Read an excerpt Ultan Banan’s new work of gothic horror, Little Swine, below.
A devastating work of gothic horror
Little Swine. Born captive and in chains all the aching-long life. Her face wet and her feet blistered and in her the sickness of those who have never been free and the sadness of those who will never know liberty. Little Swine reached about for Teddy but he lay across the floor, cast away by Momma-who-was-not-Momma whose only hope in life was to cast away all things and be free. Little Swine grappled hopelessly, tugging her legs, but the rope only cut into her swollen ankles. Little Swine swiveled her head toward the ceiling hearing only the silence. But that sound, or rather the absence of it, still rang in her ears.
The latch had not been shut.
Momma-who-was-not-Momma had been tired and angry and had forgot to lock the door behind her. Little Swine, frozen in fear for hours now, began to thaw.
She lifted her head from the bed and turned to look at the steel door, to all appearances shut like every other day as far back as she could remember, days long back into the blackness of her memory.
She kicked her legs again then rolled over on her side. Her hands were free but her feet were tied, her mouth still gagged. Little Swine untied the rag that tasted of bleach from her mouth. Then she turned attention to her feet.
She sat looking at her feet for a good long while. Once her feet were untied, that was it, she could no longer pretend, and the minute Momma came down the stairs that would be the end of her. Maybe the pins or maybe the rolling pin, or maybe the towel or the grater. Once Little Swine put her feet on the floor, she was all in.
Perhaps it was some deep unfathomable intuition of the baby that had taken seed inside her, or perhaps it was years of captivity and abuse and horror, but something, the spark that is contained in all who live and breathe and know life, something was rekindled in Little Swine right at that moment in a heart that had been dead for a longer time than she had heart to remember. An urge, an impulse, even a desire, arose in Little Swine and there was nought she could do to suppress it.
Little Swine untied her feet and shook her ankles loose. She crawled up onto her hands and knees then put one foot on the floor. She stood and listened. Still no sound. Only the quiet hum of the house that Little Swine had learned to discern in her stillness and fear. Putting both feet on the floor, she picked up Teddy and crept to the door. She looked around her, as if there might be part of her left behind, but she knew there was not, there was only she and Teddy and the four grimy walls that had held her prisoner for time unbeknownst.
Little Swine was familiar with the creak of the door, knew its screeches, and so she inched it open slowly and carefully, each silent groan of the hinge a deafening terror in her heart.
She slid through into the corridor, her feet pained on the damp, rough concrete. Clutching Teddy, she tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. Through the crack of the door, she caught her first glimpse of natural light and squinted.
On tortured feet she crept up the stairs and paused at the kitchen door. Quiet within the house.
Blood thundered in her veins, her head throbbed. Her poor captive heart thumped. She stepped onto the cool tiles of the kitchen, blinded by the light from the window. Covering her eyes, she stood like that for some minutes until, slowly, she began to look about the room. She froze when she caught sight of the animal on the counter: Weasel, in a position of repose, merely stared at her from the tiny currants that were its eyes. Little Swine waited for it to screech and throw itself at the cage. It did not. Maybe it was the connivance of one who had too been captive all its short life and recognized in Little Swine’s eyes the fear of the hunted and saw there its own pathetic condition. Weasel stayed silent. Little Swine crept to the back door. Having no knowledge of its whispers or laments, she pulled it slowly, the door opening with a few tiny creaks. With Teddy cradled in her arms, she stepped outside.
Terrifying it was, her first steps on God’s dry earth in her poor blistered feet. Rough earth stung her soles, the weeds irritated her blisters. Above and beyond the pain she felt was both the terror of being caught and the overwhelming rush of the fresh air and the taste of open spaces. To her right, a shed. Off beyond to the left, another, from which she heard the sound of a goat. Still with the invisible noose around her neck, Little Swine moved slowly, as if tied somehow yet to her incarceration and torment. Passing the shed she heard the rattle of a chain and froze again, a terror in her heart, one that spoke an unnameable evil for which there were no words of description in any of the languages of men.
Once past the shed, the noose released her and she broke into a run, her heart pounding, her head spinning, her eyes still sore from the impossible purity of that light. Yet she saw. She saw, below her, a road, and on that road several abodes, any one of which might contain her means to freedom and safety. Beyond the road and the houses there was nothing, only a great expanse of dry earth that led to nothing and promised nothing and had nothing to give. Little Swine ran, her feet beginning to bleed. In her arms, Teddy, her sole companion and witness to her years of suffering.
She ran until she reached the road, and on the road she kept on running until she reached the first house. She banged on the door to no avail, and she banged some more and kept on banging, realizing eventually that there was no one within to aid her. Little Swine got on the road and kept running.
Under the evil heat of the afternoon sun, sweat poured from her, and with her bloody feet and the drenched nightie on her back, and the tortured and defeated look about her, she was as bedraggled a being that had ever been seen on those highways. Reaching the second door she banged on it too, and a woman appeared there, a shotgun in her hand.
Little Swine croaked a cry for help, forming no words that might convey her sorry plight. The woman stroked the barrel of the shotgun.
I think you best be gettin outta here, said the woman.
Little Swine held up Teddy, as if Teddy might elicit the sympathy she could not.
Ain’t no fuckin business of mine, whatever you’re into, the woman said. Now like I said, you best be leavin.
Little Swine made a last desperate plea for aid.
The woman’s eyes sparkled with hatred and malice, and fear also, as if things stirred behind her own doors, dark secrets buried there too that the arrival of this poor tortured spirit threatened to release.
Get the fuck off my porch, the woman said, raising the shotgun and pointing it between Little Swine’s eyes.
Tears and sweat and desperation marked her face, but faced with no other option she backed away, stepping down into the road. Little Swine turned and ran.