White/Blue – where are you?

‘It was snowing. It always snowed. That’s how she liked it.

The swirling white that enveloped everything, dusting and smothering all in a wonderland. There was more variety in snow she’d always thought. A sunny day was nice, for a trip to the beach or a stroll in the park; but sunny days were predictable, ordinary, and what everyone wanted. Snow, on the other hand created such chaos and difference…..’


With some housekeeping and changes to this blog, this is an update for the ongoing sci/fi short ‘White/Blue‘. Fear not, the lady of the jars has not gotten lost and the girl from Europa has not returned to her planet yet. This serial short story has lain dormant a bit too long over the winter months, but has recently been seized by a new wave of investment. As such, their temporary home has moved to my other site ‘MarkryanHavoc‘. If you haven’t checked this out, there is new content there and more of a showcase for my other works. New projects are underway and a lot of creative plate spinning is happening.
Updates will continue here for their ongoing tale, and it’s about to get pretty interesting. So please be sure to take peek through the blizzard, and refresh where you left them. Enjoy.

(A final copy of the completed tale is now looking to be published in the near future.)

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21:09

Staring down the dark street, he watched as the lamp-posts flickered in and out of light. Luminous reflection seeming to be running off an invisible heartbeat. Stuttering. Struggling.

He felt the same. He was tired. He’d run the last two miles and his calf muscles now ached. He’d stopped momentarily to ease the stitch that was spreading in his side. Stabbing needles from Satan’s fingertips.

Nearly there.

He saw the traffic had built up on Bower Street, he’d actually heard the car horns and the angry shouts before he saw the rows of taillights snaking away. A great stationary monster of red eyes going nowhere.

Turning left, he hurried away from the angry voices and quickly checked the time. 20.45. It had taken longer than he’d expected. The transport had imploded on itself and the city was heaving in unpreparedness that night. He felt the sweet on his forehead, the stingy sizzle of desperation and determination. A light rain now flecked onto his skin as he passed by houses. The glow of life inside reminded him what he was doing this for. The eyes of the buildings glowed with little tears from the rain, happy that people were inside. All together for the first time in years.

He sprinted, tripped and surged on. Finally getting to the door five minutes later. Too little, too late?

Better late than never he supposed, rapping frantically on the door.

The door swung open hastily. The smell of candles and coffee greeted him along with the flood of a welcoming light and a relived smile.

“Thank god.” They said to him, as he collapsed into their arms.

Tears, sweet and rain ran unabashed down his cheeks. His heart, which had threated to give up on him, pulsed to a different beat. The feeling he got whenever he saw them. The tingly skin sensation that tickled around his ears and neck. He smelled them, hugged them. Taking these new feelings deep within himself.

“I can’t believe it.” They said as the broke apart and he stepped inside.

The small house threw its arms around him and beckoned inside to safety.

“It’s pandemonium out there”. He replied, stepping further in and following them up the stairs. He glanced quickly at the front room, the warming sweet smelling candles flickered in the small room while the television screamed out silently with the volume down. The news informing no-one to things that everyone already knew.

“I’m glad you made it, I was getting worried it would be too late.” They said, settling down onto the bed. He took in the vision, the moment and tried to keep himself together.

He followed, not bothering to take off his shoes but throwing off the jacket which the light rain had clung to.

The clock on the side clicked over to 9pm.

They drew into one another, kissing tenderly. Touching each other’s hands and diving deep into one another’s eyes. Tears swelled, wiped away by fingers that trembled in the glowing room.

“I had to be here. I had to come.” He said. Knowing that they already knew.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this. I’m just glad you’re by my side.” Their voice stuttered. “I love you.” they said, and closing their eyes. Not out of shame; but to a sad realisation it would be the last time.

“I love you.” The replied. “And I will find you again.”

The held each other closer as the lights died.

21:09. The time the world ended.

W/B – Origins and oranges

Read the full story here

Origins with oranges

To an untrained eye, the book was nothing special. It did not scream magic or invitations to thumb its precious pages. It actually went out of its way to look ordinary. Tea stains and scuffed leather, what looked like dust was really tiny particles of used magic covering the book, misleading vestiges of wonder. She kept her magic bible on the sideboard in her kitchen, next to the wooden spoons and ladles. She usually had a bowl of oranges nestled on top, keeping the vast pages pressed down and crisp, the smell of citrus in the air. A quick glance at the book would not rouse a curious mind, yet within the pressed bits of trees held such secrets and magic; it was practically priceless.

Although she may have handled the book in a casualistic way, the lady of the jars was very careful and appreciative of it. She did not take her powers for granted, and she knew she and the book were intertwined on a fatalistic level. Over time, notes and incantations had been scribbled on the pages, adding a depth and personal quality to the spells.

They moved into the kitchen, the girl now dressed in trousers and a shirt with a huge pullover jumper keeping her warm. The cable knit had been something the lady had whipped up last year, enthusiastically knitting away with love and excitement and creating something which practically trailed the floor. Of course, there were snowflakes on the pattern.  The girl pushed up the sleeves and followed behind her towards the table which sat by the south facing window,  looking out down towards the stream. Snow covered the ledge, but in the misty fog of the flurry you could make out the shapes of the world moving about in their winter havoc.

The lady dropped the tea cups in the sink and went over to her book, picking up an orange with her and heading over to the table. She motioned for the girl to sit down, offering her the fruit while she took her own seat and flicked open the pages. The smell of the paper was enticing, spices and whiffs of exotic breezes drifted from the spine. She scanned the contents, gazing as if for the first time upon the words.

“Imamiah….My, they are rare aren’t they. I know my grandmother spoke of one in her life. That was around the time of the great enlightenment of course. Makes sense. How much darker things have gotten since. My my. People never learn I’m afraid.” The lady chatted, scanning the pages for what she was looking for. The girl watched her, rolling the orange back and forth on the oak table between her small hands.

“How much do you know of this then?” The girl asked.

“Oh, a little here and there. I know you don’t view this process as a death, or an ending.” The lady did not see the girl flinch.

“No, we do not die in that sense.” The girl spoke, almost as if frightened of the word death. The rolling of the orange had stopped.

“No, death is not the end, I believe that also; and I know what you’re here for is not to die; but to become. More like a phoenix. Are you familiar with that?” The lady asked, kindly.

“Yes, very much so. I know of this bird. We have creatures on Europa that dwell in the ice caverns. They are a little like the birds on this planet, except their bodies are frozen vapour that move in orbs which grow. Each year they rise up out of the tunnels and caves to the warmer temperatures where the layers of vapour explode, reducing them down to their original forms. The vapour allows us to breathe, it’s the cosmic breathe of the planet under the ice.”

“Amazing! I always wondered how life operates on the other worlds. You must be at home her with all the snow then?” The lady asked, expectantly.

“Yes, it reminds me a lot of what I do miss.” She said, adding, “But there is a lot to see here too. You for one. I know not everyone is like you. I’ve seen a lot of darkness here before. I only feel light here with you.”

“This world is everything, the light and the dark and the pulls of the in-between. There are good people who make bad choices, and there are bad people waiting to make the right ones. No one is fully lost or beyond change.” She suddenly made a  little ‘Yelp’ Which made the girl jump slightly.

“..ah here it is, Imamiahi!” She said, excitedly, before reading out the passage:

‘Imamiahi are very sacred beings. Travelling across the skies to dwell on earth. Sometimes their trips can be a time and age, others will be gone in a blink of an eye. The Imamiahi will pick the barer, they will travel from the edges of space to come to our material level and offer us the most wonderful gift. Though their intentions will at times be complicated, they are very empathetic and feed off the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the barer they have chosen. Be mindful, your consciousness will not only affect the Imamiahi, but the environment around you with them.  

Their purpose here is always the same, to shed a layer of themselves or part of their celestial DNA that has ceased to operate to any purpose. They are well meaning, and through their own transformation, they impact those here on earth. The shedding of the layer forces time to flux, for deeds to be undone that were negative. A deep- clean of souls in order to go on with a clearer mind for change. For this to occur, certain practises must take place, and must be in place for it to happen…

The lady lifted the page briefly to see what was listed on the next page.

“There’s a notage here.” the lady said, before reading out:

‘Though the Imamiahi will have a choice to decide when this is all to take place, certain things can propel the process to be forced or demanded. This can stem from fear, threat, duress or the instant salvation. In the worst case, this will take place to reduce everything back to the beginning. A time explosion.
As barer, you are the guardian as well as the watcher.

The lady thought on this a second or two, before smiling at the girl.

“Well, prepare for the worst but hope for the best I say. Let’s see what we need to do then. I hope a good only conjuring is needed. It’s been a while since I invoked some of the deep earthy magic.” She said, licking the lips in her mind to the thought of something exciting.

The girl smiled back appreciatively, knowing deep inside she had chosen the right barer for her. She knew she hadn’t told her everything; the book itself said some Imamiahi would have complicated agendas; and hers with a little more than unusual. But she would tell her when the time was right. She looked out of the window to watch the snow fall down, the tufts of white resting momentarily on the glass before bleeding into the drifts already there. She watched the world there in that little cottage, and lifted the orange to her mouth and bit into it like an apple.

   to be continued….

Between the jars

 

 

White/Blue – Part II

(part I here)

Ice on the edge of space

She slept of course, that’s how she’d gotten there. Trapped in a dream that travelled across sky and time. It wasn’t far really, not within her scheme of things. Europa was really the backyard to Earth’s green and blue house; compared to the places she’d been and seen. The trip was quick, a blink of the inner eye for her. Sleeping, forming, and settling into something new in which to emerge from. No-one knew she had left, she made it that way. It wasn’t sneaking out the backdoor or running away, merely moving to the place she knew she would blossom. Unfold in the weighted gravity and expand like the sea coral in her mind.

Getting there was the easy part. She would not miss her home moon, she was not one for looking back. Too many shards of ice poking her into a position she knew she’d outgrown. She had breathed her last and stepped into her waiting transport, bidding a silent farewell to her gods, before becoming one herself. She had shaken her teeth out, burying them deep into the subterranean ice, like planting a seed without the expectation of growth. A silly ritual, one from her childhood. Sealing overt the past and welcoming a new dawn. She’d marked the spot with taldium stones. Smooth onyx rocks that looked like fillings from a gigantic beast. This was all she left behind. New teeth grew inside her as she’d slept in the transport, hurtling across the cosmos as the milk teeth grew and fused together in the depths of space.

Her heart had guided it. The comet that buckled and flayed in the pressures of the vast unknown. Steaming up in the re-entry to a land she’d never entered before. It had lit up the sky across a remote part of china, heralding change and ill omens to the many onlookers who captured it in their eyes as they gathered around their small communal fires. Her heart beat, her skin stretched. Her mind collapsed a million times only to be reborn and steer the transport to that spot. A spot chosen, not for its ease or any strategic opportunity. It was chosen for its sole reason alone, the reason she had left Europa in the first place. It was where the one was, the one who could change her and perhaps, even save her.


Detach and connect

Steam began to gather around them now, the snow and air evaporated temporarily while the remains of the comet and the contents hissed and spewed in the hole in the ground. The lady of the jars didn’t hesitate, she hoped into the hole and began pulling away at the stray tendrils that had not joined the body. She pulled and heaved, working it free and pulling it away like a tooth from a root. Her hands were raw from the cold, but the blue liquid quickly covered them and the pain subsided. She was resourceful, years of chopping wood for her fire and toiling her own yard had given her strength and determination. She lifted the body like a doll off the floor, heaving it over her should; the doll now a sack of flour to be carried into her cottage. Snow began to cover the hole, the marked earth smeared black and blue began to be covered once more in the blanket of white the lady of the jars had always cherished. Soon there would be little evidence of any visitor. It was a secret she was eager to keep to herself, and with that thought she hurried quickly inside.

Closing the door, she took the body over to the fire in her living room. Her house was sturdy, and she could only just hear the howling blizzard outside, the fire crackling over the sound of the perpetual winter. She placed the body carefully, then stoked the fire before taking off her cardigan which was now wet with melted snow and ice. The blue liquid began to slacken, but it did not pool off onto the floor; instead it collected into droplets which lifted up into the air, disappearing like tiny ghosts.  She stood back and watched the transformation, the cocooned being separating into the body of a girl. The hair and skin humming to life with a florescent radiance which faded to healthy glow. The girl’s eyes suddenly blinked open and she sat up. Her eyes, those azure wells that pierced the room flashed and opened up a doorway to another space. A land beyond the stars. The lady of the jars handed her a throw which she kept draped across her good chair, and wordlessly the girl surrounded herself in it. Embracing the warmth and kindness the protection it offered. They sat there in the quiet for some time, having a conversation with no words but levelling out their worlds.

“Tea, that always helps a situation.” The lady said, standing up slowly as not to frighten the girl. The ageless entity that sat on her rug in front of the warming heat. “You stay by the fire, I’ll bring it in.” she said, bustling out into the kitchen. She boiled the kettle and took down the jar of green chai, tipping the leaves merrily into the giant teapot she always had on the side. Though she lived alone, she always devoured copious amounts of tea, and the giant teapot was a testament to it. She filled it up with the bubbling water, and added some crushed almonds, swirling them around inside. She grabbed some small glasses and returned to the living room with the refreshments; popping them down on the side. Though it had been snowing hard and the day was dark, it was now growing darker she noticed, finding the light from the lamp post at the end of her path gaining more strength in the encroaching shadow.

“You must have travelled far, here drink this; it’ll help.” She said, handing the girl a small glass of the tea. The girl reached out with her swan like hand and the lady noticed it then, the etching on her arm. It was a pattern, words even, in some sort of languages; she was sure her book could tell her. These weren’t just dead prints like tattooed skin. The pattern and words swam with life, like a moving aquarium dance of blue hue and light, rippling across the skin, growing strong then faint like a conflicting idea.

“Thank you.” The girl said, reaching for the glass. Her teeth split apart for her to speak, having fused together on her journey. The words were understandable to the lady’s ears, but anyone else from anywhere else would have understood, the language fitting the ear of the listening, wrapping around the mind and settling in the soul. A sweet whisper of a voice, like a feather landing on a petal. Delicate, but hiding a secret strength of flight.

“Are you…” the lady began, but was interrupted by an abrupt and determined knock at her blue door. It wasn’t the pheasants this time, that she knew.


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A Close call

He watched as his train pulled out of the station, the rain filming over his window, forcing his world underwater. He felt he was leaving, but also that his was going nowhere. How much strength had it taken to board the train? How little they knew of what was yet to come.
The thoughts of all of them stuck to the top of his mouth, fizzing and irritating like a caught painkiller. The chalky taste of unfinished tales and lives he had altered.

The train spend on, the film over the window fleeing faster, washing everything clean but his mind. They left the dirty city and burst into the wide expanse of the countryside. He could see the misty mountains off in the distance. The tops hidden by the clouds and the design of the gods who dwelt there. He remembered his grandmother telling stories of the creatures who dwelt around the base of the Everestian beast, little folk who came to snatch bright shining things and souls. She was always one for stories, but never able to tell the truth. How much of all of this had she kept from him, how much did she pack into that large suitcase and carry off into the grave with her?

The motion of the near empty carriage soothed him, rocking his thoughts back and forth between despair and departure. He didn’t know where he was heading. The train was snaking north, up into the mountainous region, but his body remained deep underground. He was still mining through the hurt to find freedom, despite of where he was being taken.

The memory of the day before found him like a stone is his shoe, irritating him suddenly. He pictured them there, gathered around the small fire with cups of coffee and confused faces. They hadn’t wanted to hear what he was saying. They had hung those flags of favour for too long, and they would not let him tear them down so easily. How could he be sure? They had asked. Was that really what had happened so long ago? Had he done something to give them the wrong idea? All this now swelled inside him like a sickly bile. The actions of a twelve year of raked across a family court. Of course, it was so long ago now, why did it matter to anyone? He heard his mother say this over and over again in his mind. His family leaping like deer to avoid any consequence.

He looked out of the window, trying to focus his thoughts on something else, but for a moment; a nasty jarring moment he had felt it. Doubt. Stabbing him in his chest and needling into his brain. A weaker person would water this seed, allowing the doubt to blossom into tragedy. But he had boarded this train. Packed only what was needed and headed off to somewhere else. These actions warmed his heart, as he knew these were the actions of the strong. He knew then, in the creeping cold of the 10.20 outta state that he would not be reduced by his circumstance. Easy was to stay, and he knew it was always easy to die, but much harder to live.

IMPERFECT, IMPERMANENT AND INCOMPLETE

She walked steadfastly onto the platform, her mind a buzz with silent yearnings to hear her name again over the muffled crowd. But it did not come. So she stood on the platform waiting for the train as a tear ran silently down her cheek. Only when the train had arrived and she’d boarded did she glance back to where she had left her.

She was nowhere to be seen….

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And though a part of her would always be incomplete, she smiled in that moment, knowing that she would never be more beautifully damaged in a thousand lifetimes; and never wanted to be anything else.


Taken from ‘Imperfect, Impermanent and Incomplete’. Part of the short story collection ‘An Impermanence of things’ – Out now in eBook and Paperback.

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Grace & Josh

It had rained all morning, and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom to see the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself, knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the text books that she had put out that morning. It wasn’t too big a class, and she was able to manage the five and six year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, a special entity there to bestow wonders to them; and many seemed to want to impress still, which she liked.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader, and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was wrong. Josh was slow, and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog there before himself, guiding a man around who couldn’t see. The dog buying cereal seemed dumb to him, and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered, and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though, they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoors picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was, and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water, Grace sat on the carpet and began to eat. She heard the rain outside their classroom, and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at them. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She started to tuck into her own sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden, and a cold chill slithered over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as though she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she took action with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water, and she went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room, being reprimanded by Miss Carbine, though she doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive.

But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, and cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom, where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels, and was mopping up the water that spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger to anyone. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later, slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, given him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard.

Grace stepped back, he eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know, with Miss Carbine away there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing sports. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic world too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around might just be a fun idea. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning any minute, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and watched him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to abet Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen. Once Josh had entered the small cupboard, the sports boxes had tumbled and the lights had gone out; plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line miles away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh neck in the tumble of the boxes, and when the power had sprang back to life Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked in the extractor fan which resided within, left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around Josh, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet, as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, and the ropes choked him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights, and the storm. Smiling to herself.

THE FIREFLIES

‘The fireflies will take you there.’

She heard the voice, strong and determined through the muddling noise of her day. It had travelled with her since she’d left her house that morning, echoes on the wind and fingers on the back of her neck.

“Stop that now please.” She said, startling an old lady passing her by. She turned away and hurried up the street, mindful of the ice on the path. The first big winter frost had settled in the night, and the overcast clouds threatened a grey and cold day ahead.

‘Come listen….’

That voice again, buzzing around her head like real fireflies. She stopped in the middle of the path outside a small coffee shop. Her warm breath exhaling in mist around in her in the coldness of the morning.

“I mean it.” she said, though there was no malice in her voice. She turned abruptly, and entered the small shop which was partially filled with people eager for their coffees on their way to work. She stood looking up at the board, her mind in two places. She looked at her watch and realised she was late for her interview. Time for a coffee at least, I’m only human she thought. She approached the counter, smiling at the man behind it; all smiles and eager to take her order. There was suddenly a huge creaking sound as if something were breaking. She looked up to find the entire roof being pulled back, opening like a can of beans.

She gasped as the seams of the room dripped in a starry gold dust, exposing the sky above them. But it was not the bleak winter clouds that she had seen outside, but a glorious sun baked blue haze smiling at her through the opening above. She staggered back from the counter, knocking into the person behind.

“Hey, watch it.” He said, unimpressed with her foot landing on his shoe, and clearly apathetic to the sight of the roof now missing above their heads. She glanced around her, the whole shop casting their confused eyes on her and not the sight above her heads.

“What? Oh Sorry!” she mumbled before flying out of the shop, letting the door smash behind her.

Out into the cold and muddling crowd, she tried to catch her breath. That was a new one she thought as she glanced back inside, watching as the people careful sipped their coffees as their own little world’s continued to turn. She felt their eyes on her still, so she moved off down the road in the same direction she had come.

“The fireflies are waiting.” She heard once more in her ears. Quietly this time, like whispers of a ghost. She shook this off and hurried quicker, making her way as fast as she could back to her apartment.

Inside she locked the door forcefully, though she knew nothing from outside was the problem. She turned around and with a flash of light the floor beneath was transformed into sand. The apartment dripped away, with a sea lapping the shore where her sofa used to be. The sky above exploded in a million sparks as if the stars were coming down from the sky. Fireflies buzzed around her, tingling her skin and whispering in her ear.

“Heena booraa, conallou.” They sung.

She smiled, she couldn’t help herself. The beach at night beneath her feet, the smell of the sea on the breeze that flowed so softly and silently down into her lungs. She walked forward and dipped her toe into the sea, her black work shoes finding a bit of sea foam on the end like a tuft of snow. She dropped her bag on the sand and walked along the beach until she walked into something hard with a loud thump.

“Ow!” she said aloud to the empty apartment which had now appeared in its headache haze around her. She rubbed her head where it had bumped, and sighed. A long deep-felt sigh that weighted with realisation and defeat. She steadied herself by putting her hand against the wall, thankful momentarily it hadn’t turned into a palm tree.

“Come back to us Stacey. We are waiting.” She heard quietly, whispered around her empty apartment.

Her mobile phone broke the silence, echoing from her bag that she had dumped on the floor. She wondered for a second whether to answer it, then quickly found her way to the bag; brushing off the sand on the bottom and retrieved the irritating device from within.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Miss Adams? I’m calling from Stacks Global.” The shrill voice called out from down the line.

“Oh, yes this is she.”

“Well Miss. Adams. We were expecting you promptly for an interview this morning.” The voice stated, hovering in an expectational way.

“Ah, yes. I’m sorry I’ve had a few problems getting in this morning.” Stacey said, noticing now the curtains beginning to shimmer with the gold dust she’d seen before. The woman on the line made a disgruntled snort as if she’d heard nothing so preposterous in her life.

“Miss. Adams, I needn’t tell you what a reputable company we have here. We don’t give interviews her needlessly to fill our time. You are making a very bad first impression and I must stress…” But Stacey cut her off.

“Okay, thanks then. Have a good day”. She said and hung up the phone, placing it on the sideboard. She stood there, no longer in a daze but with a twinkle of determination in her eyes.

“Okay. Okay. I’m coming. I’m sorry it took so long. Hana lowlalei.” And she made a circle with her hands in the air. The ground shock for a second and room burst with a flash of light, raining sparks all around her. She smiled once more and walked across the room to find her laptop. Still with her coat on she logged in, finding the cheap website for flights she had used before. Using her credit card she booked herself a ticket, first class none stop. And only one way.

 

Love libarys lost

He skipped to the last pages of the book that he held like a bible in his hands, hands that had privately explored every secret and every page of the story. Words danced out before him, lost in their own rhythm; reaching their exhausting climax. The ending made no sense as usual, and he momentarily searched his thoughts as to why he’d begun it in the first place.

Ahh, that’s right; the cover looked so intriguing.

He placed the book back on his shelf, nestled it in-between an old copy of Harry Potter and his well-presented and orderly kept CD collection. There it was to remain, unopened and unexplored for an age as the dust that collected hung to the tops of the exposed pages like a glossy film. Over time the spine faded and the adventure was forgotten.

From the shelf, as if the characters had crawled from the pages to investigate, it was noticed how a new book was begun and captivated him. Other volumes cried tears of time as they were passed over again and again in favour of the new and intriguing yarn.

Until one day it was no longer present.

Unbeknownst to those who viewed from the shelf; the book was lost on a rainy Tuesday in the month of November whilst travelling on the underground. As is the case of public transport, too many souls shoved together in the tiny tin can, made for distractions and wandering of minds. Making sure his jacket was straight and his phone was buzzing like always, he had left the book on the seat next to him. A careless gesture one might say, like the throwing of a used cup out of the car window; as the residue drips from the inside. But secretly, upon discovery; he did not mind too much as the new book didn’t interest him as much as he had let on. Maybe someone else is reading that story now, on the Hammersmith and city line.

 

Broken Glass

As she entered the room, the door scrapped noisily back. ‘’Careful!…’’ I said. ‘’….there’s broken glass everywhere.’’

She looked down in the semi-darkness. Only the noise of the door echoed throughout the spacious room, all the earth was still. Littered across the floor were the remains of light bulbs, thousands of them lay strewn about like casualties of some mass domestic crusade, empty like Christmas carcasses.

‘’I’m sorry for the mess, and subsequent darkness.’’ I said. I tried putting her at ease, but even in the quiet dark I knew what her eyes were saying, and what her head was thinking. “It took me a long time to get here.’’ I added. Again, I tried to lighten the atmosphere and add some normalcy to a most unusual situation. She didn’t speak, I never expected her to.

CRUNCH, as I heard her step across the glass. Slow at first, then with more pace and purpose. The glass was shattering further, broken pieces splintering more into something unfixable. I could smell her and the smoke, coughing quietly in my soul. The noise below her feet conjured the image in my head of a giant stepping over long ago stripped bones. Did Jack ever escape?

‘’I’m sorry’’ I sighed out, starring down to the ground. I couldn’t face her still, would I ever be able to I wondered? She held the moment, captured the silence and suspended the time, forcing me to see what I had done. I started to cry. She did not turn away at this, seeming to ache with each tear she watched splash to the ground. Throughout it all she remained silent.

She outstretched her arm and I could see her hand. I held out mine and we touched. A blinding flash, only for a second and then a glow hung in the air like plasma. The room was a flutter of labels, descending and spiraling down like tiny birds. They mixed at random with the glass upon the floor. Paper and glass like the aftermath of an anniversary.  Thousands of them fell like snow; this early winter ensnared the two of us. Each bore two names, written in old script; nothing more.
My name had been misspelled.

SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT IV–Sinister deeds)

Part IV – ‘Sinister deeds’
(Full story here)

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.
 

SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT III)

Part III – ‘Omens & Origami’
(Full story here)

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

 

 

雨降って地固まる (The rain falls, the ground hardens)

The rain fell softly, thickening and blurring between snow and sleet. Flakes that found their way onto roof tops or eyes lids, disappeared in an instance into a watery grave. The small town of Hirani was perched high atop the steep cliffs that stuck out into the North Pacific Ocean like teeth. The wind would swell and batter the cliffs, but the town was usually protected from Mother Nature’s fury. And protecting, Hirani was in need of. At least the inhabitants. Steeped in history, Hirani was an old and superstitious place. The incense burned on everyone’s doorstep, warding off the spectres who would roam in the night, as many believed they did.

The tea house was the focal point for many. A noisy, bustling place where the locals and travellers each would go to relax and to be entertained. Geishas were in high demand here, and many could earn a lot of money from the Silent Storm Tea house, and those who frequented it.

On the other side of town, a line of row-houses led up a small hill. It was dark and gloomy, with many of the lanterns in the area never lit. The residents kept to themselves, many of them fisherman families who would sail out early in the morning and return home very late. One of these fisherman was returning home in the late hour, having stopped for refreshment in town. He was jovial; having had a good catch that day, and had drunk to his own congratulations. He moved up the hill with ease, despite the weather. He came to a fork in road where the houses all grouped themselves together, almost buckling. In his disorientation, he turned left instead of right, moving up a smaller hill that hovered over the town. He hadn’t realised he’d gone the wrong way until he found himself at the red door.

He quickly glanced around, noticing the huge figures to his left and right. Two Nio stone guardians guarded the entrance, proclaiming sacred ground. Hastening back, his eyes darting from the door which had a crude double triangle and diamond painted upon it, up to the small house beyond the gates. He let out a small yelp, and hurried off down the path back to the safety of the road and towards his own home.

Inside the house, Tomoryō watched the man as she sipped her tea. She smiled, knowing his story. She watched him depart and noticed the snow was getting thicker now in the lamp light. It was indeed late, but she could not sleep. She was on edge since seeing someone earlier that day, someone she thought she would never see again, and had hoped never to. Her mind ticked over as she took down a large book off the shelf and began to flick through the pages. At her feet, the small fox prowled, slipping in and out of the desk legs and those of Tomoryō. Finally falling asleep next to her.

To the world Tomoryō was a geisha, one of the best in the province. Her beauty was flawless, and her talent legendary. As was her reputation. For Tomoryō was also known as the witch of Hirani to those in the town and was feared by them also. The two triangles on her gate, which she had refused to remove, were the fox ears which labelled her so. Not everyone in the town of course believed she was a witch, but those who did not still erred on the side of caution. She lived alone, aside her fox Aitarō, in her old family residence; having adapted it over the years thanks to her improved income. As Tomoryō was very good at being a geisha.

She read deep into the early hours, eventually going to bed when the sun began to rise off on the horizon. The snow had stopped, and had blanketed the entire town in thick layer of white magic. While she slept, events in town began to unfold that would lead to Tomoryō to be known, not just in her small town, but in the whole of Japan.

II

Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.

As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.

Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.

“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.

“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.

“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.

“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.

“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.

“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.

“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.

“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.

“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.

“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.

“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.

“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.

“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.

“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;

“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a little immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.

“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.

“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.

“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.

“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.

“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.

“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.

“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.

“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.

Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.

They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.

He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.

III

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

Masao knew the streets of Hirani pretty well. He remembered most of the towns he travelled through, and unlike the rest of the trope who would say all the places looked the same after a while, he usual found one distinction with each new place to make it unique and memorable. His remembrance of Hirani was down to one thing, and that was the Silent Storm Tea House. The Silent Storm was similar to many other tea houses in japan, save for one unique feature. It was built around a small waterfall which cascaded down from the small river and rocks, right through the teahouse. Transparent screens had been built around it so the view from within captured the elegance and power of the flow of water. The area surrounding the teahouse had been built into a lush, if not tiny formal garden, which was far removed from the humble shacks and fisherman houses that made up most of the town. It was located not far from the main square, and was in the much more affluent area of the town with the main passing road through to the north and south nearby.

Masao had a feeling it was the Silent storm that the man was headed to. He was surprised however, the wages he know the man to be on were not those to afford such luxuries as a visit to a Teahouse. Yet as he followed him down the small passageways, it was the Teahouse that he came to, and he watched him as he went over the small bridge leading to the main entrance. He paused momentarily, removing his hat and slicking back his dark hair with his hand before disappearing inside. Masao hesitated himself, then followed him in.

IV

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.

Class: Fiction

He skipped the to the last pages of the book that he held like a bible in his hands. Words danced on the page before him, the ending made no sense as usual. He searched his thoughts as to why he’d begun it in the first place. Ahh, that’s right…the cover looked so intriguing.

He placed the book back, nestled it in-between an old copy of Harry Potter and his well-presented and orderly kept cd collection. There it was to remain, unopened and unexplored for an age as the dust that collected hung to the tops of the pages like a glossy film. Over time the spine faded and the adventure was lost.

From the shelf, as if the characters had crawled from the pages to investigate, it was noticed how a new book was begun and captivated his time. Other volumes cried tears of time as they were passed over again and again in favour of this new and intriguing yarn.

Until one day it was no longer present. Unbeknownst to those who viewed from the shelf; the book was lost on a rainy Tuesday in the month of November, whilst travelling on the underground. As is the case of public transport, too many souls shoved together in a tin can made for distractions and wandering of minds. Making sure his jacket was straight and his phone was buzzing like always, he had left the book on the seat next to him. A careless gesture one might say, like the throwing of a used cup out of the car window; as the residue drips from the inside. But secretly, he did not mind too much as the new book didn’t interest him as much as he had let on. Maybe someone else is reading that story now, on the Hammersmith and city line.

Remittance of the love that is lost to the ways of the world (part II)

Your eyes dared me to ask you what it was, like I didn’t know. The deluded pleas of the guilty, while all around the judges think of what punishment would be best fitting. The dying cat of curiosity rose and fell within me, and I turned away. I could not look, I could not commit to the ending so willingly. The metal felt cool against my temple, though it was your smell that made me aware of what you were doing. It crawled over me like the scent of the sea. The gun clicked. I felt you near and shut my eyes, longing for you to turn my head and kiss me. Those days were long gone. A quick stab in the back, the knife that had, but till a moment ago seemed mysteriously absent, sent the tiny nerves in my body cascading like fireworks. Your mouth came close to my ear and you whispered the words I never believed you would utter in this scenario.

(Truth is, you never said these three words with any conviction that would render it believable in the past, yet something told me this was the cold hard truth that my mind was digesting).

The sound of birds filled the room, and forced me to open my eyes. I turned and saw you there, eyes aflame and soul locking its door forever on me, never to be seen again by my pathetic searching pupils. Feathers fluttered down upon us as the ceiling filled with vultures, gathering and yarring with their hungry beaks. Their black hisses and calls split my ears. The box on the table flew open and out poured the remaining blood that flowed towards us like a lava stream. The contents bobbed on the surface momentarily before submerging into the crimson depths. I sighed, you grabbed me and kissed me full on the mouth. You sighed as I turned the gun and shot us both.

Remittance of the love that is lost to the ways of the world (part I)

You motioned for me to quietly enter the room. I could feel the tenseness of the air. The walls seemed to contract and wrap themselves around me. You sat there with no expression on your face. That face, the one I had touched so many times. Kissed it, smelt it, longed to be near enough I could count your eyelashes. Now it glared back at me like an empty pool. The lights began to flicker, stuttering out their watts in a rhythm I can only attune to the beat of your heart. The gun didn’t bother me, it was aimed at my head throughout but I knew this was all leading to something. The beginning of the end.

(I noted that it was aimed here and not my heart…maybe you’d finally figured out, there wasn’t one in this body of mine)

This part of the Jeykll and Hyde, this side of crazy. You asked me to sit down, the first time you’d spoken. Little daggers aimed at my ears, rushing with the blood and fresh thoughts to my head. You were so cordial, yet each word spat at me like kids on a council estate. I choose to stand, my one last defiance in our petty war. You told me there was something for me on the table, I looked down to see a wooden box. You told me to open it. This was not what I expected. Your look gave nothing away, nothing expect hurt burning from your eyes, and anger that could not by concealed. The box lay in a pool of blood, thick and viscous, floating on this horrific sea…..

Broken glass

As she entered the room, the door scrapped noisily back. ‘’Careful!…’’ I said. ‘’….there’s broken glass everywhere.’’ She looked down in the semi-darkness. Only the noise of the door echoed throughout the spacious room, all the earth was still. Littered across the floor were the remains of light bulbs, thousands of them lay strewn like casualties of some mass domestic crusade. Empty like Christmas carcases. ‘’I’m sorry for the mess, and subsequent darkness’’. I tried putting her at ease, but even in the quiet dark I knew what her eyes were saying and her head was thinking.

“It took me a long time to get here.’’ I added.  Again, I tried to lighten the atmosphere and add some normalcy to a most unusual situation. She didn’t speak, I never expected her to. CRUNCH as I heard her step across the glass. Slow at first, then with more pace and purpose. The glass was shattering further, broken pieces splintering more into something unfixable. I could smell her and the smoke, coughing quietly in my soul. The noise below her feet conjured the image in my head of a Giant stepping over long ago stripped bones. Did Jack ever escape?

‘’I’m sorry’’ I sighed out, starring down; I couldn’t face her still. Will I ever be able to? She held the moment, captured the silence and suspended the time forcing me to see what I had done. I started to cry. Throughout it all she remained silent. Her arm outstretched, I could see her hand. I held out mine and we touched. A blinding flash, only for a second and then a glow hung in the air. The room was a flutter of labels, descending and spiralling down. They mixed at random with the glass upon the floor. Thousands of them fell like snow, this early winter ensnared the two of us. They each bore two names, written in old script; nothing more. My name had been misspelled.