Title - After the Apocalypse

Author - Kourion

Summary: "One need not be a chamber to be haunted. The brain has corridors surpassing material place."/ Franky-centered/ noncon warning.

A/N: this fic might stay a one-shot, or it might morph into a multi-chapter fic. Please note: this story is written in a very, very atypical format. Experimental, you could call it. It may not be your cup of tea for that reason, or - more likely, due to violence and noncon situations detailed within. Proceed with caution.

"One need not be a chamber to be haunted.

One need not be a house.

The brain has corridors surpassing material place."

-Emily Dickinson

When I died - the girl-me (the Francesca me) was wearing a pink sweater. Mary Jane shoes, black. A mother-of-pearl clip in my hair. Red and white underwear. A patchwork skirt that I had made on my first sewing machine (my first Christmas gift, from my dads).

And slouch socks.

There's something so pathetically innocent about slouch socks.

f r a n k y ' s P O V

I'm cold.

If I wasn't such a freaky little baby, I'd just get up and go to the hall closet not even 20 feet away, and grab my checked comforter. Maybe the hot water bottle as well, while I'm at it.

But it's dark. Dark and spooky. And - let's face it - no hot water bottle in the world is going to fix this.

This clawing coldness. Because the cold isn't an external cold at all.

I'm cold inside.

It's raining. I can hear the pattering of the water hitting the gutters. I can smell the scent of freshly watered earth and the dying aroma of field roses.

Rain used to be this lulling, gentle sound. I used to listen to it, fondly, as it hit the tinny roof of the children's centre when I stayed there between placements. Between foster homes.

The rain... it calmed me down, and made me want to sleep. Now, the rain reminds me of that night.

Now, the rain reminds me of walking home, alone. Already feeling so icy that I could be a phantom, a ghost.

Now, each drop that hits our brick flat seems anything but lulling.

The rain is a testament to the fact that nature carries right on.



So all I can do is hope.

Hope that there's no one walking home in it, tonight.

Not being able to turn off your mind is a kind of torture.

To think of the past, and to want to go back...back to the furthest roots of your being to fix everything is an exercise in grief.

That's what I felt then. Grief.

And now, too...though the sensation of grief feels more...ephemeral as of late.

Less of a stabbing hurt. More diffuse. A psychic pain akin to bone pain.

A deep bone ache.

'"What's done is done, Clever Cloggs. You have to accept that," my older Dad always tells me. Not to be flippant, I'm sure.

He just doesn't want me to grieve. Especially for something he can't fix.

{Can never fix.}

Over something that's...unfixable.

I was there, once.

More than once.

In that pitch blackness of my mind.

It didn't even feel like my mind, if you want to know the truth. I didn't recognize the thoughts and feelings as being...me. Total disconnection. Total shut-down mode. Really, I was just some frightened little woodland creature, bleeding into the earth. Unmoving.

{Waiting to be finished off.}

That's how I felt that night.

In Oxford.

And in the nights that followed, too, before we moved. Nights I spent crying near-soundlessly (or, what I thought was near-soundlessly) into my pillow. Crying, crying, and then dragging the sodden thing away when my tears had soaked entirely through the material. The substance.

{when is a pillow no longer a pillow? when is a body no longer yours?}

My pillow might as well be a wet, cold appendage. An extension of me.

I try to stay busy.

If I'm busy, I don't think about it so much.

That helps.

Music - lots of it, always changing. Sometimes loud, drowning out my dad's tedious knocking as rap on my door, after I've ignored their calls for dinner.

Or I sew. Various and sundry. Although I'm partial for the vaudeville look at the moment. It's surreal in this way that cloaks, covers...even changes me into someone else, from a different time. Or sometimes I crotchet animals that I line up along my bed. Cool colours. Blues and greens. Elephants, mostly. Sometimes turtles. Never birds.

And sometimes I work on my stop motion animation. I don't know exactly where the story is going, or how it will end. But the premise is simple enough: a man is trying to find his way back to something resembling civilization following catastrophic global ruin.

After the apocalypse.

And everything has changed into something putrid and destructive. New putrid lives, borne of radiation and cannibalistic greed...clamoring after him, and claiming him as the final victim.

In this world, people have became monsters, the crows have became watchers, and the moon has became a cold, unfeeling spectator.

{After awhile, I couldn't even make myself scream. I just stayed very, very still and stared at the moon. So that's what I take away from Oxford. The symbols. The icons of my life there: crows, the rain, my blood, and the moon.}

Which is a pretty morbid story, in a sense. Poor little wooden man! Will no one help him?

Insert violin music...

Of course, I do try to be kind. I take him with me to school, sometimes. Just to give him a bit of a reprieve. To get away from the fire and the crows, and the monsters.

In fact, the wooden man might just survive.

Because I can hear him, even if no one else can.

And even if only one person hears his cries...that might just be enough.

Just one person needs to help.

Sometimes knitting doesn't help. Nor sewing. Nor listening to music or anything else that I routinely do to "keep busy." So sometimes I can't help but cry, if you want to know the truth. And - what's more - I hate crying more than anything else, really. It's my weakness, exposed. Because I'd rather feel wretched, but keep that wretchedness inside. Where no one can ever see. Where it's private.

But, maybe, not letting it out has its own price.

Because, one day, not too long ago... it suddenly felt like too much. And I thought I was dying. Or going crazy.

So I did the only thing that could ground me. Something so freakish, that my younger Dad, seeing me wince when I put on my jacket, grabbed hold of me at breakfast the next morning (while I was hen pecking my corn flakes) and pushed my plaid shirt up beyond my elbow. And just...kept it there, the shirt sleeve. Even as I desperately tugged at it with my other hand and actually (truly!) screamed at him to let me go! Toleave me alone!

But he didn't. He wouldn't. And when Jeff got home later, it just got worse.

It became this whole big thing.

Apparently, it's not normal to burn yourself with a lighter. Even if it helps you focus.

Even if it blots out everything worse and makes it seem like you can breathe again.

Sometimes, one of my Dads will come and just wait it out with me. Those anxiety attacks.

Often, it keeps them from becoming full blown panic episodes, hyperventilation and all.

But can you really help how you're created? And even if you wanted to, how do you desensitise yourself properly? I mean, I tried once with my good ole' friend fire and... nearly got sectioned. So I let my Dads sit there with me, if they want. I mean, if they were going to give up on me, they'd have done it already, right? And if a tacit agreement to just sit there, in the dark, is what they think will help me form a bond, an attachment ("you've got to learn to trust people. No one is an Island!")... then who am I to argue?

I mean, they're gay. But they are not fucked in the head like I am. And that's got to count for something.

Anyway, who knows: maybe one day it'll click for me. An acceptance that they actually think of me as their daughter, and not just legally. Or...maybe the fear I feel now will one day dissipate and truly depart, and I won't be so afraid of everything anymore (a shadow on the wall - a bird, a crow, ripping into my heart? a monster, lurking? who's there?).

Sometimes my younger Dad (quick aside: he's the reason why I got into 80's music in the first place!), will come to my bedside with hot tea and stroke my bangs out of my eyes, and just sorta hum the tune to that famous Cyndi Lauper song. True Colours?

One night, he just spoke the words to me. Told me I didn't have to talk, I just had to listen.

'"Hey...you with the sad eyes...I see your true colors, and that's why I love you."'

I tried to listen.

But sometimes it's harder to hear, than to listen.

Eventually my younger Dad stopped singing me horribly cheese-ball songs. Songs, instead, got replaced with bribery of food; apparently neither of my dads think I "eat enough", which is complete balony. Because I eat exactly enough to satisfy my appetite. Which, granted, is probably on the scanty side. Especially lately. But the alternative is to eat, and get sick. Like in the beginning.

Like...Right After.

So I have this whole plan now. It goes something like this: if I don't feel totally shaky and awful... sometimes I'll nibble on a cookie. Usually gingersnaps, because they're my favorite. And only sometimes; only when I'm pretty sure I won't void it a minute later.

After it happened...

I was frozen.

And then, over the next 12 hours at the Adolescent Medical Intake clinic, I just sort of...thawed. No more ice and no more numbness. Just the sounds and the images. The night, the time, the pain, and me on my back staring at the night sky. Hearing a crow caw. Distantly aware of a bon fire burning several hundred yards away. The party.

{no one helping}

And then of course, when the fear grasped me, and I just. lay. there - and everything became very, very cold and slow and very blue. Like someone had adjusted the rods and cones in my eyes to only allow a blue tinted reality to pass through. Nothing else. No other colours. Blue, and the spectrum of blacks maybe. Greys.

The doctors say it must have been profound shock. They said that shock can do weird things to the mind.

Things we don't expect.

There was this one nurse - Pippa - who got me to calm down enough to stop crying. Just enough (which was hard for me to do, feeling all exposed in that horrible white gown with the ties that never stay closed), and she handed me her cardigan while we waited for the doctor.

I remember being... icy cold. The type of cold that takes up permanent residence in your core, and refuses to let anything or anyone else warm you up. Not warm drinks, or your parents, or a cardigan or anything. And the most random thing - the one thing that just stands out as not fitting with anything else that night - was when she asked if I liked gingerbread cookies, because '"the cafeteria has some, and since it might be awhile longer, Francesca...I could get you one? What do you say, honey?"'

I don't think I responded.

At least not verbally.

But I can't remember one way or the other.

Pippa came back not ten minutes later with, indeed, the biggest monster of a gingersnap cookie I had ever seen (and the most concealing blanket, too).

And I remember being so stone-cold still, as if...by being still, I could somehow fade away from view. So I fixed my gaze on my feet (bundled in my older Dad's thick grey wool socks, dangling off my stupid tiny *pointless* feet that hadn't run fast enough or carried me far enough or kicked hard enough or done ENOUGH). Just fixated my gaze on my those bloodless feet and that fucking... cookie. That cookie that had been placed on the examining table where I was stiffly propped up, with my spine rigid. Feeling... brittle, cold, stiff, dead.

Just like my little wooden doll.

And then the doctor came, and everything got worse. But I focused on that monster gingerbread cookie, and doing that one thing...helped. To have this random, completely out-of-place object to look at, when all I felt was either all too numb or all too MUCH. And don't ask me how you can feel TOO much and nothing at ALL, at the same time.

I can't even make sense of that one.

My dads keep asking me to talk about it.

I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it at all.

But, if I ever did, well...

All I really need to say, is this: There is no way Francesca survived that night. I should know. I was there. I saw her bleed.

sometime later, the rain stops falling~

~~~~~or, more precisely: i stop hearing the rain fall~~~~~

~~~~~~~sleep is my friend~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~it feels good to fall under the waves of sleep~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~under the warm, distancing ocean~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~and the water fills my head, my ears, my consciousness - and suddenly I can't hear much at all.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~








no! no, please i don't...i don't want...! Please! PLEASE NO!


I can't breathe! I can't breathe! NO! NO GET OFF! Oh please i need to breathe! dad help me!


I must have been crying in my sleep.

try to stop crying!

why are you crying?

{stop it!}

it was worse then

so much worse

and you didn't cry at all when it happened

you barely cried all the way home

only when you locked the door to the bathroom

{"we don't lock doors in this family!" but i had too; i couldn't just let them see}

hiccoughing crying, and then vomiting.

bright red too. not blood. ketchup. from the party. ketchup. part of a hot dog. it almost choked you, coming up your esophagus.

Do you remember? The pain in your throat? The undigested hotdog?

And something else, the taste...do you remember?

something bitter, old. soft drink. barely any fizz left. dash of rum, something else.

vomit coming up on its own.

bending down when HE staggered off, after HE was done, and waiting...waiting...

and then vomiting between my legs.

vomiting instead of screaming.

blood and puke. out, out, out. get out of my stomach. get out.

And when I got home, I used the shower hose, and pushed it away - down and away - with the water.

wetting my clothes - my tank top

my striped underpants.

white and red pinstripe underpants

candy cane underpants

now soaked in maroon. blood from _there_

and my dads, too: "we don't lock doors, FRANCESCA!"...

and they opened the door.

with the ice pick, (pop, and turn) and came in.

and geoff grabbed the hose, turned off the water.

the sound of no's

not my own

a litany of NO's! fell from his mouth first, because he was closest.

and I had this urge to *laugh*

Because all I could remember thinking, in that bathtub was : "I screamed, I SCREAMED, and I was louder than you. So much louder! And it still happened!"

Sometimes - like on nights when it rains - I'm screwed.

I know that my mind will become this freakish merry-go-round of horrible sights and sounds. And I can't get off.

i'm in a bathtub. a bathtub without water. in my clothes.

blood is streaming down from my interior and coating my thighs.

it burns deeply between my legs, but my hands feel numb. my feet too.

and i think i'm crying now, but i can't really feel myself crying.

but i must be.

i'm making noise.

{'shut up. they'll hear! SHUT UP!'}

i'm not understanding this. blood. it doesn't make sense. not this week.

and it's too much. it's too bright.

one of my dad's is pounding on the door.

'"Franky! Why are you crying, love?"'

{'quiet. you should have stayed quiet.'}

"Franky... please open up!"

{'don't say a word. don't let them see. you can't. you can't. not this'}

"Oh God!"

geoff is crying, racing towards the tub.

he's in.

"Nono... Franky- oh God! Jeff! There's...oh god, who DID this? Who did this to you?"

/them. them./

shakesoftly. soft. soft. softly like a rocking motion.

my Dad is *shaking* me. softly. like he's afraid I'll shatter apart in front of his eyes.


he sounds so angry.

my younger Dad touches my right shoulder this time, and I let out a howl.

"It hurts!,"I gasp when he reaches for me again, trying to get me to respond.

"I know, sweetheart, I-"

{'don't touch. please don't touch'}

pain and purple flashings interrupt my enforced soundlessness.

i am going to pass out from this pain.

"My arm hurts!," I bite out tearfully.

dad lowers himself to my line of sight, and tilts my face towards him.

i want his eyes to come up. up and away from that collected pool of red.

to see anything other than...that.

absolutely mortified. {So ashamed. So fucking ashamed.}

and then the bathroom light is on, and my older Dad SEES, too:

"STOP IT Geoff...her shoulder! God damn fuckers...they dislocated her shoulder!"

{'no. i'm okay. i'm okay. i just fell. just tell them you fell.'}

When I tried to talk - it didn't make much sense. Not even to me.

My teeth are chattering from cold and pain and something else. Shock maybe. Crazy-twisted shock. And I can only watch the blood continue to seep through my underwear - through those rotten *girly* panties that don't hide _anything_.

"I'm gonna get you outta that tub now, okay, love?, " Geoff prompts cautiously, coming around my side before hooking his hands beneath my legs to raise me up.

I winced and turned away, because I didn't want Geoff to have to wash my blood off later. I didn't want him to see my blood, and know where it came from, and how it came to be all over his lap in the first place.

"We gotta get you to the hospital, Franky."

I try to push Geoff's hand away {'please go away! please!'} and he slowly lowers me back down to the porcelain.

i don't know why. i might have screamed.

i think i scared him.

"I j-j-jusstust...f-fell. That's all," I bite out against his chest.

i feel the whooshing of silk fabric against my chest. A hug...

somehow the sensation makes everything feel so staggering real. i don't know why. i think it's because the silk is so soft. and dry. and smells like the old spice that dad uses.

the smell makes me want to bawl.

"I ne-need a bath. I think I came to get...cleaned up, but I don't know what to do... You guys were watching a movie so I d-didn't want to disturb y-you."

my head hurts, like someone smashed it into a rock.

"I need to get cleaned up. I'm all messy."

i am going to pass out. i am a paper doll. weightless. limp.

Geoff: "Call the health links line! Tell them what happened, and tell them she...she's in shock. Find out if we take her to emergency, or somewhere more appropriate...-"

Dad ran like a sprinter. Even though he's 54, and has a busted knee. He ran...like there was nothing more important in the world than _me_. As if I was...priceless. But really, I'm not invaluable. I have no value. I'm not priceless.

"Worthless," I breathe out.

If Geoff hears - he doesn't say anything. He just takes my scrapped up hands - coated in dried mud and blood - and kisses them.


I turn away from Geoff, so he knows that I'm awake. I try not to breathe very loudly; my nose is all plugged up with snot, though, so that's actually very hard to do.

I can't look him in the eyes.

"Franky...you have no reason...," Geoff trails off.

My bed feels wet. The burning turns to ice cold claws digging into my heart. Going straight to my bowels. I feel the heat of his hand hover over me. Wanting to touch my head, maybe my back. Pat. Slight pat. To let me know he's here.

Dad then, still rooted in the hallway: "Should I call the doctor?," he chokes out from the blackened steps leading to my top floor bedroom.

"No, no - she's awake now - aren't you Franky?," Geoff says, his voice hovering between whisper and mute. "Awake, and safe. Safe now. Safe."

I scrunch up into a ball. Pull away from Geoff as I recall the. hospital, and his hovering hand that wants to stroke my hair. Stroke my hair like I'm a little kid whose dog has died. Pat, pat. Nothing more than a pat. And he's scared to do even that. How fucked up is that?

"Please talk to us, honey."

I push away hot, fat tears. I'm such a baby. Big waste-of-space baby. I want to be cool about this. I squeeze down on my eyes and push with deliberate force until I see sparks of green-white light.

'go. away.'

I don't want to see these things in my head.

"No, no - none of that!," Dad reprimands, gently, prying my cold hands away from my face. "We are in this together, love. No running away anymore..."

I'm struggling to make sense of something. His words.

"What are you seeing?"

flash back. back. flash. {Dirty little freak of a daughter.}

"I'm cold...," I trail into Dad's chest, my face down-turned. He smells like... filo pastry mix. I like the scent, and take a deep breath.

If I can smell pastry...then I'm here, and not there.

Pastry means _here_.

"You're scaring the hell out of us, Francesca."

I feel a warmth at the small of my back. Small, clockwise circles.

"I don't needa doctor. I'm fine."

It comes out likefhrrn. Muffled.

"You call THIS fine, kiddo?"

I exhale with great force. Out of need. My lungs are swollen with something. Something awful. The awful-something in my lungs needs to come out more than the oxygen needs to come inside. If I could get the bad out... I'd be okay.

"Franky. We are dealing with this. Tonight. No more denial. No more pretending...," Dad says, his voice stiffer and stronger than is normal for one of my nightmare-freak-scream sessions. Not that I blame him for putting his foot down, exactly. I wouldn't want to be woken up by my freak daughter for the fourth time in as many weeks, either.

"I don't need to see anyone... There's nothing wrong with me!"

Geoff sits down fully - but keeps half a foot between his calve and my waist, sprawled out beneath my striped blue blanket.

"Nothing wrong?," Geoff queries, now. "You don't really believe that, do you?"

I punch the pillow with my hands. My bones feel sore, deep inside.

"Nothing's wrong with *me*, Geoff!," I howl-hiss-say. Firm.

I just need to be firm.

"This'll...this'll go away! I just...I need time. I can't *help* the dreams, or...I can't help this, but-"

Dad - too fast, rebounding: "Nothing is going away if you keep avoiding it, Franky."

And then, adrenaline. Hot, acrid, wonderful adrenaline. I'm suddenly up in my bed. My bed on the floor. My makeshift Japanese floor-bed.

"I don't WANT to talk about it! I'm not a homosexual, and I'm not confused about my...," breathe, remember to breathe, "I just don't feel comfortable being like...others...when they look...they KNOW...cause..."

'please stop'

"You know what? This is shit! I'm not queer, Geoff!"

Geoff cringes.

"They didn't make me queer, and I don't need to talk to anyone about anything!"

I'm rambling. Faster and faster. My voice sounds so high pitched and strained and frantic. A girls voice. A girl who would scream and scream and beg and then cry, even when she was bleeding. I hate that girl.

"It's okay, it's okay...we won't talk about this tonight anymore."

I punch my pillow, fuelled mostly by rage - then swipe at Geoff whose trying to inch closer and closer, and then kick my legs back and forth forcing the covers off in one fell swoop. Up, up - I'm up and then I'm at my work table, and my hand is crashing down on the buildings, the intricate little cardboard cutouts, my paper bird, and-

"I don't need help! I need time! Time to...break all of it down in my mind! Break it down and put it back together so it makes SENSE!"

"You think this could make sense? You're our daughter. Our daughter. In the truest sense of the word. You're our...child, Francesca..."

Geoff is holding back my arm - not painfully - and then I'm turned and pressed, and like an envelope... stamp-hugged into him, held there. But it's a good stamping.

It doesn't hurt.