fiction, photography

THE LAST STATION

Chris R-1-206 Image by Christine Renney

The Station was small and tidy. This is what struck Carter as he stepped onto the platform; how incredibly neat and tidy it was. The Ticket Booth and Waiting Room were painted a muted purple that shone in the sunlight. There were window boxes and the flowers were unseasonably fresh and fragrant. Strangely, there were no signs and Carter had no idea where he was.
He realised that the train he had only just departed was already pulling away and he could so easily have jumped back on board and made his way back but he didn’t.
He moved toward the Ticket Booth and the middle-aged woman behind the glass smiled broadly. But as he drew closer Carter realised that it wasn’t a woman at all but a cardboard cut-out, faded and creased. And the smile he had found so welcoming at a distance was in fact a little grotesque.
Turning from the booth Carter looked around and he could see quite clearly that it was the end of the line. He was unsettled by this but he was unsure exactly why. He also noticed that the section of platform where he stood was separated from the rest of the Station by a chain link fence on his left. Carter walked across and moved close to it. He could see a concrete staircase at the far end that led up to the road above. Carter stepped back and studied the signs attached to the fence, instructing him to ‘KEEP OUT’ and warning him of the ‘DANGER OF DEATH‘. But it didn’t look so very different over there. It was dirtier, yes, grimier and dustier. Most of the floor tiles were cracked and an old rusty ticket machine lay on its back. But it seemed much more familiar over there and Carter realised that it was on the other side of the fence he longed to be.
The fence was split here, there and everywhere. Carter chose a gap close to one of the posts. He pulled and it came away easily. He clambered through and, once clear of the fence, he could hear the traffic from the road above. Carter looked up at the ceiling but it didn’t come down around his ears and although of course no-one was watching he moved stealthily across the station. He was less than halfway up the staircase and he could tell that the entrance had been blocked. He climbed to the top and pushed at the boards but he could see in the gaps around the edge how they had been bolted into the brickwork from outside and there was no way he was going to be able to shift it and break through, at least not without tools. Ideally, a drill and a saw but at the very least a hammer and a sharp chisel but even with tools he would make too much noise and draw attention to himself. No, he couldn’t break his way through.
Turning, Carter heard the train and rushing down he almost slipped more than once on the dusty concrete steps. But he hadn’t even reached the gap in the fence and the train was already pulling away. It couldn’t have stopped for more than a few seconds and Carter had missed it again, his chance to jump on and make his way back.

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prosetry

Teeth

She looks down and sees her bottom jaw resting on the ground by her feet. Carefully, she picks it up to assess the extent of the ruin but it is clear: her mandible has entirely detached itself from her head and now sits quietly in the palms of her shaking hands. It half-smiles at her, just as it had done so many times before at handsome strangers and bad jokes.

As if newly erupted from the grip of the ivory bone, her teeth form a sparkling semi-circular row. She studies the teeth, noticing that, where they are not laced with blood and saliva, they are obscenely white, almost iridescent. With claret edges, her teeth look like menstruating pearls. They look delicate and indestructible.

She begins to run and so does the blood: it trickles through the gaps in her fingers, collecting in the crease of her elbow before dripping onto the pavement, leaving a trail behind her. The blood is gooey and viscous, and though it looks too dark to be fresh it keeps on flowing. A mess of bloody saliva pours from her jawless mouth, down her neck and settles in a sticky pool on her chest. When she tries to spit out the taste of rusty nails and panic, she discovers that she has no tongue.

The unfamiliar residential street is curiously busy for 3 a.m. and she knows a lot of the people that she passes. She stops to ask everyone she sees to help her to put her jaw back in place. She is met with bemused faces. She screams and shouts and begs but no sound emerges from her, just the occasional crimson gurgle. She looks pleadingly at the passers-by then looks down at the jaw in her hands, motions fitting the jaw back to her head and then looks back at her potential saviour, praying they’ll understand. They look at her with pity and faux-guilt, apologise and say things like, “Sorry, dear, I’m in a rush,” “I’m not a dentist, unfortunately,” and “Oh, I don’t really want to get involved.”

The fact that she can’t properly communicate to ask for help, or even find out what has happened to her, frightens her and causes her far more distress than the fact that her jaw has fallen off. She tries to communicate using her eyes; she is certain that her eyes must surely convey the horror, confusion and desperate need to be helped that she cannot speak aloud. But no: she is ignored and unsaved. Tears tumble down her cheeks, over her top lip and straight down to her chest to mingle with the rest of the mess of fluid. She tries to spit again and grows frustrated upon remembering that she can’t. She runs out of tears and sits under the glow of a streetlamp, with her bloody, perfect jaw beside her, and hopes for somebody to throw her a tissue at least.

Sometimes she wanders about the strange town for hours, begging for help through her eyes, frenzied, covered in blood and clutching her jaw in her hands, rocking it slightly as if it were an injured bird. Sometimes she gives up after a few minutes and resigns herself to living a life of silence, with only her bottom jaw for company. Sometimes she smashes her jaw against an orange brick wall, sometimes repeatedly, hundreds of times, but it always stays whole. Nobody ever helps. She no longer believes that someone will eventually come along and fix her because nobody ever has before, and she knows that if she expects nothing, she will never be disappointed, only ever pleasantly surprised. She remains mute and hungry and ugly and cries and cries and cries, but she never dies. She is, after all, built of the same matter as her jaw: she is delicate and indestructible.

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prosetry

The Dream House

I should’ve realised that we weren’t going to make it on that sunny June afternoon when we were wandering around that big empty house in Essendon. Your eyes, those topaz stones I could never get sick of studying, were watching our future children playing in the garden (a boy first, you’d insisted, then a daughter). Your own face was childlike that day, so full of excitement and hope. You were babbling, saying things like, “Can you see yourself cooking me dinner in this kitchen?” You were envisioning a future that I couldn’t imagine, let alone see.

I tried. I wanted to want it too. All I really wanted was you but if having a kid or two was what I needed to do to keep you then that’s exactly what I’d do. But I was terrified. I was terrified of a tiny version of us growing inside me. Panicking over my sudden assumed role as “wife and mother” with no time to write, no room to breathe, no space to be. Internally screaming at the prospect of relentless mortgage payments. Fearing that our babies would inherit my sadness or my madness or both. Worrying about hypothetical meals not being served on time, accidentally murdering my orchids, forgetting to pick the children up from school and never getting used to the absence of silence. Frightened that I would be forever stuck in a life that isn’t truly mine, but reasoning that it’d be fine because I’d be stuck to you. Did I even really want you forever, or had I tricked myself into wanting what I was supposed to want? Had I merely deluded myself by dreaming someone else’s dream?

As I wandered around the house alone, I quietly considered which room I could end my life in if I chose to, assessing which fixtures I could hang from and wondering what the freestanding bathtub would look like with red water spilling over its edges. At least the crimson flood would complement the nursery which we are going to paint lemon yellow.


‘The Dream House’ is a rewrite of an earlier work.

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Wordless & Spoken

1516979922624549-Helmut-newton-8

I looked for you

as my eyes squinted into fog

I saw your luminescence

a beacon lighting way forward

unwittingly becoming life raft

I tried not to cling to the wreckage

but swim deeply through water unafraid

did it matter what direction or where

I would end up?

without you there is a drowned map of the world

made of hide and slick with oil

if you look carefully you can see the outline

of where you drew your location

like a red circle with closed eyes I can

feel the pulse

drawing us ever closer and ever apart

a wave upon wave in an ocean of sadness

there was a time when I believed

we were separated only by

our will

and if we so desired

nothing could really keep us separate

a chain of silver running through water

linking us irrevocably

it helped to feel less alone with you at the end of myself

as if we were bound and raffiaed like Viennese masks

waiting for wearing to bring them alive

you possessed the key to my firmament

you lit beneath my intransigence a fire

through your eyes I was alive

my skin burning for your touch

driving fast down empty roads

your fingers playing splendor beneath my skirts

the bruise of hours

ellipsing sense

you my patchouli girl

rendering me senseless with your unexpected strength

painting our together with shades of unfolding passion

as if we were Bedouin and all we have is the tent of us and our journey

deeper into the delta of the other

where secret streams convey a woman’s urge

wordless and spoken

lying beneath the way to heaven

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poetry, prosetry

Parapraxis

I worry that you lie awake beside me
Listening to me breathe
Wondering with whom and where I’ve been

And I am afraid that it’s his name that I speak
Aloud in the dark
When my brain is steeped in drunken reverie.

He features so regularly now
That the odds of his name escaping from my mouth
Are stacked against us on the nightstand

With the unread books,
The stolen looks
And the conversations you don’t know we have.

*

Does his name hang above our bed,
A mosquito net with human-sized holes in it?
Have my drug-induced murmurs hurt your heart,
His name a subconscious stab in the dark?

*

When I wake from my drug-addled sleep
Your side is empty, you have already gone.
I don’t know what damage has or hasn’t been done,
But I send you a message saying,

I had horrible dreams last night 😦

Hoping that if indeed I did say his name aloud
You’ll think that it’s all okay
Because I meant it in a bad, bad, nightmarish way.
But really,

I think my dreams about him are horrible
Because they’re not reality
And I really want them to be.
(I’m so sorry).

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prosetry

Miraculous Mistake

In my dream there had been a terrible or rather brilliant mistake in which you were in fact still alive but had just been in hospital for a while and I said Oh dear, mother threw all your stuff away so your flat is empty but don’t worry we can buy you new stuff, it might even be fun, and you were asking about my brother and my writing and if I’d been going to therapy and then wanted to know if I’d got your money, keys, phone, glasses, medicines and well you were pretty pissed off at the whole thing to be honest and didn’t understand how or why we thought you were dead but I was so indescribably happy that you were okay that nothing mattered and I said Wait, so if you’re alive, who the fuck was inside that coffin we burnt? and we laughed and laughed and got a taxi down to your empty flat and when we got inside you looked around and lit a rollup and said Ahh it feels good to be home babes but I couldn’t quite believe you were really there so I held onto your arms because I thought maybe it was a trick but you were warm and alive and moving and breathing and talking and in your flat and you said you were Feeling a bit tired actually so we sat on the floor and I had my arms around you and I was saying You’re safe now Daddy, you’re safe, you’re safe now, you’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe and then this morning I woke up to the sound of my voice saying “You’re safe” and I genuinely thought that you were alive until I saw the little shrine I made for you by the window and then I remembered that you’re not here anymore and my little heart broke all over again and my God I’ve never wanted a crazy miraculous mistake to happen as much as I do right now

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fiction, life

ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE

Chris R-0232.jpg Image by Christine Renney

The boy had pushed his dad so far that he had hurled his dentures across the room. They lay broken beside the dog bowl. His dad picked them up and sat at the kitchen table pushing the pieces together, trying to stick them with glue.
The boy kept on pushing. He didn’t really know very much about anything; he was just a numb blonde kid with bad skin and braces. He had once threatened his dad with a knife but on this occasion the boy’s mum pulls them apart and no weapons are involved other than their fists.

At seventeen the boy’s dad had enlisted in the Army. He had begged and pleaded with his own dad until at last the old man, worn down, signed the papers.

The boy’s dad was posted to Germany and he had learned to drive on the Autobahn. But he didn’t fit, wasn’t suited and so the boy’s dad had headed for home. Just like that.

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