Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thomas Ligotti is My Favourite Flavour of Ice-Cream, by Quentin S. Crisp

She thought she knew why dolls and teddy-bears were always so lonely. For a start, everything was the wrong size. When you made a tea-party for them, the plates were usually too small, and the food was too big. They belonged to all different sizes of space. And when you looked at the daylight on the plates and knives and teapot, you could see that nothing really belonged together at all, and you had to squeeze the dolls and bears very hard indeed to stop them from crying, and that only worked for a little while, because they'd soon get cold and lonely again. But it wasn't just sizes, it was shapes, too, that made them lonely, and especially lines. She was just like the dolls and teddy-bears, really, because when she looked at the lines of everything and how big things swallowed up little things before being swallowed up by other little things that were bigger than them, she knew she didn't belong anywhere, either, and she felt cold and lonely, too.

But at least she had one thing to help her that the poor dolls and teddy-bears didn't have and that's because she was magical, and being magical was a bit like having pets. Maybe they start off wild and want to bite you or run away or they won't eat and they die. But if you train them then they begin to do what you say. And that was just like the lines and shapes and sizes. They scared her first of all, and they still did sometimes, because there were so many of them, but she was teaching them to do tricks now.

There were lots of reasons why she knew she was magical, like the board against the wall in her room. Her dad had put the board there, and sometimes her mum would tell her to stand against the board, and she would take a squeaky black marker with a kind of square snout like a wolfy kind of pig, and she would trace a line all around her. There were four of these black outlines on the board now, all different sizes, and all of them were her, even though she was walking about like this now.

And another reason she knew she was magical was because she was sweet and melty. She found this out mainly after her last birthday when her mum drew the biggest outline around her. She had a cherry ice-pole and it made her lips and fingers red like cherries, or more like blackcurrants. Her mum had given her a special present that was a box. It was all yellow and blue with seahorses jumping over the stars in the sky. It wasn't a very big box, and she wondered what was in it at first. She couldn't find how to open it, and she thought maybe what had happened was that someone had taken the sky and turned it inside out to where it turned into the sea and then made it into a box so that it could keep everything in it forever. And when she asked her mum it turned out she was right. Her mum said that there was the whole universe inside this box, or anyway, it was her universe, and she could do whatever she wanted with it. Then her mum showed her how to open it, by finding the secret place where the sky had been folded over back on itself. And inside she found pencils and paper and felt-tip pens and rulers and rubbers and lots of other things like that, which were all to do with lines and shapes and colours. It was like a zoo that you make and unmake. That's when she really started getting the lines to do tricks and everything. One time when she was doing it after eating her ice-pole, she wanted to rub out part of a line, and the red drips of her ice-pole ran down her fingers and got rubbed into the paper. And then she tried to rub the stains aways by licking her fingers and wiping them on the page. But she only spread the pink-red cloud of smudge, until the whole page was covered with the candy-floss stain of her fingers and the little grey crumbs of rubbed-out line from the pencil on the paper. Then she drew a line on another page and rubbed it out with just the fingers she had licked, and the same thing happened. It was her that was coming off on the page. Even when the ice-pole had gone, red stickiness ran down her arms and her fingers. Then she noticed the ants on the page. She didn't know where they had come from, but they were running up her arm, following the dripping red. Some of them were crawling back down, too, and then down the table-leg and across the floor. Or had they come from somewhere across the floor? She did not notice when she wet herself. She thought it was just a trickle of ants. Or perhaps she was melting again. She sat for a long time, becoming hot and uncomfortable at her drawing table, so that she felt as if she were stuffed with stiff old straw inside like one of her teddies, and she scratched at the stitching that held her together. When she touched her body like this, it was like she was touching a thing like any other thing that had nothing to do with her. But if so, who was it that was touching this thing? This must be the strangest thing in the world, she thought, warm and alive without any head, and touching itself through an invisible me that wasn't it anyway.

And since when she touched her body with her melting hand, and found herself stitched together with ants, she proved, too, that she was the invisible twin of the strangest thing in the world, with a mouth but no face or head, she knew she must be magical.

She quickly became bored of being magical, and for many afternoons in a row watched a number of dirty grey clouds try to rub themselves out in the sky, changing into all different shapes. Everything she drew, and everything in the universe, was like these clouds. They appeared and changed and disappeared, but it made no difference to the sky.

"What's the point of a box with no treasure in it?" she asked her mum at last, but her mother just said that it did have treasure in it, and so she sulked, because her mother always cheated by saying this sort of thing.