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.
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.
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 Earth does not spin, nor does it travel around a burning sun: The Earth falls. I know this better than most.
It’s a slow descent through time and space, one that drags our spiralling universe down, like two children holding hands on a helter-skelter. One without the other is just an object, but two, and the scene has purpose.
I do not wish to fall, yet, I am. We all are. The collective has no choice in the matter. This is the way of things. Still, I wish with all my heart that I wasn’t first down the slide.
Sometimes the need to breathe overwhelms. Our throats constrict, tongues swell, eyes bulge like bullfrogs. A blue sky darkens to ocean, the world reversed, our bodies upside down. Not even the earth offers a steadying reassurance, volatile like an undulating sea. We drown, eyes open. We gasp for air. The worst of it? There’s no rational explanation. Just another day or night in a life of many. Just another second on this road called life.
These moments are fleeting, though occasionally, they linger. But the body always remembers what to do, after all, without a predisposition for breathing, why even have lungs?
Breathing is what we do when we close our eyes. We leave the body to do its thing as we dream of better. Unlike the accordion that requires a good squeeze, or the bike pump that demands manipulation, our bodies do not. So, why do we need so many teachers to help us? The answer is simple: We don’t.
Yet we have apps to follow and sites to see, gurus to advise, and leotarded superstars to offer salvation. If only we could breathe like them. If only we could do it right.
And we try. We try so very hard to understand. To appreciate. To live the dream. If we do it right, who knows, perhaps Death will never take us.
Death, the dark force behind it all. The one who wants us to fail, to gasp, flounder, capitulate. He cares not that we breathe or that we might only sometimes breathe, just that one day we won’t. Even thinking about it makes our chests constrict, breaths shorten, noses block. As dogs before a desert without master or chain, free to explore, but scared to stray far from the puddle at their feet, we hesitate. Death smiles.
Hesitation is his dark foot in the door. It is doubt. It is a taster. That instant of will our breaths return, even when knowing they should. So, we regather like they’ve taught us. We control ourselves with the skill a baby would admire. We breathe, deep and long, our cheeks puffed out and brows sweating.
They teach us to listen to our breaths and from there ourselves. The body will know. The body will calm itself. But in this calmness, this cosmic realignment, we hear what our breaths have immersed. An app shuts down. A website fails. A guru collapses to the ground quite dead. The leotard splits to howls of universal derision.
We breathe because we want to. We breathe because we must. But one day in the not-so-distant future, we won’t. On that day, Death can take us. On that day, our accordions shall not require being played. I, for one, shall welcome it, as I hope will you.
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.
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 our universe through two eyes. In a more direct description, we are paired. This pairing navigates beyond the physical into the realms of belief. We believe we should live our lives in pairs, couples, if you will, so we do. We are a species who thrive in the plural. A species must thrive if it wishes to endure.
They exist in the singular, 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 have become so conjoined with 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 a scientist, I find them intriguing. Though at their present rate, I suspect I shall not for much longer.
There’s less of me now I dissipate daily One emotion at a time Falling from grace Like a rock from a cliff Shards of me crumbling Just crumbling away Less than a person Worse than a ghost Grey eyes dispersing a gloom That permeates this soul
Freedom deserts me I’m no longer myself Walking the high wire In concrete boots Awaiting the plummet Whilst watching birds fly So far and so free Wondering if angels do too I’m less than I was There’s less of me now With never enough to save
You must be logged in to post a comment.