She

She was a jellyfish, floating under a wave. Bobbing gently with the ebbing current. Her translucent hair swaying silently around her still face, eyes tightly shut, sealed like death merged with life.

She was the calm in a strong wind. The centre of a storm. The silence as the raging destruction hurled life over a precipice and into the unknown. The deep breath, pregnant with dread.

She was the shadows when you slept, the coat behind the door, the woman silently watching as you tried to coax yourself to sleep. She was there, even though you convinced yourself she was just the dressing gown. Everything looks frightening in the dark.

She was surreal reality, dread behind a closed door. She was the exhibit they ignored, because it made them feel uncomfortable. She was the haunting in Connecticut, the dried eyelids in a box. She was the soft breeze that blew out the candles when the windows were closed. She was the buzzing sound of a wasp when there was none to be seen.

She held her breath for as long as she could, and when she surfaced, life flooded into her in the gasps she took of the air which hummed with oxygen. Her eyes flew open, and reflected the vivid blue stretched over her head. The waves crashed on the distant shore, and her muscles ached with the struggle for life. She kicked, hard, and glanced back. Silhouettes stood on the beach, children’s laughter carried off by the wind.

She was alive, not dead. Death hadn’t captured her yet. The current was far from her curled toes, and she pushed her chest forward with strong strokes of her slender, young arms. Back to the shore.

Back.

To life.

‘Darling, you were away for so long!’, Mam said, as she meandered with long, swaying strides towards the blanket which lay slightly rumpled in the hot sand. She bent over and towelled her hair dry.

‘I was drinking the sea,’ she murmured.

‘Do you want a sarnie? Before Chris eats them all. We’ve got egg mayo and tuna.’

‘I nearly died, mam.’

‘Don’t be silly, we were watching you the entire time.’ her mother said, cheerfully, handing her a sandwich out of a fat orange Sainsbury’s bag next to her foldable beach chair.

She took it, a fat rectangle stuffed with filling and molded like a pillow in saran wrap. She looked at the sea, crashing gently on the shore. Swimmers splashed as the sun beamed down beautifully.

I could have died, if I’d wanted to. 

Me and Machine

The train poured out of the tunnel, and endless stream of boxcars and flat empty carriage holders, on and on and on, the engines roaring in a crescendo of deafening sound, yet the pull of the train too slow to warrant such a noise so it made it seem like a weak, outdated machine.

Maybe the train was just too heavy, and so the engines had to work extra hard. I counted forty boxcars and then I lost count, as more kept spilling out of the gaping hole of the tunnel at the furthest end of the station; the mouth of this huge cavern of a station echoing with humanity drowned in the noise of the machine. Boxcars filled by robots, operated by robots, stacked by robots and sent off by robots to factories run by artificial intelligence.

So much power created, and the world carried on pretending to be the humdrum efficient system humans had created it to be.

And still it kept coming, more and more, vomiting out boxcars as they trundled along to the ends of the earth. I watched them glide past, too fast to jump on without serious injury or even fatality, and too slow to not contemplate doing the latter.

In the end, when the noise faded after the last boxcar holder, devoid of its box, melted into the wavy distance of burning horizon, the station sat in silence. Hunched over after the hefty belch it had just expelled from its gut.

I looked around me. Emptiness. Stillness. The laughter and chatter I imagined beneath the roaring noise of firing pistons had disappeared with the train, and I was left alone.

Was it my imagination, there there were people around me? The heat blazed outside the gaping lips of the station, where trains go after they have surfaced from its gut. The sky was brilliantly blue, deliciously deceiving, for I knew my skin would burn and curl up into brown flakiness the minute I stepped out of the shadow. I was alone. Sitting on a bench. Clutching my canvas bag close to me, feeling my sweaty thighs meld together under the soft cotton of my dress, which felt a little damp from the sweat I imagined pooled there.

My throat was dry, but the shops were closed. I sat and waited for the next train, the next glimpse of humanity to cure my aching loneliness. I would imagine human chatter under the noise of mechanical efficiency. After all, machines were created by humans.

I can’t be the only one left in the aftershock of viral destruction. It can’t be just me and the machines. Me and the remnants of man.

huge.5.25358.jpg

Swarm

She was eloquently gut wrenching.

It couldn’t be said any other way. Languidly staring out of the dust-encrusted windows, the hazy afternoon sunshine filtering in through cracks on the caked grime. The dust mites did their peaceful thing, swirling in the slants of the lights, deceiving you into sobriety while the world burned outside.

There was nothing to look at, really. Everything was covered with white drapes, to protect the furniture from the same dusty decline that the floorboards had succumbed to. Termites, most likely.

She tiptoed cautiously around the holes, her boots making a suspicious crunching sound on the floor, amid, I then saw, mounds of sand, and small curled dead insect bodies.

‘I used to live here.’ I murmured.

She didn’t say anything. I stared at the ceiling; years of cobwebs interlacing each other, like an old, grey, time-worn wedding gown. The wooden beams arched upwards, meeting in a concave point high above our heads. When she stopped walking, the silence hissed loudly, pressing in on us, trapped and seething beneath the heavy roof.

‘Dina?’ she began, tentatively.

‘Hmm?’

‘I’m sorry I lied.’

‘You told me you had stage four brain cancer.’ I said, shortly. The sign outside creaked ominously, breaking the hissing silence my words had left behind them.

She shrugged. Her eyes were unreadable. She would do it again, and again, and again. Who would her next naive, fully supporting victim be?

Her hands brushed gently over one of the white sheets covering something sharp. She made as though to pull it off.

‘No.’

She stopped, looking expectantly at me. When I didn’t say anything else, she pulled it off anyway. Her mouth was set and firm, and I watched with a smirk that etched itself on my face against my will as a swarm of wasps surged out from under the sheet and swarmed towards her, as the sheet drifted to the ground amid a cloud of dust and stray wasps. Her shriek was lost in the loud, swirling drone.

I backed away slowly, feeling the wall behind me until I was at the entrance, my feet scraping on the piles of dust beneath me. A force field developed around the obstacle before me. I was alarmed, yet a little excited. I wanted to watch, I wanted to help, but I also wanted to desperately to run away as fast as I could.

So I did. I shut my eyes and turned away, opening them to the dim, cobwebby hallway. I wrenched the front door open, the wood fat and swollen with rot, and it crumbled against the wall behind me as I raced out and through the empty street, my feet flying past the brown rubble and ash covered doorways.

The sound was deafening. The image of her vanishing beneath the swarm clung to my brain and tugged at the edges of my heart, or my gut. I don’t know. I didn’t look back. I kept going.

Honeymoon

Like a pot of dripping honey. It was her first thought when she threw the window open that silent, still night, and let the gossamer drapes flutter in the sudden breeze that surged through the tall french windows. Single paned squares separated by slim wooden bars, the paint peeling off so gently that small bits drifted off with the movement like gentle snow.

The sky was a deep, dark blue, almost black but not quite. The moon didn’t let it deepen any further. And what a sight it was. A large orb, hanging low in the sky, pregnant with colour and heavy on the horizon.

She could see every detail on its dense surface. It shone, brilliant and gold. Not silver or yellow. A brilliant, subtle gold that curved off its edges and dripped gently into the sky around it.

The light it threw on the world beneath was a gentle echo of the sunlight. She could see the grass, glittering with dew, but she also could not see how green it was. It looked washed out. The lake glittered, the trees were outlined ever so softly. If she was dreaming, she would have said that she was blind but could see. The world was a deception, in the light of the honeymoon.

Her heart was in rapture. Her lungs expanding with the sweet air, the faint scent of honeysuckle floated through her nostrils, and the night-lillies turned their blooming, fluttering dresses up to drink the light of the moon.

It would be over soon. The sun would rise again, and the moon would wane until it was faded and dull behind the brilliance of the sunlight. The world would be alight again, the night-lillies folded within themselves against the harsh rays. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, then opened them to savour the last few hours before this rapture vanished for good.

 

Mortality

When he died, it was not what she expected.

She expected an uproar. A revolution. The great man who ran the empire had slipped quietly away in the night, and nobody noticed.

It was like he didn’t matter, in the end.

The man who was the lord of the people. The man who built the highest buildings and paid the largest fortunes and squired the strongest of men. She sat in her mourning black and watched as the sun rose on another day.

How dare the sun rise, when he had not risen from his bed? His face was so… blue. So still, so cold. Servants walked around him confidently. How dare they. She burned with fury as she watched them coldly sponge his face and cover it. He would never have allowed them to be so brazen in real life.

Real life.

He was dead, now. Death spares nobody. He was like all those paupers they carried off through the rainy courtyard. He was like those he condemned for petty crimes. He had become the very thing he threatened others with.

They lowered his coffin into the ground and when they bumped it a little because it was so heavy, he could not scream at them and order their heads on the city walls. He could not sneer at their set faces.

Not a tear was shed.

She blinked, trying to summon some misery to show the masses. Nothing would come. She had glanced down at his face, surrounded by gold and purple velvet, and she felt nothing.

No, that was not true. She felt a stirring of something deep inside her that made her mouth twitch a little. She banished that feeling quickly enough, however, and set her mouth firmly as she stalked away, her black skirts billowing around her.

When he died, the world carried on as usual. They buried his body beneath the ground like they did countless bodies before him, and like they would do countless bodies after him. His flesh would disintegrate, eaten away by billions of microorganisms. His guts would spill out and his gasses would fill the tiny cavity around him, and soon they too would seep into the ground around him and become nutrition for the earth. He would soon be a pile of bones, nothing more.

And nobody would remember him, a hundred years down the line.

Everybody is equal in the eyes of Death.

 

 

Reaper

My attempt at a 100 word story.

Merrin Reaper was a charmer.

He belonged to the Hill people, renowned for their electric blue hair and waif figures. Five foot tall, and a brilliant smile. Everybody loved Merrin, even the big people down by the river. Too bulky to venture near the Hills for fear of trampling on those mines, they only ever dwelled on the banks.

Merrin tripped there daily. An ear for everyone, and a comforting shoulder for those in mourning. It was hinted at darkly that there was a dark shadow behind the small fellow.

Merrin knew better, of course. It was his brother, Grim.

0296a0decb5ced5fab8bf02f83543c7e.jpg

Love Letters #35

I didn’t know I could feel that way. That reckless abandon. That absolute peace. It felt like I was in a small bubble, and I knew it would pop at any moment, but I didn’t want to think of that until it happened.

I just wanted to enjoy the now most thoroughly.

We walked on the mountain for hours every morning, as the sun climbed higher and higher in the sky. I could feel its malignant beam on my back, scorching through my clothes, making my skin prickle uncomfortably before it broke down and wept rivers of sweat. My feet were sore by the end of the day.

We ate whatever we could get our hands on. Pineapples chopped, mangoes until the orange stickiness dribbled down our chins and under our shirts. Strawberries by the bowlful. Fruit in abundance.

We jumped in the lake straight after, with all our clothes on. You swore loudly because the water was deceivingly cold, and we glanced back at our parents, our relief palpable when we saw them laughing on the lake’s edge, oblivious to our transgression.

We cycled on old rusty bikes found in the garage, the wheels patched and pumped, the chains oiled. Our fingers were grimy with mud and grease, and the summer wind rushed on our faces and separated every strand of our sun bleached hair. You burned severely one day, and your mother smothered you in aloe vera and I rolled around laughing as you squelched outside like a giant slug, a brilliant scowl on your face.

We were bloated with lemonade and stuffed full of sugar, our feet hardened over the span of the two months we were there, browned and baked by the heat and roughened by hot ground beneath our bare soles.

It ended though, as I knew it would. My father had an office to get back to and yours had patients to dissect. Our mothers bundled us away in our respective cars, stuffed blankets down by our feet as we sweltered within, our noses pressed to the windows, watching as the adults exchanged handshakes and claps on the back, and our cars trundled on the dusty road, the distance between them growing with each second.

They didn’t spare a thought for the little people. They dragged their children along wherever they went and they didn’t think that in leaving the holiday house they seared our hearts. Well, my heart. I’d never experienced anything like the friendship we had. the fearlessness, the secrets, the tents and the battles.

There was never a summer quite like that summer. I don’t know who you are, and my parents are vague whenever I ask them. So I leave it, thinking perhaps someday in the future we may meet again and rekindle that bond between spirits.

But I know it will never be the same. I am too old to feel that surge of excitement when I think of the day ahead. Ants and beetles on the ground are nothing to me now. Your voice echoes through the years sometimes, and that summer heavily influences all of my choices and the way I respond to the world.

It’s the smallest things, sometimes. The smallest things.

Dream

She was a dream. No, she was dreaming.

She thought that dreams were just thoughts your brain is trying to have, but because it is asleep, it jumbles them up and gets confused. Poor thing.

She found this out because last night when she was trying to sleep she was asking her friend why her shoulders were over there. That was strange. There was a bird in a cage.

It made sense when she was awake, though. Because she was thinking of Barney’s canary. And Barney had wonderfully large shoulders. That was slightly sexual. She didn’t want to think of Barney’s shoulders, because what kind of name was Barney? A big fat purple dinosaur name, that’s what it was.

She couldn’t tell if this was a dream, or reality. She was standing, and she felt pretty tall. And Barney was there in his purple jacket, kneeling on the stone before her. The stunning view that was Granada fell away behind his back, and all she could see where the white houses tripping down the mountainside, cobbled streets winding around them like gleaming snakes in the bright sunshine. There was sweat on her back and behind her hair, and her lips were sticky with the remains of an ice cold coke, that left a hot, melty film around her mouth. It was horrible. She needed a drink. And he was on his goddamn knees.

Wait. He was on his knees. Dusty with the stone of one of the towers. Palm trees and red sand in the distance. Sweltering heat and tapas bars blaring sultry music. And he was on his knees.

She felt sick, suddenly. Barney with his purple jacket in the heat. Like the big fat singing dinosaur. The coke churned very realistically, very uncomfortably in her stomach.

maxresdefault.jpg

 

Love Letters #25

Amelia was so quiet that she barely had a personality. She was all pale face and ashy hair, her mouth a tiny button and her eyes expressionless.

‘Excuse me,’ she would say, in a whisper, ‘excuse me, are you waiting in this line?’

‘excuse me, are you having this last cupcake?’

‘excuse me, where am I supposed to be sitting?’

And that one time she spoke to Gideon, her voice like the wispy dryads of the willows, ‘Gideon,’ and she said his name this time, ‘Could I please borrow your blue ink pen?’

That was in the Creative Writing class.

And when Gideon handed it to her, the faintest glimmer of a smile flashed across her face as she took it.

She didn’t return it to him later. She just left it on his desk on her departure from the class, her eyes, a deep chocolate brown, focused directly ahead.

Amelia was the sort of girl people speculated about, but then after months of staying in her shell she became known as the quiet girl. The girl who doesn’t speak. The girl who doesn’t say anything.

Amelia, it was thought, was nothing special.

Gideon did not think she was anything special either. She faded into the wall behind her and her frail voice was lost in the excitable babble of hormonal teenagers. In fact, if it were not for her extraordinary powers, Gideon would not have noticed her at all.

She was a charmer, was Amelia. He realised this the day she borrowed his pen. When his eyes met hers, he could not look away. They captivated him, ensnared him in a net from which he could not escape. He tossed and turned at night because he felt drowned in those dark pools, but at the same time he was thirsty for more. He wanted to look into her eyes again and hear that voice.

That voice that others might find irritatingly low or maddeningly faint.

If he were to describe her on those nights he was haunted by her, he would have said he was haunted by a particularly mischievous dryad.

She was not silent in his dreams. She laughed, as dryads would laugh. The wind and the roar of the trees in her trilling notes, always taunting, always mocking.

When he saw her at college her craned his neck for a glimpse of those intoxicating eyes. They never looked at him again. And each time he failed, he was left with a crushing feeling of miserable despair. Yet he would always try again, his hope forever rising, hot and furious, more determined than before.

How could anybody feel that way about a person who didn’t have a personality, unless that person was a powerful bewitcher?

Thomas Bardwell

I shall begin with Thomas Bardwell.

He was a great friend of mine, this Thomas Bardwell.

I met him during my second year at Kings College in London. He was hurrying along a low stone wall covered in ivy. He was also covered in ivy.

It was rather odd, naturally, so I stopped for a moment (you see I was on my way back to my own dorm, as it happened so I was in no rush to be anywhere by any particular time and thus could afford to loiter about for a moment or two to observe the occurrences in the college, always a peculiar thing or two going on, I can assure you) and stuffed my hands in my pockets. It was then that he noticed me, and to my surprise, he beckoned to me to follow him, and started walking even faster than before. I followed him with interest.

Thomas Bardwell was infamous at the university. Everybody who was anybody knew about him. He was well established and was known to have a vast fortune waiting for him the minute his father topped it, so to speak. It wasn’t all very fascinating to somebody such as I, who plodded through life coming across so many advantaged folk that they slid right off the count of my ten forlorn fingers. He was a tall lad, and so this cut a very fine figure among the ladies, as one could very well imagine. He was not very handsome, not more than most, however he held himself in such a fashion that people found themselves coerced, subconsciously, to submit their respect and reverence to him. It was astonishing, really. I pride myself on being the sort of fellow who has a keen eye for traits and personalities, and I am exorbitantly stubborn. I will not respect a man based on how he holds himself and yet, whenever I happen to come across Mr Bardwell I find myself tipping my hat at him and nodding, as though he were royalty, or some high duke.

He was neither of those things, however. He was born to an affluent family who, it was disdainfully rumoured, had made their money solely through trade (as though that were something to frown upon). His father had retired at the ripe age of fifty three with enough funds to allow his four children to live comfortably for the rest of their days.

I met Thomas on the day, as it happens, that he met with his fate. Neither of us knew that he was to meet with his fate, of course. One never knows when one is about to meet their fate. There is no premonition, no deep breath, no warning sign, as it were. He was, as I mentioned previously, covered in ivy. People turned to stare as he dashed past them, trails of ivy sailing behind his shock of chestnut hair. He scattered dark green leaves as he ran, and I found myself following suit, our polished shoes clacking on the cobbles.

He swerved into an alleyway and I swerved also at the last minute, scraping my shoulder against the sharp corner of the stone wall. I clutched at the area of sharp pain, but Thomas was getting further and further away so I swallowed my pain and sped on after him. Something inside me told me not to call out to him, I am not sure why.