DEAR GOD, Attaca wished she could awake one morning and find herself transformed into a large black beetle. That would be so exceptionally pleasing. The most important thing would be not to panic and instead of any nonsense about trying to communicate with humans she would simply run at the wall and fly out though whatever large black beetle-shaped hole she created. In fact can beetles fly? Who cares; fly or scuttle out of here? The thought of any sort of movement seemed both impossible and intriguing, as while Attaca did not have the inconvenience of awaking transformed into a giant black beetle, she was struggling, as something was indeed, not quite right.
It had been very late at night when Attaca first put the grey woollen vest on. There was a moment where she viewed the item suspiciously, as she didn’t quite recognise it but like many other women of her time she had an awful lot of clothes and sometimes they slunk away for a few weeks or months, and perhaps this was just an object she hadn’t seen for a dead dog while.
It was late and she was tired and slurry and she’d slipped the vest on and fallen into her bed and perhaps fell asleep or perhaps just dozed as her brain whirred endlessly on through the night. Upon fully awakening, she felt too soothed to move. She was cocooned in a bundle of blankets and the heat was holding her. It was a weighty warmth that felt like having a body close by, perhaps she was being held in a thousand arms (though it was unlikely as she slept alone) but the arms and the weight and the warmth made her feel safe and secure and she dozed no more, falling into deep and dead slumber and only awakening when her nagging bladder could no longer be silenced. The bladder was knock knock knocking as Attaca uncurled and righted herself. Was she looking at the room though half closed eyelids or had things changed because she couldn’t quite see? Perhaps it was night, perhaps it was dark.
She flipped back the covers but was still concealed. Looking down at her grey lap in the grey room she saw grey. Was this a blanket? Did she have a grey blanket? She flung more fabric aside before she could finally see her feet. They made their way to the floor and she looked down at her small legs and stood upright and then her legs disappeared. When she stood the blanket came with her because it wasn’t the blanket – it was the vest though now it seemed more like a robe than a vest. It reached down to the floor and further. “How dramatic” she thought. “I have awoken in a wizard’s garb”.
Gathering up the fabric, she stepped carefully forward. The clamoring bladder coupled with the heavy wool made the journey doubly perilous. She stepped forward to her bedroom door, hoisted more fabric up and over her shoulders and made her way out into the corridor. She knocked the light switch with her nose as arms were otherwise engaged and scowled as the energy saving lightbulb did its thing – drizzling a faded splinter of light into the gloom. Damn Attaca and her need to prolong the planets suffering by investing in items of such high moral fibre. She wasn’t walking now, she was clumping. But the time she reached the bathroom at the end of the hall she was having to scoop and pile more of the ridiculous vest around her. Every step she seemed to be tripping on more, and sliding as it caught under and about her feet.
She reached the bathroom and despite the desperation to tear the vest over her head there was no time for that, so gathering as much diaphanous vest in the crook of both arms as she could, and by flinging a pile of the excess into the bath tub she was able to attend to her relief. “Did I buy this? Is this mine?”
nd despite the desperation to tear the vest over her head there was no time for that, so gathering as much diaphanous vest in the crook of both arms as she could, and by flinging a pile of the excess into the bath tub she was able to attend to her relief. “Did I buy this? Is this mine?”
Post pee, and struggling to get an arm under and up enough to wipe, Attaca was unamused. Still sat, she raised her arms above her head and flung them down her back and grabbing handfuls of the heavy wool and pulled it up over her head, again and again. She felt her fingernails begin to squeal in their beds and with each hoist of fabric there was no sweet relief of cold air on her back. Her arms came inside with her as what was the back of the garment began to fall through the hole of the neck. She collapsed to the floor feeling the fibres of the wool below her knees and hands and began to crawl. Her head hit the wall of the bathroom before her hands and the sweet dull sting of the thud juddered though her knees and in the warm dark enclave of the endless vest she began to cry. She retreated, clutching and reaching until the smooth porcelain was found by her desperate hands and stepping up onto the bowl she wept and grabbed and her fingers found the neck of the garment and she tugged it back down over her head. As she landed one leg crumpled underneath her, a twisted scrap of old paper, and the deep red pain was hardly registered as she sucked down the fresh air as her head returned to the outside of the garment.
Walking or standing was now impossible, so again she crawled. She crawled with her hands inside the vest as she could find no armholes. The fabric was everywhere, pickling and glue heavy and she had to drag clogs of it from behind her and roll it past her knees to be able to continue forward. Then snag. Sudden and severe. Jerked backwards like a choke-chained dog as part of the vest slipped below the bathroom door with too much fabric walled behind it to allow safe passage. She couldn’t go back. The slip of bathroom she could see behind the door was just a solid grey wave. It was frozen like a wall at first but now she could see it tumbling towards her, crested and breaking. She couldn’t go forward, she couldn’t stretch or strain her neck out of the collar that held her back and she couldn’t retreat inside the hot heavy fabric where there was nothing but simpering warm.
The wave was falling, the pathetic light was being blocked out by it. Her hands trapped inside the garment couldn’t even protect her head. She caught site of her front door, a sullen black full stop at the end of the gloomy corridor and then she saw nothing else but grey. Dear God Attaca wished she could awake one morning and find herself transformed into a large black beetle. Scuttle or fly, who cares?
THIS SHORT story has been written as a gift for a friend to celebrate our shared love of David Foster Wallace, and most specifically, his magnum opus Infinite Jest. Infinite Jest is the longest book in the world*, and best consumed as a series of small snackettes – it is unwise to attempt a full meal. Unfortunately, my friend did not realise that at the time or has since claimed that in fact I told him I had read the full book. Though he lived to tell the tale (the tale of completion, not the tale told within the book – that’s quite hard to summarise) he has never fully trusted me since. We used to joke that the book provides its own ‘infinite jest’, being that no one has ever finished it. No-one now except his own poor soul.* A copy makes an excellent door stop, due to its weight and girth.
“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest