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Broken glass, p.1
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       Broken Glass, p.1

           Harlan Ellison
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Broken Glass

  Dana was sitting in the window seat on the left side of the bus, eyes closed, breathing shallowly, having the teak fantasy, when she became aware of the peeping torn in her mind.

  She had reconciled the teak fantasy years before: what it might say about the basic nature of her sexuality had no bearing on its potency: as a lubricating daydream when she was in a place where she could do nothing physical to bring herself off, the teak fantasy was the best.

  She fantasized herself as a cocktail waitress in a small restaurant frequented almost exclusively by beautiful, slim-hipped models seen repeatedly on television commercials, who worked out of an agency in the building just across the street. She was wearing a very short miniskirt and smoke-colored pantyhose that had a small rip in the crotch. In the fantasy she always reminded herself to repair the rip before someone noticed. In the fantasy her breasts were larger than in real life, and they stood out prominently against the white-and-blue peasant blouse. In the fantasy she wore a wide patent leather wristband, shiny black against her pale left wrist.

  She was serving two exquisite models, one of them certainly Eurasian, the other a black woman with incredible high cheekbones. As she bent over the table to place the dishes of food, she felt a hand steal up her thighs and over her buttocks from behind. She looked over her shoulder and a blonde who wore her hair in a highly styled Gibson Girl coiffure was leaning away from the table behind her, a slim hand up under Dana’s skirt. She heard herself gasp.

  The old man in the bus seat beside her looked up from his copy of The National Review, then looked away quickly, as though he had been caught eavesdropping. She was unaware of him. The blonde had found the rip in her pantyhose.

  In the fantasy, the two models she was serving had moved their plates to an empty table, and now they were gently, but forcefully, bending her forward. The edge of the table pressed tightly into her stomach, her cheek lay against the warm teak of the tabletop. There was no peripheral sound in the fantasy, just sounds of voices dimly heard, her own murmuring down in her throat. The blonde had flipped up her little skirt, exposing Dana’s upper thighs and buttocks. She had her finger inside the rip, exploring.

  The Eurasian and the black model were stroking Dana’s long brown hair, her ears, her cheek, her neck. The Eurasian was pushing down the elastic top of the peasant blouse, revealing Dana’s smooth back. In the fantasy she had no moles on her back, it was all smooth and white, now turning faintly rose-colored as blood rushed through her body.

  Now the blonde was on her knees behind Dana; and Dana could feel the woman’s hands on the hemispheres of her ass, spreading her slightly. Then something moist and ever so quick touched her vagina and she squeezed her eyes shut with pleasure.

  The models were saying things she could not understand as their faces came down and their tongues ran over her neck and cheek. She felt herself breathing with difficulty; short, mouth-drying breaths, splendid little gasps.

  And then she realized someone else was watching.

  She saw a pair of eyes, as black as marbles, surrounded by dark shadows; the kind of circular darkening of the skin she sometimes saw around her own eyes when she had been working long hours, when she was tired, when she accidentally caught her reflection in a mirror; surrounding the eyes, not merely beneath them.

  They were the eyes of a man. She had no way of knowing that; but she knew it. There was a man watching her and the three models as she lay bent over the table on her stomach, as they worked at her body, the blonde’s face buried between her legs, the Eurasian and the black woman licking her smooth, pink and white, unblemished back.

  She began to tremble, but this time it was not the secret and contained trembling the fantasy always brought. It was the trembling of the fear she experienced every time she walked down a dark and unfamiliar street. She was being watched!

  Then she heard the man’s voice: Is that nice? Does it feel especially nice? The gentle silences and warm teak security of the fantasy were suddenly disrupted by the sound of a sustained, keening whine: metallic, shocking, like biting down on a piece of tin foil. The whine of a giant generator going wild. It climbed and climbed and Dana shuddered like a patient on a shock table.

  “Get out of my head!”

  The old man with the magazine jumped away from her, dropping a box of doughnuts that had been resting on his lap. Everyone on the bus turned to stare at her. Dana was shaking, moving her hands in front of her eyes, batting at invisible cobwebs, pulling her hair away from the sides of her face as if to provide openings through which the peeping torn could escape.

  Then she opened her eyes, and she was still on the bus.

  Everyone was staring. The old man was standing in the aisle, looking terrified. And she knew one of these people, one of these men had been inside her fantasy, watching everything.

  And it was a long bus ride.

  The driver’s voice, distorted by the intercom system, echoed through the bus. “Everything okay back there?” They had been on the Interstate for several hours and he was clearly trying to make time despite the rain lashing the divided highway: he neither pulled over nor turned around. Dana could see only the back of his head … and his eyes in the enormous rearview mirror. They seemed to be black.

  The terribly thin, elderly woman in the right-side aisle seat in front of Dana looked concerned. “Are you all right, dear?”

  Dana’s mouth was dry. She couldn’t get her lips to form the words. She nodded quickly and heard herself croak, “Bad dream … “

  The elderly woman raised her voice to the driver. “It’s all right, Driver. She just had a bad dream.”

  The intercom squawked. “What?”

  The florid man beside the old woman cupped his meaty hands and shouted, “It’s okay, okay; lady back here had a bad dream. It’s okay … just watch the road!”

  Everyone laughed. Not long, and not loud. But the passengers settled down and turned around. The old man retrieved his doughnuts and looked at her querulously before resuming his seat. She smiled up at him quickly, shyly, trying to allay his fear. He seemed timid and nervous, and when he sat down it was not all the way back in the padded seat. His battered hat shaded his eyes, concealed their color.

  The bus hurtled on through the night.

  Out there in the darkness cut by the slanting lines of silvery rain, a smash of lightning fractured the sky and lit nothing discernible.

  And here, inside and warm, Dana shivered, knowing that she was not alone. The feeling was not merely fear. Horror came with the knowledge that one of these men could wander unchecked through her most private thoughts. Once, while living in Boston, her apartment had been robbed. It had not been the theft of her stereo and camera and portable television set and even her best clothes — her leather car coat and other marketable goods carried away in the new parachute-fabric luggage — that had sent her to the bathroom to be sick in the sink. It had been the eerie certainty that someone had touched the apartment. Had walked the rooms. Had opened the drawers where her private life was neatly ranked. Had exposed her most intimate secrets. Had walked across her grave. The place had been defiled. Shadows and alien odors now lay across the planes and angles where she had stood naked. She had moved out three days later.

  Now the last private refuge in the world had been soiled. The far, secret grotto no one could ever visit had been invaded. There were footprints other than her own in the sand of that hidden cavern at the center of her life. Now there was nothing safe, nothing sacred, nothing inviolate. When the newspaper stories of deranged street violence became too much for her, when the radio’s endless dotage on slaughter and dismemberments made her gag with fear, when the six o’clock news bore loving eyewitness to the fragility of the human spirit … now there was no place to run. The door
that never needed locks and bars and keys could not be closed.

  The one mundane aspect of the Boston robbery that had induced screaming in her soul, that had left her no choice but to move, had been waiting for her in the bathroom when she went to vomit. The burglar had used the toilet. He had urinated and had left the seat up. Nothing brought home to her more forcefully than that inconsequential difference in sexes that it had been a man, a strange man, an unknown and faceless man, who had invaded her universe. Men leave the seat up on the toilet after pissing.

  She felt that same inarticulate alarm now.

  And he spoke to her again. You show me your kink and I’ll show you mine.

  Then he was there again, the black eyes surrounded by fatigued, discolored skin. There, again, and filling the grotto of her mind with his own fantasy.

  She whimpered and huddled against the window, pressing her face to the bitterly cold pane. Rain pelted the glass and a shellburst sound she realized dimly was thunder out there in the night commanded her attention but could not dim the clarity of the peeping tom’s vile fantasy. He had appropriated her fantasy image of herself, and was using it to his own purpose.

  Dana buried the heels of her palms in her closed eyes, trying with the pressure to drive the vision away. But he was strong, he had been visiting women’s minds for a very long time — she knew that, she knew it — and he had anchored himself for as long as the pleasure would take.

  He was experienced at it. It was sharp and clear and there was sound — moist, wrenching, meaty sounds — and the sounds of bone cracking — and the sound of suction — and most disgusting of all there was the smell of him.

  She heard herself mewling like a small animal, and she drew her knees up from the floor, into the seat.

  Beside her, the old man quietly got up and moved to the back of the bus. Across from Dana a woman in her forties stole a sidewise glance, trying to discern what was troubling the writhing figure in the shadows against the window.

  Then the invader reached orgasm after orgasm and there was the sinking feeling of a falling elevator, with the certain knowledge that the cable had parted; and there was the hard, thin feel of a sharp wire cutting the soft inside of her cheek, with the certain knowledge that needles would have to stitch it up; and there was the shrieking horror of a car crash, with the certain knowledge that someone she loved was being pulped to garbage behind the wheel; and there was the pressure of vomit burning its track up into her mouth, with the certain knowledge that the poison was still in her belly and the track of acid would come again and again; and there was the overwhelming feeling of his pleasure as he came and came and came …

  When she regained her composure, the woman from across the aisle and the thin old lady who had called to the driver were bending over her. The younger woman was holding a paper cup of water to Dana’s lips. “Here … sip at this … are you all right … should we tell the driver to take the next exit and maybe find you a doctor … are you all right … ?”

  Dana pushed at the cup of water, spilling some down the front of her jacket. The tweed absorbed it at once. “No, I’m fine, I’m fine,” she said huskily. She wanted to bathe. She wanted to stand under a shower for a long time, though she knew it was the worst thing to do after rape.

  And the word was there, for the first time. She had been raped. No different than the lumbering shape with a knife in the alley. No different than the lurker on the landing who had unscrewed the light bulb, throwing the stairwell into darkness. No different than the disembodied hand on her breast in the crowded theater lobby. No different.

  Wasn’t that nice? His voice was emotionless. If she had been presented with a dozen police voiceprints of possible assailants she would not have been able to pick him out of the pack. However he was doing it, coming and going in her mind, he was shrouding himself absolutely.

  If you like that, he said, wait until I start the variations. And he showed her a moment of what was to come.

  Dana felt her eyes rolling up in her head, and then she fainted.

  Half-world. Iron colored. Misty.

  Semiconscious, she knew she had found another level; one from which he was excluded. Half-aware, she willed herself not to sharpen her senses, secure down there under the swirling cloud cover, like a primordial beast swimming in murky waters. Now she felt another emotion: fury.

  The assault had been more effective than he could have known. Dana had moved through nights and days of her life, and felt the power for her existence outside herself, had been manipulated and had exercised free will. But she had never been moved as now.

  This creature could not be allowed to live.

  She felt herself regaining total consciousness. She fought it. She needed time down here beneath the surface, drifting languidly in the gray and swirling waters, learning what it took to kill. This is how we came out of the sea, she thought. Out of the sea and into the street.

  No more fear of alleys.

  The concept of fangs grew in her mind.

  Not fangs: the concept of fangs.

  Slowly, kindly, painstakingly, arming herself, she came back to the world.

  The driver, the old woman, and the woman with the water were waiting for her. Yes, the driver’s eyes were black. But he wasn’t the one who roamed at will through the grotto of her thoughts. Because the invader was there, too.

  You missed the fun, he said. / had to start without you.

  He had left the area foul from his pleasures.

  Like a picnic ground overrun by barbarians, he had left the evidence of his passion. She felt the sickness rising in her again.

  “I’ll be all right now,” she said to the concerned faces hanging over her. She said it in a strong, controlled voice, and she looked at them directly. “I said: I’ll be just fine now. Really. You can start the bus.” They were parked on the shoulder. Cars shushed and swept past in the rain.

  She smiled at the driver. “I’m fine.”

  He looked at her. “You sure?”

  “I’m okay now. Just motion sickness … and bad dreams.”

  You tell him, kid, the rapist said.

  The driver and the two concerned women returned to their seats, the bus heaved an asthmatic sigh and pulled out onto the Interstate again.

  Dana got up and walked to the front of the bus.

  She began walking back slowly, looking into the face of each passenger. There were many men here. Some were awake, and they looked back at her. She was the weirdo in the rear. Others were asleep — or pretending to be asleep. She looked at every one of them. With the overhead lights out, they all had black eyes. Dark circles under brow ridges. No way of selecting him from the mass of male passengers.

  I see you but you dont see me, he said.

  She walked all the way to the rear, causing the old man with the box of doughnuts to scrunch down in the back seat.

  Then she resumed her place. Well, which one am I? he asked.

  She spoke to him. Silently. There in the grotto.

  Well, whichever one you are, you haven’t seen anything yet, darling. Like his, her voice was emotionless. Fangs.

  Then she went to that part of her secret grotto where the dreams she feared to dream were kept. In there, in that walled-off section, was all the broken glass.

  She began clawing at the mortar binding the bricks together, and it came away much more easily than she’d expected. Her fingers bloodied quickly, but she was able to prise out one of the kiln-dried rectangles. She clutched at the top of the next brick below the opening in the wall … and wrenched it loose. Then another. And another. The wall came away quickly, and as the rows of bricks dropped, the horrors inside were revealed.

  The rapist seemed fascinated. Oh, yeah. The good stuff. I knew you were too squeaky clean to be true.

  She pulled out the nearest awfulness and let it expand in the sweet but now polluted air of her secret grotto. Like a fine mist, it spread and there they were together, Dana and the rapist, in a special fantasy.
  The dog was a German shepherd. She got down on her knees. The dog stood waiting. She looked over her shoulder but it did not move. Then she put two fingers inside herself and moistened them and, on hands and knees, went to the dog and touched the fingers to its muzzle. She turned her back again and the dog came to her.

  The rapist watched. The black eyes were lit with a malevolent fire. And the skin around the eyes darkened. And now Dana could see the shadow of a nose below the eyes, as he watched her … while the dog mounted.

  Before the fantasy could end, Dana let another loose from behind the brick enclosure. It was the gynecology examination.

  She was naked on her back on the table, feet up in the stirrups. But she was taped down, bands of shipping filament tape strapped across her stomach and her thighs, holding her arms and shoulders and neck to the table. And in the examination fantasy she conceived the thick, inserting rod with the razored spines. And the rapist’s hand and arm and the left side of his body could be seen, and he took the rod and he came to her there on the table. She screamed and begged, but he used it nonetheless. And then the water fantasy.

  And then the wax fantasy.

  And then the fantasy of cutting small holes in one’s love partner and putting that certain part of his body — which now could be seen by Dana — in the terrible little holes.

  And then the meat fantasy without laughter.

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