Tuned In by Lilian Martin – Glass Fiction Week 2022

Illustrated by Claudia Pilbeam

CW: drug use, smoking. 

Susie’s dark eyelids began to droop, heavy like wet clothes after a downpour. But the burning glow of the television seared the back of her retina and kept her conscious. It might have been an old repeat of a kids show. Or could it have been a commercial? Susie could not tell. Both tended to look bright, loud, and ridiculous anyway. Drowsy, she lit her second joint for that evening—the paper tip of the joint scratched at her chapped lips. Her long knees were criss-crossed across her lap as she sat on the floor in front of the sofa. She could feel its hard edges jab and prod into her back, but she was too tired to feel like moving from her spot. Instead, between puffs of smoke, she tried to discern shapes made by the faded colours of the television screen. 

It was a commercial, Susie finally figured out.  

There was a woman applying eyeshadow, lathering the bright powders onto eyelids, blending them into the smooth sheen of soft skin.  

Susie breathed in the dark musk of her joint and felt the urge to touch her own eyelids she felt her way around their almond shape, her fingers finally pressing into the deep sunken pit beneath them.  

She groaned. The smoke she exhaled glowed a gentle yellow from the televisions light. Susie wanted to slip into a deep sleep. It would be so much easier that way. An unconscious dusk settling over her mind, rest and salvation from the bright lights stabbing her eyes. She came closer and closer, eyelids drooping, darkness began to envelop the room and a pleasant quiet buzzing began to fill her ears  

Stop that,’ said a voice through a buzzing. 

Susie jolted. Her eyeballs could feel that familiar burning sensation return, ‘Huh? Who’s there?’  

Over here, stupid Susie,‘ the voice said again. 

Her eyes focused on the television set, the image it was broadcasting was the woman from the make-up commercial, with gleaming white teeth grinning at her from in front of swirling, psychedelic vortex. 

Do you think you can sleep, Susie?‘ the woman sneered. 

The colours on the screen behind the woman made Susie’s eyes burn, she wanted to close them, feel the darkness of her eyelids shut off all the colour flooding and overloading her senses, but a strange feeling swelled in her chest pulling her up. She suddenly was sitting upright, her eyes peeled open. 

That’s better,’ the voice said. ‘Your posture is a disgrace. 

‘Fuck off.’ Susie had no idea what this television woman was playing at.  

The woman on the television smirked and held back a laugh. 

Susie could swear she felt fingers clawing at her eyelashes pulling her eyes wider. She tried to look away from the television, but her pupils were trained on the screen, urging her body forward.  

The woman beckoned. Susie dropped onto all fours and crawled forward, her knees scraping on the carpet. 

Sit, Susie,‘ the woman commanded. 

Susie knelt before the television set and was eye to eye with the woman. 

‘You can’t make me do this,’ Susie winced trying to force her eyes shut.  

The woman tutted. ‘Oh, Susie. I already have.‘ She smiled. 

Susie shook her head, defiantly. Susie’s arms felt like lead as she reached around the back of the television set and felt for the power cable. She tugged. The television screen sputtered to black.  

But a moment later there was a pop — the woman returned to the screen with an exasperated sigh. 

‘How in the fuck?’ Susie hissed, grabbing the sides of the boxy television. She whacked the sides, and even tried to shake it, but it was too heavy. 

Stop that,‘ the woman said.  

The woman sent an electric shot through the sides of the television. Susie howled.  

Susie,’ the woman said. ‘That was never going to work now, was it? 

A loud buzzing filled Susie’s ears, and a searing hot hand marked her shoulder. Fingers crawled up her neck and grabbed a fistful of her hair and tugged. All Susie felt was an intense waft of heat greeted her as she was pulled headfirst into the television screen. 

Susie, Susie, Susie‘, the woman chanted through clenched white teeth, pulling Susie in.  

The woman looked down at the lower part of the frame and saw Susie lying on the floor, fast asleep. The woman tutted, and began to pull herself through the edges of the television screen. 

When Lilian Martin isn’t studying (a bachelor in creative writing at QUT), she is busy listening
to music, talking about music or singing along (badly) to music. She loves to not only make others laugh, but also to make others cry, and she hopes that her writing makes them do both! You can’t find her work on social media because she has probably forgotten the password…

Glass Fiction Week is an annual celebration of QUT students writing fiction. As part of Glass Fiction Week 2022, we sat down with Lilian Martin, author of Tuned In, for a discussion about her writing practice. Read our Q&A with Lilian here, and submit your details here if you would like a (free!) hardcopy of Glass: The Fiction Edition, which includes all five stories published during the week.


Want your work in GLASS? Check out our Submissions page to find out how!


Articles: 242

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