Scribble Daemon – Viv Cartagena

SAM holds out a freshly empty styrofoam cup. As Sam speaks, SUIT pours viscous darkness into the cup from a shadowed part of the interrogation room.

SAM: Keep it coming. I was twelve years old the first time I saw steaming intestines sagging from a machete wound. Directly below a jailbait thread.

Sam pulls on their sleeve. Cigarette burns are briefly visible but neither Sam’s mannerisms nor the camera focus on them. They are arranged in a series of rotating equilateral triangles.

SUIT: And what do you make of the lights in the night? The laughter of children that flickers outside your bedroom window?

SAM: I live on the 7th floor. I thought, are they floating? I imagined balloons tied to the jungle gym. Those kids better hold on tight.

SUIT: But you never looked.

SAM: Nope.

Cut to a playground. Children are at play, two are holding onto the monkey bars. KID 1 kicks the other during an involuntary attempt at balancing himself. KID 2 falls and lands with a CRACK. Kid 2 SCREAMS his vocal cords bloody, harmonizing with the joyous LAUGHTER of everyone around him so no one can make him out.

SUIT: And the lights? The lighthouse?

SAM: Never said lighthouse and I never will. I knew, it was my intuition, that if I looked behind me there would be no source. What I saw was how it beamed into my room. Maybe you thought lighthouse because the light came and went but.

Sam contorts their face and clutches their temples. Zoom in. There is no cup in their hand. There is no cup on the table. Zoom out. A second passes, and their expression returns to neutrality without much of a transition. Sam sips their coffee.

SAM: I can’t say whether it was moving around like that or just pulsing, but there was some variation. Room was bright, room was dark. I couldn’t tell you how long the intervals were.

Sam sits on a leather couch in a luxurious hotel lobby. Suit is a beautiful young woman in a blouse and pencil skirt. There is someone at the desk in the background, out of focus. They are otherwise alone.

SUIT: What kind of music do you listen to?

SAM: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone answer this question without some kind of pause or disclaimer. Including right now. I like rock music. Mostly stuff from when I was a kid.

SUIT: When did you become a human being?

SAM: Fifth grade. Ten years old? Around the time I discovered masturbation so that’s about right. Had my first thoughts about thoughts and feelings of real self-consciousness, before that I scraped glue sticks along the top of my desk and let the chunk dry into putty. Do gross things and show off and I never really felt left out.

Sam smiles directly at the camera. Staring through Suit. Staring through the wall. Staring through the POV. A practiced stillness. A VOICE continues the statement from off-screen in a pitch and accent that wobbles like Jell-O.

SΛMː It makes a tumor out of me, you know? I get put on display like a potted plant or an endangered python in the reptile section at some zoo. Set into orbit over and over, a satellite centrifuge where anything desired, possible to desire, becomes a conflux in a webwork spread like wings. From me. Please please please don’t ask me about the happiest moments of my life they’ve fallen from my pocket and the stitches tear every time I turn around and look to see if they’re on the ground right behind me.

Sam sets down a pad of paper and a pencil, there is a doodle of a marionette taking up most of the paper. As the camera pans down the drawing, the lines get sketchier and less organized at the feet compared to the crisp and clean strings. There is a simple drawing of a penis on the bottom left of the page.

SAM: You’re very cute.

Suit returns a polite smile. He is a handsome older man straddling the line between approachable and scholarly. Salt and pepper hair, with the cultivated relaxation of someone who is not often intellectually challenged but would react with friendly interest if he was. Sam is sitting on a couch opposite him, in an office colored like soil and vegetation.

SUIT: Many of us have innocent experiences like that and they still get treated with severity. Our parents don’t want to consider us in that way, or even if they want to encourage a healthy mindset eventually they might not have the language or comfort level to express it.

SAM: Yeah, we were the same age and all. I didn’t think anything of it and still don’t, really. But our parents never let us see each other again, and I never got back my Inspector Gadget tape. Definitely the worst part for me.

𐌔𐌀𐌌: When’s the part where I forgive myself?

SUIT: That isn’t on the menu.

Sam walked home with their hands fidgeting in too-tight coat pockets. They pulled out a traffic citation and stared at it hard, eyes dancing up at the sidewalk just often enough to not stumble into a light pole. Sam’s chin quivered as they opened the door to their apartment complex, then once they stepped inside they let out a gagging sound. The sound halted harshly once it reached Sam’s ears. Disgusting. Doesn’t sound right at all. The braying of something that lives in a barn.

The studio was lit by a laptop screen and string lights. Sam was clicking on emails and messages they had sorted into a folder called Unverified. They felt their belly fold in on itself in that lazy posture, thought about how breakfast wasn’t worth that skin-on-skin contact. Dragging them out, one by one, trying still to be choosy, to be safe. When they were done adding the offers, summing it all up to meet rent, the folder was just about empty.

Sam touches their wrist, feeling the soft unblemished skin and resting there, remembering to live in that body, to sit in that moment.