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 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.

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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 I 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.

28.08 III

‘I have a steady income.’ She continued, ‘Granted it’s not much-‘

Oh.

‘Oh.’

She was here to talk about her credit card.

‘I know. I know. But I like the work and it keeps me-‘

She stared at the table as if the word she was looking for was petrified in the glass and she couldn’t quite make it out. I tried to peer into the frosted glass too, but just saw the distorted reflection of the two of us. Me with my black and red tie, and the ‘not quite white anymore’ collar of my old, hand scrubbed shirt. Me with my ‘not quite long enough’ sleeves and my ‘not quite hidden’ tattoo. My ‘not quite swollen’ knuckles gripping the table as if I’m afraid it’s about to topple over or I’m about to going under, depending on which one us is stronger.

She, on the other hand, was barely visible. An undeterminable mass in her dark suit and her tangle of black curls, blending into the dark green glass like she had always been a part of it. Effortless. Nondescript.

I felt a bead of sweat run down my neck as I waited for her to speak.

28.08

When I first met her she was trying to extend her credit limit.

She had rubber soled boots on, laced up hastily, bows lopsided and irregular. She had one foot hovering above the other as her legs balanced on top of one another, crossed tightly. I could see the tension in the muscles in her thighs as they stretched the boucle material of her mini skirt.

Her hands, one bare, one covered in thin plain silver rings were placed on top of her leather bag. It was old and fake, I could tell from the fraying on the underside which she was clearly trying to cover. The shoulders of her suit jacket, padded in homage to an earlier time or maybe borrowed right from it- I couldn’t tell- were high, as if she were hunkered down in a suit of armour. It all looked brand new and yet like something I had seen many times before.

I hadn’t even gotten to her face yet and I knew my life was about to change. She was trying so hard, you see. I could tell she was trying so hard to seem normal. But there was something stronger, a much bigger tell than her exaggerated casual style. It was coming off her, radiating from her. Something not tangible, not human at all. An energy or something- it hit me. Within a matter of seconds it had burrowed into me.

Growing inside me, growing in the space between us, pulling us in. I remember shaking hands and both our palms were wet.

The Trip III

After I left the bar I just kept walking. The roads in that city were wide and made me feel exposed. Most of the buildings were pitch black and quiet as if no one lived there but at the same time I could feel the life all around me. It was oddly calming and also alarming.

I may have had more than 3 whiskey shots now that I think about it. It’s hard to remember the small details. Well- that’s not true. I remember Adam. I remember his blond lashes and the down of hair on his chin. I remember how his shoulders started off up around his ears and slowly lowered. I remember how he stroked his top lip as he listened to me talk. All his fingernails were bitten to the quick.

But I don’t remember myself. Which makes sense since all my life I’d made a point of holding on to all the people that had hurt me. His memory is like a stamp in a very long album of people who spoke without thinking and would never come to realise the impact of their words. I think most people have an album like that.

I must have been wearing a coat. Or maybe I had it pressed against my chest. I must have been wearing shoes. Or maybe I was swinging them in my hands. I don’t know. My image in those memories are grainy, or at least end up grainy. Soft focus, like my brain is trying to soften the edges of my pain.

I know at some point I was sitting on the bank of a canal, looking at the reflection of lamplights on the water, listening to the rush and swell against the reeds. I was trying to get my head right before I went back to the house. I was going to gather everyone and ask them why, if they hated me so much, they kept me around.

But I never did. As I was standing up- and I must have taken my shoes off, because I remember the wet grass underneath my feet- I slipped. Not too far but enough to rattle me. All the alcohol came rushing into to my head at that exact moment and I slipped again. I tried to turn around and slid back even farther. I tried to get a grip of something but all there was to cling onto was the wet grass. I had fistfuls of it but it didn’t root me. I kept sliding until I could feel the water around my ankles. The next thing I know, I’m in the water and I can’t swim. I just keep sinking.

The thing I don’t remember, even though it’s the only thing I want to really, is whether I kept trying to save myself or if I let go. Was it an accident or did I want to…

It’s stupid thinking of it now, that I might have killed myself over a stray comment from a boy I had clearly upset. But at the time…at the time I wasn’t myself. Maybe I didn’t try to die, I just gave up on living. I just couldn’t take the thought of…

You have to understand. I had spent so much of my life up to that point trying to part of the world and it just wouldn’t have me. Everything I did was not quite right. I could never enjoy myself properly. I could never relax. Hell, I couldn’t even get high without almost ODing. It felt like every move I made was wrong and all I could do was cause trouble to people around me. Simply by existing. So maybe I did want to exit. Close the tab. Open a new one. And that’s a really sad thought. And that’s what I struggle to make peace with. And maybe that’s why I can’t move on. I’ve never come to terms with how I died, why I died. The loneliness and failure that was my fault but never really felt like it was mine.

I don’t know. I go round and round in circles remembering my death. It keeps me up at night. But the good thing about the Next Place is that it keeps everyone here awake. In some ways, this whole death thing has been…good for me. I finally have something to open with.

Feeling It Today

It breathes slowly. Deep breaths that rattle through its hollow rib cage. It drags its hulking mass in slow heavy steps behind you. You don’t need to look over your shoulder to know it’s there. You don’t have to hear that ungodly whistle in its chest. You can feel it, growing inside you.

At first, you can fight it. Shush it. Squash it down. It’s a stray thought. It’s a fleeting twinge. But then it’s a ball in your gut. Growing and growing until it’s big enough to divert you. You want to go left, it wants to go right. So now you’re going right, and try as you might to justify it, this was never your plan.

Now you don’t know how to get back in control. You don’t know where you begin and where it does. What if it never did? What if it’s always been you? Been a part of you, and blocking it out will never be the answer. Maybe you have to cut it out and in the process cut yourself.

But you’re too scared to hurt yourself. Especially when you don’t know if you’ll ever heal properly. What if you don’t get it all? How can you cut out your own mind?