Every Evening Before I Dream

Photo by Jeff Hardi on Unsplash
Photo by Jeff Hardi on Unsplash

An evening routine, this is my way. Routine differentiates me from the billions of other night-dwellers who huddle beneath their covers like frightened rabbits, shuddering themselves to sleep, whilst praying for tomorrow. Only through sleep will they welcome the light. They crave it more than food or water. More than love. I need only my routine. This will never change. Until…
I prefer a stark December cold to the false warmth of early May, or the stifling nights of mid-July. You may think me picky, but a perfectionist would be nearer the truth. Optimal conditions help me find my peace, for only in peace will she find me. Or I, her? I forget which? My mind is not what it was.
My bedroom is tiny. There’s room enough for a bed and a small cupboard. This otherwise empty space serves as a reminder of the life I have left behind. Here, I interact, hoping beyond hope that all is right. Nothing more. Worrying achieves nothing in the hours before dawn.
I wonder what it’s like to dream the partial realities of a normal person. Dreaming is a prerequisite of being, and I am a being, even when not being. If you catch my drift? Does it make me a non-person if I hang in the shade like a panting shadow, loiter at the corners of dusk? I hope not, as it intimates insecurity, and I am far from insecure. Mine is an endless dream where this infusion called life is nothing but the pricking of a syringe. I am past this. I am past normality.
There’s a confused robin who sings all night. The streetlights fool the little creature into believing the sun never sets. He trills his little heart out anticipating finding a mate to constant disappointment. I know how he feels. I wonder if he pities me as I pity him. Still, he has his routine: eat; perch; trill. He’s relentless. When the hovering kestrel realises the robin there, this may change. Not until then, though, and neither will I.
I feel this evening, this section of dream I flourish in, will be the one. I feel it with every creaking bone and pulled muscle. Age will do this to a man. Time has a lot to answer for. Regardless, I sit on the end of my bed in this room for a cage, hands clasped together in prayer, and wait. I’m always waiting.
Am I sleeping, or awake? Does it matter? The curtains flutter, as does my heart. Reality changes. Her whispers brush my ears like December snowflakes. I hear her above the blood surging through my arteries. I hear her in all her undiluted loveliness. She is here, in this room, blooming like a rose through a glacier. Her eyes melt my soul. They always did. For the first time since forever, I smile.
When this dream called life is replaced by another, my darling is there to hold my hand. She says my little bird has come for me, as she’s wished to every evening before I dream. “Is this night?” I ask. Her lips say no.
Only in eternal beauty does one find release.
The End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Six Signs

Photo by Pelly Benassi on Unsplash
Photo by Pelly Benassi on Unsplash

The first sign came in the form of migrating crows. Not in the least bit odd, apart from the fact they don’t. They poured from the fields like a great Black Plague, out over the basalt cliffs and away.

The second sign was subtle: A grasshopper dead in the snow.

The third sign was less so. An earthquake hit the city, shaking every brick from its neighbour and every bottle from the fridge. I lost my milk in the event, which annoyed me greatly.

The fourth sign was as easy as breathing. The wind changed colour from nothing to lots. Crimson particles filled the air.

Sign five was my personal favourite. A dove flew over and sat upon my shoulder. There, the creature cooed for all it was worth, until I stroked its head. This seemed to settle my avian friend. Perhaps the crows sensed this.

Sign six, the final one, was given a name: The Return. The crows streamed back over the ocean like a black fog. They coagulated, poured down like an open vein, ignoring everybody except one, me. They pecked and cawed, scratched with sharpened talons, refused to stop. It woke me from my slumber, that which all else had not.

I awoke from my dream to the dove at my feet and a snowing of black feathers. I looked from one to the other and wept, for I was no longer bound by disdain. The wind, having returned to clarity, only emphasised my own crimson nature. The steadiness of the earth only served to highlight my volatile self. Mephistopheles had returned from his sojourn, and thanks to the six signs sent by my father, Death, would make sure the world knew. Well, everyone has to have something to do.

The End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

My Midnight

Author’s Note: This is a story I wrote some time ago. It was written for a specific theme that I don’t suppose will ever return, so I thought I’d post it for you. I hope you enjoy it.


Image Courtesy Trevor McKinnon Unsplash.com

She bathed in the waters of the midnight sea unlit by the vibrant moon. Mysterious in her dark allure, she radiated a misting shade far beyond that of the night. An ebony presence outlined by rivulets of flowing stars, her slender figure slipped through the surf in silence. Even the sea gods shied from touching so divine a darkness. Her purity demanded it.

Almost spectral in those quiet hours, I observed her from behind the sand dunes. She gave no acknowledgement of my presence, or any other, so there I remained unable to tear my eyes from such exquisite a form. She made slow passage through the shallows taking her time as though savoring every delicious moment. I prayed she did it to tease me; a wishful fantasy. Unhurried, she passed my hiding place in slow, undulating strokes, fearless of those creatures that lurked near the ocean boundaries. Then again, why need she, the night was she and she the night.

And so it was I lingered on her horizon as I did each night since first spying her. Drawn to her elemental majesty, I watched from so near, yet so far. However long I dallied it seemed never enough and always over too soon. Time can play tricks on a person in such situations. How I yearned above all else to hold, kiss, love her; tell her I watched over her. But I could not. The coward in me prevented it and the coward within that proved too scared to speak up.

And so it was I made my peace in being content to look but not touch, listen but not speak. Still, what I wouldn’t have given to see her eyes just once. It would have been worth the risk to know the color of perfection, would it not? The same question every night. I must have asked it myriad times from dusk to dawn and back again. There was never an answer to quench my thirst for her.

Time moved slower than usual, or so I imagined. The October moon hovered in an obsidian sky, a diamond set upon a ring of night, and never once looked like descending. The silver orb cast its light upon the ocean, but could not touch she. That saddened me. Such beauty deserved so divine a spotlight more than any soul I had known. And so in a moment I would eternally regret, I revealed myself. Shattered, our tryst lay in tatters.

No sooner did I rise from my eastern berth like a dawning sun, at first slow just peeking above the dunes, then faster ever rising, did she depart. In a haze of smudged charcoals where the pair of us collided as sea mist, then fog, she vanished. My heart felt ripped from its all too mortal cage.

Cursed to never know the one soul I wished, I paced the dawn beach ashamed of my timidity. By the time the tide had swallowed her damp footprints, I had forgotten her. Or so I told myself. By night those thoughts would change.

Once again my midnight would consume me, and the heartache would begin anew. For I, a lowly fisherman did not deserve a goddess for a bride, though I hoped. If I could have talked to her, held her in a tender embrace, then perhaps she would’ve known and wanted me. Perhaps? Sometimes, I thought she already did. Sometimes, but not often.

The End


Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

Paragraph Planet

I had a little piece of writing published today by the good folks at Paragraph Planet. My very short story ‘The Visitor’ is now live on their site and on Twitter.

For anyone who enjoys short writings, I would recommend giving it a try. The idea is to write a story or passage at exactly 75 words in length including the title. All good fun.

Paragraph Planet showcase one such work each day.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Melancholy Divide

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

It was a miscalculation, nothing more. She expected something I was unwilling to give. Such is life.
We avoided the question for the first year, the good year. By the second, we were married, mostly through boredom, and the question arose more often.
I had, of course, known her feelings from the start. Her every motion suggested it. Her every thought touched upon it. She had no need to voice it, even in those moments after, when I was most suggestible.
Our third winter was the hardest. Snow piled around our small home like parcels around a rich child’s Christmas tree. There was no way out and nothing to do within. Lilith pressed me every hour until I conceded to her point of view.
We huddled together, illuminated by the light of a single black candle. Lilith smiled more in those few minutes than she had in the previous three years. And I remembered… And I recalled…
I was a doctor once. The thrill of saving lives outweighed the sorrow of losing them. Lilith was my most satisfying work. She’d stabbed herself with an onyx dagger, but she didn’t die, and I refused to let her not live. When she left the hospital, our dating began. Like I said, I was proud of what I did for her, even if she herself wasn’t.
Lilith withdrew the dagger I thought her to have lost. The thing glittered a terrible darkness and moaned like a lost puppy begging for food. “You first,” she said.
It was odd! We’d talked about it, pictured it so many times, but when push came to shove, I faltered. Lilith angered. We fought.
I buried my wife beneath a holly tree, when the snow melted enough to dig out the ground. A citrine spring light filtered down through the still empty branches overhead, casting angular, awkward shadows across her grave. That’s when I saw it, the inscription, one I had not made.
Here lies one who refused to give in to life.
I thought about that peculiar statement for many years until I, too, lay on my deathbed, teetering on the borders of forever. The female doctor bent over me as the breath faltered in my iron lungs, leaned in closer. She held a syringe in her hands, one of black glass, almost onyx, with a blade of stiletto thinness.
When you pass through the final curtain, your loved ones will gather around you like moths around a lantern. Their sadness shall wipe away your own. Unfortunately, I had but one lover, one to wait for me across the melancholy divide. She sneered and turned her back. I bowed my head in shame.
When I looked up, Lilith was gone. The gloom beyond the indigo curtain had also vanished, replaced by day. My hands bore no wrinkles. My knees no longer ached. I was alive to die again.
What had I saved in my youthful exuberance? Why did I care? Well, my friends and loyal readers, I didn’t. But she did. Her questions continued, though, in truth, it was only ever one. “Will you live, so I might die?”

Almost The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

100 Word Stories: Unbuilt

Photo by Lucas Santos on Unsplash

They demanded them unbuilt for the sake of humanity. I deemed this an unnecessary reaction to an unfortunate event. After all, the explosion was an accident. They set a date.

The smallest squealed. The largest roared. Some fled as best they might; it was never fast enough. Others huddled like cogs in a watch, ticking down the moments till death.

When the guards went to collect them, they’d gone. In their place was a giant clock; it ticked backwards. The populace fled, whilst I remained. That’s when they reappeared, laughing. I laughed, too. Stupid humans! Far easier than killing them.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Serenity of the Moon

Photo by Luca on Unsplash

“It washes across you like a mother’s first kiss. You don’t remember the sensation, but it’s always been there. That tactile moment of skin on skin, of what was within being without. There’s nothing more magical.”
He waved away the horseman and drew his guest further into the fields. Tall and dark, only his flashing, bright eyes proved him there, unlike his guest, who wore scarlet. He assisted her over a small, uneven fence, the poorest of barriers, and led her on by the arm. He renewed his soliloquy as though never having missed a beat, he the actor and she his audience.
“No words written or spoken may explain nor surpass it. No other feeling comes close. This is the bliss of a perfect night. Alas, you only truly remember the last.” He turned away as though moved by his own words, a shadow within a shadow within a dream.
She spoke for the first time, light and hopeful. “And tonight, my love?” The girl shook out her usually ink-black hair to a deluge of silver, so bright was the moonlight, batted long lashes the same.
“More than any.”
She took him in all his brooding majesty. And despite his obvious melancholy, an almost perpetual predilection, and how the moonlight shied away from his form, she smiled a smile of utter contentment, of getting just what she wanted and when. “I think I’ve waited long enough.”
“Yes, my dear. I believe you have.”
The two nestled down in a quicksilver ocean of rippling grasses, disappearing beneath those unusual waves like breaching whales bound for an ultramarine abyss. Neither the hooting owl nor the gathering wind disturbed them. Not a watching ghost disrupted their repose.
Time passed.
#
It was many hours before they resurfaced, one head at a time, eyes rubbed awake and blinking. She of the waist-length hair came first and him second. The moon had barely moved, giving no evidence of time having altered, as though hung there by some invisible cosmic thread. The stars surrounded it still like a celestial shawl. Those ebony spaces between them engulfed the rest.
And so it was her amber eyes wandered, whilst his remained on her. Up they rose, higher and higher, defiant against both nebulae and shooting stars alike. Her head cocked to one side like an inquisitive robin, a look her outfit enhanced. She grinned as the moon winked daggers.
Secure in his gaze, she reached into her jacket and pulled out a tortoiseshell comb. There, beneath infinity, she brushed out that which marked her beauty, defiant in her belief that to him, at least, she rivalled the eternal night.
“Do you bring many women here?”
“Not here.”
“Then, I am the first?”
“Beneath this moon, at this time, and this place, yes.”
“I’m honoured. You, so privileged and dashing, might have chosen any woman.”
“Just any woman wouldn’t do.”
Her cheeks glowed a crimson to rival her dress. “Do you think we might return here every evening? Beneath this same moon? This same space?”
“We need never leave.”
“Good,” she said. “Though I am a little hungry.”
“As am I.”
He leant in close, closer, closer still.
Her heart beat like a moth’s wings, fast and silent.
The night breathed long and deep.
His lips met her neck and kept on going. Strong hands pinned her arms as his mouth bit deep. It was soon over.
The fields kept rippling as the moon shone brighter, and a man who’d seen more than he ought, wept.
Time stalled.
#
When his anguish seemed inconsolable, he stopped, as though God had suddenly dammed his eyes. He licked stained lips.
“I shall bury you, my love, as I have them all.”
He used his hands to scoop the soft earth from the ground, powerful arms to drive them. He excavated more soil in a minute than a dozen gravediggers might shift in a week.
Once finished, he stepped back. Looked down. Sighed. The hole stood not empty, but full. It brimmed with sloshing moonlight.
The man removed his jacket, ancient in its styling, bursting with brocade and lace. Next came his shirt revealing a milk-white torso, then his shoes and britches. He lowered himself into the hole-made-grave and, a second later, was gone.
One might have feared for the fellow then, but he had other ideas. Rising from those false, silver waters, he lifted the one whose life he’d taken and lowered her gently into the pit. He spoke as though in a trance.
“I shall make right what fate corrupted by sacrificial blood and flesh. For this, I thank you. Truly, yours was a gift. Thanks to you, I endure, not in hate or violence, but nocturnal bliss. Thanks to you, my dear. Yes, thanks to you. And I say this with a sincerity others would claim absent, I loved you. For a time, I have loved you all. But nothing, nothing, my love, rivals the serenity of the moon.”
Time pooled.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

The Cellist

Photo by Tanya Trofymchuk on Unsplash

The Cellist

There’s something about the cello that ruins the soul. It’s as if whoever first built one had fallen from grace, and in so doing, torn their heart from their chest and strung it from ear to toe. Before bleeding into the land, into history, into nothingness, they’d picked up a twig and begun to play. Death was not an option. Only a life of unending sorrow remained.


I recite this story to my secretary as I sit here and play. The notes rise and fall with her breaths. My fingers rest only when she blinks. I pour my everything into this most personal performance, not to impress, but to explain.


She smiles when I desperately wish her to weep.


Thank you for reading

Richard

Within

Courtesy Axel Eres on Unsplash.com
Courtesy Axel Eres on Unsplash.com

The ghosts ate the sky first.
As albino Swallows, they nibbled and swooped, munched and slurped. They spared nothing. Like strands of candy floss pulled from the whole, the ghosts sucked them away. For a time, the sky couldn’t have been clearer.
We watched mouths agape, eyes rubbed raw, minds flittering in disbelief. The cleansed sky grew brighter with each passing, shining in sapphire, glittering in gold. I liked how it sparkled just before they ate the sun. I’d seen rainbows give their all and then disappear, fill the atmosphere with hope and beauty and dreams before shattering them, but I’d never seen it with the sun. No one had.
They took the moon before it breached the mountains, sucking it up like spilt milk. The stars never stood a chance.
We prayed in small, circular groups. The eldest told us to shut our eyes, but I suspected them scared. It was an excuse, a white lie told for their benefit, not ours. So, I set my vision on one of them, less a bird now and more a blanket, and that’s where it remained.
It was odd following the ghost’s haphazard movements. One might have thought it blown, or tugged like a kite, but neither explained its ability to travel wherever it wished. I envied it if truth be told. I wanted to roam the air. And then suddenly, I did not.
They dove as a luminesce squadron. Perhaps it was their insatiable hunger, perhaps not, but the ghosts required new sustenance, and we were it.
They took the men first and the odd large woman. Their mouths yawned wide like aerial whales, and we were their oversized plankton. People fought back, but to no avail. They swiped and bashed and kicked and screamed, but all ended up in the same place: Within.
The children held their parents until the last seconds of their adult lives. Some lost their hands they gripped so tightly. The rest of us ran.
Some ascended, others descended, whilst I hid in plain sight. Actually, that’s not entirely true.
I ran inside, petrified. Up the stairs I hurtled, and through my bedroom door. My mind relaxed for an instant. I stumbled, fell, got entwined in my sheets. There I lay, gasping.
Coincidence ushered them in at that moment, sweeping through the windows, pouring through the doors. I quaked. My teeth chattered. The ghosts saw and heard nothing.
They left when they realised the house empty, and I breathed again.
It took several hours to muster the courage to step outside, and even then, only long after the screaming stopped. I wished I’d stayed inside.
There was nothing: no mountains, woods, or cities; no rocks, trees, or grass. The lake was as empty as my stomach, and the distant ocean roared no more. I was alone. Well, almost alone.
They hovered and stood and lounged and lay, everywhere and nowhere, up, down and all around. Their job was done. But what was mine?
In a moment of divine inspiration, I approached them.
Hello, I said, though not a sound came out.
The ghost nodded, or dipped, or wavered.
Why?
If it was its head, the ghost cocked it, or slumped like a half-empty bag of coal.
Why not me? I said. It was the bravest thing I’d said since, Stop!
A void opened where a mouth ought to have been. The ghost attempted to form words. It failed.
And I thought I might never know why I alone survived humanity’s cleansing.
I slipped out of the sheet and cast it aside. Not one ghost gave me a second look.
Kill me. I don’t want to be the last.
My desperate eyes slipped to the ground like April rain, and there written in the dust were the words:You’re already dead.
I knew they were right, had for a long time. But when you play and sleep and act human, as I did the night he hit her and I stepped in-between, then you almost convince yourself you are. Almost.
It was then that she came for me. I’d have known her anywhere.
It was all for me, but was it in my head, delusions of a spectral brain? Who knew? Who cared! She was there and that’s all that mattered.
I realised the ghosts had never taken us within, but me that had stepped outside.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.