Some written pieces deal with themes around horror and other topics that readers may find challenging.
Someone has died. I'm certain of this. Because I always know it, I am aware of it. This feeling, this fear, scuttling up and down my neck with a thousand little legs, comes back to me as I lie here alone in this vast, empty bed and listen to the rain slightly tapping my window. It becomes a heavy, horrible weight that sits in my gut like a huge stone. It is heavy and unrecognisable for what it is. Someone has died. I have no idea who. Yet.
I have this feeling in my skin, like something is trying to tell me to follow it. I can’t. I don’t know where it is. I hear it sometimes in my head like it is calling me, but not with words, but with emotion. I rise and take a deep breath before removing my legs from the quilt and letting them hang above the chilly hard wooden floor beneath my feet. My toes are stained and marked by the leftovers of chipped red polish. They were going to be painted this week, but I couldn't decide on a colour. I've been informed that I have trouble making decisions because I get too anxious to pick the wrong one. But I don't believe that is the case. Someone else has simply always been around to execute them on my behalf. But I'm going to do it right now.
Later that that day I decided to follow that feeling so I wouldn’t live in fear for myself and my family. I collected my items and was on my way. “Goodbye my love, I will return with answers, I am sure of it” I said with a calm voice, but inside I was terrified of what lay ahead. “I love you” he replied. Whilst staring at my husband, I was beginning to think that he was a figure of my imagination as I felt like I hadn’t seem in ages. But I was being silly, he’s right in front of me.
I left. I drove for miles like playing a game of Marco polo all across the country. But after six hours of driving, I finally found the voices in my head. Something that I was not expecting. A house, but not just any old house, a bland, derelict uncomfortable looking house. Dark shadows lurked around the house like blood weeping from a wound. What was worst, is that whispers that echoed around the ground, was the same murmurs, that surrounded my head.
I walk inside looking around for any life, but only feeling the unalive. It was a strange feeling as I do not believe such thing. But after walking in, my beliefs and feeling left my body and new ones started to pour in, Like a life I had lived before. “This… this is my house” I startled to myself, confused as anything. The house I laid my feet in was my house. The house that scared me with its voices and murmurs, was my house.
I died. That someone who died was me. I died 47 years ago.
“Ralph!” screamed his mother “Ralph!” she screamed again whilst blasting the door open with extreme force. Ralph suddenly woke up and saw his mum with a face he has never seen before. The eyebrows were raised and steam was coming out of her ears. “ You’re going to be late Ralph,” she said whilst rummaging through his drawers. “If you’re late or absent one more time you will get expelled.” Ralph quickly ran to his clothes and threw them on. Whilst struggling to get his jumper on he ran to the bathroom ready to brush his teeth. He didn’t want to get expelled again. If he got expelled again his mother said that he would have to go live with his dad who lived on the other side of the country. Ralph stormed down the stairs and grabbed his shoes and coat. He quickly put his shoes on and ran to school. He had five minutes to get there. He was running so quick he tripped over his laces and got thrown at least five meters from where he tripped. Finally he got there but he was twenty minutes late. The gates were closed He couldn’t climb it. It was too tall. He couldn’t go underneath it, the gap wasn’t big enough. He knew he was going to get sent to his dad. He put his head down below his shoulders and turned around. Then a man around six foot tall and holding a massive sack grabbed ralph. Ralph screamed help many times on the top of his lungs but it wasn’t enough he was already in the boot of the car. Ralph was so tired he was trying to stay awake. Ralph never feared anything but this was a different story. Ralph was terrified. He pulled out his phone and looked at the battery percentage. One percent it said. He couldn’t get a signal either so he couldn’t call anyone asking for help. Ralph was dozing off. It had been ages since he last saw some light. Then shaking with fear he fell into a deep sleep.
Ralph woke up to one of the most peaceful things that anyone could dream of. The calm ocean stroked his arm. He sat up and he was shocked of what he saw. He was on a beach and it was like he was on holiday. He rubbed his eyes then pinched himself thinking it was a dream. It defiantly wasn’t a dream. He slowly stood up and turned around the beach he was on had a blanket on trees, bushes and grass behind him. He cautiously walked into the bushes pushing branches making a new path. He was such in a circle of nothingness there was just grass and bushes around him. He heard something weird he heard a cough. He peered around the bush only to find a man building a raft the old man was shocked of what he saw. “Who are you,” said the old man. Ralph said his name and explained what happened to him. The old man agreed to let him on the raft and they both carried it to the shore. The old man had tears in his eyes and he turned around. “What’s wrong,” said Ralph. “I have lied here my whole life and I’ve ran out of food so I thought it is time to go.” They set off on their journey. They looked around and they couldn’t decide which way to go. Every direction there is just more and more water. Then the raft crashed into something. They both looked around but there was nothing. Until ralph face turned into the most feared face he has ever made. There was a shark chomping at the raft taking chunks of it. The boy and the old man were fearing for their life. They couldn’t out swim the shark so the only thing they could do was wait and hope the shark finds something else to eat. They were both on the last log that remains of the raft.
I pulled myself from a dreamy, satisfying sleep. Peering through a tiny slit, my eyes reluctantly opened. I scanned the unfamiliar surroundings. The room was strange, everything was wrong - window, door, TV, phone – as if someone had taken all the familiar objects and shaken them into a new configuration!
I had arrived late, tired from the ridiculously difficult journey but awed by the bright city lights and thankful that the hotel was welcoming, clean and comfortable; falling straight into bed (zombie like) I became comatose instantly. No wonder I felt like an alien this morning!
Fumbling through the contents of my rucksack, I found my running gear. Retrieving my brand new running shoes – a gift to myself after totally destroying the last pair – it was time for some exploration. Can there be a better way to start a holiday than exploring at first light?
After surprising the hotel porter, he let me out. The new day beckoned. Shadows fell on this narrow backstreet from the surprisingly tall buildings. The paving was wet with that fresh morning smell, cleansing the city after the ravages of the previous evening’s revellers. Slowly jogging towards the light, I soon settled into a comfortable rhythm. Listening to the steady cadence of my feet, my heart beating confidently, as the air ran smoothly in and out of my lungs, I began to enjoy the new surroundings.
Although it was a quiet time with most people still slumbering, the nocturnal workers shattered the silence as they cleaned up. The streets were full of fascinating places. Compiling a mental list; interesting museums, tall bell towers, painted churches, scrumptious looking restaurants, fancy shops; I realised I was going to be busy exploring later.
The formal gardens, leading to the park, called to me as I left the architecture behind, the contrast was alarming. Green and floral, the park was a wonderful return to nature. It morphed from formal to casual and then to a more natural state as I probed deeper.
Then I heard the footsteps. They were rhythmic. They were fast. I was scared.
My peace was shattered. Had I been too careless?
I had trusted my instincts. Was I wrong?
My heart beat faster as the pounding steps came closer. My heart joined the new beat. I half turned to see who was coming for me but a tree blocked my view. All I saw was a glimpse of movement. I tried not to panic. “Keep breathing, keep moving”, I repeated to myself. I scoured the landscape for an escape. My eyes became telescopic. Like a missile, they hunted for an exit. It was there, some distance away but I could escape. Peeping to see how far away the chaser was, I found him too close for comfort. Suddenly, he waved. I squinted. Then he shouted, “You dropped this”. He was waving something colourful - my snood! Feeling a bit foolish, I slowed down. Still smiling and out of breath, as he approached, he gasped, “It was at the edge of the park. I’ve been trying to catch up with you but you were really going for it!’
After I had thanked him, which seemed a bit inadequate, we ran on chatting.
There are monsters in all of us. Is that intrinsically bad? No, it's fact. We all have some deep abominations that plague our mind and control our actions, some wretched mutated creatures that evoke imagery that wouldn't be amiss in a mental asylum but that doesn't mean all monsters are evil.
Some monsters provide an uncanny confidence filling their flesh puppets with the ability of unburdened expression. Some are filled with joy giving our darkness a deadly dose of happiness which heals our broken, sad and depraved minds with hope and ambition.
Some monsters are malicious and wrathful, possessing our minds and bodies with brutal efficiency. Hulking figures controlling our actions causing us to attack our own beliefs and assault those who care for us. Some which make us berate and belittle ourselves with pure vitriol and malice hoping for our own gruesome self demise.
Insanity and cunning are both deadly on their own but when together create monsters that terrify humanity to its core. They play God with our minds breaking and fracturing them into a divine manipulation where a pathological need to harm everything and everyone comes startling apparent.
Ever wondered where the dark thoughts come from? Ever wondered why as a species we are so cynical and pessimistic, craving darkness and the blanket of depression? Because we are driven that way by our core creators, we were designed to be sad which fuels a heightened version of any other emotion. When we are broken we are desperate to be fixed in any way possible craving the release of a prison of abyssal black. So we become overly happy, overly angry, overly deceitful and secretive. We cave to these whims because we are intrinsically broken, that is what these monsters feed on. Emotions. So what happens when they become stuffed with our ever flowing tumultuous states. I always guessed death but what if it is so much worse? Becoming catatonic, just husks of cold emotionless stoicism, no driver, no thoughts, just nothing.
So why does no-one look inwards to their vacuous soul and witness their inner monster? Because they would be horrified at what they would see, they would rather value committing atrocities and mass genocide before believing the abomination that dwells inside. Many have witnessed the devils within and embraced their influence becoming a conduit for their demonic nature or their sickening joy and elation.
You are now burdened with knowledge, knowledge of the depraved, the hopeful, the malign wrath, the master manipulators and the insane. I hope it does you better than it did me.
Letter taken from Crookhaven Sanitorium following mass hysteria over a puzzling and unnatural suicide.
Alone. That was my exact feeling. I’ve felt like this most of my life. I feel I’m somewhat drifting from reality, like a lonely black hole at the edge of space. My thoughts were as wild as a stray cat, like I couldn’t help what I thought no matter what I was doing.
Most days I sat in my room feeling like I was a prisoner stuck in solitary confinement. Nowhere to go, nothing to see, just sitting on the chair at my desk while darkness gloomed over me. I sat there, never went out, didn’t eat much and didn’t talk to anyone.
A few years back however, everything was different; I was confident, happy and free. I had many mates that were always there for me. I always went out after school to hang out with them and have a laugh. I was a God on top of the world. After time and lots of struggles, something changed in me, bullying, loss of family, exams, they all had an effect on the change of me. I started to feel like a spark without a flame. I thought about giving up on everything. My positivity turned more negative than minus numbers. My outlook on life had changed dramatically. I felt lost, like I was already buried. I didn’t know who I truly was anymore.
Nowadays, I’m just trying to find and regain the young, happy soul I was. I know I can’t stay like this very long or I’ll end up even worse than I am now. I need to step up my game. And try to be better than ever.
The garden was speckled with marigolds; burnt orange illuminous against the summer grass dried from a season of heat. It had been a long and hot day. One of those days that lasts forever but you are grateful it doesn’t end. The children had spent most of it down by the stream at the edge of the garden; hands sticky from sugar and lemonade their mother had given them for lunch. Bees had wavered around them, drawn in by the sweetness but ultimately headed to the flowers for their own supper. The clear water of the stream washed away salt and sugar and the cracked sound of laughter reached out to the cottage where their mother stood at the window in the shadowed hues of dusk.
The girl had found a gold coin lodged between two rocks in the stream and declared it a treasure from Salty Sam, a notorious pirate that had stormed the bay centuries before. If there was one piece of gold there must be more. A hunt was on. Splashing through the water they created furious waves, enough to sway even the biggest pirate ships. But it was to no avail, the treasure must have been lost on the way into town. They ran around and declared that they simply had to head into the village that very moment in order to find more gold.
Only an hour ‘til supper.
So an hour it was.
The boy ran back into the house a fistful of white lilies in hand, his sister dancing up behind him. The gold coin spent in the florists at the corner on their way back. No one could help them to find any more treasure even though they helped the best they could. What else than to spend the coin. Now bright blooms could replace the dried flowers on the mantle. Had it really been that long already?
I wake up. My eyes open on the sky, overcast clouds shrouding slashes of blue. Branches reach out clasping across gaps in the trees to shroud the forest floor in darkness. The familiar aroma of pollen and detritus overwhelms my senses as I shuffle my arms behind my back to lift myself to a sitting position, my coat snagging on the sticks and branches. As I lurch upwards I look behind me to see a large rock where my head was previously resting, covered in a crusty red residue. As I realise this, I rub my hand against my head to find a wet patch on my scalp. I recoil in pain as I touch it, only to look down at my hand and see a coating of blood covering my hand.
I make my way to my feet, standing up from my crouching position. I pat myself down to remove the mud and fallen foliage covering me. How long was I out for? Minutes? Hours? Days? I go to check my phone for the time. I reach down into my pocket and pull out the shattered remains of my phone. The screen is completely black and cracked severely, whilst the phone itself is caved in the centre, causing the phone to bend as if it had been crushed.
Suddenly a hush rushes through the forest. The wind traces it’s tongue down the middle of my back, clawing at my neck and face with a frosty chill. I can’t place it but something feels… Off. My unfamiliar surroundings clash with my innate familiarity with the forests in my area and there’s something out of place that I can’t quite describe. A rock out of place, a branch that shouldn’t be broken.
A feeling I shouldn’t be feeling.
That sinking feeling in your stomach when you know something is wrong, that instinctual part of your brain telling you that you’re in danger. My mind rushes at 100 miles an hour. My eyes dart around the clearing, looking for something, an explanation, a bear, something.
My eyes catch a claw mark, a wound on the trunk of a tree. I can’t tell what it is but it’s probably nothing. Probably just a bear. Except… it’s too big for that. Way too big. One of the biggest I’ve ever seen. It was at least a solid foot long and a good 4 inches into the tree, as if the claws had gutted the wood and left it to bleed out.
I try to breathe. Slowly in. Slowly out. Choking on my own breath, I decide to try and leave. I hesitantly turn around only to realise I don’t know which way is which. In 13 years of hiking I never felt so lost, not being able to tell even what direction a road was, a town, anything human or recognizable. Where am I?
A branch snaps behind me.
I feel it’s breath on my nape…
I could sense Mum’s anxiety. She was rapidly hurdling out of control, beyond the point of reassurance. She was tapping the trolley like a broken faucet. Dad had taken his time parking the car and, admittedly, I even wondered where he was. I had always been prone to worrying. I suppose I got it from Mum. She wasn’t doing so well. I could see her face turning so red, I thought she was going to become radioactive. “Come on Mum, I am sure he isn't too far away. What could possibly go wrong in a car park?” I unenthusiastically muttered. It took her a few moments to process what I had said.
“Yes, I suppose so,” she whispered, in a doubtful tone.
Scanning the array of ruby red apples, I frantically searched for the first item on the list, without even checking it. It was a half-hearted attempt to distract Mum; I was feeling the same as her. “Oranges!” I announced, trying hard to sound as though I wasn’t under crippling anxiety. It's hard. Mum’s face didn’t change.
Suddenly, the intercom announced, “Can the shopper with the license plate: AB12 CDE please come to till 5.” Mum and I glanced at one another, our faces frantic and disorientated. Mum shoved the trolley aside and raced to the tills; I followed her. My heart raced. My head pounded. My stomach was in knots. Hyperventilation was kicking in. I didn’t have the time to worry about that, I needed to get to the tills.
Reaching till 5, Mum shouted towards the store assistant. “Where’s my husband? Where is he? I need my husband!” She broke down; tears flooded down her face. She crawled on the floor and kept sobbing “Please... Please... Find my husband...” I needed to be strong, breaking down wouldn’t help anyone. I attempted to listen to the store assistant as she explained that she didn’t know where Dad was, our car was simply parked across a ‘Keep Clear’ and it needed to be moved.
A thought suddenly hit me. Why I hadn't already done it is beyond me. “Mum, why don’t I ring him? I am sure he isn't too far.” She produced a series of unintelligible sounds through her ocean of sobs, which I assumed to be in agreement. As I switched on my phone, I saw the 12 missed calls and 5 texts. He was looking for us. I frantically rang him, trying desperately not to break down. RING. He didn’t answer. RING. Why wasn’t he picking up. RI-
“Hello?” came a raspy voice from the other end of the phone.
“Dad! We’re at till 5! Hurry. Please, we need you,” I spluttered. The phone was cut off. I was once again alone.
“Don't worry, pumpkin, I am here.” It was Dad. We were safe.
The car ride home was quiet, sombre. The relief of being there, in that car, was immeasurable. I cried quietly and wished never to leave my haven of a house again.
That day was the day of our big class trip to London Victoria theatre and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. My brother and I always fought for the bathroom in the morning, but he always seemed to win and I was about to change that. He always woke up at 6:30am, so I set my alarm a minute before to get a heads up.
My alarm went off and I was out of my room in seconds, with my towel and bath items in hand as I headed downstairs. When I reached the third step, I heard the creaking floor from Joe’s room and everything froze. The vulture was coming to attack and I couldn’t move a muscle. He emerged from his room with a devilish smile plastered on his face, showing he was ready to demolish me.
“Joe, please, I have to be on time today because today is very important!” I pleaded with him, my eyes begging.
“Emma, I could care less about your stupid trip,” Joe replied.
At that moment we both knew that he wasn’t going to willingly give up the bathroom, and this was going to be a battle to remember. Joe took off running with me hot on his heels. We were hopping over hallway shoes, colliding into each other, making our way through the house like we were in an episode of America’s Ninja Warrior. The door, big and grey, was finally in view. We locked eyes and understood what had to be done with unspoken words.
“ATTACK!” we both shouted at each other.
We were at each other’s throats for five minutes just pinching, punching, pushing – anything that happens in fights that started with a ‘P’ we did.
“Are you two insane?” our mother shrieked.
We both shook our heads no.
“Well, you have to be, you’re up at 6:30 in the morning, fighting over a damned bathroom,” she ranted. But whilst I was absorbed in her, that damned prick, Joe, sneaked into the bathroom and was already in the shower. All my work was for nothing and I felt so disappointed in myself for not fighting harder.
“Snooze you lose, kiddo!” Joe shouted from inside the bathroom.
That day I managed to make it to the train station just in the nick of time.
Ten years later, even though me and Joe are now adults, no matter how old we get, whenever we’re back in that house, a fight for that bathroom will always happen. That sibling rivalry will always keep going but that is how we love each other and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’m home!!” I yelled into a seemingly empty house. Suddenly, my brother came storming down the stairs, a massive grin on his face.
“LOOK!” he yelled, “Look what Mummy got me!” Jack grabbed my hand and dragged me through the living room door. There, on the floor surrounded by a large cage fence, was a beautiful, fluffy, grey rabbit. I gasped as I watched it curiously approach us.
“Surprise,” my Mum said, standing in the doorway of the kitchen. I climbed over the fence and knelt down to stroke it. I’ve had a rabbit called Florence for some time but I was exceptionally happy that we now had two rabbits.
“Florence needed a friend, so we’re going to be taking care of Bob.”
The sun was shining brightly in what seemed to be the hottest summer ever. I was sat outside watching Florence and Bob run around in their fenced off area, when my mum came outside.
“You need to clean them out,” she said to me. I groaned, I disliked cleaning out the hutch. They made so much mess and it’s so much work putting in new straw and hay.
“Why can’t Jack do it?” I argued, “Bobs his rabbit,”
“He’s 10, stop complaining just get it done,” I headed toward the shed and took out the shovel and bucket. I hate cleaning out the hutch.
We’d had the rabbits for 5 months and they’d been getting on well. I was on my way home from school again, and I’d finished early, but I wasn’t looking forward to going home however, as the rabbit hutch needed cleaning and I assumed that that would be my first job as soon as I got into the house. I walked through the gate and approached the door.
“Psst!” my Mum was peeking from round the back of the house, wearing gloves and holding a shovel. She’d been cleaning out the hutch.
“Come here!” she whisper-shouted. We kneeled down in front of the door to the rabbit house. It was just then that I noticed that Florence wasn’t here. I feared for the worst.
“Look.” My Mum said, as she opened the door. Inside was the usual bed of straw, sawdust, and hay. However, there was clumps of grey fur scattered into it.
“What’s happened?” I asked, worried. “That’s Bob’s fur,”
“It’s a nest,” my Mum reached inside and moved some straw from the centre of the mess. Inside there was six fluffy, small baby rabbits. I was shocked and completely confused.
“What- but how?” I was almost lost for words.
“Turns out “Bobs” a girl, she’s had kit’s,” she re-covered the sleeping rabbits just as Bob hopped in. “Florence is in the old guinea pig house, he can’t be near them,”
“Are we keeping them?” I asked admiring them, in particular the beautiful pure white with red eyes.
“Unfortunately, no, but I’ll find good homes for them.” She closed the door.
This was the one day I wish I had cleaned the hutch.
I will always remember that day. I woke up with an overwhelming anxiety weighing on my mind. I reached over my bed to grab my phone and realised I was almost late to College Breakfast Club. I ran to brush my teeth and get dressed. I checked the fridge to see if there was any food left from the night before. The answer was no.
The feeling of being hungry for another day at college clouded my mind. I bolted to the bus stop as fast as I could. As I arrived so did the bus, like a God given miracle. With sweat dripping off my forehead, I reached into my pocket. My heart sank. Reality hit like a sledgehammer. I was so caught up on being late and hungry that I didn’t even grab my bus money. My face went red as blood. I heard laughing coming from the back of the bus. It was Joel, Lewis and Adam, my old school mates.
Joel said with a wide grin “You can’t afford the bus again, Josh?” Both Lewis and Adam giggled. I bit my tongue and slowly got off the bus, utterly depressed.
That’s when I felt a hand touch my shoulder. The young man said, “I got you, bro.”
It was Calleed. I knew him because he was popular around college. The sadness and anger washed away with his kind gesture.
I replied, “Thank you, you’ve made my day.”
His face lit up like the sun and I sat with him for the rest of the bus ride. He was telling me how he always used to forget his bus money and that someone helped him once, so he knew how it felt.
I arrived at college and the smell of Breakfast Club guided me. Thanks to Calleed's kind gesture, I was able to eat.
Months later I was on the bus with Calleed and I heard someone shouting. To my surprise it was Joel, begging to be let on the bus.
“Please! Please!” He was begging.
“I can’t let you on, mate,” replied the driver.
Anger filled me that moment, but also joy, seeing Joel in distress like I was that day. But then it came to me, Calleed helped me when I was down and it changed my mind about people. So maybe I could do the same with Joel. I walked to the front of the bus as Joel was getting off and offered to pay. His face lit up with joy. We smiled.
"Thank you, Josh.”
“No problem, but pass it on.”
He grinned and nodded. Now, when I see Joel, he always smiles and waves at me. A kind gesture can change someone’s day, week or even month. You don’t know what people go through behind closed doors. Always be kind. Wash away your anger. Most importantly, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
My mum is one of a kind. She is self-driven, passionate and, most importantly, a woman who doesn’t take no for an answer. When she wants something, she gets it. I feel this can be attributed to her nationality. She is a deep-grounded Nigerian woman.
One Saturday, at the start of the school year, we were shopping. We set out for the famous Market Complex, Arena. Arena is an array of stores with different sections selling things in categories.
When we got there, we saw people bustling around, trying to get to where they were going. At that moment I knew it was going to be a long day. ‘Lola, be ready and follow me closely.’
My mum cut through corners, turning left and right, bumping into people. I just hoped not to get lost on the way. We got to where they sold lunch bags. A yellow sequined unicorn design stuck out.
‘Mummy, I want that one,’ I tugged on mum's hand and pointed.
‘Really? Which one?’ I pointed to the bag of my dreams with butterflies in my stomach.
‘That’s the one you want?’ She gave it a sideways glance, unimpressed.
The bag vendor was in his late twenties, sleeping on the bench inside the stall. His shirt was worn, held together by little patches.
‘Hello, my brother. We want that bag up there,’ mum's voice boomed, waking him from his sound sleep.
‘Yes mama, let me bring it down for you,’ the man said, yawning off his nap.
My mum checked out the bag as the man boasted, ‘This is the last one, mama. Check the quality.’
‘Okay, how much do you want?’
‘It won't cost you a lot of money, mama, just ₦20,000’. He said coolly. ₦20,000 is £20. In Nigeria that’s a lot of money for a lunch bag.
‘Brother, that price is too high. 8,000.’
I was baffled. At this point, I knew I was in danger of falling asleep. The negotiations were about to be begin.
‘Mama that price is not good at all.’ He wasn’t going to budge.
‘If you can't sell it, I can't buy it’.
He looked at me. My best puppy eyes said put me out of my misery.
‘Abeg (please), collect ₦8,000, for your sister.’
‘Mama, please, that price is too low,’ he pleaded.
Inside, I begged mum to buy it. I was feeling pity for him and shame for me. I wanted the market to devour me.
‘Brother, just collect the money, okay? She passed the lunch bag to me and fumbled in her purse for the money.
‘Okay, my brother, just accept it,’ my mum urged, as she folded and placed the money in his hand.
‘Mama, I will do it this time because I want you to come back with my sister.’ He smiled.
That transaction was a surprise to me. Moments before, I would have denied knowing mum through embarrassment, but she got the bag! This is why she is the best mum in the world: she taught me how to never back down and push ahead.
In the silent night, the fire grew. I watched as thick black smoke billowed out of the windows and roof, twisting, and writhing in the wind like a malevolent serpent. It disappeared into midnight as I watched the house melt into nothingness. Its glorious roar shone in the abyss. My silhouette: invisible next to the painted rooms with hues of vibrant fury.
The acrid smell of the ash burnt my nose and brought tears to my eyes. A heavy odour confined the flame, but it raged on nonetheless. The crackling chorus erupted with a cacophony of juxtapositions. The melodic hiss of the flames whispered secrets of devastation, while the thunderous roar spoke of its unyielding power. The fire's symphony played upon the senses, seducing both with its ominous melody and menacing crescendos.
Within the swirling vortex of destruction, objects once treasured became sacrificial offerings to the insatiable appetite of the flames. The once cosy armchairs, now engulfed in fiery tongues, fought a losing battle against the merciless assault. The walls, once protectors and confidants, crumbled under the fire's relentless caress, succumbing to its unyielding embrace.
I watched the blinding flash of a fire truck surround the house. Firefighters were on the scene, but their efforts seemed futile in the face of the raging inferno. I could do nothing but watch.
Through the broken door and down the hallway my dependent corpse lay still.
My face was unrecognisable. My flesh was charred, and my features were distorted beyond recognition. I watched the lifeless limbs remain dormant. The gnarled stiffness haunted me.
With tar in my lungs, I floated through the remnants. Passing through walls and shattered windows, my incorporeal touch was unable to interact with the physical world I once inhabited. A newfound peace washed over me as the walls crumbled and my possessions scattered. I felt a chilling emptiness. The feeling of a wasted life. I had been a slave to myself until now. Until now I was free. And so, I watched it all disintegrate into the abyss.
I felt a terrible serenity as I felt the flame had a new beauty to it. It no longer twirled and contorted like a snake, but it danced with the innocence of an angel. Its destructive ballet performed deep into the night. I found solace in the warm embrace of the flickering inferno. It was as if the fire held ancient wisdom within it, whispering secrets of contentment and inner peace. The warmth seeped into my skin, thawing my frozen soul.
The burdens of my daily life melted away. The worries, the stress, the ceaseless noise of the world—everything seemed distant and insignificant in the presence of this elemental symphony. The crackling chorus became a lullaby, soothing my restless mind and inviting a sense of stillness within.
So, I sat there, a silent witness, still as a lake letting my thoughts untangle and drift away. It was only when my soul left my body, I felt truly free.
The door opened to a scene that appeared like a mixture of a glamorous 1930s backstage dressing room at Carnegie Hall and an exotic blues bar of the same era. All my senses seemed to burst into life; the intoxicating scent that wafted out of oud, musk and floral was heady and powdery, the air was slightly hazy with the late afternoon sun filtering in through dusty old windows. The music in the room was lonesome; I recognized the distinctive voice of Billy Holiday and was transported back to childhood school holidays spent staying with an aunty and her eccentric elderly mother-in-law Etty.
The room was a rich feast of color and decoration from a bygone area, I felt like I had stepped back in time and was about to enter a magical parlor where musicians made music, dancers danced in outrageous glittering costumes, poets and writers shared their wine and stories, artists sat in their melancholy with paint-splattered sandals, actors and performers pranced and posed seeking admiration and applause. The room was huge, papered with stunning black wallpaper covered in a gold, blue and green art deco design, everything else in the room was painted black, photographs hung on the walls in frames of black and gold the scenes were of dancers, actors, trapezes artists and performers. Against the far wall was a well-used and shabby upright piano, strewn across the top with half empty bottles of liquor and decanters. In front of the piano was an old wooden chair with a tattered tasseled cushion. I could imagine the piano player who sat there; off white shirt with braces, two tone spectator shoes, cigarette dangling from his lip, long boney fingers dancing over the ivory keys.
The curator of this scene was standing in the doorway. She too was far from ordinary; she seemed ageless, tiny, bird-like, her frame swathed in a beautiful kimono style gown which evoked the glitz and glamour of a bygone era. It was adorned with large colorful flowers that exploded off the black background, the petals and leaves were embellished, embroidered and sequined giving it a rich and exotic texture, pulled in at the waist with a bright orange silk tie belt. She wore it effortlessly, like some old housecoat. Some people just have that enviable knack of effortless chic. I became self-conscious standing there in my navy-blue polyester trouser suit and white no-iron shirt, my go to work wardrobe.
I realized I was staring, so, stumbling awkwardly over my introduction and producing my badge, I explained that we were going door to door in the neighborhood to ask if anyone had seen anything suspicious overnight or perhaps in the last week.
She had a face that portrayed her thoughts, just the kind of face detectives like. She stated that she had not seen anything out of the usual, then asked if there had been a murder.
The liquid dripped from the bag in hues of pink, swirled with ruby red wine and bejewelled crystals, glistening in the light as though something magical, otherworldly and strange was occurring.
Julian sat beneath the wizard's tree in the Garden of Glee, tied beside a grey bench with curved metal arms and a faded brown dedication sign to a member of the armed forces, taken too soon after the Second World War.
Julian whimpered uncontrollably, observing the glinting edge of gold on the faded brown tree. You see, Julian was whimpering for his owner, Bob McGee, who had been taken down in that dreaded war, the second and quite hopefully the last.
Julian was a dog: furry, grey with cropped yet shaggy hair, a button black nose that was wet at the tip and a quizzical eyebrow. Bob had always commented on that feature likening him to a Gregory Peck with a loving laugh and rub of the head.
As Julian whimpered, his head was lowered onto his paws to touch the ground with hind legs low as he now lay prostrate. He seemed translucent, as if I could see right through him, to the rose, apple trees beyond the meadow.
As if, as if he was a g-g-ghost!
I jokingly try to scare myself, but it doesn't work, this occurrence has begun to be so mundane, that I cease to be alarmed with any sort of regularity. The ability to read the thoughts of passed on pets, animals, humans without their awareness of my presence was so normal now.
My name is Nostalgia. I am simply: a memory. Some would call me a crawl space, but others hold onto me desperately. My family of memories think I’m very naive and hopeful and different. I can’t help but feel as if their memories were tainted with despair and sadness.
I remember the first question I asked my Mama growing up: ’what are memories? Are they what we hold onto for hope, or perhaps avoid out of fear? And why do people act mean when they’re sad?’
I still have her answer written in ink and pen.
’Memories - to me at least - are what keep people going and give people the hope to survive in a cruel world. You remember your father, don’t you? He was funny, kind and smart, as all people should be, and held onto his memories as best as he could.’
’Yeah, but what happened to him Mama? You said he went to visit the stars…?’
It was like her words got stuck halfway down her throat as her hands shook, covering her quivering lips.
’Yeah… he’s in the stars where he can finally be happy again. I just… I wish I could’ve done something to ease the pain… as much as he had good memories, he also… was deeply unhappy…’
’Huh…? But why, Mama?
Silence filled the airy void.
’Remember what you asked me before? What do people act mean when they’re sad? Your father lived through pain and despair his entire life and yet: he was the best person I ever met…’
‘Do… do you miss him, Mama?’
A simple sad sigh was telling enough.
’I do, my Nostalgia but… I’m also grateful to have known him and… I’m grateful for this very moment.’
’Huh…? But why, Mama? What could possibly replace Dad?’
I couldn’t help but yell. It felt like my emotions wanted to burst inside me like a balloon.
’How can you ever replace him?’
‘I still remember her last words to me.’
’I don’t need a replacement, my Nostalgia. Because…’ as she let a few stray tears fall, ‘I was already given a miracle in another form… I was given you. You’re my miracle, Nostalgia.’
‘It was hard… losing both my parents at such a young age. But whenever I look up… I see two stars shining up there so brightly and I know… they’re watching over me from somewhere and… they’re finally free… together.’
Once upon a time, I found myself a top of a mountain peak, basking in the glorious sunrise. The sun cast a magnificent glow across the land, and the clouds danced in a symphony of crimson and gold. As I marvelled at the scene, a massive object descended from the sky, hurtling towards the ground like a meteor.
With bated breath, I watched as the object slowed down and landed gently at the base of the mountain. To my amazement, I saw that it was a spaceship, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Its surface glowed with a molten red, and intricate pattern swirled across its hull like a cosmic canvas.
As I approached the ship, I noticed that it was emanating an otherworldly aura, a powerful energy that distorted the air around it. The ground shook, and a deafening roar echoed across the mountainside as the ship began to transform the environment. The air grew hot and humid, and the clouds twisted and turned in a violent dance.
Suddenly, the ship released a brilliant beam of light that shot straight up into the sky. As the light faded, the world began to change. The sky turned a fiery red, and the ground shook as fireballs rained down from the heavens. Panic set in as people fled from the chaos.
Just as it seemed that all was lost, a magnificent sight unfolded before me. From the depths of the ocean, a group of seahorse-like creatures emerged, their scales shimmering in the light. With a powerful roar, they took to the skies, unleashing a barrage of laser beams and fierce winds upon the spaceship.
The battle was fierce, with the seahorses displaying incredible agility and strength as they fought against the formidable spaceship. As they battled, the landscape changed, with the environment transforming into an otherworldly, surreal realm.
The clash lasted for what seemed like an eternity, with both sides giving their all in a struggle for supremacy. Finally, through sheer determination and bravery, the seahorses emerged victorious, sending the spaceship reeling back into the cosmos.
As the dust settled, the world slowly returned to normal. The air grew cool, and gentle rains began to fall, nourishing the land and restoring it to its former glory. The seahorses disappeared back into the ocean, leaving behind a sense of wonder and awe in their wake.
The cosmic clash on the mountain peak had come to an end, leaving behind a tale that would be told for generations to come.
Harmony. With its baby cobalt colour and feathered cloud, the sky is full of calm and tranquillity.
Black and white birds soar in unison, enjoying the glorious weather as if it was a masterpiece from God. People's eyes turned towards it, forgetting everything for a moment that lasted hours while being fascinated by this beauty, but this is not the only beauty he sees.
A woman strolls through a trail of pink bloom trees under an artistic sky, her boho, long dress flowing behind her. Her brown, silky hair had gold streaks that cascaded down just above her waist. Oh, how her hair swirled in the wind. She turned around, her sun-kissed, chocolate eyes meeting his charcoal, black eyes, which twinkled at the sight of it, hypnotising him with just one glimpse of this mysterious women. The warm breeze brushed up against her heart-shaped face, flushing her cheek rosy. She had a willowy, tall form, but it was her sweet lips stretching wide with an angelic smile in the sight of his young, stubbled face.
His towering legs enticed him to approach towards her as she waits for him, reaching out her soft hands for him to come with her, but as he tried to extend out his hand and walk closer, his legs stopped as if pinned down by a hammer. He furrowed his brows, unable to reach or move towards her. He tries to move his legs but is unable to do as anxiousness has dripped into his mind, filling it with desperation to reach her.
Her perfect smile was replaced by a terrified one as her shadow swallowed her in an abyss that was still reaching out. He screams her name, but it doesn't seem to come out.
"Joseph!" She yells.
"Joseph, please wake up!"
His wrinkled black eyes, which used to be full of life, slowly opened to reveal a blond-haired, young woman.
"You were having another of your nightmares. I have to give you your medication." She replies worriedly as she rushes out of the room.
A wizened visage peeked out from beneath a wedge of his cherished black hat, which was the only thing on his otherwise blond head and mottled scalp except for a scant white fringe. His eyes were so heavily lidded and burdened down with wrinkled folds that it was like talking to someone who was asleep, yet he was quite alert.
For as long as he remembers, he has had dreams about the same woman, but he can't bring himself to remember who she is, questioning whether she was just a sweet dream a lost memory. Her name is forever stuck in his throat, which his mind is begging and torturing him to remember it, but he fails like every other time when he finally sets his almond eyes to the window.
Bullet. Muffled rain pouring on the floor like bullets as it penetrates through the malachite leaves.
It was dark. I could feel the sharp ominous gaze of the shadows lurking in the corner of the room. The hairs on my neck rose as I heard a muffled noise. It was more like a nearly silent grunt. A grunt that sounded like it belonged to a pig. One who spent time on a farm could know that the grunt belonged to a pig as they could recognise the deep, hoarse growl that belonged to it. Perhaps it was not a pig I thought but some peculiar animal – no creature. I wanted to scream but no noise came out. I wanted to at least run away but my dead limbs would not move an inch. With streams of tears rolling down my pale cheeks, I let out a dry, quiet whimper.
BEEP BEEP, the irritating noise of the alarm woke me up. My bed was drenched in cold sweat and rivers of tears ran down my face. I could not fathom what was going on or remember what had happened to make me behave in this unusual manner. However, I knew that it was not something good. Over scrutinizing about that daunting matter had wasted my time and as the orderly person I was, I decided to forget about it and go to work. However, all I could think about was that bizarre dream. Though, it was quite strange that I knew this dream was important, yet I could not remember.
No matter how hard I tried to brush it off, I could not stop thinking about it. It was as if I had been hypnotised however, I had to stop now. This was affecting the quality of my work as I was told many times by my colleagues that they found it unusual that I kept on staring into space. To make up for the precious time lost due to my incompetence, I worked over-time. It was around 12:30 when I left the building and onto the parking lot, there was a scarce number of cars in the parking lot so vast.
About a meter away from my car, I looked in absolute horror. When I arrived at my car it had been wrecked beyond usage, some thugs decided to smash my windows; they spraypainted my car with drawings and stole some valuables. Enraged, I dialled 911 but my phone ran out of charge right then and there. Infuriated, I let out a loud shout followed by some more screams and shouts. Out of utter and complete exasperation I threw my cell phone onto the cold, hard concrete and the screen shattered into millions of glass shards. Could my day have been any worse? Who in their right mind would do something so wicked and vile? I calmed myself down and wondered how to get back home. Walking was not an option as it was perhaps a 3 hour walk and my phone was not working so I did not know the direction.
I’m strolling into this lift, my mind isn’t heavy. Just need to get to work, to start my day. I tapped the usual, third floor button. The green flashes at me, almost blinding. It’s 7 in the morning, a pounding headache isn’t something I want to be greeted with. The steel coloured doors shutter in front of me, securing me in this metal box. I observe my monotone surroundings, trying to keep busy in this wait. I’ve been in this lift a plethora of times, yet I find myself finding something unusual about this lift.
I impatiently tap my foot frequently on the solid floor. This better get to the right floor soon, I think to myself. I brush past my cotton sleeve to check the time. 7:09am, how punctual! Beads of sweat start to form on my hands, I know it shouldn’t take 10 minutes to get to work. I’m subconsciously creating indents in my hands with my nails to keep myself at bay. Anxiety is growing throughout my body at this point, I’m shaking, I’m sweating, and on the verge of sobbing. I frantically slam my hands over all the buttons on the lift in hopes of a response. I am greeted by a blinding flash of neon green circles. Not ideal.
I start pacing around the small box room. Scanning the room for absolutely any sign of getting out. I’ve accepted my fate - trapped in this lift. I whip my head up above me, I make eye contact with a dangling metal wire, it’s sparking and my panic has spiked. I pat myself down, I need to find something, absolutely anything to get me out of this mess. After some frantic patting down, I find my fidget cube. I finally feel a sense of relief, something I can distract myself with.
My hope is slowly disintegrating, there are only so many steps I can do in this levitating box room to keep me sane. Spiralling out of control, I soon realise my fist has met the elevator mirror. Ruby red blood trickles down from my knuckles; below me, my feet are greeted with jagged pieces of glass. I scurry around trying to find a corner to sit down in. I use my foot to brush shards aside. I hug my knees in despair, silently rocking back and forth, my face feeling damp - however, I can’t tell if it’s from sobbing or sweat. My index finger gently traces the remainders of the shattered mirror, in an attempt to calm myself down. I realise after my finger follows a trace, the mirror is then painted red. After waiting some time, I start to feel lightheaded. I gently shut my eyes, and I am greeted with a void.
While I stand there, I am hoping that he will recognize me but the longer I stand there my whole body is shaking at a tremendous speed. It feels like in that moment that the monster inside him has taken over. He is no longer my best friend; he is an enemy now.
His fur is as white as snow, ears sharply pointing upwards, and his body is rigid while he is howling powerfully. When all the wolves scatter back to their cave, he lowers his head slowly. He has teeth that could rip anything into pieces, eyes that look straight through my soul. I can see a cold-hearted killer when I look in his eyes, but I can’t tell what the creature is until it is only meters away. He gives me a quick glare then he runs off into the forest. When I can no longer see him in the distance, I fall to my knees with sparkling tears trickling down my face. I can feel my heart breaking into little pieces like a mirror being shattered in my chest.
* * *
Looking back on the moment now I am still surprised I made it out alive after all these years. At the time it was happening I was scared for my life. I could not help it. Do I wish I could change it? Every day I wish things were different.
I was walking through the woods and the sky was onyx with stars shining as brightly as a diamond. Suddenly he disappeared. I could feel my heart racing, struggling to catch her breath. While I was searching through the woods, I could hear noises screeching then silence made its way through the whole place. “I hope I never lose you,” I said to Brad while holding his hand tightly and he said back to her while looking into her eyes
“You will never lose me.” he replied.
The trees looked like outlines of killers with knives: tall, intimidating, with pointed limbs. Overhead, ravens squawked through the midnight sky and the path in front of us looked windy and had an endless hill. The winter breeze unpleasantly stroked against my neck. While walking through the woods I wanted to follow the path that looked safer and that would take us home, but he wanted to take the path that looked like a place where something goes in there and never comes out.
I kept saying, “Let's go this way!” but he kept arguing with me then let go of my hand and walked off down the haunted looking path.
"Don't go that way, Brad!” I screamed as loud as I could.
It was the last time I saw him.
He is no longer the man I knew as kids now he is a monster. I cannot save him now.
The Slytherin prefect lead the first-years out of the Great Hall and down a spiral staircase. Ominis overheard the rest of the first-years talking about the moving portraits hanging all over the walls of the Grand Staircase. The portraits greeted the first-years as they past, welcoming them to Hogwarts. The students had then been taken down into the dungeons where Slytherin's common room was located. The students reached to halt in front of a stone blank wall.
"To enter your common room, you must speak the correct password." said the prefect. "Oh, and do not share this with anyone outside your house." the prefect said, sounding more stern. He then muttered in a low voice, “Aspiration.” A large thundering rumble sounded from below, then a sudden loud rattle filled the cold, empty corridor, followed by the sound as if something large had slithered above them, along the wall.
The prefect pressed on, guiding the first-years through a door and led them down another spiral staircase and into the common room. "Welcome Slytherins to your new home. On your right is the girl's dormitory and on the left is the boy's. This area here is your common space."
“Also, please don't damage the windows, unless you want a school of angry Merfolk at your throats. Anyway, make sure all of you are in bed by 9pm sharp! Classes begin at 9am after breakfast."
Soon after the prefect went over the rules, he then stalked away. Ominis felt his eyes heavy as tiredness began to overwhelm him. He and Sebastian made their way to their dorm room. There were five four-poster beds. Hung from them were beautiful emerald green curtains that were neatly pulled back. Both Sebastian and Ominis found that their trunks at the ends of their beds which had already been brought down, ready to be unpacked. In a tight narrow cage was Ophelia, Ominis' short-eared owl, fast asleep. Too exhausted to unpack, Ominis decided to leave it till the morning. The two boys slipped on their pyjamas and got into bed.
“Have you read your timetable yet?” asked Sebastian.
“No, not yet. Have you?”
“Just took a glimpse at tomorrow's lessons. We have History of Magic with Professor Binns.” Sebastian then let out a wide, loud yawn.
Before Ominis could ponder what History of Magic might turn out to be like tomorrow, the soft, fluffy bed made it hard to stay awake, and soon Ominis found himself miles away in a deep slumber.
Fred had enough. All of the bickering, shouting, and fighting had to stop. Fred had been planning on what to do for some time now and he decided that now was more than a perfect time. He scanned his room for his already packed bag, grabbed it, then chucked it over his shoulder, climbed up on top of his bed, kicked his window open, and jumped out. Now in agony from the fall, Fred limped towards the garden fence. “Ah, the fence” he said to himself, as he caught his breath. He was ready now, more than ever. Full of determination, Fred took three large steps back, sucked in as much as air as possible and then CHARGED towards the garden fence, screaming his lungs out. BANG! The fence had given way.
Running through the pitch-black nothingness, Fred sobbed, not able to get over the fact that he had made it out of there. Countless attempts had gone into trying to escape, not just by Fred, but by thousands. This means that Fred was the only one to escape. He was the only one that would be able to tell the others the truth.
“Are those… SPOTLIGHTS!?” Fred was in a panic, his eyes were darting everywhere while he scurried around the void looking for a place to hide himself. Fred’s heart was slowing down as he came to the realisation that there was nowhere to hide. He was finished. Now, ready to surrender, Fred threw his hands into the air, drowning in the horrible thoughts of torture that he would receive upon arriving.
“I can’t go back. If I do, they’ll kill me. I’m going to make a run for it.” Fred felt more alive than he had ever felt before; he was pumped full of adrenaline. He looked up towards the sky and screamed “This is for all of you! I will make it out alive! The people will know the truth!”
Fred made a run for it - he had to live. Not for himself, but for the many innocent people that were wronged. They needed justice and for this to happen, Fred would have to push through, to tell the people the truth that had to be told. With the spotlights still on his back, Fred started to lose hope. Maybe there really was no way to make it out…
But then the spotlights disappeared, vanished back into the void. But how? “I could’ve sworn they were right behind me,” he muttered. Looking around, baffled, Fred sat down to gather his thoughts. Had he really made it? Was it really over? They disappeared so suddenly, why did they stop tailing him? Before Fred could find his answer, he vanished out of existence to repeat the loop once again…
The thing about Fred is that he lives within an endless loop of new beginnings. There is no end to Fred’s story; Fred will live through this loop for the rest of eternity.
Fred is in hell…
Amy had just finished her late shift. She was so hungry she could feel her legs going limp; she glanced up and saw dark clouds enveloping the vast open skies above her. The rain would start pouring soon. She just wanted to get home to her small tidy house in the small tidy village of Spotsham.
She focused her attention back on the passengers; they just wanted to get home too. The bus only came once every two hours. So despite how tired passengers were, they were determined not to miss the bus.
The bus was finally in sight. Amy joined the rushing crowd. Passengers desperately pushed and shoved all to get home and be with their families.
The sound of the thunder became louder, agitating the passengers. Amy got ready to push; a wave of adrenaline surged through her.
She mustered the strength to barge her way through. Pushing, pulling, pushing, pulling – inside!
Amy found a seat. Sitting, she felt her body ache from the jostling. She had never strained her muscles that hard before but she was relieved to have her seat.
The skies roared but now the rain started gushing down; the wind violently blew against the bus. The passengers still outside were all drenched within seconds. Even umbrellas were useless against the storm.
Inside, the opposite - the windows were shut, the heating was on. Everyone was silent. The only noise was the engine and raindrops. Amy, exhausted with her head leaning on the glass, glanced outside and saw the rain filling the streets, overflowing drains. She was relieved to be dry and comfortable inside the bus. The raindrops became therapeutic to her fatigue; soon she fell asleep.
She dreamed about when she had no responsibilities, when she could have fun without worrying about her bills or food. She was in her childhood home, dad was out at work; it was just her and her mother. She had a warm bath and the floral smell of the soap made her feel like she was in a field of flowers on a sunny spring day. Later, from her bedroom, the smell of mum’s cooking, the one thing in this world that could turn things around on a bad day.
Amy’s stomach growled and brought her back life, to the bus. She could hear noises, murmurs among the passengers. She tried to listen in on what the commotion was; the driver announced that the bus would be going on diversion. Amy was in shock. She looked at the driver. Was this a joke? She couldn’t believe after all her efforts she had to get off to wait for the next bus in the heavy rain.
The passengers tried complaining about the decision, but their efforts were in vain; nothing they said could change the diversion from happening. Amy felt defeated - she knew she also had no choice but to get off at the next stop into the wild weather. She was back to square one.
It was a cold, emotionless November evening in Central London, and Jake had just finished a long and exhausting day of college. He took a bite of his deliciously gooey chocolate croissant and glanced outside the cafe window. Crowds of people surged into the underground tube station, like they were getting swallowed a black hole. The thunderous, aggressive rain rebounded off the mouldy surface, echoing into Jake’s ears. The dark and dull clouds which caused this exhilarating rainfall, covered up the whole sky, leaving a shadow looping over London.
Jake focused his attention back to the food he had ripped his bank account open for. It had been a long and draining day at college for him. It was just weeks into the term but he already felt as if he was wasting his time.
His attendance wasn’t great either, mostly due to oversleeping and not having the desire to get up, but deep down, he just didn’t have the will to make an effort. His teachers weren’t fans either, and he also had multiple meetings with the principal, but that wasn’t the worse of it. He was disliked by the whole class; as soon as he made his daily stroll into the class 20 minutes after it started, a collection of faces, almost as if they were all robots designed to intimidate him, would stare vaguely into his soul.
Little did he know this was about to change in this very cafe.
A boy who Jake instantly recognised from his maths class walked in. He didn’t lock eyes with Jake initially, but after ordering a chocolate croissant and hot chocolate (the exact same order as Jake), he noticed him sitting in the corner.
“Wait a second,“ Charlie said. “You’re that weird Jake from college, aren’t you?
Jake looked at him disappointedly.
“Yes, I am, but I would appreciate you didn’t call me weird.”
“Don’t worry I was only playing around,“ Charlie said laughingly. “I actually think I prefer you to the other Jake, and I’ve never even spoken to you before now.”
They both shared a laugh.
“I’ll tell you what,“ Charlie said. “I remember in Maths you saying that you didn’t understand algebra. I’ve just completed the homework; you want to take a look?”
Jake nodded happily, still slightly anxious about the lack of social encounters he had experienced. The pair went on that night to help each other out with different pieces of homework. Weeks later, they had formed a bond that seemed like glue. In class they sat next to each other, enabling Jake to finally be able to interact with other members of the class as Charlie was very liked throughout.
Even when Charlie wasn’t there, Jake had also gained confidence socially, which helped him make friends in his other classes. Jake couldn’t thank Charlie enough - he had completely changed his life, and it all came from them miraculously bumping into each other on a dull and soggy evening in a cafe.
Open, flat, and empty. Along the horizon is just chartreuse green grass, resting below the baby blue sky. Dancing within the firmament is the occasional passing cloud. Brief gusts of wind sweep through my void black hair causing slight goosebumps to form on my bare arms. It feels like I’m dreaming; floating around engulfing the scene before me. Yet, the area feels so hollow due to the amount of nothingness scattered around. I wander further through the lonely field, but the scenery is just on repeat. Nothing new comes into view. Repition of the open reminds me of those flip card drawings my father used to make for me. Hundreds of stories I could watch continuously just by pulling the paper and releasing. I smile at myself as the artworks hold nostalgia close to me. This place is like a never-ending daydream.
Despite feeling at peace, I cannot help but feel some nagging suspicion. Perhaps the landscape is just too vacant. Just as my mind finished that paranoid idea, something could be seen in the distance. It’s a patch of Cornflowers. Cornflowers have always been my favourite. Their purple and blue combination within the petals always gave me such a boost of joy.
“Beautiful” I conclude as I get closer and closer to the group of flowers. More waves of nostalgia grasp at me towards the plants. Me and my father always used to pick bunches for his wives. Although, they never got the enjoy them for long. Few inches away from the compacted flowers, I notice the positioning of them are...strange. To begin, the ground they root from, is much more elevated from the rest of the grass. Another odd thing is that they seemed to be blooming in an absurd format. They are not gathered around randomly, but in a specific shape. As I inspect more, it dawns on me. They are growing in the shape of a human.
Realisation hits me harshly, like the feeling you get when you’re told Santa isn’t real or when the sirens blast through your window and-
Darkened clouds gathering above broke my train of thought. A pit of doom starts forming in my chest. Anxiety is paralyzing me. How could such a heavenly place become such hell suddenly? Thunder with blue and red lightening torture the once angelic sky.
I’m running. Urges to immediately escape this new jail of emptiness surround me. Fear is all I can make out in my head. I hear his voice. My father. It echos again and again.
“Silly girl, how could you do this to your father? Ungrateful.”
More and more shapes of bodies with flowers on top seep through the ground. Limbs desperately trying to climb through the floor. So much guilt is in me as I hear the deceased plead for their lives. Just then, a phone box sprouts before me. I stumble in quickly and dial their number.
He still stares at me. He holds me captive with his eyes. He still has me entirely and he knows it, which is what makes him so dangerous, lethal almost. My once devoted spirit now a harbored fugitive trapped inside my “new” life.
TWO YEARS EARLIER
With what felt like an apocalypse upon us, we were few of those who managed to withstand the pressure we believed would trample our futures and therefore none of what happened really mattered. I knew nothing but his first name and that he was unhappy with her.
He became my friend, a soul I could entrust a piece of me to, or so I thought. I was always told that in life all we have is moments, some precious, some crushing but either way I believed this would be a fine addition to my story not simply a chapter I would come to skim read. From there the next 912 days were pure chaos but the kind of chaos where if everything is falling apart you still feel anchored. Amusing chaos, guarded chaos, faultless chaos. It was exchanged glances and parties and breath consuming laughs and picnics in confetti fields and candles with eternal flames and gingerbread men with shots of espresso and bucket hats at theme parks and hoops in the backyard. I felt like a vinyl record, and he was my B side. Enchanted.
The end of the world did not come the way we were told it would and the rules changed, well for him anyway. I wanted more time, I wanted more than what I’d been gifted, I wanted summer in Thailand and winter in Brooklyn when we were 25 running around like we were 17 again, arguing over whose turn it was to buy pizza.
I wish I could explain exactly what happened, but truthfully, I don’t know. I can’t tell you it was a morose day filled with thunder because it could’ve been a cloudless sky. However, I didn’t think it would end with me being branded a liar and him claiming his heart was carelessly broken. What a plot twist he turned out to be. He didn’t believe me, and I didn’t know how much longer I could sit there and plead my case. I was a broken record. To him, I was the problem, the dramatic one, the whore, the emotionally detached one, and I deserved everything I had coming. He didn’t cower to inform me and those around him that he wasn’t safe around me, that he had wasted his time, his love, on me. He had set fire to his world and never let a flame touch me. He had regrets.
He was no longer good for me.
I’ve had to come to terms with my position, and I was more than content to be the villain in his story, it was a shame -all that wasted potential. All justified because somewhere between hello and goodbye there was love.
I remember how difficult it was growing up in the Middle Ages for so many reasons. One of them was the experiments done on animals and how mankind could be so ignorant.
I keep getting the flashback to that horrible night when I joined my mum, dad and all my sisters to go to my uncle's house for the usual family meeting. But this time the meeting was different. My uncle had invited all his friends. Everyone in town called him ‘the weird scientist’ because of his evil and nasty experiments. This time the victim was a poor little white cockatoo. How painful it was watching him suffering in that glass flask without any mercy or compassion.
I can still hear my father's voice trying to comfort us about it “Come on, relax everybody. It’s just an animal.”
My mom was so angry and upset about how they treated the poor bird while the kids were watching. We were crying and extremely scared.
As usual the experiment failed. The poor bird died and we must now live with this terrible memory for the rest of our lives.
It was early morning when Simon and his crew were preparing to go to the port of the Red Sea which is located at the horn of Africa. He picked up a sachet of porridge to prepare his breakfast. That was when he realized that he and his crew had to be at the port in an hour's time.
Upon arrival, the port was busier than usual. Simon informed his team to unload all their supplies onto a smaller boat. At that moment, his main concern was the dark cloud that was gradually covering the blue sky. Simon went to the Captain and, whispering, asked him about the weather. The Captain was confident about the weather and reassured Simon there would not be any danger to their journey.
Soon after, two other much bigger boats were also starting to take off in the same direction. That gave Simon a little hope. They had been on the sea almost three hours and it was a smooth journey until a big lightning bolt came from the sky.
Suddenly, the beautiful blue sky seemed to be taken over by intense, dark and ferocious clouds, bringing a powerful wind with them. The sea waves were aggressively clashing with each other, forming mountains, which were terrifying to look at. Simon’s boat was defenceless and swung and was flung like a tennis ball on a court. The hopeless and terrified sailors hung on for their lives as they fought against the punches of the aggressive waves.
The ships further away were giving them hope to hang on. Simon, whose leg was touching the cold water, was overwhelmed with his thoughts. At first, he felt sorry when he saw a thin child with his mom shivering with cold. An elderly couple were praying for their lives. Looking at all his surroundings, Simon felt this moment would be his last in this grim world. Their ship was surrounded with dead bodies floating like balloons in a swimming pool.
All of a sudden, a hopeful sound came from a boat further away. Simon started waving his hand to get some help. He wanted to scream, but he was extremely tired, hungry and thirsty. The sun was slowly fading away from the surface of the sea. Simon realized that if he couldn’t push himself and signal to the boat, they might not rescue him at all. Inside his head so many thoughts were going up and down.
Unexpectedly when he looked down to the ground, he saw a blue cover lighter floating around.
An early summer morning, the sunshine flared and woke me up from a beautiful dream. I saw that I was in the middle of a huge crowd. People were asking me for my autograph and requesting me to take pictures with them. It was an intense feeling of joy and happiness such as I had never been through in my whole life.
I was born in a great city of lights, where people achieve their dreams by working hard or perhaps their good luck helps them. Unfortunately, as soon as I completed my secondary school education, my mother passed away and one of my widowed aunts took care of me. She had no children of her own.
My dream of being a painter was on the way. I started my career locally as a charcoal caricaturist during my school days, which I could hardly sell for ten to twenty-five Francs. It was not enough for survival. I had to work very hard.
I decided then to travel to the Louvre in Paris and observed that painters were copying the old masters. I brought my tools and paints. Many of the fellow painters were helping me and they also became my mentors. I would always remember them for their kindness and help.
One day, I met Camilla in the Louvre and painted a picture of her in a green dress at the bank of the Seine, which gave me a little recognition. Later, I married her and had two children with her. Sadly, she was not very well after my second child’s birth and soon after passed away. It made me so much depressed and again my dream of becoming a painter was lost somewhere. She was such an influence in my life. It was an unbearable loss. At some point, I even tried to suicide by throwing myself into the river Seine.
Days passed and passed, and it was a real struggle to earn and bring up my children. It was not only the loss of my wife but also the financial crisis I was going through. I was looking for peace; inner and outer. I decided to paint to soothe my heart and soul. I started painting nature. Yes, nature paintings gave me the peace needed and I got closer to God. I found peace in the paintings and it was the start of my blooming career. I painted a series of ‘Water lilies’… one after another. I was so passionate about water lilies that I built the same pond at my property and grew lilies, willows and bamboos. I also built a bridge and added some ducks too!
The whole series gave me worldwide recognition and yes, my dream came true and I became a famous painter standing in the middle of huge crowd!
A group of several workers from the local factory decided to relax by the river in a working – class suburb of London.
The day was extremely warm and it was better to go swimming than to go home straight away. About the time for the sunset, the temperature would be lower so to return home would be bearable.
The fierce heat of the sun was burning everything. These young men could not wait to refresh themselves in the cool water of the river.
After a short walk they found an ideal place in the shade where they put their bags and clothes. They all ran in to the river and enjoyed swimming.
Jack, the fresh starter in the factory, was happy as he had the chance to spend more time with his new colleagues.
After swimming and refreshing some wanted to have a nap and other were talking or reading newspapers.
Jack was woken up by the church bells. He suddenly felt sorry for himself. He really wanted to stay with his friends till dusk. He also had wished to go with them to the nearest restaurant for a glass of beer. But he had promised his wife that he would be home on time. They had planned to go the church with her parents. All of this was boring for him but it meant a lot to his wife.
The question for him was who would be more disappointed that evening: his wife, or him?
Thinking for a brief period, he realised that he might manage both: the drink, and the church.
When all made a move to the restaurant, Jack joined them.
The atmosphere among the young men was very pleasant and Jack had a second and then a third glass of beer. He was late for the church. He would make his spouse angry, he was sure. He started to think about some good excuses for his lateness.
He told a lie to his wife. He could not come home on time as he needed to help his wounded friend from the factory.
Jack said to his wife that his friend Mark had broken his leg while he had been in the river, so Jack had to escort him to hospital and help him to get home.
Jack’s wife was very sympathetic and accepted the excuses from her husband.
In the morning shift a line manger collected all workers to give them really sad news.
Their dear friend Mark had passed away the night before.
Jack felt bad as he thought that, with his lies, he had invited misfortune.
This is it. It's the 21st of October 1805. Captain Whishaw commands his men to fire Starboard. The French fleet on its knees. The captain orders the finishing blow, with all souls alive aboard the HMS Temeraire. It’s the captain's finest hour.
The captain awakes with a bolt, sweat drenching his navy pyjamas both in colour and origin. His moonlit bedsit stinks of tobacco and cheap whiskey. He remembers what the forthcoming day will bring and reaches for the half empty bottle of alcohol on his bedside table. Today is the funeral for the love of his life.
The captain gets himself ready in his Sunday best, drinking as much as he can before falling over. He awakes an hour later, knowing he still has time by the position of the sun in the sky. He heads towards the Thames in a drunken manner, still feeling the effects of his liquid breakfast. The sun’s setting in the Autumnal sky when he bumps into an old friend, Daniel Bond.
“Danny boy!” Whishaw slurs.
The man turns toward him. “You got old,” says Danny.
“You too,” replies the captain. They laugh and embrace, both knowing why they are being reunited.
They simultaneously get a pang in their stomach, and both turn to the horizon. There she is, a shadow of her former self but still so familiar. Both men look on in distance as the pride of their hearts is tugged along unceremoniously to its final destination by something no bigger than a modern-day hatchback.
The two men stand together in silence; a silence filled with knowing and respect. They stare at each other's hand knowing they will likely never cross paths again. They head in separate directions but are both heading towards the same place.
As the captain returns home, he notices a drunk man on the ground outside his door. He recognises him instantly. His older brother, James, had decided to visit: no doubt because he had lost his wage on the horses again. Captain James exclaims as he sees his brother approaching.
“Go home James” said the captain, in a voice so exhausted it barely left his lips. James gets to his feet and dusts himself off.
“I know what today was. I saw it in the paper”.
The captain scoffs “And why would you care. Never did before.” A rage is growing in the captain now. He never connected with his family and nor they with him. The Navy was his home, his family and today was the day he lost it.
“We are here for you” said James but the captain isn't interested. He shoves past his brother and heads for bed.
As he drifts off, his head fills with voices; his family, his friends, his shipmates, former loves that had long time left. His soul can't take it anymore. He reaches for the bottle of Valium prescribed to him by his doctor for his undiagnosed PTSD and swallows the lot, chased by a quarter of the bottle of cheap whiskey he picked up on the way home. As he sleeps away into the eternal darkness, he smiles hoping to be reunited with his one true love.
It was cold. Cold like a knife.
The shadows were chasing him too. Following him around corners. Through hallways. Behind closed doors. Whispering into his ears as he forced his breath to come out softer. Quieter.
It was dark. Night had long since strangled the sun with its spindling fingers, snuffing out the light, as one would with a dying candle. The moonlight was pale and sickly. Spilling through the open window, like a water down a tablecloth. The wind was strong, rattling the lose boards that clung to the house, like a child to a life raft. Tree branches bent and bowed, losing their battle with the ever-growing wind.
Floorboards creaked under padding footsteps. Unwanted footsteps. Footsteps that were creeping through the empty house.
The almost empty house.
How he wished it were truly empty. That there was no one following him. No one stepping over the broken objects. No one avoiding the rusty nails, that jutted from the floor like ragged, broken teeth.
But there was someone there.
And though the man didn’t know much, he knew that each time he moved, shuffled into a shadow, and closed his eyes in hopes he was only dreaming, a floorboard creaked. Loudly. He knew he wasn’t alone. And he knew his hiding place was a painfully obvious one.
He closed his eyes. Darkness. Not the familiar darkness, the warm, soft darkness that reminds you of childhood, but the kind of darkness that’s sharp and piercing and cold. The kind of darkness that wraps around your neck and grips your lungs in a tight squeeze, forcing the air from you in slow, painful steps. The kind of darkness that turns harmless shapes into looming, threatening silhouettes. The kind of darkness that hides a knife. Or a shadow that is slowly but surely approaching.
The man breathed out slowly. Softly. But not softly enough.
For behind the door, the creaking footsteps came to a slow halt.
The man’s eyes widened. He gripped his fingers so tightly his knuckles turned white. He edged up against the wall. His hands scrabbled for something to defend himself with. A lead pipe, a rusted piece of metal, and old, splintering plank of wood. Anything. But alas, his desperate grappling was in vain, for he was met with nothing but air.
And as he looked over to the door, praying and hoping and begging that it wouldn’t happen, it swung open.
The figure stepped forward. In the darkness, it was only a shadow, a wispy silhouette. But then the moonlight appeared once more, and the figure was no longer a shadow. He was very real.
As real as the knife that was clutched in his hand.
I step out of my door and breathe in the fresh air. I head out for my walk in the nearby forest. As I approach, the birds begin to chirp, and the trees rustle, perhaps they are alerting each other that a visitor has arrived.
I walk along the dirt path carved out along the floor, feeling it crush beneath my boots. I can feel my heart quicken as I begin to make my way up a steep incline, wiping the sweat along my forehead. As I reach the top, I see a large rock that will be a perfect place to rest. I sit down, taking a sip of my water. Admiring the large Beech trees that surrounded me, something in the corner of my eye piques my interest. Laying on the ground next to me are some papers. I reach down and pick them up, wiping away some dirt, I read the title: The Waves. It seems to be a story of some kind. I decide to read it.
It begins with a man walking along a beach in an unnamed place. He seems to be in deep thought, contemplating his life with his wife simply named as Wife. As he walks along the beach, listening to the waves crashing along the shoreline he acknowledges the resemblance between the crashing waves on top of the sand and his relationship with his controlling wife who would lure him into the water just to drag him under.
I get drawn into the story, feeling the man’s pain as if he was me and I him. Even the forest seems to have fallen silent.
The man is pondering whether he should stay or leave his wife. He stops to stare out at the ocean. It’s dark and the sea is lit only by the moon that shines above. He smells the salt in the air as a cold breeze wraps around him. He thinks of when he first met his wife at this very beach, when she accidentally hit him with a beachball. That was the first time he had fallen in love.
A smudge of mud blocks the rest of the story. I try and rub it away, but it only seems to make it worse as it blocks off this man’s life. I must know what happened. What did he decide to do? Surely, he should just leave. Right? Although they had had such a beautiful connection at first. I see a signature at the bottom of the page that simply says, ‘K. M.’. I must know who this is. I must know how the story ends.
I fold the papers and shove them into my pocket and head back down the path. The trees begin to shake as the birds call out for the author of this mysterious story. Maybe I should document my own journey, so another may one day read it. No, who would read that? It would be nothing compared to the pages in my pocket.
Andi woke to a bloodcurdling scream. Their eyes flew open, and their heart raced with a mixture of fear and adrenaline. As the echoes of the scream faded away, Andi reached for the nearest object they could find for protection. Their hand closed around the cool metal of a hockey stick that had been resting against their chest of drawers. It was a familiar weight in their hand, but this time it wasn't just sports equipment, now it was the only weapon they had. Andi's stomach churned as they realised that the scream had come from within the house. They tried to steady their breathing, but their heart rate continued to soar. The feeling of dread intensified, like the sensation of being on a rollercoaster with no control, but this wasn't a moment of excitement or thrill. This was pure, unadulterated fear. Andi had never heard a noise like that before, and they tried to control their thoughts, fearing the worst. They hoped it was just their mum being clumsy, dropping the frying pan as she tried to make Andi’s birthday pancakes. Though Andi knew in their heart it wasn’t the sound of a clumsy mistake.
With trembling hands, Andi gripped their hockey stick tightly. Their senses were on high alert, every nerve in their body primed for action. As they crept forward, their breathing shallow and quick, Andi's mind raced with the possibilities of what might be waiting for them. Whatever it was, Andi was about to face it head-on, with an ice hockey stick as their only defence. Andi was either being very brave or very stupid.
The door to the living room was ajar, and from the gap, Andi could see that something was wrong. A vine of green leaves and thorns had snaked its way through the window, breaking the glass and tearing the frame to pieces. The vine was thick and seemed to be pulsing with energy, as if it had a life of its own, winding and twisting like a serpent. Its thorns were sharp and menacing, ready to strike at any moment. It had made its way deep into the living room, coiling around the furniture and tearing it apart. The curtains hung in tatters, and the carpet was ripped up in places.
Andi's eyes swept across the room, trying to assess the damage that had been done. But their heart stopped when they saw the lifeless body of their mother lying on the ground. One of the vines had erupted through her chest, leaving a gaping hole where her heart should have been. They felt as though they were in a nightmare, a cruel and twisted dream that they couldn't wake up from. Eventually, Andi's legs gave out from under them, and they crumpled to the ground beside their mother's body. They clutched at her shirt, burying their face in the fabric as sobs wracked their body. In that moment, all they could do was mourn the loss of their mother.
I continued to sip my coffee as he choked to death on my kitchen floor. It was bitter - both the coffee and the look on his face.
Bet that caught you off guard, huh? It’s not every day you open up a book and the first line you read is a guy choking to death. He deserves it, though, but I won’t elaborate on why - you’re just going to have to trust me on that.
Trust. Hah. It’s a funny thing. It can take so long for people to trust others, sometimes its months and sometimes its years, but it can be broken so quickly and then that pain stays with you for the rest of your life.
The pain turns into regret. Regret for being so stupid, for letting someone inside your head and giving them the most vulnerable parts of you, just for them to crush it in their hands and let the dust fly away.
Regret turns into anger, and anger more often than not warrants revenge. You want the person who betrayed you to suffer, for nothing but the worst possible things in life to come their way. But good people, unlike myself, never act on these thoughts and are happy to just let karma do its thing.
I am not one of those people.
I suppose I’ve already told you why there’s a guy choking on his own blood on my kitchen floor now, even though I said I wouldn’t. I’m trusting you with this information, so don’t tell anyone, alright?
There’s something beautiful about watching a person’s life slip away from them. Call me sadistic, I may very well be, but watching the serenity wash over their face as all of life’s worries and problems no longer apply to them, is a beautiful thing. The way I see it, I’m actually helping him out.
He didn’t lead a good life anyway, by anyone’s standards. Dead end job, no kids, no hobbies, and the only thing he really had going for him was his wife - an aspiring author with big dreams. Yep, you guessed it, that’s me.
So it definitely came as a shock to me when he didn’t return home at 5:30pm sharp from work as he does everyday, but rather 12 hours later reeking of alcohol and regret. The guilt was all over his face. I don’t have to tell you what he did.
There’s sirens wailing not too far from here now. I’ve finished my coffee so I suppose I should get on with figuring out what I’m going to do with his body. Maybe I’ll put his head on a stick and have it as decoration..
The sirens have stopped. Right outside. You told them, didn’t you? You phoned the police and told them what I did. After I told you about what happens to people who break my trust. Your treachery will not be forgotten, dear reader.
I hope karma finds you before I do.
Cascading screams bounced between walls. Pent-up frustration scratching from the throats of the prisoners – hands clawing at the air through rusty bars.
Then there was him.
Perched where the walls meet, sheltered in the corner of his cell. Bare feet dirty and cold, the same bitterness biting at his fingertips as he grabbed and itched and squeezed at his restless kneecaps.
Icy eyes glittered with anguish as he gently rocked back and forth like an uncomfortable child. Tugging habitually at unruly curls, he tilted his head back.
It hadn’t always been this way...
“Can I have a go, Dad?” He questioned; bright eyes gazed up at his father. The older man tore the cigarette from between his withered lips and flicked it absentmindedly at his son’s torso.
“You’re too young, Markus. You know you’re not allowed to touch my guns.”
The boy trembled under the heavy sensation sprinkling across his heart.
“What did I say, boy?!” His father roared, his arm pulled back and landing a harsh slap to his son’s temple. Markus’ palm launched to his face. Pulsing. Beating. A second heartbeat.
“I’m sorry, Dad.” He brokenly cried. His mind was a whirlpool of floating ideas as his eyes caught sight of the discarded handgun sat atop his father’s bag. Inky black metal called to him.
“Grab my stuff. Come on.”
Markus rushed to his feet, flailing to his father’s belongings. He stopped. Summer sun blazed over the delicate weapon. His hesitant hand gripped the warm handle. Power was addictive.
And Markus was hooked.
Swiftly he lifted his pale arm and pointed the nose of the gun towards his father, the puppet-master. The strings around Markus were tugging and pulling and yanking him back.
“Hurry up!” His father snapped. He jumped into action – ready to serve, the weapon in his grip restraining him. Eyebrows furrowed, lips pursed, eyes fixated on the target.
A soft thud echoed into his ears; a twisted, sick and sadistic smirk carved into his face.
Markus kneeled beside the lifeless body of his father. A gnarled hole was painted crimson on the back of his head. The flaming sun shot waves to Markus’ neck as he admired the corpse – sweat beading down his forehead.
So hot. Yet his heart developed a layer of frost that chilled him to the bone. His muscles cold; but full of an aching eagerness to feel the sensation of power. The new puppet-master.
It wasn’t until four winters had passed before he was caught.
The killer tore his eyes from the ceiling to the guard unlocking the metal barred door. A cruel smile painted onto Markus’ face as he stood, his gut rolled in a sickening mix of guilt and anger. His teeth nipped the inside of his cheek.
He may have been the puppet-master, but he lacked the strings.
“I’ll thread you.” He whispered, glaring knives into the guard’s back. The hard-faced man turned.
“What did you say?”
Tentatively gazing, tongue in cheek, Markus shook his head.
He ran through the woods as the ooze followed in pursuit “please help somebody” he shouted in peril, his body shivering from fear, his forehead dripping with sweat. Out of nowhere an arrow shot in front of the ooze stopping it in its tracks, a voice shouted from the trees “jasper what are you doing this is training and yet your running away from an enemy that can't even run” jasper cried “ I am sorry father this won't happen again I swear” jasper slowly stood and faced the ooze, his body stopped shaking as he grabbed the dagger from his belt and pointed at the ooze getting ready to attack.
10 years later
Jasper wakes up in a sweat hearing cannon balls firing in the distance, he jumped out of bed putting his uniform on and running out of his tent to a dark battlefield the only light from cannon fire as men screamed in pain jasper ran up to his second in command Arthur “what's going on?” he shouted. Arthur looked at him “sir the ooze broke through the barricades the cannon fire was holding them back but…” Arthur explained before being cut off by jasper “I understand get the men on horse back and get ready to charge make sure to keep the cannon fire going”, Arthur looked at jasper and nodded as he passed him his pocket watch and sword Jasper got onto his horse riding it into battle with 50 men behind him. He chopped through the ooze with ease as the men around him fell as Jasper looked around him a cannon ball hit right next to him he fell onto the ground unconscious. He woke up in a hospital bed as he looked around him seeing doctors surrounded he looked around him “what is going on” Jasper exclaimed the doctors stayed silent until one stood up “Sir Jasper i am afraid you took a hit from a cannonball the cannonball fragmented and i am sorry to say we had too cut off your arm” he said softly Jasper looked at him as he got up walking over to his coat and taking out his pocket watch.
As I slowly approached the bright and sunny island that I had decided to explore for the day I noticed a small hole in the side of the boat which caused my boat to start to take on water causing it to slowly sink. Just as I made it to the island my boat sank completely leaving me stranded and with no connection to anyone on the mainland.
I stood silently on the sand filled beach of the large island. Slowly I began to panic as I only had limited food and drink that was meant to last just one day. After a few minutes I began to calm down and think about ways to survive until someone eventually found me. Beginning my search, I looked around the island for both food and something drinkable. After many hours I found coconuts which thankfully contained drinkable water. A little longer later I managed to find some mangoes and pineapples. Slowly the island began to darken causing the trees to look like menacing creatures in the bright moonlight. I decided that it would be best to create some form of shelter as I had no clue what the weather was going to throw at me during the night. Eventually I was able to laydown and have a rest. Under the shelter of leaves I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable. I woke the next morning felling unrested from the awful night sleep. I decided to continue looking around to see if there was anything I could use to signal to overpassing planes that I was here. Looking around the island I noticed that there were tall green palm trees and lots of yellow sand everywhere I went.
After countless days of walking aimlessly around the island day after day I noticed a boat making its way towards the island. Hurriedly I ran to the edge of the sandy beach waving my hands in the air to try and get their attention. HELP! I yelled. Being heard the driver of the boat got to the island and parked their boat. Excitedly I explained my situation and asked if they would take me back to the mainland. They agreed to help me taking me home. Finally I was saved.
The booming bass matched the thumping rhythm of my heartbeat as I clutched my glass in a death grip, threatening to shatter it in my palm. I surveyed the room like a cat searching for its prey.
From here I could see the whole club, from the crowded dancefloor, packed full of idiots whose biggest worry in life was tomorrow’s hangover, all the way to the upper balcony that housed the V.I.P section, where the idiots who had a bit more cash acted superior.
As for myself, I’d been sitting at the bar nursing the same drink for over two hours, steadily growing more and more tense.
I was waiting for someone, and he was late…
Becoming restless, I grabbed the phone I was carrying today. It was a nondescript little thing, plain black with no adornment or personalisation, a burner if ever there was one.
I tapped away on it, never fully moving my attention away from the club’s entrance, until I pulled up a picture of the man I was waiting for.
In that moment, as if summoned, I saw him at the door speaking with a member of security.
Quickly, I sent a message to the only contact in this phone, an anonymous, private number.
‘TARGET SIGHTED. PROCEED?’
The response came almost immediately.
I moved swiftly, slinking my way into the crowd, heading for the entrance as a shadow amid strobe lights.
I watched as my target was led upstairs, past the velvet rope and into the V.I.P lounge, clutching a black briefcase in his hand, knuckles white from the tightness of his grip.
He was tense, with good reason too.
One look at the bouncers manning the rope told me that I wouldn’t make it past them. I’d need a different route, one with less eyes on it, less scrutiny.
I managed to find just the thing I needed, a staff door on the other side of the dancefloor, slipping through when nobody was looking.
When you go ‘behind the scenes’ in a place like this, it’s like entering another world. The bright, chaotic display of neon and strobe lights give way to steady, even industrial lighting and the ever-present rhythm is dulled to a point where you merely HEAR it rather than FEEL it.
Reaching the V.I.P area, I began searching for my quarry, finding him alone in a private booth, hidden from the rest of the room.
Like I said, V.I.P idiots.
After ‘dealing with him’, I took the briefcase and fled through a fire escape, descending to street level and my getaway car.
Later in the day, I met with my employers, a trio of men in black, dark suits and grim expressions. They took the briefcase, inspected its contents and dismissed me with a curt nod and the promise of payment.
I never saw what was in the briefcase. I didn’t need to. That isn’t what I’m paid for.
I get paid to solve problems.
I don’t ask questions.
I was swimming in the flowing currents of the sea on a brilliant, clear and warm summer’s day, when suddenly I was caught in a net. I felt fear and dread as my parents had warned me about these.
The net was abruptly hauled out of the sea and I was trapped with other crabs who were mute with fear and shock. We were thrown in a big boat with a very loud engine. I knew that we were in big trouble and faced a scary future, but you humans know all about that so enough said! I tried to speak to the other crabs saying we must try to escape or face death by being boiled alive. They were still mute with fear.
I anxiously waited for my opportunity to escape. The boat ride seemed to go on for ever, then suddenly it stopped and we were hauled up in the net again. I heard humans taking and could see a big truck (I thought here we go). Suddenly we were on the truck with lots of other nets full of crabs.
We were driven along a bumpy road. A large seafood restaurant loomed on the horizon ahead. I started snapping with my big claws trying to fight my way out but to no avail.
Then my biggest fear came true. We were taken to a busy kitchen and I could see the big boiling pot from my worst nightmares (death loomed!).
I waited a while desperately trying to work out how to escape. I suddenly saw a small hole in the net and used my claws to make it bigger. By luck I got out and fell to the floor. Moving very quickly, I could see my exit -the door was open. Bitter-sweet, I realised I had left my friends to face their deaths. I scuttled off, crossing a road and dodging cars.
Then suddenly I saw a human coming towards me. Fear and dread returned! The human picked me up, placed me in a soft cloth and carried me down the road. I began to realise the human was either trying to save me or eat me! The human took me to their house, music was playing and I saw a kitchen (the feelings of dread intensified).
Then suddenly I was put in a clear box and taken to a car. Through the window I caught a faint smell of the sea air. Was I really going to be set free? The car suddenly stopped, the door opened and I could hear the gentle crashing of the waves and smell the saltiness of the sea.
The human walked down to the shoreline, opened up the box and released me. I scurried into the sea as fast as my legs could carry me and felt the slimy seaweed on my pincers. As I turned and looked back at my rescuer, I knew this would be a fine tale to tell the others.
‘Hey baby! I’ve just left work so I’ll be home around 6, see you soon, I love you’. ‘See you soon baby, I love you.’ I shakenly reply. A stream of tears comes cascading down my bright red cheeks, crashing onto the bench. I’m frozen onto like a statue. Emotionless. Staring a hole in the reddish sky, peaking over the ocean.
All I can think about is your smile while your head was in my hand, giving me those puppy dog eyes that I could never say no to. Your smile that I would split this planet in two for, just to see a glimpse of. Your eyes were the most beautiful blue I have ever seen, so much so that I could happily stare into them for eternity. Just your present was the greatest gift the world has ever given me. You never failed to put a smile on my face, even at my lowest.
The blistering January wind hurtles through me, chilling me to the bone, but I care not. I just stare, into the sky. My mind now changed to being completely blank, the only thing moving is my hair that’s fluttering in the wind. I look down at my phone, thinking you will call or message me again, but I know it will never happen.
It’s been a little over two days since we separated, yet these forty-eight hours have felt like an eon. Two days since I last looked into your eyes, not knowing it was the last. Two days since you tore my heart in two but trying to justify it with ‘you need time to work on yourself’, as you, my whole world, leaves my life, seemingly without remorse.
‘Hey baby! I’ve just left work so I'll be home around 6, see you soon, I love you’. ‘I love you too. Can’t wait to see you’, I whisper to myself for the last time. I slump my head knowing that listening to the message over and over will never change it. I almost feel like every time I listen to your voice, you’ll say something different. You’ll say my name, just one more time, but I know it will never happen, just like I’ll never have your head in my hand again, I’ll never have your eyes staring into mine again. I’ll never have… you ever again.
There are no limits to what I would do to have you in my arms again, no battle I wouldn’t win, no obstacle I wouldn’t overcome, but there’s nothing I can do, there no fights I can battle in, no obstacles for me to overcome. This was your choice, not mine. All I can do… is let you go.
Goodbye El. May your work on yourself pay off, I wish you all the best. I’ll never stop caring about you.
‘Hey baby! I’ve just left work so… Message deleted’.
Deep within the globe, filled with tiny flakes of cotton snow, lives a world of your imagination. Grand expanses of flourishing flower fields far and far as the eye can see, or forests as tall as the sky with winding branches. What is it you see within this small globe of snow?
High upon a mountain peak, the sun can be seen slowly sinking behind the great expanse of hills from our eye, with strands of amber and gold within the skies as the dark slowly pushes it away. As the night settled in, with sparkling stars to fill the absent night, you might find yourself in that brief moment of calm. Subtle breezes from the mountain will come and go, but the hope deep within keep your spirits warm.
Deep within the forest, winding branches that twist and wrap around one another, holding each other as they slowly grow taller. A child, filled to the brim with joy as they venture, unwavering many secrets hidden within each of the thin trunks and joyous eyes with a sparkle of excitement as each of these mysterious treasures they find.
Valleys of flowers in full bloom, reaching as far as the eye can see. A vibrant field of endless colour that hides away even the slightest trickle of doubt and despair, mending the heart of those who give even a glance to their purity.
Grand expanses filled with every animal and creatures you can think of, all living in perfect harmony. Some darting through the grass and enjoying their days, others feast upon critters that life would see oppose.
These are all sights of pure joy and peace, the visions I see with each handle of the globe we hold. The stories that expand the imagination as a finite plain to near infinite.
So, I leave this globe for you. Place your hands upon it and allow your mind to wander through a world yet to live. These are what gives hope for me, but what for you my wayward child?
He looked ghastly; I've never seen a man stand so still. His eyes followed mine. A face plastered with horror gawked in disbelief, as frigid as when our eyes first met. We were both in our underwear.
The sink was covered in blood, and a gory scene materialized beneath me. A grim and singular finger lay dying. Its obscurity wasn't fully comprehended at first. Why had this fiend committed such a devilish act in my bathroom. However, it was my own hand that was always the arch-traitor.
Our movements failed to mirror a man whose finger had been severed, but the bile that sat wavering in my throat warned me not to look down. Steadily my eyes despaired to look at the appendage and was met with a more perplexing mystery than the disregarded finger.
Yes, a finger had been removed, but blood wasn't escaping like a collapsed dam drowning the bathroom, as the sink would lead you to believe. In fact, the now absent pinkie was sown neatly at the knuckle and seemed to be healing quite nice. The real questions arises when my missing digit didn't match the one in the sink.
Again, I found myself gawking at the stranger in front of me. We shared a face, yet I did not know this man. I want to ask if there's 8 other fingers stashed around the apartment. Did my toes follow the same massacre of the hand? Why did you take all my clothes from my closet?
Me and the index staired at each other dumbly as if we were both waiting for an answer. I knew a response had to come from my own mouth, but the finger didn't know that. For some reason it felt like the flesh was going through more emotional turmoil than myself. Possibly from the man of whom this belonged to, but the idea of limb gaining sentience felt better.
Looking around the bathroom I began to notice how cold the morning was. The tiles were coated in a thin layer of morning dew and framed the warm white whisps of air leaving my mouth. He must have left the window open. It was almost abnormally cold though, like the air was fresh with that raw, winter grasp.
There was no blood anywhere else other than the sink. The bathroom wasn't big. If there was a struggle there was no sign of it. An image flashed through my mind of me fighting to get an arm (attached to a man) over the sink as he frantically pulled away. My grip was bruisingly brutal as I took the scissors to his pointer finger.
So it was scissors.
You see dear reader; this isn't the first time I've had to debunk the mystery of what I have done. That memory was not gospel but still holds minor truth. The bathroom displays no sign of attack, so the setting is completely disingenuous. However why would the first thought be scissors and not a knife?