Saturday, 6 June 2020

'Mute' by Alice Lam

You almost walk past but then you slow.

Don’t go, I ​ plead. Not that I can say this out loud. Thanks to the vocal cordectomy, also known as The Refinement. Infusion of barbiturates. Horizontal incision. Laser. I still smell the charred flesh. My screams surgically strangled.

Come closer. I ​ ’m excited and hate myself for the desperation. But we haven’t had a visitor in days. Sometimes I see the reflections of the ghouls who live in this perspex prison. Sunken hollows for eyes, jutting rib cages and startling collarbones, concave abdomens, hairless pudenda.

You bend and lower your face to mine. At first, your expression is soft and curious. Then the inevitable. Your nose wrinkles and your brow furrows, gentle friendliness morphing to visceral disgust. Worst still is the pity.

I brandish a shred of hope for myself if not my fellow prisoner. She gave up a week ago. That’s her in the corner, an unmoving mannequin, the same raised purple line across her throat. I check her pulse, thready and maybe only imagined. I nearly envy her coma.

Feed us, I ​ mouth. I point to the chute above my head.

You are carrying a facility-issued brown paper bag of homogeneous food pellets, the size of dog kibble. Possibly is dog kibble.

Feed us, I ​ repeat. ​ Please.

I know we are the lucky ones. We have been spared to serve as a reminder to other women. Don’t speak out of turn, ladies.

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