May It Persist...

She slowly steps across the ancient, stained linoleum, which is peeling away from the floor, revealing the moldy floorboards beneath. Tap-one, tap-two, tap-three, tap-four, side step to avoid the refrigerator, tap-five, tap-six, taping her boots on the linoleum tiles and silently counting. She stops and turns so she is walking across the width of the kitchen instead of along its length. Tap-one, tap-two, tap-three, tap-four. Four tiles at its widest.

She walks to the counter and pours herself a cup of coffee, then turns to go lengthwise again, starting at the doorway to the other room, next to the coffee machine, going the same direction as the first time. Tap-one, tap-two, tap-three...

She reaches the door next to the refrigerator, stops, and opens it. A quiet giggle came from the room behind her, she did not hear it; she was completely dead to anything outside of her world of linoleum tiles. Tap, tap, tap, down the sagging wooden stairs. She stopped about half way down and sat carefully on a rotten stair, unsure if it would hold her weight. She sipped her coffee. The stairs held.

A high-pitched giggle came from the back room for a second time. This time she heard it, as the coffee had finally managed to awaken her senses. She sighed, stood, stretched, and reluctantly went up the stairs, around the corner, and into the room. It was mostly dark, illuminated by only a solitary dirty, yellow, beam of sunlight through a crack in the curtain.

A rotund, faceless man sits on the bed, dangling a glass syringe full of a brownish liquid in front of a little girl, who appears to be around four years old. She gleefully squeals and grabs for the instrument; just before she reaches it, he pulls it away, teasing her. The woman, who was actually an eighteen-year-old girl, angrily snatched it away from him. "What in 'ell do ye think yer doin'?" she screeched, "I won't have my daughter 'round that shit!" The man only chuckled in response.

"Tie me up and shoot it up, babe." She sighed, shuffled over to the dresser and hunted for the elusive pantyhose. After having found it, she returned to the bedside and secured it tightly around the lower part of his bicep, cleaned the needle with the flame of her lighter, and squinted at his inner elbow, trying to find a decent vein. She stuck the needle into what she hoped was a vein (she couldn't quite tell in the dim lighting) and slowly pushed the plunger, giving the heroin-addict his fix. The little girl watched the entire incident with wide eyes.

"What's that?" she asked her mother.

"Ye dun need ter know 'bout that yet, yer too young and ye shouldn't of seen it in the first place." The woman turned and walked out of the room in search of more coffee, leaving her daughter and her questions alone in the dark room with the heroin addict once more.

There was not any coffee left. She tapped across the kitchen and creaked down the stairs to her mother's tiny room. "Hey, ma, I'm just checkin' on ye!"She shouted as she opened the door. She was greeted by silence and a stench as of rotten meat; the room was completely dark. "Ma… you in 'ere?" she asked the empty air, more quietly this time. "Maaaaa, answer, please, yer start-n ter worry me. You okay?" her voice was swiftly losing its volume. She walked over to the bed, which had been placed against the wall, near the door; the stench grew overpowering, causing the girl to cough. She saw a puff of red hair on the stained pillow peeking out of the blanket, which covered the rest of the body of the woman in the bed. "Oh, yer just sleepin," the girl said, her voice now a barely audible whisper. She shook her mother's shoulder, no response. She shook her more violently, but the woman still did not react.

She sighed and clutched a corner of the blanket, reluctant to pull it back, fearing what she might see. "I really dun wanna do this, maaa, can ye please wake up? I really, really dun wanna do this," she half moaned half whispered to the woman. She stood still for a moment, holding on to the blanket as if it were her life line, then she gathered her courage and peeled the blanket away from her mother's body.

The woman was lying on her side; her eyes were open, staring at nothing across the room and glazed with a white-ish mucus from having been free of tears for quite some time; her jaw hung open, revealing mostly rotten teeth. The girl was nearly certain she was dead. Just to be sure, she did a test; she poked her mother's eye with the long, sharp nail of her forefinger; the woman did not react. "Hmm…," she put more pressure on the eye, seeing if it would pop; it did not. She crouched down next to the bed, eye level with her mother's face, her curiosity rendering her completely unaware of the stench. She contemplatively stared at the eye for a moment, then unclipped her tiny switchblade from her waist. She plunged the blade into the eye; the eye crunched but did not pop. "Weird," she said, now twisting the knife, resulting in more crunching and scraping noises. The woman began to hiss, the sound becoming louder and more pitched, like a teapot. Upstairs, the little girl also began to scream, a diabolical choir. The girl, shocked, dropped the knife and stepped back towards the door. She hovered for a moment in indecision, then finally, sighing in exasperation, stated hollowly," Aw hell, the cops ain't gonna like this.

She walked arround the darkened room, desperately searching for something to quiet her mother's screaming. Upon finding a pillow, she stumbled back to the side of the bed and thrust the pillow into her mother's face. The woman continued to screech into the pillow, which succeeded in the muffling. After a short while, the noise died down, as if the woman were pausing to take a breath at last, and then ceased. The girl momentarily relaxed; then realized why her mother had grown silent. "Ma! What have I done?" She cried in despair. "Well, I suppose you would have died anyway." She sighed and turned away. Her own daughter's screams had also begun to quiet, though her daughter's had subsided into quiet sobbing, unlike her mother's.

She exited the dirty, little basement apartment and headed towards the stairs, counting the creaky footsteps on her way up once more. She passed through the kitchen and hallway, into the back bedroom where her daughter and the man who had caused her daughter's existence still remained.

The little girl stood at the foot of the bed staring at her limply dangling arm and whimpering. Her father watched from his perch on the edge of the bed, chuckling. "What in the hell's happened now?" The woman inquired. "Why's her arm like that," she continued, walking to the child and examining her arm, "Did you do that?" The man paused in his amusement, looked her in the eye, and merely grinned.

The woman gently took the girl by her good arm, guiding her in the direction of the still open back door. "Ye've seen too much today. Ye didn't need to get inter all this, now yer stuck in it. I 'spose I'll have ter show the rest of it ter ye soon. Didn't wanna do that, but that's how life is," she mumbled, half to herself and half to her daughter. They slowly walked down the stairs, never forgetting to count.

When they reached the bottom, the woman led the girl a little to the front and right of the stairs to the grass, which was covered with snow. She placed the girl's arm in the snow to soothe her pain, then went back up the stairs to beg the man for money to get a bus pass to take their daughter to an emergency room.

When they got on the bus, the woman stared out the window, holding the girl tightly on her lap and wondered. How long can this dysfunction go on? We're on the edge of complete insanity about to fall off. How long can this possibly persist?...