by Scout Graves (they/them)
Photography by Erlan Dzhumaliev.
TW: mild gore, descriptions of the deceased, femicide, brief SA mention (no description), traumatic nudity, misogyny, and live burial.
[This is an audio transcript to be read over radio; to be heard as well as visualized]
*water dripping distantly, constantly*
*walls quaking in the wind*
I think I am dead, god. Lowercase ‘g’ for I’m not entirely sure I believe in you. And that’s just because I’m dead and not anywhere important. Why am I dead, again? I seem to be rotting. Rotting flesh melting into the creaking floorboards.
*An animal rummages outside the walls*
*the water drips a little louder*
Looks like hollow death has found me. I’m not sure it’s right for me to be afraid, god. I’m already dead. I wonder if I feared this death. I think I did. Did I? Who was I? I think I was a woman, yes, I must have been. My waist is heavy and my chest sags and I know I didn’t feel safe just before I died. I know that my last words were a scream that is still caught in my throat. A lump of something I longed to say. I guess it doesn’t matter now.
*the wind starts to howl*
*the water from an unknown source is still dripping, getting louder, louder than the wind*
It’s light outside. The wind howls but the sun shines. There must be a sink somewhere, the water dripping reminds me that there is a sink. I think. Why do I remember a sink? A dirty sink, white sink, grimy sink, sink of my memories, sink of my doom, sink of not knowing if this is how it’s supposed to end, if this is really it.
*Water drips, walls creak*
I’m trying to remember what happened to me. The smell of ammonia is stifling in this room. Smell… How can I smell? I am dead. It must be another memory. Yes, that’s it! I’m getting back my memory. My memory of how I died. But why am I still here, god? Why am I in my rotting body? It’s so small in here, so cramped for my too large soul. And my body is so very, very still. I try to count my appendages. A “grounding” exercise. I appear to have four of them. A head, still attached. My nose, although crooked, still on my face. 10 toes. 10 — wait… 9 fingers. Where’s my ring finger? My ring finger on my left hand? I want to search the room but my body is still. So very, very, very still. So infuriatingly still.
*water drips faster*
I feel out of breath, but I don’t have breath. Why am I still here, god? They say spirits watch their bodies from above, from clouds and kingdoms, but I seem to be stuck, stuck inside a rotting brain behind glassy, glazed eyes.
*water drips louder*
My eyes are still open. I must have died suddenly. I didn’t have time for darkness. But maybe I can search for my finger. I look to the left. Nothing. I look to the right. Nothing. I look above me and —
*metal creaks eerily*
*metal creaks, the room groans in the wind*
Panic rises as I watch it sway from a hook above my face. It seems god has made a mistake. I’m stuck in my stone body and I can’t… I can’t breathe. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to feel my heart beating in my chest.
I want to hear it in my ears.
*heartbeat gets louder*
I want to feel some pressure in the back of my skull, some movement in my veins.
*the heartbeat almost overpowers the voice and the water drips faster and louder than before*
I want to live, god, I want to live.
*a door creaks*
*the heartbeat stops and so does the water*
*heavy boots can be heard on the floorboards*
There’s someone here.
I try to look but I can only stare at my finger, billowing like a branch in the wind. I hear them come closer. Confidently. Loudly. Do they not see me? The silence is blinding; The pause, the even steps, the wind being the only gasp, the metal being the only cry. Is my humanity not obvious? Am I a stone which ought only to be walked around? Am I to be found with indifference like some trinket in the grass? Perhaps I am vain to mourn this apathy. Oh, I do hope I don’t look too wretched, too decayed!
*The footsteps grow louder and then stop*
I realize now that I am completely naked. I panic again. I am exposed. This is violating. I was violated. I feel so violated. I imagine this person’s eyes on me, on my disgusting, hollow, naked body, and god, oh god, I wish I could say anything! How I wish I had a voice, god! Oh, how I would shout for my body, my poor wretched body!
*There is a squeaking noise, like a chair sliding on the floor* *a moment of silence follows* *there are heavy breaths*
A face hovers just above mine. He smiles at my glazed eyes, and he looks so familiar, so damn familiar. And then I know.
“Don’t touch me!” I want to yell. “DON’T TOUCH ME!”
But he can’t hear me. Because I am dead, god. Because he killed me.
*He grunts* *abbreviated dragging sound begins* *the building creaks* *the wind crescendos as they move outside* *an animal scurries away* *leaves crunch underfoot* *dragging is continuous and harmonious with the crunching leaves*
Where is he taking me? I feel so heavy against the leaves on the ground. I see trees all around me and out of the corner of my soul I see the house where he had kept me, where I had died. It’s so fragile, almost as fragile as my life. Almost as fragile as I am now, gliding along the dirty ground, my hair catching on twigs and branches, my skin unfeeling but the sound… Yes, the sound is enough to feel every scrape, every shiver I cannot have in the cold. I am vulnerable, god.
*a loud thump as the dragging stops*
He has dropped me now. Where are we?
*A shovel carves into the dirt and the dirt falls to the ground*
*Crunching leaves and heavy footfalls*
What’s happening now? Is anyone watching? Does anyone care?
*heavy breathing and the sound of the wind*
I’m in the air now. *thud* I’m on the ground now. *more heavy breathing* The ground is cold. *a shovel starts shoveling and the dirt thuds onto something hard*
I feel the dirt falling onto my body, trickling over each of my limbs, filling the space where my ring finger was. Please, someone notice.
*heartbeat starting up again*
Please, someone say something.
*heartbeat getting faster*
Please, god if you are good, let me say something.
*heartbeat getting louder*
*heartbeat deafening now, trees creak all around, an overwhelming cacophony of the shovel and the trees and the wind and the heartbeat all at once*
*heartbeat stops. All sound stops. Silence for a moment*
*and then the shoveling continues*
I feel more suffocated now, the dirt falling and falling and falling. I look up one last time. I want to see the sky. I just want to see the blue sky. But instead I see his face, looking down into mine, and he says in a voice that drowns out all other senses, that drains all the blood from the heart,
*the man lets out a sigh*
“What a waste”.
And he shovels the last pile of dirt over my eyes.
Scout Graves is an American writer and paraprofessional, working towards a teaching certification in elementary and early childhood education and an MA in museum studies in the archival and conservation sciences. Born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, they have lived in Ontario, Hawaii, Connecticut, and across the West and East of Ireland. The body of their work is informed by their turbulent and unusual life experiences, influenced most noticeably by a distinct autistic sensory perspective, and by their background as an American agender lesbian living with profound physical and developmental disabilities. Raised in a family of musicians and explorers, Scout finds intimate inspiration in unexpected places within the arts, culture, and the natural world. With a proclivity for lyricism being both their signature strength and an Achilles’ Heel, their goal as a writer has been to learn how to effectively translate a profoundly autistic mindset into something that convinces an audience. Scout’s dream is to see their writing on a bookshelf, and to give back to their loved ones by having something to show for their support.