Michael Blackburn's ART ZERO


On the bus home at night, the lights, white and yellow, sliding past the windows that were slowly steaming up. On the top deck she considered various parts of her past and present. Seven o'clock, lasagna, the smell of furniture polish in a room in which she had been locked alone for hours as a child. Her mother, whom she hadn't seen for nearly twenty years. She saw that the frost still lay along the roadside even though in town it had all thawed. Her mother's chronic, persistent lying. She remembered this happening when she was just a small child, her mother lying to her schoolteachers, to the doctor and nurses. No sense of right and wrong, no sense of shame though she could preach it like a vicar. As the bus moved along the main road out of town, toward the village, she saw the water in a ditch still frozen and white. Beside her in her bag was the book she had been reading for her course. Now, as she mentally checked off the attributes of this particular psychological type, she felt something crystallize in her mind. Complete inability to feel sympathy, fellow feeling, love for other human beings. Herself now, divorced and childless, but free and not unhappy. She wanted a child, she would have children. The bus moved without smoothness along the road, jerking as the gears changed automatically. Her mother had stolen from her and her brother. Had frequently just gone off and left them with relatives for weeks, sometimes months. She thought about Cousin Emily, some immensely distant relation her mother had discovered in Bournemouth and how she had gone to look after her. Then went on a holiday to the Bahamas after the old lady's death. The need to be the centre of attention at all times. Glibness, plausability, charm, even. Had she understood this for a long time without wanting to acknowledge it? Twenty years was not too long. As she got up to make her way to the exit she knew she could take her time to examine it all carefully. She was certain now, though, of the source of her mother's poisonous beauty. Her mother was a psychopath.