It lay in the street like a puddle of blood. A soft liquid, downy, not right, I approached this small death with tentative steps. The blood shifted as if to pour away.
Startled, I recoiled.
Though detested by this fear of something so small, this unexpected disturbance, I regathered. My breaths steadied to a pulsing fog in the cold winter morning.
The scarlet pool appeared unbothered, too, resettling like an agitated baby rocked to sleep.
If the frost was finer, the dawn warmer, the effect would’ve lessened, but red on white like a Crusader’s bold announcement of the purging victory to come, gleamed. How dare it! How dare it ruin my morning?
I made to walk around the thing but life intervened. A city fox so alive as to dismiss extinction ran out of a hawthorn bush. The creature lowered its head as if to lap at the pool.
It was wrong, this I knew. Nothing could’ve turned my stomach more.
So what did I do this disenchanted morning when one of God’s creatures required my aid? What did I do when the devil in a fox fur coat came to finish what nature had started?
I let it.
There are many kinds of sin but none so great as indifference. One might say it the cardinal sin, yet we bask in its crimson illumination gladly.
Author’s Note: As you all know, I have a memory like a sieve. I’ve been turfing out some old writing, the following being one of them. I have no idea when or why I wrote it, but it seemed a pity to waste. I hope you enjoy.
I flew between ancient oaks skimming their acorns with my wingtips. I hoped they might tinkle like the bell in the old church, but they didn’t.
Out of the canopy and into a cobalt sky twisting and looping with the sheer joy of freedom, I sped unafraid, free. If this was a dream, then I’d dream it forever. If this was perfection, then I lived it through joy. I was born on the wing, born to fly. Nothing would take away my pleasure.
The pain came swift and stinging like two squadrons of wasps at my shoulders. Darkness took me, the blue sky gone.
I woke in a nest made of twigs, my feathers shorn, an aquiline face looming. Had I dreamt myself a man who wished himself a bird, or a bird who’d forgotten himself a man? And as a shadow fell and a scimitar beak loomed with cruel intentions, did it matter?
She ran between the raindrops like a mouse who’d lost its umbrella. Flitting from flower to flower, mushroom to mushroom, upturned coffee cup to empty packet of crisps, she wept through the ancient forest. Why? Because even the little folk now know us, and that’s enough to make anyone despair.
They differ to us substantially. The most apparent of these is their appearance. We stand upon two legs, make our way through a tactile world with two hands and regard all through two eyes. In a more direct description, we are paired. This pairing navigates beyond the physical into the realms of belief. It is believed we should live our lives in pairs, couples, if you will, and so we do. We are a species who thrive in plural. A species must thrive if it wishes to endure.
They exist in the singular. They are derived from a singular entity, one that split to spawn many. Wherever possible, they refrain from interaction and keep to themselves. They live alone, talk alone and enjoy doing so. Physically, we are comparable, but they do not see it this way. They look through two eyes, but act as though looking through none. They have two legs, but refuse to use them unless necessary. Their paired arms and hands are now conjoined with so much technology, they have become indistinguishable from the greater whole.
Their name? They have many names and many subsets. They dislike being classified as many and prefer singular — as is their way — identification. My colleagues term them vermin, but the correct and almost forgotten genus is human. They are a strange lot, yet as I scientist I find them intriguing. Though I suspect I shall not for much longer.
They were not the remainder,
But the remained.
They were not an illustrious past,
But an ignoble future.
The loud and the slovenly,
Those who hid,
Relics of a world made mad:
The lunatics inherited it all.
Whilst those who tried:
The thinkers, the generous,
The less gregarious smiles at open doors;
The welcoming quiet,
As they always had,
But would no more.
Perhaps it was for the best.
Perhaps it was never meant to be.
Which shames me
As I type this final note,
For we should’ve tried harder
To change them.
And though we promised
And though we said
And though we pleaded
And the world denied
Yes, we tried
And though our hearts broke
And though we bled
And though it pained us
And the world laughed
Yes, we tried
And though we left them
And though we forsook them
And though we looked back
And the world knelt begging
But we won’t again
She hid behind the trash cans like a nervous mouse, the steel rattling with her fear. A pair of blue eyes in a world of darkness, the child cowered so far back into the night, I thought her a hermit crab with refuse for a shell.
"I'm here to help," I said softly.
The girl froze.
"Please, let me help you."
"Men have helped me before," said a cracked voice older than it should've been.
I risked one more step; it was one too many.
She was gone in a flash scurring away like the mouse she so resembled. And strange though it was, I did not pity her then. I did not feel sorry for that poor little girl of the street, though I should've, but, instead, for everyone else. If we could do that to someone, we deserved pity. I just hoped the man above thought that, too.
Hope was the contents of a duffle bag buried by the sea. The last of the last, my child would be taken by the waves when they chose, not man, a restoration of life's balance.
I turned my back on my past, our past and strode back into the desert.
There is blood in the air and fear on the streets, the city reeks of it. I bathe in this feral disruption like all predators must; it does no good to show fear in the face of the enemy. Society pools about me in terror and tainted thoughts, I smile politely at each in turn. This is not how it should be. This is not right.
The sun tips a few more degrees to port unleashing its crimson juices upon the universe. I watch through darkened goggles whilst other eyes fry even enjoying the view. It is not often one witnesses one’s own demise and certainly not in slow motion.
Blood. It reminds me of blood pouring away from a once live host. Our sun is dead but just doesn’t know it. I am dead but just don’t know it.
Why cast my thoughts into a temporal bubble and set them loose on the oceans of time? Perhaps a warning? Perhaps a lie? You don’t know me. I could be mad? Then again, what if I’m not?
I fade away with a crimson smile. Goodbye, my friends. Goodbye.
In broken brickwork
The cracks appearing