UltraViolets

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The sea has a glassy stillness as I walk along the path.  The horizon joins the sky in a dark band of incoming rain, the sandwich filling between the pale water and the massed cloud, and the wind murmurs and brushes around me with delicate paint strokes.  Nothing moves out there, the white horses sleeping under the surface, the birds gathered in pockmarked lesions of white and grey against the dull landscape, nestling and bracing for another winter storm.

To my left, the ground seethes and writhes in deep scoops of old quarries now overgrown with trees and scrub as though the land itself is embarrassed by the scar tissue.  These are dim places remembered only by the long dead, whose bones gained the ultimate revenge on the bourgeois by tumbling from the clifftop graveyard during a storm into the back gardens of the horrified middle classes in their seaside villas.

Ahead of me I can see the deep green V carved out of the hillside ahead.  The old railway ran through here; coming the other way you would emerge out of The Tunnel, into this narrow valley with its sharp sides until it gradually fell back to reveal the sea, the town and the dreams of escapism – all those coal miners on their week holiday, their tired eyes now allowed to stretch as far as the sea will allow.  How many of them left the pits where the rock pressed against their noses and the dust hacked their lungs, saw the ocean and cried?  Not many, probably, but maybe a few.

I enter the valley and I can see The Tunnel ahead, bricked up except for a single rusting padlocked door.  The air smells bland as I leave sunlight and the sea behind.  All sound is dimmed except for the low hum of a generator.  Dead ivy hangs down over the arch like long talons.  I approach the door, remove the padlock and walk inside.

Two spotlights illuminate an iron lung.  Inside, a man with long grey hair nearly touching the floor.  He leans his head over to me and smiles, two beads of bright blue crinkling in his face.  I drop my rucksack to the floor and remove a foil-wrapped piece of cake, and a bottle of mineral water.  He nods to me and quietly says yea yea yea.  Brushing loose hairs from his cheeks and mouth I feed him the cake, stroking his scalp as he chews and mulches the sponge into a paste that dribbles down one corner of his face.  A sip of water here, another small piece there.  I kiss his forehead – it tastes like old vinegar – and listen to the muffled clattering of the machinery.

When he’s finished I wipe the spit and crumbs from his face and he goes back to staring up at the ceiling, smacking his lips content.  I sit down on a nearby crate and open a bottle of cider.  Getting drunk in an old tunnel is codeine for the senses – every drip of water, every little piece of brickwork crumbling, the dank smell of cold air through musk and plants who exist without light.  I think about masturbating but it doesn’t seem appropriate given the circumstances.  Maybe I’ll climb into the bathtub later when it is empty and try then.

I stand up and walk further into The Tunnel, away from the safety of the spotlights.  As I move further away his every noise becomes louder.  I can hear his nose whistling as he breathes, I can hear every little movement that makes the iron lung creak.  The generator, keeping everything alive, now buzzes in my ears like mosquitos after a monsoon.  Looking back I see the beams of white illuminating this weird distorted shape, like a tomb but without the solemnity of cold marble.

I finish the cider and throw the bottle into the black void.  I walk back towards the old man and rest my head on his metal chest.  He looks anxiously at peace, the jaw clenched, still tonguing a piece of cake jammed into a cavity.  He never really says anything except to agree or disagree with things.  He knows yes and no, yea and nurrrrr, a weird little growl he does when he’s unhappy or when I accidentally hurt him when combing his long tangled hair.

It’s been a special day and he knows it, those little blue marbles twinkling away, a smile flicking at the corners of his mouth.  Cake and a little water and a cider for me.  The iron lung sighs and rattles as his breathing begins to increase.  I give the tomb another cuddle and, reaching underneath, I unplug it from the generator.  Electricity freed, the spotlights now glare and hiss as the old man’s face blanches bright white, the mouth open and agape filled with a red tongue.  I stroke his hair one last time as he begins to make a strange new noise; a primeval grunt of indignation, desperation and terror.

I can’t imagine he will be too long, but nevertheless I don’t want to stick around.  Turning my back to the rhythmic flailing of someone almost buried alive, the gnugh gnugh gnugh getting louder, I open the door to the real world and get a blast of cool air.  The rain pats and taps against the old brick, and I can smell renewal, rebirth; something to cleanse us all.  I close the door behind me, lock it securely, and begin the walk home.  A piece of cake.

Inverted

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I walk unsteadily through a tunnel of trees, the ground squelching under my feet.  On either side, like the pillars of a cold cathedral, I see those white shapes waiting patiently.  They are eyeless and alone; I stare one of them down and the pair of black voids in their heads pulses and throbs like bags of agitated worms.  I look away.  My arms have disappeared and I’m scared to walk faster lest I fall and cannot catch myself.

Fetid streetlamps scrape through like dull razors on skin.  As the shapes lean in closer, I pass through some of them and I am hit by smells from my past – grandmother’s perfume, the dead grass that I lay in after losing my first fight, the musky iron odour of my high school sweetheart.  My fingers shrivel and slime, squirming into tentacles that claw at my shirt and force themselves up my chest and towards my neck.  Feeling the first grooved tips poking at the corners of my mouth I put my head down and run for the grey in a tube of utter black.

The Playground is invisible in the night, so I walk towards a black mass.  Everything is silent, as though the entire world is judging my current performance.  Vaulting the gate, I pause to take a bow.  As if lit by spotlights, I can suddenly see everything within the fence and nothing else beyond.  I lose my coat and shirt and make my way towards the zipline.

Climbing to the top of the launch point I clamp my thighs around the old car tyre and grip the cable.  Leaning back, I throw myself off the platform.  The tyre bucks and spins like distressed horses, and my feet are suddenly skywards as my cheeks skim the surface of the chipped bark floor.  Feeling the splinters grazing my skin but not entering, the wire slowly peters out and fades until I am left dangling, upside down and twirling faintly in the dead air.  I let go and unceremoniously clatter to the soft floor and begin to eat the dirt.

I have three more goes at this, and every time it ends the same way.  Feet up, head down, I skate across the thin veneer and see the churned up ground rushing past my mouth.  On the final go the brakes fail and I hit the end point at maximum force, trebucheting me weightless for a brief few seconds until I crash down on the damp grass.  I lay there for minutes, maybe hours, letting the midnight dew soak into my clothes and hair.

When I finally get up off the floor, The Playground is surrounded on all four sides of the fence by the white shapes; loose bedsheets of various widths and heights all formless except for two black, pulsing holes in their heads.  They watch me silently, with judgement but without words or actions, until I have spun around six times and tried to find an exit from all this.  I look up towards the sky but God is empty, and the stars all shun or hide from my terrible behaviour.

I feel my heart trying to escape through skin and my fingers seizing up; writhing maggots turning into broken fences.  I wrench the belt off my waist and claw out the pin in the buckle.  Raising it up to my face for a symbolic moment I hook it inside my eyesocket and begin to hook out the jelly within.

*

Eyeless and alone.

I am on my hands and knees, feeling the wet grass under my fingers and soaking into my jeans.  Salty fluids run hot down my cheeks and into the corners of my mouth.  I cannot stop shivering.

Kneeling against the black, I look around for white shapes but I cannot see anything.  I cannot feel anything.  The wet grass dulls into sand, and the wind dies into a vacuum.  But I know they are still there.  As I grasp handfuls of the earth it fades from my fingertips, and I cannot tell if I am being lifted away or disappearing entirely.

 

 

Desoil

Clouds VII

We’d been on the roof for what felt like centuries, but it was probably only hours.  Picking at pieces of old tile and gravel, I sprinkle them on the remains of her torn and battered sneakers as the wind whips our greasy hair around our greasy faces.  We sat side by side, downwind of each other, with the sun at our backs and droplets of sweat dancing around our exposed vertebrae like people dodging across a minefield.

I’d long ago given up trying to connect with this strange thing – with a face shaped like those lunchbox cheese triangles and a plastic child’s ring; the smiling face now melted and demented, and adorned with a small shard of razor sharp glass.  I told her; try feeling a real emotion but she would always ask what is real?  Is it what you read in your books? 

I feel less for a human being than I do for a pile of abandoned bricks. 

Last week, on her birthday, we met a ghost from her past.  Five hours later, the guy who’d bullied her all through school – the guy who’d taken her pencil cases, lunch money and other more precious things – hung upside down from his ankle, circling gently in the wind like a diseased rotisserie chicken.  As he dripped into a bucket just below his head, the breathing becoming ever more laboured and wheezing, she poked his chest with the crowbar that had done so much to extinguish those teenage memories and said this is real.  He’s still warm.  We could revive him.  But we won’t… because it’s been decided already. 

Back on the roof, I put an arm out over her cold shoulders.  Even as the sun beats down, it reflects off those bones and violently ricochets in a rainbow arc.  After we cut down the person who’d done so much to create what would eventually destroy him, I asked her if she believed in love… or God?  She told me; I believe in every breath we take potentially being our last. 

Now, I see what she means.  Sitting up high overlooking a town so dismal that trees cannot root and instead tumble in the wind, with one more ghost now fermenting inside the soil which is still caked under my fingernails, I can see no endings to any of this…. only endless beginnings that I stupidly ignored.

Designs

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She’s like every autumnal daydream, but with hairier armpits and an infected toe.  The white bandage, yellowing in spots, pokes out like an eager tumour from open heels.  We walk hand in hand but yards apart, because I’ll interfere with her wings apparently…. oh fucking whatever, woman.  I roll my eyes so often I can feel Sisyphus struggling on my eyelashes.  On the bright side, we can swallow up a busy pavement, sending old people on mobility scooters into oncoming traffic; taking out little kids with no awareness of how hard two fists clamped together with love can be to break.

We eat ice cream in a seaside town, and she laughs at topless old men with pubes on their chest, skin peeling at the shoulders and scrags of chips in the nipples like savoury piercings.  We watch the gentle hiss of the sea as it approaches the bathers, waders, whales and grandmothers, encroaching and retreating like a threatened cat, scared of all this filthy humanity polluting the already brown water with Factor 50.

We pass the arcades where exasperated parents stand bored as little Tarquin and Emily blast the heads off zombies; Mum and Dad are preparing their lines for an earlier breakfast fight not yet settled.  Others wander around with tubs of coppers, like this worthless browngreen shit that you pass on the street is now precious suddenly.

We hear a strange noise, like the very Earth has indigestion.  Behind a row of bucket and spade shops, a ferris wheel is beginning to tilt and then topple.  The screams of the manicled prisoners gradually grow in intensity, starting with individual voices at the top, before being swallowed up in a hurricane wail as the Big Wheel slams down out of sight, in a deafening eruption of dust.  The screams silence immediately, followed by the roar of a laughing tide, and the gradual murmur of paralysed consternation, people on phones, people asking the person next to them what happened, people running to the scene, people rushing to film the carnage.

Huh, look at that she says…. she’s pointing to a blob of ice cream on her nose, and laughing.

Digest

Sea XIII

Do you remember the story of the monk at the old church?  We took the bus on an icy evening and waited for hours until the moon was warm on our faces and our feet were wet with melted frost, tromping through long grass.  Don’t you remember?

That old church, where the chicken bones were trussed together into crosses, and that teenage lad fell from the tower and broke himself in half over the stone tomb of the priest who’d died in 1886.  We’d gone up there with torches and we heard a noise above, and you shone yours up at him, and he covered his eyes…

….and he came down screaming like a daemon.  And in the dark I thought he had sixteen arms and legs, and his mouth was wide open as though to consume me, and drag me to hell….

….but then he spun around midair as I dived out of the way.  Crack!  On his back, across the raised triangular stone.  Ribs bursting out, blossoming like flower petals opening.  You remember?  The boy gasping, his eyes wide, as we realised he was both alive and dead, until his two parts gently disconnected with a pop and slithered either side to the flagstone floor.

Anyway, I digress. The old monk.  We took that journey so many times.  We read all the books about the monk who flitted around the grounds.  Why do ghosts always flit?  Why don’t they mince or swagger?  That poor boy though.  That poor boy.

Drench

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She has a voice that shatters memory.  Every time I hear it, I forget another birthday.  Another past crush dies.  Relatives cease to be names or faces.  I cannot bring them back.  I can only focus on hips, knees and shoulders.  A tuft of hair above The Zone that I deliberately nibble on so I get a thread caught in my teeth.  It makes me feel like a teenager again.

I look for her car as I walk the streets; any time I see that model in that colour I push my chest out and lift my chin.  It might be her, and I don’t want to be slouching.  I have nightmares about tripping over my laces and falling at her feet, breaking my nose and bleeding all over her sandals.

She calls me Martin and she calls me a cunt.  I’m neither.  But I give up dignity and identity to cuddle her jacket when she gets too warm.  I rehearse conversations in my spare time, and then try to spring my ‘spontaneous’ one liners on her anecdotes.  They always fail.  I always stumble.

Perhaps I’m too weak to be adored.  Her on-off boyfriend, Taylor, is now off.  He was too weak to see a rival in the short grass when he focused all his attention in the trees.  That’s why he looked the other way when I lost control of my car, breaking his pelvis.

I see her, sitting in the park.  Chest out, chin up.  Hold that thought…

 

 

Merry

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I’m only comfortable when I’m sitting on the floor, pressed against a wall.  I stare into the blemishes of the concrete, my flesh airtight against the cold.  I push my forehead into the stone until it pains and then bleeds, and lukewarm red meanders down my cheeks.  Red rivulets run and saunter over my eyes until I cannot see beyond the scarlet.

I talk into the bricks, quietly but firmly, picking words that make my chest vibrate and my throat wobble.  Words like; melodious – intimidating – destruction – organ – obtuse – magnificent.  Nowhere to go, the vibrations bounce from the walls back into my chest cavity and suddenly I’m swimming with the words, arm-wrestling with them, pulling at their kicking legs and clamping around their waistlines.  I relish each syllable, running them through my cheeks and over my tongue like liquor mouthwash, until they burn my gums and I have to release them.

Meander.  Beautiful.  Uncontrollable.  I place my knee under the chin and allow my voicebox to tremble over my skin.  The vibrations dance over my bones, as though my tendons and ligaments are guitar strings.

Adam.  Brian.  Courtney.  When I leave the house, I threaten people.  Grabbing them by their lapels, I hold a cut-throat shaver to their eyes and ask them the usual.  Money.  Phone.  Unlock codes.  Never cards or pin numbers; it’s too easy to turn them into redundant plastic rectangles.  But I ask for their names.

Later, pressed against the wall, I give them a try.

Marmaduke.  Gary.