Matthew Stockl + Ainsley Whitehead

The Rocking Horse

Text by Ainsley Whitehead

Like many young girls, Emily had wanted a pony for her birthday.  A pink princess pony with a princess hat and a long, blonde mane she could brush and braid and bow.  And, like many young girls, she had received a rocking horse – a pink princess rocking horse, no less.  She was delighted.  Emily played with the horse all day, combing its tail and petting its nose, naming it Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia the Third (although nobody knew who the First and Second of the name were), locating the perfect spot in her bedroom so she could admire the horse as she fell asleep and see it immediately when she woke up.

When the lights went out that night, Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia the Third began to move.  It cast strange shadows against the lilac wall as it warped and grizzled into a thickly-muscled gray war horse.  Its eyes shone fiery red as they stared at the little girl.  Its hooves knocked on the wooden floor, one two three.

The closet door opened.  Two hairy monsters were crouched inside, drinking foul-smelling liquor and arguing over a game of dice.  Cigars smouldered between their clawed fingers, shone on the dirty grease of their fur.  One’s teeth protruded over the lips of his ape-like mouth, massive fangs that looked as though they dripped blood.  The other’s eyes were large and yellow.  They glanced up from their game and stared at Emily like lions watching their next meal.  One stood, the other growled menacingly.  They tried to pull the door shut, but it bounced back open.

Emily pulled her blankets tightly under her chin.  Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia the Third continued knocking, eight nine ten.

Three more monsters crawled from under the bed.  One was covered in crab shells and fish scales and barnacles, snapping its fingers and dancing to silent music.  Its head wobbled as though on a spring, its teeth were bared in a sharp grin.  The next was tall and lean, white-faced and eyeless, bearing a bloody grimace.  Its arms ended in long, curled talons that gouged the floor; its breath rattled along with the knocking hoof.  The third monster had eight long legs, eight silver eyes.  The saliva dripping from its fangs burned the floor.  The fur on its back was hard and jagged and looked like steel.

Emily hid her head beneath the covers.  Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia the Third knocked, sixteen seventeen eighteen.

The pink curtains blasted open, the little girl’s blanket was pulled from her bed.  Harpies sat in the trees outside, oily feathers shimmering in the moonlight, jagged teeth bared in menacing smiles.  Their skin was cragged, their eyes were crusty, their legs had a million little cuts.  The little girl screamed, the harpies screamed back.  They flapped their wings and shuffled their feet, screeching at each other in cacophonous glee.  Their shadows crawled across the floor and up onto the wall, thin and spiky.

The door to Emily’s room burst open.  The closet quickly shut, the monsters scuttled back under the bed.  The harpies fled to the skies.  Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia  the Third blushed back to pink and settled its hooves back on the rockers.  By the time the light was turned on, the blanket was back on the bed and the curtains were closed again.  Emily’s father rubbed her back and sang her to sleep.

Alana Maria Brigitta Sophia the Third’s eyes flashed red once more before it fell asleep as well.

Bunk Bed

Text by Ainsley Whitehead

My Sexy Pirate costume is on the floor, replaced with pyjamas while you were in the bathroom.  Your Zorro costume is in a pile on my desk with the pint glass you swiped from the bar and asked me to carry in my purse for you.  I’ve climbed into my bunk bed, the couch is just across the hall for you – but you’re drunk and I’m drunk and here you are climbing up into bed with me.  It’s a little cramped; the ceiling is only a couple of feet above us and the only way out is at the foot of the bed.  Yes, I say as you laugh at me, I have a roll bar attached to the side of my bed.  I can’t believe you haven’t noticed it before.  I’ve been known to fall out on particularly inebriated occasions, and I’d rather not take a six-foot fall into rock hard floor while I’m sleeping.

You put your arm around me and I know this position can’t last long.  I hate being held when I sleep, you’ll move or I’ll move and we’ll both wake up fifty times, and I hate the feel of your breath on my neck all night and I already know you’ll snore in my ear.  But I let you for now because we’ve been friends for years and I like to be cuddled a little.  You start kissing me and it feels sloppy, wet, gross.  I say no.  I pull away, turn my back to you, and think you’re done.  You kiss my bare shoulder and snake your hand up my shirt, and I get chills even though you’re warm and I’m warm and my room is always a little too hot.  I say stop and I remember that my roommate, who usually sleeps on the bottom bunk, is gone this weekend.

You put your hand down my pants and inside me and you unzip your jeans and tell me it’ll be okay even though I’ve said no three times now.  And I’m scared because we often used to share a bed and you’ve never done this and I don’t want you to.  And I start to panic because you’re bigger than me and I’m not sure I’ll be able to crawl around you to the foot of the bed and get out and I don’t think you’ll let me.  And my heart is going badum-badum-badum in my chest, rabbit-like in its speed and insistency, and I start to whimper.  And I’ve said no five, six, seven times now, but you keep telling me it’ll be fine.  I say please stop when you’ve climbed on top of me and you’ve pushed yourself inside me.

I think something clicks for you. I think you hear my desperation, because you turn and fall back onto the bed.  I crawl over you – I don’t want to touch you but there’s no other way out.  I grab my phone from my desk and run into the bathroom.  I lock the door.

The sun curls over my face in the morning.  I find I’ve spent the night in the bathtub.  My phone is still clutched to my chest.  The light makes my head hurt.  My bare feet pad across the tile floor.  You’re not in my room anymore, you’re not in the kitchen, or on the sofa, or anywhere else.  The Zorro hat and sword are still on my desk.  I tremble at the thought of touching them, so I leave them for now and curl up on the sofa to wait for my roommate to come home.