Forthcoming - late summer 2020
Tears of a Komsomol Girl
USSR, Rostov, 1980s. Arina, a young girl — insolent, obnoxious, but most importantly musically gifted, poses as the ideal student — upstanding, hardworking, and a member of Komsomol — the Soviet Union’s Communist Youth League. Fantasising unrealistically about becoming an internationally famous classical violinist, and yet simultaneously behaving as cynically and hypocritically as she can, Arina uses her Komsomol duties as a pretext for strutting unsupervised around town of an evening, fraternising with soldiers and Party bureaucrats alike, compulsively lying to cover her tracks. And yet her sleep is punctuated by obsessive and oppressive dreams concerning a certain killer who’s been on the loose for years — a ruthless, sadistic and thoroughly vicious opportunist referred to in rumours as Citizen X, the Rostov Ripper, or simply Satan — a monster who brutally slays children and adolescents having assaulted them at knifepoint. As the killings become ever more tortuous and frenzied, and the number of innocent victims tragically swells, it’s only a matter of time before Arina finally crosses paths with Satan, and her nightmares turn into a reality.
Tears of a Komsomol Girl is an experimental concept novel based on the real-life crimes of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who was finally executed in 1994 having been convicted of murdering 52 people between 1978 and 1990.
Just one more rush of blood to the head before bedtime. I’ll never succumb to your grim nostalgia. Our dream — going up in interstellar flames. Who else could I be? Next summer, I would leave the Young Pioneers behind and enter the Komsomol. I could hardly wait. My class was awarded the red banner declaring that we were the best in the school, in our age group. I ran my hands beneath the cold water, the glistening faucet, my fingers numb and pink, like uncooked lumps of chicken flesh. The mirror welcomes me with veiled hostility, reflecting the face of a girl I do not recognise. Her left cheek is bright red, stinging, freshly slapped. The scent of freshly mown grass, the youthful harbinger of summer. They look out for me, hands in pockets, swaying as they walk. Who knows? How can he not see it? The initial punch he threw, aimed at my face, landed on the side of my head, narrowly missing my temple but unfortunately clipping a portion of my right ear. And the fist of a man three times my height sufficed to knock me sideways, my legs buckling, the fabric of my white socks, pulled high over my pale shins, collecting specks of dirt from the lonely driveway snaking into the forest. I grazed my palms against the macadam as I reflexively broke my fall, the skirt of my dress riding up to expose my underwear. The surface of the ground felt rough and sharp against my backside, and the shock of being upended left me speechless. Only fools believe. Uncles on the prowl — the luxury of living incognito. The perfect scene. He grabs me by my wrists as I attempt to escape and I teeter, dangling there, his fingers and thumbs enclose my wrists, like he wants to snap them, and I struggle and kick but this amuses him and he lets me hang there, lifts me off the ground until I’m standing on tiptoes and as he shakes me and I rattle around like a puppet I even lose one of my ugly school shoes. Fearfully manipulated steps, an unwilling tango, dragged deeper into the alleyway. Sometimes I fainted and woke up in a room with boarded-over windows, the daylight filtering through from above — I must have been lying on a dirty carpet in a basement, my limbs securely fastened with a two-metre length of climbing rope. An old motheaten curtain, covered in dust, was draped over an armchair. The rough surface of the brick walls had been plastered haphazardly with cement decades ago, and then whitewashed, which did nothing for the appearance of the room. Underground chambers. I would have run. The narrow road that runs through the forest is a grey band. Dust, sand, soil encroaches at the edges of the asphalt, spilling debris from the grassy verge. The professor’s spotless office, primrose yellow walls, Persian carpets hanging, an ornate ceramic lampshade in the art nouveau style. The wooden chessboard and its polished pieces. He’s not really interested in teaching you girls to play. A mahogany bureau. His bushy eyebrows and lined face. Silvery white hair, side parting. He wants to watch me undress. Then he wants a repeat performance, except this time he’s snapping away with his camera. His wife reassures me with an encouraging smile and serves me beaker after beaker of Pepsi laced with tranquilisers. She’s furious when, as I lie on her daughter’s bed, totally unconscious, mind – the daughter has grown up and left school and now she is living in Baku where she studies at university – my bladder releases its hot liquid load all over the freshly laundered sheets, she’s so angry that she even slaps me and shakes me awake in order to chastise me, but it’s all grist to the Professor’s mill and he’s delighted, camera in hand, and he’s reloading film, ‘I’ve got to get this,’ he laughs, jubilant and his wife sighs at me angrily and tells me I should be ashamed, a big girl like me wetting the bed, but I’m still heavily tranquilised and through the haze of the medication I even smile, the idea that I could ever feel anything less than blissfully accepting of my fate so remote as to seem comical. The red and white striped chimney of a factory rises above several blocks of flats. My childish enthusiasm for day trips, excursions. No sense of scale or distance. He seizes me by the shoulders, or grips my throat with his right hand until I begin to choke, my breathing stifled. In one movement he forces me to the ground. Blades of grass brush against the soft skin of my face. He pulls my long hair out of its ponytails, tears at it until I cry out in pain, then he punches me in the mouth, splitting my upper lip, my teeth are coated in my own blood. I can taste metal. He’s kneeling astride me, pinning my thighs to the moist earth, and as my arms flail about uselessly he swats them away, laughing at my helplessness, drinking it in, grins to himself, grunts in satisfaction, his stubble showing, his jaw pressing against my face, scratching my skin. Still he laughs, as though it’s the greatest feeling in the world to overpower a juvenile with careless ease. The trees are spinning. He begins to touch me. As he sticks his fingers inside my underwear and begins to fiddle with me, pinching my genitalia with his filthy fingertips, he grabs my hair with his other hand and uses it to alternately pull then slam the back of my head into the ground. Then he gropes at my ribs, my torso, my small breasts. I cry, for shame as much as fear, then something snaps, I begin to wail like a siren, in a series of long piercing shrieks. My screams ring out around the forest. But he punches me in the face, fracturing my nose. I feel the cartilage and bone crunch unpleasantly as I am overwhelmed by despair and panic. As blood oozes from my nostrils and tears stream from my eyes, he scoops up a mound of loose soil with his fingers and palm and shoves it into my open mouth. I taste blood and dirt. I begin to suffocate, unable to cry out, choking on dirt. He produces a knife, using the blade to cut away my black polyester pinafore apron, worn every day over my brown school dress. Then he tears at the lace of my collar, pulling my dress apart — the buttons give way, some of them snap off entirely — and he reveals my flesh. Then he’s tying my wrists together with a long piece of rope, the kind of strong nylon cord used by fishermen or sailors going up and down the Don River. He then loops the rope and fastens it tightly around the sturdy trunk of a birch tree. As he dusts himself off, I wriggle and writhe around on the floor, still choking, still barely able to breathe — my nostrils are filled with blood — my nerves are pulsating, my heart races, I start to kick, twisting this way and that, but the rope around my wrists stays in place, in fact my movements serve only to tighten my bonds, and the coarse material cuts painfully into my skin. My attacker has been watching me the entire time, unbuckling his belt, unbuttoning his shirt and unzipping his fly. He steps out of his clothes. His frame seems gigantic, grotesque. He’s naked — I inadvertently, involuntarily get an eyeful of his sagging, pale flesh, the hair on his chest and limbs, his potbelly, his wrinkled neck, throat and shoulders, grizzled skin, like a turkey’s wattle or a vulture’s head. I’ve never seen a grown man’s genitalia before. I am overcome by revulsion, my skin crawls. He begins to manipulate himself with his left hand, stooping to retrieve the kitchen knife briefly discarded on the ground....
Audrey Szasz is a London-based writer with roots in Central Europe. Her experimental narratives weave exotic prose-poetry with surreal imagery and transgressive satire. She was discovered by chance in Soho by legendary novelist and poet Jeremy Reed who offered to read her work and, having done so, promptly suggested they collaborate. The resulting novel, The Abduction of JG Ballard was published by Infinity Land Press in 2018, her most recent book Invisibility: A Manifesto is available form Amphetamine Sulphate.