Monday, 8 September 2014

Stem Cell - Friday Flash

He was going stir crazy here. Which was odd since this hotel room was infinitely more luxurious than any jail cell he’d occupied. A double bed which was both too spongy for a spine seasoned against prison cots and which moved on its castors rather than being chained in place to the floor. The space afforded by it being ‘King-Sized’ was also fazing. A bed fit for a king, but a king currently without a realm to lord it over. He couldn’t settle either in its middle, which seemed too far from either edge for any emergency exit, while to favor clinging to one side over the other still unnerved him, as all that expanse behind left him feeling vulnerable to any shiv attack from that direction. Even turning the bed and moving it against the wall hadn’t solved that unease. 

The carpet was too plush under his feet, which entailed he had to keep his shoes on to cut out the excruciating feel of the pile against his callused flesh. The curtains were made from such a flimsy fabric, it meant too much sunlight came through the tiffany material and stopped him from sleeping, when he was used to the pure prison blackout at night. And the en suite bathroom with the fluffy robe, let’s not even begin to dissect the alienness of that set up. He supposed hotel rooms were not intended to have their guests holed up in them twenty-four seven, hence their design of punishment through sumptuousness. Frills rather than thrills. 

Yet there were some compensations. Not least the mini-fridge, though that was finite since he had banned the maid-service from entry which meant that his fridge couldn’t be restocked. Neither could he risk room service, besides his supplies of jerky and chips were holding out just fine. So he was rationing his consumption of alcohol. But it was hard man, so damn hard. He stared at the fridge door but it was early yet. 

He spun off the corner of the bed and scooped up his knife from under the pillow. He strode over to the dresser and picked up the block of wood and resumed his carving. Another habit he’d carried over from prison life, though out in the free world he was afforded a better quality of blade. Scrimshawing it was called, practised by sailors on the high seas to while away the tedium of days without any land being in sight. Those fellas were just as incarcerated as any guy with three strikes and out on his rap sheet. And they hadn’t gone into it any more willingly than cons; they’d been press-ganged by thugs, just as crims were by cops.

The wood hadn’t yet taken any firm outline to suggest what it might be in the shape of. At this juncture, it could become an image of anything. Like human stem cells. Odd name that, ‘stem’ implied it was a stopping up of something. Like stemming the blood flow. The gush. Stemming the source of a leak. The snitch. And of course the word ‘cell’, the single word that had most defined his life up until now. The cell as a unit of one, of isolation and punishment, yet here in biology just one of a huge structure built by millions of replicas. There was no uniqueness in that. He knew ‘stem’ also meant the trunk of something, the solid structure at the centre holding everything together. From which all else sprouted. He couldn’t hold both meanings of the word together in his mind. Stemming was unutterably to do with lopping off a body part. Deadheading. Pruning. 

Though unformed, the wood was definitely erring towards the human. Blockish voodoo. Though it wasn’t a conscious impulse, he knew that it was heading towards a simulacrum of his wife. He even had a lock of her hair in his wallet that he could append to the figurine if he chose. But it would be pointless since she was already dead and beyond the persecutions of sympathetic magic. Or shouldn’t it really be unsympathetic magic?

He looked at the blood red digits of the digital alarm clock by the bed. Yes at last, it was time to allow himself to crack open the fridge.  He opened the door and was aghast to see there was just a solitary miniature bottle left. Nine pins down on the bowling lane, no chance of either a strike or a spare. The label announced it was a tiny bottle of Chardonnay. Wine wasn’t really his bag, but one thing he knew was that if it came with a screw top rather than a cork, it was likely low-grade. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers. He hesitated, for while he felt at ease pitching the spirit measures straight from the bottle down his throat, it didn’t seem quite right doing it with wine, miniature or otherwise. He retrieved a glass from the bathroom. It was meant to stow a toothbrush, but he hadn’t brought one with him. He poured the wine, its puddle barely covering the bottom of the glass. 

As he sipped the drink like a bird, he opened the tiny freezer compartment. In between the ice cube trays lay another miniature bottle, though one without recognisable label or branded shape. He removed it and held it up to the light of the window. The blood had frozen to a darkened hue. He knew the cells were all dead, for he’d not added any chemicals to remove the blood’s water content. Yeah he’d stemmed this leaky cell for good. Iced one bitch snitch that would never testify against him. His knife had wrought much more direct unsympathetic magic on her flesh. No spousal immunity for her.

He drained his glass and transferred the blood miniature from the freezer to the chill part of the fridge instead. He had one more bottle left to drink after all, then he’d hightail it from this place.

from The Masquerade Crew's prompts, Chardonnay, a hotel room and a knife

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