Metallic

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We roll up, the tyres cracking and complaining under the broken ground, into the skeletal husk.  In the shell of the old factory the slabs of mottled concrete rise like broken teeth, or gravestones, testaments to mothers, fathers, daughters and sons.  Every surface is tattooed with fallen graffiti artists, leaving their tags in blood red as the light dimmed from their eyes.

Trespass is the least of our crimes, and our crimes are the least of anyone’s around here.  I look across to a vibrant bundle of scarlet hair and anger.  Aged fourteen she found her brother kneeling peacefully in the street with a knife hilt buried in his chest.  She ran over to hug him as he rose his head to the sky, closed his eyes and a single tear ran from the corner down his cheek.  He whispered into her ear; this really hurts, and I need to sleep… if I don’t wake up, know that I love you. 

She broke my ribs last week.  As I crouched, doubled up and breathless, she pointedly remarked; if it makes you feel better, I can feel it too… and it hurts.  She was dangling upside down from a tree at the time.

Now we sit in front of a jagged, arrow shaped monolith, casting a shadow over the car.  Five stories of naked, pointless brick holed five times down the centre by glassless windows and kept up by a few flimsy pieces of tape and warning signs that the whole thing could come down at any moment.  We’re underneath it, and for good measure, I turn the key to shut the engine down.  The stand-off begins.  If it decides to fall today, we won’t have time to react.  I pass the can to her and she passes it back.

Tears regularly form on her eyelashes like icicles.  She tells me; I’m finding it harder and harder to keep breathing forwards.  Then, with a deep sigh that raised her chest to the heavens, she turned her head to face me…. See? 

When I walk down the street with her at night, the streetlights flicker and dim as she walks past them.  I used to think it was her energy fucking with the wiring, but now I realise it is the shadows of her thoughts that swim and dance around her head, blocking out the light, selfishly hogging her soul.

Sucking on the can, she leans back and stares out of the window.  Her voice is half panicked and half relieved when she says; I think I’m dying… I can see angels coming to collect me… I never thought I’d be one of the saved. 

I look ahead; flecks of snow are settling on the car windscreen.

 

Saturn

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Flashback One

I straddle the dead log, keeping my dress down towards my knees and my spirits up.  He flicks his cigarette lighter endlessly, over and over again.  The Marlboro remains in his mouth, unlit, as he stares into the floor.  I realise how little he looks like James Dean.  Everything is there… the white stick, the leather, the brow… but he looks like a little boy in his father’s suit pretending to work at the office.  This is the end.  So I pick a thin stone out from the small bag over my shoulder and carve some initials into the fallen log.  I can tell from his sudden interest that he thinks these are our initials.

‘T’

‘H’

‘I’?

I write; THIS IS THE END…. and whip the stone at him hard, cutting to the bone just above his eye.

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Flashback Two

On the alley stairs, the girl is begging.  She’s crying hard as her clumpy heels crumple and fall and she slides down a damp wall.  Sitting on one of the steps, looking up at me… she pleads I don’t want to fight you. 

Too bad.

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Flashback Three

T_____ once told me; I’m not lost.  I don’t have a destination.  How can I be lost if I don’t know where I’m supposed to go?  There’s a logic there somewhere.

Towards the end, I said; if you love me as you say, why does so much have to change?  She didn’t answer.  Her chin wrinkled like an orange, and she took a deep gulp of air down her throat.  At the time, I thought she was sad at our inevitable demise.  Now I realise she was sad that I’d only just realised.

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Flashback Four

I watched T_____ stand over the girl, begging on the steps, not wanting to fight.  I probably should’ve said or done something but she didn’t need any help.  She drew a fist back – not a slap but a full on closed fist – and demanded the weeping girl get up.  I’d forgotten how big her arms were flexed.  Looking at those four knuckles must’ve been like facing a firing squad without a blindfold.  Eventually, after much pleading, the girl was allowed to leave intact.  I watched as T_____ brushed past me, still full of blood and thunder, out of the alley and into the street beyond.  As the rain began to fall, I found myself torn between following the fury or comforting the wreck.

In the end I sat down on the damp floor.  T_____ was long gone and wouldn’t be back.  I sat listening to the desperate, choking sobs of the girl on the steps.

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Flashback Five

My shot got him good.  Blood poured from his eye socket, down his cheek, over the eyeball.  I leapt off the log and brushed myself clean.  He just stood and looked at me; hands down by his sides, his cigarette now polka-dotted with red.  I walked up to him, embraced him for a kiss and then ate the Marlboro out of his mouth, spitting the flakes and paper into his face with a smile.

Perhaps his destiny was to lie under a train and let it happen.  Perhaps his destination was the sea with a pocket full of rocks.  I walked away across the fields, away from the fallen log.  When I finally turned back, two hundred yards later, he still remained where I had left him, like a dead tree only with less sentience, awaiting instructions on how to fail…. again.

Weave

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In the dream, she walks behind me as I stand in front of something impossible, trying to find my way around it.  She wraps her tentacles around my waist with a squeeze and I feel her breath on the back of my neck.  My hair, and everything else, stands to immediate and obediant attention.  When did I get so submissive?  I feel her breasts pressing into my ribcage and her heartbeat thumps against my spine, playing the bones like a xylophone.  I can feel the nerves dancing in my heels.

Nothing is impossible inside your forcefield.  Wearing you like a rucksack, with your arms wrapped around my neck and your legs hooked under my arms we flatten mountains and part seas.  We stomp across suspension bridges, leaving rippling waves that send cars and coaches flying into the air and over the edge.  We reduce cathedrals into dust and snort an ecclesiastical line or two from our forearms.  Your long scarlett red hair hisses like serpents and cuts like a molten whip, slicing through the forearms and necks of any fool who steps in our way.  We collect limbs like pennies in a casino flattened by a tornado.

I offer impossible things, because I like it when you bite my ear in irritation.  One day, we walk into the sea with our pockets full of rocks, to see the shipwrecks and pickpocket the dead.  I know that this is an impossibility too far, and as the cold water curls around my ankles and then my knees, I realise that I’m feeling for the first time.  We go under into a deep blue and I cannot breathe.  I stumble along, in the vague direction of the skeletons of ships, seaweed waving us away, until your heel nudges me in the hip.  You’re pointing in the direction of a metal husk, with eyeless sockets where the Captain’s bridge used to be, and a broken bow like a dislocated jaw.

I trudge over, but my feet are getting heavier, or you are getting heavier, or the tide is pushing us back.  I turn my head to meet yours and we kiss, but I realise as our lips meet that you are struggling as well.  I taste your tongue, mingling with sea water, and we break apart, our lungs convulsing as you hold me tighter than you have ever done before.  Arms around my neck, my ribcage compressed and your heartbeat now beating tribally against my back.

I wake up face down.  My pillows have been violently tossed out from under my head and are resting on my back where your breasts once were.  There’s blood on the sheets from chewing my lips apart.  I’ve gripped the sheets so hard, my fingers have pushed through.  Every muscle is locked tight.  I roll over with some effort and stare at the ceiling until I can escape impossibility and return to a safety I don’t want anymore.

 

Back Hare

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Hands deep in pockets I sidestep the chewing gum and the endings, the smashed cups and food wrappers, taking care to step on the ballast rather than the slimy wood of the old railway. Ahead I can see the multiple spines of concrete that run here and there over the convergence of roads, bridges over the lost circulating and standing still. Climbing over the barbed wire and through the nettles, I leave the pain behind and aim for banality.

The overpass hovers above the mess like a dead spider – straight arms spreading out as the multiple roads weave and wind to the whirlpool below. I look over a rusted railing, in between two large groups of flowers, and see nice cars with distressed men and distressed cars with nice women inside. As I lean over the side, admiring the many shades of black and grey someone spits on the back of my shoe. This isn’t an accident; we are both alone on this dusty tributary, but I have been chosen to be defiled. I swing around to face his back and call him terrible things. He swings around on his heel and marches towards me, as the shiny bugs below all nuzzle and beep at each other.

We exchange words and I grab his lapels. I have a blade in my pocket but I’m reluctant to use it unless I feel my life is in danger. He’s twice my size and height, but he just spat on my ankle… I know that I am likely to face a trip to hospital and nothing more. I swing for his temple and aim a foot towards his kneecap and miss both. His first blow knocks my jaw out of its socket and I sink to my knees. I know that I won’t die today, but I need to be as dead as possible for the next five minutes or so.

Lying on the damp floor, I can feel old chewing gum sticking to my jeans. I can look through the metal railings of the overpass and I can see commuters and rude boys, hairdressers and priests, all doing their best not to look up as this guy kicks the shit out of me. My nose is already broken. The next blow costs me a couple of ribs. I keep the blade in my pocket though. He’ll be tired soon. He’ll realise it is time to go.

Grandeur

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There’s an old woman in the bookies, who always sits at the same fruit machine with a beret and a packet of sandwiches. When I walk in she turns her head to the ringing of the bell over the door frame – “hello J” – and the familiarity makes me uncomfortable. I stand and watch as the pears, apples and bells roll past, and with every No Sale she clenches her fist in her lap and mimes wanking, whilst swearing loudly at the machine. Whether it’s dementia or an immense vocabulary her phrases illuminate the dull room, still faintly stained with blood from a failed robbery. Wankcrumpets. In her sweet-old-Methodist-lady-voice. Christjizz. Cunthurdle. I lean on the writing shelf that surrounds three-quarters of the room as she rolls another dud. Shitcrumble.

I place my bets and the dogs die. Always, the dog I’ve put money on leaves the little box to chase the piece of rag on a machine and it dies… either on track or with a shotgun between the eyes soon afterwards. Behind the glass, D____ smiles behind three day old make up and a company branded shirt covered in dandruff and cereal. Sometimes it’s B_____, a waxen haired old bastard and forty-five year old virgin who will tell anyone who will listen that it is his choice. As the regulars die, his voice gets louder; as he gets older, the chances of him planting anything diminish accordingly.

I made the mistake one day of asking the old woman for her name, as she rolled two Bars and a Star. With a huff, she hissed at me like a snake; Fuckphelia. I took two steps back and sat down on a stool. Ophelia, I thought…. what a pretty name.

 

Proximity

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I walk the alleyway, stepping around the burned spoons and questionable puddles, dragging my fingers over flaking bricks, moss and paint. Above me, cleft narrow from the intense black, is the faint dark grey of the night sky lit from below by the many lights that fail to keep anyone safe. I walk this alley because no one else dares to. I walk this alley to get some peace and safety.

The path runs blacker than black before me, and I follow the scents like a dog with its nose glued to the floor. I smell piss, smack and The Righteous; those who believe and who stamp down on those who don’t. I scrape my fingernails over White Power slogans and I caress the multi-coloured forms of gang-tags; The So’n’So Boys, E14 Rebz, Pinky’s Dart Masters…. I don’t fucking know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t know who these people are. I just stare at their art and wonder why they waste their time on robbing the working classes when there’s tens of millions of upper class coin waiting to be shafted for this kind of low-high-brow form. All the Best People have a gangtag covered in perspex in a gallery for chin-strokers to admire. Some of the Really Great People have a corner of their living room for a damp collection of bricks to admire in company and distain when alone.

I round the dog-leg with my heart racing. I don’t believe in astral bullshit but I sensed them before I saw them. An arm grabs me around the neck and throws me against one wall and then the other. Then I hear the voice; a young woman with the rasp of a fifteen year cigarette career, but with the vocabulary of someone who is no older than her mid-twenties. Cold steel catches against my seven o’clock shadow. I’ve felt a few blades at my neck over the years, but this one has been maintained. This blade has been taken care of. The bluffers keep it blunt and for show, the pro’s use it regularly and keep it lethal. It’s sharp.

She demands some things but I’m not listening. I think of my girl in her summer dress, dancing through the weeds. I think of her climbing on the old oil drums, flashing a glimpse of knickers I’ve never seen before, and may never see again depending on how I behave. I think of her in goggles and a thick winter coat setting fire to glue along the flank of her thumb and wrist, inhaling the fumes before shaking the vapours free, leaving her with a smouldering grey line on her skin. I think of her ex-boyfriend, the one who gave her black eyes and made her shoplift for concealer so she could go to school. I think of her gleeful smile as we chloroformed the swine, nailed him to a dead tree and watched his body fit and writhe into darkness as the blood ran red over white wood.

My new friend demands my belongings again and snaps me out of my moment. She whips the blade across my skin causing a deep cut, my skin parting over muscle and flesh like a silent scream. The blade is returned to my throat as the blood pumps warm down my shoulders.

I forget my girl for a moment and search through my pockets… I cannot find my wallet and phone.

 

Boundless

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Walking through the graveyard in shoes that don’t fit me properly, looking at the stones leaning here and there…. some face down and others scarred by weather and youths.  I cannot help feeling anxious.  Everything is the same – old church, young trees, dead mothers and fathers.  I got my first blowjob here from a girl with scarlett hair, clutching the cold stone as I felt the twitch and the rush and I looked down and warned her something was arriving fast, at which she took me deeper and wiggled her head and my legs almost collapsed from under me like a broken cherry-picker.  Cherry-picker.  First time.  Get it?  Sigh.

A dreadful joke for a dreadful man.  I kick a stone around to make sure it isn’t dog shit and weigh it in the palm of my hand.  Perfectly smooth, decent mass, perfect missile.  The question is, what can I smash?  A car window, a church window… what’s the use?  I stand in front of an old gas lamp, refitted for electric but still just a black pole topped with a bright vase.  I aim, I throw, and the stone misses the glass and hits one of the narrow strips of metal holding everything together.  The boneyard echoes with the clang and suddenly the entire town could be sitting up like dogs at the rattle of food, glaring at me.  I’ve done nothing wrong.  I’ve tried to be good here.  For once.

I go home, drink three fifths of vodka, take the car out to an out of town drive-thru burger joint.  The young man with the broken voice behind the broken speaker can’t smell my breath, and between us the communication is so fucked he can’t tell that I can barely speak… can barely see.  I almost give myself away at the end, when I rev the engine loudly in neutral, thinking I’m in gear, swearing loudly into the fucking steering wheel to fucking move as cars honk behind me.  Then I realise, and I’m away with a screech and a lot of smoke.

In the darkest corner of an unlit car park I eat my meal too quickly and throw it up.  I have relish down my shirt and in my lap.  I wiggle my pants down to my thighs, whip it out and have a go but I’m too drunk… I still feel sick, and it swiftly curls up and dies.

I’m sat there, covered in sick and food, trouserless and drunk, when I see a flash of scarlett hair near my window.  I panic and start to claw at my thighs to make myself decent, and I’m mumbling over and over again; I’m lost… I’m sorry…. I’m so lost… I’m sorry… but she’s not there.  It’s a trick of the flashing red and blue lights of a car that is cautiously approaching me to block me in so I cannot escape.