I tiptoe behind her -- I'm 9 -- toward an immense room with gunmetal walls, no light, just endless grays and floor to ceiling portraits of ghosts. She feeds me frozen nails and I eat them while she cradles me in bones and paints my tongue the ash color of her words.
I can't separate the mother from the monster, the two from myself.
There's no choice in that room for days, weeks, sometimes years without light. I swallow down nails, coins, a pound of gray flesh as she watches me with staple gun eyes, her hair muddy tinsel, her voice gravel and rocks washed from gutters. It rains day and night, sheets of tin crashing while our tomb's gray-blue gloom rises high enough to know there is no ceiling, no floor, no hope.
When her chains stop rattling I spit out the metal and ash, bury the cold bloodless memories.