The Morning's Pains

Originally posted August 7, 2022

Pain attends her even in her dreams, a writhing tapestry thrown all across her dreamscape—buried in scraps of imagery, hidden in the shattered rooms of her failing dreams, and nestled all about her not-body. Stranger than in her waking hours, both more and less urgent—

But when dreams end the pain remains.

She groans as she wakes, feeling the knots curling through her back and the bundles of unoiled needles flexing in her joints; her elbows burn and her knees scream and hungry-mouthed snakes curl in her thighs and all through her belly—

As she stumbles to her feet she wishes once again that the pain would remain in her bed, like it did for so many years. If only the hint of motion was enough to scare it off, to ward it away—but all motion does is coax out the painful needles of her slowly waking extremities.

"... ugh," she grumbles, "why did I even wake up ..."

She doesn't feel rested, but the sun has already climbed high enough that going back to sleep would feel like admitting defeat (even were she able to; she knows better than that). Besides, there's the morning's rituals ...

Coffee in the grinder and water in the kettle, hooked needles waiting in their dish for the boiling water. Stretching in the summer's heat, careful to stay in the shade, then back inside to heat the needles and brew the coffee, its warm scent lingering in her nose as she begins.

Today she starts with her knees.

They're one of the trickier parts, but she's had far more practice than she'd like; she knows just how to pull back her skin, just how to coax her needles around the bones and into her pain's heart—

She sighs with relief as she finally hooks it.

It comes out unwillingly and painfully, a long slimy strand covered in clinging tendrils; an angry-eyed slug glaring at her as she flicks it into a nearby jar, too weak to crawl up its smooth glass walls.

Her work continues.

She's nowhere near done when the coffee is ready, so she pauses to pour herself the first cup of many. For a moment it brings her thoughts into focus; for a moment the world burns in vibrant earth-tones, its edges glimmering with just a hint of citrus's sharp gaze—

But just for a moment.

It never does as much as it once did; these days it hardly rouses her deeper thoughts from their feathered nests, and she spares a sigh for what she's lost as she returns to her task.

Her thighs are next, and the long hungry things inside them ...

An hour later the jar is full enough that the things inside have begun to try to talk to her, yammering meaningless noises from half-formed mouths; pains are less talkative than sins (which, thankfully, she will not need to remove today), but in their multitudes they still try.

The last one she extracts is a tiny thing burrowing in her neck, its extremities laced through her spine and muscles alike; a tricky thing, but still too new to the world to possess true cunning.

It doesn't last long, and she twists the jar's lid closed with a happy sigh.

Oh, to be free of pain—she could almost dance! It's just as liberating as ever, these perfect moments when she can't yet feel new growths germinating in her hands or spreading across her forehead ...

Knowing that makes it impossible for her to hold on to her joy.

She incinerates the jar's contents with a certain vindictive pleasure, the same vengefulness that she always holds: a feeling that pain has nurtured within her, and that she has not yet learned to pluck out.

And her day goes on.