I came to on the filthy tiled floor, spluttering out a clenched mouthful of old teeth and blackened blood as my eyelids concertinaed haphazardly, squeezing the sorry state of affairs down my optic nerves into my noncombative brain.
‘We were about to take your pulse!’ the Hare wheezed shrilly with poorly hidden disappointment into my shell-like ear, hunkering down on his lice ridden haunches. I blearily scan but see no measuring devices, only clamps and tongs and too-deep dirty pockets. Take it indeed.
My vision widens out to shovel in the semi-familiar scene; the grimy misery of the ceramic cell, the possibility that it’s somehow worse than the last time I was here. Squat and self intoxicated is the Mother, tar filled and reeking like an underpass, basking in the glow of having provided a particular kind of accommodation to just as many of the destitute and insane. She’s declined to sit on the cracked seat, but instead perches on it, and blackened toes curl with monkeyish dexterity, balancing the pyramid of her rotting bulk. She spies the teeth on the floor and snaps, snarls and scampers over to claim them before the unlikely competition. They disappear somewhere in the confines of her corpulence. Nice to see you too, dear.
I kick into a very low, unambitious gear and force my torso and face off the floor. The rest will just have to stay there for now. My hair reeks of piss and pranks. Bastards. I can hear them snickering. How long has it been? The Hare and the Mother look barely more decrepit than they did at our last reunion. Ah, memories. Once again the whoosh slaps me in the face. The loss of some job I-hated-anyway, the string of shit-luck, the sleeping longer and longer, not caring as the rails disintegrated and the floor fell away, then the secret longing and broken promises and hey presto! I’m back in the Hole.
The Hole this time is a public toilet. It’s been other, equally shitful places, not quite as literal as this one, and I credit my subconscious with its stripped back realism. At times its been too flowery in its metaphors and I’ve done two star performances, theatrically crawling on broken glass through shoddily constructed revolving dioramas of self loathing. There’s been a long string of these same-same but different excrescences of my secretly tended depravity. This time round I think we’ve nailed it.
The Mother and the Hare are nattering to themselves in one of the cubicles. Their attempt at secrecy is laughable, as the door has long splintered off its hinges and the sound echoes and amplifies in the confines of the rusted can of my imagination. The bickering turns to haranguing, which crescendos to drunken squabbling followed up by a symphony of slaps as the Mother reinforces dominance and the Hare skips gleefully back to malevolent submissiveness with the knowledge he’ll have his turn, one day. I’d just about cleaned off the bulk of the solid matter caking my clothing with a less than clean cloth that I’d found stashed under the sink when the Mother pushed her bent beak in and leaned myopically close, exhaling a solid 46% proof into my face. ‘Prettying yourself up down there? Is Cinderella off to the fucking ball then?’ was coughed out in solid as well as literal form from the foetid cavern of her mouth.
Off to the ball, of course. That’s exactly where I was heading, shining and immaculate when I’d somehow accidentally fallen over the edge of privilege into the stinking bilge of the Hole. It was all a terrible mishap and its not my last heart beats these vile wretches should be tussling over, it must be some other being, no doubt a disheveled and irresponsible wreck who belongs here. Oh, oh the terrible outrage. Ha! Sourness floods in and sweeps over reopened wounds in a joyous embrace. Baby, welcome back, we’ve missed you so. Already the Hare and the Mother have taken on the hazy aura of sweet nostalgia as they rabidly lunge and scratch at each other’s eyes, whilst artfully edged by the rotting door frame. Something always yanks me back, again and again, down into the Hole.