YOUR EYES WILL BE OPENED

It wasn’t so much that the dark frightened him, the shadows suited him well; casting a cloak for his deeds in the middle of the night. It was just that, the darkness heightened what he already felt inside, desertion and loneliness.

The small town nestled at the bottom of the valley, cupped neatly in the hand of the dark hills that surrounded the collection of houses and farmsteads. The hills were high and the weather was dreary, casting a perpetual gloom over the small town. The lights burned away from inside the cottages, flickering eyes in the darkened face of a place mostly ignored from the rest of the world. The occasional dog would be heard barking out into the night, disturbed by the nocturnal animals which snuffled around the market place looking for vegetables and food cast aside from the day.

Andrew usually waited until around ten o’clock to leave his house. The locals were mostly tucked up inside their own homes by then, and he found he could prowl the streets with ease. Tonight, he hadn’t heard any dogs barking. Not a leaf rustled or car rolled past. Even the full moon, which burned brightly above him, could stir up the restless of the townsfolk or awaken the crazies. All aside Andrew, a fact that was lost on him as he unlatched the gate of Yew tree cottage and slithered up the path, keeping in the shadows.

He’d been here before of course, he’d been to nearly most of the houses in the village after dark. But he liked Yew tree, he was always guaranteed what he wanted when he came. He felt tonight would be no different. His stomach fluttered thinking about it as his found his way around the side of the house where the rubbish bins were kept. He hoisted himself up onto one of them, the one marked specifically for garden waste, a few stray twigs reaching out of the lid like fingers. His trainers squeaked slightly as the slipped on the plastic and he held his breathe in an effort to quieten himself.

They were both there when he looked up. He didn’t have to crane his neck at all, his raised view let him gaze easily into the top window of the small cottage which seemed to lean over to one side. They were usually in bed, Mr and Mrs Sampson. The elderly pair would usually turn in around nine o’clock, sat up reading books as the night-time swirled outside their single glazed window. Andrew couldn’t make out the title that Mr Sampson was reading, he sat further away and the words were too small, but he could see Mrs Sampson was enjoying ‘The Pale Horse’ by Agatha Christie.

The room looked cosy, the lights on the night stands they each had cast a comforting glow around them which seemed to hug their old bodies. Andrew watched as Mrs Sampson nestled closer to her husband, riding down a bit lower in the bed. Turning the page of her novel.

Usually Andrew would watch a bit longer, observe them closely as they hung in his eye line like creatures in a zoo. But tonight something within him stirred strong and he was eager to start. He pulled across the bag he’d been carrying, and pushed aside the hair which had fallen over his eyes as he turned. His keys inside jostled noisily, and he silenced them quickly, reaching in to retrieve the smaller clear bags. Two tonight. It was always two at Yew Tree.

Inside each bag was a small baby white rabbit, each beginning to stir now as the effects of the ketamine were wearing off. The bags had holes in them, allowing the small creatures to breathe but as he handled them carefully out of the bags, they felt limp and lifeless in his hands like small softs bags of bones. He stroked one of the small rabbits with his chin, lifting the tiny creature up to his face. He could smell the warm musky smell of the hutch he had his garden. He closed his eyes for a moment and pictured the other bunnies, nested under their mother. Warm, safe and content.  The one in his other hand jerked suddenly and Andrew nearly let go of it. The muscles beginning to spasm back to life.
He must be quick.

He placed his phone carefully down by his feet as he crouched now on the bin, the two rabbits in each hand. He had their number of course, it wasn’t his first time. He hit the button of his phone which glared alarming out in the inky dullness of the night. The line connected. He heard the ring through his phone, and then moments later her head the returning sound coming from the Sampson’s house. He watched Mrs. Sampson look across alarmed to the phone. Her old fashioned sensibility on edge as she knew no good news came at such hours.

Andrew watched her reach across and lift the receiver, the copy of the Pale horse nestled now on the bedsheet between her and her husband who craned over to hear who the caller might be. This is when he had to be quick, this is when Andrew had to be focused. He held the two bunnies in his hand and waited, waited for the sound through the line in his phone and echoing above him through the window disappearing off into the night.

“Hello…’’ came the timid voice of Mrs Sampson, and that is when he began to squeeze. The more lively rabbit jerked frantically, but Andrew drew his thumb up into its neck and pressed harder. He could hear the old woman now, repeating her answer and he watched as her husband leaned over to listen down the line as if expecting his involvement could produce a response. Andrew stayed silent, slowly squeezing the life out of the animals he held in his grip like hands on a railing. His body shivered, a sense of connection travelling up and down his muscles as they tingled with every feeling of disappearance he craved.

And then suddenly, it was all over. He watched as Mr Sampson reached over and hang up the phone. Speaking hurriedly to his wife who seemed alarmed and confused by the intrusion to their evening. Andrew came back to where he was, the tunnel disappearing and the mist evaporating. He placed one of the creatures back into his bag, wrapped carefully in the small plastic baggy. He then hopped off of the dustbin and walked a few steps to the side door of the cottage. He lay the other dead animal on the mat by the door, it’s head flopping first to the floor as it’s small eyes gleamed up like a dolls. It had been the more restless of the two and Andrew stepped back and admired it there on the mat, forging it in his mind for the moment just as it started to rain. He then turned and left quickly, but just as silently as arriving, getting back at his house in less than ten minutes. He hurried quickly to bed, not changing out of his clothes, brushing his teeth or washing his hands; anxious to get to sleep. He did have school in the morning after all.

YOUR EYES WILL BE BURNED

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Still running away

The rain had come as soon as she left the main path. She heard it now pattering on the leaves in the canopy above her. The sheltering forest where all was unsure and forbidden. She never saw it this way, this was always how it was put to her, and this is always how it was made to be. She ran along further, carving her own way through existence. The sun had yet to set, but the rain clouds had smothered the earth in that part of her little kingdom, and the forest now gleamed with a wet twilight.

She had caught herself only a couple of times, hesitant to step deeper within and away from all of what she knew and all that she resisted. Her feet sloshed now in the puddles that had formed on the forest floor. Bits of moss and time made her slip and stumble, but on she flew. Running away, running beyond. Looking for herself again.

She had left the hills and the ruins behind her, blinked them away in a heartbeat as her skin touched the dense air of the woodland and the smell of freshness. A return, a renewal of sorts; though she knew it was not to begin anything again. The sanctuary lay beyond this world now for her. She had seen the darkness, and tasted the decay of life. She had thought about her death time and again. Stored it away in small pockets of her world, only to find it ever present on her horizon. Popping out of the days and the jars she kept in her kitchen cupboards. No one knew of course, she had shuttled from each thought to another in the dizzying malaise of the worn down and woe-begotten. Left to sit and turn in the sun like an unloved pot plant on a window ledge. Her death had come each time in many colours, brilliant reds and blues that would drip down from the sky and swallow her. There was never any pain; that was how it was supposed to be. The ashen taste in her mouth told her it was coming, and all would be done. Pushing through the thicket now, she came to where she was meant to be.

Making her way into the clearing she, the forest heaved and silenced itself, as if waiting for the show to begin. The leaves parting like the curtains of a stage. She stepped out, like tiptoeing onto a dream, making her way to the clump in the middle of the clearing. Her eyes were thick now with water, her eyelashes shaking off the dew of a realisation. Cracking and tearing her way from the chrysalis. Tiny eyes shone out from the trees, the beasts joining her in to taste the end.

The small knife gleamed in the grey light which danced around the clearing, little sparks and souls prancing lyrically on the blade. The ash had begun to fill he mouth as the black sky above had begun to open. Her world was beginning to drown as she felt the skin prickle and the cool metal throb to the vein.

And then she stopped.

At her feet she saw the body, the clumped skin that lay before her like a rug at the end of a bed. She stood frozen, the rain trickling down her face as the sky now heaved and lightened the vista. The dream was begin to rumble, the humming underneath building like a train rumbling underground. She knew what it was before she touched that place, that skin and hair before her which had to be known. She knew already, but she was scared to see. Scared to reach in and feel her way through a thousand lives and know the truth.

Bending down she rolled the body over, the eyes shining back like she knew they world. Reflecting mirrors that caught that dancing light and shone back to her like the waves of the ocean. Her time flowed through her in an instant, a tidal spray of understanding washing over her. She stared at her own body, laying on that cold forest floor. Discovered only by herself and the eyes of the animals now which fidgeted and rustled around her. The blood had dried over her throat, the deep slash made a lifetime ago, yet the crimson stained her skin like a smashed cherry, licking at her neck. Her death had come a gone, many times before.

This was a moment she was discovering now, but it happened all the same each day. Every time she took that knife from the drawer. Each time she turned off her phone and closed the world away. Those moments at work when she wished to be away from everyone. Feeling alone in a crowd while they burned holes into her. Those were the times she died, when she came here to that forest clearing where the sky above swallowed her. These were the moments when her soul cried, and dripped down into that forest on the edge of her life, taking her further and further from god. Further from the light. Blurring her memory into a stain on the window of time.

IMPERFECT, IMPERMANENT AND INCOMPLETE

She walked steadfastly onto the platform, her mind a buzz with silent yearnings to hear her name again over the muffled crowd. But it did not come. So she stood on the platform waiting for the train as a tear ran silently down her cheek. Only when the train had arrived and she’d boarded did she glance back to where she had left her.

She was nowhere to be seen….

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And though a part of her would always be incomplete, she smiled in that moment, knowing that she would never be more beautifully damaged in a thousand lifetimes; and never wanted to be anything else.


Taken from ‘Imperfect, Impermanent and Incomplete’. Part of the short story collection ‘An Impermanence of things’ – Out now in eBook and Paperback.

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THE NATURE OF THE NIGHT

It had only been twenty minutes, and already I was sick of being in the car. The heating had taken ages to kick in, so I shivered in the cold and frosty conversation. The argument had begun on the way back to the carpark. It didn’t matter what it was over, it never really did. These miniature versions of global wars, shrunk down to my own proximity; petty power plays and name calling could be over anything. We traveled home in silence and I watched the woods from the window as they slipped into a green blur before me. Within, numerous animals and tiny lives played out in the canvas of trees. Thronged within the forest’s bulging beauty.

Though it was freezing, the wet rain had begun to pelt the car. Icy splashes attacked the window like a rapping inside my skull. I glanced across to the driver’s seat, watching their movement. The quick flow to turn on the wipers, the gear shift to go slower and the change of the playlist. It all seemed synchronised, as if in some way it had all been planned. The sky above was dark and ominous now, mirroring the mood between us that sped down the road faster than I would care for in the rain.

I took off my shoes, not to annoy them, but because my feet ached. We had been walking most of the day and the confines of my old boots had rubbed and grated on me, reminding me not only that they were old, but also of my lack of outdoorness recently. I hadn’t really been out of the house for weeks, curled up into the fetal position watching old movies of hunched over my laptop. Watching the world always through screens, either on my computer, the television or my phone. I had ridden my day of all of these things once. Switched off my phone and left my computer untouched and ignored as I let my life and world return. But it had only been a passing fancy. The desire to feel productive or recognised as alive, even if only by a machine had overwhelmed and succeeded.

My feet stunk a little, so I kept them on the floor. I would usually rest them on the dashboard or bring them up to the seat. I sometimes sat crossed legged on long journeys. Doing nothing for my blood flow but perhaps self-nursing my own comfort, replaying childhood thoughts of sitting crossed legged on the school floor back in primary school. If I were feeling more inclined to be irritating, I would have put them up on the dashboard, but I couldn’t be bothered. The argument had already sapped most of my energy and inclination, and now I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. Yet I knew already, as they put on the music they knew I didn’t like, that we would have some go through when we go back. The civil remarks asking if we wanted a drink or use the bathroom first would chip away at the snowy exterior that had rose in the time of driving back. Making way for the falling glacier to tumble into the oncoming night.

They checked their phone, reading some message that buzzed through illuminating the car in a moth like glow. I turned away, watching the trees slip into farmer’s fields and small farmhouses off in the distance. I could see some lights over on the hill, a tall house with the brightest glow like a lighthouse in a sea of farmland. The view in the day must be lovely from up there I thought.

The phone was returned to its cradle, the track on the playlist skipped to something more bassly irritating and they reached then for the cigarettes. I held my breath as they puffed out the first exhale which always filled the car unnecessarily, before rolling down the window. The car sped on and the rain flew in from all angles, soaking their shoulder and blowing the smoke further deep into the car and my senses.

I watched as other cars pass by, less frequent than before the further out we came; but still busy for this time of the night. Their lights would glow off in the distance like trapped creatures caught in a static sea. I would let their lights burn into my eyes as they passed, allowing the white haze to flood my brain and x-ray my soul slightly. I could see no taillights however, which I always liked to see, especially in the rain. It made me think of a red eyed beast lurking off on the horizon, threatening to rise up and attack the car. Fleeing some mythical creature gave the drive a much more interesting flare. But no so tonight.

The smoke was irritating me now, but I noticed the cigarette was almost done. Soon to be tossed out into the dark. Used, burned and thrown away and never thought about again. Looked on by anyone who would find that charred thing as an annoyance and sign of the times. Another car zoomed past, washing in the splashy sound of the road that held a lot of water after the sudden downpour.

Sometimes I would imagine leaning over and forcing the steering wheel to jerk to the right, slamming our car into another’s and obliterating our lives forever. Throwing us perhaps through the windshield or crumpling us both into a bloody mess of bone and loss. I knew if we crashed I would never survive, not if I knew that was what fate held in store. My heart wouldn’t be in it to cling on, live through any deliberating injuries or even roadside assistance. I would listen to them try to keep me conscious for a moment, just to see if they really cared, and then slip away into the sweet relief of death.

But I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t force others to be caught up in our crash or our calamity. Our problems were our own, and though the end flickered worryingly close like a butterfly at times; it was our self-made ice-age; and we had no reason to complain of the cold.

Grace & Josh

It had rained all morning, and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom to see the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself, knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the text books that she had put out that morning. It wasn’t too big a class, and she was able to manage the five and six year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, a special entity there to bestow wonders to them; and many seemed to want to impress still, which she liked.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader, and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was wrong. Josh was slow, and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog there before himself, guiding a man around who couldn’t see. The dog buying cereal seemed dumb to him, and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered, and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though, they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoors picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was, and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water, Grace sat on the carpet and began to eat. She heard the rain outside their classroom, and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at them. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She started to tuck into her own sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden, and a cold chill slithered over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as though she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she took action with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water, and she went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room, being reprimanded by Miss Carbine, though she doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive.

But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, and cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom, where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels, and was mopping up the water that spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger to anyone. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later, slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, given him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard.

Grace stepped back, he eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know, with Miss Carbine away there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing sports. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic world too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around might just be a fun idea. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning any minute, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and watched him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to abet Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen. Once Josh had entered the small cupboard, the sports boxes had tumbled and the lights had gone out; plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line miles away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh neck in the tumble of the boxes, and when the power had sprang back to life Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked in the extractor fan which resided within, left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around Josh, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet, as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, and the ropes choked him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights, and the storm. Smiling to herself.

THE FIREFLIES

‘The fireflies will take you there.’

She heard the voice, strong and determined through the muddling noise of her day. It had travelled with her since she’d left her house that morning, echoes on the wind and fingers on the back of her neck.

“Stop that now please.” She said, startling an old lady passing her by. She turned away and hurried up the street, mindful of the ice on the path. The first big winter frost had settled in the night, and the overcast clouds threatened a grey and cold day ahead.

‘Come listen….’

That voice again, buzzing around her head like real fireflies. She stopped in the middle of the path outside a small coffee shop. Her warm breath exhaling in mist around in her in the coldness of the morning.

“I mean it.” she said, though there was no malice in her voice. She turned abruptly, and entered the small shop which was partially filled with people eager for their coffees on their way to work. She stood looking up at the board, her mind in two places. She looked at her watch and realised she was late for her interview. Time for a coffee at least, I’m only human she thought. She approached the counter, smiling at the man behind it; all smiles and eager to take her order. There was suddenly a huge creaking sound as if something were breaking. She looked up to find the entire roof being pulled back, opening like a can of beans.

She gasped as the seams of the room dripped in a starry gold dust, exposing the sky above them. But it was not the bleak winter clouds that she had seen outside, but a glorious sun baked blue haze smiling at her through the opening above. She staggered back from the counter, knocking into the person behind.

“Hey, watch it.” He said, unimpressed with her foot landing on his shoe, and clearly apathetic to the sight of the roof now missing above their heads. She glanced around her, the whole shop casting their confused eyes on her and not the sight above her heads.

“What? Oh Sorry!” she mumbled before flying out of the shop, letting the door smash behind her.

Out into the cold and muddling crowd, she tried to catch her breath. That was a new one she thought as she glanced back inside, watching as the people careful sipped their coffees as their own little world’s continued to turn. She felt their eyes on her still, so she moved off down the road in the same direction she had come.

“The fireflies are waiting.” She heard once more in her ears. Quietly this time, like whispers of a ghost. She shook this off and hurried quicker, making her way as fast as she could back to her apartment.

Inside she locked the door forcefully, though she knew nothing from outside was the problem. She turned around and with a flash of light the floor beneath was transformed into sand. The apartment dripped away, with a sea lapping the shore where her sofa used to be. The sky above exploded in a million sparks as if the stars were coming down from the sky. Fireflies buzzed around her, tingling her skin and whispering in her ear.

“Heena booraa, conallou.” They sung.

She smiled, she couldn’t help herself. The beach at night beneath her feet, the smell of the sea on the breeze that flowed so softly and silently down into her lungs. She walked forward and dipped her toe into the sea, her black work shoes finding a bit of sea foam on the end like a tuft of snow. She dropped her bag on the sand and walked along the beach until she walked into something hard with a loud thump.

“Ow!” she said aloud to the empty apartment which had now appeared in its headache haze around her. She rubbed her head where it had bumped, and sighed. A long deep-felt sigh that weighted with realisation and defeat. She steadied herself by putting her hand against the wall, thankful momentarily it hadn’t turned into a palm tree.

“Come back to us Stacey. We are waiting.” She heard quietly, whispered around her empty apartment.

Her mobile phone broke the silence, echoing from her bag that she had dumped on the floor. She wondered for a second whether to answer it, then quickly found her way to the bag; brushing off the sand on the bottom and retrieved the irritating device from within.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Miss Adams? I’m calling from Stacks Global.” The shrill voice called out from down the line.

“Oh, yes this is she.”

“Well Miss. Adams. We were expecting you promptly for an interview this morning.” The voice stated, hovering in an expectational way.

“Ah, yes. I’m sorry I’ve had a few problems getting in this morning.” Stacey said, noticing now the curtains beginning to shimmer with the gold dust she’d seen before. The woman on the line made a disgruntled snort as if she’d heard nothing so preposterous in her life.

“Miss. Adams, I needn’t tell you what a reputable company we have here. We don’t give interviews her needlessly to fill our time. You are making a very bad first impression and I must stress…” But Stacey cut her off.

“Okay, thanks then. Have a good day”. She said and hung up the phone, placing it on the sideboard. She stood there, no longer in a daze but with a twinkle of determination in her eyes.

“Okay. Okay. I’m coming. I’m sorry it took so long. Hana lowlalei.” And she made a circle with her hands in the air. The ground shock for a second and room burst with a flash of light, raining sparks all around her. She smiled once more and walked across the room to find her laptop. Still with her coat on she logged in, finding the cheap website for flights she had used before. Using her credit card she booked herself a ticket, first class none stop. And only one way.

 

Love libarys lost

He skipped to the last pages of the book that he held like a bible in his hands, hands that had privately explored every secret and every page of the story. Words danced out before him, lost in their own rhythm; reaching their exhausting climax. The ending made no sense as usual, and he momentarily searched his thoughts as to why he’d begun it in the first place.

Ahh, that’s right; the cover looked so intriguing.

He placed the book back on his shelf, nestled it in-between an old copy of Harry Potter and his well-presented and orderly kept CD collection. There it was to remain, unopened and unexplored for an age as the dust that collected hung to the tops of the exposed pages like a glossy film. Over time the spine faded and the adventure was forgotten.

From the shelf, as if the characters had crawled from the pages to investigate, it was noticed how a new book was begun and captivated him. Other volumes cried tears of time as they were passed over again and again in favour of the new and intriguing yarn.

Until one day it was no longer present.

Unbeknownst to those who viewed from the shelf; the book was lost on a rainy Tuesday in the month of November whilst travelling on the underground. As is the case of public transport, too many souls shoved together in the tiny tin can, made for distractions and wandering of minds. Making sure his jacket was straight and his phone was buzzing like always, he had left the book on the seat next to him. A careless gesture one might say, like the throwing of a used cup out of the car window; as the residue drips from the inside. But secretly, upon discovery; he did not mind too much as the new book didn’t interest him as much as he had let on. Maybe someone else is reading that story now, on the Hammersmith and city line.

 

Broken Glass

As she entered the room, the door scrapped noisily back. ‘’Careful!…’’ I said. ‘’….there’s broken glass everywhere.’’

She looked down in the semi-darkness. Only the noise of the door echoed throughout the spacious room, all the earth was still. Littered across the floor were the remains of light bulbs, thousands of them lay strewn about like casualties of some mass domestic crusade, empty like Christmas carcasses.

‘’I’m sorry for the mess, and subsequent darkness.’’ I said. I tried putting her at ease, but even in the quiet dark I knew what her eyes were saying, and what her head was thinking. “It took me a long time to get here.’’ I added. Again, I tried to lighten the atmosphere and add some normalcy to a most unusual situation. She didn’t speak, I never expected her to.

CRUNCH, as I heard her step across the glass. Slow at first, then with more pace and purpose. The glass was shattering further, broken pieces splintering more into something unfixable. I could smell her and the smoke, coughing quietly in my soul. The noise below her feet conjured the image in my head of a giant stepping over long ago stripped bones. Did Jack ever escape?

‘’I’m sorry’’ I sighed out, starring down to the ground. I couldn’t face her still, would I ever be able to I wondered? She held the moment, captured the silence and suspended the time, forcing me to see what I had done. I started to cry. She did not turn away at this, seeming to ache with each tear she watched splash to the ground. Throughout it all she remained silent.

She outstretched her arm and I could see her hand. I held out mine and we touched. A blinding flash, only for a second and then a glow hung in the air like plasma. The room was a flutter of labels, descending and spiraling down like tiny birds. They mixed at random with the glass upon the floor. Paper and glass like the aftermath of an anniversary.  Thousands of them fell like snow; this early winter ensnared the two of us. Each bore two names, written in old script; nothing more.
My name had been misspelled.

SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT IV–Sinister deeds)

Part IV – ‘Sinister deeds’
(Full story here)

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.
 

SHORT – ‘雨降って地固まる’ (PT III)

Part III – ‘Omens & Origami’
(Full story here)

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

 

 

雨降って地固まる (The rain falls, the ground hardens)

The rain fell softly, thickening and blurring between snow and sleet. Flakes that found their way onto roof tops or eyes lids, disappeared in an instance into a watery grave. The small town of Hirani was perched high atop the steep cliffs that stuck out into the North Pacific Ocean like teeth. The wind would swell and batter the cliffs, but the town was usually protected from Mother Nature’s fury. And protecting, Hirani was in need of. At least the inhabitants. Steeped in history, Hirani was an old and superstitious place. The incense burned on everyone’s doorstep, warding off the spectres who would roam in the night, as many believed they did.

The tea house was the focal point for many. A noisy, bustling place where the locals and travellers each would go to relax and to be entertained. Geishas were in high demand here, and many could earn a lot of money from the Silent Storm Tea house, and those who frequented it.

On the other side of town, a line of row-houses led up a small hill. It was dark and gloomy, with many of the lanterns in the area never lit. The residents kept to themselves, many of them fisherman families who would sail out early in the morning and return home very late. One of these fisherman was returning home in the late hour, having stopped for refreshment in town. He was jovial; having had a good catch that day, and had drunk to his own congratulations. He moved up the hill with ease, despite the weather. He came to a fork in road where the houses all grouped themselves together, almost buckling. In his disorientation, he turned left instead of right, moving up a smaller hill that hovered over the town. He hadn’t realised he’d gone the wrong way until he found himself at the red door.

He quickly glanced around, noticing the huge figures to his left and right. Two Nio stone guardians guarded the entrance, proclaiming sacred ground. Hastening back, his eyes darting from the door which had a crude double triangle and diamond painted upon it, up to the small house beyond the gates. He let out a small yelp, and hurried off down the path back to the safety of the road and towards his own home.

Inside the house, Tomoryō watched the man as she sipped her tea. She smiled, knowing his story. She watched him depart and noticed the snow was getting thicker now in the lamp light. It was indeed late, but she could not sleep. She was on edge since seeing someone earlier that day, someone she thought she would never see again, and had hoped never to. Her mind ticked over as she took down a large book off the shelf and began to flick through the pages. At her feet, the small fox prowled, slipping in and out of the desk legs and those of Tomoryō. Finally falling asleep next to her.

To the world Tomoryō was a geisha, one of the best in the province. Her beauty was flawless, and her talent legendary. As was her reputation. For Tomoryō was also known as the witch of Hirani to those in the town and was feared by them also. The two triangles on her gate, which she had refused to remove, were the fox ears which labelled her so. Not everyone in the town of course believed she was a witch, but those who did not still erred on the side of caution. She lived alone, aside her fox Aitarō, in her old family residence; having adapted it over the years thanks to her improved income. As Tomoryō was very good at being a geisha.

She read deep into the early hours, eventually going to bed when the sun began to rise off on the horizon. The snow had stopped, and had blanketed the entire town in thick layer of white magic. While she slept, events in town began to unfold that would lead to Tomoryō to be known, not just in her small town, but in the whole of Japan.

II

Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.

As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.

Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.

“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.

“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.

“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.

“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.

“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.

“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.

“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.

“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.

“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.

“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.

“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.

“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.

“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.

“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;

“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a little immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.

“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.

“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.

“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.

“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.

“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.

“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.

“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.

“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.

Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.

They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.

He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.

III

Despite sleeping late, Tomoryō woke just after midday, her stomach lurching to the lack of food the day before. She dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to make herself and Aitarō something to eat. Aitarō followed her, jumping up onto the small stool she had by the back door. She’d had such strange and cursed dreams, and she knew what they meant to her. Change was coming, something ominous that would challenge her and require all her strength.

She knew the theatre had come to town, she’d known before anyone else. Travelling back from a small function the previous night, the caravan and her own transport had crossed paths. She’d sensed something before about the day in the early morning, when she’s noticed the wind had suddenly changed direction. She was mindful of such omens. Though shocked, she was not surprised. And she slipped away without anyone noticing her.

Tomoryō operated alone, and though this was not how she liked it, it was how it was. She was kind and helpful to whomever she came in contact with though, and looked for the best in people. Hoping others would do the same. She’d been forced to leave her Okiya a few years ago under a shadow of scandal and mystery. The death of her older ‘sister’ had been hushed up as best as it could be, as best as money could hush things up, but word had gotten out that Tomoryō was involved. Though this wasn’t really the whole truth. The Okiya’s mother had been a cruel and tyrannical woman, and though many of the Geisha in the town had boarded there, few believed that she herself had not been involved in some way. Knowing the close calls in the past that many had had with her. Yet, with smoke there is always fire, which was why there was a suspicion towards Tomoryō, but not complete belief that she was a witch. Many had turned against her, those who were jealous of her beauty and talent, and those who were superstitious thought it was bad luck not to think she was a witch. Err on the side of caution.

Tomoryō was forced back to her family home, which she turned into a small compound, shutting herself away as much as she needed to, to protect herself. Before long, she had re-emerged and began her geisha duties once more. She was truly the most beautiful woman in the region, and though many kept their distance, many men could not resist. She worked well with those travelling through the town, or those who came back for business. Outsiders who did not know or care to know her history in the small time they spent with the forbidden flower. Her isolation gave her too her independence, and she was able to charge the most for her services, ones of which she had more choice over. She never burned bridges with the other geisha in Hirani, or their Okiya, but there was always a wall there, one sometimes hard to scale.

She made some tea and went upstairs to the small reading room she had at the top of her house. Aitarō followed, licking the drips of tea that fell from the cup which had a small crack in the bottom. She should throw it away, but couldn’t bring herself to. It had been mother’s favourite. She opened the shutters and looked out over the town. From her view she could see the rising mountains off in the distance. The sleeping ojiisan (grandfather), which loomed over the region like an old man in a chair. The day was bright and harsh, the light reflecting off the snowfall. She could see smoke rising from the square, fires from the market and the theatre group no doubt. She placed the tea next to her and took a sheet of paper. Her mother had taught origami when she was a child, and though she enjoyed it, she now used it for more practical purposes. She closed her eyes and muttered some words under her breath as she slid the thick red paper between her fingers, going back and forth a few times. She opened her eyes and began to make the small figure.

She had made a miniature version of the town out of paper. The small houses and shrine, the market place and people of interest we all represented. It had taken her ages, but it was a task that had cleansed her mind and spirit. She finished the red figure and placed it down in the centre of the town square. None of the other figures were done in the red paper, and the figure glared out from the earthy tones of the others and from the small buildings. She stood back and looked at the model, knowing all too well whole the figure was. She had been reluctant to make any quick decisive decision, lest it hurt her reputation, but she had formulated a plan in her mind that would now need some action. She finished her tea, and began to get ready, choosing the bright red kimono she saved for her best performances.

Masao knew the streets of Hirani pretty well. He remembered most of the towns he travelled through, and unlike the rest of the trope who would say all the places looked the same after a while, he usual found one distinction with each new place to make it unique and memorable. His remembrance of Hirani was down to one thing, and that was the Silent Storm Tea House. The Silent Storm was similar to many other tea houses in japan, save for one unique feature. It was built around a small waterfall which cascaded down from the small river and rocks, right through the teahouse. Transparent screens had been built around it so the view from within captured the elegance and power of the flow of water. The area surrounding the teahouse had been built into a lush, if not tiny formal garden, which was far removed from the humble shacks and fisherman houses that made up most of the town. It was located not far from the main square, and was in the much more affluent area of the town with the main passing road through to the north and south nearby.

Masao had a feeling it was the Silent storm that the man was headed to. He was surprised however, the wages he know the man to be on were not those to afford such luxuries as a visit to a Teahouse. Yet as he followed him down the small passageways, it was the Teahouse that he came to, and he watched him as he went over the small bridge leading to the main entrance. He paused momentarily, removing his hat and slicking back his dark hair with his hand before disappearing inside. Masao hesitated himself, then followed him in.

IV

Although the snow that fell made the town look beautiful, it was really an added torture for many. The freezing cold and blanket of toil left many desperate in Hirani. Enko was lucky, she hard worked her way up to be a popular geisha, earning a lot of money for her Okiya which took care of her. She was outgoing and a lot of fun to those who booked her services. Though many closer to her would say she was somewhat reckless, she was known for being eager to try new things and was usually where the most spirited events were in the town.

It wasn’t that she had a particular grudge against Tomoryō. She, like many, were really in awe of her and her beauty. They had studied together growing up, and had known one another for a long time; jumped through the same hoops and mastered the arts as two sisters might. But inside of Enko, there was always fresh seeds ready to sprout, and jealousy was one that was easily watered. It wasn’t just her beauty or success, or even the reverence Tomoryō received. It was that she had something that was far more lacking within Enko. Self-respect.

People called her a witch because Tomoryō didn’t do all the things that were asked of her, especially from men. She had bucked the system and carved her own living through being a Geisha, which she clearly found some happiness within. A circumstance really more than a calling. Enko had been thrust into this life, and though she messily navigated her way through with bad decisions, she was angry that she herself could not be as strong willed as Tomoryō.

To see Tomoryō brought down to everyone else’s level, would give Enko the satisfaction that being where she was, doing what she is told to do, is how it should be.

But it was more than that.

And it was more than that that she had suggested to Unoko. Did she really mean to have Tomoryō killed? Well, it would remove her completely, destroy the beacon of individuality that she had cultivated, which really had no place in the world of Geisha. There had not been much back and forth in her mind whether it was wrong to have Tomoryō murdered. Enko, reckless as ever, had launched to that conclusion by the time she had left Unoko’s. Guilt was not something Enko dwelled too much on, and it was a lot cleaner than merely teaching her a lesson. It was this sinister side within her that had grown when she was a child. Competing with the other children to have the best toys, the most attention. It was this side of her that had tricked the little girl when she was only five years old herself to go down the well near her childhood home, and to leave her there for two days. It was always there really, ready to spring to action like a crouching mantis. Enko could be a lot of fun, but she was also very conniving.

She had dispensed with the moral debate in her mind by the time she had reached the small house. Mindful of the time, as she did not want to be late for her appointment with the businessman, so she knocked hastily on the door. She had come to one of the more shabby areas of Hirani, with the small line houses squeezed up against one another like crooked teeth. Enko, in her Kimono looked out of place in the bleakness of her surroundings, like a lotus flower on a sea of mud. She knocked again sharply, louder this time until the door slid open. A small woman stood there, her eyes narrowed on a face that snarled back at her.

“You’re far from the garden little flower.” The older woman said. She held a pipe in her hand, and puffed the smoke towards Enko.

“Oh knock it off Madoka, and let me in.” Enko said, barging her way into the small entrance room. The room smelled of fish that was likely bubbling away on a stove nearby. But she didn’t plan to stay too long, so she endured it.

“What do you want?” Madoka asked her, looking her up and down.

“I want you to do what you’re best at.” Enko said, retrieving some money from the inside of her sleeve. She handed it over to her, mindful not to touch Madoka’s hands which were stained with black and ash from her pipe.

“And who’s the lucky soul this time? Some fisherman who couldn’t keep his mouth shut?” Madoka said, enjoying the moment. She liked to antagonise her. Her own defence against being bought by some silly geisha with more style than brains. But bought she was, for very specific services.

“Oh, someone you know pretty well. That’s only half of what you’ll get you see, the rest will come when the job is complete.” Enko said, wiping the smirk off her face. Madoka looked again at the money, realising now how much she’d been given.

“Who?” she said, faintly now with unease.

“Tomoryō.” Enko said, eager to see her eyes when she understood who it was.

“Keep it.” She said, throwing the money back towards her where it landed on the floor. Enko’s smile waivered slightly, she stared at the money now on the dirty floor. She nudge some of it with her foot, looking at the ground she said.

“You’ll do it Madoka, and you’ll do it quickly and quietly. Unless you want me to lead everyone to your other misdemeanours.” She said sweetly. Most people knew how much of unsavoury character Madoka was, it was not a huge secret that she was not to be trusted. But there were many things they didn’t know, things that were a lot more serious than petty theft; and Enko knew them, she knew all of them.

And Madoka knew she knew.

She lowered her eyes as if in shame, but it was merely to look again at the money on the floor. She bent down to pick it up.

“Any requests?” She said, putting the money in her pocket and puffing again on her pipe.

“Make it look like she did it herself, and do something about that pretty face of hers.” Enko said, turning around and kicking the money that lay on the floor. She slid the door open and disappeared off into the snow, a walking plum on a sea of white rice.

Madoka watched her depart up the road, cursing having let her in today, and fearing what she had to do.

Class: Fiction

He skipped the to the last pages of the book that he held like a bible in his hands. Words danced on the page before him, the ending made no sense as usual. He searched his thoughts as to why he’d begun it in the first place. Ahh, that’s right…the cover looked so intriguing.

He placed the book back, nestled it in-between an old copy of Harry Potter and his well-presented and orderly kept cd collection. There it was to remain, unopened and unexplored for an age as the dust that collected hung to the tops of the pages like a glossy film. Over time the spine faded and the adventure was lost.

From the shelf, as if the characters had crawled from the pages to investigate, it was noticed how a new book was begun and captivated his time. Other volumes cried tears of time as they were passed over again and again in favour of this new and intriguing yarn.

Until one day it was no longer present. Unbeknownst to those who viewed from the shelf; the book was lost on a rainy Tuesday in the month of November, whilst travelling on the underground. As is the case of public transport, too many souls shoved together in a tin can made for distractions and wandering of minds. Making sure his jacket was straight and his phone was buzzing like always, he had left the book on the seat next to him. A careless gesture one might say, like the throwing of a used cup out of the car window; as the residue drips from the inside. But secretly, he did not mind too much as the new book didn’t interest him as much as he had let on. Maybe someone else is reading that story now, on the Hammersmith and city line.

Remittance of the love that is lost to the ways of the world (part II)

Your eyes dared me to ask you what it was, like I didn’t know. The deluded pleas of the guilty, while all around the judges think of what punishment would be best fitting. The dying cat of curiosity rose and fell within me, and I turned away. I could not look, I could not commit to the ending so willingly. The metal felt cool against my temple, though it was your smell that made me aware of what you were doing. It crawled over me like the scent of the sea. The gun clicked. I felt you near and shut my eyes, longing for you to turn my head and kiss me. Those days were long gone. A quick stab in the back, the knife that had, but till a moment ago seemed mysteriously absent, sent the tiny nerves in my body cascading like fireworks. Your mouth came close to my ear and you whispered the words I never believed you would utter in this scenario.

(Truth is, you never said these three words with any conviction that would render it believable in the past, yet something told me this was the cold hard truth that my mind was digesting).

The sound of birds filled the room, and forced me to open my eyes. I turned and saw you there, eyes aflame and soul locking its door forever on me, never to be seen again by my pathetic searching pupils. Feathers fluttered down upon us as the ceiling filled with vultures, gathering and yarring with their hungry beaks. Their black hisses and calls split my ears. The box on the table flew open and out poured the remaining blood that flowed towards us like a lava stream. The contents bobbed on the surface momentarily before submerging into the crimson depths. I sighed, you grabbed me and kissed me full on the mouth. You sighed as I turned the gun and shot us both.

Remittance of the love that is lost to the ways of the world (part I)

You motioned for me to quietly enter the room. I could feel the tenseness of the air. The walls seemed to contract and wrap themselves around me. You sat there with no expression on your face. That face, the one I had touched so many times. Kissed it, smelt it, longed to be near enough I could count your eyelashes. Now it glared back at me like an empty pool. The lights began to flicker, stuttering out their watts in a rhythm I can only attune to the beat of your heart. The gun didn’t bother me, it was aimed at my head throughout but I knew this was all leading to something. The beginning of the end.

(I noted that it was aimed here and not my heart…maybe you’d finally figured out, there wasn’t one in this body of mine)

This part of the Jeykll and Hyde, this side of crazy. You asked me to sit down, the first time you’d spoken. Little daggers aimed at my ears, rushing with the blood and fresh thoughts to my head. You were so cordial, yet each word spat at me like kids on a council estate. I choose to stand, my one last defiance in our petty war. You told me there was something for me on the table, I looked down to see a wooden box. You told me to open it. This was not what I expected. Your look gave nothing away, nothing expect hurt burning from your eyes, and anger that could not by concealed. The box lay in a pool of blood, thick and viscous, floating on this horrific sea…..

Broken glass

As she entered the room, the door scrapped noisily back. ‘’Careful!…’’ I said. ‘’….there’s broken glass everywhere.’’ She looked down in the semi-darkness. Only the noise of the door echoed throughout the spacious room, all the earth was still. Littered across the floor were the remains of light bulbs, thousands of them lay strewn like casualties of some mass domestic crusade. Empty like Christmas carcases. ‘’I’m sorry for the mess, and subsequent darkness’’. I tried putting her at ease, but even in the quiet dark I knew what her eyes were saying and her head was thinking.

“It took me a long time to get here.’’ I added.  Again, I tried to lighten the atmosphere and add some normalcy to a most unusual situation. She didn’t speak, I never expected her to. CRUNCH as I heard her step across the glass. Slow at first, then with more pace and purpose. The glass was shattering further, broken pieces splintering more into something unfixable. I could smell her and the smoke, coughing quietly in my soul. The noise below her feet conjured the image in my head of a Giant stepping over long ago stripped bones. Did Jack ever escape?

‘’I’m sorry’’ I sighed out, starring down; I couldn’t face her still. Will I ever be able to? She held the moment, captured the silence and suspended the time forcing me to see what I had done. I started to cry. Throughout it all she remained silent. Her arm outstretched, I could see her hand. I held out mine and we touched. A blinding flash, only for a second and then a glow hung in the air. The room was a flutter of labels, descending and spiralling down. They mixed at random with the glass upon the floor. Thousands of them fell like snow, this early winter ensnared the two of us. They each bore two names, written in old script; nothing more. My name had been misspelled.