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.

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The Girl in the Mirror

‘My mother was a witch.’

He laughed loudly. Throwing his head back to let his mirth spill into the night air. She looked piqued at his reaction to her confession.

‘I mean it. She really was!’

‘Okay, sure. What, she was so mean to you?’

‘God, no. Never mean to us at all. She was an enchantress.’ 

She watched his eyes search her face for the lie. There was no lie, however. She bit her lip.

‘Go on,’ he prodded, finally.

She had the night sky in her eyes.’

He rolled his.

When she spoke, her voice was like the angels. So gentle, so quiet. A calming effect in the stormiest of seas. When my little sister bawled my mother sang to her. She swayed about the room, swishing her skirts and singing until my sister, sprawled on the floor, stopped her fit and stared in wonder.’

He shrugged, ‘She loved her mother.’

It was more than that.’

The silence hung between them like a heavy drape. The air was still, the stars above twinkling brightly. The city spread beneath them, their feet resting solidly on the edges of the plateau. He was staring out at the lights, she couldn’t read the expression on his face.

‘Well?’

Well?’

‘More than what?’

Oh. She was ethereal. Every mundane experience we had was something magical when she became involved. The table was a plateau. The fox was a wolf. The bread was cake dripping with honey. The blossoms were homes for the fairies and the daises were their purple tinged dresses.’

He turned to look at her then. His blue eyes looked black in the darkness. His face was thrown into shadow. She saw his outline against the backdrop of lights, which spilled into the inky blackness of the sky above, so that the stars over the city vanished, even though the ones above them were so brilliant.

‘You really loved your mother.’

His voice was soft. Sad.

I loved her, yes. But even if I hadn’t, even if I hadn’t’

‘How did she die?’

She looked down at the city again. She could hear it, all the way from here. The sound of  a rising highway. The sound of hundreds of machines. A loud, yet soft humming. A thrumming in the earth. The roots of concrete and people. She knew this was not the natural noise the earth made, and it made her feel part of something greater, somehow. As though she wasn’t entirely alone.

She didn’t.’

‘What?’

She didn’t die. She just tripped back through the mirror from where she came’

‘Emily, come on..’

‘My father always said that she stepped out of the mirror one day. He called her the Girl in the Mirror, when we were children, and we would laugh at him, calling him silly. He would tug at her long black tresses sometimes, and his eyes would look at her sadly. Once, when I was ten years old, he held her in his arms and whispered, ‘thank you for giving me your four little gifts’ – he meant us, of course. When she went back in, he told us it was her time to go back, and that she had left us four for him to always remember her by.’

‘Emily..’

She did not look at him. Her large violet eyes reflecting the thousands of lights spread before her.

There’s a girl in my mirror. I know she is not me. Sometimes when I blink, she doesn’t. Her smile is a little more sly than mine.’

‘I think this is all your imagination.’

And once I caught her making faces at my little sister.’

‘A coping mechanism, to cope with the pain of losing your mother..’

We are enemies now.’

‘Emily..’

I’ve always wondered who my mother’s Other Woman was. And if she looks like her at all. And if she knows her Mirror Woman came out and lived with us for a while.’

He didn’t say anything. Her face had a faraway quality to it. He realised that she wasn’t even there, with him, at that moment. He didn’t know if she’d heard anything he had said. He began to wish he hadn’t said it at all.

A low breeze wafted suddenly through the trees behind them, tugging gently at her long, ethereal black tresses, that cascaded all the way down her back. He heard it, swishing in the leaves and rumbling in the sky, he saw her dress move with it, but he didn’t feel it.

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Yeezys

When I went for a walk yesterday I wore my grey trainers. The ones I got for fifteen quid from TK Maxx. I remember the first day I wore them to school after that one of my year five students ran up to me calling, ‘Miss, Miss, is it true you’re wearing Yeezies?’

I stared at her. Her big bushy blonde hair waving in the winter breeze and her stark green eyes blinking cheekily at me. I saw her gaggle of friends giggling behind a wall.

What the heck is a yeezie?

‘What the heck is a yeezie?’ I said, ‘these were fifteen quid from TK Maxx’

Thank goodness no other teachers were nearby, saying ‘heck’ in front of a student is probably a no-no.

I googled a yeezie when I got home. First, I found out it was actually ‘Yeezy’ and not ‘yeezie’. Second, I was not impressed. Yeezy is pretty much some bone headed celebrity clothing line.

So I wore my fifteen quid NON-yeezies on my walk yesterday when I discovered some fields. The sun was shining brightly, igniting each blade of grass and turning them from sombre green into brilliant emerald. I sighed happily and walked on, letting the cool spring wind take me whichever direction it chose. I had plenty of fields to walk in, and some were filled with bright yellow rapeseed (what a nasty name) flowers taller than my five foot four frame. I was in my element. My shoes, which were severely permeable because they’re supposed to be running shoes, were doing their bouncy thing.

You know.

And I was just. So. Happy. Until I walked into what looked like a particularly fresh patch of grass, severely green, blooming and luscious, and my shoes, feet and all, sank right in, right through the deceiving little patch all the way up beyond my ankles with a wet squelch. The mud beneath bubbled up and burped satisfactorily when I tried to lift my foot out. I was well and truly stuck, and nobody around to hear me scream. I could feel the muddy deluged splotching around and soaking into my socks, it was a very cringe experience I can tell you that much.

There was a feeling of resignation, after the initial shock, when I realised that, well, now my feet and shoes were soaking and muddy and probably a bit shitty too, considering the huge cowpats everywhere, but that was that, and there was nothing I could do about it. I just stared down for a few moments, then went, ‘Oh well.’ and proceeded to squelch myself out of there, getting mud all up my leggings in the process.

I got out alright, else I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, but my shoes, alas, did not survive. The end of the ‘yeezies’ as it were.

I enjoyed the rest of the hour and a half I spent walking after the incident, clearly mud is not a deterrent on a sunny day in England – we don’t get many of those, we tend to savour what we have!

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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.

Child’s Play

The small boys were in the field. Their naked backs glistening in the sunlight, panting. The sun was climbing in the sky, the haze of noon accentuated here and there by the buzz of insects and the mournful calls of tired birdsong. Still, they worked, rivulets pouring down their backs, scrabbling hungrily into the earth. The sun rose ever higher, and their bodies sunk deeper into the ground, grunts emanating from the caverns they created, feverishly digging, fingers turning into claws, breath shooting from dripping nostrils until, finally, one of them rose with a strangled shout.

‘I found the corpse!’

The Blues

Today I had a BAD day.

There is no other way to put it. No, my goldfish did not pass away. In fact, I don’t have a gold fish, and I never would, because it reminds me of an unsavoury being with bony feet.

Nothing bad happened.

My sister climbed on to a roof in a hot country in the Arabian peninsula. The wind whipped at her hair whilst her cousins, who are half Vietnamese, laughed at her with red cheeks and bright eyes. I expect they had some soy wings garnishes with spring onions after that, whilst one of my cousins made some freshly brewed coffee.

My mother in law called me and we had a lovely chat, and my eyes prickled with tears whilst I laughed down the phone with her because she put that effort in to talk to me, and I don’t think anybody has done that for me recently. Not even my own mother. I think my mother thinks I mother her too much, like a reincarnation of her mother. I said, ‘Look, mother, I have to take care of you.’

She doesn’t like that at all. I just can’t help it. I love her too much.

When I went to the bathroom to freshen up my face looked alarming. You see, I have olive skin. So when I am pale, it is a brownish, purply sort of pale. My skin becomes slightly green, and the deep circles beneath my eyes are a strange purply brown hue. My lips had no colour, so they were a little purple too. I just looked terrible. I looked like the photograph I once saw of a woman in the last stages of death. How morbid does that sound?

Wow,‘ I called to my husband, ‘I look like I’m dead!

Yup.’ came his response. Pregnant with sarcasm and dripping with disdain and oozing with disappointment. He wanted me to wear my red dress today. But I wasn’t feeling it. He likes that dress a lot for some reason, but sometimes I just don’t want to wear a clingy dress with slits down the side to just … hang around the house.

And it was Saturday, we’d booked tickets to Bletchley Park, the manor house where Alan Turing created his renowned code machine. We thought it was in Manchester (only 40 mins away) and realised after we’d booked, with disappointed jolts that it was all the way in Milton Keynes, two and a half hour’s drive away.

We set the alarm for 8am to leave early, but ended up waking up at 10:30am – meaning we’d have next to no time to really explore and make the most of our visit when we arrived (you need five hours in a place like that, really), so we called up and discovered that the tickets allow us to go back anytime up to a year after purchase, as many times as we please. So, we had some cereal and … did… nothing.

I was upset. I wanted to go outside for a walk at least. I KNOW, I could have gone by myself but that’s hellish lonely. And I always go by myself. D didn’t want to go. He hates walking. He says I am such an old soul but frankly, HE is the old soul. What kind of person hates walking in the spring sunshine?! He only wants to do something if it is hugely entertaining. He has imagination, but not enough to take joy from walking around the block and noticing other people and their front gardens and the way the setting sun sprouts colour in places to light them up and bring some rosy cheeked joy into the world.

Also I felt that he could have sucked it up and gone for a measly half hour with me. He would have enjoyed it, I always make him enjoy it. I washed the dishes angrily and thought dark thoughts about him while he played VIDEO GAMES upstairs.

First world problems? Of course. Oh dear.

I am drinking some coffee, now, and getting on with some work. Tomorrow D promised he would go for a walk with me and we would have brunch in a cafe and then maybe take a drive someplace pretty. I am on the hunt for a poppy field. I know there is one nearby. I just feel it in my bones, and I also had a dream about it. I must find it, it is driving me crazy. My eyes are yearning for it and so is my soul, a little bit.

D thinks poppy fields are boring. I think he would appreciate them more if they existed inside a video game or if he experienced them using the Oculus Rift. Kids these days *rolls eyes* – only entertained with technology. They will never understand the true joys of an undigitalised world, will they?

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The M1

Did my fourth motorway drive today. Honestly I was terrified. My hands were glued to the steering wheel, when I tried to move them some point after hitting the 90mph mark, they unstuck with a squelch. Ew.

It is good practise for me but I can never shake the fear I have hurtling down the M1. Sometimes I want to stay in the slow lane, behind chugging old folks creeping along at 60mph but the car I drive has a powerful engine and I can feel it wanting to go faster, complaining whenever I lift my foot off the accelerator. When I move onto the middle lane it leaps forward at the slightest touch, and it surges past other cars so effortlessly. It is wide and menacing; definitely a man’s car. I sound so sexist but it is how I feel.

It is my husband’s car, of course. He works in the automotive industry, and one of his special talents includes being able to tell exactly what kind of car is driving by just by looking at the front and rear lights. His knowledge somehow seeps out of him because now I can tell the difference between cars and their engines as they pass me on the motorway. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge because I honestly couldn’t care less. All I want is to buy a smaller car so I can hurtle down the motorway without developing sweat patches in my armpits!

Today I had an intrusive thought; as I sped down the motorway – I should say up because I was headed up North, I thought how magnificent and powerful the machine I was controlling was. My feet and hands pushing it and urging it along. A small twist of the arm of press of the foot and I would destroy the car and myself, too. It was an abhorrent thought. A part of me wanted to pull over and let my husband stress the way home, but I didn’t because I need to practise else I will never be free. Another part of me hankered after those autonomous cars that are currently in the works. With autonomous cars the pleasure of driving is eliminated, but oh, so will those mountainous piles of stress!

I love driving, I do, but those motorways are terrifying.

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Austen Pinkerton

 

On the production of books.

Here are some things I am doing recently;

 

  1. I am finishing my last module towards my English Language and Literature degree. It is called ‘Creativity in Language’, and examines the different approaches in the analysis of creativity in language, and also in other modes of storytelling and performance. It raises interesting questions about the originality of creativity, and whether or not creativity is fundamentally political – whether that be intentional or unintentional.
  2. I am also writing a book about a girl who stops growing. I am trying to make it a masterpiece, but it is hard to make a masterpiece when your brain feels like an empty room. I am noticing that I waste a lot of time not gaining knowledge, and I mean to change this by consuming more books and exploring different parts of the world. I have acquired a cover designer for my book, someone who is also willing to do some small illustrations for me. This is spurring me on to finish by my deadline in October.
  3. I have signed up to a website called AgentHunter. This website is one where you can find a suitable agent in order to get your book published. I am aiming to submit my manuscript to several agents by October 15th. I will be writing a review about this website in the next few months – just in case anybody is interesting in hunting for a suitable agent online.

That is all, really.

What have you been up to, recently?

 

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.