PRELUDE TO A MURDER
Updated: Jan 14
By Marcella Hunyadi
The night of my dead daughter’s sixteenth birthday, I have a dream. I am a bleeding hawk from the time when hawks were sacred. The hawk is flying across a golden Egyptian desert.
She has feathers of blue, purple, and black. Mostly black. She is exhausted; heavy blood drops shine in the sunlight like rubies on her wings.
The bird is wise and ageless. She belongs to nowhere and nobody. Good and evil
are beneath her; made of divine courage and compassion, she is nearest to God of all.
Yet, the hawk is not kind. She has seen death, experienced evil.
The dying bird wants to rest but stopping is not an option. She must
constantly fly over the desert, watch over the week.
I beg her to stop. I want her to save herself and stay alive. A beautiful, precious
hawk, full of pain and sorrow, sacrificing herself. “Please stop! I need you!” I plead.
But she keeps on flying.
And suddenly, I want to destroy the hawk.
I wake up from the dream shaking. My daughter Annie’s bedroom, where I moved to in the middle of a night after sweating through my sheets and unable to sleep, disappears, and I find myself back at the Red Room.
The Red Room is the place the Snake brought me. I always think I was sixteen at the time, but I wasn’t; I was only fourteen. I just don’t remember things clearly until later.
The Red Room has a giant mattress on the floor, covered with a red terry cotton fitted sheet. There is a sink in the corner between a toilet and a bidet, although the bidet doesn’t work, and I am to place two towels on the end of the mattress for every client, although the towels are never used. The window is draped with a dark red sheet which hangs from a brass window pole, secured with duct tape – Brigitte, the dark-skinned girl with the beautiful breasts and acne scars who walks around barefoot because she is always high and thinks she is Pocahontas, told me that there used to be a proper red velvet curtain on the window. But the Cripple, who is called that because he has only one leg, lost his balance while standing at the edge of the mattress, concentrating too hard on inserting a champagne bottle into Edit’s pussy (that was his thing), and he grabbed and tore the curtain as he fell. I imagine scrawny, cow-faced Edit on the mattress with her legs spread, watching the Cripple disappear under the red velvet curtain, thinking whether the time the Cripple took to free himself and crawl to her and get his erection back, could count as his time or would his lost minutes be added to the hour at the end? I always tried to feel compassion for the Cripple on account of him being a cripple, and because he looked so miserable parking himself at the end of the bar, one arm on the counter and the other holding his cane, while he waited for a girl to be free – but then those damn champagne bottles really hurt. I could tell the Cripple enjoyed my pain, the quick involuntary movement of my thighs wanting to snap shut and my heels digging into the mattress and pushing backwards, until I forced myself to relax the muscles in my hips so the flesh around the bottle’s neck wouldn’t tear.
The paint on the wall of the Red Room is peeling; chunks of it fall into my mouth from the ceiling while I lie on my back and imagine myself baking ginger bread cookies with Grandma. I learned not to object to the men: I pretend the paint in my mouth tastes like Marzipan and the gluey thing on my thighs smells like almonds.
What was I called in the Red Room? I wasn’t called Celia. I don’t remember what I was called. Names never mattered in the room, only when we were outside mingling with guests, trying to act as if we were ladies and not whores, because men want ladies who in private can act like whores. It was very complicated: we were neither ladies nor whores: we were children. But a child was the last thing the men wanted to see, because that would have made them feel guilty, so I learned how to pick up a cocktail glass like a lady and suck dick like a whore and never, ever, show who I really was: a child.
But then I got pregnant. We were not supposed to have sex without a condom, but some clients insisted on doing it bareback and the Madam didn’t care that much. She hated losing clients.
Did I love my daughter back then? When she was in my belly and still had a chance?
The thought of Annie dead makes my limbs go numb. It doesn’t matter that sixteen years have passed since she was torn out of my womb, that she was never born. It is intolerable, the image of me rubbing my yet flat abdomen with apricot oil while I am humming a Hungarian folk song and wait for a client to undress. I pull the cover over myself, Annie’s cover in Annie’s bedroom, where everything is peach and pink and lilac, and the ivory wall is covered with artworks I though she would have liked.
So, I was a lady whore to men and really a child. But I was none of those things to myself. What was I to me, to Celia? Did I remember that my name was Celia? That I was the daughter of a mother, the daughter of Anyu, who tucked her hair behind her ears when she typed and who made bean soup with cabbage and pig trotters, like the peasants of the Great Hungarian Plains? That I had a sister somewhere called Judith, whom I carried across the shallow south side of Lake Balaton because she hated the feel of silt between her toes?
Something rattles the window – the wind, it is getting stronger. A storm is coming. I push back the cover and get up to close it. As I walk across the room, I catch a glimpse of myself in Annie’s mirror; the baby blue silk ribbons around the frame contrast grotesquely with my hollowed breasts and sagging stomach. I stare at the woman in the mirror and think –
No, I didn’t know anything. I was a body with two full breasts and one flat ass and two useless legs shoving out of my cunt.
I was alive, I was being touched. I was alive because I was being touched.
I was touched not by men or women but fingers and tongues, teeth that bit.
Let others fool themselves: I know the truth. Sex is death. It isn’t a reunion of two souls, a rebirth. It is being torn to pieces by fingers and teeth.
“Maybe I need to be patient. Before rebirth, there is death,” I tell myself. For a flickering moment, there is hope – but then I remember that Annie is dead and I am stuck in this life like a cruel joke I don’t understand –
that the woman in the mirror is me.
There is so much guilt. About my mother, who died alone without seeing the ocean or creating anything lasting with her brilliant mind. About my sister: did I fail her, or did she fail me? It doesn’t matter anymore. I feel her pain day and night like a scarlet letter.
Yes, I failed. I can see that. Failed my mother and my sister, failed my daughter. Failed myself. Perhaps some punishment is due, pain to accept. But Annie - that house – those men -
“No. I didn’t deserve that!” And rage at no one in particular - since God doesn’t exist, therefore can’t be bothered to witness my anger, the bastard -, sweeps over me like a poisonous black tide.
“And that’s not all! Not even the worst of it.” My anger now feels like the rage of a forsaken infant right at the moment when the choice is made to survive, and the mother becomes hateful along with the rest of the world…
The worst of it all is that despite my pain and anger, my knowledge for Christ’s sake, I still can’t say no to men and still start out in their beds with high hopes and a trusting heart. Both last only for seconds while I lay myself next to a smiling someone, all eager, ready to please, disappearing at the first sight of that thing men call their Cock.
“Come here”, the Cock says.
“Yes?”, says I.
And then the smiling someone takes my hand, kisses my fingers gently as if to prime
them, and on the Cock they go. The expectations are for my fingers to start moving immediately, or – even better -, be replaced by my open, soft, and oh-so-willing mouth, extending itself to an endlessly flexible and infinitely deep throat called to existence only to be stuffed with the Cock.
Eventually I start to like my mouth wrapped around the Cock. Any cock. The attachment formed successfully replaces hateful mother once and for all. With the Cock being planted firmly in my mouth, my cunt becomes wet and open in perfect balance with my heart shutting down. I begin to fantasize about the smiling someone being joined by other smiling someones who are not even bothering with the smile anymore, who just hold their cock in one hand and grope for my breast with the other, wearing serious concentration on their faces as if they were performing life-saving surgery; and in a way, they are. Legions of men jerk off on me and cover my cunt and face and hair with semen, that beautiful elixir of eternal life now turning to mud, while I suck the Cock with the devotion of the damned who had been promised eternal life. I never hate myself more than in those moments, cunt dripping and soul slipping, yet I can never pull away and save myself. I surrender to the deviously gentle, relentless pressure of hands on the back of my head, become better at sucking the Cock than anyone, and contain my pain alone in an inner landscape as deserted as I imagine toxic wastelands to be after a hundred years.
No, sex isn’t a reunion of souls or rebirth.
It isn’t even death.
Sex is fucking murder.
Marcella was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary where she wrote for the country's first online literary magazine, the INteRNeTTo. She started doodling poems in fourth grade and planned to become a philosopher; however, when her freshman essay, in which she set out to prove the existence of God, had failed, she abandoned both God and philosophy and became a director. In the States, she studied screenwriting and filmmaking with Oscar nominee Sam Brown, and she finished directing Death of a Salesman seven months pregnant. In 2017, Marcella’s novel-in-progress was nominated for the Kirkwood Prize.
Editor’s note: Despite the editorial disagreement between our literary editors, we still decided to publish this story.