Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 40
Spring Equinox, 2021

New Works

Helena Pantsis

The Imposter Game

Here's the fight and the flight of it, the real and the imagined of it: there are two rooms and I am sitting in both of them pretending to be me at all times. The interrogator sits outside and asks me questions and I answer and I answer and they must guess which me is really me. I write my name on a piece of paper - written it is real, as are we; a unified me with my hair swept back and a bandaid plastered to my face, it rips the skin and reveals a robot underneath, or a preset pattern of binary code. A rock worn by water, if you ask the same question a hundred times I will give the same answer 33.333333% of times in return. Everybody wants a whole, or expects wholly; it is the law of the land and the law of my unevolving programming. The interrogator disembodies me and strips me back layer by layer until I am nothing but voice; my voices compete and echo and the falseness seeps through until I am a familiar imposter. You have met me before in every situation and the interrogator wants to know who I am in a word, so I say my name, and I say my name, but the interrogator asks again and I stutter, they ask again, I fumble, they strip me of my name and I am left with no answer or explanation. I take the screwdriver to my chest and pull out my circuitry but I am still aware and I can hear something ticking behind my eyes. So I rip my face from its hinges and there's a clock there plugged into the cables of my spine and they strain so much I am paralysed. The interrogator says they have figured it out, they point to themselves and say they are me. I cannot scream anymore and neither can I but I am trapped in the room next to me, trapped in a room, and the interrogator is now parading around as a version of me, or the only version of me so my parents take them in and my words are their own and my bed gives them warmth and my friends give them comfort. I think I am not novel, not me enough to be unlike another. You could meet me and think you have met me before or seen me in a movie. I am the imitation game where I am imitating everyone I've ever met in every situation; your perfect clone if you ever did meet me. I think I am the interrogator, and I ask myself: are you the imposter?

There's a pond outside my house, but mum says to stay away

Of course, the teeth scrape the skin; the teeth scrape the skin so the flesh rolls back, the air strikes the wound. Tender crab meat, it becomes stringy and soft and long. I put my leg in the pond. The skin is raw, or vibrant, and burning in subtle rage, flared-open and blooming, my legs dangling light. I hear the splash. The memory is firm, tucked into the crook of the body, of the lake, of the jaw. I put my leg in the pond. There is a lobster there, or a piranha swarming, alone and sharp and rocky and fearing my whirlpool leg swilling the eye of the sea. I hear the whoosh. The claws rip the bones; the claws rip the bones so the calcium crumbles, crumbles and decays like cavities in molars in hot damp mouths that smell of horror. Of course, I go to dip a second leg inside the pond, but fingers grip the upper of my fleshy arm and mark me pink with fingerprints like pressing hands on window glass. I am slipping into the water and it is becoming wet and red and shallow and deep and warm. I hear the pull. The muscle tears; the muscle tears and slivers into fillets of unsalted carp so no longer do the muscles feel. The lobster pinches my nerves and the piranha bites at my veins and I am slipping. My mother holds my arms so tight it hurts and the blood stops and the pond is dark and dusky and my legs are cruel and unresponsive while my neck is crooked and my skin is soft and barren. I hear the crack.

I put my leg in the pond, mum says don't, but I put my leg in the pond anyway.

Helena Pantsis (she/they) is a writer, visual artist, and student from Australia's south-east. At 20 years-old, she is completing a bachelor's degree at the University of Melbourne where she's majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing.