The Last Day

It was the last day of summer.

The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.

It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.

Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.

She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.

When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.

The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.

She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.

The Rooks had vanished.

The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.

The last day of summer.

 

 

Advertisements

Honey and Welcome

I welcomed him. I greeted him. I said hello. I saluted him. I received him. I embraced his presence.

I offered him cake.

He was in my home.

His shoes on my holey carpet. Honey dripping down the side of his teacup. A metal teaspoon inside my honeypot. Internally screaming. The honey stick lay on the kitchen table, untouched, right next to the pot. Untocuhed. Use the honey stick, idiot, you will ruin my honey.

There was sliced, toasted bread on a plate. Butter in a butter dish. A loaf of cake with dry icing and glace cherries on top.

A window broke upstairs. My fingers clenched around my teacup. I saw his bright blue eyes rise to the ceiling. My knee jerked up and down under the table. Breathing hard and fast. I picked up a piece of toast and began to slide the soft butter over it. Then, looking directly at him, I picked up the honey stick and dipped it into the honeypot. The honey oozed gently onto my toast.

More glass crashed upstairs, glass splintering on the floor, the tinkle almost beautiful. Systematic crashing. Swinging in, and out again. I closed my eyes. Maybe he hadn’t heard. I needed to distract him.

‘You really should not use metal teaspoons in honey.’ I said, levelly, taking a bite to soothe my nerves. The floorboards upstairs really were creaking too much.

He didn’t seem to register what I said, so I spoke again, a little louder this time.

‘Would you like another cup of tea?’

‘No.’ he said, shortly. He stood up. ‘Are you alone?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘There is someone upstairs.’

‘Don’t be so ridiculous. It’s just the cats.’

‘Do you let your cats break windows?’

‘Nonsense. No windows are broken. They are just playing with their toys.’ I took another bite. Everything is normal. Everything is normal. EVERYTHING IS NORMAL.

The crumbs joined together and solidified in my throat. A giant lump of despair and toast, welded together tightly. Like metal. I swallowed. It refused to go down.

‘I am going upstairs.’

I stood up quickly. Blocked his way through the kitchen door, swallowing hard. The ball of chewed toast refused to go anywhere, so all I could do was stare helplessly at him, leaning my hand against the frame and my hip on the other end. I jerked my head towards the table, where the honey dripped from the honey stick and on to my table cloth. He was already speaking into his phone. His voice was muffled, and I thought it was because my tears clouded my vision.

I was choking, that’s what it was. I was choking and that is why I couldn’t hear him. I tried to tell him so, but he looked right through me, beyond me, speaking gibberish into his phone and pushing past me on his way upstairs. I felt weak, flailing, gasping for breath.

‘Stop!’ but it sounded like ‘‘Mllop!’

My tongue was swollen, that’s what it was. I was allergic to honey.

I heard his feet pounding on the stairs and when he reached the landing, suddenly, all was still. No crashing. No creaking floorboards. Just his still body staring at what I knew for certain was in the bedroom. The rope. The blood smears. The body dangling from the ceiling. The jerking of the corpse. So hard it swung into the fragile glass. Splintering into purple skin and spattering on the wall. Red and white. Clear and cloudy.

I sunk to the floor, still choking, dying, poisoned, maybe.

I welcomed him into my home. I saluted him. I gave him my best honey.

‘Detective Winters. May I come in?’

He was handsome. His eyes frosty blue, like the china I bought sixteen years ago before it went out of fashion.

I greeted him. I let him right in.

His feet pounded on the stairs as he raced down, I could hear the clink as he fumbled with his protective weaponry. Or whatever they use to hold you, seize you, take you, confine you, constrain you, detain you.

A cloud over my brain. I was losing oxygen. I was sure of it. The atmosphere was draining. It wasn’t the toast, it wasn’t the honey. The air was conspiring against me. I was dying. This was it. I felt his hands on my wrists, he was shouting something, I slumped against his chest. How solid. I couldn’t move. This was the end.

A Man

A strange man was staring intently at something on the pavement.

I stopped to see what he was looking at.

He glanced at me, and in his eyes, I saw something that I didn’t care to examine.

Then he lifted his hat, put it back on his head, and walked off, lighting a cigarette.

His footsteps sounded gravelly on the pavement, which was slick with the drizzle that had rained down for the past hour.

The heavens were grey.

The houses huddled together.

A faint haze clouded the world, just so you couldn’t make out what was in the distance, but you couldn’t be entirely sure it was a fog.

‘What were you looking at?.’

The man vanished into the not-fog.

And there was nothing on the pavement.

I hurried along, feeling self conscious, somehow. Why did I stop. I don’t know.

I was expecting to see a dead rabbit, it’s body ripped apart so the insides spilled out and plastered onto the elements.

I was expecting to see a hole leading right down to the other side of the world, assuming the world was round, that is.

I was expecting to see the secrets of life in an open book. Why else would a man be so fascinated?

I don’t know.

Why was the strange man staring at the pavement?

When I got home, my roommate told me that sometimes people have private thoughts which the world has no business trying to get a hold of.

‘You can’t just pick up the phone, Penny, and ask what’s up.’

But you can, that is what phones are for.

I really wanted to know.

55e0cae52b79a99b0561748f353ab2b9--rain-days-bowler-hat

 

The Red Dress

Gathering dust, in the far corner of her wardrobe. She didn’t check in on it any longer, but Annabelle always knew it was there.

A flash of scarlet when she rummaged at the back after her comfortable leggings. A small tug at her heart. A shrug. A passing thought that she would come back to it later, when she was smaller, trimmer, sexier. Maybe Ted would look at her differently then. Maybe.

The days and weeks passed by. When she woke up one morning it had been five years. She thought guiltily of the dress, flattened by years pressed between old winter jackets, and ate another slice of cake. Her stomach distended comfortably within her elastic waisted jeans.

One day she checked in on it. Pulled it out, held it against her body. She wondered if she could slip into it like her old self could, and imagined how it would slink past her shoulders and surround her waist, hovering, floating, around her knees. Silk and gauze, satin and chiffon, all combined intricately to create an image of vivid, crimson beauty.

She sighed. She couldn’t make herself do it, and put it back on the hanger to wait another five years.

‘I’ll lose a few pounds then it will be fine.’

She didn’t, though.

In the middle of the night, when the dew glistened on the grass, singing as they perched atop the dark green blades, their voices rising in the black night, like the tinkle of a thousand small glasses clinking together; the wardrobe door opened.

It creaked a little, and Annabelle’s eyes opened. The ceiling glittered, as though there was moonlight shining on a body of water, and she found that odd, but she didn’t say anything.

The red dress swished a little. She didn’t know how she knew it was the dress, but she knew. She dared not look, for a strange fright took hold of her, clasping her neck gently with cold fingers. It slid out of the wardrobe, and as though there were a pair of dainty feet beneath the folds of chiffon, it danced ever so slowly across her floorboards, barely making a creak, and flew right out of her open window.

A gust of cool night air brushed her cheeks, and she felt her cold tears freeze.

The soft song of the dew outside drew her from beneath her sheets, and she glided over to the window in her red satin pyjamas, her eyes wide in wonder. For the world under the starry night sky was unlike any world she had seen before. The dew glittered on the grass like a thousand diamonds, and she saw the red dress among its blades. Only there was a woman within the chiffon folds, so faint and transparent she barely saw her, save for a flash of her throat as she turned her head gracefully in the moonlight, and a flutter of long, black lashes. Her hands hovered above the grass, caressing the plants, and she danced to the tune of the dew.

Annabelle stood, staring. She felt light as a feather, as though she, too, could glide out of the window and dance in the dew. She felt beautiful, like the invisible lady in the dress, and her limbs ached to move, but her eyelids felt heavy, and slowly, lulled by the soft music, they fluttered shut.

When she woke up the next morning, she was back in her warm bed. She threw her covers back and darted across the room, flinging her wardrobe door open. There was her dress, right at the front, the hem soaked.

She glanced back at her window. It was closed.

Later that evening, when glasses clinked and the chatter of content adults rose towards the ceiling of the large drawing room downstairs, a stunning young woman walked down the stairs. She was soft and warm, her jet black hair piled at the back of her head, and gleaming curls cascaded down her bare shoulders. Teetering on the edge of her shoulders, the satin sleeves of her crimson dress nestled. She walked confidently, and her dress brought out the glitter in her large, dark eyes. Ted could not take his eyes off her. Who on earth was she?

Annabelle walked down the stairs, feeling quite unlike her usual self. She glanced around, watching people talking and laughing amongst themselves. She wished she didn’t wear it. She felt the satin stretch a little around her waist. It looked so glamorous in the mirror, but now she wasn’t quite so sure. She had the sudden urge to wear it tonight, instead of her loose grey gown that she always wore. Her mother handed her a tall glass of something red and sweet, and she held it in her hands, looking around to mingle.

‘Goodness gracious me, is that Annabelle?’

She glanced up.

‘Janey! You decided to come after all!’

‘Yes, darling, but you look fabulous!’

‘Do you really think so?’

‘Oh, darling, you are positively stunning! I didn’t recognise you at first! And goodness me, Ted can’t take his eyes off you.’ She leaned towards her conspiratorially, breathing the last sentence out at her, before gulping down the rest of her drink and setting it down on the table next to her, ‘Right, I’m off to dance with some fine young gents,’ and she gave Annabelle a peachy kiss on her flushed cheek, before sailing gaily away.

sexy-woman-red-dress-painting-100-handmade-modern-abstract-oil-painting-on-canvas-pictures-high-quality.jpg

 

 

Love Letters #37

When he sauntered into her life one sunny day she didn’t expect to see a pair of muddy trousers hanging on her washing line. The mud had dried into a clay-like colour in the heat of the blazing afternoon, and she squinted at them, not quite believing her eyes.

‘Did you wear those trousers?’ she asked him, and he stopped at her front gate, looking at her.

‘Are you talking to me?’

She had been sitting calmly on her porch steps having a glass of tea, when she noticed the abhorrent state those trousers were in. She really felt irritated, and was compelled to set her warm glass down and stand up. The trails of the torn ends of her jeans tickled her ankles.

‘Yes! Did you wear those trousers?’

He put his hand on her gate, and glanced at the trousers.

‘No,’ he said, pointing at his own, ‘I have trousers, thank you very much.’

She surveyed his ones. They were capris, the hem stopping halfway up his calves. His feet were enclosed in a pair of canvas shoes, like some kind of bogus boater. His calves were tanned a deep, satisfying brown. Like darkened caramel.

‘You sure do,’ she nodded in approval, ‘Would you like some tea?’

‘What kind of tea?’ he asked tentatively. He kept glancing at the muddy trousers.

‘I have a lovely range for you to choose from.’

‘I can’t turn down a range of tea.’

He pushed the gate open, and his walk towards her was wary. The trousers watched him as he made his way up the path. She didn’t stare at him; she picked up her own tea and climbed the stairs, pushing the door open to reveal what could only be described as darkness in the bright sunshine.

‘It’s curious, that you have muddy trousers hanging from your washing line,’ he said, as the darkness within swallowed him whole.

‘They were perfectly clean when I hung them out this morning.’ There was a cross tone in her voice.

On the other side, the entrance to her house was airy and cool. Large windows were flung open, and the breeze wafting in fanned her pale pink chiffon curtains gently. Her floors were gleaming and wooden, with small rugs placed in odd places. One at the foot of some carpeted stairs. One outside the kitchen door. And one just under the window.

She beckoned him into the kitchen where she put the kettle on. He saw that she had a large, sprawling back garden with a little hill right at the back.

As she took a tall glass with a small handle out of her cupboard, he wondered why she didn’t hang her washing out in the back garden. There seemed to be acres of space out there.

‘I have camomile, vanilla chai, peppermint, liquorice, ginger and lemon, fennel, beetroot, nettle…’, she pulled each teabag out of a large glass orbed container as she named them.

‘I’ll have a liquorice please.’

She looked up at him, and a small smile formed on one corner of her mouth. She plopped the teabag in and poured the boiling water into the glass. It cracked loudly, but didn’t break. Small cracks spread like tentacles around the glass, gleaming as they caught the light, and as the water turned dark purple, the cracks took on a magic of their own.

He took the glass she handed to him, silent in wonder, then followed her back outside to sit on the porch steps and stare at the trousers.

‘What’s all this about those trousers, then?’ he asked, sipping his tea. It burned his tongue, so he set it down next to him and licked his lips.

‘I expect someone’s worn those trousers and muddied them, and put them back hoping I wouldn’t notice. It’s quite a bother, really. I suppose I will have to wash them again.’

‘Well we must find out who the culprit is!’

‘It’s happened several times before. I’ve never caught the scumbag. I expect they are quite adept at evading notice.’

‘That is preposterous!’ he said, indignantly, ‘If I were you, I would not rest until that grimy clod was caught and skinned! The audacity of wearing those trousers and not washing them before returning them!’

She looked at him properly, then, surprise on her face.

‘Why, those are my sentiments exactly!’ she said, ‘What shall we do?’

‘Well,’ he leaned closer to her, a conspiratorial expression on his face, ‘I say we set a trap.’

She looked delighted. They carried on plotting, their heads close together on the porch, their teas forgotten, well into the evening. The shadows grew longer around them, and the breeze felt a little sharper. Finally, when he stood up to leave, they had a concrete plan between them to catch that pesky trousers thief.

As the years went by, their plots grew more and more calculated. But the thief was too clever for them, and evaded them at every turn, often setting the very same traps back on them the next morning! It was all a fuddle, really. In the end, after they got married (which they both decided was an excellent idea given that they were co-conspirators in this very large and very complicated plot), they gave in and hung two pairs of trousers out.

The thief never did clean the pair borrowed, but they were always returned, which was enough to convince them both of the small good left in humanity, even if it didn’t extend so far as to include cleaning the trousers one has borrowed to do muddy work.

 

026a.jpg

 

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.

Reckless

Ploughing. Raking. Toiling. Burning, wiping, smearing.

Looking up through sweat soaked eyebrows and blinking roughly against the salty stinging  in his eyes. The heat hazed in the distance, the trees rustled, or seemed to, because they didn’t move and from where he stood, the sun scorching his scalp, they looked like a painting. Lined up at the top of the fields in the distance, the sky a lazy blue, not quite burgeoning into the deep colour of summer, almost as though the sun was so bright that the sky paled in comparison. So still. Was the world even real?

Midday. A bird chirped quietly somewhere nearby, too tired to break into song. A pickup truck trundled slowly down the dusty road just outside his garden. A face, browned and hardened from heat, stared at him, turning as the truck drove past. He stared back.

The truck slowed, it seemed, creeping along now. He gripped his shovel tighter, aware his fingers were slick with sweat under his gloves.

‘Hey,’ he said to the man. The truck was level with his now, and the man’s eyes were piercing. They reflected the light like a pair of sapphire beacons under the shadow of the truck.

The man said nothing, and the truck slowed to a halt.

‘Can I help you?’ he tried again, shifting to his other foot. He was aware of his own pulse in his neck. The world was so still around them, even the solitary bird nearby ceased to chirp.

Nothing.

Then the wheels spun viciously in the dusty road, and a brown cloud rose behind the car and it roared into being and started off, engine rattling loud enough that birds flew up into the sky in alarm. He watched as it sped off along the road, growing smaller in the distance.

As the dust settled, and the birds swooped back into the cool shadows once more, the heat of the day took over again, blanketing the world in hot, tired silence.

The trees in the distance didn’t move a branch. The summer haze lay languidly over the earth. The silence was vast, universal.

Was the world even real?

p2yp10pyob5540a6c348e915p00197373.jpg

 

 

 

 

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 #34

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.