Fade Away

It’s cold. So very cold.

I curl up next to you and say it’s to preserve body heat. But it’s not just that. I like the feel of you in my arms. You’re usually so loud and sharp but at night you’re not. You’re small. Fragile. Like someone else, some I could hold.

You don’t move much. Not because you’re quiet and calm, not because you’re relaxed. But because you’re guarded. You’re still alert and you’re still careful. You don’t want to get too close. Don’t want to get used to this.

But I want to get used to this. I close my eyes and imagine a day when we could curl up together like this. But better. A day without any excuses. Any barriers. Just two bodies. Two willing bodies, wanting to be entwined. I’d hold you and you’d hold my hand. Press it to your chest. Your lips. Your breath would warm my skin. Your affection would warm the room.

Something’s changed. You’ve relaxed. You’re asleep maybe. I lift my head to see over your shoulder and sure enough your mouth hangs open slightly. You’re asleep and there’s nothing to keep your tense scowl in place. You’ve succumbed to the bliss of sleep in my arms.

I did that. I put you at ease somehow.

I nestle in closer. I bury myself in the crook of your neck. Your hair bristles my cheek, my nose, but I can’t help it. I want to feel close to you. Even if it’s brief. Even if I don’t wake up. Even if we freeze to death. This is how I want to fade away.


A Garden

I found her in a garden. Her mother had locked her away and she had turned it into a plaything. That was Persy. Always making something beautiful out of nothing.

She wasn’t expecting company, but when she saw me she smiled and for a second all was right with the world.

Our exchange was brief. I apologised for disturbing her and she waved me away. It’s no bother. No bother at all.

I turned to leave, but my feet had grown roots. She had caught me. That was Persy. Always quicker than me.

She wove between the flowers towards me. Floated to me on bare feet. She asked me how I’d found this place and I told her, embarrassed, that I’d taken a wrong turn. But that wasn’t true. I had been looking for her. She was what I had been looking for all my life.

She knelt down and helped me with my binds. She laughed, noting how often this must happen to me. Suppliants at your feet, begging for a favour. Her laugh was as perfect as her smile. Not a single cruel note in it. I told her it wasn’t as often as she thought and she looked up at me, surprised. But you’re a king, she said. King; that was the word that she used. Not a God, not a being stuck in the natural order, stuck in my brothers’ shadow, but a king. Lord of all I surveyed. Maker of of my own choices.

Am I king in this place, I asked. She smiled, gently tearing at the roots. You could be. For all I know, I might be on Olympus, or in the sea. We could be in Hades right now.

We are not, I said, offering her my hand. Nothing this beautiful could exist down there.

You could make it happen, she said, standing up. You could make anything happen, I’m sure.

I asked her who had told her that and she shook her head. You found this place, didn’t you? You could take a part of it with you. Make something of you own.

We were still holding hands. I didn’t want to let go and she didn’t either. For both of us, it was the first time we’d felt the touch of another person. The first time we’d felt the right person. Everything in my being screamed at me not to leave without her but we both knew that wasn’t possible. It wouldn’t be that day, but it would be soon and that was undeniable. Whatever it was- kinship, friendship, sympathy, harmony- it was pouring out of one of us and into the other. Settling deep and beginning to grow, like the flowers that surrounded us, shrouded us. It wasn’t ready yet, still just forming its roots, but we both knew it was there. Our love just needed to grow. To grow and grow until it was so big, so strong, so sturdy that nobody could ignore it.

A room with a small bed

I’m asleep. I think.

No, I’m in bed and I’m awake, but my eyes are closed.

No. I am above myself. Watching myself. One of me is asleep and one of me, the one above, is watching. The one below, starts moving. She’s being dragged, actually, by her feet.

No. I can’t see that. I can just see…She’s in the bed and then she’s on the floor. She’s moving into the corridor, the hallway, through the the front door into the night. But she isn’t walking. She is floating, levitating. And it’s like someone, something is dragging her along. Taking her somewhere.

But I’m with her. So it’s not like she can really go anywhere. Because I’m always watching.

It’s a metaphor. I get that now. At first I thought it was a dream, or a vision. Like my subconscious was trying to tell me something, show me something that I couldn’t see in the daylight, couldn’t see with my eyes.

But now I know, it wasn’t trying to show me something new. It was telling me something. I was telling myself something. I’m saying – You watch us. You police us. You won’t less us be free. Except the ‘you’ is me. I’m doing this to myself.

I was disjointed for a long time. There V and there was me. V was an extension, a creation. Polished, controlled, presented for whatever duties I was given. V planned the missions. V conducted the missions. V reported back. I was inside her, moving the arms and the legs but in all the ways that mattered, I was removed. I was removed in how I spoke, how I acted, how I thought. V seemed to be a whole other person, a separate entity who shared my features and my voice and my skills but used them differently. Used them wrong.

Until night.

Night was when the terrors came. The dreams, the memories. Night was when I heard my mother wail for me so loudly, I thought she was in the room with me. Hiding under the bed. In the cupboard. Hanging on the door, just out of sight. I looked some days. Tore the room apart but she wasn’t in there. She was never there. A few times, I called my dad to ask him where she was.

‘Baby, she’s gone.’ He’d say.

‘How do you know that for a fact?’

‘Because I cremated her body.’

It wasn’t enough to silence her voice, though. Sometimes it would simmer down, she’d be more of  murmur than scream. But it was always there at night. She was always asking me why I left her there.

There was only one person who could put my mind at ease. He would sit with me and say

‘What do you remember?’

‘She’s in a room, and she’s strapped to the bed’

‘That’s not a memory. What do you remember?’

And I would think, really think. Think about her hair and her smile. The feel of her hand on mine. Her nails. Her wedding ring.

‘She used to make my clothes. Cardigans and dresses and shorts and socks. She’d sit at the sewing machine and I’d watch her. She’d say

Baby, do you want to help? And I be to shy to say yes. But she’d scoot over in her chair and pat the space she’d made and I’d scoot in. She’d take my hand and put it on material.

Hold it steady now, she’d say. And her foot would start to pedal and the wheel would go round and the needle bob up and down and tug at the material and I would keep it straight.

Did I do a good job, mummy?

And the voice would stop. Gone back to wherever it dwelled. Tears would stream down my face and he’d smile his half smile. Not a joyful one, Not a sad one. Just his smile. The Gray smile.

I used to think the dream was about him. They had started before, but it was worse when we were separated. I used to think it was a warning about how he was leading me astray. Distracting me from aims. Distracting V from her duties. So at night my body, her body, our body was trying to return to its purpose.

Then as time went on and I was climbing the walls, I thought that it meant that our souls were tied. All those nights spent together, telling each other about our memories, we’d accidentally transferred a bit of ourselves into the other. In my sleep, the parts of him that were part of me were seeking him out.

But the more time I spent alone, the more I realised it was about me and V, he and V. About how I was always watching them. Always outside myself watching, the two of us.  I never enjoyed the experience. I just stayed locked in my head, watching him and her. Watching him helping her. Watching her spilling our secrets, willing her to stop. Wondering what his game was, what his angle was. When he was going to double cross, because he would eventually. They always did. It was just a matter of time. So I never relaxed, not until that last second, when my mind was quiet, closing down and he changed, before my weary eyes, from a man to an idea to a light. A night light.

And I would nestle into him, cling to his torso like an anchor to keep me rooted.

I never floated away when I was with him. Not once. I slept and did not dream. And in the morning, I’d wake up where I lay my head. And I took that for granted.

I think that’s what my dream is about. All the the things I took for granted.


At the end

I have this fantasy.

When it’s all done, when it’s all over and we’re eventually stood down, you and I…I know we’re not supposed to but it would be you and I. We’d load up the old minibus. Burn anything else that doesn’t fit. You would stop straightening your hair. I would stop bleaching mine. We’d go to the old house and dig up the ‘treasure chest’ and take only what was ours. Then we’d fill the minibus with petrol and drive.

Along the way, we’d have to stop. You’ve never been that far from the city, so you’d want to stop. And I would want to show you it all. We’d eat at cafes and sleep in Holiday Inns. I’d point out the places I’d been, where the good things were done.

You’d take chips off my plate and curl around me at night. We’d take showers together and you’d stroke my wet hair as I drove. You’d buy postcards for the others and I’d lick the stamps. You’d hold the map and I would drive.

We’d drive forever. Over hills and through forests. Cross the country in the beat up minibus full of good memories. At night, we’d lie on the mattress in the back. I’d point to the stars through the open roof and you’d tell me all about them. The weather would be good, and when it wasn’t, we wouldn’t notice. We wouldn’t have to notice anything other than ourselves ever again. We could just focus on us. What we wanted to eat. What we found funny. How long we decided to stay in bed.

And eventually we’d get to the end of the world. The top. I’d park the minibus on the promenade and the first thing you’d see when you woke up in the morning, the first thing you would hear- the birds, the spray, the whistle of the wind.

That’s where we’d go. Where we would stay. Wake up every morning to the water and think, yes. Yes. We did it. We made it out.

Underneath a blue moon

She was born here. Wrest from the earth on the whim of another she would learn to call Mother. From a young age, she was taught to serve the mistresses of the house and in turn they taught her how to wield the magic that had created her. To turn nothing into something, that was her gift, the gift of all who had made the dread house at the end of the gully their home. Their haven.

Once a year the ravine would flood. Overheard, she would hear the creak and drag of oars as the men of metal and silk travelled and traded. If they camped for the night, she would go up to the surface and listen to them eat and light fires. She’d watch the lonely ones fishing at the shore. Those were the ones that liked to tell stories, had to invent something to pass the time. They would speak of the rumours, the reverent ones would only speak of it in a whisper.

You ever heard of the swamp witch?

Those two words would go around and around in her head while they spoke of curses and sacrifices made in blood. Every year, different men, same story. The swamp witch. Look out for the swamp witch.

One day she worked up the courage to ask her mother what those words meant.

‘This isn’t a swamp, mother. And we are not witches.’

‘Men use words they don’t mean when they are afraid. They tell lies to protect themselves. To hide their shame, they turn us into myths.’ Her mother said, never taking her eyes off the thread she was holding.

‘Why should they be afraid of us? Why should they be ashamed?’

‘Because their ancestors did wicked things. And instead of hiding and dying, we lived. And for our courage, the gods granted us our gift. They made us the keepers of knowledge, the women that are unknowable.’

‘And what did the gods give to the men?’

‘The men turned from the gods. And for their arrogance the gods gave them fear. The gift the gods took away from the men of metal and silk is the ability to be at peace in their ignorance. Now their lives are filled with chaos. For they will always fear the unknown. Chase the unknown and then kill it.’

Suddenly her mother grabbed her, blood red lips inches from her mud dark face.

‘Promise you will not follow those men should they come for you. And promise never to give them our secrets. Promise!’

‘I promise, Mother.’

And at that moment, the thread snapped. The others in the house looked at the loom that had stopped weaving. Her mother let go of her, staring at the thread.

She didn’t know the significance of the moment at the time, but things were different after that.

28.08 VI

I was nervous. I typed my password into my computer. Wrong, apparently, and a few too many times because I got locked out.

Of course.

I turned her, breathing out as if the computer was the one that had fucked up, ready to make a speech about ‘bloody technology’ even though the colour had drained from my face and I still for the life of me couldn’t remember my damn password. But she didn’t seem to notice. She had her own speech prepared and the error message wasn’t going to phase her.

‘I’ve come into some property-‘ She soldiered on.

‘If you could give me a minute-‘

‘No, you should hear this first.’

She pulled one of her rings off her index finger and started playing with it.

‘I just need a little help clearing it out.’

I didn’t know what to do while I waited, so I humored her. Or more, she was talking and there was no way I could cut her off. Or more still, she wanted to talk and I couldn’t help but listen.

‘I don’t have a lot of time.’

‘Is it big?’ I found myself asking.

‘More winding.’ She replied.

‘What is it? A house?’

‘Something like that.’

‘What’s in it?’

‘Old things.’

‘And it’s yours?’

For a second a smirk took over her face. It was playful and also sneering. The first of many images that would come to plague our relationship came into my mind. I could see, clear as day, the two of us in a dark room. I could hear our deep slow breaths. Mine getting more and more desperate as she put her hands around my throat and squeezed.

‘It will be, if I can get the money.’

She put the ring back on and straightened up. As if she had been where I had just been, in the place in my head, and now she was gathering herself, pulling herself back from a very tense and precarious edge.

‘Do you think I can get it?’

If it was up to me she could have all of it. My mind, my body, my blood. My life.

‘How much do you need?’

‘A grand more.’ She said. Like she was asking for the world.

‘Let’s see’ I said, like a man in a position to give it to her.

28.08 V

I know she could see the many post-it notes littering my desk, stuck to any surface in reach, turning my computer screen into a live action Connect Four. I know she could see the unreadable scrawl that denoted the tasks I had ahead, appointments to remember, thoughts to keep to myself. I know she could see the marker stains on the mouse pad where I had slipped off the paper in my haste, trying to get it all out before it turned into an indiscernible congealed mass of deeds and desires. I bet she could hear my boss’s pointed tone in the scribbled out, scrunched up discarded scraps. Especially the ones that missed the bin.

For the first time ever I was aware of just how many clues of my incompetence I left stuck around the place and how little I had cared that anyone saw how badly I managed my life.

Until now.

Now I felt exposed, like I’d been caught with my trousers round my ankles, shoving my dick in a birthday cake. And I felt unsure, like I didn’t know whether to explain or pretend like it wasn’t happening. So I just started moving stuff around, getting frosting everywhere, my belt tinkling as the brass clasp knocked against my chair leg.