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.

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.

 

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.
 

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.