The Pack

I see them gathered behind the twisted metal fence I walk past on my way home. Black-eyed and spitting out curses. Kicking at the mesh that holds them back. Leering and screeching like mad men against a high-rise backdrop.

But I must walk along the crazy paving.

The children they still are quake beneath the weight of their shadows. They’re scared. Scared that no one wants their 2 cents. Scared that no one is coming.

“You shouldn’t be out walking on your own, little lady,” one says. “There are very bad men out there who would do very bad things to you. I’m a feminist, myself.”

I pick up my pace, but he matches it.

“Hey, didn’t you hear? I’m a feminist. That means you have to listen to me.”

Continue reading “The Pack”

Emanations VII

And why shouldn’t he be naked, as he scuttles around my kitchen like a rat? I’d probably do the same in his situation. Harry’s lost his cloak, see. His cloak of mirrors, made from fragments of every surface, sound, scent or taste in which he’s found a piece of his soul reflected back at him. Fairground mirrors are ten a penny; true mirrors are a treasure to find. So when he comes across one, he cuts it out, stitches it to the others. Trouble is, mirrors change just as we all do. Sometimes they become foggy or scratched, or show versions of us we’ve long since surpassed. Sometimes they show us the future, and we don’t recognise those at all. Cloaks become lost.

So now, in my kitchen, he lifts up linoleum squares to caress the concrete beneath. He sniffs around the waste bin. Then he cries until I put his favourite drone track through my loudest speakers so that he might hear it in this new context.
“If I can find the mirror of the moment, I will know who I am,” he says. I nod. I know. “Perhaps we should move the sofa?”

But Harry’s looked behind the sofa before. He’s spent time buried in a pile of rocks, he’s watched television static for 24 hours straight, he’s rolled sewing needles between his forefinger and thumb at the top of a mountain. He’s set an alarm for 3.44 in the morning to take the hottest shower possible. Always looking for the Harryness in things. He’s used every part of his body to make paintings, sometimes on drugs so he can paint with their melting counterparts. You’ve got to wade through some mud before you find the truffles.

“Ssshhh,” Harry says, raising a finger to my face. He cocks his head to align with the worktop; has his metaphysical scissors at the ready. He’ll only take a sample: a swatch big enough to start a new cloak. That way, I’ll never lose myself. It won’t harm the mirror, of course, because they grow back to fill the space they’re afforded.

I used to think, when he collected enough mirrors, there’d be a gateway. A way out of this labyrinth. We’re going to see the goblin king! Perhaps he’ll take our souls! But now I know the whole thing is only a matter of preserving sanity. No matter the meaning we choose, so long as we do choose, right?

Harry has a gift for finding the glimmers among unexpected and discarded mental combinations, but today is not meant to be. There’s nothing there for him.
“How will you be soothed, Harry?” I say. “Shall I take you to the sea?” They say there’ll be a storm tonight. Harry likes storms. But his wrinkled flesh has already begun to shudder.
“The mirrors just don’t have the timeless quality we’d like, Stephanie. They show us only how our souls are trapped in time. Trapped in time!”
Trapped in time. I stroke his grey hair, and he sucks his thumb. We’ll probably stay this way until morning.

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***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These surreal fragments come from states of meditation, excitation, or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. I consider them to be little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations VI

A world of light. It’s quiet here. Peaceful. My forehead is pressed against yours, and I think: you are older now. So much older. Am I older too? Sunken eyes. Grey, worn skin. Wise with it, though. For a moment it seems as though we are about to kiss, but no. We’re way beyond that.

There are no words, categories, or sensations anymore. Only thoughts mingling as one. I send you the violet energy from my reserves, so that you might be nourished, rejuvenated. I see it tunneling through your veins, and you gasp.

In your eyes now there’s a different light. An abstract sort of light. You send it shining right at me. I know it’s time. We have to let go. The cogs whir into action all around us, all at once. The hands begin to twitch. The face is blank. A new consciousness will soon rise.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. Each slice is to be read as a stream of consciousness, a little window into the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations V

The memory man wanted to leave scars. To stun and ravish, scorch and discard, slice and heal. He wanted to cleanse the mind, beating thought down as it arose to leave a blank canvas for the marking. It was said that he would bind his victims to chairs and play heavy, emotion-laden songs while whispering stories to complicate their depth. I was all ears.

I was all eyes for the images he tied to scents. All skin for the scraping he tied to taste. He parcelled them up with pretty pink ribbons and hooked them onto my neurons with bent silver pins. His name was etched upon every one because that’s how the magic worked.

The magic. The pain. The scars of remembering. Will they ever be gone?

Laying me down on a child’s bed and showing me the moon. Hanging a playing card on a chain around my neck and shooting the Joker. Blood running down my collarbone, words only gurgles and spits. Filling in the holes with soft towels and expensive shampoos, unwashed bedsheets and no safety catches.

Locking me out but forcing me to look in, lids forced open with drops of barbed verity. The pages of the memory book jumbling before my eyes, but don’t worry. The magic will stick them back together with sour milk and tears, all in the wrong order. Force them into geometric shapes with folds that shouldn’t exist. Boxes and boxes and boxes filled with terror and a hint of lust ‘n’ lemon. They might be here forever.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness; windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations III

In October of last year, I fell into my shadow. She was vicious, bold and offensive; unafraid to say everything I never could. And she was so damn attractive with it! I never stood a chance.

As soon as she knew she had me, I found myself alone on her shore. The sun had set long ago, but a cold glimmer from her skin lit up my world. Her eyes brimmed with the awe of all I could become. How do you extract your good potential when it’s so mixed up with the bad? Everything beyond ego, including the shadow, cares little for the distinction. I didn’t know the answer, and that could only mean she held that particular key.

So, when I raised the question, she raised her mace. I cowered. I screamed. I tried desperately to claw my way out through the sand. But she was quick, and she had no mercy. She swung her weapon and thumped me right in the chest with it. My rib cage shattered into a thousand jagged pieces, and moths burst out in a cloud. Some turned to dust upon contact with the air; others flew away across the sands. I strained to take a breath, but my lungs and throat were pierced in too many places. Through fading consciousness, I could just make out my shadow picking up a piece of bone, turning it over in her fingers and admiring herself in its reflective surface. With the other hand, she ripped out my heart.

The life poured out of my veins. I could do nothing but lay in wait of the tide. It was over.

My shadow flicked away her makeshift mirror, and pulled a jar out of her back pack. She squeezed the contents of my heart into it: a deep iridescent red. Memory, personality, soul. As she took a sip, her sharp posture began to dissolve. Her black hair softened to light grey, her fur robe melted away to reveal the pink butterfly dress I’d been wearing that day, and her smile turned from cunning to kindness. At first I could only see through her eyes from a distance, but it didn’t take long for my mind to recognise its home. Everything came into focus. I screwed the lid tightly onto the jar, strapped it to my back pack, and began my ascent back to the village.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic flash fiction writing. These stories are intended to be read as streams of consciousness; little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations II

Is that a uterus or a spaceman with his arms outstretched? The rose-lit dome I visit in my dreams has begun to play tricks on me over the last few nights. The hospital say it’s one of the signs. I know that should terrify me, but it doesn’t. It just makes me feel I’ve been taking the pills properly.

His thoughts are channeling through my veins. I can hear him in my spleen. He’s saying something important.

“I don’t know if you can understand me. They say you can’t, that you aren’t developed enough. But I believe there’s a chance, and it feels only right for me to talk to you. I’ll be the provider of your nourishment, after all. I’ll be your guide. So we need to establish our bond, don’t we? You need to know it’s all going to be ok.

You are in the womb of the fourth dimension. Everything you’ve learned in your ‘lifetime’ is simply the pieces clicking into place to prepare you for a normal birth up here. You have to learn three to know four. All the sights, sounds, smells: they’re chemical reactions as your mind builds itself. Side effects. Echoes. A vague awareness of what’s beyond.

Linear time is a weird phenomenon that happens only while in the womb, too. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But please know that all the mental suffering, the cognitive dissonance, and the sense of taking a one way trip is because you are not here. You are not where you belong. You are contained in a space of limitations that is unnatural to our kind. You are but a cross-section of what your whole self will be.

When you take your infinite breath, there’ll be treasures you can’t imagine. I promise you that, my angel. Movement without boundaries, and a plane of time. You and me. One more pill. Just one more pill.”

*

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~ C S Lewis.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic (but human) fiction writing. The words come from states of meditation, excitement, or indifferent vacuity and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. They are intended to be read as streams of consciousness to open windows to the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations I

I had a date with chaos. I knew it would come, but never when, until one Tuesday when it spontaneously crashed in around me. It sent wine bottles flying and blasted out the music of my scent. Static interference. Sferics, I thought, as I bit my tongue. Chaos struggles with language, so, as it made itself at home in my cellar, I translated its vibrant colours for the sake of conversation.
“Human beings always coming with their whys,” it said. “Making connections. Putting meaning on my doings. The only disease that afflicts me. Billions of whys.”
“Giving things meaning is what we do,” I replied, curling my forefinger around a lock of hair. “We are castle builders. We pull the loosest of your sands into mind-buckets and force them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. We do it because we can, but also because it’s fun. Don’t you like the whys?”
The skies opened then, and flies with beating red hearts for eyes poured upon us. In seconds they covered every bit of visible skin. They crawled and buzzed and ate and loved. Grotesque things. So I said, in the most flirtatious tone I could muster, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness: windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Psychopomp

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Johnny found Psychopomp while browsing drug categories on the dark web. It had 6,000 logged purchases worldwide but no user ratings, which the seller said was a true mark of its success: this was a trip from which there was no coming back.

It was three months since Romeo had passed. Accidental overdose. Johnny knew what they were all thinking, but they were wrong. Romeo wouldn’t do that, not even after the money and creativity had dried up. “You should be back out on the scene by now,” his friends said. They meant well, he knew, and cooping himself up in the flat staring at a dead man’s poetry on the walls was surely not a healthy way to spend his days.

He tore himself away from the bedsheets and reached for the fridge, taking out a three-day-old milk carton. A tentative sniff, a moment’s hesitation, then he drank from it anyway, not caring how much spilled. He wiped his mouth on a bare arm and turned back to look in the mirror beside the bed. Could use a shave. A wash, a hair comb; a pair of eyes that weren’t so grey with goddam heartache. His thoughts were interrupted by a clatter at the letterbox: fast, anonymous courier delivery. Psychopomp had arrived.

Continue reading “Psychopomp”

Moon to my Waves

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I sit downstairs in a lonely, low-lit bar, nursing a double whisky on the rocks. A damp smell oozes from ageing posters of Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones, and my feet are sticking to the floor. I’ve put Real Love by Swans on the jukebox. I don’t hear the lyrics, but its sombre tone is the moon to my waves. They rise up in my throat – salty lithium water – and the bartender looks concerned. Inside, there’s a trickster laughing at me, smothering me. See, I can’t even enjoy my last drink without being a bother to someone. I down the whisky, though it is but a homeopathic remedy in the sea that drowns me. I feel for the knife in my coat pocket and head for the bathroom. I’m ready.

***

It’s 3 am. The stereo is loud and my eyes are shining wildly in the moonlight. Real Love comes on at random and I pause at the top of my ladder. I have a paintbrush in one hand, a pot in the other, and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. There’s a distant pang of recognition at the song, like the flinching of a deadwood puppet in my mind. I let it play through, not because it fits my mood but because it’s a fleeting pleasure to mimic my other self. I glance at the scar we share on our left wrist, and I think of him sitting in the dark, sinking into the ground. The poor shit couldn’t see colour for all the pity and spite. I should look after him better next time. Then again, it’s entertaining as a replay. I toss my head back in laughter, and a faint voice tells me I should be careful, I’m toppling. But then the track flips over to Super Charger Heaven and I go back to making the grey walls blue.

*****

For more of my flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception: out now in paperback and e-book.

On 20th February I will be attending the Virtual Future ‘Near-Future Fictions’ event in London, where my brand new story Toxic Duck Inc will be read to a live audience. Tickets are available here.

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