Archway in the blue
Where birds fly on and under
I see your pale hand waving
From that sky bridge to nowhere
Archway in the blue
Where birds fly on and under
I see your pale hand waving
From that sky bridge to nowhere
Author’s Note: I wrote this immediately after reading a post by my good pal the wonderful Sue Vincent and her struggles with sleep. I hope you enjoy it.
When one is small, the night terrors seem all the more fearsome, bigger, unavoidable. The act of sleeping becomes a nightmare that one will do anything to avoid. Anything!
The beauty of youth lies in the length of the days and the innocent belief they will never end. The sun will rise to hang in the sky seconds dragging to minute, minutes to hours. Years never enter the equation. This is the way of things. The moon, however, is a fleeting visitor. This changes with time.
As an adult, the days shorten and nights increase. The inevitable slide toward death sees the daylight hours hurtle by at a rate of knots, the nights drawing out in their passage to one continuous darkness. For a child of nightmares who grows into adulthood, this is the worst time of all. Not everyone sheds the fears of youth. I think she knew this.
She came as a gathering of dust motes illuminated by the moon. Of no discernible distinction, more cloud than woman, she accumulated each night in the deepest recesses of my subconscious. I did not know her only of her. Neither did I dread her though some might have. She was the nightly reassurance that someone, anyone watched over me.
I did not shake the nightmares overnight. I wish I had, but that would be a lie. They were weaned from me like a child form its mother’s milk. A gentle coaxing of one soul from here to there with whispered affirmations and unseen smiles. She was so kind. No, that is wrong. She is so kind.
So, who is she, this woman with the opal eyes, this misting nymph? I do not know, I never have. All I can tell you is this: there are things we do not understand, and she is one of them. Neither do I wish to understand her. There are times when it is better to just close one’s eyes and dream.
An undersea dream
This gelatinous haunting
In shallow graves we came to them
An army of the passed, the lost, the in between
As reeds in the wind, we whispered 'No'
The breath of the once and was, the forgotten
Not stale, but sweet
Like gentians on an alpine breeze
A cooling balm to the frightened many
A gift from behind the curtain
They remembered us then
Not so forgotten, anymore
Nor what we died for
There is a path off a road off a hillside off a dream, a path where all the silent ones go to sleep. I followed it once without care for myself. This is where it led.
The snow fell in relentless cascades obliterating my footprints so I might’ve stepped through a thickening fog that congealed around my feet. I would’ve said I knew the way home with my eyes shut, Sooty, my dog, barking at my heels, the same. Neither of us felt the incline nor subsequent slope. Neither of us realised we stepped from grass to mud to asphalt and back again. All was deep snow, so deep, I picked Sooty up in my arms and ploughed a lone furrow through that white onslaught. It affected us that coldest of days, my dog in my arms and my hopes in his senses.
We came across them as shadows on the road to limbo, the true source of the endless snow. They stood there as indifferent shapes against an indifferent background, as unaware of what I was to them, as they were to me. The only definite in that scene was the cases they held in smudged hands, the sums of all their endeavours packaged to be carted away into the forever.
I stared at them for the longest time unafraid, for they meant me no evil, one can tell such things when they’re forced upon them. They appraised me, wondered if to invite me on their march to another place, a silent place. I might’ve gone with them too, fallen succour to their impartial gesturing if Sooty had not growled his discontent.
They vanished into the snow as though enveloped by an avalanche that never quite reached my feet. They disappeared into infinity taking everything they’d been with them. I already cradled my everything in tiring arms, so turned around and made my way home.
I never reached it, but still I try.
I waited with trepidation for the dandelion seeds to take flight, I always had. There was something about them, something intangible almost like ghosts holding parasols with a license to roam both day and night. Ethereal in their opalescent beauty, the seeds appeared from mass, golden deaths to haunt the fields, roadsides and gardens for scant days each year. I imagined them drifting off into a pale nowhere that I alone would one day find. It saddened me that I didn’t. I’ve dreamed of that place where the dandelion seeds lie for so many years. One day, I’ll find them.
I was going to try and scare the bejesus out of you all, but opted for this instead. I hope you enjoy my Halloween treat.
The Broken Girl
She lay in the road like a deer or a dog, a broken object meant for better things, a crumpled mess.
I pulled the jeep over and rushed out to help her; I cried at her crippled form. More a heaped pile of bones like a crimson-sprinkled ghost than a pretty young girl, she was all but dead to the world, though not to me.
I placed the girl on a sheet of tarpaulin I kept aside for dirty jobs, cursed at myself for considering her such, then rolled her up like a dead pet. For her part, she did not resist. The broken girl never once twitched even an eye, never once murmured a word. She didn’t have long, and I knew it.
The road back to the city took an eternity. I lived where I did on purpose to get away from everyone and everything. Solitude was the single luxury I enjoyed, or had, until then. The one time I longed for civilisation to be nearer, to rush towards me and help save her, it just never seemed to get any closer. The lights of the metropolis twinkled on the horizon like will-o’-the-wisps teasing my heart into thinking her saveable when in fact she’d almost gone.
I raced down the back roads, dirt spraying in all directions, until it met the freeway in a deserted rendition of what they’d been built for and floored it.
I stopped looking in the rearview mirror when her blood started to drip out onto my car mat. What had they done to her? It was so wrong, so very wrong!
An hour of anxious speeding swept past and nothing much changed. I thought I saw her fingers twitch once but could’ve been mistaken. Only her wracked breaths and the rising of her naked breasts gave any indication of the poor thing still being alive. I prayed it lasted.
By the time we reached the bridge that crossed the river and allowed entry to the city true, I was beyond panic and had settled into a state of inner calm, or madness, I wasn’t sure which? That’s why when I saw the bridge folded like a broken knee, stuck, very stuck, and impassible. All I did was sigh.
Casting the girl a pathetic ‘it’ll be all right’ smile, I went to investigate. There wasn’t a person, car, boat or anything in sight just the distant flickering lights of the city and the unobtainable dream of fixing a broken girl.
That’s when most people would’ve given up, but not me. I imagined the faces of those who’d harmed her, leering, laughing, even joking at her plight and it moved me to do what some might have said foolhardy.
My jacket made a pillow for the girl to lift her head ever so slightly. For the rest, I removed my jeans, shirt and boots, folded them up and placed them in the tarpaulin with the girl. Then, I picked her up with the care I’d have afforded a crystal decanter in my makeshift hammock, carried her down to the river bank, and swam.
I hauled my burden through the choppy water if that godawful sludge of a river could be termed so. I pushed and pulled, coughed and spluttered, and made my way in chilling temperatures to the other side. When I reached the far bank, I was almost as dead as the girl, but I was no longer alone.
“I’ll take her now, son,” said a voice of honeyed silk.
And as if by magic a light came on. The Angel, for he could’ve been nothing else with those wings of swanlike majesty, unwrapped my flesh and bone package and lifted the broken girl into his arms.
“I’ll look after her now,” he said and smiled. “You needn’t worry anymore.”
And somehow, I knew he would. Somehow, I knew he always would. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the girl was going to a better place.
My thoughts came to an abrupt halt, however, as the bridge groaned into action. I turned to look, as the light behind me dimmed, and by the time I looked back, they’d gone.
It was hours later when I made it home. I expected my wife to be beside herself with worry. I’d have had to try to explain. But what could I have said? I didn’t though. She already knew.
My wife waited at the door tears in her eyes. I’d not put one damp foot on the ground when she flung her arms around my neck, buried her head into my saturated collar and wept like she’d never stop.
“I’ve had a visitor,” she finally whispered. “A person came to tell me you tried to help someone. That you were the last decent man, and I was a lucky woman. They told me not to worry and that you’d be home soon. So I wasn’t scared, not really.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Pretty little thing,” she said. “She had the saddest eyes I’d ever seen almost as if she knew something awful was about to happen. She said you forgot this and was returning it on your behalf.”
I took my jacket, the one I’d rested beneath the broken girl’s head and hung it on the hook behind the door.
I’ve never touched it since. I just couldn’t.
Ghosts and Serenades
Why do dogs howl at the moon? Why do cows moo when a simple hello will suffice? Why does a cockerel crow in the morning but never utter a word at night? The sounds we make define us; she sings to ghosts.
The beauty of midnight in a secluded mansion miles away from anywhere is the sanctity of silence it provides. There should be no reason for discourse nor dispute. And yet, I have.
I cannot silence her, you see. I dare not silence her. Not now. The ghosts gather beneath my sister’s window every evening when lesser folk have gone to sleep. Amassing in wavering fronds of white-sheeted motion, they struggle to be corporeal if only for a second just to hear her sing.
I have asked her why and still do, but my sister claims not to know she does so. When I say, why? She says, I can’t, I’m asleep.
That beggars the question that if my sister is indeed asleep, a girl notorious for her quiet demeanour, why would song come to her only in the midst of dreams? I do not have the answers.
I have listened to her and am listening now, as I make these notes beneath a moonlit sky, but still, I am clueless to her draw. Her words are more melody than correct phrasing aimed at an individual audience. I hear a lost lark or perhaps an elaborate nightingale. The ghosts who paw at her window frames hear something else entirely.
I have vowed to sit here night after night to protect my sister from those who would steal her songs. No ghost of unknown origin shall harm the beautiful soul, the pure innocence of she who is my sister, not whilst I have any say in the matter. I will sit here forever if I must, for all eternity and beyond. And, as I struggle to remember the last time I have ever seen the sunrise, I muse over one last salient detail: have I?
“Is this it?” she asked.
Our small boat rocked in the wake of a shoal of moonfish. It gave me chance to sugarcoat a reply.
“If it is, I can’t think of a better way to spend it.”
“You seem pleased.”
“I am, and you should be, too. We have the moon and an endless sea, the stars above and beneath us, the peace and solitude we always wished for.”
“Hm, but I don’t really like the sea.”
“Watch,” I said. I swished my hand through the obsidian waters stirring a gold and silver luminance as I did. Cupping as much seawater in my hands as I might, I threw it into the air where it rained back down as snowflakes.
“Ooh,” gasped Francesca.
“Whenever you’re feeling sad or like our journey’s too long, I’ll do something even more spectacular to cheer you up. How’s that, my love?”
“Thank you,” she said, the memory of what had just occurred already lost, her eyes glazed and returned to the midnight horizon.
I sighed and pretended to look away. How could I tell her? What words did I have and how long before I, too, lost the ability to phrase them. We were ghosts, nothing more. We were whispers of corporeality, insubstantial starlight held within a dream. I wept, whilst still I could, unable to feel my tears.
Beyond The End