I’m glad that Wren Noel has a van. Saves time, as I was going to wait for the bus. Of course, this is exactly the sort of van that every parent has warned their child to never climb into. The base color is dark orange, but there are huge murals painted everywhere.
“Please don’t let my redone shaggin’ wagon put you off. It was left to me by my uncle, and I haven’t the heart to get rid of it.”
I climb inside. My wheelchair fits easily in the back, since the seats have been taken out. I imagine there was once a mattress in here. What else would one put in the back of a van that has floor to ceiling shag carpet? Braided, velvet ropes, hanging from the ceiling, sway as we head down the road. Used for what I don’t care to guess.
The reality crashes on me that if Wren Noel does turn out to be a criminal, I’ll be the one who gets blamed. Someone will say I deserved what I got for traveling with a stranger. They’ll say I should have known better.
I wish they’d say things like she shouldn’t have lived in a world where so many predators are all around us. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel bad when one of the creatures I live with takes a life. Because this society, if they accepted the creatures exist, would say that their prey should have known better. If the people they take were willing to believe they existed, they could take precautions. But if you’re going to close your eyes to the realities all around you, then you get what you deserve. That’s what they’ll say about me if Wren Noel attacks me. Is it bitter of me to turn that around on them?
“Were you two close? You and your uncle.”
“Oh, he was a trip. Looked after me whenever I stayed with my mum. My dad’s a Brit, you see. So I went to boarding school over there. All proper education and whatnot. But my mum, no idea how she and my dad ever paired up. She was a spirit of the Earth. Not a Christian, not any religion really, but she loved Christmas. That’s how I got my name. Wren Noel.”
“Ah. My first name, Liv, is Norwegian. People don’t think it, they generally think it’s short for Olivia or something.”
“Yeah, I get that. People ask me what my real name is. And some of my newer friends ask if it’s my true name or my dead name.”
“Dead name?” I look over the goth exterior of my driver.
“In the trans community, it’s the name you stop using as you transition. But I like my name.”
“Oh! Epic fail on my part. So sorry. I do have other trans friends. I just thought you meant something else.”
“No worries. I’m trans male to female, but I’m also gender fluid. So, some days I’m Frankenstein's monster, and some days I’m the monster bride.”
“You’re not a monster.” The words come out almost like a reflex. Not because I feel a need to offer comfort, kindness, assurance, or security. But because I know creatures who people call monsters. They really don’t deserve the title.
Wren Noel pulls into the parking lot of the Brass Rail on Lehigh Street. After getting me back into my chair, we head inside and procure a table. Once we’ve ordered, the conversation picks back up.
“Have you heard of Splatterpunk?” Wren Noel asks.
“No. Can’t say I have.”
“It’s based on a sort of horror fiction, especially from the 80’s. Not thrillers or leaving the audience to fill in the blanks. It’s dark gore, very violent, with gruesome scenes full of monsters and mayhem. Villians often take center stage and have little to no redeeming qualities. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Monster could be sympathized with for being misunderstood and neglected by his maker. But, in Splatterpunk, the Frankenstein monster usually has neck bolts and no real vocabulary. He’s the wicked one that people fear enough to use for Halloween.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“Yes. That’s just my favorite version, of course. Edward Lee’s The Bighead, that’s the sort of vile and disgusting graphic novel that Splatterpunk puts on a pedestal.”
*** 717 words