• notdeermag

Adaba, Nicks Walker


Somewhere nearby, but quite lost, there is a place. I call it The Brownie House.

I call it The Brownie House because I am a Brownie. Emptied of Brownies, I don’t know what it is - an unimposing cube, a bunker-mushroom pushing up through the dirt. The grass around it yellow-green, dried out and peeling, and spot-scarred with the remains of small fires.

It is here, in the drains, that Abada lives. She has green teeth, and blue nails.

Inside The Brownie House there are two stories of military-surplus cube-rooms, filled with simple cheap wooden bunk-beds. They have the rounded off, odd quality of doll-house furniture made large. On arrival, we make and unmake our beds, feral with over-excitement, a whirlpool of hungry ghosts.

There is a big central room, smaller than a school gym, with the quality of a church, if your image of a church involves a lot of stacks of identical chairs. Adjacent to this is a nook-room with a service hole, two ovens and not enough counters. Everything made here will taste like the dust from the bottom of a porridge packet.

The Brownie House is just slightly too far away from anywhere worth being.

There is a ritual Saturday walk that I dread, small and fat and easily worn flat by the sun. It hangs like the uncomfortable presence of an older man over my small, sweaty shoulders as I trot, breathless. Up and down, up and down and up and up, and ankles slipping and twisting in and out of furrows, wheel burrows and burns, dried up by the dry bright heat of a Scottish summer afternoon. We walk until it is time to walk back, and there will be no questions. This isn’t a walk with a relationship to time or space, or purpose. We are doomed little nomads with our water-bottles and our labelled sandwiches, our piece of fruit and a cereal bar.

In the evening, we make false idols from foam shapes and plastic feathers, lollipop sticks that have never seen a lollipop, and prit stick. Nothing can be real enough to be dirty, and nothing can be dirty enough to be real. There is a prescribed shape, with room for allotted creativity. Nothing quite works, and we cry out and stamp around for proper glue - we are gunge children of the CBBC generation, we have grown up with a world of neon stick and slime just out of our reach. An adult-child world that wants our eyes, not our hands. We laugh at the gungings and slime-ings, and get prit stick.

There is restlessness, but lethargy in the resultant game of tig. We cannot be inspired to hunt each other around. Cheating is cheating, and we are shouted down from the curtains before anyone can get hurt.

(The girls up in the curtains hear her nails along the inside of the drainpipes, and whisper to each other.)

Sat in a circle, laminated A4 objects are shared between two or three girls. No one wants to share, but if we must share, we will only share according to our own ineffable primal hierarchies. We have instead been numbered one, two and three, and no one is happy - although the ones, happy at least to be ones, keep the rest in order.

We sing the normal songs in a normal circle, in the half-dark of this empty not-church, in the middle of a dark field, in the middle of a not-Kingdom, in a cold and empty country, lit by plastic LED candles. We sing until we get to The Duck Song, and we sing the Duck Song higher and higher, until the women have to laugh and smile, garish and awkward in the quarter light of our indoor not-fire, as their voices break and ours sing higher, and higher, and higher, leading ourselves up and up into the narrow, painful spaces only little girls can go. Out of tune and out of time and loud, we are a modular meltdown, a polytonal scream. Eventually the squeaking chorus grinds to a kind of equilibrium and can be shushed down.

It is now that she asks if we can sing about Abada.

The Brownie leader waves her wet-wiped-down and yet somehow-still-sticky laminated book like a plastic bible and says, who is Abada? Point to the song about Abada, and we can sing about Abada.

The girl opens her book on an empty page, and sings, with a simple repetitive tune - two notes the same, and then one slightly higher:

Ab-a-da

In the drains

Has green teeth

And blue nails

Asked to elaborate, the girl can only explain, between fits of giggles, soft but hysterical, like the sounds of someone being ticked breathless - it's about Abada. She's in the drains. She has green teeth, and blue nails

And we all start to nod. And sing:

Ab-a-da

In the drains

Ab-a-da

Has green teeth

And blue nails

In the drains

Ab-a-da Has green teeth

And blue nails

In the drains

Ab-a-da

Has green teeth

And blue nails

In the drains

The chorus is punctuated by absent-minded slappings of our thighs, then the floor.

Ab-a-da

In the drains and blue nails

has green teeth

and blue nails

Eventually, arrhythmic violence is coming for every surface - the floor is being battered by feet, song-books are being waved in the air and at each other's faces.

A-ba-da

ba-da

A-ba-da

A-

The chant has outgrown any sing-song borders and ascended into a shout, growing louder and louder and frothing, spilling.

AB-A-DA

IN THE DRAINS

A girl starts to cry softly, and the revere is broken. Suddenly there is standing and shouting, arm waving and laughing and sobbing and then utter silence.

In that silence, there is a long, rattling squeak of the pipes.

A soft whisper - see, Abada!

Anarchy.

Order, peace. Teeth.

Bedtime.

I don't sleep. I never sleep. I get up to punctuate the silent dark hours, little feet clumsy on a narrow wooden ladder. Breath and rustle and dreams fill up the cold high-ceilinged cube in which we rest, neat stacked bodies in neat little rows. A printed and sello-taped piece of clip-art calls this mausoleum The Butterfly Room. The butterfly has all eyes in the wrong place for a butterfly, and all legs in the wrong place for a human.

Outside of The Butterfly Room, there is no comforting fog of other-girl-sound. I am in deep space and my feet are tapping on the void, drip, drip, drip. Nothing is carpet, nothing is warm, and this does not feel like a house. It has the cold misalignedness, cheap linoleum quality of a school, and I feel vulnerable in my shoeless-ness, like I've done something wrong. This is a space for days and shoes and many-bodies, not a single small girl, only half the height of the walls. This floor is not meant to be felt by bare toes.

Ab-a-da

The bathroom is a cage for moonlight. It pools in the toilet bowl, and I sit with my feet high above the ground and peel paint from the metal cubicle walls. I feel exposed to the void, to the under-spaces and insides, my body lined up with a gaping, wet, cold, hole.

In the drains

I flush and pull my cotton armour back over the strange lower self. My feet collide back with the greedy cold of the floor with a hiss that travels right up my spine.

Has green teeth

(I hope you're not worried)

And blue nails

I wash my hands with the special soap. I have a note with me for my special soap. I take it to school, because I have a condition on the skin on the back of my hands. My hands are covered in little cuts from where the hard mountains of my knuckles have cracked. My skin feels a thousand years old.

I like having a skin condition.

(Abada doesn't eat little girls.)

On Sunday, we are allowed to have the Campfire. For reasons of safety, we cannot actually be near the Campfire. It is surrounded by a low wire fence, over which the leaders toss sticks and newspaper. We stand back even from that - a long, wide, cold ring of girls, holding hands.

Technically there is singing, but in my memory, everything is silent. Maybe something ate the songs. There are no laminated books out here. The land is wide and long. Scotland is big, empty and cold. But the endless Far is brought near by the low hanging mist, and cloud pouring out of an endless grey sky. They collide with the mist as if clouds are collapsing under the weight of cloud upon cloud and spilling across the hills. We are a concrete dot on a long, empty road into –

Everywhere we have ever lived, here, in the wet-grey mist-country, is a concrete dot on a long-empty road into –

We are not allowed to stand near the fire, but it does its job. We small girls stand in a big, big circle, around the burning dry wood. The mist stands outside us. The mist is in our lungs.

(She doesn’t eat little girls. She was made by little girls. I was a little girl. I didn’t need to know what she ate.)

The fire isn’t for us. We didn’t make the fire. We’re not allowed near the fire. The fire was made so the leaders could point and say, see, little girls, here is the most important thing – the danger and the light, death and life, and it is an adult thing, and you are just little girls. Grow up through life towards the fire and one day you will be women too.

(And she's still there. In the drains. Has green teeth. And blue nails.)

We hold hands, and sing.

(Ab-a-da.)


Nicks Walker is a queer trans Scottish writer currently locked down on the Southern English coast. His work appears in The Speculative Book 2021, Qmunicate Magazine and Anti-Heroin Chic and will appear in the upcoming anthologies, Summer Anywhere (Dreich) and A Drunken Midsommar (The Daily Drunk). He has four rats and various disabilities and tweets @nickserobus.

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