By Belgin Durmush
Key Themes: fiction, short stories, challenging normality, childhood experiences, isolation
The five stories in this book deal with the attempt of the characters to survive in a world that does not make sense. In The Factory, society has broken down and social discourse has ceased. The Donkey and The Greens both deal with a society that is intact but unhinged where the characters have ‘broken down’ and do not conform to standard behaviour. All the stories in this collection deal with a main character that is isolated and alone, living in a strange and incomprehensible world that they accept without question. For these characters, the world is not normal, it is simply that they have found themselves within it as if by accident. The concept of normality is challenged here, for normality itself has proven to be a bit strange.
About the Author
Belgin has been writing fiction for fifteen years. Her stories are to a great extent inspired by her childhood experiences which were unsettling and frightening at times as her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia . When she was growing up, the idea of normality did not exist as every moment was fraught with tension due to her father’s unpredictable moods.
The strange behaviour within everyday life that Belgin experienced as a child is reflected in her stories where there is often an unnerving quality beneath the surface of the ordinary.
It is a familiar scene of a caravan on a lawn. But there the familiarity ends. The decay jumps at me from its resting place and I start unexpectedly as if confronting it for the first time. I have been here a long time. Why do I say that? By using the word Time I am misleading you, plying you with a sense of the norm before throwing you headlong into the bewildering subversion of my world. But don’t worry; even here normality exists in its own peculiar way. You’ll soon get a sense for it, as I did. It’s almost like second nature to me now. Nature, did I say that? Well don’t get any false hopes. That doesn’t exist here either.
I should say I have come to know this place and become familiar with the unfamiliar, but I still shirk at the sight of it. “Go in,” they yell at me. “How can she be so squeamish?” They say to each other. “What could possibly happen to her that’s worse than death?”
The caravan confronts me. Inside is full of water: murky water. Dirty plates and pans float inexplicably like drowned sailors. Bits of half chewed food swim to the surface. Dead black beetles collide aimlessly. The stench reaches my nostrils and I want to be sick, but this luxury is not available to me. I pluck the depths of my memory and pick out the experience, now dusty, forgotten, useless, but I cannot throw up. I mimic the gagging actions, my body thrusting back and forth, desperate for the trickle of juice. My body is too stiff, my gullet too shrunken, my belly too shrivelled, its contents packed and preserved for eternity. All those years of practicing at parties did me no good then, and are no good to me now.
Nothing has prepared me for the frustrations of death. Yes, I am dead. You must have noticed, for even though I am still dazzlingly attractive, you have probably guessed by my hollow cheeks, my vacant expression and yes, I did not want to mention it, the eye-ball splitting stench that follows me everywhere like a jealous lover. Death has a funny way of cramping your style. Here I am, dressed in an erotic pink evening gown, my hair up and perfumed and yet I know I look like a dead woman. Pale. Red sunken eyes. Icy, blue swollen lips. Wild, ropey strands. Nostrils flaring uncontrollably. I’m walking around, the spasms in my stomach try to bring up the last vestiges of my life’s activities, but nothing comes. So, instead of looking my usual elegant self, the one I used to admire in the mirror, I look like a head bopping punk rocker in the throws of a convulsion. The empty spasms, fast and furious, are easily mistaken for a dance sequence I would have killed for in the life I have left behind. Yes, death does have a way of cramping your style. I may as well be wrapped up in a potato sack for all the good this dress does me. And it cost me a fortune. Not that any of that matters any more, a fortune is only a fortune if you are still alive, otherwise it’s just another piece of luggage to lug around for all eternity. This dress, beautiful, elegant and charming though it is, accentuates my clumsiness and a dress should never compete with the person it is clothing. I have no grace, no style, no coordination. If I wasn’t dead already, I would be black and blue from top to toe, reeling from the bumps and bruises that I seem able to inflict so casually on myself. I am the ‘Thing that goes bump in the night’, for Death is discourteous? Enough to bring with it an unexpected helping of clumsiness. On the plus side though, black and blue would certainly have been better than this deathly pale, you know, the colour that doesn’t go with anything. My make-up is probably running as it always does, and I walk around with my mashed potato face dripping mascara like gravy stains. Well, no one told me I was dressing for eternity. No-one told me this dress was forever, that these six inch heels would go on killing my feet even after I was dead.
To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what I look like. We have no reflectors here, and even if we did, one look would probably annihilate all matter, for I am sure, we are not reflector friendly, we simply do not hold together in the same way.
My high heels are sinking into something soft and squelchy. I can’t see what it is for when I look down, all I see is the murky rat ridden, cockroach-laden water up to my knees. I want to climb up on the table, hold my head in my hands, and scream hysterically through a wide terrified chasm. But, I don’t. What’s the point? I’m dead. They’re dead. We are the same now.