Rock and River

You keep asking me what changed.  Is that your question of the week, or something?  Why didn’t I want to keep running for my life, changing towns, changing identities every time things got hard?  Why didn’t I want to keep up my lonely, scared existence?  Good question, lady.  Tough one, isn’t it?

I’ll tell you, alright.  It was a lot of things.  It was the way the university campus looked nice no matter what the weather was, the kind lady next door who kept wanting to invite me over to dinner, the cat that always scratched against the windowsill, the trees in the garden, the rent on the apartment, my reflection in the mirror, that time I made a girl cry, the dream I had the night before.  I’ll start with the dream.

It started out and I was in the city, running.  Running towards the outskirts, like always.  Then I was out of the city and I felt relieved, but I thought I might not be far enough so I kept going.  I came to a big river with forest all around it.  All the city noises were gone, even though I hadn’t really gone very far.  There was only the wind in the trees and the sounds of birds and insects.  Nothing sounding like voices.  That was nice.  I thought I could stay there maybe, but it was still too close.  I was afraid that if I climbed a tree or something then I would be able to see skyscrapers somewhere on the edge of the forest.  So I built myself a raft out of wood and vines.  It didn’t take very long and when I took it out to the river it stayed afloat.  Before I climbed aboard I took off my shoes and my shirt and rolled up the bottoms of my jeans.  Became a new person, sort of, without all those clothes, trying to look fashionable or whatever.  Then I got on the raft and floated down the river.

There was sun keeping me warm and I could collect fruits from trees overhanging the river to eat, cup water in my palms to drink.  My hands became all sandy and brown from clutching the wood of the raft all the time.  I rubbed this brown all over my face, my chest, my arms.  Somehow I felt cleaner that way.  I was there for a couple of days, just floating down the river.  I was never hungry, never worried.  I slept in the sun or stretched out like a cat sometimes.  I loved the motion of the raft on the river.

I watched as the landscape around me slowly changed.  I had drifted out of the forest, into bushland where the river was smaller and the muddy banks around me were slippery and steep.  Then the banks became baked rock with perfect footholds, canyon-like and full of shapes.  The forest noises of insects and birds and wind in the trees had gone.  There was nothing except the sound of the river.  Every sound I made echoed and echoed.

I left my raft made in the forest.  It didn’t fit there and I didn’t want to travel any more.  There was a place where I knew I wanted to stay.  There, the river joined another river.  I had heard that river for a while, sometimes seeing glimpses of it snaking through the landscape.  And now this was the place where it joined me, in front of a triangular slice of rock.  There was a flat space on top where I could lie in the sun.  There was a little nook below where I could shelter from the rain.  All around me was water.  I could see for miles.  What did I see?  Nothing.  Nothing but baked rock, maybe a few trees in the distance.  I could yell and the sound would travel for miles and miles and no one, not a single person, would hear it.  I did yell.  I shouted and screamed as loud as I could.  I sang and I yelled meaningless, gibberish words.  Things I’d never said before.  Things I never planned to say.  I shouted and I sang because I was alone, more alone than I ever had been before.  More alone than I could ever be in real life.

I built a fire on a bed of twigs and dried leaves.  I burnt branches and watched the embers travel, the sparks swarm in a cloud when I blew on them.  I compared their light with the light of the stars in the sky.  I couldn’t tell which I liked more.  I slept curled around my dying fire, feeling its warmth on my belly like a feeling inside of it, some emotion I couldn’t understand.

In the morning I admired the mist on the river and broke off shards of rock to throw and watch disappear without a sound.  I dipped my feet into the mist and liked how soft and cool it felt.  I played with it in my fingertips and made animal sounds to hear them echo.  I painted my face with dirt and laughed to imagine what my reflection might look like.  No one to see.  No one to care.

When the midday sun came out, bright and strong, I bombed into the river and let it wash the dirt from me, tug at me like playful hands, rip at my jeans, comb my matted hair.  I loved the feeling of the water on my eyelids.  Then I opened my eyes under the water and watched the mandala of the sun on the ripples above me.  I think it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  I didn’t want to share it.  I wanted to keep it mine.  It was my secret.

I lay myself out to dry on the flat rock, let the sun brown my skin and bleach my hair.  Then I climbed and climbed and felt the strong muscles pulsing underneath my skin.  I crossed the left river and explored the land, running up mounds of dirt, sprinting across bushy scrubland, eating my fill.  Then I crossed the river again and fell asleep on the warm, flat stone.  When I awoke it was night and I told stories to the stars in the sky.  I tried to tell them about my past life, but they didn’t believe me.  I didn’t believe myself.

But then one day someone else floated down the river.  She came from the opposite side and she had made a raft just like I had.  Her skin was browned and her face was covered with the juice of fruit she had just eaten.  She climbed onto the rock and met me there.  We spoke a little.  My words were disjointed and I couldn’t remember how to say much.  Even when I’d practiced to the stars, I hadn’t used normal words.  I couldn’t remember a lot, but I think she understood.  She said she couldn’t remember much from her past life either.  So we didn’t talk about that.

She had very dark hair.  Still some clothes, all tattered like my old jeans.  She spoke in a low voice.  A quiet voice.  We didn’t ask each other’s names.  What use was a name?  I was boy.  She was girl.  Names wouldn’t have meant a thing to us.

I told her she was beautiful.  That was the first thing I said.  Then she shook her head and said her face was too bony, too many pimples, her mouth was too big.  I said no.  She touched my face and she said I was beautiful.  I sort of realised I’d forgotten what beautiful looked like.  I had really old memories of bad haircuts and picking at pimples in the mirror.  But my face was smooth to her touch.  I must have changed, become a different person, morphed in appearance somehow.  She said she thought she recognised me from somewhere.  From somewhere in the forest or the muddy bushland, perhaps.

There was nothing to teach her.  She knew it all already.  She knew how to talk to the stars and how to see the mandala in the river.  We told each other stories.  In her eyes, I saw the sparks from the fire.  I don’t know what she saw in mine.  One day it rained and we sat together under a ceiling of rock with our hands clasped, watching as a pale screen of water tipped from the ledge above us.  We let our feet catch the rain and wash off the dirt and dust, cool the hardened blisters.  I felt the touch of her hand on mine.  I knew nothing of her except girl.  She knew nothing of me except boy.  There wasn’t anything else to know.  There weren’t any words and there didn’t have to be.  She asked if I was alone before.  I said no.  Alone only has meaning when you remember there are other people out there, somewhere.  Secretly I hoped no one else would ever come to disturb us.  No one ever did.

She lay next to me when we slept under the stars.  I shared my fire with her, but we had our own warmth and didn’t need its heat.

I remembered something from the past one night.  Something about other people and danger.  I woke because I was scared.  And when I woke she clasped my hand and listened to my confused words.  And she helped me remember that now we were the only ones.  No one else belonged to this world, our world of rock and river.  It was only ours to share with each other.  So I went back to sleep and didn’t dream of the past, but of her and of the river.

But it was only a dream.  And when I awoke, the world hurt, it hurt so much.

When I awoke, I felt the light filtering in through the smudged window and it was cold and grey.  Only hours had passed, only hours.  I reached across and could not find the hand of the girl.  She was gone.  She never had been there.  Maybe if she had been there, but then gone away, I might have felt better.  But she never existed, never existed at all.  The rock and the river and the forest, the mud and the sun.  It was never there and I never lived that life.

I couldn’t work out what was real, at first.  I sat there, on my hard bed, not even able to look up at the grey light coming in through the window.  I heard the city, I heard the people next door, I heard my own angry breaths.  Swallowed salt water, rubbed at my face with shaking fists.  Sat for a while, for a very long time, like I do sometimes when I’m having a really bad day.  But eventually I got up and I washed and dressed and shaved and made my little bed in that cramped apartment.  I kept my eyes to the ground all day and I didn’t speak to anyone.  I did the right thing, I did what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t look at anyone, I didn’t meet anyone, made no friends, found no lovers.  So I’d never have to leave again, never have to get hurt again.

So, you asked me what changed my mind.  The dream helped.  Someone said something I can’t remember once, about dreaming in colour.  I dreamed that dream in colour, so then I realised that my world was grey.  And after that, I suppose, then I realised I couldn’t run away any more.  So I didn’t.

 

BELOW: this song helped me write it.  Basically on repeat in the background.  Bon Iver is great.

Advertisements

Dirt Words and Dust Words

It stopped afta you left, love.  Afta everyone left, but ‘specially afta you an’ Joe went off.  You don’ know what it was like, yeah, after seein’ you’s off at the gate.  The whine as the gate closes and the warm metal in my hand.  Then yer old battered Toyota kicks up a helluva lotta dust so for a bit I imagine it was all justa dust storm and not you goin’ away at all.  But then I turn back to the house and walk the way without ya.  The wind is all cakin’ dust on my face, but I go ta check on the animals anyhow.  All they a-doin’ was dyin’ in a ditch.  Ain’t nothin’ left to do.

So I goes back inside.  Turns on the radio.  We ain’t never got no TV out here, not even after you left.  You goes into the other towns and they nothin’ but papery wood houses and old border collies with even older owners, but they got these telegraph poles, and those wires above them, they is all parallel lines and criss-crosses.  Like it’s all mathematical or somethin’.  There ain’t nothin’ mathematical here.  No criss-crossin’ parallel lines.  An’ when you feed your cattle an’ milk em and look after them nice an’ good, they still go on a-lyin’ down and dyin’ at yer feet.  Ya think ya know ‘ow life works.  Then ya come out here an’ it’s like ya born again.  Everythin’ to learn and ya neva know the answers.  Yer’ll be in drought for five er so years, hard, earthy drought, so hard ya can feel it through yer boots.  Then straight outa that grey ol’ sky’ll come somethin’ you never expected.

I’m a-listenin’ to the radio, hearin’ static an’ old music they played at our graduation, love.  Tha’s when a dapplin’ sort of sound hit the roof.  It’s like the sound the metal makes right in tha middle of the day, like it’s crackin’ same as the dry ol’ earth.  But it was headin’ to evening now and the sun is just a bright spot between the hills, so it wasn’t that.

I could remember rain, yeah.  But I remember it real different.  When I think ‘o rain, I see it on glass windows an’ when we were kids we used ta chase the droplets with our fingers til’ ol’ ma says we’ll make the windows all dirty.  I think maybe there’s rain a-comin’, but it makes me think ‘o glass windows an’ we never had no glass windows.

When I was a teen we used ta go on cruisin’ through these streets and all the while ma brain imaginin’ stealin’ from those shops afta dark, takin’ beer, takin’ money, takin’ condoms.  ‘Cos they never had no windows, it woulda bin easy.  But we never did.  Then tha’ shopowner, he said tha no windows was bad for business ‘cos when the wind was up, the merchandise come flyin’ off the shelves.  So he left.  Then the big ol’ Greek man with the shop nexta him said ‘is business was all bad ‘cos no one come for the general store no more.  So he left too.

It’s like the rain, yeah.  Once it’s a-started, it ain’t stoppin’ any time soon.  In a coupla week’s time, there ain’t no one left.  Only me an’ you an’ Joe.  Then ya left and the rain come.  Only me an’ the rain in this ol’ town now.

I’m a-sittin’ in the corner of that crappy tin-roofed hut we used as a home.  The sun ain’t out no more and I ‘ave to get up to light the lamp, but I don’.  It gets darker an’ darker and tha’ patterin’ sound on the roof gets heavier and heavier.  The crickets are singin’, cos it’s a warm night, yeah.  There’s me an’ there’s the rain sound and there’s the crickets.  We’s the only ones left.

Then the rain, it seeps in through tha’ empty window socket.  It comes a little bit at first, like someone left a hose up on the sill once it’s bin turned off.  Then it comes more an’ more.  The rain’s getting’ right heavy out there, I thinks to myself.  Can hear it splashin’ itself in the puddles.  Can’t see nothin’ though, except tha’ stream of water comin’ in where the window oughta be.  I can smell it now, it’s all fresh, like what you think those waterparks on billboards oughta smell like.  All clean like.  Probly tastes that way too.  Not like the stuff that used ta come through our taps, that’s sat in a tank for all those stinkin’ hot days.  I feel like walkin’ out there an’ openin’ my mouth and feelin’ it pool up in there and hit my eyes and my nose.  Neva felt so clean in ma life.

But I don’.  I sit there.  Radio’s lost its signal by now.  Lamp’s not bin lighted.  Stomach’s a grumblin’ cos I ain’t eaten.  And tha’ rain comin’ down the window sill like a little waterfall, reachin’ down onta the tiled floor and swampin’ into those little cracks you could neva get the dirt outa, love.  There’s little puddles and they bigger now an’ bigger still.  They join up with one another an’ there’s one right at me feet.  I ain’t wearin’ proper shoes, my feet gonna get soaked right through.  Can’t hardly see now, but I can ‘ear that water comin’ closer and closer.  I ain’t sittin’ in no chair, I got ma backside on the tiles cos they’re cool in the warm weather, but I’m gonna be drenched by the time this rain stops.  But it ain’t neva stoppin’.  On the roof, it’s like a drummin’ sound, those songs that neva end, keepin’ pretty good time too.  Like Joe’s fat little fingers on the car dashboard and ya told ‘im off for makin’ too much noise.  Joe wouldn’t neva believe it if he were here.  I should be out there a-takin’ pictures or somethin’.  Ain’t got no camera.  Anyhow, I just sit there an’ watch the water poolin’ all around me.

Gets pretty late.  Can’t get up now, it’s all surroundin’ me.  Don’t wanna get ma feet wet.  So I go to sleep in tha’ corner, with ma backside on the tiles an’ the sound ‘o Joe’s fat fingers in ma brain.

When I wake up again, there ain’t no more rain.  All around me the water’s seepin’ back inta the tiles.  Ruinin’ the foundations, most likely.  Ain’t gonna sell this place to nobody anyway.  There’s still a drippin’ sound where the water comes off the window sill an’ hits the tiles.  Sounds strange.  I move about.  I’m so cramped up I’m groanin an’ yawnin’ all over the place.  I get up and look around me.  The place is just about empty.  I take a few clothes and ma toothbrush and ma good shoes and ma shotgun.  Walk out to the ol’ stationwagon and load ma things inta the back, cept the shotgun.  Then I go round to the paddock out the back.  Three sheep left.  They all lyin’ down.  I check ‘em and we really only got two now.  But then I let ‘em go.  Harder to die of starvation, anyhow.  They went quick an’ some fox’ll thank its lucky stars for me.  Then I throw ma shotgun down next to ‘em.  Don’ want it no more, an’ I know you’ll say I shoulda taken it to sell, but I didn’, yeah.  Then I go back to tha’ ol’ car and I drive off down the road.  Don’ close the gate.  Left wide open, yeah, as if I’m a-waitin’ for someone.  But I ain’t.  Nobody gonna come here no more.

So I go away, leavin’ ma house with all the water on the floor an’ its open gate an’ all the mud where there used ta be broken ol’ earth.

Drive on an’ nobody believes me when I say I saw rain.  Pubowner tells me I must be drunk already an’ I won’t serve ya no drink, matey, not when ya like that.  So I goes on.  Goin’ to the city, yeah, that’s where we goin’ meet again.

You can tell Joe Daddy saw himself some rain, or you can keep quiet ‘cos ya don’ believe me.  I’d keep quiet too if I was you.

I’ll see ya soon, yeah.

 

INSPIRATION: my boyfriend asked me to write a story about windows.  So I wrote a story where there were no windows.

Thunderstorm in Antarctica

They’re like waves, yeah.  Great white waves stopped afore they can break.  And when you stand there, alone, your shadow is the only black for miles.  Until the clouds come over, then everythin’ turns black.  You can’t use your eyes.  An’ all your equipment ain’t makin’ you see either.  You gotta use your ears, nose, the tips of yer fingers.  It’s hot, the rain, that’s how you smell it.  You remember how thunder sounds, but it might be the groanin’ of the ice.  The wind whistles an’ it’s like a wolf’s howl.  It’s a warm wind, yeah, but yer shiverin’.  Then there’s a noise comin’ from all around.  You can’t see, but yer guessin’ it’s the rain.  The smell comes a right inter yer nostrils.  Yer takin’ big gulps ‘cos it reminds ya of home.  An’ the little noises all around ya, they ain’t little no more.  They is poundin’ like footsteps on an icy doormat.  “The rain’s come ta visit, ma.”  There’s lightnin’ to give ya light, so yer can see the cracks in a runnin’ race at yer feet.   An’ miles away a great big needle o’ ice does a dive inter tha ocean below.

BELOW: song I was listening when suddenly had inspiration.  Does this not remind you of a thunderstorm building in momentum?

Nuts & Bolts

If the human mind is all we are

And our bodies are simply machines to our will,

We must be controllers at the wheel of

The greatest invention in the world

But one day, these controllers will become tired of controlling.

They will stroll out of their machine prisons

To see the world without bars and bolts and

Metal limbs and ligaments to obscure their visions.

They will walk and walk.

They are looking for an origin.

Where did

WE

Come from

?

I Dream Better When I’m Awake

What say you?Why aren’t I allowed to sleep?
Leave me.
This world is not real.

The wind battles against the window panes
But the cold still seeps in
So we battle it with fire which sits in the grate
But the smoke we want not so we
Battle it with a chimney and it
Protrudes out into the sky and
Is sent up to God to
Battle with.
This world is not real.

I have a fierce animal by my side
With a snarl eternally,
His face cracked in half.
One day it pounced but
Was killed by a shot and now
It lies here next to me
And my children rub their
Faces in its fur and
It cannot harm them.
This world is not real.

Once there was earth, dry earth
And then grass grew and plants and people
Who grew cows and sheep and wooden fences
And walls to keep one another out.
Then they grew buildings and barns and
Churches and factories and skyscrapers and
Towers enough to frighten God
We should be afraid but
This world is not real.

Something that Shouldn’t be Said

I think therefore I am.
Could our lives be nothing but
Intellect after screaming intellect?
Or what about
I am therefore I think
?

And we are born, we
Become an ‘am’
And we become what it
Means to become some
Thing that is not human.
And for those years we can
Sit on our animal-skin backsides
And gaze up at the sky and
The stars
And never think but
Know.

We can let our small
Fickle bodies wriggle into the grass
And dream dreams of our animal ancestors
While the wind whispers
The cheats to life in our ears.
And when we eat
Hand to mouth, no in-between
Tasting the food that
Keeps us alive.
And
Living
Living

Then:
Come. The question says.
“Let us take the air in a mechanical trance”
And we will conquer the world with our
Hands.
Leave your instincts,
Your whiskers, your claws,
Behind in the earth.
Bury them and
We will
Discover Again.

Know nothing,
Forget everything and
Let your small mind
Take over and give
Commentary on the world.
See not.
Hear not.
Your senses have lied.
Your mind tells truths so
Listen hard.
And you will learn

The

Right

Way.

The Enemy

We waited for the enemy.

In our homes of earth and loose brick, we waited.  We took it in turns to trample through the powdery dust, to push ourselves against the wall and peer out of our city.  What we saw was clearly divided between flat plain earth and clear blue sky.  No room for enemies.  But still we waited; our friends and our women and our sons and our daughters waited.  Children who were too young to understand could still understand waiting.  We did not know how long we would have to wait.  We did not know when the enemy would arrive.  And so while we waited we prepared for his arrival.

When I was a boy, I watched the pastor dig graves.  He dug the graves himself because there was no gravedigger.  The gravedigger was dead.  We had a gravedigger when the enemy was coming, but still our neighbours dug and our friends dug and our children dug and I dug.  We weren’t digging graves.  Trenches, places to hide, although when we lay in the earth the steam coming from our breaths would surely give us away.  Only the dead hide underground.

And we moved.  The enemy moved us.

A great tide of people, we swept through the city.  Collecting things as we went.  Prams.  Telephones.  Books loaded onto a horse-drawn cart.  Bedding materials.  An armchair.  Thousands of people and items, mothers and babies and young girls.  A man carrying a cello.  We flowed in a single direction.  Somebody told us that the train station would be safe.  The long building that had once echoed with the mechanical, throbbing sound of trains became a people place.  A safe place, people thought, and their thoughts made it safe.  When every dusty corner was filled, when there was no room to stand or sit, when our women and our children had forgotten the comfort of their homes, only the men remained in the city.  And the city became hollow.

With no light, our city stopped being a city.  It was a cluster of shapes, a scattering of buildings barely rising up to prick the moon in the night sky.  We ceased to be citizens.  We slept outside our homes, with the night sky as our only roof, too afraid to light a fire and watch the darkness scurry away.  Like nomads, tribes in the desert or the hills, we lived outside our city.  And when we took the night watch we became rats, darting and scuttling over the cold stones on which we had lived out our lives.

Echoing voices stopped me and turned me around and cocked the gun in my hand and placed by eye at the sight.  Silence made me human again.  We worked without a sound.  Women had filled our work with song, children with laughter and now, without them, we were mechanical hands and feet.  We placed sandbags like corpses and turned our paddock fences into barricades.  We trembled as we walked, with one eye kept steadily on the boundary.  Waiting for the enemy.

We waited at night, we waited in the afternoon, while we ate our meals, while we slept.  In no action of ours was the waiting absent.  When we visited our families at the train station they asked us if we had seen the enemy yet.  They were waiting, too.

We never took our busy hands for granted.  We hammered and strengthened and bolted and nailed and hid and slept in places where no-one could find us.  Until there was nothing left to do but sleep.  And wait.

The war came from far away.  Drum beats and choruses of men awoke us from our sleep.  But when we woke, we realised that they were not drum beats, but bullets, not choruses, but shouted orders.  We peered out at the flat plain earth in front of us and there was no emptiness.  The earth was full, its horizon interrupted, a sack full of rice about to burst at the seams.  The people crawled like ants, the tanks like cockroaches.  And we lay pressed into the ground, waiting for them as they made their way slowly towards us.  We listened to the noise they made, and we were silent.  Our women and children were silent.  No sound existed in our city.  We barely existed.

We watched the enemy come.  They came slowly.  Great silver airplanes flew above them and dropped their loads on the tanks, on the people, like fiery seeds falling from a farmer’s hand.  Our enemy’s enemy was surely our friend, we thought.  But we could not be sure.  At night, from the battlefield, wolf-whistle sirens called like children caught in a nightmare.  We dreamed to this symphony of sirens and shots.  We imagined them burning our churches and our children, the snap of gunfire in our alleyways, the rivers of smoke and the shadows in streets.  When we woke we watched the fire consume everything, great bombs exploding, their flames unfolding like petals on a rose.  We watched and we watched and still they came but they did not arrive.  We were ready, our weapons in our hands, our shelters built, our barricades impenetrable, our nerves set. We waited until we thought the enemy would never come.

But one day he was there.  That day, the battlefield was silent, no children cried, no gunfire broke, no whispers, no words.  We looked about at one another wondering if the world still existed.  No words came from our mouths.  Nobody dared break the glass stillness, as if a broken surface would unleash a torrent to wash us away.

When noise came, every person heard it.  Scrabbling, like paws on ice, like boots on loose earth.  A man climbed our walls, our impenetrable barricade.  His hands grasped the ledge and we knew he was real.  He lifted himself up on shuddering arms and for the first time we saw the blood-streaked and dust-choked face of our enemy.  He did not look at us, but looked behind us and through us at something we could not perceive.  He reached up and stood tall, stood tall on top of our barricade.  And a long sound rolled off his tongue in a language foreign to us.  Then he advanced.  The enemy crouched and we readied our guns, he jumped down and our eyes found the sights, his boots hit the loose earth and we shot him down.  His corpse hit the wall and fell, bent and twisted, to the ground.  A bloody patchwork, a poorly-made human.  And we lowered our guns and stood, our weapons at our feet.  We stood for a very long time.  We waited and the enemy did not move again.  We left him there and we took our women and our children and we left that place.  We left the city and the battleground where grounded tanks festered like flies on a windowsill and orphans played in the empty skeletons of aircraft.  We left and found another place.  A new place, an impenetrable city where there was no waiting to be done.  A city that was full and alive with sound and people.  A living city to replace the dead one left behind.

BELOW: inspiration for this piece came from watching a documentary in history class a year ago about the Battle of Stalingrad.  Then it changed completely.  Feast your eyes.


Every Morning I Run Away

This one still needs some finishing touches.

I run in the mornings.  I wake up when it’s only dark and put on my clothes and debate with myself whether to leave my torch at home.  In the end I always keep it in my pocket but I never use it.  Then I open the door and go out and shut it again and lock it.  Now I’m outside and if I look up there’s a sheet of stars above my head.  They’re like hundreds of strings of fairy-lights except you can’t see the wires.  Then I carefully step back and put the key in my pocket.  There is no sound.  I feel as if the world is empty, except I am the only living organism and if I stay still long enough I won’t even be that.  So I don’t move for a long time, my chest barely moving when I breathe, my heart beating very, very faintly so that sometimes I think it’s not beating at all and I must be immortal.  But then something moves out there, a pair of headlight eyes or a cat hiding its misdeeds under a bush.  Then I move.

I start off slow just in case my legs aren’t working this morning.  I run out of the street and then out of the next street and the street after that.  I don’t even turn corners because I might get lost if I do.  But I know where I’m heading and I’ll go there in a straight line.  It’s where small hills like acne on the earth stand in front of bigger and bigger hills like the nose and eyes and ears of the earth.  The earth doesn’t have a mouth, but in my dreams one appears on a rainy early morning, a jagged fissure that eats the towns and the cities and crunches people with boulder teeth.  If I keep running towards the nose of the earth I’ll be far away when the mouth opens up.  Then I can watch.

I run for a very long time.  I run straight towards the acne hills and watch as they get bigger.  Today my chest isn’t hurting so bad so maybe my heart has stopped and I’m immortal now.  The streets become different the longer I run, the houses no longer sitting side by side, whispering in each other’s ears, now shouting distance apart with yards big enough for whole other houses.  Dogs bark at me and it startles me so much that I skip and jump like an Irish dancer until I’m on the other side of the road.  By this time, the night sky is beginning to lift slightly, like the crown of shell you lift away to peel a boiled egg.  It reveals a Tuesday morning underneath a chilled Monday night.

I think of the North Pole.  There are no towns and cities in the North Pole.  Maybe that’s where I’ll run to after I reach the acne hills.  In the winter the sun doesn’t rise at all and there is constant night, like a boiled egg waiting to be peeled except that nobody peels it for weeks and weeks until the spring comes and they crack the shell and search through the white and make the luminescent yellow yolk into the first sunrise.

Carlos went up north.  To the North Pole.  He had a small, prickly black beard like a clump of steel wool and eyes that were so light they could have been fairy-lights in the night sky without the wires.  But he doesn’t have anything now.  That’s because he is dead.

I had a dream last night where everybody in the world stood on the same flat plain and cracks began to move through, slowly first, and then faster, faster until they were coursing everywhere like a stampede of animals.  And everybody became divided with their own piece of flat land and a black, black sea around them.  And then one by one each piece of land teetered a bit, cracked in half and sunk along with the people they held.  I watched and around me people were toppling into the water everywhere.  Nobody made a sound, as if they were too frightened to scream.  Or as if they expected it all along.  Until my own piece of land, which was the only piece left, teetered on its little axis.  I watched sadly as it cracked down the middle and I lost my footing and plunged into the dark night of water.

The sun has risen now.  It will be another day before I will go to sleep wondering whether the mouth of the earth will eat me up before I wake.  I am beyond the houses, but now that the sun can see me, I am afraid.  I tell myself to run, run fast into the mountains.  Hide away and watch the city safe from a distance.  I pick up speed because today I am going to do it, I am going to keep running and running, run away from my house and my bed and the door and the key in my pocket that thump-thumps against my thigh as I run fast.  I run until my lungs claw for air and my toes feel bloody against my worn socks.  But the acne hills are still far away.  They are too far, they are out of reach and I am afraid because for all my desire I am still a civilised man and I belong in my house and my bed.  The fear puts a stopper in my throat and I can’t breathe and I can’t run any more.  I turn back and wish I was blind to walk the same route, where the houses begin to sit next to one another, the dogs bark and the cars flash in the new sunlight, and by the time I put the key in the door there are angry tears on my cheeks.  The stars have abandoned me.  The sight of my unmade bed and my room makes me feel sick.  I sit down and peel off my running shoes.  My feet are raw like meat and I stifle my cries as I walk.  Every day a new layer of scabs, blisters and burns.  Trophies in my collection.  Shameful.

Every day I run away, away to where the mountains are bigger than the houses or the streetlamps or the city buildings.  But I always run back again.

Claro and Angela III

Last one.  Read the other two before this one.

The airport was a place they both loved and hated at the same time.  Claro spent ten minutes looking at hte Departures board with infinite concentration.  He studied his own ticket carefully, though his eyes avoided the destination name.  He eyed other travellers, the currency exchange list, listened carefully as flights were paged.  It all intrigued him.

They sat down and began their share of waiting.  Angela had a coffee and was hurrying through her bag.  Claro hummed quietly.  He drummed his fingers on the arm rest.  After a while, Angela lifted her head up and asked him to stop.

“I’ve lasted a whole two weeks with your habits, I think I’ve had close to enough.”

Claro murmured sorry.  He said, “If I’d known it made you angry, I would have stopped.”

“Stopped everything?”

“Yeah.”

“All the changes in the itinerary?”

“Yeah.”

“And the talking to absolutely everyone?”

“Yeah.”

“And the ignoring me?”

“I didn’t ignore you.”

“You hardly paid me any attention.”

“I don’t know what you expected me to do.”

“I expected not to be ignored.”

“You expected me to fall in love with you, didn’t you?”

She stopped and so did he.

“You kept sleeping with people, Claro!” she hissed.

“They wanted to sleep with me!” he cried, a little too loudly.  “If you wanted to, you never showed it.” he added quietly.

Angela laughed.  “I thought you were gay at the beginning of this trip.  Then I saw plainly that you weren’t.”

“And you were jealous.”

“I wasn’t.”

“You always are.”

She sat back and looked at the ceiling.

“When we’re back home, we can start a relationship if you want.” Claro said.

“No.  I wouldn’t be able to put up you.  It wouldn’t work.”

“People in relationships accept each other’s faults.”

“I understand that, but it still won’t happen.”

“I wish we weren’t going home.”

“We have to go home at some stage.”

“It’s like a dream, isn’t it?  Travelling.  You leave everything behind and travel to a place you’ve never been to before and do things you’d never thought you’d do.”

“All my dreams are strange.”

“I’ve grown out of dreaming.” Claro said.

Their flight was called.  They boarded like sheep to a dip.  Claro slept the whole time, or perhaps just lay with his eyes closed.  The waking world hurt.

Thunderstorm/Death

Bit of a character sketch.  I’ve written this scene fifteen-million times, but this is my favourite version so far.

There are storm clouds overhead.  I can see them out the window.  The sky is slowly getting greyer and greyer.  It’ll be black soon.  And then the rain will come.  It comes heavy here, in great big slops like somebody’s put a bucket of rain up there and let it fall.  And quickly too.

At least I’m inside.  I’m stuck here, but I’m inside.  I’ve been here for fifteen days.  Door closed, nobody enters and the door is only not closed when they push food in.  Haven’t eaten much, though.  Haven’t talked to anyone for fifteen days.

Simon ain’t here.  All that shit in over now.

Sitting against the tiled walls, it’s nice and cold and my forehead is hot, and I’m watching the storm brew overhread.  That’s what is happening.  Not much else to do, really.  As if I’m waiting.  But I don’t know what I’m waiting for.

It’s twelve o’clock now.  The strap on my old watch is broken, but the clockface is still intact.  Lunchtime by any normal standards.  Havne’t seen a normal standard in a long time.  Nothing gets pushed under my door today.  Must be a meeting on.  Or a massacre.  Can’t hear anything here.  No news, nothing.  Everyone could be dead and I’d never know.  I’d come out one day due to curiosity and find myself sole survivor surrounded by rubble and bodies.  Not likely.

One o’clock, and all I’ve done for an hour is sit against a wall.  Haven’t the strength to get up.  Haven’t the means to get better to get the strength to get up.  Co-dependance is shit  Especially if everyone is liable to forget about you.  Rain hasn’t come yet, though the clouds overhead are thicker and moving fast.  Must be windy outside.  I’m still hungry.  There are rats in this place.  I heard them and lately I’ve seen a couple.  If they forget to feed me, I can go after them.  They’d probably scuttle away.  I’m too slow.  Sometimes when I’m here I think about Charles Darwin.  Learnt about him in school.  About how our species is evolving to be better, smarter, more successful.  But really we’re devolving.  Into something that stares at clouds all day and dreams of eating rats.  Someone walks past the door but doesn’t stop.  I’m still here.

Two o’clock.  Rain is falling.  It’s just started.  I knew the clouds would break soon.  Something in the air, probably.  Or just some sense I have.  They’ve forgotten to bring any food today.  They’re starting to forget about me altogether.  Soon the food will stop, then the people will stop walking past, stop using the rooms nearby, stop inhabiting this place completely until it crumbles to dust and me with it.  All the better.

It’s three o’clock and there’s noise.  Noise close.  Noise involving me.  The rain is pounding hard, rattling the window, so I can’t really  hear.  I thought the storm would’ve started by now, but the clouds are still boiling up there, waiting.  Like me.  I’m waiting.  How much longer can you stay in a bathroom, locked in by your own weakness, before you die?

There is a rap on the door, a sharper sound than I’ve heard in over two weeks.  Before now, the place was full of gunshots and shouts, but now my ears have dulled and a rap on the door is enough to make me jump.  A voice and then a boy.

The boy has shaggy hair like everyone.  Shirt painted haphazardly red like they all do in this place.  Black pants.  Black eyes.  He’s come to seek me out.  He’s come here for help.  Yes, seek help from the veteran, from someone who’s thought out this revolution, fought it out until they could no more.  Yes, everybody once knew my name.  But what have you done now?  What new turns have you taken without my guidance?  How much have you destroyed?

The boy looks at me and his weapon gleams in his hand.  I will destroy you.  We are young and will destroy everything of our predecessors.  You are older and you thought you could hide.  You cannot.  I have come to seek you out.

There are no ears to listen and I have no strength to cry.  All that comes out is a strangled gasp.  The storm breaks over my head.  I cannot see for the rain pelting down around me.  The lightning flashes like his weapon and the thunder fills my ears full.  The last this I see are his eyes, black.

This is the end of an era.