Nosebleed

Nosebleed

A Story by C.E.M.
"

A lost girl in a big city, on the eve of her 18th birthday, goes to a show instead of celebrating and ends up witnessing a horrible accident, and a human tragedy.

"

 

Nosebleed

C.E. Mongon

Early Winter 2018

 

 


  The colors of that night will never leave me, no matter how hard I blink, or how vigorously I scrub my eyes. They have blotted into the day. They are like a freshly penned letter someone cried on. I cannot erase the word “loss” from the center of my forehead, and with a washcloth and a bottle of whiskey, I have tried. I wonder if I am the only one who truly saw it. The only one stained. My eyes close, and I see the green, and I see the sparkling of a chandelier and the jewel red and his eyes flutter shut and the animals. When they open, I’m still at my apartment, locked inside, drunk and staring at an empty ceiling. I do not cry. I just try to forget.

 The Audience sat, in rippled whispers, for the second act of last night’s show. They eagerly awaited the lights to dim, hungry for the hush, to be thrust back into another half-lit world. The unthreading cloth of the seat was itchy against my bare upper thigh. It reminded me that, at least for now, I existed. That I could be touched.

 The Audience sat towards the edge of their seats, bouncing legs and tapping feet, begging for the second-hand light to wash over their faces. I leaned back in my chair. This was a gift to myself. The voided space in which none of us, stage, or actor, or Audience, or human, existed. They hated this part. It made them uncomfortable, to not be a part of the world, to have to truly be alone with themselves for even a moment. I adored it. Before we were absorbed in someone else’s problems, we got an empty second to reflect upon our own. I thought about turning eighteen, and the new pack of cigarettes in my purse. I thought about how no one in the entire theater knew it was my birthday, and how peaceful that made me feel.

But, after those few blissful seconds, I was thrust out of limbo into the bright, white burn of a single spotlight.

 The red curtains opened, and the Audience gasped a little. In the warm glow, standing on the dirt and wood, stood two men; one young, one old. The younger did not look at the older man as he spoke to him. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone, he was barefoot, and he held his face towards the sunlight, bathing in the way it felt on his skin. His eyes were closed. There had already been a storm that day, and the sun always shined a little brighter after it rained in the valley. The older man was wearing a deep vermillion, from his sagging hat to his shiny shoes. He had a bitterness about him, embedded in the lines of his face, and his scowl and his hunched, invasive posture. He squinted in the sun, wiping little beads of sweat off his head. I was entranced in this depiction of life; that the boy could outperform the man, that he could be better, more golden, that he could not listen and still look so right.

 I didn’t normally notice the plays; It was a much more amusing pastime to watch the Audience.

 Some may call that perverted, and I agree. But it is also perverted, in my opinion, that my “friends” tried to host a surprise party for a night that shouldn’t exist. I’ve made it clear to everyone who’s ever loved me that I don’t want a birthday. It was my best kept secret for so long, but a girl I eat lunch with got ahold of my Photo ID, and even though I begged her seven times not to tell, by sundown, everyone knew. They ignored my wishes, and planned me a party. They didn’t even ask me why. So, I surprised them back and didn’t show up. I was sure they were waiting in our apartment then, their lines rehearsed, their costumes and party-hats on, poppers and balloons and birthday props in hand, waiting for their cue, for me to enter. The lights down, itching to be brought up by a slender hand that would never come. I have always hated birthdays. I never remembered my lines.

 It was a comedy. I only knew this because every so often, when the timing was right, the Audience would laugh. No one laughed alone, and no one wanted to be the last one laughing. A few moments into the boy’s conversation, soft veins of it throbbed throughout the theatre. I loved this part of observation; you start to notice, after a while, the subtle differences in what laughter means. To the old woman on my left, it was a soft squeeze in her wrinkled neck and the tightening of her eyes, her head tilted up as if remembering something funny that happened long ago. To the man on my right, it meant hearing his wife start to laugh, turning to watch her for a moment, and imitating her tone and intensity like a parrot does, his right hand squeezing hers tightly, his left absentmindedly running over the bald patch in his hair. Directly in front of me, a large, portly man’s belly shook with his genuine, free chuckles; the stick-thin woman next to him shrunk further away in her seat, giggling to her friend, but not at the actors. Everyone was laughing, sure, but not for the same reasons. I loved being the only one who seemed to realize that.

  The Audience and I lived, at that moment, in a different dimension. Billowing curtains of brilliant red cloth framed our view into our new lives. A midnight sky, pale purple yet full of stars, lay guided by a painter’s hand on the ceiling. If the light from the stage hit it just right, I could see the faint white lines between each constellation. Below them, a full moon dripped in crystals and candles. Golden animals crawled and rode across the walls. When they tired of this, they rested beneath the plaster fruit trees that adorned the box seats, each with jewel red apples hanging from their outstretched branches.  

 I noticed something, through the dreamy mist. In the center of the middle box sat a small girl, in a bright yellow dress. A sweet young daffodil, planted in her seat, with not a trace of a smile on her plump face. Instead, she had a steel-hard gaze of confused concentration on the people, still talking, and the boy, whose face was still towards the sun. She just sat there, watching, and I wanted to see what she saw. I wanted to know what intrigued her so much that she couldn’t follow her cue. I turned my attention back towards the blue-skied valley, and let myself melt in.

 The castle was made of rough stone and stained glass, its towers spiraling high and mighty over the relatively puny argument.

 “I am innocent, you know this of me,” I finally heard the boy speak. His voice matched his hair; silky, and soft. It was windblown from the wild storms of the valley. He took this opportunity to step towards the man.

 “And I am no fool, you know this of me.” Another laugh.

 “’The first of those, at least, is truth.”

 “Who among us are innocent?” The man asked, without wanting an answer. “Certainly not I. Certainly not the Court. And yet, here I stand, a fool and liars fate in my old hands.”

 “I am not a liar!”

 “Comical.”

 “I speak the truth. I know nothing.” The boy seemed calm in his denial. His body stood open and proud. Only his face revealed any waver in his confidence; he looked, confused, into the eyes of the man he spoke to.

 “Yet. You know nothing, yet.”

 “What do you mean? What have I done?  I am pure of heart.”

 “Only a fool’s heart names itself pure.”

 “No fool am I!”

 “Then you must know why you’re here.”

 The boy looked at his feet, the grass stuck between his toes.

 “You must answer for your ignorance.” The man hissed.

“Ignorance is no crime.”

 “It is a sin. And in the real world, young fool, sins must be punished.”

The man took a moment to look the boy up and down, and then asked,

 “You’re a player, no? For the theatre by the sea? How smart must one be to be a player?”

 “Plenty.”

 “You live in lies.”

 “That is prejudice.”

 The man flicked his golden head. “Can you spell prejudice, boy?”

 A wave of laughter crashed upon the Audience, and I was, by association, caught in the undertow. I felt a pool of sound soak my hair and clothes. I felt each individual drop. There were same-pitched titters, one more hesitant and a little out of rhythm with the other. Deep belly laughs reverberated off the walls, and the giggles got louder and faster. A dry-heaving, a crackled phonograph recording, a cough, and a choke; I just closed my eyes. My heart was racing, my throat rumbling, my mind begging me, in the noise and excitement, to join in on the fun, to follow my cue, for once.

   Feeling my stomach begin to turn, I opened my eyes to regain my balance, and found myself looking, once again, at that yellow dress. The sunlight had dimmed, and in the dullness of the shadowed seats, she was the only one I could really see. Her moon-shaped face rested, hidden in her little hands, her delicate elbows on her covered knees. She almost looked sick. Nobody around her could penetrate her fortress of tiny fingers, and in her silence, she was alone. I had the sudden urge to call to her, but there was a shout from between the red curtains, and it drew me downwards, away from the dream girl, towards reality.

 The boy had been brought to his knees, his legs stained with the dirt and grass, by the older man, who had grown taller, fearsome, while my eyes had been elsewhere. The man had a fistful of the boy’s golden hair in his hand, and a look of malice twisted on his face. The boy looked down, towards the earth. He had one hand on the mans, and the other feeling the soft grass below. He winced as the man yelled in his ear.

 “Is there nothing you will stand for, boy?”

 The boy remained silent, concentrating hard on the grass, on the cool touch of the soil, on the little yellow flower poking from between his fingers. The man tugged harder, and he bit his lip as if to choke back a scream.

 “Fight me, child! Show me your strength, if you are that much greater! That much wiser, that much stronger and pure!”

 Still, he kept his eyes down. He focused on the heat of the day, the smell of summer air, the notes of the song his mother sang to him when he was small. Anything, but the man’s grip, and his efforts to drag him closer towards the earth he had once loved.

  The man pulled sharply upwards, almost ripping the hair he had a hold of out, and brought the boy to his feet, to his level, so that they were facing eye-to-eye.

 “You will speak.”

 The boy searched for answers in the man’s eyes.

 “You will speak.” He bellowed in his ear. The pain had become too much, and the boy whispered, hoarsely, loudly.

 “Why?”

 The man smirked, the lines in his face deepening, his stare growing colder.

 “Because,” his grip tightened, “What else do you know, besides what I tell you?”                                   

 At this, The Audience roared. They were like caged animals, rattling the bars of their enclosures, cackling and shrieking. They slapped themselves and each other, snorting, screaming, crying thick, salty, welcome tears. Even my chair was shaking slightly, as if it were laughing too. The noise blended together into one voice, and finally, caught in the current of energy and sound, I began to laugh, too. It was foreign in my throat, at first. A repressed gargle, that popped like a bubble when I opened my mouth, and slowly built. I felt the man next to me grab his wife’s shoulder, looking at her instead of the stage. The woman next to me wiped funny little tears from the crinkled corners of her eyes. The man below me roared, and, for the first time, I felt a part of this. I was making the same sounds as the rest of the pack; my lines were being spoken, my cue was being realized. We were one collective reaction. Observers, involved only through the way we observed. We were not alone, because we were a part of this dimension, and played our roles well. The Audience and I were one now; this is what it meant to be eighteen. I was finally a part of a world I had only spectated before. It felt like giving something up, in both a reluctant, and relieving way. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

 Until I looked at the box seats, at the girl in the yellow dress.

 She was crying.

I felt the noise sputter and die in my throat. I stopped breathing for a moment. Because I realized that, if I could, I’d be crying, too. Why was I laughing? If I didn’t find this pretentious old play funny, why did I laugh? Silently, I looked at the faces of those around me, the floating heads cloaked in half-light. If you took away the noise, their faces were twisted, in pain instead of joy. Their laughter became a same-souled scream of desperation, to understand one another, to relate to their wives, to their youths, to their own minds. And me? I was laughing because, like the man had said to the boy in the sunlight, I was told to. I was playing the role I had sat here, in these scratchy olive seats, to play. The very thing I came here to escape, was, as it was revealed to me, inescapable. My place in this world was reserved, paid for, printed on my ticket stub.

 I watched her cry, harder and heavier, with a sick sense of longing. I remembered being six, and crying without shame or self-awareness, even when nobody understood why. Even when I cried as a child, nobody was around to watch me. I had no mother there to scold me, or to tell me to grow up, or stroke my hair and whisper into the top of my head that I was alright, I was safe, I was loved. I had killed my mother. I had destroyed the only woman who would’ve cared, just by existing. It was why she never wrote me a card, why I wanted to pretend this day never existed; my birthdate was her deathdate. There have been several times throughout my life when I’ve been told I’m just like my mother. My eyes, my hair, my nose… my laugh. Although I know these are meant as compliments, as bridges between us, to connect with the woman I had murdered, all I ever feel for these similarities is guilt. Guilt, and grief, because I did not inherit these traits. I stole them. My hands gripped the firm armrests of my seat, while hers rot in a casket on the side of a hill. People still say we have the same fingers.

 The girl in yellow didn’t steal her mother’s hands, or the sound of her voice. She could cry knowing her tears held no consequence, or plagiarism of a sacrificed woman. Watching her live out an emotion I couldn’t express; it made me jealous. If I cried like that, everyone would watch. Everyone would care. But only because I wasn’t acting how a decent young lady should act. Only because I was going off script. This revelation made me feel claustrophobic, confined to my seat, confined to my age, and I wanted to get up and leave. But I couldn’t interrupt the man and his wife, or the old woman, or the belly laughs or the giggles. So, in a desperate attempt to distract myself from who I was, I returned to the life below.

 The boy was facing us now, both knees to the ground, his hands twisted behind his back, held in place by the hunched-over man. He looked, plainly, proudly, up towards the sun. In this direct light, I could make out the color of his eyes; an ocean green, framed by a brown so light, it looked gold.

 “You are to kill me, then?”

 His voice was calm, and steady; not accusatory, but genuine, and angry, and sad.

The man did not respond.

 “Execution, for what crime? Teach me, sir, do not kill me. Use me. I am not worthless, I am no fool. Drain me, change me, but do not kill me. In my death, you will find nothing but the death of your own good conscious. Your own soul.”

 The man scoffed, and breathed in as if to speak, but the boy continued.

 “This not your choice, this is not your decision. It is their will, not yours. It is not righteous. It is murder. And to murder, would be to kill everything you knew about yourself. You will kill all that your soul can take, all that you are capable of. You murder me, you murder yourself, and become someone else. Sullied, guilty, a murderer of dreams and ideas and hopes. A murderer of the only part of you, you can call your own.”

 The man, with his free hand, unsheathed his blade from his waist, and its metal glinted in the mid-day sun.

 “You use that blade, and you are fulfilling everything you’ve been prophesized to do.”

 He held the sharp edge to the boy’s throat. As it rose, the sunlight hit the blade in such a way that the glint reflected off the steel and into the crystals of the moonlight chandelier, showering the Audience and I in a sparkling rain of stars.

 “But at what point will you stop being who they say you are, and become yourself?”

  He was still looking straight up, not into the sun anymore, but, as it seemed, straight into my eyes.

 The man smirked, the leather on his face peeling inward like a mask, coming undone.

 “You are not worthy to die by my sword,” He lowered his blade, as if he had won, but even his position of power over the boy could not mask the shaken realization in his voice. “Your blood would only stain this steel; the blood of a tadpole. The blood of a slimy fool.”

 The boy said nothing. He didn’t blink. He just stared, noble, on his knees, into the depths of my soul.

 The man laughed once more, at the insolence of a pure heart. With sword still in hand, he moved to exit. But a pebble, a stone, a tiny rock in the tall grass, tripped his right foot before he could cross.

  It was a flash of tumbling silver, the man’s hat slipping from his head onto the grass, an attempt to break an inevitable fall. I kept my eyes, however, on the green of the boys. When the mans left hand, desperate and unconscious, plunged the sword into the white cotton shirt, through the boy’s ribs, and out the other side, I was watching the boy’s eyes. I was watching them widen, and glaze over in sudden despair. I followed a single, shocked teardrop down his rosy cheek. Two sides of his shirt were stained in red, growing blots of ink on a paper that once was clean. He crumpled over, in the afternoon sun.

 The warm gaze of the boy had left me, and I was cold and lost. Vomit, acidic and biting, began to rise in my throat. I felt alone in a way I never had before. I felt nothing, a nauseous, eye-scratching, head-pounding, nothing. I didn’t cry, even though I knew I should. I just stared on, in the absence of knowledge as to what it was I was supposed to do then. Who I was supposed to be.

 In my hollow horror, I looked around me. The Audience seemed paused in time; their faces stone, cast in half-yellow light, looking blankly down at the scene before them. Did they not understand? They just sat there, they just stared. Silent. I realized, in my empty mind, how alien they all looked then. But was I not doing the exact same thing? Was I not alien, too? I searched the theatre for any sense of familiarity as the blood seeped from the boy’s chest onto the painted green floor. It was the jewel-red of the apples, his hair was the gold of the trees and the animals on the walls, and below one of those apples, sat the girl in yellow. She was looking at me. Not in my direction, but at me, as the boy had, as nobody else ever really had in my whole life. I couldn’t make out the color of her eyes. After a moment, she rose from her seat, and walked away, disappearing into the shadows of the back of the box. I wonder if she knew, somehow, what was about to happen. If she felt the dam about to break.

 The Audience was still, a single heartbeat, watching, waiting.

 The man just sat onstage, crying. In his shock, he had tried to pull the sword out, and the blood poured from the crumpled boy like communion wine. He found the strength within to try to rise but he slipped on the fresh red that now covered the green, and fell forwards again, onto his hands. His sobs turned manic, hyperventilating, as he curled into a ball and cupped them in shame. The Audience saw, as he dragged them down his face that he was, unwittingly, disgustingly, blooding himself.

 This is when they began to laugh.

 I almost puked. The balding man began it, this time on his own. A single chuckle, then two, then louder and louder until his wife tossed her head back and joined in. The old woman began to giggle. The noise built like a pressurized explosion, until finally, the Audience free-fell from silence into unscripted insanity. My hands shook, half in realization, half in disbelief. The theatre rumbled as if it would collapse under the utter volume, the weight of their unknown sin. I wanted to sob, at this point, to scream at them in rage, and loss, and indescribable heartbreak. I wanted them to shout, to suffer, to mourn the boy, the man, the mother I never knew, and, in my deepest and most secret desires, me. But they outnumbered me. They consumed me. They did not know.

  The golden animals ate each other on the darkening walls, the trees began to crack and whither at their base, the apples fell from the trees and hit the heads of the people below, all still, undyingly, laughing. I couldn’t think, really. I couldn’t breathe. My mind and heart were hollow, washed out with red and the tears and the glint of the sword, still onstage, still sparkling. Everything spun, nothing made sense, and in the sunlight and confusion, my mind yelled at me, louder than the laughter, to run. I grabbed the leather straps of my purse, and as the chaos melted into a silence that choked on itself, I stood and sprinted through the crowds of motionless people, stars still dusting the tops of their heads as some of them began to scream.

 

© 2018 C.E.M.


Author's Note

C.E.M.
Get ready for long, winded sentences and horrible repetition. This is an experimental piece and wasn't really written to be "great literature", just word vomit. The first short story I ever wrote! I used to think I was too dark or edgy for my profs, now i realize... I just took it too seriously. ANY INPUT AT ALL is greatly, greatly appreciated and I'll be glad to review yours!

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Featured Review

This has a je ne sais quoi mystical quality to it that is brilliantly crafted. The story really moves, and you have a way with words and narration. I was a little thrown off by the capitalization of "audience", but then I grew to like that personified characterization of the collective noun. And how you moved the still figures was amazing. I had thought the play was "Waiting for Godot" until you mentioned "boy" and "older man" and the dialogue didn't strike me as Godot lines, (but maybe I missed something). There are a couple of narrative oddities that should be clarified in the text - like at the beginning you say "act two of last night's show".....did the main character attend the night before? You mention later that the play she's attending now is a comedy.....act 2 is a comedy? what was act 1? Little things like that are what I caught about the story. But frankly, your work has utter potential of being "literature". It's absolutely brilliant. All that I have read from you is well constructed and superbly executed. Honestly, just a bit of polishing for this - make sure there aren't any "stupid" questions that the readers might have on the story (instead of questions on the analysis, which is what you want them to be making). Once that is done, send this to some magazine or contest, because this is stupendous! Well done!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

Thank you! wow thank you! The play is fictional, made up in my head to symbolize the MC's thoughts o.. read more
emipoemi

1 Year Ago

Actually, by the first image of the play after the curtain was drawn, I thought it was Waiting for G.. read more



Reviews

Wow I really like this! I really like the way it's written and I was thoughly intrigued the whole time. 😊😊😊

Posted 1 Year Ago


C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

Thank you!
You certainly don't hold back! I got confused and for the life of me tried to compare your words with every day life. No luck I'm afraid! Keep going and one of these days you'll get it absolutely bang on!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

Haha I've been told that exact comment so many times. But in my opinion, it's better to go full out .. read more
Mongon-there is no doubt you have a unique style of writing your descriptions are are vivid and colorful and you are right this comes across as a very experimental piece. Being different is what makes writing so special, each author can give a variable insight to the same title and people watching is where most get their inspiration from-there is no more interesting theater than the theater of life. I enjoyed reading this-I like different, however if you wish to try and make a living from writing as you have said unfortunately you may have to confine your artistry to a more 'conventional type of story/book as sadly I feel the ordinary reader could get tired of your phraseology. I wish you good luck. Will (by the way your style reminded me of Agatha Christie)

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

My heart just skipped a beat. Agatha Christie??? You just compared me to the author of some serious .. read more
Wow, powerful, I loved it. It reminds me of what Shakespear once stated, that life is a stage, but in this life is more than what is going on on stage; it includes what is going on in the audience as well.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

Thank you oh so much for the review, and for taking the time to read!
This has a je ne sais quoi mystical quality to it that is brilliantly crafted. The story really moves, and you have a way with words and narration. I was a little thrown off by the capitalization of "audience", but then I grew to like that personified characterization of the collective noun. And how you moved the still figures was amazing. I had thought the play was "Waiting for Godot" until you mentioned "boy" and "older man" and the dialogue didn't strike me as Godot lines, (but maybe I missed something). There are a couple of narrative oddities that should be clarified in the text - like at the beginning you say "act two of last night's show".....did the main character attend the night before? You mention later that the play she's attending now is a comedy.....act 2 is a comedy? what was act 1? Little things like that are what I caught about the story. But frankly, your work has utter potential of being "literature". It's absolutely brilliant. All that I have read from you is well constructed and superbly executed. Honestly, just a bit of polishing for this - make sure there aren't any "stupid" questions that the readers might have on the story (instead of questions on the analysis, which is what you want them to be making). Once that is done, send this to some magazine or contest, because this is stupendous! Well done!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C.E.M.

1 Year Ago

Thank you! wow thank you! The play is fictional, made up in my head to symbolize the MC's thoughts o.. read more
emipoemi

1 Year Ago

Actually, by the first image of the play after the curtain was drawn, I thought it was Waiting for G.. read more

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Added on June 12, 2018
Last Updated on June 12, 2018
Tags: broadway, death, child, play, experimental, birthday, coming of age, short story, love, tragedy, loss, mature, blood, accident

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C.E.M.
C.E.M.

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About
I'm a dreamer. I'm a woman. I'm an animal. You can call me Cait. I have written stories since I could pick up a pen. My dream, above all else, is to see this world. In order to do that, I've deci.. more..

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