The first time I dreamed about her, she was naked, but her body was wrapped in movie-film, like some kind of sexy mummy. She didn’t say anything, just turned to me and started crying, her big eyes filling up, and then overflowing with huge, shiny tears. “Kids tears,” I thought in my dream. She was not the kind of girl I would usually dream about, she was slender, hardly any breasts at all, and the barest hint of hips. She had a small, heart-shaped face, with a splatter of light freckles across her small, upturned nose. Her eyes were a deep green and her black hair was cut into one of the bobs that are longer in the front. I remember thinking she was too cute for a wet dream. The film was wrapped around her torso, as she moved, it shifted, revealing glimpses of her teacup breasts, and the aged film below, winding down to her thighs, and trailing onto the floor behind her.
I woke up the next morning, feeling sad and worn out, which was weird. Normally I woke up from naked-girl-dreams feeling ready to face the day, kick ass and take names, but that morning I felt like I was dragging myself through my morning routine. I could not shake that crying girl’s face out of my mind. As I lethargically click the buttons on my keyboard at work, I tried to place her face. Had I seen her here at work? Perhaps I had seen her in the coffee-shop downstairs? I thought that maybe I had known her from somewhere… high-school? It was driving me nuts.
I was still brooding about it while on my way home, leaning against the glass wall of the bus-stop, and chewing on the corner of my lip. Something on the ground caught my eye. There was a little cluster of litter trapped in the corner: a coffee-cup, a flier for some rock-concert, cigarette-butts, and a short strip of film. My heart shivered a little, but I bent down and picked it up. It was six frames of a dark film. I held it up to the sunlight, and there she was: my dream girl.
The first frame showed her cowering in a corner, trying to cover her nakedness with her arms, her feet pulled under her, and her face turned to the wall. Her neck was pale and smooth, but there was a bruise rising there, like someone had grabbed her roughly where it met the shoulder. There was a shadow cast over her, it got bigger in each frame and in the sixth one I could see the barest sliver of an arm. A big, muscular one, covered in dense, dark hair. She hardly moved in the frames, just curled a little deeper in to the corner.
I looked around, but could not find any more film on the ground. I went home feeling ill, my heart feeling heavier than ever. I tossed and turned that night, and when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of her again. She turned towards me again, her big eyes full of tears. “Who are you?” I tried to ask her, but I could not make any sound. She began crying. “Help me,” she said, and her voice was thick with sadness.
I woke up with my pillow soaked in tears.
I called out of work that day, I felt like my heart was breaking. I had not felt that way since my Dad’s funeral, three years before. I stayed in bed, curled up and moping until ten or so, then got up to use the bathroom. I stood over the toilet, and peeking out from behind the tank was a strip of film. My hand shook as I picked it up. It was longer than the first, about twenty frames.
The man drew closer to her in each frame, his hand reaching for her. The angle of the camera cut him off at the chest level, never showing his face. He was broad and built, covered in dark hair. He was naked, and the hair covered most of his body. She cringed further down, but in the last frame, his hand closed around her upper arm.
I was shaking hard, all over. My heart seemed to actually ache in my chest. I could feel it throb with every heartbeat. I spent the day in bed, with my blanket pulled over my head and dosed off some time in the afternoon, and dreamed.
She was crying harder than ever, her whole body was shaking and her chest was hiking madly in and out. “Stop!” I tried to scream at her.
“Stop crying! You are breaking my heart!”
“Please,” she sobbed. “Please help me.”
I woke up, my own chest covered with tears. “Who the hell are you!?” I shrieked, the sound of my own voice scared me so badly that I let out another thin shriek. My neighbor pounded on the wall in retaliation. I jumped out of bed, and threw on some clothes; needing to get out the apartment, thinking it would suffocate. I pounded down the two flights of stairs to the lobby and ran out into the twilight. I stood on the bottom stair for a second, sucking in deep breaths and trying to calm myself; and there on the ground, fluttering in the light breeze was another strip of film, over six feet long.
I held it up, and as I did, the street-light above me flickered on. The man was dragging her across the room, throwing her face down across a table, yanking her legs around, and then beginning to rape her. My stomach turned and I had to look away, but I felt my eyes drawn back, dragged back, and run themselves down the rest of the strip. She tried to fight, tried to crawl away, but the man punched her, hard, in the back, then grabbed her by the hair and slammed her face down onto the table. In the last frame, there was a trickle of blood running across the table, dripping from her nose and mouth.
I threw it on the ground, the breeze picked it up, and it went curling down the street, tangling around a stop-sign. I followed it, and saw another strip down the street reading “SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY”. It wound and curled its way around the corner and disappeared on the next street. My feet began walking that way. I tried to stop, I did not want to know where that film led, but they continued moving anyway.
I felt as though I had followed that film for miles, weaving through neighborhoods I did not know, neighborhoods that got more and more trashy, stepping over bums sleeping on the side-walks, dead cats in gutters… Sometimes the film would wind up on poles and signs, and I would catch bits of bits of the film. He raped her, beat her, raped her some more, and beat her some more. She was covered in cuts, welts, and she was hardly recognizable any more. Finally, the film began to winding down a narrow alley, choked with garbage and other debris. It dove under a pile of metal scraps that had fallen against a wall, and disappeared there. I began pulling the metal aside, it was heavy, and there was a lot of it. I began to uncover a rusty steel door, held shut by the debris for who knows how long. I kept pulling the metal aside until I could yank the door open.
It was dark inside, and I could hear the fan blowing endlessly. I went in, pulling my lighter out of my coat pocket. I flicked the wheel, and saw the room from the film. There was an old projector set up on the table, and a man sitting in a chair next to it, facing the blank, white wall.
“Hey,” I said, but the man did not move. The fans whirred on and on. I stepped closer. “Hey.” No response. I drew closer, and the light from my lighter finally fell fully upon him. He was dead; long dead. The fans, whirring endlessly somewhere in the darkness, had dried him completely, his skin stretched tight over his bones, his pants were a moldy puddle around his ankles. His left hand was lying on the reel of film in the projector, as though he had caressed it into his death.
Someone sobbed softly behind me.
I had spun around so fast that my light blew out. I fumbled with it again; trying to light it, but my shaking hands only spun the wheel, and then slipped off the button.
“Help me.” It was her voice, the dream girl, the film girl, and I knew what movie that man had been watching as he died, trapped in the room by the pile of metal that had fallen over, trapped in here with his dying, broken toy and his sick masterpiece.
I finally struck the lighter, and I saw a bundle of clothes in the corner. My heart gave a final, lurching bolt of agony; then fell back into the normal, steady rhythm it had been keeping for twenty-seven years. I knelt at the cloth and peeled it back. She was cringing in the corner, her skin pale white, those big tears running down her cheeks. She turned her face to mine and whispered, “Take me out of here, please. I don’t want to be in here any more with him.”
“Okay,” I said, wrapping the cloth around her naked body. “Okay, let’s get out of here.” I picked her up, she was so light, and she hardly seems to weigh anything. She pressed her face into my neck, her tears beginning to slow, and then stop. I carried her through the door, and she sighed as we passed out of that awful chamber. She seemed to get lighter still, and I looked down at her. She was gone, I was carrying a pile of bones, broken and splintered from all the beatings. A single tear rolled down my cheek and struck the top of her skull, ran into a wide fissure and disappeared. The skull caved in with a soft whispering sound, and then crumbled into a fine dust. As I watched, the rest of her bones broke apart into dust and blew away in the night breeze.