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The Ward - A "The Handmaid's Tale" Fanfiction


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Decided to write a fanfic based on the most recent book I’ve read. Tried my best to imitate Margaret Atwood’s style; hope it turns out right.

 

Sheets. Not the gleaming silky ones you would find in hotel rooms in the times before, nor the crisp white ones I had got used to in my room - my room, as I would call it now; it seemed like heaven, compared to the room I am in now. They are grubby, stiff, with wriggly pale blue stripes that cover it like creeks on a barren landscape. A tiny window. Conveniently located in a place I cannot see while lying on my bed. I lie most of the time, stepping sideways out of my own time, out of my time, though I have no idea how much time I have left. At times when the sun blazes blood red in the mid-December afternoon, its rays seep through the window left ajar and, given the right angle, create the effect that the sheets are creeping with wriggly pale blue maggots.

A breeze squeezes its way through the crack of the window, along with the crimson sunset. The breeze visits me every day; I could not shut the window since it was locked in that uncomfortable ajar position, forced to welcome everything demanding to enter the ward, including but not limited to breezes, bugs, butterflies, beautiful vague memories of the distant and even recent past, and so on. The breeze billows my hair, all tangled and messy, in an unruly manner I am surprised the Aunts would tolerate in this place where everything is rationed and highly disciplined. I cannot remember the last time I combed my hair, but I am pretty sure it was before I was sent here, for my comb was taken away from my already small bundle of belongings as soon as I was checked in by the Guardians. I cannot cut it either; they have taken away anything sharper than a well-used pencil, so no scissors for me.

By “anything sharper than a well-used pencil”, they refer to anything literally, and potentially, sharper than that; by “potentially” they refer to glasses and porcelain, so my cup is made of wood and, obviously, no toilet for me as toilets are made of porcelain. It’s for your protection, said Aunt Lydia when I first arrived and looked at her with a question in my eyes when I noticed the absence of a toilet. It’s for your own good.

The only thing abundant in the room is water. Drinking water. Flowing out from a tap every time you turn it on, regardless of when, regardless of how long. Food is minimal, barely enough to keep you from starving. A woman who had failed in the simple job of breeding does not deserve to eat, perhaps. Having nothing to do and nothing to eat naturally means drinking water absentmindedly, and drinking too much water, well, means needing a toilet sooner or later.

So I lie on my bed with maggoty sheets, trying to feel anything at all, even “feeling” itself, until I begin to be teased, harassed, and gradually engulfed with a feeling coming from my lower abdomen. From my bladder. I hesitate to call it “desperation”, for it reminds me of the few, but real, happy days from my pregnancy, when I was exempt from the walks and despite needing to visit the toilet every so often found it enjoyable. Like I finally had some value, something for the Marthas and even Serena Joy to envy about. Yet now desperation is desperation alone, without the gossips of the Marthas, the occasional looks from Serena Joy over her cigarette, or the bulge in my belly. It is simply desperation on its own, like a puppet dangling on a lonely string, and I am unable to do anything about it. Relieving myself is not an option since peeing anywhere other than a toilet would mean being hanged on that wall the very next day, and there is no toilet.

I twisted and turned in bed, gripping the sheets, rubbing my hand over my clothes. Oh, the clothes on me. Aunt Lydia had brought it to me in a bundle and literally undressed and redressed me herself, piling my red ankle-length dress and white bonnet on the floor with a heavy thud. This new uniform, she said, are for my own good and for the good of other Handmaids, as it separates them from the one who had had a miscarriage. I wonder why they still call it a uniform since it is hardly anything more than random pieces of striped gray rags freshly fished out from the garbage bin. Nick probably used them to wipe the black van, who knows. Thin. Very thin. The only thing I like about it are its long sleeves that are barely enough to keep me from catching pneumonia in the freezing December wind.

Coldness and desperation do not mix. Times may have changed but this simple stupid fact has not; and how I wish it has. Soon twisting and turning do not help either and I have to sit up in bed crossing my legs, not stepping sideways anymore, being forced back into reality by the feeling of pressure in my bladder, while ironically to feel something is the exact thing I crave for. I did not specify good or bad feeling though; anyway, I have long lost the ability to tell them apart. Perhaps the reason my desperation laments me is the fact that it, along with countless other things, signifies the lack of something. A toilet. The freedom to control when to relieve oneself. Control over one’s body. Control.

For how many times I lost count I glance around the room. No tables. No chairs. When a Martha comes in to take my blood pressure every morning - a different Martha each time, albeit it makes no difference since I am not allowed to speak to anyone anyway - she has to sit on my bed, which squealed under the weight of two. The bed is made of thin wooden panels you could buy at some stores during the old times. Good for nothing except for such beds in such wards, I suppose. I think the store was called Home Depot, and the day when people go shopping for discounts was called Black Friday, but my memory is failing me. Especially when I am this desperate and sweat is beading on my forehead and running down into my eyes.

It is impossible to write. Impossible. Not only because writing of any kind is forbidden, Not only because there are no tables or chairs, but also because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to write about. Wooden paneled bed, maggoty sheets, a broken window, a door which never opens to reveal anyone I bother to care about, blinding white walls which reflect the blinding white lights leaving no inch out, a single slip of paper stuck to the foot of my bed I only managed to catch a glimpse once and reads something like “Miscarriage - Temporarily Deprived of Handmaid Status”, and my own desperation, my own desperation which feels too hollow and empty to deserve even a letter being put on paper for its own sake. Nothing else. Nothing.

Or there is something. A leak. A gasp followed by me as my plain white cotton panties dampened. It is a gasp out of sheer surprise, not fear, for fear like so many emotions is a luxury I dare not dream of. Following the gasp is the creaking of the door, following the creaking a Martha, holding the catheter I am all too familiar of. That, like everything else, has become my new norm, my new definition of peeing, not with my own muscles but with help from outside, from the state, from Gilead. Control, I recall Aunt Lydia saying, is something you will sooner or later hand over, and the sooner you do that, the better. The Martha opens my legs and inserts the catheter in such a practiced manner that I do not have a chance to leak any more drops. Relief. Finally registered among my list of feelings that day. I let out a moan. Moaning is still allowed.

Which is when the door creaked again, at a time no other Marthas would come in with the catheter, no Guardians would come in to check if anyone is misbehaving, no other Handmaids would come to visit - they never do anyway.

- I have not heard anything from either the Commander or Serena Joy since I was brought here. But who knows?

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