The Feathered Fingers

Photo by H.F.E & Co Studio on Unsplash
Photo by H.F.E & Co Studio on Unsplash

There is an unfashionable feather tickling at my throat, not hard enough to gag, nor soft enough to seduce. This constant pressure delights at first, but soon irritates. I wish for it to stop. I hope for it to slice.

Beneath the moon, this weeping almost-woman rubs her throat like a pensioner might a knee. I feel the invisible noose, the fingers of the ripper, regardless. I know I shall always feel it. Destiny or fate, this truth is unavoidable. I retire to bed.

The next morning, and the pain is lessened. Time seeks to diminish what the feather seeks to impress. Time is my new best friend, and I celebrate with a walk.

Green shoots pepper the park. A few random daffodils make galaxies of the area, popping up between the dying snowdrops like blazing suns. I smile, then wish I hadn’t. The corners of a mouth better used to misery tug at my neck and throat. The discomfort returns. I run the rest of the way.

I have always had a thing for bridges, one of humanity’s least imposing constructions. Sometimes, they even improve the view, as does this one in its curved steel and towering stanchions. Strength, I think. It projects strength.

I sit all day like a lazy gargoyle having tumbled from a church, pitching to one side. The rabid traffic rushes past in blurs of colour. Every vehicle stinks.

Night. My second. The feather presses harder now. More dagger than lover’s fingers, the feather would cut if I’d let it. And I will. I must.

Midnight slips over me like a warm, favourite jumper. There are no stars and the moon is a celestial stranger. This night is as dark as that night. My mood lightens.

I jump without the rope this time. There are no mistakes. There is only a steep dive and a shattering liquidity. The plunge is less than I expected, but more than enough.

I lay in a crate some call a coffin. There’s a pressure on my throat, soft and continuous. And despite the darkness, the fact I am clearly dead and should feel and realise nothing, I do. The feathered fingers are mine. I’m almost home.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

Magenta Moments

Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash
Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash

The fade from dusk to permanent night passed in shades of doom. I deserved every bit of darkness, most men do, but was ever thankful for the moments before. I think it was a gift, a final farewell, an ‘at-least-he tried.’ And I did in my own way.

I had waited in my bed with the curtains flung wide. The window glass was dirtier than I would have liked, smudges like spectres haunting the pane, unmoving, critical of all I’d done. Yet, these questionable fractions of a life made torrid departed as the sun failed to illuminate them, blending into the background as I had for all my eighty years.

There’s a pivot, a hinging of self, when you realise, it will happen to you, it won’t last. All those years of pretending Death a visitor to others, slumped. Reality hit. An unorthodox life — a good word that, I always thought — for an otherwise pointless existence, was over. I gritted my teeth, said I was ready, glad to go. I was neither.

This moment came at ten o-clock one September evening as a bat whizzed past the glass, looped in a fluttering, flittering arc and came to rest on the outside ledge. It stood there on two legs like the world’s ugliest doll.

I squinted like the old fool I was, as if in doing so, the bat would disappear. But it didn’t disappear, not yet, anyway. The leathery creature tapped a tiny claw upon the glass to a perfect percussion, and then waved its almost transparent wing like a thrown shroud. I’d have ducked if I’d had the energy.

I was a skeptic and always had been. Omens were for others, and fate didn’t apply. I was beyond such things. People told of the ridiculous to bring false amazement to their otherwise inept existences. And, yet, here I was with such a story to tell, with no time to tell it and no one to hear it screamed.

The bat grinned as I shook my head, and then flew away.

I was a goner. I was about to meet my maker, or his darker self, if I was realistic. Bats did not do what the little one had, and chests only felt this much pain before they burst.

I contemplated pulling the telephone closer, stabbing those three particular numbers in an effort to save my skin, but instead, pushed it off the sideboard.

I settled into my pillows as best I might and watched the last light fade.

Everyone knew that dusk came in grey and left in black. There was no reason for any different. Still, I wanted to die with my eyes open. Closing them would give whoever found me something to do.

There was a mountain in the distance and a forest I couldn’t see. I imagined it all spiky haired spruces and pines, all ancient oaks and weeping willows.

That’s when the tears came. All the years I’d lived there, or rather inhabited the place, as I never really lived anywhere, and I’d never walked among them. What a pity. What a waste.

Every saline drop hurt to shed. Every slug-like trail stung my skin. Until it didn’t.

I woke with a start and a stab to the chest.

I was still in my bed and, if judged by the rasping breaths ghosting across my bedroom, alive. And yet…

Magenta moonbeams blazed from outside, filling my room with unnatural light. The night cringed at its brilliance, as did I. All those things, all those bits and pieces of paraphernalia accumulated in a tedious lifetime, be they sat upon shelves, the carpet where I’d kicked them, even the posters on the wall, shone in that rarest of colours. Not red. Not purple. A brilliance somewhere between what was never really seen in real life, yet everyone knew. This magenta moment was mine and mine alone. It was my colour. It was my gift.

I smiled.

I waved.

There was no reason for it other than unadulterated joy. The magenta light pooled in my eyes, coursed into my open mouth and into my lungs, streamed around my veins. There were no golds, no blacks, no lava reds, none of those colours associated with the world beyond. There was only magenta. There was only me.

They came through that bruise in forever, all those I’d known. They came because in age and befuddlement I’d forgotten, twisted, corrupted a life well-lived. I was never worthless, dangerous, useless or the rest, just long-lived, too long for the rest of them. There was my father, mother, brother and sister, too. Rebecca was laughing; she always laughed. There were classmates and colleagues, brothers in arms, sharers of medals and more. And somewhere at the back, there was you, Alice.

She wore magenta lipstick, my Alice. It accentuated her lips, distracted others from the beauty that was the rest of her. But not me. Not ever. I’d remembered it until the day I died. Just like I promised.

The End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

Glass Coffins

POSTED 21/08/2022

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

For those who fear to tread the streets, it is not the leering faces, the waves of crashing humanity, nor even the lines of cars who patrol as fuming anacondas that scare, it is themselves. I am no less a person. I would not wish it on anyone.

The palpitations begin at the city limits, as the towers rise like reflective mountains into a disrupted sky, my heart quickening. I gasp, seek to steady my breathing to the train’s repetition, a synchronising of man and machine. There is even a moment when I think it works and a sigh escapes my lips. It is short-lived. It is always short-lived, never lasting beyond the next batted lash. How life continues to disappoint.

Swamped by suburbia’s blur, the train gears up for one last dash, and we charge into the station like Usain Bolt for the finishing line: the tape broken, we stop; no one is victorious. One journey over, another begins.

Disembarking like so many ants from an anthill, we follow the chemical signatures laid down by history out into the glare of a city more on the rails than the train. People are everywhere. Like fish on a decaying reef, humanity teems across the porous concrete, searching for a purpose where there is no purpose. Some look to have hope in their eyes, most not. The difference between the believers and the sceptics is stark. Some might term it enlightenment versus resentment. I prefer reality versus dreams.

A stoplight glares in crimson; a double-dare to death. I have forgotten who waits for whom, so go with the flow and strive to remain somewhere in the middle. It’s only when I reach the other side that I realise I don’t want to be the last to go, the final smear on a Japanese car’s bonnet. I make a mental note to not make the same mistake, but an unhappy seagull, lost and far from home, squawks a distraction and the memory is lost.

The coffee district extends forever. Yes, there are intermissions in the chain of cocoa-driven madness, but not many, and nothing meaningful. I choose one that looks emptier than the others and order the same drink I do every single day. One day, I’ll risk a Latte, but I feel an Americano defines me. The smell of the bean soothes my mind. I wish to take the stuff intravenously, feel that brown warmth tickle beneath my skin. It is a dream I have in a world where dreams are scarce.

I linger at the coffee shop for longer than I should, but less than I wish. Before I know what’s happening, my feet are leading me out of the door and down the canopied street to my own private hell; the roof keeps the weather out and us in. My eyes remain on the ground wherever possible, striving not to look up, not to provoke a response. Not even the three false palms set to equidistant perfection fail to disturb my concentration. Like a robot, I approach the working district.

This world is glass. This world is made of a million versions of me. Everywhere I look, I am there. Even when I close my eyes. The last person I wish to see in repetition is myself. Anyone but me! Alas, life deems to torment me in refraction.

I open the doors to our office building; as I enter, another me leaves. A brief paisley respite — if ever paisley wall coverings can be called this — and I take the stairs. I work on the tenth floor but would rather ascend a hundred flights in preference to the glass elevator and be surrounded by those leering, sneering doppelgängers. Each step takes me higher, ever higher. Soon enough I see the world as a pigeon, a rat of the sky. There are more rats all around me. I feel swarmed by them.

I collapse into my office seat and a faux leather embrace. A moment. All I require is a moment. I don’t get one. Curlicues of steam flit like intangible faeries before my eyes. Where am I?

The office do-good has seen, found and presented before I’ve even taken my jacket off. I nod a thank you whilst contemplating stabbing her with my pencil; my pencil is blunt, typical!

My work provides a distraction, nothing more. The turgid rigmarole of everyday mundanity allows my mind the freedom of thinking itself elsewhere, somewhere where walls are rock and skyscrapers consist of trees. I wish myself away to a world without triplicated others and reciprocated frowns, but never for long enough.

A colleague wakes me from my stupor, even though my fingers continue to type in a fallacy of actual life. I smile, but he’s already gone. It is time to leave. The worst time of the day.

Most look forward to their return, the drive home, the commute. I do not. I hurry down the stairs and out of the revolving door. Too late, the sun is setting.

Everywhere I look, everywhere, a million others are doing the same thing. Each is crowned by a halo of liquid gold. The glass makes angels of all. All except one. The original, me. They mock me from their mercury sanctums, point, and laugh. Every face in every window, every man, woman, and worse, observe me. They know. Oh, how they know! I am abhorrent to them. I am abhorrent to me.

The train is stifling, dark and full of eyes. But as the lights click on, catching me off-guard as I gaze out into the nothingness, I realise there is only one certainty in this reflected face: these glass coffins have me captured and everyone’s watching me die.


Thank you for reading
Richard

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

Published! – The Silent Raven Calls

I feel very privileged to have had ‘The Silent Raven Calls‘ published by the wonderful Gobblers & Masticadores magazine. This is a dark fantasy story telling how strong the bond between a mother and her daughter is regardless of the circumstances.

If you want a good read offered in many styles (and languages) then you could do far worse than giving Gobblers and Masticadores a try. The good people who operate the magazine have also asked if I would contribute to them monthly, and I’ve agreed, so be prepared.

I hope you have time to read my story, and as always, thank you for reading this.

Richard

Raven

allef-vinicius-XRLjA9Qq65Y-unsplash

I once watched an artist paint the sky. His brush caressed the canvas like a lover’s kiss. His every fluent movement was poetry in motion. At least, I thought so. The painter did not.

Whether it was frustration, or a lack of imagination, who knew? But the fellow grew so incensed, he snatched each sheet from his easel and tossed them into the wind. There they drifted like enormous snowflakes off to decorate unfamiliar landscapes.

The trees provided shade and anonymity. These I used for hours. The painter remained unaware of my presence throughout. And although I couldn’t see what he painted, I took a certain satisfaction in knowing I would.

As the sun evaporated into the river in tangerine bursts, things changed. The poor fellow’s inability to capture what he wished gained momentum until, in one shrieking outburst, he threw his palette away. It landed upside down in the water.

I expected to see a brief flash of vermillion, perhaps a touch of violet, cerulean or emerald green; there was only black. The paint bled into the river like a cut vein during an eclipse. Spilled ink might have described it, but ink had a purpose and this did not. What a waste. What a terrible waste.

I clasped a hand to my mouth, but too late. The cough echoed into infinity.

The painter turned. He wept. Tears streamed from his old, rheumy eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I spluttered.

The painter looked right through me, right into my soul. His eyes took in my colours, my personal palette. He refused to stop swamping me in his sorrows. I feared we’d both drown.

When the sun disappeared below the horizon with a pfft of extinguished flame, only then did he look away. To heaven, actually.

“Ah,” he crooned. “Now I remember.”

“Remember what?” The words left my lips without permission.

“Raven. Her hair was raven. If only I’d not tossed my paints away. Ah, well!”

Head drooped and feet shuffling, the painter packed up his belongings and made to leave. He paused as the moon came out in mercury silvers, turned back. “Never forget what she looks like, young man.”

“I won’t,” I promised.

With that, he departed. I never saw him again.


I often looked back and mulled over his words. He’d seemed so genuine. But only as I too regarded her bone white features and robes of liquid obsidian, did I know who he meant. I couldn’t have captured her raven hair either, as her ebony eyes already held my own.

An End.


Thank you for reading.

Richard

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Neither Here Nor There

Image taken by me

Cold was the morning you frosted away like a slender white shadow escaping the sun. Freezing, if truth be known. A displaced moonbeam marked your demise. A creaking branch acknowledged my own. Such inglorious departures for two once lovers on this our final goodbye. Perhaps we were never meant to be.


In veins cut and blood lost, I departed.


The malaise came in breaths made mists. They gathered. They loomed. I cowered.


There was no moon, no setting sun, just an eternal twilight, or closer, a damnable dusk.


Time passed.


Memories, however, were never so easily vacated. Tidal in their surges, relentless in their crashing intent, all that I, we, and everything in between had been, regathered. The pages of our book un-tore themselves.


And still, I wanted more.


Lost in the fogs of neither here nor there, I wandered in a landscape of dread morbidity. To the passing recollections of others, I appeared furrowed of brow and dangerous. To those who’d had less than we, I gleamed. Ghosts avoided me. Nature abhorred me. They were right to. 

As for her?


I wished to forget, no longed to, to move on to other planes of existence. I determined to build such thorny, impenetrable barriers as to have bricked her away in my mind’s darkest recesses. And I tried. Yes, I tried.


But those emerald eyes were hard to stifle, lush spring grasses dripping with dew. That’s how I remembered her, weeping. Always weeping.


Days became months and months became more, the centuries amassing in insurmountable massifs, my own private Himalayas. Yet, I climbed with intent and rejoiced in the starlight, for the stars were what I imagined. Some latent wish to stand atop the world and scream her name, persevered. A desire so strong it dragged me up, up, up and away towards the light. My legs pumped, growing stronger with every step. My flexing fingers crushed granite, grappled with purgatory itself. But it wasn’t purgatory, not limbo, not any of those self-titled places between places. As I said, neither here nor there.


I heard her voice as a rainbow all bright light coruscating through the rain clouds. She burst from above and drove me to distraction; it was all I’d ever hoped for and more. No echoing torment was this, no indeterminable dream. It came again, a sonic confirmation.


The veil dropped as though from a blushing bride, and Hell dropped away with it. The Earth with all its colours lay before me in its patchwork perfection. Heaven’s gates rested at my fingertips.


Say her name. Just say her name. Say her name and all shall be returned to you traveller, for your love is binding, tied tighter than infinity’s restrictions.


And I wept as they spoke, or sang, or kissed my stone-cold cheek. Blessed were the angels. I was back. Well, almost.


Lips that had not spoken in eternity pursed through my smile. They readied. They dared me to stop them.


Sweet release.


But everything one wished for was never so easy. Death, like life, was never meant for cheating. And though it rattled around my cavernous mind like an avalanche down a mountain, her name had gone.


I tired. We all do eventually. I tired of remembering, of forcing what time had lost. I succumbed.


Only when the fog once again entwined my soul in its lover’s embrace did I remember. Only then. I remembered why I’d forgotten it, too, and wandered forever away.

 

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

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

Simplicity

Photo by Raamin ka on Unsplash
Photo by Raamin ka on Unsplash

She claimed me a simple fellow bereft of ideas and ambition. In many ways, this was true, but not all. Whilst she revelled in opulent un-necessities, as I termed them, I made do. As she basked by day in dazzling pools of gold, quicksilver sprinkles by evening, I brushed off the ragged darkness and settled for black. This was just my way. As you might imagine, we clashed. Money and its making was ever a seduction to some.
Lissette was as headstrong as I was meek. She wore me down. She erased my lines like pencil from a clean, white page. It seemed I wore my soul as a too-long cape, one that dragged in the gutter, grew wet and mould-ridden, whilst she bought ever more spectacular silks and flaunted them as a modern-day Scheherazade. She recited her wondrous tales to whoever, whenever, just to get her way. Something had to change, as I was no king and she certainly no prospective queen. Yes, something had to change. But what?
The simplest solutions are often the best, and mine was the simplest of all: I ran. I gathered all I owned, emptied the accounts, leaving her with next to nothing, and fled to the mountains where once I’d thrived as a boy. There, where only goats roamed and cows munched the pastures, I lived the simplest of simple lives. Unfortunately, even this was too much.
She appeared one windswept evening, drenched and enraged. Her clothes hung from her like a wailing banshee, her skin now of spectral shades. What beauty she’d flaunted had long since past. Even her eyes had dimmed. If she still possessed the gold and silver she so valued, there was not one sign. Had she sold all her belongings, spent her, or rather, our fortune, just to track me? Could she truly have been so petty?
“You left.” She slammed the shack door closed to a whistle and a whoosh.
“I did.”
“You… left… me…”
“I did.” What else was there to say?
She shook so violently, raindrops sprayed everywhere, soaking everything, including me.
“You made me look foolish.”
“You did that on your own.”
“Me!” she said, as if in disbelief.
“What do you want?”
“It back.”
“You can’t.”
“I’m your wife…”
“We were never married. Never would have been, either.”
“In the eyes of the law, we were, and I want what I’m entitled to.”
She unravelled a script that said as much. I read it, rolled it back up and refastened the thing. I set her with one of my best looks and said, “I gave it all away.”
She laughed for some reason. Lissette almost split her sides. Only after several minutes of tears and frothing did she recompose.
“Where is it?”
“With a boy in Toulon. An old woman in London. A gypsy somewhere in between. There were, of course, others, all far more needy than I. The list was extensive. Now, I have this and nothing more. I spread my arms out wide.
I had seen rivers breach and even a volcano blow its top in Sicily, but nothing compared to her. Lissette knew me as well as I knew her, and there was never any doubt of my lying.
The dagger slipped into her hand as easily as a dream into sleep. Even easier into my heart, and twice in my head.


I woke to a glistening web of a place, neither silver nor gold, rich nor poor. The others were there, those I’d assisted, helping me to my feet, smiling.
“Is she…?”
“No, said the boy.
“Down there,” said the old lady, who looked decidedly better than when last I’d seen her.
“Cursed,” added the gypsy. She crossed herself and spat.
“Oh,” said I.
I wept then. Not for being murdered, nor that briefest of pain, but for Lissette.
“Why?” chorused the masses who’d benefited from my philanthropy, all those she’d tracked and butchered.
“I loved her.”
As I said, the simplest answers are always best. Never embellish them with adornments, no matter how fierce the shame.

The End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Spellbound – Flowers in the Wind

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

Spellbound – Flowers in the Wind

She smiled the way a fox might, inviting but deadly. Her dark blue lips like liquid evening pursed as though lost in deepest thought. She contemplated something the rest of us struggled to grasp. Slim through the face with prominent cheekbones, her skin glittered in a moonlight outshone only by her eyes. They blazed. It was these that drew me, though any number of her exquisite accoutrements might have. Closer to oval and slanted down towards her slender nose, her eyes were like autumn when the leaves began to turn, not gold, not red, but somewhere in-between. Her eyes said more in one gleaming moment than another’s in a lifetime. She was spellbinding. I was spellbound.

The lady oozed style. Hers was the kind of body made anything look divine. She didn’t even try! I suspected she didn’t want to either. There was something about her air, a certain nonchalance that bordered on arrogance when viewed by another, but never by her. She emphasised this with the cut of her raven locks, or lack of cut, left long like a velvet curtain of night. Each strand in this dark web fulfilled a purpose. Each fibre intimated something different: an outstretched palm; a look away; a violent glare; the night; oblivion. But worst of all, when she inclined her head, her hair falling forward like twilight to reveal the porcelain skin of her perfect neck, it hid her eyes. For this, I never forgave her.

She lived in the last house of the last road headed out of town. There she’d sit on her porch each evening reclining in a hammock that swayed back and forth in unfelt winds regardless of whether she sat upon it or not. Bewitched one might’ve said. Yes, bewitched. She’d settle into oversized pillows as dark as her hair and raise a glass of red wine to the moon. A salute to a lost lover I imagined. That saddened me, when it should’ve provided sweet solace, her being widowed, single, or at the least, unattached. It didn’t, though. Her loneliness pooled around her like a spilled drink. I drowned in it.

I made my home from home in the lowest branches of a dying oak located across the way from her home at the edge of an ancient wood. A dark place full of shadows, it suited my needs. An imagined guardian, a sentinel who’d never rest, never sleep, never look away, I patrolled those hours when others dreamed until she returned inside and my heart beat again. I couldn’t have looked away if the world had broken and Heaven dropped from the sky. If Death had come for me scythe in hand, I’d have bade him get on with it so I might come back as her personal ghost. I’d have haunted her forever without one complaint. She meant everything, and I didn’t even know her name.

She grew an array of plants which she displayed in earthenware pots. There were many flowers of many colours but most prominent were her snowdrops. This wasn’t unusual. But if I told you those snowdrops bloomed all year round, through summer sun and shine, it might’ve. And they did. They sat there bobbing their little white-capped heads like settled ghosts in a miniature graveyard. The same wind that always stirred the hammock, stirred them. I often licked my finger and held it to the sky, but never once felt a waft of breeze.

This was her world, her dark fantasy. For the longest time, it became my world, too.

Many early dawns, I’d return home from my vigils more desperate than when I’d left. Which one could be assured was a great deal. I’d slip under the sheets of my bed and weep. I wept regularly. She was the last thing I thought of when I went to sleep and the first when I woke. Spellbound. Always spellbound.

The greatest thrill came on the rare occasions she stepped from her porch, one revealed leg at a time. Eternity paused. She did this only when the world at its darkest, in those obsidian midnights where the moon feared to tread. She’d slide from her hammock with the poise of a hunting panther, stretch, arcing her back in a perfect curve, and tiptoe out onto her lawn. She never wore shoes. Her feet were always bare, toes twiddling, whatever the weather, season or shade. She painted her nails, both hands and feet, with black varnish and glitter so they sparkled like stars. Ten tiny galaxies were at her command, and every soul within them looked upon her as their nocturnal goddess.

Her walk was a thing of graceful beauty. She drifted rather than paced, slid rather than strolled. Her long skirt of claret red, crimson in the streetlights, black when not, gathered around her to conceal the limbs beneath. My own personal spectre, she led me away on a monthly regime of forest wanderings. Without a thought to feet which must surely have hurt, the pine needles and thorns scattered with such abundance, she’d silently sashay along paths only she knew. I trailed her without knowing how.

The river that marked the border between one place and the next was her favourite haunt. A dark shawl around the forest’s neck, this waterway beckoned her. She’d slip out of her garments like a snake shedding its skin and step into the oil dark water even if coated with ice. I’d shiver. She’d laugh. She never bathed, never swam, never even moved just allowed the water to coat her in liquid darkness, the moon strangely absent and stars fast asleep. When she emerged, I’d dare a step closer, a great lump in my throat and weight on my heart. Not for lascivious reasons. No, never this. For one reason and one reason only, that split second when she’d shake out her hair and I might spy her eyes. I longed for those moments each and every evening. I breathed them.

And so our dance went on, night after night, month after month, life after life, until it suddenly stopped.

I found her disappearance hard to swallow. Her porch remained empty, yet the lace that curtained her windows closed and drew back every single night and day. There was never a switched on light, but illuminations never were her thing. That was not odd but normal. Neither was there smoke from her chimney, but, again, she seemed not to require the warmth. The salient truth, she simply deigned not to appear. Was this through choice or persuasion? It bothered me. I was bothered.

The waiting was the hardest game. To want but not know almost killed me. I waited for three full moons to elapse, muscles tensed like steel, mind about to explode, before I made my move. If I hadn’t, I’d have gone mad. Some might’ve said I already had.

The night stood black as pitch, a thick soup that coagulated between one day and the next. I dressed all in black, not to impress, nor to cultivate her favour, but, instead, to remain unseen. Yes, it was my best suit. And, yes, I did wear a tie of black silk over a shirt the same, but they were all I had. How could I have saved her in anything less? As for the kitchen knife? Protection or provocation most likely, but I soon forgot. The streets were deserted, the short passage to the outskirts of the old town and her home, unimpeded. I stole upon her like a cloud the stars, venturing where no other dared.

The hammock fabric froze my fingers. I had to touch it. With no ocular stimulation, I sought to find her in a tactile memory. This failed. The snowdrops ducked and weaved as if in mockery.

As though oiled for my expected visit, the door opened into a kitchen bereft of all but empty cupboards, all their doors either removed or hung askew. I tiptoed into a hallway even more dilapidated, where cobwebs hung instead of pictures and dust made carpets of the floor. The place was as stale as three-week-old bread.

I should’ve spun on my heels and run away. Just fled to the hills and never turned back. I couldn’t though, for I knew her there.

Next came the staircase, like the river, a passage from one world to the next. My story grew stranger here. The staircase was of onyx or some such mineral, not wood, nor stone, nor crafted by man. Every step glistened like a universe polished to glasslike perfection. Every placed foot carried me a step deeper into magisterial night. The air thickened and clogged my throat. My eyes and feet grew heavy. Regardless, I advanced.

I stepped onto the first floor as through having scaled Mount Everest in one night without oxygen or aid. Tired to the point of exhaustion, I scoured the area; it was all changed. Like a weary traveller, lost and found, I appeared from obsidian caves into fabled Xanadu. Gone was the destruction, a place starved of life, instead, awed wonder. How could it be? Why didn’t I care? I couldn’t help but gasp.

The sounds of the night came as a great crescendo of wolf and owl and bat and more. Dipped in the infinite wonders of a world I’d never known, I reeled, swayed, fell to my knees. A cold sweat cascaded from my skin like a sponge wrung out by a giant. My hands clenched, throat gulped. I gasped… I grasped… I focused… I fought… And panting like a dog in the darkness, I slowly lifted my head. She was there awaiting my obeisance. My dark queen. She was everything! Everything and more. I dropped the knife that had found its way to my hand; it fell soundlessly to the floor.

She came to me as a midnight fog all curlicued darkness and unravelling mystery. She twirled like the most beautiful ballerina, one wrist raised, pale skin exposed, pulsing veins beating with life. But her eyes! How I died for her eyes. They burned my world in that unknown colour, her lips of darkest blue an oceanic accent to the sparkle above. She drew me. It was all she’d ever wanted. And although I should’ve known it madness, and although I might’ve wept, I kissed her, a lingering impression of death. I was glad I kissed her. It lasted forever.

She made me hers. I was hers.

Through oceans of night and dimensions the same, we travelled. She and me. Me and her. Two lovers in an endless embrace, we tripped over stars and dined on moons. Bliss, in some ways. Torture, in others. It had to end. Reality would not suffer our love. And so we returned, if ever we left? And so I changed.

A flower sunk in a soil of unknown origins, her porch became my home. Spellbound, just one of many flowers stirred by her winds, I died every day, only for her darkness to revive me each evening. And though my roots dove deep to tangle with all those others, and air and water and light were all I should’ve desired, still, I awaited her nocturnal visits. I craved them, nodding away the seconds of every single day until darker than dark, she appeared. She’d take up her rocking birth whispering words of sweet solace, her loving temptations, sitting so close as to touch, each of us hoping it he or she on whom she’d lavish her attentions. She never did. Instead, she’d smile from behind her curtained fringe as if to appease us, whilst I dipped lowest of all.

All I longed for was her eyes. It’s all I ever would.

Those eyes… Those eyes… Spellbound… Those eyes…

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.

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.