If it was to pass without incident or event, without anger or altercation, I had to stay calm. There were no awards for foolishness, nor unprovable bravado. In this game of life and death decisions, I had to remain cool, unbothered, frosty.
"One lemon muffin please."
Her words cut through my misting, morning torpor like a bullet through paper; she'd bought the last one!
My fingers clenched, teeth grated, eyes shot daggers.
"I'm sorry," she said looking me up and down. "Would you like the last one?"
That was it, my faith in humanity restored. Not only was she stunning, but kind. I could've leapt in the air clicking my heels, laughed in jubilation, sung my heart out. But…
"No, you're alright, love. I'll have toast instead.
Well, after all, I was English.
Regardless of the provocation, I resisted. Although my fists balled so tight that I thought my fingernails to burst out of the back of my hand in sprays of crimson, I bit back the pain and sought the meditative calm of Zen. But, as always, my temper was not mine to control. One word from you and I poured upon them like a tsunami of pent-up rage. No one was spared. No one cared.
The child, a young boy of perhaps ten, looked from them to me and back again, smiled, then took back his lunch box.
They expelled me, of course they did, but justice had been served. She took me in, or so I told my parents, gave me a job and respectability. I’d have done anything for her, fought armies, braved monsters, loved. I didn’t, but would have.
When I woke one day to find her gone, I collapsed. Not a word written or verbal had warned of it. Not a clue to my desertion did she leave. All that remained was a single voice in my head where once there’d been two. I hated its owner. I hated me.
Author’s Note: I’ve just spent five hours editing. It may have affected me.
I floated in amniotic fluids, life bursting all around. Creatures of all kinds and all descriptions, some of which beggared belief, swam and dipped before me. Above, a sun ten times that of which I knew blazed down as I fought to stay afloat. Tropical, one might have said, Caribbean, at least, I batted at beasts no larger than my fist hoping to stave off this madness. I would’ve called them fish, but fish, they were not.
I spluttered as the sweet liquid entered my mouth and spat it out twice as quick. Undulating waves of turquoise clarity heaved my weightless form up and down, side to side, over and over, around and around as I searched for a shore in the churning maelstrom. But there was no shore in this place out of history. Alone, I surged against time’s tides desperate to return.
“Damn you!” I raged with a venom spawned from hate. “Damn you, science!” I shouted as the liquid entered my throat. “This is not, London! This is not the Thames!”
“Oh, I don’t know?” said a half-lizard, half-squid that floated on by. “Still better than Berlin.”
When it winked, I panicked. When it doffed its cap, I screamed.
What I loved about the moon was its gentle nature. Unlike the sun, which burned its violent image into my soul, the moon washed over my conscious self like a wet flannel on a fevered forehead. Yes, the moon was good for the ill. The sun just made me worse.
It shivered! My own dark shadow lay sprawled across the ground quaking like a frightened jelly. There was no wind to waft it, long grass to tickle it, no water to ripple it, my shadow trembled for only one reason; it feared me. Good, because I preferred it that way.
Motionless, we hung from the balcony rail not daring to move. A dare gone wrong, prank gone bad, the ground looked distant from the wrong side of the rails. What scared me most, though, was Sarah’s eyes. Wide and wild, all they said was jump. My fingers twitched. She smiled.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
That’s how the strangest meeting of my life began. It was only ever going to get worse.
He pressed his face up to the glass so hard as to make his whole head seem flat, his green hat and emerald-trimmed glasses falling off in the process.
“Why are you dressed like that? I whispered. I’d never seen anyone dressed head to toe in green velvet. Even Robin Hood wore brown pants, the Errol Flynn one anyway.
”I’m incognito,“ he said, and winked.
”Incognito as what?“
”An iguana of course! What kind of spy are you?“
”I’m not a spy,“ I answered truthfully.
”Really? I thought everyone that crept around in the evening was a spy.“
He said it so matter-of-fact that I almost believed I was.
”I just came for a drink.“
”Ah, I see.“
I didn’t know how he could what with him being an obvious nutcase.
”So, what are you doing?“ I asked again. I was already past the point of caring if my questions bothered him, but just had to know.
He gave me a swift appraisal, eyes bulging like the lizard he resembled, and said, ”I’m following my wife.“
”Yes, I know it’s sneaky, but us reptiles are.“
He beckoned me closer.
”I’m actually a gecko, but that’s just between you and me.“
”Yes, I suppose you are,“ I agreed. Despite an urge to roll my eyes and punch him in the head, I restrained myself and continued. ”Have you seen her?“ I enquired placing an eye to the dirty glass. The basement below seemed full of happy revellers, booze flowing in copious amounts as some chatted and others danced.
”Not yet,“ he answered. ”But I will.“
”Is she dressed like you?“
”I’m not sure, could be. It’ll be hard to tell.“
I thought she’d stand out like a sore thumb but persevered. ”Can’t see anyone in green, mostly bare skin.“
”That’s the brilliance of being an iguana, we blend,“ he said striking a surprised pose.
”Yes… Yes, I suppose you do.“
He relaxed at that and went back to his spying.
”What are you going to do when you find her?“
”If,“ he corrected.
”I’ll open this window, flash out my tongue and steal her peanuts. That’ll teach her not to hide food from me. Oh yeah, that’ll teach her. That’ll teach her good and proper.“ He wrung his velvet-gloved hands together; green ones of course.
”Good job she’s not a chameleon or you’d never find her.“
”Yeah, they’re the ones that change colour to match their surroundings.“
”Are you sure?“
”Damn it all to hell!“ he bellowed.
”I told him I was a chameleon,“ said a woman materialising out of the brickwork. ”Bloody men never listen. Fancy a peanut?“ she asked offering me an open packet.
I’d have taken one if the spymaster hadn’t stuck out his tongue, thrust his head in the packet and started chomping down nuts.
”And he wonders why I want the odd night out alone.“ She shook her head, though all I saw move was her beautiful, big, green eyes, dropped the packet, and merged back into urbania. ”I’ve always hated lizards,“ she muttered from the shadows, ”I much prefer dogs.“
”Really?” I said, as I scratched behind my ear and peed on the iguana’s green shoes.
My head spins with what it wants.
What does it want?
Eyes haze over unable to focus on unmatched trainers;
laces tied together in a triple knot.
A gloom transpires, a dizzying state of what should and what could;
I can no longer look down so stare up into the nothingness instead.
Crows line the street heads lowered like saddened old men.
They watch me stagger, lose my swagger, forget how to cry;
gargoyles of this modern utopia, they despise me.
I don’t want to look.
Please, don’t make me look!
The fogged nothingness disperses to another turgid somethingness.
A mellow sun rages an insipid war with an equally lethargic moon: Is this night or day? I hear me cry.
The crows nod, but I don’t know at what.
A key rattles in a pocket of a coat that might be mine;
it feels heavy in my blood-streaked hands, slippy like grease,
dirty proof of the person I have not wanted to become. So this is it I think, this is the life parentage bequeathed me.
Good. I’d rather fight than fall and I’m already through the door so the last laughs on me;
a crow passes me dinner: cooked crow.
The world outside the windows falls away, sheets tumbling
and I scream, for the game has sucked me in again.
I close my eyes, but they were already shut:
pick up a pen and write it out.
Spiralling away in a snail shell descent, the retreat is on.
A reversal to purgatories lost; misfortune abounds in this hole,
this depth of darkness I realise I must travel.
Timorous, I dally with a foot on the ledge praying it a dream;
it is not a dream; no dream could be so real as to fake cold, hard steel.
One foot at a time, one heartbeat after another,
I move in slow motion without moving at all.
Madness. This is madness. But it is my own particular madness,
my own particular brand of non-release; I know that now.
I shall never truly escape that which I would wish to,
only hide for short periods with my foot hovering,
gliding across that nightmare pause, that procession to death.
And no matter how many words I write, no matter how many worlds I create,
I will never create one where this staircase does not exist.
It is in my gullet, and I carry it everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere.