fiction, photography

THE BURDEN

Chris R-0329 Image by Christine Renney

As a boy I would daydream about having special powers. Super strength or x-ray vision, the ability to shift shape and form at will or to stretch my limbs and torso in order to reach far into the distance. Of them all it was the last that I would eventually find myself capable of. Not the coolest nor, as I discovered, the most practical and, over the years, I have contemplated long and hard as to why, of the special powers I conjured and pondered in my youth, this one was to be my gift, my burden.

I have always been tall and thin, freakishly so. I was bullied at school and had to endure a barrage of embarrassingly unoriginal taunts. Name calling mostly. Olive – that was the one that stuck – after Olive Oyl. I learned to live with it. I had to, but even after so long it still manages, on occasion, to cut me. Despite the fact that I excelled at all sports and was chosen for the football team and represented the school in the long jump and cross country, I dreaded Physical Education and having to undress in front of the others. They would gather around me, flicking with their towels, poking and prodding at my skinny frame, pinching and pulling at my skin.

In spite of my unnatural ability and incredible agility, after leaving school I never again participated in a team event or took part in competitive sport of any kind. I did continue to run, mostly keeping to the city. I pounded the pavements before and after work but at the weekends I would drive out into the countryside, taking to the footpaths and bridleways. I could push myself harder there, running for longer and further but I couldn’t counter the restlessness that, as a young man, I carried like an empty wallet.

When running I felt as if I were fleeing and I didn’t for a second feel that I was awkward and ungainly. In the city I held back, I had to, but at weekends I could let myself go although it wasn’t enough.

In hindsight I realise that something extraordinary was happening and that I had squandered my youth and all of my twenties. For more than a decade, clumsy and shy, I tried my best to hide away when in all probability I had been the fastest man on the planet. In middle age I brooded far too deeply on this but by then my life couldn’t have been more complicated and I had long since dispensed with any delusions as to whether running could ever be enough. But I am getting ahead of myself and need to backup a little.

After leaving school without the relevant qualifications to continue with a formal education I set out to find my way in the world. I didn’t have any trouble finding a job in the accounts department of a company which manufactured cardboard boxes. I had a propensity for numbers and became indispensable. I was a cog in their machine and best of all I was left alone. I found a corner in which to hide and I had a desk with a window above which looked out across the roof of the adjoining warehouse. I worked diligently with my back toward the world or at least to the rest of the office. I spoke when spoken to or not at all.

Then, miraculously, I was noticed by a woman, one of the many who over the years worked fleetingly in the office before moving on for pastures new. Remarkably, this young woman set out to ensnare me and happily I allowed myself to be snared. Suddenly my life turned around and I had it all. A loving wife and a happy home, the suburban dream, domestic bliss and then I started to stretch.

It happened without fanfare. We were having breakfast and I couldn’t reach something on the other side of the table. I don’t remember what it was but I didn’t ask my wife to pass it to me or push it closer. Instead I extended my arm the extra distance necessary and, after taking hold of it, let my arm slip back to its usual length, its normal length. My wife didn’t notice. I had been much too fast but I could have held my arm there or I could have extended it further still. I could have sent her screaming into the street in her nightgown.
I didn’t stretch again until I was alone. First one arm and then the other. Likewise my legs. I lay on my back, stretching both arms and legs together but when I felt my torso beginning to flex I restrained myself. The room wasn’t big enough. I needed more space.

Finding that space wasn’t ever an issue. There was the warehouse at work. I had the keys and it was deserted in the evenings and on Sundays and there was space aplenty but I delayed. Although I needed to stretch I was terrified of what I might find myself capable. At first I kept to the house and its cluttered rooms and for a while that was where I nursed my secret.

I did continue stretching in front of my wife in order to reach or kick something aside. As I have already explained I was fast and I was becoming ever more adept at cloaking it. Nevertheless, I limited myself to no more than doubling my arms’ length and it wasn’t long before I was stretching like this in front of my colleagues at the office, then the supermarket, in the streets, everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, in the end I hadn’t any choice and it was out of necessity that on a cold and blustery Sunday morning I let myself into the warehouse. The rain pelted against the roof, all encompassing and discordant it rang in the grimy half light as I stripped off my clothes and prepared to stretch myself fully for the first time.

I was in pain, had been for months, my every muscle and sinew aching, my body screaming for mercy and so raising my arms I stretched toward the roof. Thereafter, I visited the warehouse once a week without fail. Although I was always stealthy and swift those fifteen minutes each week were unceasingly traumatic for me and I was constantly concerned that I might be discovered hanging from the rafters. But I survived. I made it through undiscovered and unscathed. In fact, I have outlived them all, everyone I once, knew including my wife. Of course I am alone again, have been for more years than I now care to contemplate.

Whatever my circumstances at any given time, somehow I have always succeeded in finding a way but it was never as simple as it is here, in this rest home. At this place for the elderly I need only to step outside the door to my room and into the narrow and lengthy corridor beyond.

I have taken to laying out here after dark. On the plush carpet I can lose myself at last. Although I am long since past my prime, I am sure if I live just a little longer I will manage to reach and touch the doors at either end.

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Uncategorized

Live again

The day I stopped feeling

It wasn’t a tap turned all the way to halt any drip

or wet socks left on radiator until cardboard stiff

through muslin sheet I felt a wistfulness

like poignant ending of a film

or sad story of someone else’s life

but you did not feel part of me anymore

when I touched your hand, it was flesh and blood

not a girl I was connected to

neither stranger, but some

distance stood solid like forging tree limbs

seeking electric charge from rain after storm has passed

I had moved beyond you without

marking the spot, I put down my heartache

this is surely the most human thing about us

our ability to keep going, not fall down and wither

knowing we are finite and fallen

watch a child lose a friend on Friday

gain another come Monday

grief is a litmus test

a sorrow we shrug on and eventually off

I convinced myself of devastation

when Tuesday brings change even as we don’t seek

it comes drawing out like elongated stretch

I never thought

I’d feel nothing

looking into your eyes

but you closed yourself off

In time, I began to look away

Into the distance

where the unknown glistened

like a mirage

of things bidden

by places within us

that say

O please

live again

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life, poetry, prosetry

Easy is the slip to nothing

Some have too little love

Like hunger they scrape and search

Pealing the skin from their fingers in want

Looking until emptiness becomes full

For just a glimmer of compassion

The thing marking human

Quick to turn to hate

Like a fickle madness

Or held diving breath

So alive and quickening

A carefully guarded amber flame

Proof of life

For if cold, we are surely dead

Dormant to feeling

Impervious and keening

Easy is the greased slip to nothing

Feelings a weary bead counter

Chanted prayers, wishes forging hope

Touch, warmth, caressing tangible

Not remote

We were not made to stand alone

Though if you set your mind

On climbing chalky cliff side

Be sure there is purpose

For some are made of granite

They release radium

And the unmoving possession of their heart

Is surely worse than never knowing

The hot dulcent murmur

Of poison with purpose

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Going home

Old and new

Play

Like friends who never liked each other

Standing here, I could be there

Laughing, lolling about Route 66

Your hair wax stained cowboy hat on the table

The clink of sweating beer bottles

I always did better striving than living

Being a pretend person, now . . don’t knock it

Has some draw

We laughed out of fear and the fear felt good

Like real life and grabbing things by beaded throat

We roared our mirth like tigers, at the absurdity and the sorrowful

It reminded me of my grandmother’s funeral

My dad and I weeping with hot besmerched giggles

She would have understood, she would have joined in

that Katherine Hepburn smile, and the outline of something sad

That’s just how this family rolls

We laugh when tragedy feels crushing and put reality on hold

A frozen picture on TV, static and unspoken

When the wake is over and everyone has left their condolences

In a nice row

Searching for your people

Coming up empty handed

Just as I thought I couldn’t give more away

You call me out of the blue

A stranger sharing my last name

Funny how life takes and takes

And then it gives

Like a hand on your shoulder

When you’re thinking of jumping

The both of you grew thin

I put on all your weight, inherited the space

Given away by years and wrinkles

You said; Now heed me young lady

You’re standing in for us now

Do a fine job and I saw in the line and curve of your jaw

The man you were, the man you were not anymore

Strangers and bloodlines, all running together

Now you’re both gone

I’m relieved and itchy under the skin with the lie

Pretended so long

I don’t know how to be, whatever I am

We were a tribe the three of us

Now I’m starting over

In my own land again

A stranger

Of familiar, unknown places wearing unreadable clothes

Sharing my bed with regrets and hope

Like nothing and everything has changed

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Exhaling grief

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

If you made a sound

This is the sound you would make

exhaling grief

Mauve in color

Straining to speak

What do you say?

Sitting at the family table

All my ghosts

In carried repose

And the new

Who replaces you

Has no power to stake

Your claim

On me

Because I am

Watered by indifference and throwaway cruelty

Fed on your critique

It is your bed – I like in to sleep

Integrating nightmares

Your brand of survival

So sore and foreign to mine

If you made a sound

Would it be a crow

Or a blackbird

At night when birds used to sleep

And now

Wary of rasping day

They call out

To their unseen maker

As I suppose

I call out to you

As I suppose

You hear and

Disregard

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life

Alien

“Do you want this top?” I asked, holding up a wisp of metallic fabric by its spaghetti straps. “I don’t have the tits for it.”

“Er, I won’t be able to wear any nice tops like that for while,” she said, “…you’re going to be an auntie again!”

I stepped back and looked at her belly.

“What?”

“I’m 18 weeks pregnant.”

I paused for slightly too long.

“Oh my God, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” I said, kissing and hugging her, careful not to squish the little life inside her.

Shit. Now I have another reason to stay alive.

“Wow guys, you’re going to have a new baby brother or sister,” I said to my 2 current reasons for staying alive. “Are you excited?”

“Yes! I hope it’s a girl. We heard the heartbeat yesterday and it was like whoosh whoosh whoosh and it moves around so much like it’s dancing!” said my niece, barely able to contain herself.

“Wow that’s cool. How about you, little man?” I said to my nephew.

“Mummy has an alien inside her tummy,” he said, looking at the ground, clearly fuming at the reality that soon he won’t be the baby anymore.

“Ewww, I know, it’s kinda gross isn’t it?” I said, expressing my own true thoughts under the guise of kid-speak. He nodded earnestly.

I looked at her bloated stomach. There’s a little life in there, I thought. How peculiar.

Another reason to stay alive.

It’s so strange how women walk around for months with little lives inside of them. And how women can have something growing inside of them for weeks before they even know it exists. And some women grow a whole human inside of them and have no idea until it starts screaming at them from the toilet bowl.

I will never have children.

I briefly considered that the alien might be an Einstein or it might be a Hitler.

Another reason to stay alive. To see how it turns out.

I suddenly felt annoyed. How could you? I feel bad enough about leaving these 2 little humans, now I have to hang around to meet and fall in love with this alien too? Stop giving me reasons to stay alive. I don’t want to.

“When’s it due?”

“Early Feb 2019.”

Fucking 2019! Next calendar year! I have to stay alive until next year?!

Maybe this little life, this little alien, will be enough to melt my cold, dead heart. But I don’t want it to. I don’t want any more reasons to stay alive, I don’t want any more reasons not to leave. I am so selfish. But that’s just one of my reasons for wanting to go. And one of the reasons why I’ll never have children.

A new target.

I stared at her belly. It houses another magical being that should be enough to make me fight my diseases. But I already have 2 magical beings and though I wish they were enough, they are somehow not. They disappear when I take a knife to my wrist, they can’t shout as loud as the voices that visit me at night, they don’t see me cry like a child, they don’t pull me back from the edge of the platform, they can’t cancel out years of pain and they can’t erase thousands of bad memories. I wish they could but they can’t. It’s too much to ask of them. I realised this while I was staring at my sister’s stomach and telepathically asking the alien, “Are you going to save me?” No. No one can.

“I’ve got a new target then,” I said.

I live by targets. My last target was April 15th 2018. I reached it. I have been living targetless, and terribly, since then. Now, at last, a new target. One I’m not sure if I want, but one that I know I need.

Another reason to stay alive.

Another target.

Another alien.

“Can’t wait,” I smiled.


This is my 100th post for Hijacked Amygdala, so I’d just like to take this moment to thank all of our readers for the love and support you give us – your continual kindness is so very appreciated ♥ and may I also say what a pleasure and honour it is to share this platform with such incredibly talented souls. Long live HA! xx

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poetry

Savage Dance

The scythe told me

Your depression is a choice and a weakness

If you are a writer there are no excuses only

Discipline

The scythe is a girl who has long been a cruel woman

She judges me worse than I judge myself

Her reason lies in anger

Not the rumpled clothes sort

The burning brand of not getting what she feels entitled to

And that is me

I have told her

But she holds me close and afar and plays me with her passive aggression

I am not able to exit the game

Though it exhausts me and is

A sharp tasting whip

Sometimes it feels like

She captains my life and I am a boat

Continually drowned by stormy seas

People would say

It’s easy … just break the chains

Walk away

Tell her to go hang

Lose my number

Go fuck yourself

But I can’t do it

I have a matchbook heart

Strike me once

And I’m in it for the long haul

The perfect patsy

A groveling bullseye

It only reinforces a sense of self hate

Which she stirs with bolognese

Sadists are usually unaware

Of how much they practice their art

In every card game

She pinches, pushes and pulls

I am a lopsided puppet

The times I tried to

Go it alone

Ended badly

Sometimes the Devil

Is the only hand in the dark

And not many of us are brave enough to release all toes

Fall away without harness

Especially when it takes most of what we possess

Just to survive

So she has my life in her rubber bands

Every day she yanks me to my knees

With the nostalgic ejubulence of a professional killer

It is I fear

A form of savage dance

And only one of us will survive

Sometimes I catch myself wishing

She’ll go first

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