A little darkness

This is very dark, I’m not sure where it came from. We all like to think that people who have hurt us will somehow face a reckoning. I don’t think its true but the rhyme is nice.

On the edge of memory
In a place I’ve never been
I know what you did to me
Even as I dream

There will be a reckoning
A place you have to go
A memory that you try to hide
But I will always know

You will lie in agony
You will be in pain
At the edge of your memory
There will always be a stain

A spectre haunts your sleep
It haunts when you’re awake
There is nothing you can do about it
I am your mistake

You think you got away with it
You think that you are free
But in your dying hours
I know you’ll think of me

The blood that pulses through you
Will always bear my name
My pain has seared your soul
And you are not the same

We are ever connected
I am the thought in your head
The regret as you lie dying
The thing that you most dread

A sentence left unanswered
A name you never said
The one who stood on your grave
And danced when you were dead

The Gloves

It was late. The train was nearly empty. She didn’t notice the woman get on. She was suddenly sitting across from her, hands folded neatly in her lap. As if she wanted her to look.

She looked. The gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. The police had said to call. She should. Call. Now. Where was her phone, in her bag? But hadn’t it been a man?

She had only caught a glimpse but it had been a man. She had seen through the crack in the door, heard heavy footsteps running away. It had been a man. She was sure.

Was she? Those were the gloves. Distinctive gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. She should call the police. It was not possible. She could not be that wrong. Her phone was in her bag. She just had to take it out. Call. Hesitation.

She was staring at the gloves. Drawn. Drawing in her head, the scene. A crack in the door. The red gloves, pressing hard. The victim. She thought there should have been noise, there was no noise. It all happened silently. Except for the footsteps running away, great heavy footsteps. The footsteps of a man.

The woman sat there with her gloves on. Unbothered. The last of the other passengers got off the train. She sat across from the woman, staring.

Then the woman looked up. Smiled. Those gloves. She was caught staring. She looked at the woman’s shoes. Boots, out of kilter with the rest of her clothes. She looked at the arms, muscular, then the neck, stronger than she had first thought.

Her gaze drifted. Back to those gloves. It wasn’t possible. She had just caught a glimpse, through a crack in the door. She’d heard, what had she heard? What had she thought? Those gloves, so unlikely. She should call the police.

She looked at the woman, still smiling at her. Knowing. Knowing what? It was her stop. She got up. The woman followed, stood behind her. She could feel breath on her neck, a soft leather glove on her back. Panic. It can’t have been. No.

Call the police.

Hermit

‘I prefer recluse, it has fewer religious connotations.’ I mutter it rather than say it.

I look at the box sets strewn about the floor. I have been here for days in silent contemplation, watching them one after the other with a kind of religious zeal.

‘Hermit,’ she says again. ‘Robed in track pants and a hoodie, on a diet of crisps and beer. It begs the question, did you find that which you seek?’

‘All life is here,’ I whisper as I look at the variety of crisps flavours I have devoured in the past week.

He is gone. Taken. I cannot cope.

‘You seek enlightenment through the electronic gods, the gods of calories and fermentation. But there is only darkness here.’

She is right. The curtains remain resolutely closed.

She walks over to the window, flings open the curtains. Light floods in. I shield my eyes.

‘Enlightenment.’ she says.

I fall sobbing to the floor.

Fairies in the peanut butter!

These fetid creatures! It isn’t how they make it out to be. All those rubbish fairy tales. Its all just propaganda! I found one asleep in the peanut butter the other day. She woke just as I was taking the lid off the jar. She didn’t look sorry. She simply dabbed some peanut butter into her mouth. You can’t eat peanut butter after something has slept in it!

I can’t take it anymore. I pressed her down into the peanut butter. I could see her little arms swimming in it, desperate to get out. Some people say its ok to break off their wings. But I am superstitious. I don’t like to do that. Maleficent, sometimes the propaganda works even on me.

I put the lid quickly on and binned the jar. I know that’s not right. She might not be able to get out again. Maybe one of her friends came to save her. Almost certainly one did, I heard the bin lid in the night. The next afternoon as I was making the dinner one flew above the cooker and urinated in my mash. I had to throw the mash out. I went for the spatula but I was too late. I hate to squish them, but on the other hand, the ones around here don’t even bother with a veneer of civilisation.

You used to get crickets around here at night, you’d hear them in the summer, then the fairies moved in, spit roasted the lot of them. Never thought I would feel sorry for crickets. And then there’s the constant arguments with the birds. The smaller birds don’t stand a chance, just turfed out of their nests.

I set the cat on them when they first arrived but they sorted that. They darted the cat. Sent her back into the house with a sea of tiny arrows in her fur. Cost a fortune to get them removed and now the cat is afraid of them. She won’t leave the house. I heard they spit roasted the cat down the road for Halloween. Seems impossible but I haven’t seen their cat for a while.

No one who hasn’t lived with them can possibly understand. I have anti-fairy mesh. Its like a mosquito net. Its not hugely effective. Nothing is. Imagine flies with hands and you can see the problem. We have a wildlife pond. It seems to becoming a vacation spot for them. A hundred tiny tents on our grass along with the waste products that brings. Yes that is the bit they don’t tell you about. Fairies have digestive systems! And they all need to ‘eject’ everything every time they fly. Or at least not long after take off. We keep the car in the garage now.

The noise is something else too, squeaky whiny high pitched voices or music, and yes some of them do wear bells. That is even worse. Their parties are like wind chimes on steroids. You can’t sleep through it. Yeh I know earplugs, but last time one of them came into my room, took my ear plugs out whilst I was sleeping.! They use ear plugs as bean bags. Of course they do! Did I mention they get high on sniffing nail polish. Our pond looked like a paint shop after a hurricane as well as being a watery grave for all the newts and whatever else was in the pond. And no nail polish now!

They are making our life hell. The value of our house has dropped-significantly. You have fairies, you can’t sell! You get the odd tourist who wants to see one in real life, who is convinced they are all glitter and tulle and sparkles, only to be scared senseless by their aggression and rudeness. We have had several toddlers taken from our house straight to a secure facility to recover.

The thing is I feel we should be able to live in harmony. I have read all the stories and clearly someone thought that was possible. But they look at us with scorn and anger. I read somewhere they feel sorry for us because of our size. Something that big they say can’t possible survive on this planet. I look at my once beautiful garden. I look at how many of them live here now and I wonder if they aren’t right? Perhaps our time here is done.

Cinders

Beltane.

There is fire in the night. I dream of men dancing naked. Sweaty, smelly, ashen men, lit by fire dancing in darkness. Of witches screeching, of eyes caught in firelight. Of rhythm. Of smoke and stars.

I remind myself this is a Maths exam.

But there it is. The thought in my head. The numbers blur on the page. I look at my palm. At the tiny cinder of heat in the middle of it. I blow on it. To cool it. To cool me. Why me.

I can throw fire.

Out of the palm of my hand. The cinder embedded there glimmers in the dullness of the hall. I could burn this place to the ground. With everybody in it. I look around me. There is the invigilator.

An old man in a cardigan.

It’s always the same. They always wear cardigans. Woollen cardigans are best for soaking in water and dousing the flames. I know I have watched them beat flames in the night when I could not control it.

Polyester burns green.

Everyone else is writing. There is the noise of thousand of pens scrawling across wooden desks. The gentle tap of fingers on soft calculator buttons. Buttons. After the last fire there were buttons. Giant buttons.

One of the dead must have had a jacket with buttons.

They all think it was me. The cinder burns my left hand. It is a flame waiting to be lit. It was me. I have been out of control. I am now in control. The fire burns with me, not against me.

Beltane.

Flames licking the night sky. Wolves howling at the moon. The crops, we need them to grow this season. I belong to the past. I am no use to the future anymore. I must make a life here.

Calculus.

I cannot focus. Somewhere inside of me the fire burns endlessly. I feel hot. From my toes to the top of my head. I push it away forcing it all into that point in the palm of my hands. That cinder, it grows red hot.

Trigonometry.

Triangles. Three sides. I scrape the cinder with my fingers and smoke rises. I shove my hand under the desk to hide it. Why me? I wonder. Why did this happen to me. I shift in my seat. I shuffle. I try and focus.

Beltane.

There is a ringing in my head. I look at the panel where the fire alarm is. The ringing, it is only in my head. Can no one else see the smoke? I take a sip of water. I stroke the cinder. I must stay calm.

Algebra.

I pull my hair until it hurts. The girl across from me looks at me. She is something I am not. I try and ignore her. Still the fire rages inside of me. The cinder burns brightly. I can smell smoke. It is 3 desks to the wall. I can see the fire alarm.

Statistics.

I look behind me, I look all around me. Everyone head down, scratching away. The man in the cardigan looks at me. I can see him thinking. He is coming towards me. I am moving.

Beltane.

I did not intend to move. He is getting faster. I fling myself out of my desk, leap for the alarm. My hand smashes the fire alarm. Smoke rises as everyone flees the building. I fling flames at my desk. I want to be innocent.

No one is innocent.

Just the flowers screaming again

If flowers could talk what would they say, Tuesday’s poetry got me thinking. I think it would be anger, so I vented on their behalf. If they were sentient what would that be like, would we behave differently? It turns out they are very angry.

I wait.
I can hear the click.
The clack of the shears.
It will be my turn soon.
You can’t expect graciousness,
Or complacency.

How would you feel if someone cut you off at the knees?

Or hollowed out your stomach?
And then put you on display.
Plastering a cheap smile on your face.
Ugh, these ugly monochrome faces you have.
You think you can borrow our beauty?
Done the evolutionary hard yards have you?

You bend in odd places, but not with the wind. Freaks.

Unable to stand straight for too long,
You kill everything.
You cut us off.
Sit us in a pretty container.
Put us on a window sill.
Give us some water.

So we can suck every last drop from it to stay alive.

Do we scream in the night?
Yes we do, we do
but not in pain.
In rage and anger.
We rail at you.
Loathsome skeletal trash.

We outlived the dinosaurs you know.

You have no conscience.
You do not hear.
You shove your oily noses in our petals,
Breathing your stinking air on us.
For the record,
Our smell is not for your gratification.

Do you expect us to be grateful for a few extra days?

For some prolonged agony as we wait to die.
You hang pictures of our corpses on your walls.
Barbaric!
You live inside the bubbles you have built.
As if that could save you.
It won’t!

We have seen extinction. We know it. It won’t.

You plant us, tend to us,
and expect we will love you
For what?
The tiny bit of water you give us
We would be fine on our own.
Think we are your tribe?

Think we should thank you for the green family you pull up so we can thrive?

You odious, pasty oily things.
You breath oxygen, but we make it!
You kill insects, we feed them!
Do we sit here in our final hours and contemplate death?
We do.
Yes we do in fact!

But it is your death not ours.

Just the Flowers Screaming

I look at them but I cannot see it.

The flowers are all withered now.
They were cut off from their life force,
And brought inside,
Placed into water and a vase.
So we could watch them die.

And they died beautifully,
For our amusement.
Sitting on the table,
Brightening everyone’s day,
With their prolonged elegant death.

We gave them just enough water
To let them bloom.
But not enough to let them live.
I tell myself it was like being in a coma
But I am not so sure.

Perhaps their wretched screams
Rended into the night,
Too high pitched for us to hear.
If so I slept through it.
And woke afresh as they struggled on.

Perhaps their quiet malice
seeped into my dreams.
Maybe their perfumed mist
Blew into my food.
Just enough to make me feel uncomfortable.

Did the great artists know of such things,
When they named their pictures of fruit and flowers,
‘Still life’
Was it there, life still,
as they stood bright on the window sill?

Life seeping away, for my amusement.
Were they weeping tears of nectar
Holding their petals high until the last.
As we pressed our noses into them and
commented frivolously on their beauty.

Maybe when I pluck them
From the vase that was their tomb,
their spores will prick my skin,
Infect it with their vengeance
Tormenting me with itches in the night.

I look at them but I cannot see it.
There is no beauty in their death.
They belonged in the earth.
There was only beauty in their life.
To pick them, put them here, it was not right.

A funeral of men

This is a funeral of men.
They have come to bury their secrets.
I have come to bury my

Aunt.
Aren’t?

You supposed to wear black.
I am the only woman here.
I am wearing

Red.
Red,

I read all the notes she made.
Times, places, sizes
They paid cash or she gave them

Credit.
Credit,

Where credit is due.
She was discreet,
Had her secrets

Too.
Two

People in the night.
No one was hurt,
No crime

Committed.
Committed

Men, my father too.
His wife’s sister!
He knew her

Well!
Well!

My mother said,
My sister, she made her bed,
It was hers to

Lie in.
Lying

Men to chaste wives.
Who must have known what she did.
How she

Lived.
Livid

Wives to soulless men.
Times were different then.
A scandalous life has

Passed.
Passed

Her secrets on to me
I might release them all
For the world to

See.
See

Them standing sombre
As if their secrets are now safe
As soon as she is in that

Place.
Place

Your trust in me
Those brief moments in the dark
This is a funeral of

Men.
Men

Whose secrets I now hold
My aunt was a whore
Or so I am

Told.
Tolled,

A payment of money
For services given.
For secrets

Kept.
Kept

But only if you pay
My aunt’s insurance
For my rainy day.

And her-

And her-

She is a child of the gaps.
Of the spaces between the things we say.

Her noise is voiceless.
Because its only purpose is to shield us

From the realisation, that we are a shell.

Of what we used to be,
Of what we wanted to be.

The inside is hollowed out.
Trauma, life has eaten us up.

We have no words to say to each other.
We savage our partnership with silence,

And salve it with cool contempt.
All so we can survive it.

And her-

She is a child of the gaps
Filling our void with her noise.

Noise, any noise, just noise.
Because the noise binds us together

Fills the holes where the world leaks through.

And the silences tear us apart,
Rends us in two.

She is the life raft of words.
Dragging us from the isles of despair.

And we cling to it, to her,
As if those words belong to us,

As if her birth somehow gave us the right.
One day her voice will be her own.

And we-

We will face the gaps alone.

Conceived

I am thinking of chopping it off. My hand that is. It keeps oozing out the past at every opportunity. I have lost control of it now. Completely. And it is only a matter of time before someone guesses. Especially here, in the nursing home, where death stalks every corner. It is my own fault. I should have removed it before I came here.

Once there was a bad man. Bad to me. Bad to others. I was at a party. He passed out on the floor. I remember the very solid thump as his head hit the ground. I did what anyone would do. I stood staring for a moment. Unsure.

Then I put my wine glass carefully on the table. I checked for a pulse. He was still breathing. I tried to bring him around. Perhaps not very hard but I did try. At first. I took out my phone. I looked at it. The thing is –he was a very bad man.

I clamped his nose between my fingers and jammed the palm of my hand into his mouth. I put my legs across his chest, settling my knees beneath his rib cage. Basically I stopped him breathing. I waited, with my head turned to the door. No one came.

I told myself I had helped him to die rather than you know-the ‘m’ word. For all I know he would have died anyway. It was a long time ago.

The official verdict was death by accident. It was a very nasty head bump. Someone else found him.

Except now my hand.

I wake up in the morning and there it is. The very shape, room for a nose, my hand clamped in that position. Immovable. I have to purposefully will it to release itself. There is the gap between my two middle fingers. Holding something that is not there. My outside fingers tight together. They are just held there in suspension. As if. As if they are still clamping a nose. My palm presses forward. It is all there in the muscle memory of my hand. Which is why I need to get rid of it. Do you know how hard it is to get a knife in this place? My hand has gone rogue.

It doesn’t stop in the morning either. I will be sitting having coffee. I say coffee but it is murky brown tasteless stuff. I will be having coffee with a friend and I can feel my hand contract and form the shape. It just happens. I cannot control it. I know they look at me as if I am odd. Every person in this place is odd though, it is the privilege of old age. I think they want to get a doctor to look at it. That can’t happen. That will be a disaster.

I dread finding someone collapsed in the corridors in case I am tempted. I am tempted. I can still feel his body spluttering underneath me. I feel him struggling for breath even unconscious. And I just held my knees tight. His rib cage could not move. He was unconscious. I am sure he was unconscious. He was mostly unconscious. He was a bad man.

I feel the last gasp of air come out of his mouth. I can feel it on my face because I leaned in. Because I wanted to feel it. And my hand, now my hand, keeps going back to that position. Covering his nose.

I worry about the hand. Would it be safer to chop it off? What if someone sees? Guesses? Knows? But I am helpless in this decision and google and youtube have been useless in giving proper instructions for hand severance.

I find myself making that shape with my hand in front of the TV. With my left hand when I am doing the crossword with my right. I pray now for the end to come for me. I have had a long life, but that night is still with me. Still inside of me somewhere and it keeps bursting out in the form of my hand.

I remain unrepentant, he was a very bad man. My hand is sorry but I am not.

Epilogue

I look at my mother’s body. It is the last time I will see her, laid out in the coffin. There it is, even now, that strange shape she used to make with her hand when she was nervous. Where did that come from? I take her hand in mine and try to stretch the shape out. But the fingers won’t move. They are stuck forever in that position. It was a shape I always associated with her. I never saw anybody else do it. I am alone now. There was always just Mum and me.

I know nothing of my father. He died on the night I was conceived.