The alarm clock wakes me with the usual scraping buzz. Rolling over, I stare at it and control the urge to slap it off the table.
I hear my front door go and Helen walks into my bedroom, shuts off the alarm and says good morning in a cheerful tone. i have another impulse to reach and touch her skirt, just brush a hand or foot against it. I could always say it was accidental. But Helen is nice enough. She doesn’t wrinkle her nose up when she thinks I’m not looking. I’d be unlikely to get a good replacement when she quits in disgust. As she goes off to make breakfast I call after her and tell her I’m tired of the alarm clock’s noise and might just turn it off myself, for good. She says she’ll try and change the settings on it when she’s done with breakfast and cleaning.
I ask after her boyfriend, other things in her life while she feeds me my breakfast. She gives me concise answers. I keep my nostrils held shut while chewing so the stench of my home doesn’t make me vomit. This is how I lost my first helper two years ago, and this is why she’s always tense during mealtimes. Her eyes give it away. It’s strange that I’ve never got used to eating in spite of the smell, and with my nose pinched I can never taste anything. I rank my liking for different foods by texture alone.
In the living room I position myself on the least disgusting part of the floor, which doesn’t say much, and Helen switches the TV on for me. Once I’m happy with the channel and volume she leaves for the office quarters, probably overjoyed to be out of my lair. I don’t envy her job. But she’s back soon enough with news. The new tenant is moving into the flat opposite me this evening. I ask what his/her ‘thing’ is, forgetting they can’t tell me. Helen’s face looks haunted even though she won’t be responsible for his/her care (I take a lot of attention) so it’s probably not something easily managed, or something really horrific. I’m not expecting to meet them anytime soon though.
The TV is dull as ever, miserable looking people with bad teeth yelling at each other with a host that butts in occasionally to remind them what pathetic excuses for humans they are. I haven’t been asked to appear on this one, just some of the others. And channel 5 wanted to do one of their freak show specials on me.
There’s too much static on the TV. Every time the host raises his voice it evolves into an inhuman crackling. I have an arial since I touched (and lost) my digital box. Helen doesn’t respond to the call button mounted on my wall (activated by blowing onto it) and I soon get tired of the static and flick the arial. Now the screen shows nothing but snow but the noise is gone, at least.
While sitting in the filth bored out of my mind, someone knocks on my front door. Usually they just come in – but it’s not a nurse/helper, it’s the new arrival.
She opens the door herself after I explain that I can’t. She’s fairly short, about the same height as my shoulders, with big hazel/green eyes. Her eyes meet my gaze then slide down my body to my feet, which as always are encrusted with faeces. She doesn’t look like she belongs here, but she doesn’t recoil in horror or at least make excuses and scuttle back to her quarters, so maybe she does. She suddenly snorts with laughter.
“You were the one all over the news last year, weren’t you?”
I’ve never had anyone bring up that series of events while I’m around and actually laugh about it…
…it feels liberating. I laugh as well.
“That’s right.” And I smile at her.
“So….” She’s sitting on a beanbag that Helen brought in, with plastic bags tied around her feet. The staff weren’t happy about her coming into mine, but they couldn’t stop us. I doubt the beanbag will go back to common use afterwards though.
“It can’t be *everything* you touch. You’d die.” She seems interested without being disgusted. Her name’s Charlotte. She hasn’t brought up her own reasons for being here.
“I can touch my own body, and things put in my mouth aren’t…turned. I still need help to eat and drink though.” It’s been a long time since I’ve explained this to someone not via telephone. I did a few interviews last year before refusing to do any more unless in person.
I half expected some eager journalist to track me down and do a full exposé on my new life, the life I’ve had for a few years now. The post-shit life. But it didn’ seem like anyone was interested enough in my story to risk being accidentally touched by me.
Charlotte didn’t seem frightened by the thought, more fascinated. It was a welcome change.
“So if you touched me right now…just pinched me…or flicked me…I’d just become shit?”
“Most likely.” Her eyes are widened.
“Would that be murder or manslaughter or what? I’d be dead, wouldn’t I?” She does edge slightly away from me in her beanbag, probably not conciously.
“You wouldn’t be alive.”
They’re in the process of passing a law to include transfiguring (knowingly) another person into a non living substance in the same league as murder etc, but they haven’t yet. If I was more bitter about my new life I could always go on a rampage, seeing how many innocents I can turn to waste. On bad days I like to daydream about doing just that.
I’m just waiting for my sleeping pill to kick in. Lying in wet, stinking excrement makes dozing off naturally more or less impossible.
Even if I was put in jail for turning as many people as I could…what jail could hold me? I close my eyes. Still don’t know what Charlotte is here for.