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Electric Light /// New Fiction by Laura Ellen Joyce

I take the string of starlights from the Christmas tree and shove them down my throat. My neck glows in muted pastels. I am hot. Real stars appear in the plexiglass overhead. I lie down in the penny fountain and the water becomes frothed with pinks. The shock comes and flows through me until I am zoned. I fist the string down further and strip off my dress. the hair on my belly is frazzled. Two fingers, not mine, assist at the vulva and the lights come out of me. I draw my mouth across the first pistachio silk sheath in XS. My Chanel winter berries leaves a mark on the pelvic line and soon every single sheath is despoiled. I insert a single fingertip inside my cunt for blood and leave a saltsweet trail on my favorite slip. I am on the floor and I am lying on spilled silk. The blue light in my belly goes off and on off and on.

Film Set
I am running. My blonde hair is stringy with sweat. My vest top is clinging to my body and I am trembling. My mouth is red and open. I make an O which could be lust or horror or surprise. My eyes are open and blue and there is nothing in them. I am running and then still. The room I enter is full of meat hooks. There is a crunch as I fall into a mess of bones. My scream happens more slowly than the fall.

The projectionist puts on the first reel. It is footage of a blond girl.  She is in the bath. She is soaping herself, and laughing, and pouting. She is wearing lipstick: dark red, like a tabernacle. Then there are girls with hoods over their faces; girls kneeling in the dark.

     The projectionist returns from his reel. He pulls my hair until a clump comes out in his fist and he stuffs it in my mouth. I can’t see the film, but I know what is on the screen: Thick carpet. Three heavy crystal chandeliers. Six women in cocktail dresses. A rhymeless poem. A game of cards. Long tracking shots of formal gardens. French speech. The projectionist drops his knee into my belly. I suck in my ribs to protect my heart, my lungs, my soft parts. My belly is a soft pudding that smooshes into his muscle. He releases me to change the reel: A woman dressed in mourning walking through triangular gardens. A man in black grabs her, speaks urgently and lustfully in her ear. Losing a shoe she flees into the house. I adopt corpse pose. He pushes lights inside me until I am full of gleaming. My belly is a tundra. I burn off two more layers. He lets me drink. My cocktail is full of real jewels and fake blood. Once I have laid down I cannot remember. The screen is arctic. My body is fluorescent. I rewind the part where the woman lays down naked in swan feathers. I feel her sweat stick to me. Bald animal miasma. I put my fingers in. My vomit comes.

Operating Theatre
I lie on a white table. My legs are in stirrups. I ask for a sedative. They give me something dissociative and strong. I see figs dropped from the bridge. It is Rome and there are bridges, it is Tokyo and there are bridges, and women walk over them and under them and are assaulted as they walk, and it is Mexico City and there are high rise buildings and glass walkways in the sky and from each of these places are dropped soft fruits, split figs.

     Resistance. Bodies in the air and then no longer swerving, no longer atomic, no longer whole. The light is harsh, almost blue as it trains on me, on the open part of me. As a succession of gloved fingers and swabs and instruments go inside. A numb pool of shunting. No longer whole. Flesh wound, scarred walls, cells peeled. The figs are rotten, splitting under the harsh flood of light. Wasps couple inside them, their fur sticky with sweet rot and leaking juice. The insects arch and writhe; their foul hum muted by the amber flesh. Blindly burrowing out of the dead fruit, the wasps clamber on to sweeter meat.

Ice Rink
I wear a silver dress. It is too small and it makes my body bulge. I have on rusty skates and walk to the rink on pinched feet. I fall three times on the way. There are dazzling, arctic gels on the spotlights when I arrive. Snowblind, I cut through the crowd.

Crime Scene
The dark spools forward and I grip the branch. I lunge into the deep mud and my holy communion dress is ratted at the hem. In the tunnel velvet leaks down in ugly heaps. I crawl until I come to a clearing in the forest. There are one hundred women in high heeled shoes. I lick the shoes clean of mulch as I squelch forward on my front. I am naked as a glowworm. They take the foliage to my body until I am fully open. They find the stars inside me.

I am slid out of a drawer. Three men stand in white coats and watch me being taken apart. There is no secret hole or passage. There is no inside anymore. There is a moment of delay as viscera are weighed. I hear a violin in drop D.


Laura Ellen Joyce lectures in literature at York St John University. She was project co-ordinator of the AHRC Global Queer Cinema network between 2012-2013. Her novel, The Museum of Atheism, was published in November 2012. Her second novel, The Luminol Reels, comes out in August 2014.