Fraser

Whitby Abbey V

She glared at the strange figure spray-painted onto the wall.  The simplistic and boxy shape of a man, with legs apart in a power stance and arms out and slightly bent as though caught in an eternal shrug.  The completely spherical head contained no facial features other than a big ‘X’ cross stretching from jawline to forehead.  We’ve walked past this a hundred times but for some reason she has decided to engage.  

She spins on her heel and her eyes are glowing amber in the fading light of a terminally ill sun.  Pointing behind her into the ‘X’ she snarls, her voice bubbling out of her throat as though the words were born from the acids in her stomach.  I do NOT like the way he is LOOKING at ME.   

 

I know I cannot make it better, and trying to make things better is like trying to put out a fire with petrol just because it is a liquid and therefore the same as water.  I shrug and stare up at the sky.  There are no birds anymore and I miss being jealous of their freedom.  When I look back, she is carving at the stone maniacally with a broken panel of glass.  Blood is running down her arms from how hard she is gripping it, slashing and grinding into the stone.  I can only sit and hope that the wave crashes soon enough for pain to register.  To interrupt now would guarantee the loss of an ear… a tongue… two eyes and the tip of a nose….

 

*

 

All women have a built-in grain of indestructibility. And men’s task has always been to make them realize it as late as possible.”

-Chris Marker Sans Soleil 

 

*

 

I have always been fascinated by that which I do not believe.  What can you know about something you already know?  I delve deeply into books of the absurd – UFOs, Flat Earthers, Spontaneous Human Combustion – trying to find some common ground, a portal into another reality away from this horrible mess of cynicism, avarice and virtue.  I hold out for surrealism, abstraction, perversion.  All big expansive words for something so simple as the need to find my own connections, to finally slide into the freeway lane where there is nothing in front of me and I can relax.  She once told me I was just a wound looking for a host, how all the best people were only there to remind everyone of the beauty of remaining alive and unblemished.  If I questioned our lifestyle, she would light a cigarette and give me a look that aged her by a couple of decades, small eyes and cheek blades.  She said to me; okay babe… tell me how Bukowski wrote those stories sober… tell me he had a relaxed life, and I won’t believe you.  

 

I never really took any of this seriously until we were sat on the garden wall of the Rectory, pushing fragile needles into our pulsing ankles and waiting for the oceans to fill our lungs.  As the vicar walked towards us concerned with the blood gently meandering down our shoeless feet, she pushed a pair of dildos tied into a crucifix into his face and started screaming at him.  You are no better than those dogs who wait outside the offices of their dead owners.  You don’t want to achieve; you just want your memory to be adored.  You just want love after death.  I offered her my mouth to calm things down.  As she kissed me, I began to count the probable stitches I would need to reattach my bottom lip.  It is only when everything wears off that I remember how much pain I am usually in.  

 

*

 

She keeps having this recurring dream, where she has a baby in her arms suckling away until it begins to chew through her nipple, through the tissue of her breast towards her heart, finally devouring it.  She tells me she can feel the pain of those little teeth like machetes through her nerves and tendons, and when her heart is consumed there is a rush of air inside her chest.  She wakes up with stabbing pains and struggles to breathe.  

It is all true.  This evening, much like all the other evenings, I will not sleep tonight.  Instead she will curl up on my feet, folding her entire body into itself.  She will thrash and writhe, clawing at my leg with her dirty nails and leaving thick yellow infected streaks where I ignored any kind of medical attention.  Then she comes out of the other side.  After an hour or so her body sighs loudly and everything relaxes.  She lies serene, softly breathing, her eyelids barely acknowledging the curious tiny insects that land on her eyelashes looking for salt.  

 

I look across to a red painted figure of a crossed face, hacked and slashed by this maniac snoozing on my toes.  I know I am tired when the figure cheerfully waves at me, and calmly walks away. 

Raven

Sky XXXIV

I lean back against the rotten wooden stump of a dead friend and scan the parked cars nearby.  Ever since I saw my first crush getting into her mum’s car after school, I’ve been able to memorise plates and make patterns with the letters and numbers.  If I saw that car driving along the street, I would push out my shoulders, straighten my posture and do everything I could to look enigmatic – jawline clenched and profiled – in the off chance that she was sat in the back seat gazing out of the window at the multitudes of shufflers and caught a glimpse of this god.  The plates around me look like fun, or as close to fun as I get these days.  Those add up to 20.  That one kind of spells twat.  That car, in that shade of red, reminds me of Jessamin and her chocolate eyes, and her new surname, and the child she bounces on her knee that isn’t mine and I never wanted anyway.   

* 

Newspapers have been filled recently with the story of a man from Nagoya. The woman he loved died last year and he drowned himself in work—Japanese style—like a madman. It seems he even made an important discovery in electronics. And then in the month of May he killed himself. They say he could not stand hearing the word ‘Spring.’”  

– Chris Marker Sans Soleil 

* 

I am halfway down my first bottle of beer, and I can feel the buzz as the disease winds around my arteries, laminating my cells in that familiar melancholy stupor which will leave me reckless and blind later on this evening.  When I am into my third or fourth my mind becomes sufficiently lubricated as to give me a glimpse of my former self – when life was as simple as a 16bit jump over an instant kill pit, before morality sat me on a fence for eternity, before I knew anything about the future and how influential it will be.  By the seventh, I will listen to the ravens as they sing their songs about death hunting us through the long grass.  I will remember the stuff that never happened, and I will fantasise about things that did happen and happened beyond my remit.  It is easy to live inside a bubble until it becomes opaque and hard, and before you can escape you are trapped inside a marble and condemned to be lost in a gutter or under a child’s bed.   

The last time I sat here I made a bit of a fool of myself.  I begged an old woman for a trampoline because she looked like my grandma and we never had a garden growing up.  I cried over her old dusty tights and vomited maroon over her inexpensive shoes.  That night, in the police cell, I felt too embarrassed to shit on the exposed toilet and too wired to sleep on the mattress.  Instead I added my name to the others carved into the wall, taking care not to overlap ‘Johnny Sumner’ who (from the number of notches underneath) had spent sixteen nights here.   

I look up to a cloudless black sky.  It is just past noon, but the blues and greens and reds have drained out of my eyes of late.  I see everything in a saturated monochrome now – trees, lakes and birds just vague shadows in my mind depending on the strength of the incandescent Sun.  All the cars now look the same, except – of course – for the plates.  I neck the last of this warm first bottle, placing it carefully next to me, and look over my shoulder.  That one is the same make and model of Jessamin’s.  That one adds up to 17.  That one spells Mist.   

Double Bind – Basilike Pappa & Jimmi Campkin

Windows

I sat down on the remains of an old dream and watched her snort a line of concrete dust. The blood ran thick and maroon from her nose, as I broke the seal on the fourth of the day with the loudest escape of air. My shoes are rotten, as are my legs, but my shoulders still have enough bone and sinew and hope to carry us through the dead plants and vicious eyes. I can smell people; as I walk through the crowds I can hear their prejudice and taste their awful choices in partners and pornography. Everything is sour, and everything leads us to numb our experiences.

The sun is hot enough to melt a bank vault and we recline across the monolith of grey in this wasteland; like a mortuary without the building, like a coroner without the science, as loved ones without the care. The stones sizzle and burn into our weak flesh, and in response we fill those gaps in the tissues and veins with sex and rust and disobedience. I can’t remember the last time I ate food, or smelled a flower, or watched a sunrise. I only remember the darkness, oozing across our shoulders and knees like an oil slick across a coral reef, as we blinded ourselves in a deep blue we will never reach.
I drag a pen over her bare thigh and write all the things I want to do to her. She laughs and grabs my wrist, crossing out the ones that will never happen.
*
I am irritable because I am hungry and I don’t know what I am hungry for. It’s not food, even though I wouldn’t mind, but something else. Maybe I am hungry for the blue of skies past or simply for raw flesh.
When I am like this, he gives me his arm to bite. I sink my teeth and suck at his skin and my own saliva. He shudders, but not from pain. I only bite to leave marks on him, to brand him as mine. He watches them fade with a smile on his face. We kiss, spit merging like rivers sweet and destructive.
In this place of cell blocks, marble gardens, police cars and strangers, we are wraiths playing with explosives, starting a thousand wars against normality.
While people are slaving away somewhere, we break into their apartments. We put on their clothes, wear their slippers, sit in their armchairs and call each other “darling” and “sweetheart.” We treat ourselves to bites of food and shots of liquor. We have some favourites we often go back to, so after fucking on their beds we make sure we leave everything as it was before we sneak out again.
In the beginning, he asked what would we do if someone returns home to find us there. I said they’d better not. I am irritable when I am hungry.
Cuddling each other in half-constructed buildings, monuments to petit-bourgeois ambition forever destined to remain naked brick and concrete, we talk about what our dream castle on a hill will be like. A castle of iridescent stone, with black ebony window frames and everlasting roses climbing its walls, overlooking our realm of flowers and sunrises. In such a place, even life may fit somewhere in our embrace.
As a moon of elf bone rises, hunger grows into a scream. We are the night searching for a meal.
*
Lighting a cigar, I let the tobacco hang in the air before planting the wet end deep inside a ruined candle. I’m wearing someone’s shirt, someone’s shoes, and none of their dreams. When we can find them we use their old bank statements as firelighters; we grind up their old family pictures and snort them up with much hacking and coughing. She tells me; this is memory rejecting against us. I’m not interested in memory anymore. Nostalgia is just an old man with terminal masturbation.
I sit down in an old wicker chair and feel the burn down the back of my throat as another gallop of Old Brandthrick trundles and fusses into my veins, obliterating anything with forward momentum. All points reset to zero, all rails set to the buffers. She walks across me, one foot taking the place of the other, and lifts her autumn dress to let in the air. I am nothing in this and yet I am everything; a flat piece of meat observing the opening of a rare flower.
The Moon rises and cries to a symphony of two legged jackals. I have her courage and she has a knife. She drags her finger through the remains of our most recent bonfire and pushes the tip under my eyelids. With a kiss smeared down my cheeks she runs her tracks over the wet bones, the soot planting deep in my pores. I look into her eyes and she smiles and shakes her head. This is not a night for heroics; this is a night for being the night.
When I breathe out, my ribs rattle like wind-chimes in a spring breeze. My eyes search the swaying yellow grass for any unnatural movement. Behind me she swills an expensive tumbler full of cheap whiskey in a black ball-gown too big for her, hanging like a defiant flag from her shoulder blades. I know what seethes underneath but I need to concentrate now. My veins lift from tissue and bone as she sings a gentle song, rustling in tune to the dead field.
*
It’s time.
I sit on his lap, wrap my arms around his neck and look him in the eyes. Is he ready? He says yes, but not without the face this place has given him.
“The eyes are the windows to the soul,” I say in all seriousness, and we both burst into a mocking laughter that could make the rising moon crack.
“Why so sad?” I ask, and he looks at me as if he’s close to tears.
“Don’t be mad,” I say, and he gives me a scowl worthy of an unworthy parent or a saint.
I want him to be happy, and happy he becomes, a trendy buffoon drinking his favourite soda in a commercial. And when I lift my dress, his eyes open wide in vestal innocence.
I paint his eyes with soot, burying them deep into stinking shadows. See? The windows to this soul are shut. Then I trace my blackened finger over his lips.
“Bring out your dead,” I say.
We’ve been watching her ever since we saw her run over a couple of pigeons. She clapped her hands to congratulate herself, golden rings and dyed blonde hair gleaming in the sun. They had crapped on her car hood once too often – fucking flying rodents. We watched her speed
down the road, leaving a mass of bloodied flesh and dirty feathers on the asphalt.
We buried the birds in the field of scorched grass, digging holes with our hands, saying a prayer for flowers to grow over their grave.
She unlocks the door to find him sprawled on the sofa.
“Darling,” he says, “you’re home.”
Her hands are tied, her mouth is gagged. I can see the back of her shoulders rise and fall with her muffled sobbing. He apologises if his actions caused her any distress and messed up her makeup. In a soft, crooning voice he tells her how anger and bitterness have left tell-tale lines on her face.
“Life is not as the romances promised. All these false ideas you swallowed without question led to disappointment, didn’t they? Now you take it out on those who can’t stand up to you.”
He takes a Swarovski bird miniature from a display cabinet full of refined useless objects. He holds it against the pendant lights, pretending it’s flying across the room, the colours of the rainbow flashing out of its open wings. Then he makes it land on the floor and crushes it under his foot.
“Once you had another face. Do you think you can find it? Promise me you’ll try, and I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again.”
She nodds, furiously, and I expect there are more tears running down her cheeks. If I were her, I’d cry too if he told me I wouldn’t see him again.
“There is a number you mustn’t call after I leave. Promise.”
More nodding, more passion into the gesture. He looks into her eyes.
“I can believe many things,” he says. “But you… sweetheart, this is where I draw the line.”
But it’s me who draws the line. A perfect, straight red line across her throat.
*
Sitting in an old armchair, a new rain thick and glutinously falling through the holes in the roof, I carve slices of apple from a bloodstained razor. The sweet citrus mingles with the dark iron of oxygenated red and I cannot work out if I like this taste or not. I see her washing her hands in the trickle of a paste waterfall, the drizzle coated in dust and ash.
“Bit excessive?”
She dries her hands on her already stained dress and pads over towards me. Backlit, the sun illuminates her hair like a neon Medusa and I stare and I stare because if I cannot live for the blood of others running over my own, I wish to be made of stone. She sits in my lap and flicks my nipple through my t-shirt.
We hole up in the old shack because the sound of sirens is too loud for fragile skulls soft from fetal-alcoholism and a lack of calcium. Downstairs the living room is rotting; upstairs all the walls are just faint traces on the floor and the only monuments are a lonely sink, a single rusting bedframe with the mattress now just a black stain on the floor nearby. Above, a single light fixture hangs sadly, ashamed to still be clinging on despite being powerless.
Ushering her off my lap I stand up. The sudden violence of the situation disturbed me, and now I feel high after the hit, my soul now spinning wildly like a ship caught in a whirlpool, caught up in a flashback of an event that is already in the past. Taking the ribbon out of her hair, I tie her wrists together and fasten them to the ceiling light above us. My heart thuds and echoes around the empty walls around us as I take another slice of bloody apple.
*
A line drawn, a line crossed. A first time for everything.
First time I saw him, standing in this room on the windowsill, shifting his weight back and forth. If he was a painting, he’d be called blackbird on a seesaw. I could have let him fall, because he had intruded on my solitude. I pulled him back. I didn’t save his life, I told him, and the flicker of anger in his eyes died down. I saved his death. It wasn’t a long fall down; no one would carry his broken ass to a hospital. He’d pass some very long last hours on earth, calling himself an idiot. He ought to find a taller building if he was serious about it. And make sure he was alone in there, or another lady might save the gentleman in distress.
He is eating an apple.
That same night I tied the knots for the first time, the rope once around his wrists, twice. His body passive, his eyes urging me on. They blazed like the fire burning where the sirens went, the one that cleansed that place from our presence. He had said “kill me,” but meant “fuck me.” Every time like a better first time, until we performed the ritual to perfection.
This is the first time we part with tradition. A first time may be the last time.
He is eating an apple. Not washing his eyes.
He says I must have been conceived underground; I’m bound to earth and she gives me my strength. As for him, he feels disconnected, only half aware of his surroundings most days. I shook my head the first time he told me what scenes he played behind his closed eyelids to soothe himself into existence.
He is eating an apple. Not washing his eyes. The knife in his hands.
Maybe I should have taken him at his word and killed him, or let him fall. He fed me his hunger seed after seed. It’s an irritating taste burning at the back of the throat, unable to say itself, coming out as a growl or a scream.
Another slice. The windows to this soul are shut.
I cross out the things he wants to do to me. He always writes them back. He isn’t one to forget easily, no matter how he claims he’s not interested in memory anymore. He is good at self-deception. What do you mean does he know it? Of course he does. Of course he doesn’t.
It’s getting hard to think as my wrists go numb. Perhaps it’s getting late too. Late for castles, flowers and sunrises.
I gave him what he wanted. So now what?
*
I place the tip of the blade against her breastbone, but then drive it slowly down opening the dress and revealing those familiar contours. All the violence of late has been so much empty vapour, and I struggle to breathe these days. Here in this fetid shack so rotten as to allow all our dreams to escape through the cracks. I turn my back as she flutters and dangles in the breeze like a flower with some of the petals plucked away and sit down on the floor.
She once told me; there are none more cruel than those who believe themselves to be righteous. I’m not sure if I feel righteous but I feel cruel and I feel the force of it bleeding out of me from my shoulders down to my knees. Once I scrambled in a dark room at night, and now I find myself in a dark room with no windows and no hope of sunlight to one day illuminate everything. I need fire and nothing in this fucking place, this fucking town has the guts and the soul to burn.
Throw a few more bones under the mantelpiece; the dry crackle might just show us what we have left. I stand up, knife in hand, and stride over to her. It would be so easy to end everything now but I can’t bring myself to deprive the world of such depravity. I slice a lock of her hair and place it under my tongue before cutting the ribbon down around her wrists.
If I can’t escape the darkness, at least I’ll have the black.
*
He is drooling. Beaded strings hang from his chin, breaking, falling on his t-shirt. It’s mesmerising; a slow, fluid metamorphosis. Then the smell hits me: something metallic, something burned, like a nervous dog shooting the glands. It seeps through every pore of his body with such force it almost pushes me back. I slide a hand around his waist and pull him closer.
”You are a god now,” I whisper in his ear. “We are. We had nothing else. We’d be gods or nothing. We agreed on gods.”
I catch the beads with my tongue, lick them off his chin. His saliva is a sharp, straight aphrodisiac of apple, blood and doubt, streaming from his mouth to the rythym of his thudding heart.
“Breathe. You were just born.”
I drink; my heart quickens. Finally, he spits that strand of hair on the floor and we kiss like rivers.
“Do you?”
“I do.”
“Fuck me.”
I don’t want to take the knife, but he makes me, squeezing my fingers around the handle. The temptation to push it in his belly is tremendous. I’d hear the sound of his skin tearing; I’d get to see what his disloyal insides are like, while he’d be waiting for me at our castle on a hill, warm and new. The idea almost makes me come.
I shake my head.
“I won’t choose how this ends.”
Bringing his hand to my lips, I sink my teeth in his flesh. He shudders and finds the knife in his hand again.
*
I have a handful of her behind as she straddles me, pounding down into my lap with so many gasps and creaks that I don’t know what is human, animal or just the weak floor underneath us. Her hair cracks around my face as I feel the warmth in my lap, leaking onto my thighs; moans, shrieks and ice deep in my stomach.
When I open my eyes, it is already grey around the edges. She continues to pound away but everything is dying and I am staring at a clenched fist pressed against my own stomach with a knife somewhere inside it all. Her sex mingles with the blood now pouring out of me, but still she maintains those furious eyes on mine, daring me to pass out before she is done.
My vision fades like the ripples of a pond in reverse, contracting and drawing everything in. My hand slides away from her buttock and finally lets go of the blade hilt. With this release I suddenly feel sharp pain, as though the knife has become this destructive object in that moment. She still slams down on me but it is useless, just a pointless slap of flesh on blood. The groans turn to growls, the moans into a seething frustration as I slip away beneath her like winter mist as the sun breaks through.
We’d agreed on gods. I am no god, but neither would I ever want to be mortal. This made sense to me. My eyes narrow to a single circle of fading light; of shiny gritted teeth and piercing white eyes. She’s slapping and punching my shoulders but I can’t feel it anymore. I feel weightless but I’m not flying to the above. Our kind – my kind – we only slide down, just so much water trickling between the gaps in the floor and growing putrid where there is no light.
Time to sleep now. No gods, only monsters. And truly, for a short time, we were monstrously magnificent.

Silent Hour sits with a notebook on its lap or in front of a computer. Its pen is fine-tipped and black, its current notebook is also black and almost finished, and the computer is rather old.

Silent Hour is Basilike Pappa

The School For The Dying – Free Verse Revolution

Flower Steps

When I wake up, my room is a deep pink from the sunlight passing through the cherry blossoms that cover this place.  It never fails to give me a warm feeling inside, as though the rays are diluted through the petals and into the cells on my bare arms and legs.  It takes me back to a colder memory I often have from five years ago of a windy dock and a rotten jetty poking forlornly into the harbour, reinforced by a finger of steel pointing towards this pink dandelion island nestling in the middle of the bay.  I took the boat with other kids all looking at each other with the curious mix of shyness and knowing – that our sunken eyes and strong brows gave us all something in common we all knew too much about. As we sailed towards the island where my new school was apparently located, we began to see that this beautiful marshmallow floating in the rough ocean concealed bright white buildings, whose small towers seemed to furtively whisper to each other at the latest intake.

It took me a few days to realise why I was here.  Sitting through an easy math’s exam to determine our respective abilities, I finished early and glanced over my shoulder.  I was the second of five rows with a sixth row of kids all attached to trolley drips – thin hoses to noses and arms. After the exam finished I took a wrong turn down a corridor looking for a bathroom and saw another exam hall filled with beds and machines all bleeping in unison, the participants propped up and scribbling frantically on trays attached to the sides, with far more invigilators than we’d had in our hall, dressed in brilliant white.

I was now a permanent resident at The School For The Dying, an institution that allowed kids with incurable ‘situations’, as the staff euphemistically called it, to see out their education.  Anyone who couldn’t realistically continue their studies and who wouldn’t make it past graduation could be considered. Inhabitants stayed on the island in rooms of varying degrees of intricacy – mine was just a bed with a desk, drawers and a small sink and wardrobe – but others were the size of operating theatres with machines and instruments that meant we couldn’t have the lights on after 9pm every day.

I got up and stretched my thin limbs, shivering in the warmth from the window.  Today is a good day – double History followed by double Art and a single English Lit lesson that will probably be silent reading.  It took a while but now the rhythmic hissing of ventilators helps me to concentrate during the quiet reading periods. I also get used to seeing our single desks slowly become more and more empty as the school year progresses.  We all make friends as quickly as we can, because we know that our lives exist on fast forward.

I dress quickly, wash my face and prepare my books.  My classroom is just across the courtyard from this dorm block, but I take the longer way around so I can get a glimpse of the sea.  From the outside the cherry blossoms seem impossibly beautiful, until you are inside them and you realise they are blocking the outside world.  But standing on the right bench, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can see through the canopy and get a sniff of that salty air or, if there is a storm, maybe a splash of real, unfiltered water.

As I leave, I see Prof Maguire talking to a group of young girls.  I sneak away to the outer path, knowing that walking too close to the sea is technically forbidden – not that anything is really forbidden here.  Maguire is well known for scolding the girls who hide in the bathrooms to smoke, telling them it is bad for their health, but the arguments always end in laughter.  There are no real punishments here because no one ever really misbehaves. Life is too short, it seems, to spend it being a cunt.

The outer path is cut by curious feet to wind between the mass of trees that separate the school from the sea defences.  I tiptoe through the mud of a recent rainfall so my shoes don’t give away my location. The air is still today so all I can see is a noisy curtain of pink, but I can hear the roar of the ocean as it breaks on the rocks that guard us from storms.  I stand for a moment and try to remember a landscape that I haven’t already seen every day. I see the paths between buildings and I try to remember a street. I see puddles forming after rain and I try to remember seeing a lake, for real, not as a picture in a book.

Eventually I make my way to the classroom and take my seat.  There are not many of us left who are so close to the end of their teen years.  I have already repeated the final year once, so when questions pop up I keep quiet because I know the answers and I know the way to the answers.  A couple of the seats have been filled with new faces this past week, and the other empty desks sit sadly like dogs tied up outside a shop waiting for their owners to come back.

I lift up my desk lid, now covered in deep little carved marks, and add another one to the gathering army.  I wasn’t supposed to see my 15th birthday, so after I had passed that milestone I started carving little notches to mark my ongoing, bewildering march towards irrelevance and a little headstone on the mainland – my marble ticket home.  I have to carve them deep, the sawdust falling over my wrists, to distinguish them from the other lesions and scratches left by previous students who also marked their time, however fleeting or lingering, but it gets harder every day to have the strength.

I am 17 years, two months and six days old… and I am running out of desk.

freeverserevolution.wordpress.com

 

 

There’s A Rhino Loose In The City

DSC_0033

It’s catchy isn’t it?  Basically, it’s a screenplay idea I’ve had… this guy, who is like Burt Reynolds in Smokey And The Bandit, is a zookeeper with a hot female apprentice, and together he saves the city, and she saves him from his whiskey problems, and along the way there is gore and rhinos – fucking rhinos! – or I guess just the one, and there’s love and mystery about who or what is causing so much destruction, and at one point he drives a car – probably a black Trans-Am because why not – down this alleyway through some boxes as the rhino chases and….

I turn around the corner, flicking a stone up with the tip of my shoe and volleying it with a loud cymballic crash against a nearby garage door.  I feel the sun dancing with the atoms arranged on my cheeks, the downy hairs waving like a festival crowd with their lighters in the air.  Last night was a bad night – one grimy blotter and me shrivelled up like a dead prawn hiding underneath a truck as the driver snoozed in the cab – all because I saw a child running towards me and as I bent down to say hello he ran through me and screamed – such a god-awful noise that I felt my bones rattle from my ankles to my skull – and with everything splintered and marrow leaking out from pulsating arms and legs I crawled into this dark place to die.  When I woke up this morning, cuddled by a cold blanket of morning dew, the truck driver had left without knowing I was there, and all my achievements could be summarised in the perfect shape of a foetally-curled form, light grey against the wet dark grey concrete.

Walking down this side street, the houses on either side are either bravely inhabited or callously abandoned.  It’s all squats and gardens here, where the windows are either broken or open, and an old boy carefully takes the scissors to his roses with a kitchen knife jammed into the belt loops of his trousers.  I admire both – the nomads who find a clean space as far away from the smashed windows as they can to light fires, smoke cans and try to see the very molecules that they inhale drifting down inside their chests and creating light like so many fireflies sucked into a transparent vacuum cleaner – and the old timers who try to maintain the dignity of a perfectly cut and chipped lawn even as they throw out the needles and burned Coke cans.  It is always Coke, never Pepsi… maybe it’s a moral thing.

Underneath an old teacup buried in the middle of a nest of thistles I pull a ten out from a roll of notes.  It’s safer to bury money underneath junk and painful weeds than to keep it in your pockets.  Somewhere around here, before the council relaid the road, I buried an old mobile phone, a childhood photo of me with a dog I can’t remember, three packets of Jawbreakers, the arm of a stuffed toy and an old Super Nintendo game that pissed me off so much I almost broke my heels trying to stamp it out of existence.

I would love to lift this road again and see the treasures underneath.  Whether it is the faint acid echoes or just memory overtaking me vibrantly, I see two young lads ahead of me – hitherto unseen but no less real – in bright rucksacks laughing and chatting about what they want to do tomorrow, not even thinking about the next day or the next week.  Being an adult means that forward plans sneak up on you as they stretch out in their breadth, no longer so focused but spread thin like the last corners of butter smeared across toast.  Nothing is about tomorrow anymore, it is always next month or next year… or the year after that, that, that, that will definitely be the time.

Playing with the ten between my fingers I hurry past the old hotel, now so evil that the windows run red with blood when it rains, whilst lingering around the old bus stop carved with so many names that long to be reunited with their owners.  It was here that my first, and probably only, love told me she was bored of men and wanted to live in a lighthouse; never mind manners and chivalry… what happened to fingering… why does every guy I meet search inside my vagina like they’ve lost their car keys?  I kept my hands deep in my pockets and shrugged.  Given the opportunity, I’m sure I would’ve been much worse.

The pub doesn’t have windows, just shutters and metal grates covered in old circus posters.  Inside, the floor vibrates with the steady hum of the cellar fans and stale peanuts jump and dance over your shoes.  No matter; I enter with a creak and the pale neon lights of the mirrored bar against the ceiling lights and the optics draws me in.

Sitting on a stool I order my first beer and lean over to a man with eyes as pale as milk, and a malformed head resting on a lumpy carcass like too many potatoes crammed into a sack.  I tell him about this great idea I’ve had.  It’s a screenplay called There’s A Rhino Loose In The City.  It’s about this killer rhino who escapes from a zoo and starts slaughtering everyone.  Basically, Val Kilmer is a private detective called Johnny Sundays and together with his hot young secretary they have to….

 

 

 

The Cost Of Endings Is Sunlight

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She keeps me safe in the terrible places.  Partly because of her spirit and partly because of the knife jammed into the belt of her jeans; the same cold blade that keeps her grouchy for the first half hour of every meeting until it has met her skin temperature.

We walk down sloganed spray-painted alleyways where rapists fear to prowl, and we stand at the apex between modernity and decay, bordered by a mist that permanently laps across this town like dying tides.  On her haunches, wild hair flecked by raindrops and dust, she kisses the nettles flinging themselves desperately out of the concrete until her tongue is blistered white like mould on bread.  Planting a triumphant foot on the burned out remains of an old car, we stare down this brick tunnel towards a fetid beige light that hides the brown blood seeping from the disused and dead structures beyond.  The only life around here are the black specks that dance around the sickly yellow of streetlights, and the shine in her eyes when there is mischief to be had.

She kisses me, and as her ruined tongue laps around mine I feel the stings still planted in her own.  Even as I think about releasing, the warmth around my hips, my chest and my legs draws me in, and just in case I have second thoughts she clamps a hand in the small of my back and presses me closer.  As we kiss the tapping grows louder, and soon heavy drops of iron rain, moving on the shoulders of the perpetual miasma, are pounding down on our eyelids.

I want her and I am having her, but I know that I can’t.  This is not a chapter reading but a glance at the cover.  Releasing herself from me she takes steps backwards, her arms raised out.  I feel something warm on my skin and then a sharp itch – she’s slid the knife inside my jeans and left a thin laceration down one buttock.  I look left and then right down the alley – empty except for the loud nothingness – as she presses her back against the wall.

The rain gets heavier and behind me, through a chain link fence and a tangle of confused dead trees, the town steams and broils in protest.  There are no colours except yellows and browns – even the blackest night skies are coloured in a film of grime.  I can smell sulphur and feel the heat through my shoes, as I lick the corners of my mouth and taste the poisons.

She’s against the wall, spread like a crucifix, her fingers splayed out and head thrown back.  I go in for another kiss but she plants a firm boot into my groin and pushes me backwards.  The graffiti covering the wall is bleeding into her fingers, the faded reds blues and greens now growing bold in the tiny veins under her skin, past her wrist and into her sinewy forearms.  Her hair crawls up the bricks, infesting itself like ivy and taking on all the colours around it.  She is bleeding the wall dry of its art, of messages and memories.  I look her in the eye and I see that they change colour as though flickering through a prism.

I sit down on the floor and cup my hands around the back of my head, because my neck is burning from the deluge above.  Her feet are no longer touching the ground but pointed and poised like a ballerina, hovering a few inches above the gnarled path.  Colours sap from the wall and bleed through her, processing themselves, and I realise that parts of her are growing fainter.  The razor cheekbones are dulling, those shapely thighs less distinct, the hips that shook Paris are now translucent and warp when I move my head.  Worst of all, I see that face fading away, the light in those eyes dying out like a pair of lightbulbs coughing and spluttering towards their eventual end.  And far from fear or regret, I see contentment in her.  I see a person becoming a ghost, becoming a memory, that disintergrates like ancient papyrus exposed to oxygen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.