Talulla Rising Page 80

Don’t bother looking for the meaning of it all. There isn’t one.

No, there wasn’t. But I couldn’t help thinking of the young Konstantinov and the pencil he’d had in his pocket the night his beloved Daria Petrov was attacked by a vampire. Every now and then life sold you an illusion of design. A coincidence, a parallel, a sledgehammer symbol. The goods were always faulty. You forked over the cash only to discover they’d fallen apart by the time you got home. But life kept at it. Life couldn’t help it. Life was a compulsive salesman.

Out of sheer reflex I’d been struggling, without much success, to keep my free hand free. I’d smacked him a couple of times ineffectually on the side of his monumental head, tried kneeing him in the groin, but the cuffs ruined my balance. He only needed his left hand to pin my right. He only needed to lean on my right thigh to keep my legs open.

You know what you have to do, my mom’s voice in me said.

He tore my shirt and yanked at the bra until my breasts were exposed. The trailer’s air on my bare flesh was a blunt indecency. He made a noise of mild animal approval, as if he’d unwrapped a box of chocolates and, though he was full, was going to eat most of them anyway. My head was hot. He looked me in the eye. He wanted me to see there was no hope. Of course that’s what he wanted to see. Who knew better than me? I closed my eyes, turned my face away, and let myself go completely limp. I had a choice: I could let him put it inside me, let him get going, so his reaction time would be at its slowest, or I could do whatever it was I was going to do (you know what you have to do, Lula) before he put it in me, and spare myself the seconds or minutes of – euphemism failed – being raped.

His cock was out of his fly, the head of it pressing my abdomen. It was dark, hard and pornographically huge, with an odour of Vaseline and piss. I didn’t want it inside me. I really did not want it inside me.

I turned my face back to him, met his eye, then let him see me look down at it, with ambiguous disgust, then back up at him.

‘No cheating,’ Murdoch said. ‘You need to be aware, my friend, that she’s got a hist—’

A cellphone rang. Murdoch’s. He looked. Had to take it. I heard him say: ‘Sir?’ then he took a pace back beyond the light.

‘Please don’t,’ I said. ‘Please... please...’ I let my legs buckle. Slid towards the floor. He hit me, hard, in the mouth. My bottom lip split against my teeth. I cried out. Off-balance, dragged down by trying to hold me up, he let go of my free hand.

The screaming imperative was to make my move right then, but I overrode it, just. ‘Oh God,’ I whispered, sobbing. ‘Oh God, oh God... ’

I imagined my mother standing close. Sell him the idea you’re not going to fight, angel. Come on, sell it. You can do this. This piece of shit doesn’t know anything. This piece of shit is a human.

He hit me again, a sensation like when I fell going down Lauren’s concrete yard steps and smacked my skull on one of the slabs. Lauren had been date-raped when she was twenty-three. We were talking about it and she’d tried to make it sound like a wacky adventure, like a night with a hilariously terrible guy who said and did all the wrong things and even at one point spilled a drink on her – then she’d got up suddenly and run to the bathroom and I’d gone after her and found her throwing up and even then it took ages before she stopped trying to laugh it off as just another of her wild-child escapades and absolutely refused to go and report it to the police.

He was unbuttoning my jeans, and – since I was whimpering and boneless with my face covered in blood and snot – using both hands to do it. He was at a rolling boil of excitement. It was as if there was an audible wordless incantation going on inside him. I remembered reading my mom’s copy of The Female Eunuch. ‘Women have no idea how much men hate them.’ That wasn’t true any more. My generation had a very good idea. My generation had decided to be cool with it, more or less. Yeah, guys hate women. That’s kinda... interesting. There are only two types of guy, Lauren had said. The type who feels lousy about degrading you and the type who doesn’t. Which leaves a girl a choice between getting degraded and hating it or finding a way to enjoy getting degraded. Or, obviously, just having nothing to do with guys.

Very slowly, I put my free hand into my jacket pocket and withdrew the eyeliner. I bent my head forward and sobbed against his damp chest. My forehead touched the St Christopher, evoked the victim at Lucy’s, my own back catalogue of carnage. Wulf was at stilled attention, intrigued. The ghost jaws moved in mine. The nerves leaped under my nails. My mother said: Be accurate, angel. Believe you can do this, and be accurate. I’m so proud of you.

He’d undone the buttons on my fly and shoved his hot hand into my panties. Calloused palms. I wondered what his hands did, in their other life, if there was another life. Then I wrapped my free leg around his thigh, tightened my grip, rushed one last set of calculations, and said: ‘Hey.’

He looked at me.

I thought: big eyes. Good. The left if anything slightly bigger.

So I picked that one.


Hard, deep, accurate, fast. Cornea, pupil, lens. Most people would miss. Most people would miss because the concept would defeat them. The concept was nothing to me. Therefore I didn’t miss. I hit the back of the socket and pulled out, my free right leg locked around his as if we were posing to simulate the tango. His roar assaulted my face with hot breath that said dehydration, nicotine, coffee, a samosa. Since his reflex pull away was checked by my leg, we found ourselves in a stretched moment, me flushed, him suffering shock’s detachment. He stopped mid-scream, as if giving reality a chance to tell him it was kidding, the bitch hadn’t really just stabbed a pencil through his eyeball. But reality had no such news. His next move would break my leg’s hold and take him out of my reach. Both his hands had flown to cup the wrecked eye.

So I jammed the pencil into the healthy one.

Not as clean a hit. It went in under the eyeball, scraping the socket – and snapped as he wrenched himself backwards, fell over my leg, and scurry-dragged himself, blind and screaming, as far away from me as possible. There wasn’t much blood, but it was more than enough to get wulf in a lather. For a second or two the animal hardened in the muscles of my back, sent the first no-nonsense signals of transformation through sacrum, heel and skull. If there’s blood it must be time. Surely it must be time? Precipitate lightnings in my leg-bones, elbows, wrists; for a moment I felt the whole giant head shoving up from behind my ribs, an air-starved diver kicking frantically for the surface. I forced myself to keep breathing. Not yet. Not yet.

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