Shifa’s love of experimental fiction and feminist theory have contributed to the conception of ‘Womb’, a serialized novel to be featured here once every two weeks week. Here’s chapter one and chapter two.

Chapter Three:

“Sit,” he says quietly.

I stand very still; I don’t make a move.

“Sit,” he says again. There is steel in his voice.

I slowly move towards the chair.  My legs feel like lead. I am still shivering. I sit down and wait, looking at him—I cannot look away, I cannot look away. His face is a train-wreck, I cannot look away. I study the deep gash. I didn’t notice it outside, I didn’t notice it outside, why didn’t I notice it outside? It is hideous. I study the cleft palate, I study the rodent-like teeth, I study the sallow skin, I study the goiter around his neck, I study the course black hairs of his eyebrows, I study the piss-yellow whites of his eyes, I study the too-dark pupils of his eyes. His face is a train wreck and I cannot look away. His face is a train wreck and I cannot look away.

My leg starts to twitch.

As if sensing my disgust, he smiles. It is a sad smile. It is a smile that says he understands.

“Why are you here?”

My voice catches in my throat. I open my mouth, I try to move my tongue, my tongue stays in place, there is something gluey in my mouth, there is some substance preventing any movement. I close it again.

“You’re confused. I can see that. But I welcome it—confusion is a good thing. Take your time. When you’re ready, tell me why you’re here.”

What seems like an eternity passes. The room is cold. The room smells faintly chemical. He is in white robes, I am in a tracksuit. My breath steams in the cold.

“Why is it so cold in here?” I ask.

“We felt it was necessary. You’ll know why soon.”

“My skin hurts from the cold.”

“It’s all part of the process. Why are you here?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do.”

“I’m here because my parents thought it best.”

“You don’t believe that.”

“I’m here to get away from things for a bit—I’m here to relax, find my centre.”

“You don’t believe that.”

“I’m here because it was recommended.”

“Recommended as what?”

“As a place…people could go to. When they were in trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“All kinds of trouble. When they didn’t get along with other people, for example.”

“Is that why you’re here? Because you don’t get along with other people?”

“I can’t see the sun from inside the property. Everything is white. Why is that?”

“We felt it was necessary. You’ll know the reason when you’re ready.”

“Who is we?”

“You’ll find out when you’re ready.”

“When will I be ready?”

“That all depends on you. Why are you here?”

“I’m here because my parents thought it best.”

“You don’t believe that. Why are you here?”

“I’m here because I want to find myself.”

“Are you lost?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you feel that way?”

“I do. I just do.”

“Why?”

“I don’t get along with other people.”

“Why is that?”

“They don’t know what’s going on.”

“What is going on?”

“Nothing—that’s what they don’t realize. Nothing is going on.”

“And you do? You realize nothing is going on?”

“I do. I realize nothing is going on.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because people don’t want us realizing nothing is going on.”

“What people?”

“People. The people who write our stories.”

“Who are these people?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never met them. They are the people who decide our stories. And they don’t want us to know that nothing is going on.”

“When you say that nothing is going on, what do you mean?”

“There are people who control all the knowledge in the world. They manipulate it so that it makes sense to us, so that it conveys a purpose. They know there is no purpose, but they don’t want us to know.”

“Like religious heads?”

“That’s only part of it—there are more of them.”

“Who are these others?”

“They are everywhere—they run our government, our schools. They write our stories.”

“How do they do this?”

“They attend conferences, they publish papers, they write books, and books about books and books about books and books. They teach.”

“Who do they teach?”

“They teach all of us.”

“How do they teach us?”

“They teach us with words.”

“What are these words?”

“All words. They use all words.”

“Are these words good words or bad words?”

“All words are good words and bad words. They are both and neither.”

“And you know this for a fact?”

“I don’t believe in facts.”

“Why don’t you believe in facts?”

“Because facts lead us to believe there is an essence, and an essence leads us to believe there is a purpose.”

“There is no essence?”

“There is a constructed essence—no true essence.”

“Who constructs this essence?”

“The people who go to conferences. They people who write our stories.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are pale.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are tall.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people earn money.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are rational.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are stoic.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are courageous.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are virile.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are leaders.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are successful.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people bring home the bread.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people have wives.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people can father children.”

“Who are these people?”

“These people are men.”

He looks at me. Nods.

“So you do know why you’re here,” he says with the same, sad apologetic smile.

My leg continues to twitch.

(( ))

 

Read chapter four here.