Sunora: Part 1
Written in English, originally published as an ebook by Libri di Pixel in Italian, and re-translated by the author into English for the Fanzine.
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John was so angry he could feel the weight of the whole universe pressing on his stomach as he woke up in his blue varnished bed. It was his sister’s birthday, there was going to be a party, a birthday party, like every year. John associated his sister’s parties with a specific mixture of smells. Icing sugar. Strawberry lipstick. Rain. Plastic. Camphor. Cream. Caroline’s birthday. The long corridors of the house would soon be filled with the noise of quick steps. The sound of the kisses the girls would give to each other’s cheeks would resonate in the kitchen sink, in the wardrobe. Under his bed. John pressed his body hard against the moist mattress and closed his eyes. There, in the darkness under his eyelids, after the explosion of colors had started to fade out, a film started. He could hear the soundtrack bumping in his ears. It was a powerful, dark score, like in a film about pirates.
The titles fade and a ship appears. It is sailing the space, a pirate flag motionless in the lack of gravity. John-as-Captain Harlock is standing at the prow, his thoughts lost in the starry ocean surrounding him. The soundtrack is soft now, just a few piano notes lulled by the slow motion of the ship.
John opened his eyes. A small dot-like spider was stuck in the middle of a long descent that seemed to have started from the ceiling, even though it was impossible to see what the thin thread of muck was attached to. The little black dot was trembling in the air like a scared climber. The bedroom seemed smaller and stuffier than ever.
“They didn’t beat me. They cannot beat me. There’s no point in beating a dead thing.”
Caroline had spent the last two hours in front of the full-length mirror she had in her room. Through the tears that made her eyes shiny, she saw a distorted body, oozing flesh from places that she hadn’t even considered the year before. Her dress was tight and made her feel like throwing up. What she saw made her stiffen her jaw. She hated her body.
On the lower floor, the house was buzzing. John took a sheet of paper and some crayons and sat on the floor of the living room trying not to smell the scent of strawberry lipstick the girls that still had to arrive wore.
Mum walked by, small fast steps. She was carrying a tray of biscuits. She didn’t notice John and stepped on his sheet leaving a grey footprint. John gave her an angry look, but all he could see was her skirt waving as she walked away. He took a red crayon and drew a circle around the footprint. He wrote “Mum’s shoe” next to the circle, then crumpled the sheet and threw it away.
“Why would you beat a dead thing.”
3pm. The first girl would arrive in half an hour. After that, the doorbell would be ringing incessantly until about four thirty. The girls would appear smiling and holding presents and would pat his head like that of a dog. John wanted to leave. He wanted to go climb the air with the spider. But he didn’t move. He kept sitting on the living room floor and closed his eyes.
“The saliva thread is going to break anyway.”
The soundtrack becomes louder, more energetic. John-as-Captain Harlock perceives something in the darkness ahead of him, like a faint light approaching fast. It takes moments to realize it is the Mazone’s caravans. The main score can be now heard. John-as-Captain Harlock shouts an alarm signal to his crew, but nobody answers. His mind and body quickly get ready for a fight…
The doorbell rang. John opened his eyes and looked at his watch. Three thirty. He got up and stretched his bored limbs. He felt like he hadn’t used his arms and legs in years.
Mum walked in the living room. As she opened the door, she brought in the noise of shrill voices and the cold air of the winter that still lingered on the host’s coats.
“John, what’s the matter with you? Quick, come say hello to your friends.”
“They’re not my friends… I’m coming.”
He let his body drag him to the attic room, where they held all the parties. His hair was messy and his clothes smelly. He hoped that would have kept the girls from placing their varnished nails on his head. The smell of strawberry lipstick got stronger as he climbed the stairs. It was ridiculous to go among them, the Mazone, all taller and more female than him.
Pop music was coming from behind the wooden door. It was some kind of boy band. John found boy bands unnerving because he didn’t hate them. When he opened the door, Caroline was unwrapping her presents. She was wearing a yellow dress that fitted too tight on her hips and too loose on her chest, and she was wearing too much make up. Her friends looked similar. They looked like girls who tried to be women who tried to be girls. John sat by the refreshments table.
Some of the girls looked at him amused and Caroline’s best friend, Jenny, waved at him. John felt his face go on fire. He held his breath, hoping not to blush, but the girls were laughing and he knew it was too late.
“I knew it. You must never blush in front of them. It is like surrendering. You’ve done it all wrong already.”
Caroline ignored his presence. She was too busy with her presents. The largest one, mum and dad’s, towered on the rest of the packets. It was wrapped with deep blue paper and a yellow ribbon. Caroline opened all the other presents first faking emotions she didn’t feel. When she got to her parents’ packet, she tore the paper apart with her painted little fingers. There was a doll under the paper, enclosed in a plastic wrapper. She was as big as a three-year-old child. The hair was very long, dark, shiny. Her skin was fair, almost greenish but blushed unnaturally on the cheeks. At first sight, the doll’s mouth made her face look like she was laughing, but her eyes were not. They were black and round like those of a wild animal. Her body, covered with a shiny red dress, looked somehow tired, her arms abandoned on her lap. The girls attacked the doll with the frenzy of a religious mass in front of a holy relic. The plastic creature was removed from the box by many excited fingers and passed on from arm to arm until each girl had had her turn. The last girl in the line dropped it almost instantly though, because the cake had arrived.
John-as-Captain Harlock is standing in front of the north-pole post. A female figure appears from the surrounding darkness.
“Who are you?” John-as-Captain Harlock asks. He realises that he can actually see through the body of the girl. She seems to be made of fog. She sighs, but says nothing. Her eyes seem distant, but she is very present. She is watching the Captain carefully. The presence of this creature makes John-as-Captain Harlock feel somehow dizzy. He closes his eyes for a minute.
“Move,” he thinks. “Show me you’re alive, please, move!”
He opens his eyes again. The girl’s body emanates aurora lights. She says nothing, but looks at him intently.
“Are you gonna eat that?” John heard someone to his left say. He looked down and realized he was holding a plastic plate with a slice of cake on it. The girl sitting next to him had already polished hers off and was now eagerly waiting for John to offer his slice to her.
“Sure I am,” answered John and quickly gobbled the cake down. The girl looked away to hide her disappointment and pretended she didn’t care. John got up, feeling slightly nauseous, stretched his arms and stood still. His stomach felt tight, like he had an urgent need to cry.
“Is this what it feels like to fall from the sky?”
The party was still buzzing around him, the girls dancing to the sound of pop music. Love, what did they know about love?
John decided he could use this new uncomfortable feeling that was rising in him as an excuse to leave the party. He opened the door, walked down the stairs to the main floor, and hurried into his bedroom to avoid running into his mother and having to give any explanations. He lay on his bed and searched for the spider. He couldn’t see it anymore.
“I told you. What did it feel like?”
He took his t-shirt off and smelt it. Threw it on the floor. Went back lying on the bed and put his hands on his chest. His heart was racing––something made it beat faster. Something else. John looked at the ceiling, where the spider had been struggling to climb his way up the web.
“I feel like the universe is exploding inside me,” he thinks, as the girl’s eyes––transparent––stare at him with the deepest longing in the world and he starts…
crying. John felt that each tear his eyes produced made him feel like crying even more. He lay there in his blue bed and cried for hours without knowing what he was crying for.
It must have been late when the voice of the last of his sister’s friends woke him up. He could hear her thanking Caroline for the beautiful party and saying goodbye before shutting the door after her as she left. The end of the birthday party. Quiet now. He could already hear someone else’s steps on the floor of the attic room, his mum tidying up perhaps. She would get rid of all the cake leftovers and plastic dishes and arrange all of Caroline’s new presents in a nice orderly line. For the first time since earlier that afternoon, John thought of the doll. No, he did not think of the doll. He thought of the girl made of aurora light standing at the north-pole post. He thought of her black eyes. Transparent eyes that he could see through. No, black eyes.
“In school they don’t even bother beating me up because I’m dead.”
“Am I dead?” John-as-Captain Harlock asks to the girl made of aurora lights. She does not pronounce a word, she does not even move. But she does something to him. She stares with her transparent eyes and John-as-Captain Harlock feels alive. He touches the deep scar that runs through his left eye and feels something where he’s never felt anything before. Soundtrack becomes more solemn.
“Johnny! Dinner,” shouted Caroline from the kitchen. John didn’t move though he was hungry. He let his hands linger on his naked stomach. He let his sister call him three more times, then he got up and went to the kitchen.
Later that night, John lay in his bed in a state of half-consciousness. He could only fall asleep if he forced himself not to think of anything, but as soon as he started drifting to sleep his mind would be filled by her. He thought of her in the dark, upstairs in the attic room, all alone in space. He felt happy and he felt scared. His body was sweating in the white sheets. John was ten years old. That night he felt something that seemed like a distant memory, vague and yet present, almost painful. She was upstairs, waiting for him.
“Have you been waiting for me?” John-as-Captain Harlock asks to the girl made of aurora lights. The girl does not answer. “What do you want from me?” He asks again. “Will you love me? Will you hurt me?” View of the vast universe surrounding the two characters. Fade out.