Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chapter Two

It was dark and there was a slight smell of mothballs in the suitcase. Had this guy never heard that cedar and lavender were just as effective?

In her house, there had always been small bags full of dry lavender or of shards of cedar wood, small dainty little bags she had made herself, laying at the bottom of drawers, hung on closets, with soft satin ribbons: lilac for the lavender, golden brown for the cedar. They kept the moths away. Oh, yes, they kept the moths away just fine.

She started laughing and clipped a hand over her mouth, stifling the sound.
Pinpoints of light appeared in front of her eyes. A whole row of them. It took her a minute to realise that it was light streaming in through the zipper, and not some optical illusion brought on by the toll recent events had had on her mind.
Alma heard sounds around her, muffled by the thick canvas of the suitcase. Voices, and another sound. An irregular thump. Every now and then a thump. Sometimes louder than others. Thump. A pause. Thump. Louder now. Thump. Thump. The voices growing closer and now she knew what the thumping was.

She felt the suitcase she was in being lifted. Oh, bugger, they were gonna toss her!

– Gimme a hand with this one here, wont you? – said a voice somewhere above her. – Weighs a ton.

How dared he? She was a hundred and twenty five pounds and not an ounce more. She felt another set of hands grabbing the suitcase. She feared that they would realise there was something other than clothes in this particular case. But, before she had long to worry, she had a sensation of displacement followed by a rough landing.

A pain spread though her left side, as something pointy dug into her hip. She bit her lip to keep from yelping. She couldn’t be discovered now. She had gone too far.

There was movement again, smooth, rolling movement. Then a little bump, and more movement, as someone pushed the suitcase against a hard surface. The light she could see through the zipper had faded. She must be inside the plane already. Alma adjusted her position inside the suitcase, trying to get a bit more comfortable. Once they had finished loading the plane, she could get out and stretch her legs.

The voices had died out around her some time ago. There had been a heavy clang and then darkness and silence broken only by the occasional bark of a dog.

Alma waited some time after she heard the motors begin to rumble, before she tried to get out of the suitcase. She pulled the zipper carefully, pushed the top of the suitcase up and discovered she couldn’t open it more than a few inches.

She peered out. There was a safety net keeping the suitcase in place, and keeping her from getting out. She inched her arm out, searching for the catches that held the nets around the luggage, but found out she was in no position to reach them.

A Neapolitan Mastiff watched her from across the aisle, from behind the netting of its massive carrier. Alma returned his look and said:

– You’re bloody ugly, you know?

The dog growled in what she was sure was a tone of contempt. She let the suitcase shut close, her burnt arm was starting to hurt.

– And I’m a stupid woman. A bloody stupid cow!

And Lonnie would agree to that.

What was she doing? Stuck inside some stranger’s suitcase, on her way to Portugal, of all places, chasing a lover-slash-thief-slash-arsonist, seeking revenge, conciliation… something.

So she could stop not having anything at all.

Alma tried to settle in as best she could. Her side still hurt; fortunately, they had set her on her right side. She closed her eyes: maybe she could sleep all the way to Portugal, she had always slept through most airplane trips she took, it would be much easier if she could just sleep.

Portugal was somewhere in Spain or in the Algarve, wasn’t it? So it shouldn’t take more than two or three hours to get there. Two or three hours would go by quickly, if she could just sleep.

Her arms were itching. She ran her palms over the bandages, trying to soothe the itch, without scratching. But the feeling persisted, climbing up her arms, rounding her shoulders, covering her neck, her face, her scalp.

Alma balled her hands into fists and hugged herself. Mustn’t scratch. Mustn’t scratch!

She tried to think of something else. She tried to think of an old velvet bag, of what was inside it. If she could it back from Pyre, maybe she could make peace with Lonnie, and he would let her be with Selwyn. Sweet, precious Selwyn with his sweet precious eyes, that always seemed to plead for love.

She rocked herself as she had rocked her baby so many times.

Love. That was love. Real love.

She kept rocking and rocking, and suddenly she seemed to be rocking a bit too much, and she realised it wasn’t just her, but the whole plane that was rocking and jolting. The suitcase got thrown against the safety net, and Alma felt thankful she hadn’t been able to unhook it. Otherwise, she would’ve been flung against that mastiff’s cage. Not a pleasant prospect.

The dog, as if feeling she’d been thinking of him, starting howling, its cries long and plaintive. Her head throbbed, as the suitcase kept being tossed back and forth.
There was a hard ball of discomfort deep in her stomach. It rolled in time with the motions of the plane, and every now and then it would try to climb its way up to her throat. The dog kept howling, frightened by the turbulence. And her head and her stomach throbbed to the sound of its ghastly tune.

– It’s just an air pocket, – she whispered to herself. – Just an air pocket, over in no time, no time at all.

Then she found herself raising the top of the bag and raising her voice, talking to the large dog across the aisle:

– Hush now, baby, hush now. It’ll all be over soon. They’ll came and get you soon, you’ll see. They’ll come and get you soon.

The dog’s howling turned into a quite whine, as the animal settled in the bottom of its carrier, its droopy eyes fixed on her. Alma kept the top of the suitcase up for as long as her arm could take it, then she let it fall, and fell herself into restless sleep.

It was the absence of the sound of motors running that woke her up. She barely had time to zip up the suitcase before voices approached and the whole set of motions she had gone through at Manchester, but the other way around. She got picked up, tossed, carried, upturned. And she kept expecting someone would open the bag and discover her.

But no one did.

And then she was going round and round, softly, so softly that she might have just gone back to sleep, if it hadn’t been for the unbearable pressure in her bladder.
She crossed her legs, and tried to focus on what she was going to do next. Obviously, sooner or later someone would find out she was there, and she would have a lot to explain. She shrugged to herself and thought, I can always plead insanity. Maybe I can plead this whole thing to insanity.

The motion suddenly stopped as someone grabbed the bag. A voice asked something that sounded like ash ta and another one replied something she didn’t even manage to hear.

From the sounds and movements that followed she gathered that she was taken out of the airport, put into the back of a car and then taken in an elevator to a room somewhere that could only be a hotel. She couldn’t figure out why the suitcase hadn’t been put through customs, but she was too tired to worry.

Alma heard someone moving around the room and hoped that they would leave without opening their luggage. Then, maybe she could just sneak out.

After a quick visit to the loo, an annoying little corner of her mind added quickly.

Steps approached and stopped. The person seemed to be examining the bag. Hands touched her through the canvas, running over her shape.

The suitcase was opened and the sudden flood of light blinded her. The first thing she saw once her vision adjusted to the luminosity was the barrel of a gun.


By Ana Vicente Ferreira - O Cantar da Erva

Illustration by cream - Screamers


Blogger Clare said...

Yay, this is brilliant!

Love it love it love it. Can't wait to see what happens next.

10:39 AM  
Blogger lucy pepper said...

i think it's time for me to start taking notes!

10:59 AM  
Blogger Magna Carta Bookshop said...

Fantastic! I have linked from my blog to yours, hope you don't mind!

11:25 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Suitcase, Dog, Plane, Portugal, Gun...
Illustration of a tin of Heinz 57 coming up!

Very good follow-up, Ana!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

A very worthy successor to Clare's beginning.

This is becoming real fun.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Ooh very exciting - really good

12:54 PM  
Anonymous digger said...

OH! muito bom

1:26 PM  
Blogger Mimisa said...

Ugh... beginning to feel the pressure on my very inexperienced/amateurish brain...
This story is turning out to be quite thrilling, though!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Phewwww. That was GOOOOD! Whew. The whole suitcase ride, and now the gun.

Tomorrow, I'll be home [ahh good], and I'll be able to tell folks about this blog story.

11:29 PM  
Blogger TP said...

Excellent second chapter! This is such an inspriring project.

I can't wait fot the next installment!

10:21 AM  
Blogger mike said...

YOU CAN'T LEAVE HER THERE! Quick, quick, Chapter Three NOW!

10:58 AM  
Blogger JPB said...

This just keeps getting better and better!

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

WOW! again, I think I'm going to run out of WOW!s at this rate

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

I can't believe I'm right at the end of this writing thing..if it keeps on being so good I'll have to take acid or something to keep it flying high....

6:29 PM  
Blogger Ana Vicente Ferreira said...

Cream, that's lovely! The dog is just beautiful, and the whole thing just looks very... hmmm, mobstery!

9:20 AM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Great illustration Cream, I love the colours, her eyes, and that dog

9:44 AM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Yeaah, that's how it looks Cream, mobstery. Remember those comix with all the drama laid out on the front cover?


10:39 AM  
Blogger Clare said...

Haha, I love the way the illustration suggests a plot twist not included in the text.

So, we await with baited breath. Is the dog just symbolism, or does it belong to the man with the gun? Will the dog turn out to be her saviour?

Great pic. Dying for the next chapter!

2:13 PM  
Blogger cream said...

To be honest, I really struggled with the composition of the picture.
I knew from my earlier comment that there were 4 or 5 things to work with but how?
I started with the Mastiff...
Then Alma in the suitcase...
I wanted to draw the shadow of a gun on the wall but then decided to go the whole hog and make it quite "gangstery".
I am glad you like it! I really wasn't sure!

12:43 AM  
Anonymous digger said...

Yep that is mobstery...
with a cute doggie
I think he wants to play
hhmmm .....

1:52 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

This is all amazingly good!

12:58 AM  

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