Tag: <span>Fiction</span>

The sky slowly darkens as the sun dips behind the clouds, the windows slide from light to grey. Whisps of air stream past, chasing droplets across the glass, helter skelter as the plane starts to descend.

Inside the cabin the light changes, melting from the dazzling brilliance of moments ago to the dull artificial glow that washes over the life within; an irregular motion bumps and buffets the plane, pockets of turbulent air enjoy their brief moments of power.

The rows of seats are almost full, the gentle chatter of a hundred strangers fight the mechanical hum, a war of attrition that neither will win. A sudden burst of laughter breaks through but is soon lost, impaled on the battlements of the background drone.

Near the front of the plane sits a young woman. She is quiet through all of this, contemplative and resolute. She sits upright, deaden to movement, seemingly calm and controlled. She is Joan of Arc, no martyr but divine in her moments. She is powerful yet still, assured and confident, the low tone of her voice resonants authority when she chooses to use it. She knows this full well, she knows the power she holds and she chooses her moments to wield it based on nothing but pure whimsy and focussed vigour.

She closes her eyes and thinks ahead to the man that will be waiting for her. The moment their eyes will meet, the last few steps they will take towards each other, the touch, the kiss, the embrace. A gentle smile creases her lips as her mind slips away into a daydream of what is to come.

At the back of the plane a group of men can be heard, their back and forth exchanges echo down the cabin. They conform as you would expect, leery with the flight attendants and, with no sense of self, annoying and apologetic to those around them, They are an endless series of in-jokes and nicknames, inane chatter and sudden outbursts. The quiet bully and vicious mockery they spout is learned but not fully understood. Around them, silent glares and simmering rage.

A few rows forward, oblivious to the noise, an elderly couple are crouched in their seats, anxiously peering out at the wall of cloud beyond. They hold hands in comfortable silence, aware of each emotion passing between them with no need for words. They force their minds back to their holiday, the strolls along the promenade, the exotic drinks and spice laden food, the sun and the dashing youngsters, bronzing on the beach. Anything to take them away from their current reality, the terror of falling.

They are still enveloped in cloud. The windows of the plane mirroring the transparent opaqueness of the air outside. The light in the cabin seems to disperse and everything inside takes on the soft hues of a dream. Loud voices start to dull, quiet voices cease altogether and, slowly, silence ripples through the cabin.

Heads start to swivel, eyes straining as the passengers unite and turn to query the windows, peering through the grey white world outside. They are desperate for a view, any view, of something else, something real. Instead all they see are their reflections staring back at them and none of them like what they see.

Realisation creeps through the cabin like a sharp breeze, cutting through everything else, and all thoughts are tuned to the same idea.

The view isn’t changing.

The cloud isn’t ending.

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Overhead the clouds swirl, heavy drops of rain plummet onto his upturned face. Eyes closed he savours each tiny impact, each one reaffirming one thing, he is still alive and, as the rain washes away the dust and grime, he smiles.

He lowers his head and looks around, noticing each blade of grass anew, the slick leaves on the trees, springing back and forth as the rain continues to fall. His head is light and the disconnect remains, he is floating just outside this reality despite the cold damp of his sodden clothes.

He turns full circle, unsure of what he is looking for and as the first shiver of the evening passes through him he intuitively sets out to find shelter. Instinct and survival are simple thoughts and he focusses on them, exploring their raw straight edges, simple and primitive in design. He sees an old shack, a dull light flickering in the window and heads toward it, picking his way through the fresh puddles.

Sheltered in the porch he shakes what water he can from his clothes and knocks on the door. Three sharp unanswered raps. Then again.  A third time with no response, he knocks once more before trying the door handle. The cool metal turns easily in his hand and the door slides open silently. Stepping inside he calls out and soon realises he is alone.

Embers flicker and glow in the fireplace, nearby a friendly old armchair basks in the glow. He suddenly realises how cold he is and pulling a fresh log from the stack next to the fire, starts to kindle the fire back to life, watching the edges of the rough bark glow and burn off into the air, the subtle darkening of the log until the light blue yellow of an emerging flame takes hold.

He pulls the armchair closer and huddles over as the fire grows, his rough hands outstretched as he embraces the heat. All the while he tries to remember how he got here, tries to retrace his steps. He knows this place. He is certain of the familiarity, just as he feels the sense of deja vu, the notion off a path once trodden. He knows this place, is unsurprised by the candles on the table, the tapestry hanging over the door, yet he can’t recall any detail.

He closes his eyes once more and tries to remember where this all began.

A sharp stabbing pain slashes across his forehead, his eyes fly open as he cries out. The pain subsides as quickly as it came. He sits there, stunned at the sudden viciousness, wary and wounded. He feels his forehead but there is no scar, no wound to heal there. He wonders if this is where he has always been, this place of warmth and comfort, scattered and scarred with pain, the same shivering, broken man. Unrepaired and untended, slowly wandering round in circles with no memory of where he has been.

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He hurries in from the cold,shakes his overcoat from his shoulders and hangs it, then his hat, on the bentwood coat stand.

He warms his hands on the radiator, crosses the living room to the hi-fi. Bending down he flick-flacks quickly through the LPs, and in practised movement slides an album from its sleeve and onto the deck. The familiar static clunk as he drops the needle.

To the kitchen now. A glug of deep red wine, a solid slab of cheese, a torn chunk of bread and back to his chair. He uses the plate to clear space on the low table at his side, glasses and dishes from previous evenings clink as they slide across the grain. A trumpet burbles mournfully in the background.

He lifts the glass to his mouth and slowly he savours the first mouthful, leaning back, eyes half-closed. He sits that way for a moment, letting the music wash over him as the headlights from the road slide across the walls, people making their own ways to whatever they call home. He pushes away memories of a time long gone, the noise and fear of his childhood. He wonders which passersby will end the evening beaten, which will resume their comatosed state, so accepting of their lives, habitual and routine, no matter how obscure it may be to others.

He takes his time eating, more wine to wash it down. Repeat until sated. Or at least until no longer hungry. Or at the very least until you’ve lined the stomach, he thinks.

His glass empty, he returns to the kitchen picks up the bottle of wine and returns to his chair. He moves with a slow grace now, but soon he will be just another stumbling, lurching fool. The smile of such forethought is quickly banished from his face by those all too familiar guilts. He is better than this, he is more than this, yet this is all he knows.

He slumps down into the chair once more, takes another thirsty mouthful of wine and thinks of tomorrow. He has plans, he always has plans. The when and where, the how and why, are already mapped out in his head in fine detail. The t of the what has been crossed, the ifs i dotted.

The record jumps.

Snapped from his thoughts he sits up, glaring at the record player.

The record jumps again.

In one fluid and sober movement he is up from his seat, the glass is placed to one side and he delicately plucks the needle from the vinyl. He looks down, horrified, at the deep dark scratch on the surface. He studies it closely, as if he can stare it out of existence, render the vinyl back to its previous, perfect, form. He crouches down to observe the light bouncing of the surface, he puzzles over how this has happened. Has someone been here? No, more likely the drunken fumblings of a previous night. With a resigned shake of his head he stands, picks up the glass and toasts the fallen soldier, all the while hoping Sam will have a good copy stored away somewhere in the back of his shop.

With a sigh he lifts the vinyl from the platter, a broken relic, useless to him now. He slides it back into its sleeve and casts it aside before realising he isn’t sure what to do next. He is out of his routine.

It is from such a small moment that endless possibilities bloom. He looks around at his threadbare furniture, the marked and pitted floorboards, the dull light through grimed windows. How did it get to this? Why didn’t he notice?

He stands in contemplation of what to do next.

The heavy staccato, the ponderous, throbbing heartbeat, pulsating through their every pore, filling them completely. They are beholden to it, quick to relinquish control, released into it, devoured, immersed, completely lost to each pulse, every melody.

All around them the closed eyes of their brothers and sisters cry out, silence roars from deafened mouths as torsos twist in grotesque beauty. The air fills with animal noise, the lust flashes and fades, whilst the gentle sheen of bodies in movement, syncopated in their desires, oblivious to the world, continues to move.

There is no time in this place, no walls or ceiling, the floor rendered in booming sonic waves, the smoke machines billow and bloom, false clouds ripped apart by light after colourful flashing light.

As one they slip and heave this way and that, lost amongst the dimensions, a gyrating, pitching mass. The sounds fade and blossom, spinning through the air, drifting like smoke through hazy arms and swirling legs. They are one, consumed and completed.

They feel it move amongst them, the ebb and flow of an energy and emotion that courses from body to glistening body. It is a raw, ethereal force, tumbling across the floor. It will not be sated but must fed, and willingly they give up their bodies to it, sacrifical and sacrosanct. This night will never end. Every fragment is blurred to the next, the music spins and cartwheels, crescendo after aching crescendo, and all the while the heart, the driving pulse of the beast, continues.

And on they dance.

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She can’t remember much of her childhood, a life spent travelling from town to provincial town, her parents picking up jobs where they could until something, as it inevitably did, went wrong. She tries not to remember the shouting and yelling, the men fighting, the women cursing, the pointing, the stares, the hasty packing of meagre belongings and the jolt of yet another train carriage.

She has always been looked at, glances becoming stares. She is used to it now but it wasn’t always this way, she remembers moments of peace, childhood memories of dolls and quiet places.

She knows she was loved, that her parents understood her life and how she was seen by others, she knew why they looked on her so, a girl who didn’t belong, who didn’t fit. She was an outsider, accepted by some who understood that the world will always turn, shunned by others who thought it flat.

But all that is in her past, she keeps it close to her heart, refuses to deny it and uses it to drive herself forwards, day follows day, and her life will be her own, she will be happy. She is determined. Driven. Passionate. She knows her faults and lies, and holds her head high despite them.

As a teenager she took the time to learn of her ancestory, enveloping herself in the clothes and traditions of her mother’s homeland. The stories of the tribes and dynasties, passed down from generation to generation, are found in the soft curve of her dark eyes and the kindness of her nature. Her pale skin she inherits from her Scandinavian father, a gentle sheen that shimmers and glows, pulsing sunlight. She knows she is an odd mix from distant lands, she revels in exotic.

She is proud that she retains only the happy memories, taking comfort that she still prefers the solitude of the single child. She remembers days spent running through fields, dancing her way through stalks of wheat, swaying in time with the breeze, their feathery tops tickling her face as she spins and spins, dancing and falling to ground. Laughing, panting, happy to be in her moment, free from life, exploring her own being. The pattern was set back then, those moments of elation, the joy of letting go and the release of embracing her longings.

The final move was the hardest on them all. The cold winters of Sweden were. all too soon,  too much for her parents to bear. Alone she continued, happy to live under the gothic ancestry, adding yet another culture to her makeup, another twist to an already unique perspective. She was a definition only of herself, teasing what she wanted from her heritage, ignoring the rest and filling the gaps with anything she pleased.

She always knew she was different and her inner confidence, inherited from her mother, found her curious of everything in life, fascinated by cultures and religions alike, eager to experiment and understand.

Eventually, after many years of travelling, she found her way to Varmland, met the musicians and artists that congregate there and soon realised she had found her way home. All she had to do was follow her own desires.

She was in control, she was grace and beauty in her own eye, and soon everyone would see this to be true. She spent her days wandering the countryside, blissfully unaware of the world around her, lost in her thoughts, the memories of her childhood and the dances she led.

She remembers all of this, each glorious moment pinsharp in her mind. As she sits in the changing area backstage, quietly she closes her eyes and she is that beautiful child again, the soft eyes, and pale skin aglow, porcelain pure. As the languorous thump of the music echoes down the corridors, she stands and checks her appearance in the mirror, scantily clad, she runs her hand down and over the curve of her hips, she smiles. She is different. She is beautiful.

She pulls her gown over her shoulders, turns on a statuesque heel and makes her way to the stage.

As she pirouettes, fluid and sensuous in her movement, she forgets herself. The leering spotlight and shadowy faces disappear. Beyond the stage the room turns to her and once again, they stare.

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It’s an itch, and urge, a pulling, scratching, gouging force churning away inside him. His chest is tight, knotted, formulate and plotting. Despising and demonic he plots revenge, he charts the motions and savours the instant. Brutal and vicious, he is animal.
A deep breath.
It refuses to move. Tensed, he is ready to pounce, his actions are driven by constriction, a rope taut around him, pulling him this way and that yet leaving him bound and motionless. Rooted here he spins it round again, and again the vitriol stirs.
Where is the saviour?
Is it pain, is it destruction and violation that will wreck this feeling, lay it to waste, hammerblows to his head?
It spins again, fuelling itself by feeding him more of what he doesn’t need and doesn’t want. He hates it, will not succumb to it and the fight burns on.
His violence scares him, the snarling beast within rips and claws to be set loose, his ribs containt it and it roars behind the bars. He used to let it out, he used to let it roam but never too far. Bruised knuckles and dented metal, macho posturing hiding the truth.
It flows within him, consuming him. The constant unerring swing of the pendulum blade, the gentle tick, metronomic, insistent, unforgiving, unrelenting.

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“This time it will be different, it will, it will, it will.” She repeats her promise over and over, the needle jumping inside her head.

“This time I will be controlled and calm, I’m sure he will notice”, she thinks, “He must notice and if he doesn’t, I will make sure he does!”

She laughs out loud at the thought.

Heads turn, she blushes and turns away to face the window. Outside the rain falls and sparkling droplets race each other down the glass as the sky rolls and roars above.

“How apt” she murmurs.

As the bus slowly winds its way through street after street she revisits her journey. She remembers how each passing footstep changed her view, how every moment brought new understanding and that moment when it all clicked and became real. Achingly, painfully, wonderfully real.

With a sigh she reaches into her bag, digs out her notebook and jots down another idea knowing it may languish there for sometime but feeling better for capturing it. She slowly flicks through the pages, enjoying the memories as they flood into view. She pauses now and then as the turn of a page recalls a moment of magic with such vibrance the rest of the world is whitewashed from existence, another page and the hue changes from white to blue, butterflies explode from the folds.

Here and there she dabs at the pages, flourishing her pen like a quill, embellishing ideas and images, tiny details to tweak the reality held within them. She smiles contentedly.

Lost amongst the fibres and ink, she doesn’t notice the man sitting across from her, studying her, fascinated by her fascination. He watches the corners of her mouth twitch, the casual turn of her wrist as she trails ink across the page. He can’t make out what is written there and decides that he is content that it will remain unknown to him, for now at least.

His eyes watch as she lifts her head, the clouds break overhead and sunlight fills his view. Dazzled for a moment he closes his eyes and, when he opens them, she is gone.

He wonders what she has written, and then reminds himself that his pleasure was in surrendering to the unknown. With a telling smile he reaches down and from the depths of his bag, retrieves his own notebook.

He opens at a fresh page and waits for the words to arrive.

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His muscles strain as he tenses against the movement beneath him. His grip remains firm as he shifts his weight slightly, fully immobilising the writhing mass that twitches at his feet.

He looks down with impunity, almost with a sense of pity but he knows what must be done. He has trained a long time for this and is wary of his mentor standing off to onside, quietly observing him and taking in every action, every pause, each calculated pass of the blade.

He reaches down and the blade catches in the sunlight. Freeze frame as suddenly the moment is here and he can see everything, feel everything, sense everything. The gentle breeze that caresses the long grass into soft waves of mesmerising green, the sounds of the forest behind him and his own heart thumping loud in his chest, crashing in his ears, filling his head with a steady rhythm, urging him on.

The first cut is always the most important. Not too deep, but deep enough. It must be at the correct angle, get it wrong now and there is no point going on, as all that is left beyond that are a few amateurish hacks to finish the job as quickly as possible.

No, he must be patient.

He was told it would be this way, that only he would know the moment to start. That only he would be able to judge the exact second in which to make the first cut and that he must not given in to the temptation to start too soon nor buckle under the pressure that he might make a mistake (for there will always be others). He knew too that his time was running out, he’d heard of others who had already taken this step and the talk of their sureness with the blade was starting to spread. He knew that this was his chance, his last chance.

A slow deep breath and, almost without realising, his arm reaches out and the blade hits home, he draws back and across in perfect choreography, and then he is reaching forward again. The blade is sharp and effortless in his hand, his grasp remains true, and soon the wriggling stops as the blade repeats the slashes, over and over, carefully following the patterns he was given.

His mentor watches his face carefully, and with a shallow smile allows himself to relax. He sees a mask of concentration and a steady arm, he follows the delicate dance, the slash and slice of the steel, and knows that his teaching is over.

The young man breathes out, a long deep breath that loosens his shoulders, his arm hesitates in the air as if unsure of what to do next before falling by his side. He straightens and turns as his mentor strides over to him, beaming as only a proud father can.

“Well done lad, you got the entire thing off in one piece!!” he bellows, slapping his son hard on the back.

His son releases his grip and they both turn to watch as the freshly shorn sheep bounds back to join his flock.

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