I’d had thirty-two surgeries before I turned 10 years old. Something to do with my spine, I think. A misalignment, or something was twisted, or it curved in a way that wasn’t right. I’m not sure, no-one ever really explained it to me. I thought it was weird, too, that I never actually noticed any problems from it. It didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t a hunchback or anything, so I thought I was fine. But still, without fault, every few months the caretakers would shake me awake in the early morning hours. They would lead me outside to a black car, which would take me to a white room, where men and women in grey uniforms would talk in soft voices. They’d put me to sleep with an injection and I’d wake up back in my dorm, normally late in the evening, and know I’d have to do the whole thing again soon.
Come to think of it, I don’t know why they had to operate so many times. Apparently it just always came back, and nothing they did was permanent enough.
I asked one of the caretakers, the head-lady for my dorm, why they couldn’t just fix it. She said it was my fault, that I was always moving around too much, that I would undo the doctors work with my fidgeting.
“Two weeks bed rest.” She’d said, grabbing me behind the ear when I came back to the dorm that evening. “The doctor told you to have two weeks bed rest, he did. Four days later, you’re out with that Anneka again. Didn’t tell anyone where you were goin’ either, no, just disappeared. Nearly tore up the dorm looking for you, we did. Could’ve at least left a note...”
Dear god, did I get a beating that day.
Once she’d pulled me up to the dorm I shared with seven other girls, all of whom were apparently ‘much more ladylike, well behaved’ girls that I was, she made me bend over a window sill, face pressed against the glass.
I tried to focus on the colours; the reds and oranges and ever present slight green tint of the cities pollution as she fetched a cane and gave me ten hard strokes across the backside.
For a 5”2’ lady, easily pushing sixty, she could hit like a motherfucker.
With each strike, I remember flinching forward, and the lurching feeling combined with the cheap windows, combined with the dizziness of having to walk up three flights of stairs nearly doubled over, head tiled, being grabbed by the head-lady, made me feel like I was going to fall over, and through the window, and splatter on the cobblestone courtyard outside.
I’d seen the other girls get beat, and it was never as rough as it was with me. Even when Emily Tosaji, a thirteen year old with bright pink hair, stole cigarettes and smoked them with older boys from another dorm, she only got five strokes of the cane and the marks went away after three days.
Me, on the other hand? I was layering up a crisscross pattern of strikes of different ages and severities. Light bruises from nearly a month ago, when Anneka and I snuck out of our dorms and met in the rec room to try and break into the candy machines with tools we’d stolen from the green keeper’s shed.
Thin red cuts from of the more severe head-ladies here, from the dorm for the 17 year old girls. I was hanging out with them past curfew, and she thought I was ‘distracting them from their studies’.
And, now, the fresh stinging lines that the cane left in its wake, making me grunt softly and bite down on my lip, refusing the give my punisher the satisfaction of a squeal or a scream.
Why were they always rougher with me? I don’t know, really, but I have a few theories.
First and foremost, I was kind of an asshole when I was little. Not a nice thing to say about a kid, I know, but it’s true. I was malicious or anything, and I never meant for anyone to get hurt, but I was just selfish, and I rarely (if ever) thought my plans through, and most of the time I deserved whatever punishment I got.
People say that there are no bad kids, just bad parents, but I don’t think that’s true. I didn’t have any parents, and I still turned out to be a tyrannical little shit. Some kids are definitely just more well-natured than others, and I wasn’t one of them.
Anneka, though, she definitely was. She had been soft her whole life, and kind, and to be quite honest I have no idea why the fuck a kid like her would hang out with a kid like me.
Another theory I have, which I have no actual way of proving, was that they didn’t really see me as one of the girls. I always kept my hair short, had a habit of getting filthy in even the cleanest places, and would butcher any of the dresses they bought me to the point of being unrecognisable.
We got new clothes every few months, and while the other girls would fold them up and put them in their trunks, I would takes a pair of scissors to any frills, excess ribbon, or otherwise unnecessary additions and remove them with all the skill and accuracy of a nine year old with safety scissors and a deep hatred for the colour pink.
Eventually, all the caretakers just gave up and let me wear jeans and t-shirts.
I’ve seen quite a few of the boys drop their pants and get beaten in public (modesty seems to be more of an issue for the girls), and that seemed a lot more on par with the treatment I got.
I guess you could say I got the worst of both worlds: I was beaten like a boy and talked to like a girl.
Maybe that's why I grew up to be such an antisocial cunt.
Still, it wasn’t all that bad. I got beat, sure, but I deserved it. People talked down to me, but I probably deserved that too, in all honestly. As a prepubescent kid with a vaguely psychotic streak, I probably didn’t deserve respect.
What I remember from my childhood was about half beatings and hospital rooms, but half heaven. And Anneka was my angel. I remember holding hands in the orchid, eating unripe fruit and making faces from the bitterness. I remember pushing our bunks closer together so we could whisper when everyone else was asleep. I remember the first time she kissed me, innocence and instinct all wrapped up together in the pit of my stomach, lips tasting like black berry juice and feeling like I would never be sad again. When she pulled back, she smiled at me, her teeth still crooked and glinting metal, small pieces of peach caught between her left canine and incisor, and I thought,’ so this is what they mean when they talk about getting closer to God.’
I never deserved her, not for an instant.
No matter what I did, who I helped, no matter how many baby birds I saved or how many times I told her I loved her, I didn’t deserve her for even a minute.
And she stayed with me anyway.
All told, I was a happy kid. And later, I was a vaguely pissed off but mostly well balanced teenager. And now, at twenty four, I’m a more fury than human with three of my fingers buried in some random girl’s pussy, and she’s moaning for me, and it all sounds so wrong, because it is all wrong, because she’s not Anneka and it doesn’t matter how hot she is or how she digs her fingernails into my back, because it’s just sex, and with Anneka it was never just sex.
“I’m so close” she says. I don’t say anything back, because I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to do it quick and make it dirty, I don’t know how to put my fingers in a woman without telling her I love her, I don’t know how to make her cum without telling her she’s perfect, I don’t know how to fuck like an animal because I’ve never done it this way before.
Earlier tonight, I fucked another woman in a bathroom stall and said ‘I love you’ out of habit. She looked at me so strangely, but she was so close that it didn’t matter. I left before she got to say anything, and I don’t think she minded.
The girl is breathing hard, saying my name again and again I want to use the hand not inside her to punch her in the gut but that’d just get me arrested. She moans again, and says she’s about to cum, and I pull out my fingers because I realize that if she cums, she’ll go quiet after and there will be that god-awful moment when we look at each other and we both feel like whores and I can’t fucking handle that.
I step away from her, and she realizes I’m leaving. “What the fuck, Kalahan?” she says, but I can’t look at her again. I wipe her filth on my jeans and put my hands in my pockets. She’s swearing at me, half naked in a back alley, and I want to turn back and call her a fucking slut, say she’s a worthless whore, but she already knows it and I already know it too.
She didn’t follow me for more than a few meters, just yelled some more and called me a cunt. I reached back to my jacket and pulled by hood up, hiding the last part of my skin I still has exposed, and kept on walking.
I didn’t bother to bring a watch tonight, and I’d left my phone at my apartment. Partly because, in this part of town, it’d probably get stolen, and partly because I knew my supervising officer would be trying to call me for the whole night and I didn’t want to listen to her blabber on about my ‘recent anti social behaviour’ and taking time off work to ‘evaluate your mental state and recover’. She’s been on me for the last week or so, trying to schedule a psych evaluation to see if I’m still ‘fit for active duty.’
The way I figure, it doesn’t fucking matter how I feel. I’ve got a job, and I still do it. I show up sober whenever I’m supposed to work, and it’s none of her fucking business what I get up to when I’m on shore leave.
It’s all that asshole Asher’s fault. She says she got an ‘anonymous report’ that I’d been acting in self destructive ways, but I know it couldn’t have been anyone but him. He’s the only one that knew after all. Got it into his idea to give me a surprise visit, he did, seeing as we both happened to be in Omega around the same time. Sweet talked HQ’s AI in giving out my address, and showed up at my apartment in the morning, with this stupid fucking grin on his face.
“Asher?” I’d asked, his smile fading quickly. “What the fuck, dude? What’re you doing here?”
“Christ, Kalahan.” Was the first thing he said, creasing his brow and looking past me into my apartment. “You look like shit. I mean, Trish warned me about, ya know, how you’d been doing, but I-“
“Fuck off, Asher. And thanks for the vote of confidence.” I cut him off. I’d wanted to just shut my door and go back to sleep. He’d woken me up with his loud, confident, I’m-a-six-foot-six-officer-with-dick-the-size-of-Jupiter type knock just a minute ago, and finding out who was on the other side of the door hadn’t helped me feel less pissed off.
Still, we worked together, and he was at least willing to go through this much effort to find me. I thought I ought to at least listen what he was here for. Besides, it’s not like he’d go away, anyway. The one thing I actually do like about Asher: he’s a stubborn son of a bitch, right after my own heart. He’d probably just hand around for half the day if I shut him out.
“Come on, Kal, I didn’t mean-“He put her hand on the door frame, and for a second I had the image of slamming the door on his fingers, but thought better of it. “I just meant, ya know, I just came to see how you were dealing. Ya know’, after, you didn’t say bye or anything and no-one really knew what you’d been up to.” He leaned forward, pushing more of himself past the barrier of my doorframe, trying to get a better look of my apartment, I guess, but I’d kept it as dark as I could for the past week and he’d have a hard time making much out.
Still, I didn’t want him getting too cozy, so I creaked the door a fraction more closed, filling as much of the open space with my body to wall him off. He removed his hand from the door frame took his foot back, and suddenly he didn’t seem as tall.
“Look, Kal, I didn’t come here to bother you. But everyone’s worried about you. No-one expects you to be okay, but we do expect you to at least make some contact during your shore leave.” I sighed, and ran a hand through my hair.
“And you thought coming here would-what? Would bring her back? Look, man, I get that people care, but I’m fine.” Asher crossed his arms, leaning slightly back and regarding me like he wanted to interject, but I didn’t give him the chance. “And with all due respect, I don’t think you can help me, so if this doesn’t have to do with work, or if there isn’t anything else you-“
“Your arm.” He said. His voice sounded…strange. Not angry, or sad, and missing the slightly pleading tone he’d been using before. I glanced left, and realized.
“Fuck.” I muttered, and dropped my arm reflexively, but it was already too late. He’d seen all he could’ve needed to see, and by the look on his face, he thoroughly planned on using this new knowledge.
As soon as he’d left, I wrote an email to my SO requesting reassignment, but Asher must’ve been quicker, or been better at phrasing his situation, because Trish took his side almost immediately. The calls haven’t stopped since then.
My apartment block wasn’t far from the bar I’d just come from. The streets were quite at this time of night, and I was thankful that I’d made it back without having to interact with anyone.
I pushed through the metal doors to the lobby, passing through to the stairs with a nod to a guy I’d seen around a few times, checking his mail, and started up the steps.
My room was on the fifth floor, and the elevator hadn’t worked properly in quite some time, but I didn’t really mind. I was fit enough, and the less than stellar conditions kept the building relatively empty: a quality I always appreciated in my living areas.
I could afford better, and from the look the landlord gave me when I said I wanted to buy, it was pretty obvious from looking at me, but I really wasn’t in the mood to go apartment hunting.
The building was quite thin, but tall and long, allowing for seven floors of ten apartments all in a row. The stairway opened into a long , open corridor, with identical doors lined up on the left side and the city sprawling out to the right.
I reached my door, and reached into my back pocket for my keys. Pulling them out and fighting my blurred vision to find the right one, small and silver with an orange stripe on the tip, I froze.
Something wasn’t right.
I looked one way down the corridor, to the stairs I’d come from. Then the other, to the apartment at the very end.
I looked out to the city on one side, and back to my door on the other.
The blinds were open, and I know I left them closed. I'm sure of it, because I'd spent the previous week or so with no sources of natural light, closing all the windows and doors and hanging blankets from the curtain racks when too much light still managed to filter through.
Someone else had been here.
And, if the murmuring I could now make out as I pushed my ear to the door was any indication, they were still inside.