The purposeless are, by their very definition, without purpose. And, they say a man without purpose is a man without life. But what of dreams?
There is no purpose to a dream other than to release the mind of the burden of memory. A dream collates the recent past and merges it with the distant to form an almost reality. This reality is lived through on fast-forward to cram as much new experience into as few minutes as possible, or else what was the point?
My father said dreams existed to fill in a blank, one he preferred, which also accounted for his claims of not having them. Perhaps this meant he was a man of purpose, for whom dreams therefore served no purpose.
I, however, am proud to have no purpose. I am purposeless. This is a state I revel in. In truth, I sometimes wish I’d never wake up. Often, I’m uncertain whether I have.
There is an inherent need in all humans, men and women, to yearn for that tactile embrace of a loved one. There is no comfort like the comfort of another, nowhere safer than when in a lover’s arms. Whilst in those arms, the nightmares seem less real. Life shall be easier than before. This is what they tell us. A gift from our elders, if you will. We will strive for it most of our lives. Yet, it is false. There is another way. I know, though, I wish I didn’t.
When we die, we leave. Simple as. No arguments. No complaints. We are no more, lost to time and eternity’s tides. Some people say our souls, that inner self we ignore too often during life, pass to a better place, one the living shall never know. But what is that better place?
Some say fields of gold. Others claim marble towers and walls too high for birds to crest. Some say a lapping shore where one may dip their proverbial toes and know peace. A rock on an endless mountain. A cloud. The theories expand exponentially as each new generation adds to their layers.
There are even places where these souls don’t want to go. Where they are sent, not requested. Places which mire in darkness, shadows hunting in packs and alone. No one wishes their spirit, their very essence, to inhabit such hells. No one!
There is also the in-between, where those who’ve abused the eternal embrace, though, not too much, reside. They pay their penances in waiting. Simply, waiting. Grey fog whirls and swirls here. The mists form in endless walls of dew. They are quiet places, timeless. But who is to mark the passage of time if love isn’t present or remembered?
This brings me back to better places, or simply, places.
I lost her. I never thought to find her again. Yet, she has found me. Through passion and determination, my once all has returned. She has entered me. I am her limbo. I am her hell. How I hope I’m her heaven, too. Vaporous, she’s been for the longest of times. Now, I breathe her in every breath.
Vaporous embraces are the greatest of all. There is no need for flesh on flesh, for eye to eye, or more. We are one until I pass, too. And then there’ll be no I at all.
I’m very pleased to have had my second piece of writing published with Gobblers and Masticadores. My story is titled Sleeping with the Lies. I hope you get the chance to pop over to this wonderful magazine, which is full of varied content, and have a read of my contribution.
Incandescent whirls of bliss, colour, and light swept past. All that was bright in the world pulsed one last hurrah. All that was golden vanished.
Silence. Not a heartbeat. The languid cool of Forever stole across my soul. I stood small before infinity. Forwards or back?
Choice remained. My choice. The choice. But which?
When lost in purgatory, one remembers not what was decided, nor when, only that it was.
I stepped into another world, another place, another time, and grinned. Perhaps one more ruination? I’ll make this the last.
Like Hell! But how else does one qualify eternity’s destruction.
…and Coltrane played as the summer rains fell, tumbling across our faces without ever pausing. The sweet scent of wetted wildflowers made for an alluring intoxicant, as the saxophone played through both our minds and the intermittent sun made dapples of colour.
If ever music and art mixed to perfection, it was then. As the smooth melodies accompanied her raven beauty, and the rain continued to fall, it might have been day or night, or neither, for only she glowed, only she radiated life, at least, to me. I couldn’t drag my eyes from her. Why would I?
There were wide spreading cedars scattered across the glade, catching the sky’s tears and dispersing them wherever they felt best. Rowan trees hung with berries for baubles added an artisan touch, protruding from the long, lush grass like Christmas memories. Was it all a dream? Was she?
…and Coltrane played as though especially for us, as the rain soaked our clothes but never our hearts, the saxophone pulsing. The distinction between fabric and flesh disappeared with every new raindrop. The music swooped and soared. Our lips closed as though meant to be, warm against the world. And it was meant to be. It was always meant.
I laid out my jacket; she rolled it aside. Earth and flesh. Flesh and earth. Brushed by feathered seeds made heavy in the downpour, we two were one.
…and Coltrane played to our silent crescendo. No other music would have done. It had to be jazz. It had to be that jazz. As he soared, so did we, and we never came down. We never have.
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?”
“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 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.