I’m very proud to announce that Spillwords.com have kindly chosen my short story ‘The Dying Time‘ as a featured post of the day. Spillwords house a wonderful selection of poetry and prose from all around the globe. Please do check them out.
‘The Dying Time‘ is the story of a young mother’s loss seen through the eyes of her new lover. Her sadness and strange behaviour will unravel before his eyes. I hope you enjoy the read.
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.
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.
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.
An evening routine, this is my way. Routine differentiates me from the billions of other night-dwellers who huddle beneath their covers like frightened rabbits, shuddering themselves to sleep, whilst praying for tomorrow. Only through sleep will they welcome the light. They crave it more than food or water. More than love. I need only my routine. This will never change. Until…
I prefer a stark December cold to the false warmth of early May, or the stifling nights of mid-July. You may think me picky, but a perfectionist would be nearer the truth. Optimal conditions help me find my peace, for only in peace will she find me. Or I, her? I forget which? My mind is not what it was.
My bedroom is tiny. There’s room enough for a bed and a small cupboard. This otherwise empty space serves as a reminder of the life I have left behind. Here, I interact, hoping beyond hope that all is right. Nothing more. Worrying achieves nothing in the hours before dawn.
I wonder what it’s like to dream the partial realities of a normal person. Dreaming is a prerequisite of being, and I am a being, even when not being. If you catch my drift? Does it make me a non-person if I hang in the shade like a panting shadow, loiter at the corners of dusk? I hope not, as it intimates insecurity, and I am far from insecure. Mine is an endless dream where this infusion called life is nothing but the pricking of a syringe. I am past this. I am past normality.
There’s a confused robin who sings all night. The streetlights fool the little creature into believing the sun never sets. He trills his little heart out anticipating finding a mate to constant disappointment. I know how he feels. I wonder if he pities me as I pity him. Still, he has his routine: eat; perch; trill. He’s relentless. When the hovering kestrel realises the robin there, this may change. Not until then, though, and neither will I.
I feel this evening, this section of dream I flourish in, will be the one. I feel it with every creaking bone and pulled muscle. Age will do this to a man. Time has a lot to answer for. Regardless, I sit on the end of my bed in this room for a cage, hands clasped together in prayer, and wait. I’m always waiting.
Am I sleeping, or awake? Does it matter? The curtains flutter, as does my heart. Reality changes. Her whispers brush my ears like December snowflakes. I hear her above the blood surging through my arteries. I hear her in all her undiluted loveliness. She is here, in this room, blooming like a rose through a glacier. Her eyes melt my soul. They always did. For the first time since forever, I smile.
When this dream called life is replaced by another, my darling is there to hold my hand. She says my little bird has come for me, as she’s wished to every evening before I dream. “Is this night?” I ask. Her lips say no.
Only in eternal beauty does one find release.
She had no status, no place in this world. She barely had a life. Then again, neither did I.
We met one Easter morning and had married by tea in an unorthodox ceremony involving a stray cat who fussed our feet like catnip. It then peed on the floor. We laughed like hyenas. The pastor didn’t. The next day became our anniversary, and the next, and the next. Not a great legacy but something. We all must have something.
We left the city for the coast on an empty bus, a move in direct opposition to the latest trends, and got off at the last stop because the driver made us. He smiled as he did so like a man in the know.
We found a tiny house with a bed, a toilet, a door, and a view. This was all we required. This and each other.
It began soon after.
She forgot my name by Halloween and my face by Christmas. My voice went last. Perhaps it reassured her? A somnambulist by day, worse still by night, she wandered. I wandered with her when I could. It was only a matter of time.
New Year’s Day. I found her mangled body upon the rocky shore. She’d stepped from the cliffs as though them our lawn, whilst the sea fret tickled her eyelids and vindictive gulls egged her on. I was sad, but not inconsolable.
I buried her deeper than I ought, marking her grave with a simple cross of two bound sticks. There, I scratched the message: To My beloved Wife.
Later, when malicious gossip made the pastor aware of my situation, he visited one gloomy afternoon.
“It’s untitled, anonymous!” he exclaimed.
“What is?” I replied.
“Her grave, man. Her grave!”
“As was she.”
“Because she had no name?” he ventured, calming at my obvious heartbreak.
Death was an inelegant solution to an elegant game, an imperfect answer to the most perfect of all solutions. Yet here, Death held no sway.
Memories were never my forte. I remembered in fits and starts, never then till now, nor here to there. I recalled moments, or fragments of moments, nothing more, like a jigsaw turned upside down and with no means of reference to piece it back together. This was how the first conjunction occurred, grey on black, black on grey, always white in-between.
The small, white bird was not a creature of feathers and pumping blood, but of glazed porcelain with a copper beak. It sang, though, trilled its little metal heart out. It sang and sang and sang.
I put the bird in my pocket only to realise many years later, when next I checked, that it had a hole. I panicked then, something to set the heart palpitating. The dull boom, boom, thud of it rang throughout the place, as I searched everywhere except where I ought.
The second alignment came upon discovering the first of two pits. I peered in one, dropped to my knees for a closer look and almost toppled into the other. In a world of insubstantiality, they were flat, almost symmetrical, two discarded black orbs in a land of dusk. Well, until they blinked.
They say life comes in threes. Third time lucky and all that. Not for me.
The sun appeared like a coin from a grandparent’s pocket. You wanted it, needed it, but if you took it too quickly, you might not get another. I had desired the sun since I lost it. She always gleamed.
She was my little bird, pale with sable hair, which added to her ghostlike appearance. Her eyes were black. No other description fit them. Closing them was the hardest thing I ever did.
The sun, now bright and beaming like a lighthouse slicing through a stormy midnight, rose higher. It reached its zenith like a diamond in a jet black ring.
The voice hurt my ears. It rang through my befuddled thoughts like Big Ben’s bells thrust inside my skull. I hated pain. My pain, that was.
I didn’t answer. I never answered. The words were never quite there. Instead, I wrapped my fogged shawl closer, pulled it tight. Anything else might have killed me.