Even the trees

I remember the first time I saw it. He was desperate, you could see he was desperate, that bit wasn’t unusual. It was the stomach that was odd. The branch wrapped around the middle of his body, the bulge above it, distended, hanging over it, his stomach. He was held fast, his feet long since lost and a branch loose around his neck, another coming out of his mouth, sprouting leaves. It looked like he was vomiting foliage.

You could see the desperation in his eyes. He was hungry, but the branch had grown to fill his mouth and so there was no way of feeding him. What point would feeding him serve anyway, it would it only prolong the inevitable. He was being absorbed into the tree and there was nothing that could stop it. You could see his hands had melded into the trunk and didn’t exist anymore and if you came back tomorrow, a little more of his arm would be tree.

If there was an escape, we had not found it. The trees had proven impervious to the axe, they had withstood our flames, we had even tried talking to them, just stood there opening and closing our mouth with words but there was no evidence they heard and it did not stop.

It was mostly men at first, because we needed wood and they got the wood, and the trees had always been so passive, so agreeable to what we did. Or so we thought. It was not all trees, the majority of them just stood mutely, as trees do, but these active attack timbers were new. You couldn’t tell the passive trees from the aggressive ones and worse when you cut into one that had absorbed someone, sometimes there was an outline in the tree, other times blood would pour out, or there were organs just sitting within the trunk and you would wonder if there hadn’t been some semblance of humanity left, some sentience that you had swung your axe against.

Not long after it started, it was alleged they adapted new tactics, letting themselves be cut, became the joists of some house and in the night crept down from their roof top space or their wall and took children. You simply woke up to find your child being absorbed into a beam, of course they were static, the beam couldn’t up and run away but your child was still gone. That was rumour and I never saw any evidence of it.

We were becoming a world of fewer and fewer people. There was nothing we could do, there was no cure, if anything the number of trees doing it was increasing. It was a hard thing to observe, a sort of rapid growth around someone as they went near a tree, a kind of snarling ensnarement that was strong and then a slow absorption over a period of days.

The woods were alive with the howling of victims until the inevitable branch filled the mouth, some trees seemed to revel in the idea of the screaming and the branch to fill the mouth was the last thing they did. Others seemed bothered by the noise and did it quickly.

I had a son of twelve, I did not let him go out often. The house had stood so long and I knew its beams, they would not transform in the night. Still I was careful with the wood for the fire, but I knew it is inevitable. I watched him grow, watched many die and knew the inevitable must happen. There were fewer of us and the trees were taking victims younger and younger. What to do?

Then came the day he simply did not come home and I ran to the road and searched like so many others and there he was and he was so far gone. I could not hold his hand or feed him. I could only see the terror in his eyes and stroke his arm and tell him it would soon be over. It was mercifully short.

The trees began in earnest on the women then and sometimes the animals. It was as if the trees had turned against all forms of life that moved. I had seen so much, so many suffer, I did not want to die that way. At the end I did not even think I could trust the trusses that held up my own house, I could not bring myself to light a fire out of fear. Many simply gave in, just walked up and placed themselves before a tree. It did not always work, the trees were whimsical, they knew they had won.

I could not bring myself to do that, I could not imagine how I could live through the agony of absorption, the slow solidification of my body into something firm and hard, the creeping stillness, the days of hunger until your blood merged into sap, your final taste just wood and leaves, the joy of sound silenced by a think branch on your tongue. I knew I could not bear such things, feet, hands merged into trunk, limbs melted into bark, torso melded into wood, none of it worked for me.

Instead I went to the river. The river is forbidden, was forbidden once. I dipped my toes in the water. I waded out into the depths. I lay down in the water and I let the river dissolve me. I felt myself come apart, each molecule of my body drifting apart from the other, the parts that held me together overwhelmed by the sheer amount of liquid I was drowning in. I felt the water seeping into me and I felt myself merging into it. I was at peace with the world, there was nothing left of me. I became water instead of wood. I joined with the drops of the river and floated out to sea.

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Hover

The hand hovers there in the darkness above me. Not just once, but all night. I pretend to sleep but I’m awake. Every time I open my eyes, its there. I know what its waiting for, its waiting for me to reach out. I am not going to reach out.

Its there every night, not above my face but close to my arm, where my fingers could easily reach up and grab on. What does it want? Its just an inch above me. Hovering. In the darkness, just a hand and nothing else. There’s no arm, it ends as the palm reaches the wrist.

Its luminous, I can see through it without really seeing inside it. Its long fingers stretching towards me in the darkness as if it can’t quite reach me. I think it could reach me really, but its waiting for me to choose. But what will happen if I touch that hand, if I reach out and clasp it? It looks as if I could move my hand through it. What if I slap it away?

I close my eyes. I open them again. Its still there. Night after night, I don’t sleep. I pretend sleep. It hovers, waiting for me. I know it wants me to reach out. Even if I snuggle right down under the covers, I know its still there. Hovering. Waiting. Sometimes I want to reach out in the darkness and touch it but I resist, I must resist. I sleep under the kitchen table after breakfast, in the daylight and it does not appear.

But the night is a wholly other matter, wherever I am in the house in the darkness, it appears. I tried leaving the lights on all night, but the switch tripped, the lights went out and there it was in front of me. Hovering, the same as always. Waiting for me, just waiting. I tried candles and I could still see it there, just at the edge of the light waiting for me. It is a thing of darkness and I cannot bring myself to touch it but I am so tired.

There is some kind of inevitability to it, it has waited so patiently. I start to feel as if it deserves it, as if I am at fault, as if I am punishing it. One night I almost give in, reach out my spindly fingers towards it in the darkness. I see it reach ever so slowly closer in response but at the last minute I pull back quickly. I curl up into a ball in the darkness. I feel guilty. When I look again, it is still there hovering. Patient. When I do that a second time, almost and then not, a third time, on the fourth time, when I look at the hand one finger is moving, tapping annoyed on a soundless invisible desk. I feel guilt, I feel like I am failing.

And then December, and suddenly it is gloved. Hovering. Gloved. And there is a hint of red reflected in the whiteness of the glove as if this might be the hand of Father Christmas. But I know it is not the hand of Father Christmas. It is December, the season to be jolly but I can’t sleep, haven’t slept, won’t sleep. And Christmas Eve is getting closer and I know its still going to be there, waiting, patient. Hovering. Because its going nowhere until I reach out and touch those fingers.

And Christmas eve arrives and I can’t focus. I sit under the kitchen table all day. I will the darkness to arrive. I accept the inevitable. I wait for the sun to sink, for the dimness of dusk before the fall of night. I don’t switch on any of the lights. I wait patiently and then there it is. I see it there in front of me, reaching out and I reach forward, out and our fingers touch, I clasp on and…

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The Chair Part 2

I have uploaded the footage to a website. Malevolent furniture.com. If you google that and nothing comes up then you know they have won.

THEY HAVE WON!

I am sitting on the floor of my kitchen, just looking at it. I wonder if it is looking back. It can’t, can it. I know it can’t. See, I am still sane and rational whatever anyone else says. I know chairs don’t have eyes.

NO EYES.

I have put the other chairs and table in the other room. It is just me and the chair now. In the kitchen.

I only really know some of what happened. But I will share it with you before I sit down in the chair. If it hadn’t been the same police officer twice I would never have known. He noticed how I spoke of only one child but in the picture in the hallway there are two children. Two children-where is the other one?

There was another abandoned car on the driveway-two in three months and he had ‘concerns’. I wanted him to sit down, invited him to sit in the chair but he wouldn’t. He stood up. He was not taken in. He lost patience with my evasive answers.

He made me go before a court on some trumped up charge. I told the judge, I told the judge I thought it was the chair.

The chair.

The judge referred me to the doctor and that’s how I ended up here. On the floor of my kitchen with the chair as my only company.

The doctor did not think I was sane. He thought I needed help. But I am sane. I do not need help, at least not the kind he thinks I need.

And you need to be careful. Its the chairs.

ITS THE CHAIRS!

I can say it out loud now because it won’t matter soon. When was the last time you went anywhere where there wasn’t a chair? Only it doesn’t have to be a chair, because they have different names but they all do the same thing-chair, seat, stool, they are all in it together. Shopping mall-seats, cinema-seats, buses, cars-all have seats. You work in an office right-all day-sitting on a chair. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And they are in control.

IN CON-TROL.

So I tell the doctor this, I say, everywhere I go there are chairs, everywhere I GO. He denies it! Denies it in the face of all the evidence. But they are everywhere. You know they are. I refuse to sit in the chair in his office. He tells me my case is unique. I have an odd kind of paranoia. But I know.

I KNOW.

He furrowed his brow. I know he didn’t believe me. But everywhere-everywhere there are chairs. Chairs, seats, stools. It doesn’t matter they are everywhere. Bikes have seats, toilets have seats-dear god, seats with holes, its a very bad idea. I went to the library-chairs, the cafe-chairs, friends houses-chairs-they are everywhere!!!! Yet still the doctor did not BELIEVE ME.

After the first few sessions of therapy he realised he wasn’t getting through. He wanted to come to my house and see my chairs. Specifically the chair. And I am so clever.

SO CLEVER

My husband isn’t here anymore. Did I tell you that? We had an argument about the chair. I don’t remember the details but he left suddenly and I haven’t heard from him since. I think. But I know that you’re thinking-it could have been and it definitely could have been.

The thing is when I knew the doctor was coming. I KNEW. I rigged up a camera in my kitchen. I did it in the dark where I thought the chair couldn’t see. But then chairs can’t see can they.

CAN THEY? NO!

How do they communicate??? Have you ever walked into a room and the chairs have moved around. Was that them or did someone move them? Do you know? Can you prove it?

And then he came, THE DOCTOR came to my house. A house visit.

DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Doctors do not come to houses anymore. YOU have to believe this. He came to my house. The doctor, he totally DID. He came because the chair wanted him to come. Its like he was summoned. SUMMONED. He came in and looked at the chair-then all cocky and brazen-he sat on it.

HE SAT ON IT.

I know he was reluctant to, I can sense he was repulsed by it. Everyone is. BUTT

HE SAT DOWN ON IT.

But the thing is. I filmed it. I have the footage. One moment the doctor is sitting in the chair, the next he is gone. Like magic. WHERE DID HE GO? THE CHAIR?

The chair knows. THE CHAIR KNOWS.

KNOWS I have footage. So now it is me and the chair-in the kitchen. And I am going to sit on it. I know I am, because I have no choice. Because the chair is in control. The chair is in control of me. I can’t help myself. I have to sit on the chair. Because the chair is so in control, I sacrificed my child to the chair. Two children and now there is only one and where is that one. I can’t remember.

SAVE YOURSELF!

Watch the footage. Say it over and over, ‘No I will stand thank you.’ Make it your mantra, ‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’ Don’t just sit down whenever the seat is offered to you. Fight back. Stand up. RAGE AGAINST THE FURNITURE!

BECAUSE.

Because the chairs are winning.

I can’t resist. I know I can’t resist. I have to sit in that chair. This is the end for me. But not for you.

SAY IT OUT LOUD,

‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’

RESIST, RESIST, RESIST.

I have uploaded the footage. If you are reading this, you are my only hope. The chairs are winning and we are all going to die sitting down.

I am going towards the chair now. I am sorry. I have let you all down.

I am going to sit quietly now.

The Chair

Do you have malevolent furniture-how do you know?

There’s a wooden chair in my kitchen. Actually there are four, a set, around a little wooden table. We use the table and chairs at breakfast but otherwise eat in the dining room.

There are three of us. Which means there is one chair that is never used. One left over chair. A solo. A loner. But its become obvious to me that it is more than each of us just having a favourite spot. If you move the chairs, that chair is still the chair that everyone avoids. No one has sat in that chair. Ever.

It’s like it has human repellent sprayed on it.

Not a family member, not a guest. No one. Ever. It is an unused chair. It has experienced a total failure to fulfil its reason for existence. I wonder if there are other chairs like it. Elsewhere. In the houses of other people.

People I don’t know.

Even at parties, and we’ve had a few, that chair is avoided by those reprobates who hover in the kitchen, the ones avoiding the dancing and drinking everyone else enjoys. It is so repellent that I never even offer it to guests anymore. I have thought of selling it but then I think of it alone without its wooden siblings. I can’t seem to part with it. Plus I have high hopes for its reform. I have been thinking about it. I am sure it just needs to be sat on once and then.

Then everybody will want it.

Anyways I have decided this week I am going to break with tradition. I have invited my very obliging friend Bea around. And. I am setting it up so she must sit in the chair.

You heard me, I am setting it up, so she MUST SIT ON THE CHAIR.

She is arriving at 10 past eleven. Which is very soon. I have put the other two chairs in the dining room. I have put a cake in the oven so we must drink tea in here until its cooked. Me in my chair and her.

Her in that chair.

I look at the chair. Bea is so eager to please. It seems such a nice idea that she should be the one to break it in. I am not manipulative you know, its just she is the most obliging of my friends.

IT’S ONLY A CHAIR.

That’s the doorbell. Time to swing into action. I invite her in and head for the kitchen. So far, so good. I see her look slightly disconcerted at the chairs. I ignore it. I begin to make the tea. I have sat my scarf over my chair as a point of ownership. I can see her hesitate. Look at the chair. Hesitate. But I know she will not take my chair. She is too polite to move my scarf plus I must sit next to the oven to observe my precious cake.

I invite her to sit down.

She shuffles her feet a bit. I invite her to sit down again and point at the chair. She says she’d rather stand. I am not defeated. Not yet anyway. I put the water in the tea pot and wait for it to brew. We are both standing. I can see the look of reluctance on her face. She does not want to sit in the chair.

I will not be diverted, I will succeed.

I put biscuits at the centre of the table. She has to lean across the chair to get them. I see her recoil as she touches the back of it. It is an odd chair. We are at something of an impasse. Both of us standing, pretending this is not happening.

But this is happening and I will succeed.

She suggests moving into the dining room. I say no. My daughter is carefully placed there doing homework plus I need to stay with the cake. Honestly I tend the cake as if I am giving birth to a child.

I make the tea and put her cup down on the table. I put mine down and sit down in my chair. I sense her desperation, her confusion, I see it being overridden by her desire to please.

Her desire to be liked.

I can taste victory. She looks at me with a plea for reason. I pretend not to see it. I look into my tea nonchalantly. I take a bite of my biscuit. Nonchalantly. Triumph is within my grasp. That chair will be sat on before this cup of tea is finished.

And then she does it.

Slowly. But she does it. I see her reach for the back of the chair. Pull it out. Slide into it. My face breaks into a triumphant smile as hers distorts as if I have betrayed her. It’s a chair, I want to say.

Momentarily there is a vision in my head.

A child. My child, a child I know is mine but a child I no longer have is sitting in that chair. I am pushing her into it because someone must use that chair. That chair. I feel horror. Its momentary. It passes. I look at the chair.

The empty chair.

I blink and look into my tea. I feel sure of a triumph that eludes me somehow. I have won something but I don’t know what. My mind goes blank. Oddly there is another cup of tea across from mine.

I seem to have made myself two cups of tea.

How weird. I have put one on the other side of the table. As if someone were sitting in that chair. Which is odd because no one ever sits in that chair. There is something totally repugnant about that chair.

That chair.

I pour the tea down the sink. I get the other chairs back from the dining room. I can’t remember why I put them there anyway. I look at all the chairs in the kitchen. The fourth one, the odd one, always looks fatter than the others. As is its just eaten something.

I must get rid of it one day.

Later that day I have to call the police. There is a strange car parked in our driveway. I really should sell that chair I mutter to myself as I cook the dinner. Yet somehow I feel like it has a part of me, a part of my life in it, despite never having sat in it.

Therapy

I sit across from her. She seems more tense than usual. I feel calm. Still, on the inside, steel. Metallic. I can taste it on my tongue. This is not how it’s meant to be. I am paying her. She is meant to be helping me. I was afraid. I am afraid. I thought she might solve it. Remove it. Excise it. Instead I have found a stillness inside my fear yet again. I am out of options.

She hasn’t solved it.

So here we are. She is nervous with failure. I am calm because I am certain. My fear is rational. Even though she says the thing I am afraid of does not exist.

I am making her nervous. She is wiping her hands on the sides of the chair. It doesn’t mark but those are some sweaty palms. I don’t revel in it. I observe it. I am indifferent except to the idea that perhaps now she will finally agree that my fear is rational, grounded. I look at her. I talk.

I know by the end of the appointment there will be beads of sweat on her forehead. There will be the scent of sweat in the room. Human sweat mingled with her scent. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, that scent. Maybe she has a little bottle in her bag. Maybe she keeps it in her bathroom cupboard in the house she lives in. On her own. She has a sister but no one else, their mother died when they were in their twenties.

How do I know that? Pictures on the desk. Odd things she lets slip, the questions she asks of me. Do I have a sister? Yes, estranged. Can we explore that? I haven’t seen her for a hundred years. She smiles at the things I come out with. The little nuances around time that give the game away. How much of what I say is true? I am not being honest even with myself. It’s one of the reasons she can’t help me.

The accusation of dishonesty hangs in the air.

If I refuse to help myself, she can’t help me. My flippancy reflects my insecurity. Can we explore that. Probably not. I do the sums in my head. It is definitely a hundred years since I spoke to my sister.

I look at the doctor and keep talking. Perhaps the good doctor will end up in some nursing home that is poorly managed where the residents are all malnourished. Perhaps she won’t end up there at all. Perhaps today is her last day on the planet. It has started the same way every other day has started. A rushed breakfast, a quick shower, make up applied in the car. Coats struggled into and out of, hung up on the coat stand.

The desk is neat and orderly. The house is neat and orderly. Her mind is neat and orderly. Nonetheless perhaps her day will end early, before dinner.

I am not cured of my phobia. I am still afraid. I make her more nervous every visit. I am no longer worth the money. She doesn’t remember a case this difficult before. I hear her words without really reacting. I just talk. She wants to consult a colleague. Perhaps she can palm me off to him. She does not say that but I know. I can smell the sweat. It fills the room. The smell.

She shifts in her chair. She always does that at the half an hour mark. I notice it every time. She is discomforted. I talk without saying anything of merit, of value.

I have this fear. Irrational. A fear of something that does not even exist. I have read a lot of books, sat across from a lot of therapists. This one, her smell. I am not good with perfumes. I don’t know what that scent is.

I keep talking. Talking. Talking. She keeps not listening. Now she is looking at the clock. Shifting in her chair. Again. For a moment I see it, she wants to be rid of me, out of the room. Maybe she will tell her receptionist to ensure that there won’t be time for another appointment. Maybe this will be our last time together. Maybe there is just 15 minutes more before I am cast out into the street once again. Alone to deal with my fears.

I can see it in her eyes. She can’t help me anymore. I am to be abandoned again. I don’t want it to be her choice. I want it to be mine. The scent of her sweat fills the room. Is she going to say it to my face. Tell me this is the last time. Consult a colleague. I am desperate. I need help. What is it that she doesn’t understand? My fear is rational, real.

I stop talking. Ready to listen. Ready to hear the words again. The same words. She tells me I am afraid of something that does not exist. That I don’t need to worry. She thinks really I am just afraid of myself. She says it, those words, you are afraid of yourself.

There is.

I grant you.

Some truth in that.

Slow thoughts play out in front of my eyes.

I stand up. Ready to leave.

She stands up across from me. We are of equal height. She reaches out her hand.

I grip it, trying to grip it for just the right amount of time at just the right amount of strength. To ensure there is no suspicion to the very end.

Our eyes meet. I look at her. I know these will be my final words to her.

‘Vampires are real’ I say, ‘and I am scared.’

I snap her neck and drain the body.

I tell myself its not my fault. She should have listened. Its not like I didn’t tell her I was a monster. Its not like I didn’t warn her. She should have better security.

I get my coat and leave.

The man in the van

It was dark. And cold. I clutched my coat around me. I walked in the dappled fug of the street lights.

The van slowed down as it drove past me. I focussed on staying warm. Ignoring it. It went past. I turned into the side street. Hoping.

Yet somehow knowing.

I had been here before. It only had to go right at the bottom of the other street, right again and it would meet me where that street intersects with this side street.

I walked on. I could hear footsteps behind me but I daren’t look. They might help. They might not. I walked slowly.

I saw its headlights just as I got to the junction. The van turned into the street. It slowed down. It was right behind me. Its head lights following me. Tracking me.

There were houses on this street. I could knock on a door, ask for help. Say what. There’s a man in a van following me. I’m not sure what they would do.

He would simply drive away anyhow. Wait for me in the next street. My husband was at home but I could hardly call him.

I could still hear the footsteps behind me, perhaps they would help. Perhaps there was safety there.

Perhaps not.

I walked. He drove. Quietly, slowly behind me. I walked just in the beam of his headlights. Deliberately. I felt in my coat for my gloves. I tried to forget the inevitable.

I could no longer hear the footsteps behind me. They must have turned up the alley. It occurred to me then that I should have done that. Taken the long way home. The safe way home.

Then he said something. It barely registered. Something like, ‘come here love’ perhaps.

I was momentarily rooted to the spot. I turned to look at him but was blinded by the lights. I felt my feet approaching the van even though I didn’t really want to. There was an inevitability to it.

What was I doing?

I saw his face. Looked into his eyes. I wanted to see kindness. It was not in the gaze that met mine.

It was quick. The neck was broken, the blood drained from the body in a matter of seconds.

I reached in and switched off the vehicle and took the keys. A trophy. The others said I shouldn’t. It was too risky,  but had they read the conviction rates.

I told myself it wasn’t my fault.

He should not have been driving alone at night. He should not have driven in the vicinity of a woman. He had most certainly approached me. He was not wearing a scarf. In fact his shirt did not even have a collar. What century was he living in?

I found it hard to explain why I did not want dinner again. I hid the keys in a pot with all the other keys.

I tell myself one day I will stop. But I know that I will not.

The Sewing Club: Needles at dawn

When she first brought the sewing pattern
We were all aghast
I’d never seen a sewing pattern
From that far in the past

We knew there had been witches
You learn that as a kid
But this was a step too far
This can’t be what they did

We laid it out on the table
We read it through and through
What she’d said was right though
It was all completely true

At first it seemed a problem
That we could not surmount
But we are women of endeavour
Who make their actions count

And so we found ourselves
One dark and stormy night
Some digging up the frozen ground
While others held the light

I take my hat off to Agatha
And her skills with the knife
She made it look quite easy
She is a butcher’s wife

Then it went to Molly
Who’s a goddess with a pin
Lucy’s quite methodical
She was first needle in

We sewed through the night
We sewed through the day
There was not a scrap to spare
We threw not a jot away

We finished in the early hours
Of the second day
We held it to the light
We could not look away

We drew lots to see
Who was brave enough to dare it
Susan wouldn’t do it
So Lexi had to wear it

We put it in the cupboard
Where it could not be seen
No one else must see it
Until its Halloween

Mary was a seamstress
Mary was a friend
Her husband was a bastard
She met a gruesome end

As trick or treat drew near
We knew we must be brave
As Lexi put on her Mary suit
It was like she’d risen from the grave

We knocked on his door
We knocked very loud
Mary was a trooper
We knew she’d be quite proud

We stood all around her
Our Lexi/Mary doll
He stumbled out some words
He was a spineless troll

We all heard him say
‘I thought that you were dead’
‘Guess you were wrong’
Was all Lexi-Mary said

And with that,

Out,

Into the night,

He fled

We took Mary off
Carefully unpicked each stitch
They discovered him the next day
He was dead in a ditch

He died of a heart attack
So the coroner decreed
The coroners name was Eleanor
Each Tuesday at sewing club,

She sits right next to me.

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

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.

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.