The Demons of Solanka

FROM Fury by Salman Rushdie

Alone in the kitchen, Professor Malik Solanka began to drink. The wine was as good and as powerful as ever, but he wasn’t drinking for pleasure. Steadily, he worked his way through the bottles, and as he did, the demons came crawling out through the several orifices of his body, sliding down his nose and out through his ears, dribbling and squeezing through every opening they could find. By the bottom of the first bottle they were dancing on his eyeballs, his fingernails, they had wrapped their rough lapping tongues around his throat, their spears were jabbing at his genitals, and all he could hear was their scarlet song of shrill, most horrid hate. He had come through self-pity now and entered a terrible, blaming anger, and by the bottom of the second bottle, as his head slopped about on his neck, the demons were kissing him with their forked tongues and their tails were wrapped around his penis, rubbing and squeezing, and as he listened to their dirty talk, the unforgivable blame for what he had become had begun to settle on the woman upstairs, she who was nearest to hand, the traitress who had refused to destroy his enemy, his nemesis, the doll, she who had poured the poison of Little Brain into the brain of his child, turning the son against the father, she who had destroyed the peace of his home life by preferring the uncreated child of her obsession to her actually existing husband, she, his wife, his betrayer, his one great foe. The third bottle fell, half unfinished, across the kitchen table that she had so lovingly set for dinner à deux, using her mother’s old lace tablecloth and the best cutlery and a pair of long-stemmed red Bohemian wineglasses, and as the red fluid spilled across the old lace, he remembered that he’d forgotten the damn lamb, and when he opened the Aga door, the smoke poured out and set off the smoke detector in the ceiling, and the screaming of the alarm was the laughter of the demons, and to stop it STOP IT he had to get the step stool and climb up on unsteady wine-dark legs to take the battery pack out of the damn-fool thing, okay, okay, but even when he’d done that without breaking his goddamn neck, the demons went right on laughing their screaming laughter, and the room was still full of smoke, goddamn her, couldn’t she even have done this one small thing, and what would it take to stop the screaming in his head, this screaming like a knife, like a knife in his brain in his ear in his eye in his stomach in his heart in his soul, couldn’t the bitch just have taken the meat out and put it right there, on the carving board next to the sharpening steel, the long fork and the knife, the carving knife, the knife.

It was a big house and the smoke alarm had not woken Eleanor or Asmaan, who was already in her bed, Malik’s bed. Fat lot of use that alarm system turned out to be, huh. And here he was standing above them in the dark and here in his hand was the carving knife, and there was no alarm system to warn them against him, was there, Eleanor lying on her back with her mouth slightly open and a low burr of a snore rumbling in her nose, Asmaan on his side, curled tightly into her, sleeping the pure deep sleep of innocence and trust. Asmaan murmured inaudibly in his sleep and the sound of his faint voice broke through the demons’ shrieking and brought his father to his senses. Before him lay his only child, the one living being under this roof who still knew that the world was a place of wonders and life was sweet and the present moment was everything and the future was infinite and didn’t need to be thought about, while the past was useless and fortunately gone for good and he, a child wrapped in the soft sorcerer’s cloak of childhood, was loved beyond words, and safe. Malik Solanka panicked. What was he doing standing over these two sleepers with a, with a, knife, he wasn’t the sort of person who would do a thing like this, you read about those persons every day in the yellow press, coarse men and sly women who slaughtered their babies and ate their grandmothers, cold serial murderers and tormented pedophiles and unashamed sexual abusers and wicked stepfathers and dumb violent Neanderthal apes and all the world’s ill-educated uncivilized brutes, and those were other persons entirely, no persons of that nature resided in this house, ergo he, Professor Malik Solanka formerly of King’s College in the University of Cambridge, he of all people could not be in here holding in his drunken hand a savage instrument of death. Q.E.D. And anyway, 1 never was any good with the meat, Eleanor. It was always you who carved.

The doll, he thought with a belching, vinous start. Of course! That satanic doll was to blame. He had sent all the avatars of the she-devil out of the house, but one remained. That had been his mistake. She had crawled out of her cupboard and down through his nose and given him the carving knife and sent him to do her bloody work. But he knew where she was hiding. She couldn’t hide from him. Professor Solanka turned and left the bedroom, knife in hand, muttering, and if Eleanor opened her eyes after he’d gone, he did not know it; if she had watched his retreating back and knew and judged him, it must be for her to say.

It had grown dark outside on West Seventieth Street. Little Brain was on his lap as he finished speaking. Its garments were slashed and torn and you could see where the knife had made deep incisions in its body. “Even after I stabbed her, as you see, I couldn’t leave her behind. All the way to America I held her body in my arms.” Mila’s own doll silently interrogated its damaged twin. “Now you’ve heard everything, which is a great deal more than you wanted,” Solanka said. “You know how this thing has ruined my life.” Mila Milo’s green eyes were on fire. She came over and caught up both his hands between her own. “I don’t believe it,” she said. “Your life isn’t ruined. And these-come on, Professor!-these are just dolls.”

Salman Rushdie


Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 11:38 AM  Leave a Comment  

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