“Which Way to Turn” (2013)

I wanted to believe in,

Every word that you had said,

As the sage of your voice caught fire,

And it’s smoke filled my head.

As you kissed the side of my mouth

And laid me on your bed,

As you promised me forever,

But forever is dead.

And I didn’t want a prince,

I, in fact, dreamed of a pauper,

But when this poisoned princess fell,

You never reached out and caught her.

Instead you let her fall,

Further and further down,

Spinning and singing until,

Her face hit the ground.

Holding your ears and,

Humming a tune,

Trying in vain to drown,

Out the sound,

Of her sickly sweet heart beat,

Thumping its last.

As the gates of the present,

Slammed on the doors of the past,

And the windows of to be,

Nipped at the grass,

Of a field where potential,

Used to grow and where,

The embers of hope did not,

Twinkle but glow,

And the tides of infinity,

Ebbed and flowed.

And every lost and,

Lonely bastard on the road,

Knew which to turn for home.

When I Dream of Beaches

I knew that it was him that they were screaming about in the streets and down the length of the halls. A body had been found on the beach where the decking met the sand and eventually gave way to the tepid southern surf. He had been strangled and exposed to the elements his neck had bruised into two small hand-prints the colour of black-currents. There was a book beside him but no one knew what it was. The police were already there and details that were gathered about the strange body on the beach, poised, almost as though it were waiting for the sun, are now fragmented and embellished, a hellish by-product of small town whispers.

My sister told me – about the hand-prints, the berry coloured bruises, the book that had been bleached in the sun – and how they weren’t sure who this mystery man was. I had been sitting in the conservatory reading when she burst through the door with the not-so-secret secret of her short, miserable life. Details tripped off of her young tongue and burst in the air, excited bubbles of misinformed joy. If my sister had seen the body, looked upon its face and likened it to someone she once knew, I was sure that the ecstatic nature of her gossip-mongering would fade into irreconcilable grief. Dead bodies were always exciting, unless you knew the sound of it’s voice.

The sun was rising high over the candy coloured houses of our little coastal town and in the streets, still the people hollered. I eventually shooed my sister away, a poisonous ball of anxious thought beginning to roll around in my stomach, shooting acid up into my mouth. When she was gone I went to the window, setting my book down on the ledge. I opened the single paned doors and stepped out onto the balcony where smoke was blooming low on the horizon. They planned to burn it; the body. And something about that didn’t sit quite right with me. I walked down the steps that led from the conservatory balcony to the pebble dashed streets below. It was warm and bright.

As I walked I wondered if he had known that he would die the day he had met his killer. At one point they had been on the beach together, throwing stones at the shore and talking, maybe even laughing if either of them cared to remember the sound of such joy. They had been reading together, talking about the book that had been found beside him as hours melted into memory and trickled down their throats like bitter lemon. And had he known, the first day that the dead man had been introduced to his killer, that that person would be the one to end his life? Had he dreamed of marriage and children, a white picket fence and dog named Dusty running and up and down the garden whilst his killer smoked on the decking and their children played along side the mottled hound? Had his dreams held water or leaked pus? I reached the beach and found the fire.

My heart was beating stoically in my chest. I had ran most of the way without even noticing, the spaces between my feet defying gravity with each slender stride and for a moment the sky swallowed the horizon. Then the hill dropped and the beach stretched out beneath me like a strip of shaven skin, bare and blistered. In the centred of this, a pestilent boil churned black smoke into the air. They had tied the body to a pyre and it had been burning for some time, the body already black and crumbling. I walked slowly down to the beach, trying to ignore the faces of those who had eyes to see what I was doing there.

I watched as the flames curled around him, licking at his hands and flitting lightly across his face. Could he feel it, somewhere, wherever his conscious mind found rest? A small part me hoped he could. His fingers began to twitch then, his head lolling to one side. I realised what was happening now, and by the sound of a thousand breaths escaping two thousand lungs, I assumed the crowd had caught on too. The dead man burning on the pyre was waking up. And when his eyes opened, they found mine in an instant. And the dead man smiled.

I went to him, stepped up onto the pyre and took his hand in mine. He was speaking but I couldn’t hear him. The flames stole his breath before it had a chance to mould itself into coherent words. But I knew what he was saying as he took me in his arms and pulled me into his bony chest, engulfing me in flames that I couldn’t feel. The crowd was now silent, the breeze and the beach, all without form or texture. Inside the fire I could feel nothing but his body and his presence, my own frantic heart drowned out the whooping beat of flame against flesh. I put my head against his chest and cried as the fire grew higher and masked our bodies. It didn’t hurt, not in the way it was supposed too.

When the flames died down they would find the ashes of two bodies, one living and one dead, by all accounts, but both very much united in their knowledge of each others demise. My sister didn’t need to tell me that morning about the details of the dead body on the beach, because I had been there when it became what it was when it was found and those tiny hand-prints the colour of summer juice trickling down a child’s chin; were mine. Fire to ashes, trust to dust.

When I Dream of Fire

It was dark and the house had no windows. Whether day light prevailed beyond the mortar that surrounded me I have no idea, but in the back of my mind I hoped it did. There was a rectangular glass case in front of my on a platform. As I approached it, the tank filled with water. I took a few steps back and inch by inch the water evaporated from the tank. I took a few steps forward and it returned, not falling from the ceiling or rising from the tank, but materialising as if from nothing.

With my nose practically touching the cool moist glass a key manifested within the water. It was larger than a normal key but no more ornate. As I watched it, it seemed to stand up, lifting itself with the help of the weightless water, until it stood on its narrow tip, the dull head now level with my eyes. The glass of the tank began to bulge and break, the water remaining shapeless and still.

As I brought my hand up to touch the glass the door behind me opened with a creak. I didn’t turn to see who it was. I couldn’t turn. The key was looking at me, begging me with all its heart to take it with me and not leave it trapped in the tank. My fingers grazed the glass,

“I wouldn’t do that. Not if you value that hand” The sound of his voice broke me and I fell to my knees. My eyes trained on the wooden floor below me, my finger tips digging into the soft, untreated oak. Tears started to speckle my view. I pulled my tired eyes from the floor and the tank was gone. The door behind me was closed. I felt as though the blood had stopped moving in my veins and the rhythm of my heart had been knocked off tempo.

I rose slowly, my ankles clicking. How long had I been on the floor? When I turned the door was still closed, its silence mocking me in the dark, damp room. I placed my hand tentatively on the handle, wincing slightly as if it were to burn. It didn’t burn. It levered evenly with a squeak and opened onto more darkness. I have never been afraid of the dark, but ran my entire life from the light. I slunk into the safety of the shadows, letting the door click closed behind me.

I could sense him everywhere. I could smell his body, the sweet, stale aroma of his sweat. I could hear his laugh, the beautiful sound of utter desperation masked with the bitter honesty of his smile. I saw his eyes in every nook of the corridor, glimmers of green and gold danced along the surface of the otherwise dull walls. Footsteps echoed and they were not my own, but for what felt like miles only the dimly corridor spanned my eye line.

Then a break in the hostile nothingness. An arch, not a doorway, now stood before me and resonating from beyond that arch way, a calm orange glow. As I drew closer to the arch way a burden of warmth engulfed my chest and tears once again broke out on my cold face. If I had tried to stop them, which I didn’t, I am sure I would have felt physical pain.

With one hand placed on each side of the arch way I hung my head and breathed from knees. The tears stopped momentarily but my face was still damp with their ghost as I stepped through the arch way. This room had a window but it was covered with boards, the ancestral slices of light cutting through the hot room and casting shadows upon the shadows.

A fire crackled neatly in the centre of the back wall. He was sitting with his body facing me but his head hung down as mine had been at the arch. I could feel his heart beat radiating through the room, clawing its way from the floor boards and up into my feet, then my legs and resting in my gut. The entire room smelt of him and as I searched for his face in the waltzing silhouettes the fire cast upon his body, I now saw that the fire did not glow orange, red or yellow, as one would suspect – but the palest shade of olive green and silken gold.

His face glanced up from the floor and his eyes met mine. He smiled and the whiteness of his teeth broke the air. We both knew our search had been killing us and the look in his eyes suggested that he was rather proud of the fact that once we had finished our hunt, we were both still breathing. He uncrossed his legs and stood, his boots in the fire. He held out his hand as one lock of thick hair wafted in front of his face.