Eight is the number.
If I don't do everything precisely eight, or a number that is linked to eight, times, then bad things will happen.
Mama does not approve of this thought. You are cursed, she likes to say. But I know that I am not cursed. I know what a curse does to you. You turn into a frog and you can only turn back when someone kisses you. You don't know what you are doing and write scary messages on the wall in your own blood. You are paralysed and won't wake up until a few hundred years later.
I am not cursed.
I must keep reading - I can't stop here, this is page twenty-seven! Two plus seven is nine. Two minus seven is negative five. Two times seven is fourteen. Two to the power of seven is a hundred and twenty-eight. None of them are linked to eight.
Wait. Two to the power of seven is a hundred and twenty-eight. One plus two is three. Three times eight is twenty-four. Two times four is eight.
This is a safe spot. If I put my bookmark here, bad things will not happen.
Mama asks me why eight is the number.
I tell her that it is because that eight is symmetrical. Eight is also infinity, if you rotate it around.
Mama looks at me strangely. Eight is just a number, she says. What about zero? It has more lines of symmetry than eight. And one, too, is symmetrical. Zero can be O, too, and one can be I. Isn't that cool as well?
But she doesn't understand. It's not about symmetry. Eight is just good. Symmetry and the infinity symbol are just part of it.
Eight is the refuge camp. It's a mother's arms, holding you tightly, pressing your face into her chest as you cry. Eight is the safe house, the bomb shelter.
Eight is safe - eight is salvation.
I find that sometimes, if I don't do everything precisely eight, or a number that is linked to eight, times, then I have these horrible thoughts at night, just before I sleep.
A man pins me to the bed. No - I don't want this --
He unbuttons his shirt, his naked chest just centimeters away from mine. He slides his hands into my shirt, feeling my shoulders, my breasts, giving my belly button just a small pinch. They move down, down, down - I could feel his want pouring off him, see it in his shark's grin. He fiddles on the button of my jeans, my entire body quaking with protest --
Most of my thoughts are about me, and horrible things happening to me, and what's even more scary, is that sometimes - I like it. I want to experience them. I want trauma, I want to be abused, assaulted, or just hurt.
I'm scaring myself. I know that normal people don't have these thoughts. I know that normal people don't want to be hurt. Maybe... maybe I'm not normal.
My maths test result came out today.
Ninety-three marks out of a hundred - that's not too bad, but it may have a second layer of badness laying underneath the façade of good. I need to check - I need to know if bad things will happen because of my result.
Nine plus three is twelve. Nine minus three is six. Nine times three is twenty-seven, and two times seven is fourteen. Nine to the power of three is seven hundred and twenty-nine, and seven times two is fourteen, and fourteen times nine is a hundred and twenty-six. One times two is two. Two plus six is eight.
I am safe, for now.
Mama doesn't like the idea of me thinking about horrible thoughts. She takes me to the local therapist, asking me to talk to her. She will help you, she says. This is Doctor Meadows. She is a professional who will help you get rid of your curse.
I nod and nod and nod, and pretend to understand, and wait for her to get up and leave the room. Talk to her, she says just before leaving.
But I don't. I don't like her fake-lemon-scented clinic, I don't like her cracked lipstick, I don't like the way the corners of her mouth tick up in a fake smile automatically she sees someone while her eyes stay blank. Sharp. Cold.
Do you like these thoughts?
I mumble something incoherent. I can see that she doesn't like it from the way that her smile faltered and reappeared and how her eyes narrowed just so slightly before she fixed them again.
Because if you do, I think that the problem isn't the 'curse' that your mother so stupidly believes in. I think you are an attention seeker. I think you are a selfish, selfish girl who needs to fix these thoughts immediately. Do you understand?
Fuck you, I think. Did you seriously just call Mama stupid?
I mumble something unrecognisable again, loving the way it's annoying her, and stomp out of the room.
I bang the door shut behind me.
Today is one of those days when I have those thoughts.
I think about manipulating the woman at the clinic. I think about forcing her to kill herself, or cutting a deep gash on her throat, or pushing her off her balcony when she's drinking some cheap crappy coffee.
And then, I think about her words. Attention seeker. Selfish, selfish girl.
I groan, roll over to the other side of my bed, and wrap myself back in the comforting thoughts of abuse happening to me.
I know it's wrong. I know I shouldn't like it. But I do.
I thought I knew what a curse does to you. You turn into a frog and you can only turn back when someone kisses you. You don't know what you are doing and write scary messages on the wall in your own blood. You are paralysed and won't wake up until a few hundred years later.
But maybe... maybe this is a curse too. Maybe I am dangerous, evil, possessed. Maybe Mama was right all along. There is nothing special about eight, but it just is the number. There is nothing good about trauma, but I just want it.
Maybe... maybe I am cursed.