fiction

RECONCILIATION

chris-r-0318 Image by Christine Renney

We yell until each of us is hollow. She is sobbing. The sound hoarse and guttural. She is empty and has no more words and I no longer have to fend against them.
She shivers and I touch her. She is cold and I fetch a sweater from the bedroom. With a handful of kitchen towel she mops at her face, at the snot and tears.
The sweater is too big and sitting she pulls at herself from inside. I place my hands on her shoulders and press down gently, an effort to still her.
I feel remorse, it fills the hollow inside, I am full to brimming with it when she turns, ready for regret.

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art, fiction

Kids These Days (Alt.)

Where I spent much of my time as a kid was a magical place.

It was a pirate ship. It was a castle. It was a barracks and a spacecraft. But mostly, it was a rock.

I’m sitting on it now, smoking a cigarette. It feels like a rock.

Coming home is odd. Smoke in the woods is more odd.

Not my smoke, of course. I’m used to that. The smoke over there, in the distance.

I snub out my cigarette, thoroughly, and leave it on the rock. I head for the smoke. The wood becomes dense and the light, thin. I walk for longer than it takes to write about.

I smoke along the way. I always smoke when I’m nervous. I drop the butts on the ground, careful to leave none still lit.

Finally, there is a break in the tide of green. A clearing. A hut. It is crumbling and dark with rot. What looks like crusty old frosting hangs over the door. A crutch lays in the dirt beside it.

Black smoke seeps from the windows. I go up to the door, cautiously. I knock. The sound is more of a thump. The door is soft. I frown.

I knock again; my hand breaks right through what feels like gram-cracker. I peer inside. It seems warm, too warm, and smoky.

“Hello?” I ask the room.

No answer. I push the door gently. It crumbles into a heap at my feet. It reeks of sweetened rot. I step over it, into the hut.

I peer through the smoke, eyes watering. Two shapes move in the corner. I take a step back and hold up my fists like someone who knows how to fight.

“Hey. I’ve just come to make sure you’re alright. There’s a lot of smoke in here. I just,” I stop as one of the shapes stands, then the other.

I relax as they get closer. They are just children. Big fat ones. They sway like drunkards. I put down my hands.

They don’t say a word. A boy and girl. The girl is chewing on something. The boy frowns at the door behind me. They come forward. Their hair is grime and their eyes, glazed.

“Hey, hold on!”

They don’t stop. A bit of drool hangs from the girl’s plump lips.

They lunge, around me. I flail like an idiot, smoke in my eyes. When I come to my senses I see the children crouched on the floor shoveling bits of the gram-cracker door I’d walked through into their heavy mouths.

I stare at them.

“What the–?”

They are making noises as they eat. I feel sick. They consume the door in great big handfuls. I back further into the room. The putrid smell grows stronger. I look to the stove, pouring smoke. I look around for water.

A bucket in the corner, a faucet.

I douse the flames, hand over my mouth. The room slowly clears. I take a seat on the edge of a stool and watch the children slowly fall asleep on the fetid pile of gram-cracker crumbs. I shudder.

I look around the hut. Something in the corner catches my eye. I step toward it. I know what it is before I reach it. My stomach knows.

A woman, slumped against the wall, dead. Skin blackened by fire, eyes milky white, and frizzled white hair matted over the ears.

I look closer, something is wrong with the nose.

“Oh hell no,” I mutter.

I look back at the sleeping children.

Then back to the nose.

There is no mistake, someone’s been chewing on it.

I stand up. I step on the hand of the little sleeping girl as I dash from the house.

I feel something crack.

I don’t care. I’m gone.

I manage to follow my trail of burnt out cigarettes back to my rock.

The End.

**For an alternate version of this story, click the image below:

kids_these_days

 

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prosetry

The Suggestion

“You seriously need to take a step back, and have a good look at your life – all of it.”

Any friendliness that was buried within this suggestion was annihilated by the forcefulness of his tone. This was not an innocent idea, this was one of his sick commands. Any good intentions he harboured in telling me to examine my past vanished the moment the suggestion left his lips, the moment his thought became real.

He should have kept this suggestion tethered to a post inside the confines of the heavily-guarded prison of his mind, along with all the other things he thinks about me, the thoughts which will never become real because they will never see daylight, because he will never voice them.

He knows how dangerous it is for me to go back, to look to the past and revisit all those things, the people, the places. He is fully aware of the risk involved in me dredging up the things that I worked so hard to forget. Retrospective reflection may well trigger the end of me. He knows that. So why would he encourage me to remember the forgotten? How could he suggest such a thing?

I decide that his intentions for me in voicing this idea can only be bad. I decide that his half-asking/half-telling suggestion stems from his desire to watch me fall apart. Being a spectator of my cataclysmic undoings is his favourite pastime. And besides, it’s been a while.

I don’t trust him but I have no choices left. He never gives me any choices. So I take him literally and step back from the cliff edge. I do not want to turn around and face him, I don’t want to see his face in case I fall in love with it again. I focus my eyes forward and look at the almost-perfect line where the grey sea slaps the tangerine sky.

But although I am looking forward, I have already begun looking back. The unravelling of my progress has commenced. He knows that he lives in every crevice of my past. He knows that eventually I will have to face him. I hear him smile. It’s a winning smile. He knows that he will be the death of me.

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epistolary, fiction, life

The Purity of Remembering Now

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I should have written a novel about her at the time, or a short story at least, kept a diary maybe. A scant-few weeks have elapsed, but already I can sense my mind reaching out for the detail of the past with manipulative hands, twisting the truth with between my fingers to fit a narrative. If I take my pen to paper, I am not convinced that what happened then would be as I document now. It is an immaterial thought; for my hand is not steady enough to write.

I look down into my shot-glass, positioning myself direct above the rim so it forms a perfect circle against the dark-stained wood of the bar. This circle is today, not the past. It is absolute in form, with no distortion of perspective, no aberration in colour, no lies told that I cannot correct with an informed shift in point of view – this is no selective memory, yet. I drain my drink and order several more – I lose count long before I run out of cash -but with each refreshed glass I make sure I look down upon that circle: to remember.

Alex can see I am a mess and like any good bartender she asks after me, the concern on her face genuine, for I am a regular now and we have become familiar of late. I don’t tell Alex about the shit going on my life, because then she would be no different to the others that show interest, be it society-required faux-concern, or genuine. Every conversation with Alex would be stilted and short, progressing in the same way – “how are you holding up?”, “it must be so tough”, “I can’t imagine what you are going through.”

I want Alex to remain my personal escape, and of late I need her to be my imagined infidelity. She lifts her short skirt and lowers her panties, bending forward, supporting herself with her hands against the rough brickwork of the alley at the back of the bar. Her mouth spews encouraging filth as I give her, at her own demand, a severe pounding from behind. But then, even in my own fucking fantasy-dream, I can’t keep up and I slump to the cold floor – breathless, pants around my ankles. Alex straightens her clothing and laughs at me, then picks at the grit in her palms in an absent fashion, as if she has done so many times before; and in my mind she has.

I still wouldn’t swap my imagined failure for Alex’s pity; I already have too much of that in my life. I wake in a puddle of light, soaked in the midday sun and, I think, my own piss. The bedroom reeks like something has died in here, and, as I open the windows wide, once again I wish it had been me and not her. I hold my wedding ring to the window, and in the blinding sun I look upon the perfect silhouette. This particular circle is of the past, and I cannot recall as much about her face today, as I did yesterday.

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