quotidian respected. Slow, limited movements cope with the requirement, lifting the lethargic pained body, repositioning the straining frame a leg lift at a time, clumsily arching the arms and back moment by moment throughout each day of the unbroken week's seven long days of fragmented hours until bedtime with no assistance or relief from chores when ill. Slowness of movement brings rebuke from the voices and askance looks from Ma'am Driftwater, causing frequent insinuations of my not earning my keep, threatening with possible ouster now that there is nowhere else to go and no one to go to. The persecuters neither acknowledge nor condone any argument besides their own and there is no way to encounter or confront powers and authorities of justice beyond these performers of hidden, secret, savage actions upon the helpless.
The voices "saw something" beyond normal barriers, their remarks giving proof of their capacity to witness anything in the enclave. With an attitude of salacious raw arrogance they use this faculty to indulge degenerate desires to impose extreme debasement. As if to prove the futility of their victim's continuing with breath, they comment as they watch defecation, they hound while witnessing a wash in the shower, they accuse of shamelessness because washing and elimination continue as they look on instead of the suicidal disaster of not at all. They attempt to ensure, as long as there is life and memory, a continuum of suffering from having been subject to their scrutiny. Multiple voices insult with charges of perverse lack of femininity because there has been no witness to a seeking out of a male for sexual connection. They blame abstinence from sexual activity as a guilty denial to others the satisfaction of their natural requirements, blaming autistic self-centeredness for the refusal to offer oneself as dutiful sexual sacrifice. Their remarks reduce the person to the level of body organs and suggest that someone so alone and unlikely to be sought after as I am ought to put myself to use by providing bizarre sexual entertainments. They counter what they consider acts to avoid embarrassment by inflicting shaming comments in hopes of provoking violent reactions of mortification and frenzy, exciting for them to watch. It's hard to fathom what sort of people accept for themselves a code of action permitting themselves participation in such degradation of others. It appears to me that these enemies are not so much personal enemies as enemies of humanity in general, lawless toyers arranging human event for their own entertainment, spreading it to view as an amusement, something to laugh at or as a rallying call to those who, from behind safe lines, would join to rail against an observed helplessly floundering specimen of humanity. The attackers saw something and used what they saw in an attempt to create scenes of chaotic frenzy in a pinioned target, but while clawing through a tunnel to escape bondage one doesn't worry about the mud smears or one's appearance. If there's a frenzy, it's a frantic fearing that one's world is captive, all the people in it being brought helplessly, aware or not aware, to a controlled end. It’s a frenzy to find the ways and means of survival while struggling to reach the other end of the tunnel to life in the world of one's people if there is still such a world. The unidentifiable nameless enemy saw something.
The routine of the household has remained constant, probably a bracing requirement and something Ma'am Driftwater strictly insists upon. Hours are as they began. But now, in the evening, suddenly, before work can be finished, a consuming exhaustion descends and envelops my being, wrapping it in a heavy sleepiness, weighing down my eyelids as I struggle to keep awake. Straining in pain and unnatural fatigue to complete the evening's most necessary tasks, my mind bends toward the supporting stretch of my cot where I can give way in release to the soundful silence of the night: the exclamations of the television just barely heard through the space under the door; the low nightly murmuring attack of babble; the din of illness in the ear; old familiar voices calling my name as I drift into dream; nocturnal oblivian.
Disturbance; awakening; shouts at the rim; at the selvage sounds of fear; implosion from a further world.