Glass Coffins

POSTED 21/08/2022

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

For those who fear to tread the streets, it is not the leering faces, the waves of crashing humanity, nor even the lines of cars who patrol as fuming anacondas that scare, it is themselves. I am no less a person. I would not wish it on anyone.

The palpitations begin at the city limits, as the towers rise like reflective mountains into a disrupted sky, my heart quickening. I gasp, seek to steady my breathing to the train’s repetition, a synchronising of man and machine. There is even a moment when I think it works and a sigh escapes my lips. It is short-lived. It is always short-lived, never lasting beyond the next batted lash. How life continues to disappoint.

Swamped by suburbia’s blur, the train gears up for one last dash, and we charge into the station like Usain Bolt for the finishing line: the tape broken, we stop; no one is victorious. One journey over, another begins.

Disembarking like so many ants from an anthill, we follow the chemical signatures laid down by history out into the glare of a city more on the rails than the train. People are everywhere. Like fish on a decaying reef, humanity teems across the porous concrete, searching for a purpose where there is no purpose. Some look to have hope in their eyes, most not. The difference between the believers and the sceptics is stark. Some might term it enlightenment versus resentment. I prefer reality versus dreams.

A stoplight glares in crimson; a double-dare to death. I have forgotten who waits for whom, so go with the flow and strive to remain somewhere in the middle. It’s only when I reach the other side that I realise I don’t want to be the last to go, the final smear on a Japanese car’s bonnet. I make a mental note to not make the same mistake, but an unhappy seagull, lost and far from home, squawks a distraction and the memory is lost.

The coffee district extends forever. Yes, there are intermissions in the chain of cocoa-driven madness, but not many, and nothing meaningful. I choose one that looks emptier than the others and order the same drink I do every single day. One day, I’ll risk a Latte, but I feel an Americano defines me. The smell of the bean soothes my mind. I wish to take the stuff intravenously, feel that brown warmth tickle beneath my skin. It is a dream I have in a world where dreams are scarce.

I linger at the coffee shop for longer than I should, but less than I wish. Before I know what’s happening, my feet are leading me out of the door and down the canopied street to my own private hell; the roof keeps the weather out and us in. My eyes remain on the ground wherever possible, striving not to look up, not to provoke a response. Not even the three false palms set to equidistant perfection fail to disturb my concentration. Like a robot, I approach the working district.

This world is glass. This world is made of a million versions of me. Everywhere I look, I am there. Even when I close my eyes. The last person I wish to see in repetition is myself. Anyone but me! Alas, life deems to torment me in refraction.

I open the doors to our office building; as I enter, another me leaves. A brief paisley respite — if ever paisley wall coverings can be called this — and I take the stairs. I work on the tenth floor but would rather ascend a hundred flights in preference to the glass elevator and be surrounded by those leering, sneering doppelgängers. Each step takes me higher, ever higher. Soon enough I see the world as a pigeon, a rat of the sky. There are more rats all around me. I feel swarmed by them.

I collapse into my office seat and a faux leather embrace. A moment. All I require is a moment. I don’t get one. Curlicues of steam flit like intangible faeries before my eyes. Where am I?

The office do-good has seen, found and presented before I’ve even taken my jacket off. I nod a thank you whilst contemplating stabbing her with my pencil; my pencil is blunt, typical!

My work provides a distraction, nothing more. The turgid rigmarole of everyday mundanity allows my mind the freedom of thinking itself elsewhere, somewhere where walls are rock and skyscrapers consist of trees. I wish myself away to a world without triplicated others and reciprocated frowns, but never for long enough.

A colleague wakes me from my stupor, even though my fingers continue to type in a fallacy of actual life. I smile, but he’s already gone. It is time to leave. The worst time of the day.

Most look forward to their return, the drive home, the commute. I do not. I hurry down the stairs and out of the revolving door. Too late, the sun is setting.

Everywhere I look, everywhere, a million others are doing the same thing. Each is crowned by a halo of liquid gold. The glass makes angels of all. All except one. The original, me. They mock me from their mercury sanctums, point, and laugh. Every face in every window, every man, woman, and worse, observe me. They know. Oh, how they know! I am abhorrent to them. I am abhorrent to me.

The train is stifling, dark and full of eyes. But as the lights click on, catching me off-guard as I gaze out into the nothingness, I realise there is only one certainty in this reflected face: these glass coffins have me captured and everyone’s watching me die.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

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Love Sucks

Photo by Katie Pearse on Unsplash
Photo by Katie Pearse on Unsplash

The depth of her sorrow submerged my soul. I saw it in her eyes, felt it in her every trembling movement.

Her head hung like a mannequin with its strings cut. There it bobbed like a buoy in an undulating ocean. How I wished to brush that curtain of long, black hair aside and lift her by the chin, tell her everything was okay.

I watched her slender fingers grapple with the hem of her skirt, like ancient ivy wringing the life out of its host. One foot tapped a rapid beat. She built to something, but what?

Time to act. What else was a lover meant to do?

“Can you tell me about it?” I asked, softly.

She shook her head, slow and purposeful.

“A drink? Food?”

Again, the same.

The direct approach was often the best. “You’re in pain.”

“Almost,” she whispered.

“Because you think I don’t love you.”

When her eyes met mine, they were no longer those of a girl, nor even a woman, but something older, feral.

“Because I know you don’t. At least, that’s what I shall tell myself until the pain erodes your memory.”

It happened all of a rush, her standing, the slash of the blade. She never blinked once.

I slumped to the ground, quite dead. All was becalmed.

It came as I would’ve hoped. I raised from myself, like souls do in the movies. In one last exhalation of self, my ghost vacated its shell, and then paused as if unsure of what direction to take. I’d been mostly good. Surely, that was enough.

I wouldn’t say she hated me, or that she was prepared to take God’s word for it, but she was ready for anything. She held the vacuum cleaner hose in one hand and set the suction to maximum with the other.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

Published Today! Ghosting

I’m very pleased to have had a short piece of writing published in the fantastic online magazine MasticadoresIndia. A big thanks to Terveen Gill for putting their faith in my work. Please do click either link and have a look around.

The title of my short fiction is ‘Ghosting’ and is a commentary on life and how some people get overlooked. I hope you enjoy the read.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

Vaporous Embraces

Photo by Dmitriy Ermakov on Unsplash
Photo by Dmitriy Ermakov on Unsplash

There is an inherent need in all humans, men and women, to yearn for that tactile embrace of a loved one. There is no comfort like the comfort of another, nowhere safer than when in a lover’s arms. Whilst in those arms, the nightmares seem less real. Life shall be easier than before. This is what they tell us. A gift from our elders, if you will. We will strive for it most of our lives. Yet, it is false. There is another way. I know, though, I wish I didn’t.

When we die, we leave. Simple as. No arguments. No complaints. We are no more, lost to time and eternity’s tides. Some people say our souls, that inner self we ignore too often during life, pass to a better place, one the living shall never know. But what is that better place?

Some say fields of gold. Others claim marble towers and walls too high for birds to crest. Some say a lapping shore where one may dip their proverbial toes and know peace. A rock on an endless mountain. A cloud. The theories expand exponentially as each new generation adds to their layers.

There are even places where these souls don’t want to go. Where they are sent, not requested. Places which mire in darkness, shadows hunting in packs and alone. No one wishes their spirit, their very essence, to inhabit such hells. No one!

There is also the in-between, where those who’ve abused the eternal embrace, though, not too much, reside. They pay their penances in waiting. Simply, waiting. Grey fog whirls and swirls here. The mists form in endless walls of dew. They are quiet places, timeless. But who is to mark the passage of time if love isn’t present or remembered?

This brings me back to better places, or simply, places.

I lost her. I never thought to find her again. Yet, she has found me. Through passion and determination, my once all has returned. She has entered me. I am her limbo. I am her hell. How I hope I’m her heaven, too. Vaporous, she’s been for the longest of times. Now, I breathe her in every breath.

Vaporous embraces are the greatest of all. There is no need for flesh on flesh, for eye to eye, or more. We are one until I pass, too. And then there’ll be no I at all.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

My Many Deaths

image courtesy Mattia Ascenzo on unsplash.com
image courtesy Mattia Ascenzo on unsplash.com

My first death hurt the most, not from the pain, but from the injustice. The second came as the biggest surprise because I was still dead from the first. A kiss spurred my third departure, a faint fluttering of the heart. My fourth death was so subtle, I didn’t realise until the fifth. There were more, many more, but death becomes as boring as life.

My deaths came in many forms, at many times and places. There was no preempting it. Experience of the thing failed to give a single heads-up. Apparently, having died a multiple and often inexplicable number of times counted for nothing. I was a duck in a pond just waiting for the sharpshooters to strike.

There were benefits to my ailment, this legacy of mind. They might not have counted for much, but for something. I grew hardened, cocooned, insulated against death. My resolve strengthened. My will hardened.

I approached my many deaths differently upon this magical realisation. I expected them, thus the events themselves became less torrid. No longer would I toss and turn at night, clutching at my heart and sweating profusely. No, sir, I was a changed man. Well, boy.

The last turned me down before I’d even opened my mouth. ‘Not you,’ she sneered. ‘Not you.’

That was the last time I died. It didn’t bother me then, as now. Although, the woman with the scythe and the ebony eyes is grinning as though it should.

The End.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

Published! Sleeping with the Lies

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.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Magenta Moments

Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash
Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash

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.

I smiled.

I waved.

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 End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.
Also Available:
The Eternals Series: The Eternals / Hunter Hunted / Into Eternity

100 Word Stories: The Spiral

Photo by Daphné Be Frenchie on Unsplash
Photo by Daphné Be Frenchie on Unsplash

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.


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.

One Essential Reason for Living

Image courtesy Trey Gibson Unsplash.com
Image courtesy Trey Gibson Unsplash.com

I have considered the question as though it is my best friend: Why live?
The world is full of moments, some short, some long, and some unending. Until they do end, that is, which renders the latter one moot. Whether a moment secures itself in life’s final journal depends on many contributory factors. Does one love the instant in question? Does one wish to relive the experience again? If I forget it, will it matter? The criteria are as endless as the ultimate decision.
I have heard people croon about the sunrise. Other good folk have a soft spot for the moon. Children enjoy days at the beach when the tide tickles their toes and the sun bakes their skin. I am no sentimentalist. I have not the luxury of knowing for certain. But I can surmise. I can guess.
Reproduction. That insistence of life to replicate. Without reproduction there would be no life unless we, too, learned to split, endlessly dividing, sending copies of ourselves here there and everywhere. Surely, reproduction must be the reason for living, isn’t it? But here we have a dilemma, for not everyone possesses the inclination, looks, or sheer stupidity to do so. Why perpetrate the falsity of greatness, of a perfection worth continuing, when most are clearly not? It really is a pickle, life.
So, after a lifetime of near misses and many millions of seconds practising for death by living, I have come to a conclusion. ‘What!’ you scream. How can I know what scholars have cogitated over since humanity first learnt to think? The truth, I haven’t, not for everyone. But I have for me: To write this.
To put into words what the lost and the dreamers search for, this is my purpose. It is not to give them the answer, just the reassurance that they aren’t alone in their worrying and searching. Ultimately, there can be no right answer, at least, that’s what I think. But everyone has one essential reason for living, and that reason must mean something to you.

The End


Thank you for reading
Richard

Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.