Forever winter (Part 30 – The End)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


The Lady of Europa

The snow was falling, coming down in huge puffs that peppered the trees that surrounded the cottage, adding another layer to the white blanket that silently covered all. Sleigh bells jingled, turning on the bend that took the path over a small bridge and brought the cottage into sight. The river had frozen over in parts, but little trickles of running water struggled through, flowing under the small bridge that the sleigh now crossed. The children were running alongside the great wooden beast, hopping on the back, and riding along with it. Along with the snow clouds, came the diminished light and the great silver lanterns of the sleigh twinkled at the front and back, catching the white expanse like pockets of tiny diamonds.

The gentlemen of the boxes pulled the sleigh, his huge bulk doing the work of any animal and with seemingly little strain. He watched as one of the children threw a snowball, ducking at the last minute as it sailed by and caught one of the other’s smack in the mouth.

“Close one Benjamin.” He said, laughing heartily, gripping the rope tighter that pulled the sleigh, turning it around the bend.

”You’re so big, it’s amazing he missed you!” Chu said, giggling as she jumped up onto the sleigh which was somewhat empty. They had travelled with the gentleman as he passed through the village and the neighbouring cottages and houses, delivering much needed items such as food and firewood to those stuck by the snow. The children were cold, but happy, eager to get to the cottage now and warm by the fire.

The cottage stuck up like a yellow tooth in a mouthful of white teeth, topped by the snow with its layer of icing. The gentlemen pulled the sleigh to a stop by the gate, breathing out a warm breath into the cold air.

“You’re coming in, right?” Samuel asked, already taking off his mittens. The others stood silent, waiting for his reply. The Gentleman looked into the sleigh, noting the remaining items, and deciding he had some time still and could stop for a little while.

“Sure, as long as there is cake.” He said, smiling and rubbing his hands together for warmth.

Stacey rolled her eyes and sighed.

“You know there’s always cake!” She said, matter of factly. And they pushed through the gate and made their way towards the small cottage door. The lamp that stood illuminating the path glowed with a blue light, casting a magical glow across the garden, now hidden by the snow.

“Can I do it this time?” Victor queried, running towards the door.

“You did it last time, it’s Rachel’s turn.” Gina pointed out, flicking off some snow from her shoulder which had fallen from the alcove above their heads.

“Ohhh, fine!” Victor said and stood back a little, allowing Rachel to shuffle to the front. The gentlemen joined them by the door, his mind taken only briefly to times gone by when this place had meant something most different to him. He watched as Rachel reached up to a glass jar. Its contents were red, almost like a curling smoke which moved around the sphere. She tipped it upside down on its bracket, and the contents began to bubble and swirl, emitting glorious little golden sparks. The smoky substance seemed to slide and move downwards in the jar, turning to a vibrant aquamarine.

“I love this bit.” Victor said, watching the sparks now as they trickled out of the jar and washed over the doorframe. Around the bracket of the door, a stone archway began to glow, the sparks of light drawn to it and creating a magical entryway.

The lady of the jars sat by a small swing in the back of her cottage as the sun shone down and basked them in tangerine light. P’erl was going higher and higher on the swing, smiling, and closing her eyes as the wind washed over her. The lady of the jars smiled as she watched P’erl, who more than once rode the swing around a full rotation, then returned to the book she was reading, or at least trying to read. She had been learning Europan, but she still struggled with many of the symbols of the alphabet.

“A half flower type one?” She called to P’erl who whizzed on by her.

“Sacred or sanctify.” P’erl called out, closing her eyes once again and allowing the strange gravity to pull her up and around.

“Ah, yes; that works. Thank you.” The lady said, popping the remains of a sandwich into her mouth as she continued to read. The book was huge, but weighed next to nothing, the paper thin and almost translucent. She loved the books on Europa, they had a magical element to them. She had spent hours already in the huge libraries there, filling her mind with the wonders of the universe.

“You have guests!” Came a voice from the window of the cottage. Ezra shook out a duster as he called down to them both.

“Oh, is that the time already. Wonderful!” The lady said, and she shut her book, carefully placing it down next to the now empty plates, the remains of a light lunch she had just enjoyed with P’erl.

The swing slowed, and P’erl hopped off, joining the lady of the jars as they made their way to the back door which stood ajar, letting the warm air inside. A grasshopper fled from the mat as they reached the door, hopping off into the grass.

“Any room for biscuits?” The lady asked P’erl as they stepped inside and entered the kitchen, going across to the counter where an array of cakes and tins of biscuits stood, ready for the guests.

“Always, especially homemade ones.” P’erl said, helping her get some plates and cups from the shelf.

Ezra appeared at the doorway, looking dusty and sweaty. He’d tied a bandana around his head to keep his hair out of the way to clean. and was wearing a cleaning apron that sported bluebells on it. The sight of him in full view made them both chuckle.

“Laugh all you want, but a bit of elbow grease is always needed around this place. It’s falling down you know! Why it’s only me who seems to do the hard work I do not know.” He said, despondently.

“Thank you, Ezra, for doing the cleaning, you don’t have to you know.” The lady said, plonking some gingerbread on a tray.

“Down to me as always.” Ezra replied. Coming across to help with the plates and trays.

They made their way through to the front room, the light pouring in through the windows. Ezra had tied the curtains up during the cleaning, little motes of escaped dust now speckling the room.

“Please could you start the fire P’erl, I hear it’s pretty brutal there at the moment.” The lady said, putting on a huge jumper and making her way towards the door. A jar next to her front door was bubbling with a blue substance, the insides jumping and glowing like a spluttering firework.

“Of course.” P’erl replied, and she knelt next to the huge open fire and conjured a brilliant blue and green flame which roared the area to life and cast a brilliant heat.

“Ready?” The lady asked, and she tapped a little script of words by her door frame. With it came a flash of white brilliance, the transformation happened.

For many one house is enough, one thing to take care of, one thing to clean and keep tidy. She loved her cottage by the river, she loved the children who came to hear her stories and listen to her amazing tales. The lady of the jars also loved Europa. She had fallen for the beauty of the planet, the kindness of the Europans, and the pull of something within her which told her that is where she needed to be. P’erl had been a missing piece in her life. Her arrival and her changing nature over the lady of the jars; and indeed, those around her, had given her exactly what she needed to grow and to be of use. To pass on her knowledge and to help make the change that was needed on earth. The world was better for what had taken place, and as the dust had settled; P’erl had explained to her the need for that process and how it was also required on other worlds, on other planets.

The Lady of the jars had stayed. As the gentleman of the boxes had returned, back to a world with regular seasons and weather patterns, he had shifted in his own soul, but she had also. She remained on the moon and with the help of P’erl she had replicated her cottage there on Europa, with the help of some magic. She lived in both places, learning, and growing, planning to help others in the great cleansing and returning that had so benefitted where she lived on earth. Using the power of the stones, she was able to build them into her little cottage, transforming it into a portal back and forth between Europa and Earth. Captured in a huge bubble on Europa under the ice, almost like a giant jar, her cottage in its own wizardry sat like a pocket of air. Many Europan’s fascinated by the types of weather that could be displayed in that little sphere. She was happy to share ranges of weather that could be displayed, no longer stuck with only winter and no longer fearing the sunshine.

As the sparks and the dust fluttered off into the snowy wind, they all bundled quickly into the cottage to get out of the cold. A few took off their shoes by the door, but many of the children rushed to a spot by the fire, closest to the heat and the treats which had been placed with care and attention by P’erl and Ezra. The lady of the jars hugged the gentleman of the boxes as he entered, a friendship now strong there and respect engrained. He couldn’t stay too long he’d explained, the tasks for the day not completed yet. Malthrop was on his list of deliveries, and Ezra said he would join him when he left to go see him also. They all settled cosily into the front room, thankful of the heat and eager for the wonder.

“Hello all, and merry Christmas!” The lady of the jars said as the children, their mouths already full of cake and gingerbread, listened quietly.

“Not just yet, besides you’ve not got any decorations.”   Benjamin said.

P’erl laughed.

“Well, yes but it is very nearly Christmas and the wintery weather I imagine is making you all festive.” The lady said.

“Can we help with the decorations?” Stacey asked, she sat properly on the mat by the fire, not helping herself to any cake just yet.

“Of course, how about this weekend? You know, I know some Europan children who would love to learn about the season too.” The lady said, and the eyes of those there in the room bulged in delight.

“Oh, and do please tell us a story about Europa.” Chu said, eagerly. The others chorused in in agreement.

The gentleman of the boxes had sat down in a huge chair opposite the lady, Ezra handing him a mug of hot chocolate. He passed around mugs for the children too, and as the fire spluttered and shone, P’erl looked at the lady and nodded her head.

“With the help of P’erl then I will tale you the story of K’lmatoi, the great ice creature which is a bit like a dragon, and who came to Europa in the tail of a comet.” The lady said, and above the children a small cloud appeared, hovering there in space. P’erl lifted her hand and out shot brilliant light which projected images and movements that helped tell the tale. As the images played out, and the children’s eyes danced in wonder, the lady of the jars popped some coconut ice into her mouth between sentences, following it with the hot chocolate that everyone seemed to be enjoying; letting the delicious drink warm her insides much like the good feeling that was burning brightly there in her little cottage. And was something that continued for many years ahead.

The snow, which had once fallen in it’s forever perpetualness before had now slowed, and the warm glow from inside flowed out of the windows, casting a bright hugging light to all around as the last few snowflakes tumbled. Winter no longer prevailed, but a forever feeling of love and joy certainly did.

The End


snowflake up close

Sometimes, only tears

Throw it away.
It hangs heavy in your hands.
A broken love all torn and heavy.
Easy to let it slip into the folds of time.
It came there suddenly, the tear in their eye.
Hanging like a beautiful jewel in the corner of the fleshy oyster.
Threatening.
Threatening to tumble, fall and disappear.
Smudge into a cheek or dripped away with fear.
The silence kisses the skin, and darkness breathes upon the neck.
An invasion hurried by the darkest forces.
Throw it away.
Wouldn’t it be better.
The pumping flower struggling to survive.
Wet with dew drops birthed in this moment.
The tears speak of a hurt, unseen yet complete.
A collapse inside like twin towers.
Don’t listen to the breaking.
How can they throw it away.
Something they cannot call their own.
Wouldn’t it be better.
If they stayed?

Exhumed (again)


EXHUMED

Underneath and in the ground.
Buried deep without a sound.
Lies my body, its shell and bones.
Under layers of rocks and stones.
A tyrannosaur heart that roared at first.
But all too soon, swelled and burst.
You killed me once with your flaming comet.
Across my sky, your departing sonnet.
Our love, which first, defied distinction.
All too soon embraced extinction.
It could not survive the battles we raged.
Like warring beasts, housed in a cage.
You bit, and snapped and left me dying.
A fallen giant, cold and crying.
And so my flesh transformed to oil.
The precious black gold beneath the soil.
And you evolved and then migrated.
Our DNA of trust abated.
This amber love was thus entombed.
Waiting in time, to be exhumed.

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Something to stay awake for – Erode the ruin

Something to stay awake for series

Listen to this episode.

The sea was lapping at her feet now, the cold-water slithering underneath her toes as the sand pulled away beneath her as the water receded. The waves were small and calm, placid like the mood she was in. It always calmed her coming here, walking down the perilous path that led from the rocky outcrop at the top of the cliff. To her, they were cliffs at least. Vast walls of rock keeping the sea and the world at bay. White cliffs that crumbled and creaked like the teeth of a slumbering giant.

She watched the little boat off in the distance, floating over the horizon, bobbing on the waves. Wondering what it would be like to be on that tiny vessel. Off to an unknown destination, casting her troubles and life overboard and setting off to the ends of the earth.

Her dress flickered as the breeze blew in from the south, a small bit of spray spat at the bottom of the dress, marking her as an object of the ocean. Marking its territory. But she would not be owned, at least never again. She pulled at the flowers in her hand, twisting out the mauve petals from the peony bunch she loosely clutched. She squeezed one of them, bruising the skin and releasing a tiny bit of moisture which escaped into the salty air.

She came here for the silence and the solitude, but today she was haunted by the voices. The ghosts of those she knew that had followed her down the tumbling cliffs. They squawked and chattered, soliciting opinions and throwing comments like pebbles into the sea. She closed her eyes, but the sounds increased, twittering’s of things she never asked to hear. She would never truly be alone, though it was the paradox of her desire. A wondrous dream that she chased, yet frightful of ever attaining it. Like chasing rainbows, she always came up empty, yet surrounded with the multitude of others. Life dripping over her.

Dropping the flowers into the water, she watched as they descended in slow motion. The little helpers she took earlier were beginning to swim their own synchronised dance in her head now. The flowers separated like divorcing couples, sticking to each other while parts seemed to drift away with the tide. From the shore, she would have received respectful stares from passers-by. Considerate looks for a soul caught up in a difficult moment, perhaps saying goodbye to a loved one, or remembering a time or a moment in life that had gone; corroded away into space like the rocks on the cliff. But she wasn’t saying goodbye or thinking about anyone she loved. She was thinking only about herself, and how to unfix herself from the web she felt caught in.

She lifted her feet out of the sand, kicking off some seaweed which had begun to coil around her leg like a snake from the shallows. She looked back towards the shore; the virgin sand glistened back at her. Mainly untouched today by those who sought out places to oil and tan themselves in the blazing sun. She loved this place for that reason, that it was a quiet slither of the world that was her own.

Pulling the plaster off her arm, she folded it twice and popped it into her pocket. She pushed the hair back out of her eyes, securing it behind her ears while she squinted off into the distance. The boat she had seen was much further away now, battling the stronger currents she knew lay towards that area of sea. She looked at her watch but realised she had taken it off earlier. She had left it on her bedside table. A tiny rebellious act, not to be controlled by time, or space, or matter. She had kept the ring on though, she twisted it now on her finger feeling the cool metal slide back and forth.

Some of the petals licked at her legs, the approaching tide giving them free movement. One sloshed up her leg, sticking to it like a barnacle on a ship.

She folded her arms gracefully and began to walk, slowly but determinedly into the sea.

SWIM

Easy to go with the tide than fight it.
To smile in a world of knowing grins.
Everyone looks to the sea for beauty.
But she always looked underneath.
Down into the depths where the coral grew.
Where no one was there to force her to smile.
To fit into a circle, forgetting she was a star.
Down deep was where she wished to go.
Out of the pain, she had come to know.
Forever she would be known as the crazy.
Once they dragged her body back up to the shore.
But she would linger within the seaweed.
Exploring the cool deep forever more


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21:09

Staring down the dark street, he watched as the lampposts 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 sweat 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 relieved smile.

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

Tears, sweat 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 they broke apart and he stepped inside.

The small house threw its arms around him, beckoning a 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 within 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 with tenderness 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, as they closed their eyes. Not out of shame, but to a sad realisation it would be the last time.

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

They held each other closer as the lights died.

21:09, the time the world ended.


Taken from Dislocated: A Short story collection – Out now

Blink to worlds

There’s a resonance within.
These bones that call.
Out to the nothing, across god’s table.
The banquet to stars, that hearken us home.
And though it’s hard to try against a world of darkness.
One that creeps in with the rain.
It calls to me daily.
Blinking out of my mind’s eye.
Dropping all mortality.
Reminding my that I am divine.

You’ll see

You will see, said the little whisper.
The sound within.
A distant whimper.
From the voice inside the cracking skull.
The quiet reasoning.
The heart’s strong hull.
That sails beyond a galaxy.
Down here on earth.
In complexity.
These defiant words did manifest.
Into action.
And I must confess.
That I was able to walk away.
From all that trauma.
And sad decay.
And close the book of you and me.
A tired old tale.
Which you will see.

Aftertaste of paradise

Missed the miracles, those saving graces.
Little wishes that burn and sting at the end.
For what could have saved us?
In the face of the insurmountable.
Of turned cheeks and empty pockets.
The eucalyptus chokes my lungs.
And demise weighs heavy on my soul.
Call it all what you want to.
Tack it up to the wall of my new prison.
I couldn’t belong, I didn’t believe.
The land beneath my feet felt the same as any other.
Yet the sky burned with dreams.
And the rains washed my history away.
All with you by my side.
Now a million miles later I ache for those memories.
To never fade, but to only remain unchanged.
The tangled touches of a life that was beginning to build.
Brick by brick, though the floor was made of sand.
A piece of that bliss is caught between my teeth.
Stubbornly it refuses to move.
A reckoning of intent to stay or go.
When these eyes close, it is love that coats all I see.
Housed in a land beyond the equator.
Rustling in the leaves my disposed days.
Calling like the kookaburras tapping at my mind.
Crying out to visit once more.