(Originally posted May 2017)
We’d been dancing around the trees, the three of us. My left hand enveloping her cool hand and my right entwined with his sweaty paw. Like Victorian ghosts, we ringed around the rosy around this confused silver birch until we became dizzy and the black scars on white bark began to swirl and combine…
…and she cried out that she could see underwater zebras galloping across an ocean bed, and the heads were breaking the surf like the incoming tide, and we all just pissed ourselves laughing and blamed the drugs, because it was always the drugs, even though she didn’t even swallow cough syrup.
The Boy was born to take drugs, if only because he made more sense that way. Drugs seemed to mature him mentally and physically. He stood taller and sounded wiser, although I look back now and realise I was probably meeting him halfway rather than him rising to the occasion. Too often though I became so debilitated, and he would stand there sardonic, silent and judgemental as though all our jibes and crimes, all the blood and sweat that we drained from him like vampires was now presented to him as evidence of our unsuitableness in his pathetic life. With detached reason, he watched me suffer and he watched her dance as she vied against this new threat to her power.
Late one February, we lit a bonfire on one of the old railway sleepers and listened as the snap of the flame waltzed a tune with the hiss of the melting tar. The Boy had made a small guitar from elastic bands, a length of bamboo and a little paint tin we’d found amongst a stash; dumped by a decorator and then hoovered up by the local sniffers looking for any kind of perfumed solvent to jam up their noses. Two or three in the morning was the safest time to be out. As She would often reason, even the rapists and the murderers have to sleep at some point.
The Boy belted out a dreadful tune and then tried to sing, just a load of nonsense and wailing. We listened and I tried to stare at her to see her reaction but the light of the flames in her eyes gave me the beginnings of a bad trip. Looking at her from the corners of my eyes made it even worse; the shadows elongated her face from her cheekbones down, giving her the look of a demonic mask from a Greek chorus. I shivered and sensed her complete lack of movement next to me as She sat, rapt and slowly clapped. Words began to slip into The Boy’s unintelligible stanzas like the flash of fast cars from a road bridge, and his foreign sounds turned into language.
He sung a bizarre thing I cannot remember. I looked up to the sky, but it was empty of stars and glowing faintly purple. Whenever I breathed out, my breath became smoky, but the shape of the smoke kept changing into a hand reaching out from my mouth and trying to grab The Boy’s face. Just when he began to find a tune, just when the words began to make sense, he launched into a deranged, sing-song chorus repeating the same words over and over between the high pitched whistle and the gutteral spread; GREEEEEN flames….. GREEEEEN flames….. GREEEEEEEEN fe-laymes….. GREEEEEE….
He pointed the guitar’s neck at me and performed a theatrical windmill strum, bringing his hand down heavily on the elastic. Two of the bands snapped and I felt one sting my eyebrow and the other my cheek. Instinctively, my eye closed and my muscles refused to open it. I felt sure I was blind. And through one eye, the sky changed from purple to turquoise. Next to me, I saw her terrible form like a Chinese dragon elongate across the fire, growing extra pairs of arms to accomodate her new torso.
The Boy grabbed a handful of the fire and his entire fist from knuckle to wrist turned into a ball of green flames. Inside, I could see his flesh turning black. He started to laugh and to swing wildly at Her as she shrank away, her body receeding back into itself like a compressed spring. I started screaming, really screaming so that my vocal cords squirted blood into my lungs, and then my screams turned to words and the words turned into a song, The Boy’s demented song. The bonfire rose, The Boy’s upper body became engulfed, The Girl disappeared behind a black cloak of smoke and shadow, but I could hear her singing as well. I felt my body fill with hydrogen and I knew I would blow all three of us sky high as soon as the heat penetrated my skin.
I woke up ten minutes later, my head clicking as I tried to move it. Lying next to me was The Girl, thoughtfully laying on her back chewing on a splinter of bamboo. The fire crackled energetically. And in the amber light, I saw the half-face of The Boy, squatting over me, tearing up grass in his fingers and gently sprinkling it over my face and chest.