Horse With Human Hands
TW // Body Horror
The Previous Entry: HWHH – One: Prophecy
Swollen in the golden hour, born to bleed a song
The taste of sweet and sickly sour, we both were born as one
Crimson wine and heady mead, a veil of murky glass
Chaste indulgences we weep, like an infant’s hours pass
Tasteless coins beneath our tongue, in the death of life our cost
A twist of barley ‘tween the berm, a scar upon a limb embossed
To deign a lover’s unity, a broken bond to whom accost
The hour of our nascency, a once firm will grown soft
– From the “Niall Prayer Book”
“A mother’s love endure’s through all.”
Mother Lively, we call her when her back is turned. A bit of humor for us, as she is the furthest thing from living. A dutiful caretaker in our youth, she deserves the best which we can afford to her in her advanced years. The nature of her condition means that, much to our chagrin, she must be taken regularly to “Saint Mary’s” within which she is threatened to be taken away and placed in an assisted living facility, the furthest thing from where she belongs.
Each time we find ourselves within the punitive care of the doctor Frances Chifley, he recommends to us that we leave her atop one of his worm covered beds and be left to die alone without the presence of her only children.
It is my suspicion that one Doctor Frances Chifley is indeed, not a doctor at all. His demeanor provides none of the three of us with meaningful comfort, except for on the days when Mother Lively slips between what is real, and what has already come to pass and believes in error that he is her late husband.
“I want to go home.”
She tells me from the bed.
I want her to go home, too.
Especially at night.
“Not long now, mother. We just need you to get your fluids.” My sister Ambrosia chimes. She always was the brighter of the two of us. That is, most assuredly, not a measure of her intelligence but rather of her nature. Where Mother Lively sees sorrows and shadows and the dying flowers in a flower bed, my dear sister sees the world glittering and reflected in polished silver cutlery. Warped, and unreal, but there in capacity enough to appreciate the way it looks.
“Ladies,” The fake doctor begins, once more his speech to wring us of our matron. “I urge the two of you to consider leaving Dara here for a time. I can’t encourage it enough.”
I block out his words, barely in time for Ambrosia to decline on our behalf.
“No, I think she is much better suited at home.” She says.
“I want to go home.” Mother harmonizes the sentiment.
It is this way each time.
“The decline of her liver function is a detriment to her health.” He will reply, rehearsed and calculated.
Saint Mary’s is not a hospital. It is a farm for the elderly. If we were to oblige the ideations of this fake doctor and abandon our mother here, not only would we pay penance in the afterlife for the betrayal of our matron, she would not go on to be truly fulfilled in her final days. A privilege to which we all deserve. I do not think I am being unreasonable.
Mother Lively belongs at home. It is her safe house, away from the dull buzzing of this fragile, paper thin world in which everything is trying to kill her.
They will not take my mother from me.
“Ladies, please understand that none of us mean your mother any harm. She would be suited better somewhere which provides round the clock medical care. To be clear, either here or in full time hospice care should be your next step. I know how difficult it is to hear this, but your mother is in dire condition.”
“I will not be hearing this from you again, doctor. Your malpractice will be our dear mother’s undoing. How often do you ignore her symptoms in order to reprimand us for our decision to keep her comfortable at home? Not to mention your incessant suggestion that she be placed in line for a replacement surgery. Do you not think it will kill her to undergo such stress?”
Doctor Frances, as he always does, sighs in response to my defense.
“I cannot force any of you into anything, but yes, to attempt a transplant will offer your mother a few more years of life with you. Perhaps in a better state of health.”
I look to her side, my dearest mother, shrouded in golden light and smiling, unaware in some part, I’m sure, of the nature of this conversation.
Her mental faculties deteriorated some time ago. Perhaps years. We adapted to the changes, all of them, in short order as good daughters are expected to do. She raised us to be good daughters. We will do what is necessary.
“I really must be going, ladies.” Doctor Frances continues. “I will be available at any time, should complications arise with your care of her at home. Please, do not be hesitant to reach out. I only want to see her well.”
A practiced lie from the “doctor” who hands us a business card with his personal information scrawled upon it.
It is not unusual for a man to be so forward with us, but using our mother as an excuse to make his way to our home is something I did not expect to see in my lifetime. Perhaps, what mother used to say about the virulence of manhood rings more true with each passing year.
He takes his leave of us and finally gives us reprieve from his overburdening presence.
“When will he be back?” Mother asks, feared that the man she wrongfully accuses of husbandry to be abandoning her. Though, she is a keen woman. I suspect she knows within her heart of hearts that he is not, in earnest, her lover.
“He will be here when next we visit,” my sister answers. “Let’s get your things.”
Ambrosia takes the time to assist mother from the bed, slipping her puffy feet into her shoes before helping her to stand.
This is the fourth visit to Saint Mary’s and still, we are leaving without understanding as to my mother’s condition. Which we have asked about before, and were met with the same bold faced intrusion to our personal lives.
Our mother’s liver is not in failure. Liver failure does not come and go overnight. This is something more. Something perhaps caused by the doctor.
It would make sense, wouldn’t it, that we brought her in first for slight bruising, and yellowed skin. In her advanced years, we too, assumed at first it was due to her liver growing weak.
However, at home she is not the same pallid, thin skinned woman who lies atop the hospital bed. She is indeed lively, exhaustingly so. Between the crooning of her midnight calls, the buzzing of the thin, translucent wings and the scent of blood, at times I am worried more for my own sanity than I am for her longevity.
I do not cease containment of Mother Lively on behalf of her sake, after all, she is quite capable despite her old age.
Our shared experiences aside, myself and Ambrosia are separate on two matters of importance in regard to our dear, sweet mother.
Firstly, in my own mind, she is not truly healthy. Her behavior has grown erratic, more so the longer her condition seems to worsen and I am worried for the day in which she passed beyond the threshold which might allow her to be cured.
Secondly, she has changed as a woman in her later years, made moreso now to be a vestige for some other thing. A presence which lately, has defined itself alongside her, brings a certain uneasiness to her presence.
I hear it most from her calls in the night, the clicking of a throat exposed to years of cigarette smoke and alcohol swabs to “freshen” her breath.
“Dearest Fillia,” she chatters from her room nightly. “Bring me my juices.”
I obey, as a good daughter should.
The tray wobbles each night beneath my trembling fingers, a freshly washed, empty glass sanitized in the wash, per her instruction, accompanied by a carafe of her juices. The juices, a mixture of ruby red liquid and an opaque crystalline substance which, per her instruction, I am to mix together before delivering to her doorway.
I have followed the instructions for months now, ever since her condition first developed. On this day in particular, I am thinking of those moments, in the deepness of the night in which I am most uncertain of my duties as a daughter. Of course, I want to satisfy the needs of my aging mother to the best of my ability, but I cannot do so without fear.
At times I wish I were more like Ambrosia, the better of the daughters, and the one entrusted to the property, should something unfavorable conquer Mother Lively.
I suspect, this is due to my reaction upon the first night I was summoned to deliver mother’s juices. I was unprepared as I clattered through the kitchen against the sound of the dull buzzing drone which filled our small apartment. As instructed, I washed a dish by hand and took it through the machine cycle, for sanitization purposes.
Next, I found the carafe, placed within the fridge by Ambrosia earlier that day. The stench of the ruby liquid embraced me long before I found the container, propped dangerously close to our leftovers from the night prior. I gathered them all together according to Mother’s careful instruction and moved to her door. The opaque crystals, which she called her “Salts” I collected, as instructed, by scraping them from the frame of our living room ventilation grate. These salts grew there naturally, and were, in accordance with mother’s wishes, a necessary part of her ritual.
At the door, I disobeyed.
The strange nature of her request earlier that evening puzzled me to a degree I still haven’t expressed. To follow her instructions, clear as they were, was a test, I assumed.
I pushed my way into her bedroom to deliver her refreshments only to find something beyond which was not entirely my mother, but not un-entirely her, either. She stood, crooked spine and all, above a pulsating sac of wound plaster, flaking at the edges like dried skin and covered in small holes, each one punctuated with undulating folds of auburn carapaces, concealing beneath each, a soft bulbous appendage.
She, robed in a translucent, veiny robe which seemed to shiver of its own accord, turned to me and berated me for entering without her consent.
“You fool child!” She said, the words still echoed in my ears. “I asked you to leave it at my door!”
I placed mother’s juices at the end table, and saw her look of disapproving hidden beneath the shifting folds of firm skin, unlike the worn, flapping wrinkled patches which decorated her face in the daylight. From her throat, she spoke around a long sinew red proboscis, which curved down toward the sac, fused unto the floorboards.
I was run from the room and returned to my own, ashamed I was unable to satisfy her needs in the same manner as Ambrosia.
“This is what she needs.” I reminded myself then, just as I am today on our way out of the hospital.
This has been one of many trips, and is quite unfortunately not going to be our last. The first night, the night I saw her, was a week to date from the moment of her complaint which led her to the authority of the Saint Mary’s Hospital.
There, she met with a doctor behind closed doors who promised her healing. I do not know if it was Doctor Frances at all, but perhaps, in our continued visits at the behest of our dear mother, we will come to know the doctor who offered her the remedy.
Perhaps, he will know as well, how I can rid myself of her, permanently.
Thank you for reading the second entry in Horse With Human Hands.
Read Part Three: HWHH: Three – Young
This series will be releasing daily for the next few days. The each of the stories and poems released in conjunction with the “Horse With Human Hands” title is connected, be they poetry or prose. Characters are important and moments matter.
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