Nothing Lasts Forever

He spun the coin, watching it take off in its own little orbit. Whizzing and chasing itself as it spun around. It usually took a few seconds, it never happened right away. At least not yet. The blurred smudge of the coin slowly began to take shape as it slowed down. It was a pound coin, the closest thing to gold he could find. The year embossed on the metal was 1989, that was very important, though few would ever see the date.

The blurring lines of the coin began to slow, but as they did, they stretched outwards, spreading across the surface like a wave. He’d seen it a few times before of course, but each time he did it seemed to entrance him. The waves grew wider and wider as the coin began to slow. The blurred waves taking on an oily shine, catching rainbow marks as they swam outwards like the tide.

And then the coin stopped spinning, it hung there on its side static and humming slightly as the waves that had spread stopped everything. Time was his now, and he moved in towards the coin, the waves forcing him in slow motion. He felt the tightness in his lungs, but he pressed on, like trudging through water. He reached out, his fingers finding the way towards the coin. When they touched, a radiating light exploded outward in the room, blinding him in an instant.

This was the part he always had trouble with.

June 23. 2014. June 23 2014. June 23 2014.

He repeated it in his mind over and over like a mantra. He’d been told to visualise the numbers, but his mind always struggled with that part. It would make things easier if he did, but he was used to difficult.

With a rush of air and collapsing of light, he was thrown into something that he could never quite describe. He was always thankful to land the other side though, his eyes and his hands always burning for some reason. But his lungs thankful for the air on the other side. The air back in 2014. A simpler time.

It was for him at least. Which is why he usually came back to then. Back to here.

He looked around now, the familiar softly warming his heart. There were different approaches to his time jumping, it had been explained to him. He could land in a different place, anywhere in the world if he chose. He wasn’t restricted to when or where, or if he’d ever set foot on that part of the earth. But these steps always required more, and he was only really interested in this place, this time. It brought him a comfort that the present and the future no longer held.

He was in the apartment he’d just left, but it all looked very different. He felt the lighter atmosphere in an instant. Gone were the heavy furnishings or blinds to trap the light. That precious light was welcomed in, the blinds open and the door to the balcony cast wide as if calling out to the sea. He could hear the see, even though it was quite far below. The crashing sounds of the waves seeming to catch in the updraft and lift the sounds up to the 28th floor. He knew the view well, and much preferred it here in 2014, then in the present. Here he could take their hand and trace the line of the coast off in the distance. In the present it only called him to the rocks below, the sirens that dwelt there luring him to the ends of overwhelm.

He looked at the clock on the wall, and knew they’d be back any minute. He always liked to watch them coming in through the door. That paradox of frustration and relief at coming back from the end of a long day.

And there they were, coming in through the door. He went across to the entrance and breathed in their sweet smell as they walked right through him. He knew his own self would appear any minute, coming out of the shower and greeting them. It pained him not to be able to touch, but he was glad that sight and smell both worked normally. He saw himself then exit the bathroom, tying the towel around himself and coming over to kiss them. He ghostly traced his own steps, merging with himself and following through with the kiss. He closed his eyes despite himself, but quickly opened them and took them in his spirit like arms.

He missed the kisses. He missed their touch. He missed so much of what was now all around him which was why he returned here so often. He watched them both moving around. The kettle now being boiled as the coffee and tea was prepared. Bag dumped on the sofa. He breathed it all in, the preciousness in the ordinary.

He could stay forever if he liked, and indeed he had stayed for long periods of time before. But time being the linear monster that it is, he found he had to wait out the times when they would sleep. He could not sleep here, back in time. His body wouldn’t allow it. It was as if it was constantly battling some force which pushed it on. So, he spent hours watching them sleep, watching them dream. This was always a good time to come, because he loved this day. The 23rd. He knew the evening well and he never got bored of seeing their reaction.

He noticed it then, glittering on the table. And surprisingly, so did they. The coin was shimmering, the sunlight catching the dulled yellow from the pound coin. Then they both went across to the table, he watched them move as if in some strange dream. This couldn’t happen, he could not disrupt the past. But it was happening, nonetheless. Before he knew it, the coin was in their hands, tossing upwards. It landed on the palm, their hand covering it.

Heads or tails?

Try again.

Flick, up in the air.

He reached for it himself but missed and watched as they again hid it under their hand.

His old self grabbed them, both of them laughing. Then they made a dash for the balcony. The joy carrying itself out into the outside to share with the world. Grabbed again, but this time fought back, tugging at the towel to share even more with the world.

He watched this all in a stunned state, as if unable to move. He shook himself back to, but by then it was too late. Another toss into the air and this time the coin spun upwards with such a force it was as if it were being called back by God.

Over the sides it flew, watched by them both and by he himself before he launched himself over the side.

It made no sense. He’d never been told this could happen. They were never able to see the coin before. Or had they just never noticed it? He thought suddenly to himself. They couldn’t interact with him, that is what he’d been told. But something was different this time.

He sped towards the coin, himself hurtling down towards the ground, the rocks below coming up fast like pointy teeth. No matter, he would just touch the coin and reset. He could not be hurt back here. He didn’t quite know what would happen if he did land, but it didn’t matter as his hand clenched around the coin.

But it did matter, for his ghostly hand went right on through the solidness of the coin. And those rocks found his body quicker than he could blink.

The pain was real, and instant. In his tumble he had twisted slightly, the jaggered rocks that his body had smashed against had greeted the blood like the ocean spray, disrupting it outward. He lay there for but a moment still alive, looking upwards as he could see the figures on the balcony looking on before disappearing back inside. Back into the lives they would live together for only a couple of more years.

As he passed, he heard the clock ticking and he could see in his mind the coin spinning.

Though he had paid attention to the date of the coin, which was indeed most important, what hadn’t been explained were the little rings of dots that circle the pound coin. A normal coin he’d assumed at first. But each time he had jumped, a little dot had disappeared. The coin, which now lay just below the surface, washed by those south pacific waves, had its last little dot slowly disappear.

Nothing, it seems, lasts forever.

Halfway from home (story reading)


Jasmine, and if he closed his eyes, the sound of the ocean. The smell though was always the strongest, it was what always clung to him. The ghost that gently haunted, touching his heart. It came and went, sometimes intense, taking him to that place where he always felt safe. Always felt them there.

He looked out of the window at the planet below, the strange orb spinning silently in its indifference to him. The purple hues lifted off the surface as if into a dream, blurring and smudging with the swallowing blackness of space.

Jasmine and warm sand….

Read on


Somewhere in this memory

The snow had begun to fall early that evening. Though the sun had long since slumbered down, it was around six o’clock when the few flutters of winter dusting started to whip past his window. Daniel had left the curtains open like he did most evenings, watching the wild sky drip away beyond the horizon. It had rained lightly that day, and it took a while for the snow flurries to leave any impression on the ground. But as he watched from his small window, his face illuminated by the Christmas lights, he noticed as people came out of their houses to investigate the snow.

A few kids ran about under the streetlights, already bunching up snow into cold balls to throw at one another. It was a shame, Daniel thought to himself, that Christmas had passed already, and the snow had waited until after it had passed. Another bleak grey day that offered only the magic of the season, rather than from the endless possibilities of the weather.

He went to the kitchen and made himself a spiced tea. The smell of cinnamon and spices hung in the air, warm and inviting. He then went into the main room to where the Christmas tree was, sipping the tea which burnt his lip. He’d put it up alone this year, the first time the ceremony had ever been performed that way. He looked at the huge golden bell that sat a top of the tree; sparkling, like everything else did, in the strung Christmas lights that dotted the place. He couldn’t remember ever buying that bell, yet it appeared every year to top the tree they always had.

He sighed and placed his tea on the side, pulling one of the boxes towards him. He hated taking the tree down, or the Christmas decorations. As a child he’d always pleaded to his parents to keep them up longer. But they were bound by the laws of the season and the far away court, and all the decorations had to be down by the twelfth night. Why? No one could ever tell him, that was just how it was. Yet this was how things were now, every year it seems. Him, alone taking down the very things that were put up to enliven his life, if only for a few weeks.

He started to take off some of the ornaments, some of which he remembered putting on the tree even as a child. These must be so old he thought suddenly, vaguely aware of his own descent now into adulthood. His phone began to hum into life nearby, but he ignored it. He wasn’t in the mood to argue again, and that’s the only thing that phone was offering to him this evening. He placed some of the baubles carefully into their homes, snug in a box that would keep them safe for another year. He turned up the music he had playing, his new tradition; Christmas songs to ring out in the stripping of the tree. In a way, such a violating act. The trauma of the season.

He hummed along to some of the carols, there religious message washed away now he thought in the progression of the years. He felt old, and tired. Like his youth had slipped away without him even noticing it. He might as well be boxing up his memories instead of these decorations, freezing all he ever wanted and all he dreamed off in these magical days of Christmas. Spun up like candied sugar and placed away safely, to be removed once a year along with his heart.

He sat down on the rug; patches of glitter peppered the tufts still from the wrapping paper that had been destroyed last week. He closed his eyes as the choir music filled the room, taking him to a place in his memory. He watched as his younger self ran down the stairs, eager to see if Father Christmas had been. His parents, holding hands and smiling as they watched their children tear at the presents that had been carefully placed hours before beneath the silver Christmas tree. Though the tree was fake, over time it had faded and fallen apart, much like the marriage and the moments he now saw in his mind. The presents, along with this love within the family had been torn apart and forgotten about also. Thrust up each year like some special spectacle. Packed away when all were done.

His phone rang again, bringing him back. He opened his eyes and looked at his phone on the table, lighting up and convulsing in an epileptic dance. He ignored it again and went back to the tree to finish off. The lights were always the trickiest. It was easier with someone helping, and fun too he thought as he remembered how they had joked around putting the lights over one another, pretending they were trees themselves. The time when one of the fuses had gone and the whole house had been plunged into darkness, not before the sparks had succeeded in frightening them both.

Lights were always a pain to put away, but he resigned himself that it would be another year before he had to worry about them, and balled them into the old shoebox he kept, sealing the lid and the doom of the lights till next year. The rest of the decorations found their way into boxes relatively quickly, only a few things were placed around the small house as it was. He nearly forgot about the wreath on the door, only remembering it when he glanced outside to see how the snow was. It had come down pretty heavy now and he thought about going for a walk later when he was finished, to enjoy the winter landscape.

He finished his tea and snatched up his phone, looking at the missed calls. He sent a message quickly and then stood back looking at the barren tree, back now to its natural coat. They usually had a fake tree, but this year they had gone for the real thing. It stood now, just a hair smaller than him, shedding pine needles below itself like some defecating potted creature.  He closed his eyes and could smell the aroma of the tree, the fading pine of a dying spirit. He wondered where it had grown, what bird or beast had called it home in the time it grew to its seasonal perfection. To be adorned and beheld for a few weeks only to then be thrown out with the other junk of the season, left to decompose in the street awaiting to be whisked away to somewhere out of sight. In that moment he saw the death and cruelty of Christmas. How things were cherished, only for the moment, then forgotten about and placed away. His phone nearby rung a reply, and he glanced at the preview from where he stood. A small tear appeared, and rolled down his cheek, the air leaving his lungs before a gasping inhale.

Daniel went to the French doors and cast them both ajar dramatically. The cold winter wind swept into the room, and some snowflakes fell onto his carpet. He snatched up the tree by the middle trunk and took it out into his garden. His bare feet sank deeply into snow that had settled already, but Daniel did not care. He went back inside and picked up matches that rested by the Christmas candles. He returned back to the garden and struck three matches at one time, letting the oxygen breathe life into the flame. He threw them onto the tree and lit some more. The snow whipped around both him and the tree, but eventually the flames took, and it began to burn. Flames licking the innards of the branches as he stood in the snow that numbed his feet. Drifting from his living room, ‘O Holy Night’ lifted into the air and encased them both in that moment. Frozen for that cold blink in the eye of Jesus, who watched on in seasonal despair.


Taken from ‘Impermanence of things

The Near and the dear

“You shouldn’t be here.” The voice said, slinking off the icy walls.

She stopped then; her feet dug into the powdery snowfall beneath her. The cavern was cold and church like, hanging with an air similarly divine. She shivered, something dislodging itself in her mind with it, and she went across to the glassy wall. A light was twinkling, dully beneath the sheets of ice.

“I’m not there, I’m here.” The voice said, and the light flittered away, through the ice and across the roof of the cavern. She watched it dance, moving with ease and speed, growing in intensity. It started to move away from her then, and she began to follow it; her boots sinking into the snow which seemed to be getting deeper and deeper the further she went.

“You shouldn’t be here, not again.” The voice called out, echoing all around her.

She hurried on, the light sprinkling across the cavern like stardust. She could see a distant light, growing brighter and brighter now and she raced towards it. Her palms were sweaty and itchy in the gloves that kept the cold out. Her breath was laboured. When was the last time she’d even had to run? In that dream, that one where she was chasing that train that was leaving the station. She’d been late, and they’d been early. She had been sad and they had been happy. She never caught it, and watched it snake away into the distance, travelling over watery rails.

“Ow!” She yelled, catching her feet on a rock in her path. She stumbled forward, falling into the wall which smashed all around her like fragile spun sugar. The light burst in and she had to steady herself and her soul to the sight before her.

“Don’t look!” the voice from before came, this time pressing with more urgency.

But look she did, how could she not. The colour and the noise swept her in. A wave of nostalgia and happiness washed inside her mind. A Christmas tree stood in the room, decorated in all the splendour of her youth. The tacky tinsel and lopsided angel atop the tree seemed to glisten, hazed in a gauzy sheen that told her this must be a dream. But her foot ached and her breath was heavy, and she knew it was real. That unlocked something in her, something she didn’t allow to grow for fear it would consume.

A family Christmas, the presents under the tree. 1988, she knew that one well. She knew that was the Ghostbuster’s proton pack there, wrapped up in the green and gold paper. She’d begged all year for that. Christmas songs began to drift into the space, the room filling now with ghostly images of people, bleeding out of the air. Her mother, her father sitting on the sofa, the one with the frayed pink covers that only her mother loved. Her sister and brother, sat on the floor. Scoffing chocolates as they moved the presents chaotically into piles. She smiled, an inner warmth glowing as the memories came back to her now, not just of that Christmas, but all the ones of her youth.

“Stop, please. Do not go on. You shouldn’t be here Jessie.” The voice startled her.

The scene hung there then for a moment, a glitch in the space as if someone had paused and the nun-paused a tape.

“Why?” She yelled back, surprised by her own strength.

The starlight she had followed along the cave now dusted itself from above her, floating down in a form that shifted before her eyes.

“You know why, you know why you cannot go back.” The voice said. Jessie thought the shape was moulding into a hand, reaching out to her, but as she blinked it suddenly scattered, floating all around her like divine motes. Her itchy gloves began to feel very tight suddenly, and she looked at her hands to discover that they were shrinking, and turning pink. Little cat eyes were appearing at the tips. Her feet then began to feel trapped and pushed, and as she looked there too, she noticed her boots had shrunk into trainers; the ones she’d had as a kid. She lifted her left foot, and there underneath the base, a secret key that her favourite trainers had; hidden and fun.

“Jessie, please. Before it’s too late.” The voice implored.

Smack!

Jessie plummeted to the floor, the force dazing her. A smack again, this time on her bum. She’d been turned over, and the force smacked and whacked her. She screamed out, but nothing came. Only the sound of the Christmas music echoed around, jingling in the festive fever. She knew then what was coming. It was as if a box had been opened inside her, and out flew the dark shadowy ghosts of the past. She felt the floor to the side of her fall away, and the stairs appear. She turned away from it, she knew what it was. But a force smacked her again and she turned back to see the stairs, her old house. Down at the bottom the glow of the Christmas lights they’d had around the front door.

“Jessie, I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have come back here.” The voice pitilessly came, but by then she knew what was coming.

Her hair was yanked, her face stung from a slap which seemed to tickle her teeth. The tears had washed down her face already, though no sound came; she could hear the cries and the pain that they brought back.

A glance quickly, her sister peering at her door frame. Younger, scared; her hand biting her thumb as she prayed for it all to be over. And then it came, the freefall and the momentary freedom.

It was the Christmas lights, the ones tacked up around the front door. Not many, only around twenty. She had been with her mother when she’d bought them, a bargain really, in the Woolworth’s new year sale. They hadn’t had new decorations for years, having sentimental ones passed on by the family mostly. These multicoloured ones reflected in their eyes as they stared at her, wondering if they had gone too far this time. She had closed her own, the lights staining the black space behind with seasonal joy as her body burst with fresh pain and sadness.

Through the gaps in her memory and shuddering aches, the sound of panic and concern made way for the Christmas music to gently take her away.

And so this is Christmas (war is over), and what have we done (if you want it)….

Into the night (story reading)


It was cold, the floor was always cold. Bare foot or with socks. The coldness seemed to spread with each step, like walking on ice. But it didn’t matter so much tonight.

He flung the duvet back and they woke with a start, their eyes suddenly ablaze.

“Is it time?” they asked, sitting up and pushing back into the deep plush pillows.

“It is, let’s go.” He spoke, calmly but with an urgency…..

 

Read on

Tea?

“Take milk in your tea Janine?” the old lady called, her purple hands gripping the milk jug tightly. She stood by the fridge, the yellow light illuminating her aged face. The small creature in the chair shook her head.

“Odd. Couldn’t have a tea without a nice bit of milk, me!” She said, and as if to prove the point; she slopped the milk in her own cup on the table, bringing the contents up to the brim. She returned the milk jug back to the fridge and sat down opposite the girl.

“Digestive?” She asked, nudging the plate full of biscuits towards the young creature.

She shook her head again, her coloured red hair falling down in front of her face.

“You kids these days, never eat anything. All skin and bone. When I was a child, my mother used to feed us dripping on bread. That would put meat on you!”

She pulled the plate of biscuits back towards her and stole one up off the china. She took a bite. The girl watched as the crumbs fell onto her flowery blouse carelessly, some falling on the dark wooden table beneath.

“Me’ husband used to love digestive biscuits, his favourite they were. Always dunking them in his tea. He used to get so mad if they fell in.” She laughed at the memory and took another bite from her own biscuit which had escaped the perilous dunk intact. The clock on the wall behind them ticked away merrily, filling the silence with its pendulous rhythm.

Her kitchen was small but clean. It was dated, like most kitchens of the elderly; but was cosy in an old cottage way. The two of them sat at the table while the afternoon sun shone through the windows. The girl shifted in her seat. The old lady looked up.

“Are you uncomfortable?” She asked sweetly.

The girl didn’t say anything but continued to stare at her across the table.

“Would you like me to call your parents to come and pick you up? It’s getting late.” She said. She drank some of her tea casually.

At this the girl raised her head slightly.

The old lady nodded. She put down her cup and slid her chair back. She walked around the table slowly, holding her side where her hip usually acted up this time of the day. She stood behind the girl and pulled the tape off her mouth. It was wet slightly as the girls’ tears had trickled down upon it.

“Please, let me go. I’m so sorry. Please, I just want to get out of here. I won’t tell anyone….” The girl sobbed. Her eyes were as red as her coloured hair. Her hands were tied to the back of the chair with a belt, which had belonged to the husband who had so enjoyed digestive biscuits.

“I’d be happy to. But what’s to stop you coming back, eh? Or breaking into Ethel’s house next door?” the old woman said. And with this she reached to the counter and picked up the large bread knife she had on her chopping board. She placed it down next to the girl, whose eyes flared at the sight of it.

“We won’t. We won’t I swear, please just let me and the others go.” The girl, no older than fifteen, wailed. The old lady chuckled.

“Oh, I’m afraid Jack has been having some fun with your friends down in the cellar. I doubt there’s much left of them now. He’s such a good dog. Very loyal.” The old woman said. She picked up the knife and slipped it through the belt buckle, freeing the girl’s hands.

The girl sat there, the weight of the situation falling upon her in that heavy moment. She glanced at the back door, not far really. If she pushed the old lady and made a run for it, she could probably make it. But what if it was locked? The old lady walked back around the table, the knife in her hand, the other holding her dodgy hip. She heaved heavily; years of smoking had finally caught up with her.

“Well. I’m not going to hurt you; not like you’d do to me I’d say. I think a fright is bad enough for a girl your age.”

“Then what do you want?” The girl asked, fresh confusion in her skull.

The old lady looked at her with her milky eyes, as if surprised by the question.

“Why, to have some tea of course.” She said, lifting her cup; indicating she should do the same. The girl stared for a moment longer before conceding and picked up the tea that sat on the table in front of her. Her hands shook and were sore from being bound to the chair. She was unsure of playing along, but now her hands were free, she sensed a bit more of a chance of escape.

Lifting it to her lips she sipped from the cup, the scorching water burning her mouth in her haste to drink it. She flashed her eyes to the old lady, as if to say ‘okay, now let me go’.

“There. That wasn’t too bad, was it?” She said, sipping her own mug which had a picture of Charles and Diana on the china. She closed her eyes, savouring the brewy goodness of a warm cup of tea, deeply satisfied.

It had been about a month ago that she’d had rats in her garden, and a nice chap from the council had brought some traps and some rat poison to do away with the horrid beasts.


Taken from Impermanence of things – out now

Impermanence of things of things book cover

Conjured darkness III

PART IPART II


The small wooden cross Mary had on her wall had slipped, tumbling free from the crooked nail which was driven into her dark small cottage. She noticed it now in the candlelight, her attention brought to that empty space on the wall by a reason she could not place. She went across and picked it up, holding it in her hands, remembering her mother who had fashioned it from the wood that surrounded them there in the village. Her mother, so capable. Cooking creating, tilling, mending. She did it all, for it were her and her children only. Mary, now half her mother’s age when she died, looked at the small cross, her thoughts snatching a prayer somewhere in her mind.

It was then she heard it.

Going to her small window, she looked up into the sky at first, the screeching wails sounding like birds fighting. In the night it was odd, maybe owls she thought. It came again, this time lower and more awful, drifting over the trees which lay all around. A candle flickered to life in her neighbour’s house, the village being awoken by a noise that seem to come from another world. Mary saw it then, a dark stain in the sky looming over Pollux Hall. It was like a smudge in the sky, a dark oil seeming to leak and spread from the tip of the tower, the only part visible from where she was in the village. She clutched the cross tighter, the evils of the world now loose in the land it seemed.

A thump on the door startled her, and she called out in alarm.

“Who is there?”

No answer returned, but the sturdy wooden door suddenly swung forth revealing Jacob, out of breath and eyes wide, hovering on the threshold.

“Mary, it is time.” He heaved as he tried to catch his breath. He had run from the church, the wolves following him. His eyes were darting all around, but he did not enter her house.

“Jacob, come inside. There is death in the air tonight.” Mary said, coming towards him. Jacob ducked inside and slammed the door, the sound of a wolf howling nearby followed him inside.

“Wolves?!” Mary asked, surprised. Jacob nodded.

“Did you hear the sound before?” He asked her, his eyes fixing on the cross then back to her eyes.

“Yes, and look, Pollux Hall.” She said, drawing him over to the window where the darkness swirled above the tower.

“It is time Mary, it is tonight. I’ve seen them all, I watched them gather. They go to free Agatha from the hall.” He said, almost gleefully.

“All of them?” Mary asked, a gasp in her words.

“All of them, tonight is the night. We must hurry though. They must be there already and who knows what is happening with those men in the mix up there.” He added. She stood for a moment, as if unsure of what to do next. The darkness spluttering over her candle and her mind taken to many places all at once. She then put the cross on the side and went across to the small cupboard in the corner.

“It is ready, though?” Jacob asked her.

“Yes, it is ready.” Mary replied and took out a black sack from the cupboard.

“We must be quick; the wolves are thirsty for more than just our blood.” He said. She nodded, taking a cloak from a peg.

“I know what will help.” And she took down from above her door some sprigs of flowers and herbs, intertwined with twigs and string. She handed them to him, and he smiled.

“I hope so.” He said, and they both left quickly, their path hastened as they made their way towards the hall through the village. The wolves, watching, but kept at bay.

He rubbed his eyes, the glass that had showered down had covered them all. He felt a sharp pain, a piece of glass caught at the corner of his eye, his vision on one side flooded with a crimson lens.

The room suddenly froze, the temperature dropping like snowfall. A sound and wind flurried inside, scratching at their minds and souls.

Agatha stood, her bonds now gone, and her stare fixed upon those men before her.

A blackness began to pour inside through the broken windows, a thick oozing smog as dark as charcoal flooded all around them. Some of the men tried for the door, but it would not yield, and in the trapped panic thye left-out yells of fear and weakness.

Jonathan watched through the only eye that could now see, his mouth mumbling prayers and sacred words which he hoped would protect him and the others there. God was not listening it seemed as a demon like figure began to mass there in the tower, the smoke filling into a being that sucked the light from the room. Outside they heard yells and calls, the others being attacked and laid upon by the other witches who had travelled there that night. Their identities still hidden, even in those dying moments of breath to those guards.

Inside the tower a voice began to utter the foulest words to those righteous men. It seemed to creep out of the walls and all over their skin, echoing in the chambers of their mind. It spoke to them of a reckoning, of a day which had come to pass when all would see for what truth was abound in the land.

Margellwood hunched over Agatha, a towering figure now behind her, seeming to fill the space they shared. Jonathan slumped against the wall, the others in their panic and fear huddled on the other side, clutching tightly to their crosses. The voice rang out still, the rain now pouring in from the window and splattering the wooden floor with rainy tears.

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words.” Jonathan said, an anger rising in him.

Margellwood stopped suddenly, flicking her head towards him.

“He speaks now does he, he acts now against his own demise.” She coughed, the words sticky and heavy.

“You have no power here, and you will not banish us into the dark. You mistake your actions here for power.” He bravely retorted. Margellwood laughed, her cackle fading to a hiss.

“You are not important, and you will not succeed. I can wither your heart Jonathan Prose, splinter your bones and send you mad with voices. But now, you will watch as what you hope for the most to disappear, and for you to lose.” The Witch said, placing her hand upon Agatha.

“You are the mistaken and forsaken one.” He said, and he pulled out his book and began to recite lines from it. The air swirled and hummed, a greyness suddenly buckling the light in the room. With a snarl Margellwood vomited out a sludge, hissing words bubbling and exploding out of it. It oozed and rose up off the floor, floating towards the men and coating the walls. The words seemed to battle one another, caught in a fight to overrun and devour.

Agatha turned, she looked up to the creature that Margellwood had risen into. She found her eyes and searched there, for only a moment. She turned and looked at the room, seeking something that seemed to be missing.

“Come, we must go.” She suddenly said to the witch, and she clapped three times and the room burst into flames, the darkness slithering out of the high window above like steam leaving a dead body in the cold.

Jacob and Mary could see the tower now, fire licking out of the high windows, illuminating the dead night’s sky. They ran on further up the hill, the trees clustering around them like lost souls coming together. They stopped suddenly seeing the dark shapes appear from the air in front of them.

They hadn’t been seen, and they ducked down low, a thicket at the side of the path covering them. They heard the voices now; it was Agatha and Margellwood. Mary took Jacob’s hand, not out of fear, but to steady his heart.

“You came.” Agatha said, her voice sweet and low, almost a whisper.

“They are done taking. Tonight, it all ends.” Margellwood said, running her hand through the woman’s hair gently.

Around them, coming out of the trees and with pops of black smoke the other witches appeared. Hooting and wailing, clicking their fingers in rhythmic unison.

“Tonight, we shall dominate and lay a waste to this rotten land!” Margellwood called, seeing the others appearing around them.

Mary and Jacob felt a kick behind them, and they both fell forward out of the thicket and back onto the road. They both stumbled to their feet, and the witches encircled them, leeringly.

Agatha came towards them, her eyes wide with an unusual light dancing in them. Off into the tree the howl of wolves was heard, and as the tower behind them burnt, the screams of men rattled through the sky.

“Over. It is over.” Agatha said. The other witches began to chant, a horrible, gurgled incantation that they rumbled and shouted. Some of them leaping into the air, the space now alive with movement and sound.

Jacob clutched Mary’s hand and they stood forth defiantly.

“You are not lost to us cousin.” Mary said, her free hand outstretched.

“Death shall take you master Jacob, Mary death will spirit you off tonight.” Margellwood hissed, coming up behind Agatha. “To see your sister, down in the ground.”

“Keep your vile mouth shut you witch.” Jacob roared.

The all laughed around him, bar Agatha. She looked at the small sack that Mary had at her waist. Her eyes flashing there in a moment of realisation.

“It won’t work, it would be folly to try.” Agatha said suddenly, stepping backwards in alarm.

Mary caught her stare and realised she had understood. She snatched at the sack, and Jacob reached quickly into his pocket.

“Tricks and toys is it?” Margellwood snarled, mockingly.

Agatha turned and ran, back up the path towards the hall. Margellwood turned, watching her, a confusion now spreading across her face like a setting sun.

“What’s thou….”  But in that moment an engulfing light had sprung from the black sack and the words that followed from Jacob seized all of those present in a captured state. The skin on the witches became taught, and they rigidly creaked and cracked as if water were being squeezed from dead wood. Their faces contorted, spasms of anger and horror flashed across them until they all collapsed to the floor. All except Margellwood who seemed to be trying to resist the most. Jacob pressed on., reading aloud from a small book he held in his hand. The light and the sound now coming from the sack danced and glided around them, bathing them in an ethereal glow. The sound, at trumpeting call of another world, seemed to kiss upon the skin.

Margellwood snarled, her eyes leaking a blackness now. Oily tears staining her face. She fell to her knees finally and dove her hands into the earth and seemed to be pleading, begging for something. In a final move she had bitten off part of her tongue which flopped from her mouth now as the rest of her body crumpled to the ground. The witches all now lay about the road and by the trees, still but not dead, a change overtaking them as their souls silently came back. Mary looked at Jacob and smiled, they had succeeded.

Agatha ran, her heart pulsing now in her chest. She could hear the blood in her head, the river of red rushing around her mind. She ran up to the hall, the tower now completely engulfed in the flames which reached up towards heaven. She could see shapes moving in the courtyard below, dark images seeming to smoulder in the cold air. She ran onwards, past the hall and down through the garden to the stream which flowed at the back. She stopped by the banks, looking all around, hoping not to find what she was looking for.

It was there though, across the stream. It’s hunched shape dark and threatening. She fell to her knees and closed her eyes. Little spots of white floating in the space before her as she heard the flames, the voices of the men and the sound of a trumpet away from where she rested. She bit her lip, to feel something, to see where she was still and if it were really true. Opening her eyes she felt a warm feeling across her cheek, like sunshine catching her skin. The creature beyond stood, a rotting smell seeming to float across the water towards her from it.

“I take it back.” She threw the line out to the figure. Her words quiet and having much less weight than she’d hoped.

The figure looked at her, saying nothing.

“I can do that, I can choose!” She said again, desperately.

The figure took a step towards her, a groan emitting from it’s very centre. Agatha clutched her chest, frightened now and loosing hope. She closed her eyes again, despite the figure moving towards her, a ghostly groaning heaving out of it. Her hand still on her chest, she sighed. Light tears coming to her eyes.

“I am sorry.” She said, meaning those words more then any she had meant in her life. Repeating them unknowingly, waiting for the fade.

The village was bright as the sun speckled the thatched roofs withs it’s afternoon rays. A light rain had just fallen, and the sunshine shimmered off like beautiful diamonds. Though the market town nearby was the great hub of activity for selling wares, the village now bustled with the same energy with many people passing through and stopping to gather by the church and small the circled area in the centre of the village. Colourful ribbons were hung about, and the place had a May festival feel to it with laughter easily heard above the chatter from those who lingered. The church’s doors were wide open, and music flowed out of the huge wooden box, luring people towards it with the promise of food, entertainment and joy.

Mary and Jacob stood by the door, bundling little sprigs of heather together and handing them out to those who wanted them. Inside the church, the pews had gone, leaving the space open, where people came and went. In the far corner Agatha sat on a stool next to an old man, the sleaves on his arm rolled up. She was shaking something in a small vile, watching the amber liquid separate from the water within. He grimaced as he looked at the bench next to them, all manner of instruments and potions set forth. She caught his stare, and patted his hand reassuringly, he smiled back at her as she popped the lid from the vile and got to work.

Outside in the cemetery, fresh graves had been dug and recently occupied. Those who had not survived the events had been buried with rites and a service not before seen in the village. With their passing though, came a peace it seemed. One of the graves, not far from that of Jacob’s sister which sported fresh heather and flowers, was large and it too bore fresh flowers. Milada Margellwood, now at peace. A swirling triquetra symbol proudly, and almost defiantly, pride of place on her grave marker. Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

END


 

Nemesis (Story reading)


Silence came only when she closed her eyes. When she could visually shut the world up for a moment. She had practised to do this, years of trying to silence the noises and the demands of all around her. Her world was her own when her eyes were wide shut. These weren’t flights of fancy into different realms, or some grapple with mental tectonic plates. She had a quiet space and peaceful world in her head which was the copy of the world around her.

It was just devoid of others.

Other people troubled, angered, confronted, demanded and taxed her. They played on her time and patience, milking off her generosity as if it were an endless source. How much should she have to contend with? What was a reasonable demand on her each day that she woke, roamed and entertained this thing called life? Must she always be left reduced by a need to give…..


Taken from ‘Dislocated’ – out now

The Hawthorne Project (out now)

The neighborhood of west Hawthorne Drive in quiet Greenfield Wisconsin is filled with dark stories and darker rumors. There’s the haunting by a faceless creature. They’ve all seen it. They’ve all experienced its presence. On the one hand, it seems to desire the life of mortals, on the other, it befriends a small boy. It both mocks and assists. Runs away and stands face-to-faceless face.

And not to mention the mysterious death of the street’s namesake, Jim Hawthorne. His strange and reclusive widow peers from behind her drawn curtains, rarely leaving her home, but to walk her little dog or tend her manicured gardens… yet she’s not one for giving up any of the cul-de-sac’s secrets.

But in the days leading up to Halloween, events take a more sinister turn, including strange visitations, an eerie violet haze in the sky, attempting murder, breaking-and-entering, and multiple police check-ins… until not one of the residents can deny: something or someone is here to stay.

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  • River Dixon
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Conjured darkness II

PART I


Drample hill was a notorious place. A hill in every sense of the word, it loomed over the area with its clump of yew trees atop, once noted for its pagan importance, hiding Pollux Hall from the eyes of God. Pollux Hall was not always the place that many feared now. It was once the manor house of Lady Amber Chester, known for her charity and generosity, she was seen as a beacon of light in a very dull and darkening world. Her descendants however had tainted the name, and so too the hall, splashing it treachery and treason with their deeds that flowed as far as Rome.

The village, which had once benefitted greatly from the hall, now regarded it as a fearsome entity, and to be summoned or taken there was a great undoing. What went on in those darkened rooms in the manor, or the tower at the back of the hall, was only speculative. But those godly men from the abbey and church were known to flow in and out of that place now, doing god’s unseen work.

Agatha sat in the centre of the tower room, tucked away as much as a tower could be, at the back of the property. Ivy slithered up the outer wall, and the roof of the great hall blocked most views of the tower, which was an old Norman remain from the grandiose bailey which once stood on that spot. She was cold, and she was tired. She was shackled only at her hands, her feet bruised and battered and singed by a variety of fire poking devices that had left welts and the smell of burnt flesh to pepper the air. Flight, by human means, was deemed impossible, but still they locked the door.

She sat there, tears long since dried on her face, the result of the mental anguish more than physical pain of what they had done to her. Witch, whore, devil. The names they had hung upon her head, all at one time truthful, but never the whole of who she was. She listened to the silence ensnare her there in that tower room, a small smile appearing on her face now, for she knew they were watching.

The men chattered and bustled animatedly to each other, wine flowing and words pouring in great measure. A Few had remained in the tower to guard the doors, themselves smoking pipes as their eyes squinted through gaps to watch the witch. In the hall the others congratulated themselves on their success.

“Where there’s one, they’ll be others. Soon we shall cleanse this whole area of the filth and heresy.” An older man said, spilling his tankard as he flayed his arms around him. The fire burned well in the fireplace, and they had clustered in towards it as the temperature outside had dropped.

“That bitch, she spat at us when we mentioned the name of the lord.” Another said, touching a cross that hung around his neck, though he did this without realising.

“She is doomed, and not long of this world. We have given her the chance to recant and make amends before the fires take her.”

“Or you take her, eh, Reverend!” And with this a roar of laughter came from all aside the reverend and a figure who sat away from the fire.

Jonathan sat with his head forward, a small book clutched in one of his hands. The pages marked with a yellow ribbon; the passages spoke of redemption. He shook his head to what he was hearing, and he closed his eyes in remembering what he had seen that day. He was party to it all yes, but he was doing this for the greater good. These witches that pullulated the land, defiant against the lord, our saviour. These men in his company, he knew their shortcomings, but he could not do this alone. That woman up there now, she was guilty of the worst crime, lying with the devil and defying the righteous. A darkness hung over the village, the crops would not grow bountifully this year, and the livestock were sick. Ailments and disease were rife, and it could only be this witch and her ways. He knew this to be true.

She was one of many, but he knew sitting there, that she was an important one of the so-called coven. To have her, to save her, then he would really drive a nail through the corruption of it all.

One of the men threw his glass into the fire, the flames soaring for a moment with the added fuel, and then with a whistle that seemed to come down the chimney, the flames burst into a purple hue and were suddenly extinguished.

“Look what you’ve gone and done now Pilchard!” One of them shouted, though a silence seemed to swirl about them all now.

“It wasn’t my bloody fault, who ever heard of wine killing a fire!” Pilchard replied. They all stood quietly now, the candles in the room dimming and the wind outside picking up. A branch scrapped across one of the small lead lined windows, like long nails itching to get inside.

“Quiet you fools!” Jonathan said, springing to his feet now, his head cocked towards the roof as if trying to listen for lighted steps. They all joined him, casting their heads upwards as all the candles in the room suddenly went out.

“Quickly, to the tower.” And they dashed towards the door, the reverend however had fallen to his knees in hasty prayer, his head lowered and his eyes shut.

Jacob had been quick, it was in his nature to be aware of his surroundings, and he knew the quickest way out of the barn and off into the woods. He knew they were in pursuit however, the familiar had done its chore and alerted one of the witches who had told all they had been discovered. Despite local lore, it was rare for a witch to actually fly. Sightings of them had been known up in Lancaster, black streaks across the moonlit sky. Keep your doors secure, and a sprig of heather by the threshold; sheep’s piss by the back. Few witches could even fly, and those that did tended to do it merely to unsettle the village folk. Such displays drew unwanted attention though, and as fun as it was to frighten them, was not encouraged. Most witches transported themselves, flashes of dark shadows popping into places where they longed to be. Collectively, their powers were increased, and it was because of this now that a number of witches took flight after Jacob, whistling into the woods like the screeching of wild animals.

He ran of course, the air lost from lungs as quickly as he could replenish. He knew the path that took him around the church, past the grave where his sister now resided and brought him out by the stream. He ran for his life, the witches flying through the trees above him, their green eyes tracking him as he shot outwards and hopped the wall of the church. A sacred place for many, a sad place for him; though it offered him security now.

He watched them as they gathered at the wall, the bodies and shapes that slunk like the shadows. Those who flew dared not cross into the churchyard, and the nestled now in the trees, stuck up in the branches like huge black birds.

“She is lost you know.” A voice creaked out of the woods, yet tickled his ear as if from behind him. Jacob stood by the door of the church, painted only last week a vivid vermillion, glowing almost now in the night.

“Begone witch, you have no power here.” Jacob shouted; his little voice propelled by anger though weighted by exhaustion.

From the other side of the churchyard the voice came again.

“Trickery is our game, but you fooled them to get her here didn’t you? Burying her bones in alongside those other simple god-fearing folk. But you know she walks in that limbo now, unwanted by God and ignored by the devil. Letting the air into those wrist, clumsy girl.” The others cackled.

“Shut your vile tongue” Jacob said, his hands now fists.

“I would love to stay and torment you child, as it delights us no end to see the pains of this world scratching across your face. But our fight is with others tonight. Be sure that your time is done though, I know your face.” The witch heaved these words out of her as if throwing up a pungent muck.

“You are the damned. And I know all of you as you shake and slither before me. Your days are numbered, and it is YOU who should be afraid.” Jacob said, to which screeching laughter echoed high into the woods before him.

“We shall see.” The main witch said, and she took off into the night above the trees, the others following suit. Jacob was left alone, or so he thought, until he noticed the sets of glowing eyes that stood along the wall to the church, the eyes of wolves which stood watching him, ready to pounce.

“Check the room, is she there?” Jonathan said as he reached the tower door, the others grouping up behind him.

The man before him seemed surprised, but he turned and quickly opened the door and the spilled into the room. Agatha sat there, her arms still shackled and her head still low. A Candle spluttered off in the corner, dying in the pooled waxed but not extinguished.

“Fix those candles, get some light in here.” He commanded as he approached her. “Your friends are making mischief I believe.” Agatha lifted her head then, but her face was not her own. Johnathan jumped back in surprise.

“We all make mischief when no-one is watching.” The face said, returning suddenly to Agatha. The men crossed themselves, muttering words they thought were holy.

“Filthy witch.” One of the men said, coming across to her and slapping her hard across the face. Jonathan watched, his hand now bringing the book out from his cloak.

“Confess and be done with them, they will not harm a woman of god. Recant, and give thyself once more to the lord, he will protect you.” Jonathan said, pulling open the book to recite a prayer.

“Woman now, am I? Girl was what you had fun with. God is a woman, you know nothing of it all” She spat at then.

“BLASHPHEMY!” The reverend said, entering the room and hearing her words.

Jonathan stepped forth and smashed the bible across her face, the leather smacking the flesh like a heavy hand.

“Do not insult my god!” He hissed at her.

“You think you most righteous, don’t you? You are better than these men, but you are lost Jonathan Philipse. The lies from that book lead you further down the path of ruin.”

He was up close to her now, he could smell the musk from her hair, and the subtle hints of elderflower from her skin.

“And your way is better I suppose, sucking the teat of Satan and that whore Margellwood?” He whispered. At this she smiled to him, cocking her head slightly.

“If that is what you think it is, then you are even further from the truth than I thought.” She spoke. He seized her suddenly by the throat, beginning to lift her up from the chair. A Great wind rushed into the room, extinguishing the candles finally, the windows higher up suddenly exploded into a rain of glass, showering down on those below.


Kill ’em with kindness – Out now


To err is human…

Forgiveness can be the most impossible. How many wrongs can twist inside a heart to make it a victim? How many grudges must we carry, pulling us down like gravity? A life led in ordinariness attracts its fair share of hurt and trauma. But to dwell in the oil, will only make the soul dark and heavy.

To forgive then, is what we must do. Here lie letters sent to those who can be forgiven, composed in all honesty. But it’s the forgetting which is the trickier part of healing. With a splattering of poetry to wash the wounds clean, these words hang like olive leaves on tough branches, soaked in blood from the scars that are still healing. Forgiving though, of course, makes us divine.

Kill 'em with kindness book cover

OUT NOW


Conjured darkness I

The night loomed like a blanket of opportunity, the dying sun snuffed out hours ago to make way for the moon and mischief. They had all been called, they had all answered in their own ways. Creatures carrying messages, slithering in the dark spaces so the people of the village would not see. The answers quick and decisive. It had been long enough; they had waited too long. Now was the time.

They came like puffs of brown smoke, the dirt and the earth puffing out in a cough. Misshapen things with rough hands and suspicious eyes. Dark features with tongues that clicked, the idling hands of late, eager to begin. Twenty of them in this seemingly small space, yet they seemed to suck the world in further in their placement around the barn. The horses were outside, braying and huffing to the activity which now disturbed their night-time.

Witches gathered.

They had come with one intent, one thing only brought them together. Their coven strong, but usually displaced. This power concentrated for too long brought about strange energies which alerted many to their location. They had been hunted of course, many of them escaping the iron wrath of the witchfinder general which pummelled the land. It had taken a lot of their power to evade him, and they were cautious to gather in such a mass, their own limitations to the power they craved ever evident; for Lucifer gave only what he wanted and never too much to be disadvantaged. His kisses were tinged with a poison which held the knowing and forgetting of all. Which is what many sought. To forget.

The candle hissed and three loud knocks on the ground quietened them all. They were gathered in a circle, as was customary, the croaks and silent screams of their souls hushed as the caller of the event moved into the centre.

“We know why we are here. And we know what we must do.” She breathed, a coldness hanging down now from the rafters where two little eyes watched.

“About time!” A voice came from the group, flicked out from a forked tongue.

“Time is no consequence. But it is indeed the hour in which they must fall. He has said to me not to be afraid.” She said, to which the group reacted loudly.

“Afraid!”

“Fear?”

“Cowardly.”

A disgruntled ripple came from these words. The two eyes in the rafters watched on, belonging to a little boy no older than eleven.

“You are fools to not be afraid. We have given the souls of our being, but there are dangers which lie in an empty vessel. Do not let it flood you now, do not waver from the road into the woods. They will pick you out, they will trap you with their words of heaven. He has warned me that some of you are weak in this regard. Be afraid of this and be guarded.” She said, her eye scanning the barn as if knowing the weaker links. This seemed to settle them though, some nodding in agreement.

As he watched, Jacob ran his finger around and around the red string on his wrist. His eyes alive, but his hand fidgeting in fright. He had known they would come here, being close enough to the village but hidden by the clump of woods which curled around the north side where the church was. He tried not to breathe as he watched those below, swaying and naying like the horses which usually stood in the same spot. He had come, because he had known. Watching one of the witches for some time, her best efforts on protection falling to his superior senses and cleaner soul. He’d trapped her familiar, a horrible grey cat with one eye which prowled the village, extracting what he needed and releasing it, none the wiser, to carry on its deceitful deeds.

Now he was here, and despite his good intent; he was but afraid.

“We must bind ourselves first, it has been too long since we have all been present.” One of the witches offered, her crippled hand reaching out into the space in front of her. The witch in the centre nodded.

“So be it, come.” And she knelt down on the spot, and reached her hands out, the others quickly following suit. As the words tumbled out of her mouth, the candles around them seemed to grow low, a horrible sense of death and despair creeping inside the barn, swirling around like the breath of a corpse. A vine, thorned and rotten, sprung forth from the outstretched arms in the centre, quickly ensnaring the witch directly in front. It coiled around her arms and leapt to the one next to her, doing the same and proceeding quickly around the circle. The words came in their awfulness and the binding of the witches seemed complete as it plunged into the ground, making the spot where it entered dark like soot, and evaporating from around their wrists.

“This commitment to the coven binds us all, so tread warily. Our deeds are pure in their deceit, but do not stray from the black blood which now binds us. If one falls, we all shall. But as we rise and grow more powerful, so too will all of you. It is done.” The centre witch said, concluding the spell and standing once more. She clicked her neck awkwardly, the sound of broken twigs cracking around the barn, and she began to stretch upwards, growing slightly larger than she had been previously. The bones in her hand cracked and she pulled at her fingers, breaking them and stretching them forth abnormally. The sound was horrible to Jacob, it reminded him of his grandmother cracking nuts by the fire. That awful woman.

“They come and go with their sheep like minds. They breed and die, bringing others to our land. They swill the poetry from the trough of that church, washing it down into the land. It tries to bleed into our bones. The othering that we chose, the distancing of self is always besieged by their self-concluded righteousness. Sisters we have seen hang and burn. Stripped naked for them, poked and violated. Our ways are dark and dangerous, but they are our own. Yes, he has his plan, but it is all written, even in their own books.” The voice seemed more human this time to Jacob, despite the abnormal appearance of the witch now in the middle of the group. He noted their names of course, all but her; she still alluded him. She was someone he did not know…. yet.

“Agatha. You know whom I speak of.” A large exhale seemed to come from them all. The reason they knew they were there.

“Agatha. They took her, as you know. They did not burn or hang her. The fools who think that destroys us inside. They took her, and she was strong, she told them nothing of us. They tried of course to trick, to tease the information out of her. Beauty in their eyes is betwixting. Agatha’s bones do not lie in some place, scorched and dismissed. They took from me….” Here her voice cracked. “…us, a sister who they keep to themselves. In the house beyond the rise of Drample hill.” At the name, many of those present spat on the floor.

“She will return to us; we will bring her back. We have the means.” Said a witch who stood close to one of the candles, the silhouetted figure seemed to dance in the candle flame. They all hissed with agreement.

“Yes, she will. And yes, we do. But we must go beyond retrieving our sister this time. We must come out of the shadows, into their awful light of delusion. We must teach them this time that we will not be plucked, fucked or destroyed. This time, this land will all be ours to come and go freely. This is the time for our great aftermath.” She said, her hands rising upwards much like the preacher would in the church not far from where the barn stood.

They all cheered in their own witchy ways, some thumping the floor with their feet bringing up dust and disorder. The noise startled one of the magpies which had sat quietly on a beam next to his master, the familiar took flight suddenly up into the rafters, coming to rest on a beam just by Jacob. It’s eyes finding the boy, it’s call yet to cry out.

Heaven is shut/open (Story reading)


The plane took off, soaring into the sky as the sun died on the horizon. All was safe, all parts working. Wheels stored safely as the streaming sound of pressure encased them. He looked out of the window and watched the ground give way. He sighed. He’d hoped for a failure. Maybe later when they were out over the ocean, no chance of rescue there. No one ever survived a plane crashing into the sea….

Read on


Island

He could see the rain off in the distance, across the sea. A huge sheet of it moving slowly across the bay. The grey clouds draped like a curtain, pulled back to reveal the essence of nature. The storms here were intense, but short lived. Like the most intense arguments, they usually ended before they’d even begun. Not that the weather really bothered him today, his mind was set on something deeper than the weather.

The hotel was nestled in Hibiscus Bay, on the south side of the small island. Sadly, the name was a historic element as the hibiscus, and most of the natural fauna had long since disappeared. Replaced by cultivated palm trees and stretching lawns of the hotel which dominated most of the bay. That is not to say it was not beautiful, but it was not authentic. Nature with lipstick. Ironically, the main reception’s flower arrangements did include them in the display, their flowers all flown in from the mainland.

He crossed the cool reception, busy now with guests departing and others eager for the organised tours which the small minibuses outside promised. Sweet lime and jasmine floated from the candles flickering away around the reception desk, tickling his nose, mixed with the sun cream from the bodies before him and the smell of the air-conditioning. He swept through the lobby quickly, making his way to his rental car parked under a huge palm tree. As he stepped outside into the humidity, the rain was just coming to a stop, the clouds above him already being blown into a stretched gauze of grey, the blue threatening to bleed through.

His Jeep took the corner of the hotel resort harshly, clipping the ferns and the greens which peppered the entrance way. He knew where he was going, and he knew it would not take too long; but he had an urgency within him now, now he was here. Here, he’d been here a few days already but now was the moment. He’d tossed and turned in his mind what to do. Back at home he’d roamed his house like a lonely ghost. Now in the tropical surroundings, the issues hadn’t gone away, indeed the equatorial sun had shown them up further, almost blinding him. But he’d got an idea, one which may or may not work; but was something. And something was more than he’d had in a long time.

The road he needed took him off the main one, the dirt underneath now spraying up in dust as the car sped down a deserted track. The palm oil plants bloomed beside him, slowly replacing the sugarcane that dominated the greenery and island. The road began to slope slightly, as if his world was tumbling forward into the ocean which he knew awaited him outside of the green lushness of the plants all around him. A small butterfly, beautifully coloured as they tend to be, fluttered inside the opened cageness of his car. It bobbed before him, threatening to rest on the steering wheel before seeming to change its mind, flying off through the open window on the other side of the car. He watched it for a few moments, before turning the Jeep a sharp left and zooming out of the trees.

It was like a jewel now, the bright twinkling ocean, freshly watered further and now being kissed by the sunshine which streamed down through the clouds. Shadows moved out at sea, the clouds above in their own dance. He’d been here only once before, but he knew this was where he needed to come. He pulled his car up to a stop, the tires rolling slightly onto the damp white sand. He sat, his hands clutched to the steering wheel, supporting him and his thoughts. It was very humid, and despite the drive in which the air stirred him, little beads of sweat trickled by his ears, matting his hair slightly.

“Time”. He said aloud to no one and thumped the steering wheel twice before unbuckling his seat belt and sliding out of the Jeep.

Very few people came here, he did not know it, but he was glad of it. He needed the seclusion. What kept them away, he put if down to the weather, but the small area was known to many islanders as a place of sorrow. The fishing was terrible in this spot, the currents mixing frenziedly just out beyond the rocks, fighting with one another beneath the waves. Though the beach was beautiful, it was inaccessible unless you drove down through the plantations. Most of the other beaches on the island were walkable, and you could roam and enjoy the sandy smiles easily before strolling into a village or back to a resort. Here it was cut off, a huge rocky crescent scraping itself outward into the ocean.

He walked a little on the sand, avoiding the lure of the waters which promised release to many things. He mounted one of the rocks and looked across to see what he wanted. There before him was the tiny island, no bigger than his back garden at home. It sported a few trees, and a giant bird took off from one of them as he watched. This was what he remembered, and what he needed now.

Walking towards it, he listened to the sound of the ocean slapping at the beach and some of the rocks around him. The air was hot still, but there was a slight breeze finding the sweat on his skin. The aftermath of the storm. He reached the edge of the water, the sand rising before him like the body of a sea monster, popping up in patches towards the small island. It was a little causeway of sorts, but some of the sections were quite deep in the water, and as he made his way across, the water of the world made it up to his waist. He carried his shoes above his head, his clothes he knew would dry quickly. His bare feet found a few stray rocks along the way, and he winced once or twice, hoping the skin hadn’t broken. Finally, he came to the other side, and he placed his shoes on a rock and squeezed out the water from his clothes, shaking some of it off like a dog would coming out of the sea.

He looked up at the trees there on the island, the palms seemed to rise up gigantically, bending out and stretching over the ocean. There were more here than he’d thought, the illusion of the far away made it seem less complicated. Now he could see the vibrant plants and life this tiny island held. He turned to face the beach, for some reason checking that he indeed was alone. He was, and he stepped forth into the shade the palms and plants offered him.

For a small space, the air was much cooler, and he could feel a dankness, the water dripping in the leaves from the earlier rain. He heard a bird fluttering somewhere, and the clicks and ticks of the insects housed inside the cool space. Going further, he quickly found the very centre of the tiny island and stood there looking both at the trees, then down to the ground. The floor was sandy and soiliy, hard roots tangled everywhere. It reminded him of orchids in plant pots, their strange alien cords in the dusty soil. So many people treating them like roses, over watering.

He dropped to his knees, and feeling like a pirate, began digging with his hands, scooping up sand and soil with his cupped palms. He moved a great heap of earth quickly, pulling up the roots and the rocks which too lay beneath the surface. Not gold, but many grey teeth of the world, each rock precious in their own way, housing millions of moments in time. But he cast them all aside until the hole was big enough for what he needed.

Standing, he brushed the sand from his knees and clapped the excess dirt from his hands. All around him was quiet, the birds that had been their previously displaced and flown from his noisy digging. Just the bugs and shade, the sound of the ocean waves all around, swirling him in a sandy snow globe. He took a moment to gather himself, closing his eyes and speaking in his mind to what he needed.

With his eyes closed he bent forward, retching profusely. Dry and vacant at first, only bits of phlegm finding the ground before him. Then it came, quick and oozing. A black oily treacle poured out from his mouth, globbing down into the sandy hole. A little grey smoke escaped too, lifting off into the nothing as he heaved and coughed, some sticking in his throat. He punched his stomach, smacked his chest and stamped his feet. His heart he squeezed with ghostly hands, evacuating the rotten from within. All of it. He knew how much dwelt inside, and he knew too where it hid.

With a few final retches and coughs he was done. The black oily tar had moulded like molasses in the dug-out hole, balling up like a horrible black marble. The sun caught the ball in a splinter of light, and he thought for a moment he could see a huge eye gleaming at him. He quickly went across and began to kick sand and soil back into the hole, finally back on his knees pushing mounds of it with his hands until it was all covered. He patted it with his feet, careful not to stand too long over it, as if fearing an oily hand might charge up and pull him down. He said something only he and the trees would ever hear, and left the centre of the island quickly, finding his shoes from the rock and charging out into the sea back towards the beach.

He never returned to the small island, or even the larger one which boasted a number of pleasant resorts and attractions. He never saw the Coconut cave or the Belline Waterfall that the island boasts to all the tourists who flood its small little jewel of land in the tropical seas. He would’ve liked to of course, but he knew he could not come back. He could not be so near to something he wanted rid of.

Despite never returning himself, a few people have ventured out to the tiny little island where he dug and buried what he needed to. They came and went with little to report aside the remoteness of the little island, strung out like a pearl at the end of a silver chain. They assumed the purpled plant that grew where he’d buried was a native species to the island, the huge purple flowers crude but intricate, as they stretch upwards for the light. But the truth was no one had ever seen a plant like this before, though many are waiting to grow still; out of the darkness.

Need to come back (Story reading)


The water rippled towards him, a small wave plunging forth in its final effort onto the beach. It coated his feet in a warm embrace. He watched as the water receded hastily, as if it had disturbed him yet eager to do it once more. The ocean inhaled, drawing back again as the great expanse seemed caught between the beach and the horizon.

Somewhere in his mind a clock ticked, indifferent to the relaxing flow and rhythm of the tide…..

Read on


 

Halfway from home

Jasmine, and if he closed his eyes, the sound of the ocean. The smell though was always the strongest, it was what always clung to him. The ghost that gently haunted, touching his heart. It came and went, sometimes intense, taking him to that place where he always felt safe. Always felt them there.

He looked out of the window at the planet below, the strange orb spinning silently in its indifference to him. The purple hues lifted off the surface as if into a dream, blurring and smudging with the swallowing blackness of space.

Jasmine and warm sand.

He stole himself a moment to close his eyes, feeling the history shiver through him. An irritant beeping began in his ear, and his eyes opened to see the planet once more, slipping slowly from view as a stream of white slithered across the windows. He stepped back, releasing the metal banister from his grasp and turned to the yawning corridor behind him. There were a few people making their way along it, eyes glowing from the screens that ensnared them. Detached from the beauty that space could offer them.

Why should they be so dazzled by its brilliance? Space was taking something away from them. Distance and time.

He had come to terms with his own arrangement, but for the others, he guessed it was difficult still. He walked away from the huge windows, away from the calling of the beyond and made his way back to where he would spend most of his time. Alone, which is what he knew.

In his own little pod, his room of sorts on this floating chrysalis. Many of the travellers would enter one way and leave another. Changed by either their own trauma, or the perils of interstellar travel. He would not of course, he had already changed enough. If anything, he would retrograde, like Saturn returning, back into the pupa of his early days where things were so different.

Alone in his room, he turned off the lights, casting the space in the neon blue phosphorus glow. It was known to aid sleep in these conditions, but he would not be sleeping. How could he? His insomnia was welcomed back the moment he stepped aboard. Nights and days meant nothing up here anyway, so his patterns of rest blended and ebbed away. The blue now though comforted him, like an incubator heat lamp hung over an egg. The yoke of his mind turned, tumbling over the memories of a world he knew was forever lost.

“2.377.8”

The soft voice whispered into the room.

He turned over, the blue phosphorus blinking slightly like a heartbeat.

“Keter.” He replied to the nothing, and the room hung there in silence for a moment.

“Understood.” The soft voice replied, disappearing away like a ghost.

He had become used to these intrusions. They were passengers of course, guests even. Many had exchanged their savings just for their souls to be classed as passengers on this voyage through the stars. These numbers, all the time, numbers. Tracking, and recalibrating. Confirming and informing. Many that he spoke to set their times around these indications of location, celestial longitude. As if the mapping meant something to someone.

Only people meant something to someone else.

The number usually meant the distance, or the time left to arrival. For him, they meant something different. Like the length of rope thrown for safety, slowly falling away. The further he got, the closer he was. The journey beginning at the end, like the thoughts in his head. Chasing his own tail. The room scanned his body, noticing some change in the space. He’d found his was extra sensitive, monitoring his pulse and liquid extraction to the smallest degree. He’d stopped crying long ago, setting off too many checks and queries, the systems unsure of what purpose the leaking ever did.

He wasn’t travelling alone, but everyone thought he was. He sometimes forgot he wasn’t here by himself, but then he was washed in guilt. They were here in both places. In his heart, and in the cargo bay that was probably above his head now, the rotating section of the ship which spun around like a carousel. Their body was secure, he’d been assured. Packed next to boxes of memories and other people’s goods. Machines and provisions for a new life for the others. Well taken care of. He’s welcome to come by any time to check, though he is yet to do so and not likely to ever.

What was in the body really? The soul had left long ago. Even on Damara, the soul had slipped out through the atmosphere, heading back to earth. Back to their real home, where their bones would want to lie. He’d have buried them there if he could, but their family wanted them back. It was the least he could give them, having taken so much from them in their departure.

They would want to say goodbye, not through a video call or hologram burial across the stars.

Earth is where they would come to rest, put into the family tomb and forgotten about in a few years. But he would not forget, for their ghost drowned them now. Breathing into him along with the blue. Always blue, blue, blue.

He closed his eyes, hating himself. Remembering what they had said before they had left, those years ago. That death would snatch them there, on that cold side of space. Yet they would go non the less, for he seemed to want it so badly. And in truth, he did. He’d wanted to get away, try something different. Get as far away from Earth as humanly possible. To build them a new home on a new planet, a place where they would live longer, be healthier and stay together.

Home, they’d said is wherever they were.

“2.5, R HH” The soft voice spoke again, harder this time.

Halfway.

Halfway on their journey, from where they’d left, to where they were going.

He closed his eyes, and though no sleep came, fantasies and dreams washed through his head like a pageant. Illuminating visions that meant nothing and everything to him, silencing him for some time.

He saw a shell, a purple scallop shell before him on its side. All around a mist floated, he could see the water inside, sloshing back and forth as if the little shell were a boat out on rough waves. It began to lift slowly, coming towards him. The water began to ooze and leak away from the middle. Draining out and away into nothing. The shell continued to rise until its profile faced his eyeline. And with a deafening thunderclap, the shell cracked down the middle and he opened his eyes.

Making his way along the corridor, he touched the sides to feel the glass. Just beyond lay space, hidden from him by the greyed colours of the walls. But he knew it was there of course. Many didn’t, they forgot where they were, either by their screen diving or the long bouts of hibernation. It was easy he supposed, to forget you were where you were. Flight, travel. It disrupts violently the ordinariness of life, but in a surreal detached way, it can also be forgotten. Like you were in a waking dream, and things were going on without you.

He turned at the end of the corridor and climbed upwards, through a stairwell which led to the cargo bay area. He didn’t bother to ask anyone or sign in as he was told to do. Instead, he snuck through the huge doors as quiet as he could and was successfully undetected by anyone. He’d been tracked of course, eyes always on them, but nothing had come of it he’d noticed.

Moving steadily, he made his way to section 5t, the ‘living containments’ section. Ironic he’d thought, seeing as everything here was frozen, sleeping, or dead. He could see a red light blinking on the box some distance away, and he hurried forward at the sight of it. Error messages flashed across the box, symbols and numbers which meant nothing to him. He saw the number 16 flash by, and his mind was reminded by their birthday, cakes and smiles, images of kissing and the scent memory of blown out candles attacked him at once. He saw it then, a little pool of water just beneath the box.

“Fuck.” He said aloud to no one.

He scanned his wrist across the glass by the numbers, and the red light stopped flashing, but remained red. He pressed a button at the side and with an artificial exhale, little jets of air hissed the lid open. Whatever the error, or malfunction, the body inside had thawed. The crystal struts that kept the body in position glistened as the liquid inside sloshed around them. The head faced him, but the eyes were closed. He was thankful of that. He didn’t want to see their brown eyes. He would always remember them speckled with golden light, and he knew now the light would be gone.

What to do, what to do.

He stood there, not knowing for some time. The pool of water had spread a little towards his feet, but since the box had been opened, it seemed to have stopped leaking. The display on the side slowly climbing little bars up to a 100% destination. Aiming for perfection.

They looked peaceful at least, they looked like they were unaware of anything around them, even him. And of course, they were. Dead, gone, already back on earth. This body, these bones cared not for the journey they were on now. He reached out then, touching their hair which was wet and trailed slightly in the pooled water around them, floating like leaves in a pond.

The water was warm, and as his feet plunged into the box it rose above his socks and kissed his skin. He plunged down on top, his arms reaching around, through the crystal struts and finding the fleshy body and bones behind at the bottom. He hugged, and squeezed them, his eyes filling both with the water and the tears. He knew they were gone, but he had to hold them. He had to be here now with them, encased in a water filled box shooting through space.

“2.51.” The voice overhead announced, this time echoing in the vast space of the cargo bay.

He closed his eyes, jasmine filling his mind. He was no longer halfway. He wasn’t even before. He was only lost and alone. This he knew was how it would remain. So, he stayed and cried until sleep finally snatched him away, his body drained of energy from all the weeping. The voice overhead continued to call out many more marker points, little dots that now tracked his fall into nothingness.


Girl on the mountain

“Hang on, we’ll get there soon.”  She said, changing gear as the car struggled up the road.

The incline was harsh, and the trees that surrounded them hid the true dominance of the hills in this area. They had been travelling for nearly three hours and they were all tired, having gotten up so early for the journey. This part of the country was new to them all, and as the car snaked its way up through the trees, they were eager to see the open hills and valleys that they’d been told to expect.

Jessica rolled down the window in the backseat, letting the cool air and murky smell of the woods flood the car. She’d told nearly everyone at school she was going away for a few days, off to Wales and to hopefully see a dragon. They’d laughed and joked with her, taking the real reason for the trip away from her mind where it had only rested gently and fleetingly. She promised to bring them back something Welsh, though she didn’t know what that could be.

“Don’t get too cold back there.” Rachel said, shivering herself, changing gear once more. Their little car struggled against the demands of the road, but it had not failed them yet. Rachel had only been here once, back when she was a very small child, and she remembered nothing of it. Her grandmother had always visited them. It seemed selfish of her now, in all those years she’d never visited her in return here. Now, with her body about to be placed into the ground, she’d set forth to the soil that Amelia called home.

They suddenly burst through the trees as the car rounded a bend, a huge drop on one side bedded a stream nestled at the bottom, all grey and motionless. The brightness dazed her momentarily, and she blinked repeatedly as she drove on, the white and grey sky sprawling out over the huge expanse before them.

Richard tucked the map back into the glove compartment. He’d dug it out from an old box they’d kept in the spare room, the room where most things got dumped in their house. They’d found it useful, but they were nearly there now, and a signpost showed that in 14 miles they would make it to their destination. He’d also found the map made him feel useful, reading it as they had travelled, pointing out the sites along the way to Jessica. Not being able to drive made him feel a bit useless from time to time, even though Rachel enjoyed it. He reached down the side and retrieved the bag of sherbet lemons and offered the bag back to Jessica, who took one out and popped it into her mouth. He took one too, offering it to Rachel who said no thanks, so he ate it himself and ruffled the white bag closed and placed it back down the side, licking off the powder from his fingers.

“No dragons yet.” He said, aiming the words back at Jessica. She kicked his chair playfully.

“Nanna Amy once told us about one which slept in the mine near the village. She said the workmen had to send a sheep into the cave to distract it while they worked.” Rachel said, catching Jessica in her rear-view mirror.

“What happened to the sheep?” She asked, somewhat alarmed.

“Well, it usually came ambling out at the end of the day, I think it just used to get chased around the caves.” Rachel said, grinning.

“Must be a playful dragon, or not interested in eating sheep!” She said, looking out the window now as they began to head down into the valley.

Jessica watched as the green and grey flashed before her, she could see huge hills off in the distance. The trees seemed sparce, but little fluffs of them peppered the area, much like green sheep caught up high.

“What time is the service again?” Richard asked, turning to look at Rachel just as a light rain began to splatter the window.

“Oh no, not rain.” She said, turning on the wipers.

“It’s Wales, what did you expect?” He said, and she smiled.

“I was hoping to get there before we got caught in any rain, these roads might be tricky in wet weather. Urm, 3 o’clock is the service but they want us there at 2.30. I know aunty Glad wants to get us settled, and to show us off no doubt before.” She said, the wipers increasing now as the light rain had turned suddenly heavy.

Jessica watched as a huge bank of dark clouds rolled in above them. A car passed them on the other side, the first one they’d seen in a while, it’s headlights on now in the rain. She looked out across the valley once more, following the line of the hills with her finger on the windowpane, breathing on it to mark her way.

“Hey, what’s that?” She said, tapping the glass.

They all looked to the left, though Rachel only for a moment before returning her eyes back to the road.

“I’m not sure, why would….” Richard began, and Jessica added.

“There’s someone at the top of the hill, they have a fire.” She said, squinting to make them out in the rain and the distance.

“Why would someone be out in this weather on the top of a hill?” Rachel asked, noting the sign whizz by. Nearly there.

“Well, they are it seems. The flame is struggling in the wind though.” Richard said, and as he did the little flame seemed to burst a bit brighter for a moment, a beacon atop the hill.

“That’s really weird.” Jessica said, her window now rolled up as the rain had come in too heavy.

They carried on, leaving the hill behind them until Rachel made a left, turning off towards the village. Richard could still see the hill with the person on it as the car trundled down a rough road, skimming over the stream they had followed along. Soon enough they had arrived, the stone cottages and buildings littered their way as if giant rocks had been dropped from the sky, and the people below had carved houses out of them.

They all sat inside Pen-y-Waun, Aunt Gladys’s little cottage which looked out to the moor. Jessica munched on the custard creams that Gladys had placed on a very delicate little plate, while her mum sipped her tea.

“You call that heavy, nothing but a little spit of rain.” Gladys said, dunking a biscuit herself into her bone China cup. Jessica noticed the pattern, a little brown dragon curving around the side with trees and flowers decorating the edges.

“Well, it was hard to drive the last few miles. It was fine most of the way.” Rachel said, nestling her cup on her knee.

“Weather for a funeral, tears from God. Amy would’ve hated a clear day. Still, at least you made it safe. Remember any of it?” She said, asking Rachel.

Rachel shook her head.

“You were young, surprised if you could remember, though not much to remember really. But you were happy, always a smiling child. And your brother, good kids.” She said, but at the mention of her brother Rachel slunk down in her seat a little. “So, you’re here until next week then?”

“Oh, no just a couple of days. Don’t want to impose.” Richard said.

“You’re family, there’s no imposing. Stay as long as you like, be nice to have a few more faces around here to be honest. They all seem to be dropping off. God rest ‘em.” Gladys said, reaching for another biscuit.

“Are there many in the village then?” Richard asked.

Gladys pushed her horn-rimmed glasses up her nose, licking the crumbs of the biscuit away before speaking.

“When the mines were working, loads of us here. Now, most of the cottages are empty half the time. They rent them out for holidayers now, getting them all up from Bristol and the like. Come here for the quietness. Hmph!” she said.

“Is it not so quiet then?” Jessica asked, and Gladys cast her a curious smile.

“Jessica has heard about the Welsh dragons.” Rachel said, smiling.

“Dragons eh, I could tell you some tales. But that’s not what makes this place what it is.”

“Is it the person on the hill, with the flame? Is it for the dragons?” Jessica said, sitting forward in her chair.

Gladys put her cup down.

“It’s nearly quarter too, we best be getting a move on.” She said, hauling her large frame up out of her chair. Jessica knew when grown ups didn’t want to talk about something, but she felt suddenly invisible there in that little cottage.

The wind had picked up as they walked across to the small church. Most were already inside, but a few were making their way down the road towards the little building which stuck up on a ridge at the top of the village. Richard and Rachel walked slowly up towards the building, following Gladys who waved solemnly to the others as they came.

She suddenly put her arm around Jessica and pulled her in close, almost swaddling her in her black jacket.

“You saw the girl then?” She asked her, almost in a whisper. Jessica’s eyes lit up.

“A girl was it, a girl then?” She asked.

“Yes, she’s a girl alright. The girl of the mountain.  You are lucky to see her.” She said, slowing her pace as they got closer to the church.

“What’s she doing, who is she?” Jessica asked.

“That is a hard thing to answer. No one knows who she is, but we know why she is there. Not many outsiders see her, course she usually isn’t there in the day. You must be more connected to this land then you realise.” She touched the girl’s chin kindly, flicking it with her crinkled thumb.

“Why is she there with a fire, is it to do with dragons?” She asked. Gladys shook her head.

“No, nothing to do with dragons. She is there to light the way; she is a beacon when there is sorrow in the village. Amy, your great grandmother was much loved here, she was a spark of joy and happiness in this little corner of the world, this grey world which can feel quite foreboding. The girl of the mountain is there to remind us that everything will be okay, that there is light even in the darkness.” She said, profoundly.

“But who is she, is she a ghost? Jessica asked, curious.

“She is something that perhaps doesn’t need explaining, she is there to remind us to spark our own light in the rain and fog of life.” She replied.

“So, everything will be good again, after the loss and the pain?” Jessica asked. Gladys looked down at her.

“You are beyond your years aren’t you. You’ll have to visit more often; I like company that has its head screwed on right. But yes, things will be good again, this will pass.” She said, and they made their way into the small church with Rachel and Richard following up behind.

“It’s cold isn’t it, shame about the rain.” Rachel said, stepping up the steps.

“It is, but the organ music is somewhat cheerful considering. Nothing sombre which is nice.” He took her hand, and for some reason they stopped and looked around them. Through the rain and the clouds, they could see a little smudge of yellow, dancing off in the distance. They did not know it, but the girl on the mountain was singing as her flame burned on through the weather. Sweet words of redemption and hope.

Wind is strong, but don’t you sway.
The pain is heavy but will give way.
This light I bare will warm your heart.
All’ll be right, begin from the start.


 

Into the night

It was cold, the floor was always cold. Bare foot or with socks. The coldness seemed to spread with each step, like walking on ice. But it didn’t matter so much tonight.

He flung the duvet back and they woke with a start, their eyes suddenly ablaze.

“Is it time?” they asked, sitting up and pushing back into the deep plush pillows.

“It is, let’s go.” He spoke, calmly but with an urgency.

They swivelled in the bed, pushing their legs out and jumping into the situation. He watched them, agile and prepared, they’d practised this of course. How many times, twenty, thirty? Not enough, he knew that. Time was the essence here.

The darkness leaked inside the room like a can of oil, the little light he carried seemed to dismal in the overwhelm, but it did its job, and he shone the light now in their direction as they pulled on their shoes.

No time to change, just the shoes; they would be running of course.

“Ready, let’s go. Do you have…?” But they had spotted the box on the side near to him.

“Got it.” He said, and he picked the box up now and they both raced out of the bedroom.

He noticed the clock on the landing as they ran down the stairs, in the gloom he could still make out the hands of the grandfather clock ticking regimentally around and around. The clock had survived so much, seen so much. Been restored after many years hidden away from the Nazis, the greedy family members and the corrosion of time itself. Now it stood in full glory on the landing in their house, signalling the time for all who dwelt inside. Now it confessed the time to be two thirty in the morning. Time to move.

They raced down the stairs and towards the back of the house, crashing through the door quickly, not minding it was unlocked. They never did lock the doors; the danger did not lie there. They knew where horror lived.

In their bed clothes they raced, out into the air which was cold on their skin. No moon tonight, or if there were it was hidden behind the huge puffs of clouds that blanketed the sky. It made the night heavy, and they could feel it press upon them as they found themselves into the trees that began the woods at the rear of their house. No neighbours, they were too far away from them. The nearest house was three miles towards Grankvort, and that was in good weather. They made it this way, they needed the space and the separation from others.

The pine trees were close together, and sharp. They felt the needles as they sped through, though thankful for the running shoes which kept the rocks and fallen needles at bay. The little light he carried clung on to life in the face of the breath of the world which threatened to extinguish it.

“Wait!” they said, holding up their hand and pulling him to a stop.

He heard it then too, the sound of music off in the distance.

“There shouldn’t be anyone around, I don’t think it will work with others near.” They said.

He looked around himself, trying to locate the source of the sound in the claustrophobic woods.  He saw it then, a tiny glow moving through the trees, like a little firefly.

“There!” he said, and they turned to look also.

“Damn.” They replied, hurrying off without warning towards the light. He moved on quickly too, following them.

“What can we do?” He asked, catching himself on the trees.

“They will have to join us, there’s no time.” They said, seeming to glide through the thicket effortlessly.

As they got closer, they could hear the sound clearer now, the sound of orchestral music drifting outwards, hauntingly. Then he spotted the woman. She was tall, almost as tall as he, with a hood covering her head. He could see her hair tumbling out of the dark hood, like spilt gold leaking from a black lake. She was moving slowly, as if unsure of which way to go herself when they both suddenly burst out into her path, and she turned with surprise.

“Oh!” She exclaimed, but not out of fear. Almost as if she expected someone, but not so suddenly.

“What are you doing?” They asked her suddenly, he held the light up to her face and she drew back her hood in politeness.

“I’m sorry, is this your land?” She returned back.

“What are you doing here?” they asked again, ignoring her own question. The woman paused before answering which agitated them.

“Well!?” They asked, turning to him. “There’s no time for this.”

“I’m just passing through, please I don’t mean any harm.” The woman replied with a smile.

“It doesn’t matter, come along; you’re involved now.” And with that, they took her hand and pulled her off into the trees, running once more.

“Wait, what is going on….” The woman cried but was pulled on through, with the branches smacking her as they sped.

He followed on, trying to keep up. He should be leading he knew, having the light in hand; but they sped on at such a speed he had to double his efforts to stay with them.

They burst forth suddenly out of the trees, and he knew they had made it, and quickly too despite the stop with the woman. She now was hunched over, trying to catch her breath.

They stood by the edge of a ravine; the darkness below threatened an unknown demise, but he knew it was not that deep. He had climbed it of course, they had checked out all the areas near to them, and he knew the floor of the ravine was spongy and mossy. The rocks around them jutted upwards, like grey teeth, and he went across to one now and placed the box on top.

“How long?” they asked him, he looked at his watch. They had two minutes left.

“Two.” He said, and they smiled back. He could see the light above them now, streaming down like a dull torch from the sky.

“Wonderful, even though we’ve got a passenger.” They both looked at the woman now who stared back. She was neither scared nor angry at them, she merely stood there like a statue waiting for something to happen.

“Do you know what this is?” they asked the woman, pointing to the box on the rock.

She peered over, looking at the box which now began to hiss and glow with a dull light, its own reaching upwards.

“I’m not sure this is the right thing to do you know.” She said, almost with a knowing.

He stared at her, confused. The box had begun to come to life now, opening outwards and emitting a smoke. The dull lights danced and intermittingly blinked.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

They came over to him, putting their hand on his.

“Ignore her, we’ve prepared for this. If they have to come, it is better than being killed. We’re not going to murder anyone for this. We decided that.” They said, almost whispering.

“It won’t work how you expect it to.” The woman suddenly said, pulling up her hood as the smoke spread out around them, reaching upwards like little hands.

“Wait, wait….” He began but with a sudden flash of light his words were cut out. The box inverted on itself, pulling them in like a black hole. He watched as the woman remained standing, anchored to the spot as the two of them disappeared into the space created now in the place where the box was.

He felt it then, the pinching and the scraping. Slashes on his back and head became more and more apparent. He saw them and he held out his hand to them, they took them, and he could see the same red marks appearing. He tried to speak but the words were taken away by an invisible hand.

And suddenly it stopped, and all was quiet.

The woman coughed, dispersing the smoke in front of her with her hands. She pulled her hood back and stepped forward towards the box. It shuddered slightly on the rock, the lights inside finally dying to nothing and the beam above disappearing up into the dark clouds.

She picked the box up, whispering to it.

“I will keep you safe, but I told you it wouldn’t work.” She said, and she turned from the rocks and began her way back into the woods. Before long, the orchestral music softly began to lift up and out into the trees, as her little light flickered into life. A tiny glow through the dark wood which floated along with the music, like a small eye in a black sea of space.


Need to come back

The water rippled towards him, a small wave plunging forth in its final effort onto the beach. It coated his feet in a warm embrace. He watched as the water receded hastily, as if it had disturbed him yet eager to do it once more. The ocean inhaled, drawing back again as the great expanse seemed caught between the beach and the horizon.

Somewhere in his mind a clock ticked, indifferent to the relaxing flow and rhythm of the tide.

Turning, he caught sight of them once more, up on the sand dunes, walking across them like they were the treacherous paths of Everest. Taking giant strides as they struggled against the depts of the sand. He called them over but was waved off by a frustrated hand. Busy.

He smiled and begun to make his way towards them. The wind caught around him and nudged him on, as if the finger of God steered his way.

It was hot that day, but not unpleasant. The sea breeze found each pore, relieving them from the sun which shone down in it’s burning smile. He carried his shoes in one hand, having taken them off before heading down towards the water. He wasn’t used to the beach lifestyle, but this was what he always did. Taking his shoes off, rolling up his trousers, just in case. He reached them quickly and held out his free hand for them to take. They stumbled slightly over a large mound and almost dove toward him, reaching for him desperately like the edge of a cliff.

“Why don’t you come down to the water, the sand is more compacted there.”

“I don’t want to get my shoes wet.”

He looked down at their shoes, now covered in grains of sand. Dust and damaged, already in need of cleaning.

They kept hold of their hand and they walked on a bit. He slowly begun to steer them towards the sea, but they still kept on the deeper sand trail; his feet digging deep into the cooler parts with each step.

The beach was almost empty. It was a Wednesday, in winter. But winter here was not a winter there. It was hot, and relaxing and exactly where he wanted to be.

His hand was sweaty, and he was conscious of them letting go, but they kept hold of it. Rubbing his thumb with there’s to show affection.

They came to that spot, the spot they knew so well, and which gave them the clearest view of the bay. The beach was a half-moon shape, curving around the bay like a giant force had scooped out the land, letting the sea wash in closer. It was so clear, he could see out into the nothing, as the waves bobbed and churned in their maddening calm. What could’ve been a dolphin poked up further out, gone as quickly as it appeared in the rise and ebb of the sea.

“Why do you always come here?”

He looked at them, the instant sadness appearing there like a ghost.

He gripped their hand a little tighter.

“Don’t you like it here, you love this place.”

“Yeah, I know.”

The wind blew a little stronger, and if he were honest a little colder too.

He kissed them, closing his eyes like he always did. Feeling their lips as he felt the tiny moisture there. He took his hands and ran them up their back and into their hair, cupping them both in the moment. Breathing them in, holding them close, wiping away the tear which had begun to slide so silently down their cheek.

“It’s a place I can always come to when I cannot go on.”

He said this, as tears came to his own eyes. Blurring his image as if the sea had leaked inside of him.

The clock in his head suddenly shuddered, doubling the ticks in rapid progression.

“You know each time you add something. This time I took your hand.”

He looked away suddenly, as if he’d been discovered.

“I like it too, but it’s something I’d never have done.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

He watched as the waves hurried in, ignoring them there on the beach. Going about their tidal business. Commanded by the moon.

“There are more of course, but you always come to this one. I guess you’re the happiest here. I was too.”

He pulled them in tightly, scared they were already slipping away. He felt them, heavy and solid and gripping on to him also.

“I can’t unlove you. I can’t undo any of this.”

His tears flowed onto them, the wind stung slightly, catching the dampness there in his sockets.

“I love you still. You just doubt that, which saddens me.”

“I love you.”

“Then in the end, we win.”

Tick.

Tock.

And they both were gone.

Worry is like a prayer for something we don’t want. Our mind, at times, takes us to such dark places beyond that which gives us light. We can choose where our consciousness leads us, right now in the moment. We can choose what is projected on the wall of our mind. But it is our movie, our film which we have a say on how it ends. If you want to change it, change your consciousness and choose happiness over pain, light over dark.

Heaven is shut/open

The plane took off, soaring into the sky as the sun died on the horizon. All was safe, all parts working. Wheels stored safely as the streaming sound of pressure encased them. He looked out of the window and watched the ground give way. He sighed. He’d hoped for a failure. Maybe later when they were out over the ocean, no chance of rescue there. No one ever survived a plane crashing into the sea.

Closing his eyes, he saw their face. Lost and troubled as the chaos of the street bustled by. The taxi had hurried them, throwing his bags into the boot hastily before cars honked behind. They’d said their goodbyes already upstairs. Held on to each other as the tears threatened. At least he’d held on. He was unsure now how hard they had pulled into them. Deep inside his brain a voice had whispered ‘they want you to leave’.

Opening his eyes, he saw the seatbelt sign switch off, the little ‘bing’ sounding all around him but nowhere particular. The plane levelled off and he saw the land corrode into the ocean. The lights from the city behind already blurring into a distant memory. People got up, walking up the gangway as if their restrictiveness demanded a rebellion in movement.

He turned again to face the window, the little tears of condensation streaking backward like the ones in his eyes.

The flight was uneventful, and despite his longing, did not crash into a blazing wreck into the sea. He was somewhat thankful, no need for others to descend into nothingness because of his own wants and needs. The country had changed now of course, and he felt like a stranger in his own land. He felt as if he’d outgrown that little island, when in truth, it had all shrunken into ambivalence.

The next few weeks were a haze to him. He slept longer than his body needed. He ate less than what was required. The maddening howls of loneliness engulfed, playing out a wicked pageant each night. Pagan dances of despair trooped through his mind as he imagined the worst. And the weeks fell away into months. The sun rose and died each day, giving way to the moon which seemed more allusive and tauntful. Appearing and disappearing with differing brilliances.

And nothing changed.

No word came. No celestial movement of fate. He prayed of course, every day. Wishing, hoping, threatening…apologising. Words tumbled from his mouth like a waterfall, lost in the roar of tears that welcomed the rising pool of pain. He was confused and sad. These descriptions falling short of the abject horror that they encompassed.

He got up late one Wednesday. His bed had become a grave, and he pushed away the covers like soil from his skin. The weather was grey, and he saw little movement outside his window. He could hear the birds whistling their busy tunes and saw a couple of collared doves pecking away at the grassy bank at the side of his house. The birds circled, one seeming to protect the other as it scoured the grasses for something.

This was his life he thought there in that moment. The tragedy of nothingness. The on repeatness of filling hours that stretched like days.

Sitting down on his bed, he joined his hands together. They had marks on now of course, bloodied scabs that were struggling to heal. Punches to the ground and walls in frustration. His hands stung when he washed them always, bits of skin pealing off and disappearing down the drain to their own hellish adventures. Mostly he would pray in his head, but this morning the words came forth strong, if not shaky. He prayed for others, for those he loved. He asked why his circumstance refused to alter. He prayed to be sent the needs to change his situation. If god was refusing to give him what he needed, then at least give him the chance to change it for himself. He saw the light, felt the feel of god’s hands upon him and trickle into his heart.

This prayer lasted a long time. The doves had flown away by the time he had opened his eyes again, and a light rain had begun to pepper his window. The house groaned around in its ordinariness. Things were quiet. Things were the same.

He went about the day, holding onto something which he would never tell anyone. Like something stolen and now hidden in his pocket, he buried this secret in his heart which struggled to beat in a comfortable rhythm. The day came and went. The tasks and encounters rose and fell with the usual absurdity.

It wasn’t until the following night when what he had tucked away bloomed again. A flower of thought that had grown from the thick mud of despair. He had played the game of this life, by the rules he never agreed to. He was of service each day, giving and giving; yet never receiving. It never used to bother him for he had much to give. But when you lose everything, you become stricter on what you give away.

Now he felt like the coconut husks in his garden, pecked at each day by the birds of life. Strips of him torn away, revealing nothing underneath. His prayers had gone unanswered. But he stopped that thought then. No, this was not true. His prayers had been answered, when he prayed for others. When he gave and prayed and wanted the best for other people. They got what they needed. Even the rotten ones he was obliged to love. As if blood bound them in an unspoken covenant.

Prayer works. But not for him.

When he wanted…no, needed something. It never came to him. It was as if the gates of heaven had closed to him in a display of much unfairness. Why was he so beyond getting what he needed to make it through the day?

This thought stuck in his head, like food stuck in a throat. Uncomfortable and unpleasant. He was angry at God. But who wasn’t at times? But he felt more than anger, a betrayal almost. He fell asleep that night, not pooled in his own tears like always, but shaking into a fevered dream of reckoning.

He woke early, the rhythm of his heart thundering him awake. His phone was silent, barren. Nothing in the night had sprung forth despite the difference in hours. What were they, seven hours behind? They lived their day while he slept dreaming of them. They dreamt of something else while he navigated through the day thinking of nothing but them.

Rolling out of bed he went to the bathroom to wash his hands. Purifying his body, washing away the dreams and nightmares. He looked in the mirror…..

A: shut

What stared back at him made him weep. A man stood there, but a wasted vision of a human. Sunken eyes, gaunt expression. As if the sadness had spoiled from the inside, wasting away the flesh. He noticed one of his eyes was a milky colour, his once hazel views into his soul fading away into a grey of nothingness.

What to do now, he thought to himself. Brush his teeth, fix his hair. Get changed and through another day for what purpose? The same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow would be. A parade of nothing and inconsequence.

He knew he had fallen into a depression. He had hoped to shake it off or fall out of it again. Why was it so easy to get pulled in, and not the other way around? But something extra covered him today, that final magic element of hope seemed to have disappeared as he slept. A rousing song, or prayer usually helped. Taking stock and being appreciative. But no, something was different today. The same grey clouds outside, but something was different there in his bathroom. He could not even hear the birds that usually chattered and warbled beyond the walls.

He took a razor and made two clean cuts, long and deep. It was the kindest thing he could give himself, and the biggest apology.

B: open

What reflected was a surprise to him. A little light glistened in his eyes and more haloed above him. He turned suddenly, hoping to catch a trail of it around his skull. But it seemed to follow him, quick as a flash. He felt it then, a sudden strength lift within his bones like they were being pumped with magical force. He made to pray but remembered suddenly and abstractly that God should not be called upon in a bathroom. Negative spaces.

Running from the room he collapsed onto the landing, the banister casting a ray of light over him like prison bars. He watched as they seem to lift upwards, the sun disappearing behind a cloud. The bars faded, and he closed his eyes.

He pictured the world above in his mind, the ascent of this man who had become so troubled and desperate. Hands guided him; little voices pushed him further until he was at the gates of heaven. With one push, the gates parted. He opened his eyes there and bowed to give thanks. He let the words tumble out, washing appreciation over his life.

How long he remained, he’d not known. The bars of light did not return, but when he stood, he noticed the sun was hovering off in the distance now beyond his window. He wiped the tears away and stood in his new world, just as his phone in the other room began to ring.

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

Something to stay awake for – You hurt me like no other

Listen to this episode.


I wish I could believe you. Or at least have the courage to leave you.

Always the same, predictable. She could set her watch by it. Rolling out of bed at four in the morning. The sticky sheets peeling away like unripe fruit. The thick berry, throbbing dehydrated and disorientated in unfamiliar rooms. What was their name? It didn’t matter. She’ll never see them again. She’d never notice them recognise her in the street or walking past the office door clutching a coffee cup. Yet still she came back, time and again. The one.

Don’t look at me like that. I said don’t look at me this way.

Disappointed stares. They dug into her like a scratching animal looking for food. Tearing the skin away and seeing the blood wash underneath. Checking to see if she bled like them, if she had a soul. Sometimes the eyes would ignore her completely. Erasing her like a waft of bad air in from the street, pungent; but hastily dispersed. And despised. She hated those looks the most. They crawled over her, making her invisible. She would smash her wrists against the wall to check she was still whole, that there was something still of her that functioned; that walked and talked and hurled abuse.

And hurled it well. The neighbours had complained of course, those fuckers. The police had even visited. But she could be quite persuasive. ‘Yes officer, no officer. It must have been the TV. Of course, I’ll be more careful in the future. My number? Well, you already know where I live…’

They hated all that. The random encounters. It had been at the centre of most of their fights. She’d said it meant nothing. And of course, it did. She only did it for the attention. Attention that she was missing. Poor little victim. Here comes that pity party.

All those times, what did you think it did to me? I had to look away.

It had never been the same since moving to the city. Some would blame the bright lights, the lure of the sinful. Lust and danger lurking in the shadows of every street corner. If only they knew. The dangers lurked across her office desk. Inside her head. The polite smile in the coffee shop. Already in her mind. She hadn’t changed by coming here, just giving opportunities to pursue her dreams.

Dreams? Is that what it is? Looks like a fucking nightmare to me. You said you’d change for me!

“I know I did, and I tried…. I have. What do you want for me anyway? I’m here aren’t I?” She scratched her skin again just to check. The fading light outside had darkened the room and she had trouble seeing them, even though they were so close. She could smell them. A wash with alcohol and teeth whitener. The mattered hair and the smear of makeup. Who were they to say anything about her?! She worked fucking hard, she let off a little bit of steam at the end of the week. Big deal. ‘You’re not my fucking mother’.

What a disappointment you are to her. She always loved you, you know; despite what you put her through.

“Shut up.”

That poor woman.

“I said shut up.”

Have you seen that bruise around your eye? The halo that is shining for the devil. That’s not a result of not sleeping or walking into a doorframe. That’s the fear building up inside of you. The darkness pooling like an infection.

She knew others saw it too. When they looked into her eyes now, a chill came over them. Her non-blinking shark eyes. Swimming over the city in survival mode. That, that was what the city had changed in her. Forcing her to keep up with the rest. Go jogging at weekends and drinks after work. Where was the room for her soul to breathe as the miasma of the city choked her lungs and settled permanently in her bones?

She pulled her hair back, feeling the cool air beneath her neck. She knew they liked this.

I want you though. I’ve always wanted you.

She laughed an ugly laugh, full of blackness and mockery. “You want what’s best for us, that’s all. You don’t care about me really. I still have the scars you know, the ones you gave me.”

The itching on her wrists became incessant. Like a bug crawling its way out. Such pretty scars for a pretty girl. A mangled mess of a generation. The hot tap hissed away; she felt the burn on her hands.

It was so easy at the beginning. When you didn’t feel like running away from your feelings.

“Didn’t you hear me? Or don’t you care. Again, and again I scream my thoughts, and you don’t hear.”

What’s the matter? What is it remind you of?

She looked them dead in the eye. A tempest mix of hatred, love and desperation.

I wish I could believe you.

“I wish I could too.”

The low light of the bathroom etched around the corner of the mirror, and the tap she’d turned on began to steam over the glass. Obscuring them from view.

“I wish I had the courage to leave you.”


More fables here

Something to stay awake for – Stain

Listen to this episode.


It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


MORE FABLES HERE

The Deep (Nothing but I am)

Wednesday,

I finally sorted out those boxes today, the ones from the move. I wasn’t sure if I would be staying here long, the laziness in me took control and had left them for ages. I want to make things more ordered now, unpack my life and gain some structure. I went through the boxes, and I can see why I had left them. Photos and knick-knacks, memories and pain rolled around some of the smaller boxes inside. I had forgotten I had bundled most of it up together.

But it wasn’t all disruptive to my soul. I found the seahorse mum had brought me back from her trip to the Caribbean. There was a starfish too, but I always liked the seahorse best. It reminds me of her now when I look at it, but in a hopeful way. She may be far away, but this little item refreshes the world as a reminder she was with me, she lived and thought enough of me to bring me something she knew I would love. I miss you mum, I will see you again soon though….I’ll make the effort.

THE DEEP

Swim, with a mouthful of stars.
And kiss these lips underwater.
Pick a pearl that cloisters inside my mind.
Clutch it deep with your bones.
Washing over your heart.
Lining your veins in mother of pearl beauty.
Inside, all still wet and curious.
Like the seahorses that swim here in the shallows.
Your thoughts call to me like the sea inside a shell.
Echoing a world which wavers on the edge of temptation.
Suck the salt from my skin which slips over you.
Crush me in rapid waves of emotion.
As my fingers move to a new tide.
Parading across your body, wallowing in your deep.


Taken from Nothing But I am