May 20, 2022 How we treat femaie bodies (This short story was first published in Trading Places, 2019 anthology from @MomayaPress)
She couldn’t understand why she was having trouble turning her head. Her hair seemed to be caught on something hard. Her neck was pressing into her shoulders. Her eyes, just now opening after what seemed like hours, too many hours, of sleep, were incapable of seeing. It was dark. She could discern no glimmers of light. If she could just shift her body over slightly, take the weight of her belly off her arm, move her uterus off her bladder. Ugh, no that wasn’t working, doing it that way. The weight continued to bear down. She would have to find another means to move the mass of herself. She tried to edge in the other direction, more with body three-quarters towards the ceiling rather than nose towards the flat, hard surface next to her face. What had happened to her bed? To the softness of her pillow? And her sheets, the familiar white sheets?
Leave that to one side for now and concentrate on inching away from her arm, take that pressure off her haunch. Bit by bit she edged her flesh around until it dawned on her that she was stuck. Stuck, because something had hold of her left breast, so that when she tried to move away from lying on her side, she felt something cold and solid restrain the breast from following the rest of her body.
She would have to concentrate hard, because nothing was making any sense.
What did she remember?
Right now the persistent stinging sensation between her legs told her she needed to pass urine. How could she when she couldn’t move? This was all getting ridiculous. Where was someone? Someone? Should she call out? It was so dark in here and smelled bad. A dark fungal scent filled her nostrils – was that blood? Whose blood?
The grogginess in her brain was causing a breakdown in the smooth passage of messages to her body. Indeed, she didn’t feel like she was in her own body, because surely she wouldn’t feel like this if she was. So heavy, heavy and damp, heavy and damp and creased, with skin in ripples, chafing. So encumbered. So … immoveable. Too late now anyway to call someone. She could feel the warm trickle of urine emerge and dribble down into the seam where her thighs were positioned one on top of the other – for there was no separating of her legs, so that the urine found its way into that thigh seam and dribbled down towards the clamped together knees, tickling slightly as it found small obstructions in the light hairs on her legs. In fact, it was tickling a lot. She wanted to scratch, to extend her arm, stretch out her fingers and flick the urine trickle off her leg. Ah, the right arm was free; she could flex it, unfold the elbow, reach for the troublesome tickling, deal with the urine, scratch, gain relief. It was blissful.
She sighed and as she did so, she became aware that other sighs were being breathed into the darkness all around. But when she tried to say something, she realised her tongue was too short. As in shortened. As in not working properly.
A chorus of ‘unngghs’ rang out into the cavernous obscurity, like the muffled and distorted chimes of some infernal church bell.
A clump of her hair now tautened in their follicles as a result of the slight movement of the body which had produced torque against the scalp.
There were vague soughings in the dark, shadowy sounds of movement.
‘Unnggh, unnggh, unnggh, unnggh, unnggh…’
The dong chorus grew louder then gradually dissipated and transformed into the sound of intense and persistent and rhythmic sucking.
The dense dark receded slightly, giving way to a grey twilight. At first she could see little from her prone position. She blinked repeatedly to clear the grit and fluid from her eyes. She lifted her free arm wanting to clear the muck from the tear ducts, but encountered cold bars above her head. The only way she could move her fingers to her eyes was by folding the arm along her side, bending the elbow, then stretching her forearm along her upper body, avoiding her breasts. As she wiped the dirt away from the conjunctival sac, she was able finally to focus on what was directly in front of her.
A small wrapped bundle of baby lying in a plastic box from which extended a narrow gauge transparent hose.
Suddenly she felt her nipple being forced into the hose by a powerful hand clad in latex. The nipple belonging to the trapped breast and holding her fast. The nipple that was now being fastened into the hose with a tight plastic washer to keep it snug. She heard the clack of a switch and then the suction started. And then all of her attention was focused on that small washer that gripped and wouldn’t let go, on that small centre of pressure and pain which she longed to scratch thoroughly, it itched so as the milk was pumped from her rapidly emptying breast.
The baby lay with a rubber teat in its mouth, its cheeks going in and out as it pulled at the rubber with its determined little lips. With its tiny left hand, it stroked the plastic container dispensing the liquid that coursed through the hose.
She could see the baby, once her brain set aside the pain of the nipple clamp. She could see the peach fuzz standing up on its round head, glinting in the subdued interior light of the plastic box, see the pulsing veins on its eyelids, tight shut, as it concentrated on extracting the milk from the teat, feel the light tapping of its fingers on the container as if they touched her very own breast…
As she tried to reach the free arm through the bars towards the baby, negotiating the cold bars to find a space, she realised she could no longer see the baby because her eyes were too full of tears.
Ahhhh, she stretched the full length of her body luxuriously. All limbs splayed and taut as she sought comfort from the long ordeal she had just undergone. Then she relaxed, eased her weight into a position that supported her uterus, felt the softness of the bedding against her skin.
It had been a long and difficult night.
Now though, the rays of the sun were touching her gently on her belly, her back, her legs. She lifted her face to catch the warmth, felt it settle on her closed eyelids, bathed herself in the pleasure of another day.
What were those smells, those scents of sweetness that were entering her nostrils, attaching themselves to the fine hairs, travelling into her mouth, making her salivate, her tongue licking her dry lips?
Slowly she examined the sensations in each part of her body. Mainly what she realised was how hungry she was, how much she longed for huge nourishment. Should she rise and search for food? Was she able to rise and search for food? She tested herself gingerly, rolling slightly to her left to shift the centre of gravity, measure the possibilities of getting up from her bed. Another roll. No, too uncomfortable. Not ready. She would have to wait, for now.
As she lay contemplating the foods she would most like to eat, to crunch between her teeth, to taste and to delight in, she fell into a blissful doze, all limbs relaxing, her belly slack. Soon she would be in the thick of it, the centre of the world, source of all well-being and comfort. She would no longer be able to indulge her own body, yield in the moment of wishing to her own physical needs and pleasures. She would be at the service of the others entirely. But now, now, this was her time. She drowsed on, drifting in and out of her dreams.
Some time later, as she emerged from sleep, blinking and snuffling slightly, she discovered one of her legs was caught up behind the other. How best to disentangle? She would have to make that roll now, free the leg, maybe get up properly, just to see. One, two, three and…up. She had done it. The tops of her thighs ached in a dull but not unpleasant way; her belly remained distended, but not so heavy now and very still without its cargo of kicking legs. She arched her back luxuriously, drew her limbs out to the fullest extent the skein of her muscle would allow, stretched her jaw in a yawn of magnificent proportions… started to lower her bulk down again, to revel once more in the softness and sweetness of her bed.
But wait, what was that, next to her? Food. A feast had been left for her while she slept. Mmmm…how enjoyable was this. The sensors on her tongue had never felt so alive, so stimulated by tastes and flavours. Her nose had never detected such scents to be so savoured. She set to with the appetite of someone insatiable.
After the feast, after dealing with her bodily needs, she returned to the cosy nestiness of her bed. Her thoughts went back to the relentless pain of the long night. The extreme effort of pushing out the babies, the veined skin of her womb as tight and strained as a rubber balloon. How she panted and tensed and relaxed and tensed again, all through that endless night. How reluctant the babes had been to leave the safety of her womb, to travel the length it took to enter into the light, into the world.
The babelets. How were they? And more to the point, where were they?
And then she realised. Of course, there they were. And always had been, but so gently were they nuzzling, so tenderly were they sleeping, that she had barely felt their little mouths against her skin as she drifted back from her reverie into consciousness. One or two of them were no longer so close to her body, but lay a short distance from her belly. They must have been displaced when she stood. Poor little creatures. She raised her head, flared her nostrils, pushed them back into position with her snout. Lay her head down again, sensing with satisfaction that they had found their spot and were joining in with the others, sucking at her teats, drawing nourishment and life from her body,