The Unforgivable Act Dream

My friend Joe had accidentally killed someone again. The first incident resulted in the death of a little girl, and he’d received only a caution. This time it was a teenager; part of a renowned gang of brothers, and although the law still weren’t after him, the gang were.

For days they drove around his house in their fancy-ass purple convertible. However, as a law-abiding gang they never attempted anything murderous, but they were enough to make Joe terrified to leave the house.

They often glimpsed me in the upstairs windows, but I wasn’t afraid of them. Au contraire, we actually got on really well. I was trying to persuade Joe to turn himself in and they were happy to let me try. Joe, however, was just shrugging off my words. He was grateful for the company, but not for my advice.

He paced about the house in an utter state. As I followed him around, I examined the decorations I’d put up for him over the years; with each visit I’d added to the duvet mural pinned up on his wall. This duvet was so enormous that it extended the width of the house. It began in the master bedroom, where I had intricately decorated and coloured in the quilted squares, and through into the spare room, where I’d balanced it over a wooden frame and made him a cute lil’ tent.

I started adding to the colourful wall above the stairs, where I had previously drawn an ABC of animals and objects. I began to write subtle messages throughout the grids in chalks and charcoals to make him feel guilty. Things like, “H for he was just a boy,” and, “T for think about his poor family.” When he saw what I was doing, his eyes filled with tears. He grabbed me by the wrist and led me to the front room.

“Look, see?” Joe gestured to a masquerade mask lodged firmly into the wall. Next to it he had scribbled ‘JON DAMM.’ He looked at me pleadingly, as if waiting for my confirmation that this display was suitable repentance. But it didn’t fix anything. In fact, it added to his problems; his landlord would go mental at the wall damage.

I shook my head at him and returned to the spare room, where the tent section of the duvet had fallen. I tried to fix it, but it just kept falling, until I accidentally yanked it too hard and the pinned part came off. This was not what I needed. Not after witnessing the accident firsthand and having to deal with my friend’s guilt. I walked into Joe’s bedroom and realised in that short space of time he’d reorganised his furniture. The room was incredibly tidy, but where he’d newly positioned the bed, I could no longer put my duvet art up. More frustration.

I looked around his room. Everything was pristine; the only mess was a small pile of trinkets on the bedside table, hiding a used train ticket to a place called Kenfrew. The date was quite recent. I knew it was a woman.

The house was quiet. It seemed he’d snuck out. I looked out the window to see if the gang were still there, and saw the ginger-haired family in the garden of the house opposite. Two young girls and their thirty-something dad were hiding behind a wall in their swimming gear. Their younger sister was running towards them with a water pistol, but they were all far better armed. She didn’t stand a chance. She was pummelled by three strong, separate jets of water, and they all fell about laughing. I felt alone.

I decided to try and find Joe. As I reached town I saw him enter a restaurant. I followed without really seeing what kind of place it was. From the cuisine and décor I assumed it to be Turkish; the cubes of soft, creamy dessert I saw on everyone’s tables looked insanely good. They were served on big silver platters and round, ornate dishes by fancy waiters, and placed on rich red or purple tablecloths. The restaurant was absolutely massive, and after a couple of minutes I found Joe on a long table in the middle. Not only him, but my parents too. And my High School best friend and his family. Even some of my work colleagues. Some of the gang members were there too, seemingly unaware of Joe’s presence.

“What the hell?” I aimed the exclamation at my parents in particular. “Where was my invite?” Nobody answered. This entire restaurant looked kitted out for an extravagant party, like every table knew each other. What had I missed?

There was a spare seat at the head of the table near my mum and I asked if I could fill it, but nobody answered. They all just looked away from me awkwardly. I perched on it anyway, and could tell everyone was annoyed at my presence. Why though? I was the sole person that tied this group of people together! It was like they had all outgrown me. I reached across the table and picked up a fancy looking cereal bar from amongst the desserts; I wasn’t brave enough to take those without permission. I ate the bar out of spite, but I couldn’t really taste it.

“Mum, why wasn’t I invited?” I whispered quietly. She pointedly continued to ignore me. Her friends came over to our table with their prosecco glasses and glamorous dresses and smiled warmly at me.

“Hiya Claire, you alright?”

I’d not seen them in years. In normal circumstances I’d have gotten up and hugged them, but in this one I just said, “Yeah thanks… Actually no, I’m not alright. You’ve all had a fancy dinner without me. You know how much I like fancy dinners.” Their smiles vanished and they started ignoring me too.

Someone in a suit that I didn’t recognise stood up to give a speech. Sinking into my chair a little more, I’d never felt so out of place amongst my friends and family. I wasn’t sure what upset me more; their blatant dislike for my company, or the fact that the fuckers had eaten a whole 3-course meal without me.

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The Witness Dream

If there’s one thing to ruin your appetite at lunch, it’s finding a fresh corpse outside your office. The lifeblood of my faceless colleague pooled around the spring planters of the little courtyard; a close-range gunshot had ensured he was no longer identifiable.

I looked away to stop myself from throwing up or screaming, and in doing so noticed an old-school camera tripod setup nearby. It was focused on a man spray-painting a tag beside the body. There were three men in total, all wearing dark hoodies. Once they saw us watching, two of them scarpered.

Myself and Jess acted as if we’d seen nothing, but climbed up onto the statue podium in the centre of the courtyard for safety. The remaining man watched our movements. He made no attempt to hide his identity. I saw every detail of his face with clarity; the enormous crooked grin and dark-eyed pupils wide with pleasure.

An older man exited the office and was met with the barrel of the pistol. The gun barely made a noise, but his pale pink shirt darkened instantly.  I held Jess to me so she couldn’t see any of it, but the man didn’t once stop watching me. A woman followed shortly after, and with sickening grace he sprung on her. She whimpered and pleaded, struggling against the prison of his arms. The man’s eyes bore into my soul, daring me to try something. He looked almost disappointed as several seconds later he rammed the gun into her mouth and pulled the trigger. Her body dropped like litter.

Somehow she was still alive and looking at me, choking on her own cries for help. Blood cascaded down her face in silk ribbons, body convulsing as she tried to breathe with what was left of her mouth. Jess broke free of my shielding and saw. She sobbed.

“Please,” I begged. “We saw nothing.”

“You’re damn right,” he growled, pointing the pistol at me. “And you tell no-one.”

He disappeared, and it was apparent that we had to do the same.

I made sure Jess got home okay. We didn’t discuss it, but agreed with silence that we would tell no-one. This man was not ordinary. He would find us.

By 6pm the murders were all over the news. After three showers I sat naked on the sofa, hugging my knees. Several of my belongings were covered in blood, some of which I knew could prove vital in catching the killers. My white T-shirt was stained red, and for some reason bits of cardboard I’d dragged home were damp with blood too. This is someone else’s blood, I thought. The last of it. I couldn’t wrench my mind from the image of the woman as her face half-exploded. I’d seen it plenty of times in TV programmes and games, but reality…

Needless to say I didn’t sleep that night. Luckily the office was closed until further notice, so I didn’t have to worry about work. The hours passed in a haze of nothingness, until Saturday came and brought with it my birthday celebrations. People arrived a few at a time, and I plastered on a big smile. Jess was there, but refused to meet my gaze. We had cocktails whilst waiting for the latecomers, but the small talk didn’t block out the bad thoughts.

The restaurant district had a gigantic pool in the middle, so as the images resurfaced I went for a swim to clear my mind. The pool was full of people of all ages, enjoying the freak heatwave with their rubber rings and colourful Speedos. Somehow, I became topless. I swam up to the Turtle Bay pool bar, looking at the menu for ages, but not properly taking it in. The bartender was really nice, but I could see she was getting irritated with my lack of ordering.

Before I knew it, two hours had passed. I made my way back to the cocktail bar my friends were inhabiting. Miraculously they were still there, but they were far from happy. After months of planning they’d spent time and money to celebrate with me, and I’d ruined everything. I apologised nonstop. “I’m so sorry,” I choked. I caught Jess’ eye and whispered, “I just keep thinking about that day.”

“Don’t you fucking dare,” she said between gritted teeth. I burst into tears. The rest of the group came back from the bar and looked at me with disappointment. I hugged them all and began the next round of apologies. This was not the night I had promised them.

We stuck around until they finished their cocktails, with next to no conversation to improve the mood. I sat alone on a sun lounger, sniffling until we went our separate ways.

It felt as if all my clothes had been soaked in hot, sticky blood. I went back with a couple of friends to their house, where I asked if I could be cheeky and use their washing machine. There was already a load on, which was five incredibly long minutes away from being done. I stood there watching the clock, wearing the clothes my friend had reluctantly lent me.

After a while he went off to meet his gaming friends, seeing as the disastrous night was already over. I looked at my watch; it was only eleven. This night was still salvageable! I decided to message everyone so we could regroup and still go to our Airbnb. There I would snap out of this stupor, forget the whole incident (with enough time and vodka) and enjoy myself.

I washed the blood from my hands, and the images from my memory.

Playing God

He hasn’t killed me yet, which I’m pretty sure means he loves me. His beautiful soul surpassed death, and in his death he found me. He is perfect in every way. I am besotted, and fully support him in his holy mission. I love him when he seeks the women in nightclubs. I adore him when he splits their heads open and burns the crosses into their flesh. I would do anything he asks of me whilst burying their still-warm corpses. All this I tell him, and he knows to be true.

And thus I find myself as bait to the sinners, clad in skin-tight leather and sent into the depths of hell itself; Saturday night clubbing.

Instantly I am lauded over. Men sniff around me like wild dogs over a scrap of meat. They smell my innocence. The air throbs with anger and overwhelming loudness. People grind and sway to the rhythm, sweat shimmering down their near-naked bodies as they move as one entity; the devil himself. I see his power and I am terrified. But I must stay strong. For my love.

Within an hour of seeking the worst of the whores and miscreants, I am downing tequila and dancing to Backstreet Boys. I have failed my lover, my God, but holy fuck am I having a good time. Once your body succumbs to the music it’s so easy to give in to everything else. The alcohol burning your throat becomes almost pleasant. You start to reciprocate the physical attention, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Here, I am a queen, a goddess. I am freed of my bonds of servitude.

But then I see him through the crowds. He’s watching me with a mixture of utter disappointment and disgust. Shame and guilt flood my stomach and force its liquid contents back up my throat. He makes the symbol of the cross, washing his hands of me. He turns to leave, but I obediently follow.

Thirty minutes later and my brain is splattered on the bricks, my body mangled and broken by the bins. He’s crying. It’s sad, really; part of me pities him never knowing the pleasures of a sinful life. The rest of me hates this fucker for cutting mine short.

But soon I will be reborn, seeking my revenge by killing the pure, his children of innocence, leading them astray and dancing drunkenly to 90s dance tunes until my second death.

The Daughter of Thanos Dream

So like, when a guy’s into you, but you’re not really into him, but he’s like, super powerful, trying to take over the galaxy and could easily kill you and everyone you ever loved with a snap of the fingers… what do you do?

I hadn’t encouraged him in any way. He’d simply picked me up on one of his population-destroying adventures and decided to keep me. Like a pet. He was ravishing me with gifts; the most beautiful gifts from across the cosmos. There was the ruby-encrusted diadem, delicately woven from the silver of a far-off planet, the sapphire pendant ablaze with the cold fire of a burning star… He seemed to have a thing for precious stones.

But none of these gifts would make me forget so much death. Wherever he went, bodies crumpled in his purple wake. I wanted nothing more than to hide in some forgotten corner of the galaxy, to never see that ridged chin again. But he wasn’t really the kind of guy you say no to.

Nevertheless, I resisted his advances as best I could without pissing him off, but this only made him try harder. He thought it would be romantic to make me an ice rink by freezing an entire city.

I fucking hate ice skating.

If you ignored the bodies frozen beneath your feet, the city did look beautiful. Crystallised towers glinted in the sunlight, sparkling showers of refracted light across the frosted ground. It would take years to melt ice this thick. A fresh start for the planet.

Somehow, this place held the key to my freedom. Not only was this a supposed romantic gesture, this was also a game. He watched intently for my reaction. Trying to ignore the outstretched hand frozen beneath my feet, I smiled and thanked him. For a moment he almost looked happy. But knowing he had a hidden motive in the skating, I politely declined to join him and his smile soon melted.

There was a delicate veil of snow floating along the ground. Watching something so pure made me feel a small sense of peace for the first time in weeks. It was the first of Thanos’ gifts I could almost be thankful for. I lay amongst it and it was soft and welcoming, like lying in a cloud of cool water. He watched as I made graceful snow angels, and I could tell he was losing his patience. He wanted to see his doll dance, to see her enjoy his wondrous gift and succumb to his will. He wanted to win a woman who would stand lovingly by his side while he massacred half the population.

Many people were already using the skate rink, drafted in from nearby cities to dance across their fallen brethren. They began performing some kind of ritualistic synchronised dance, supposedly to entice me onto the ice. A digital leaderboard appeared, tracking who had completed the most laps, but most were too wrapped up in the dance. I kept an eye on it.

People had hidden themselves in rooms frozen shut, so Thanos used his bladed foot to slice the solid walls of ice apart. Everyone had to be on the rink to appreciate his generous gift. He was getting angry, and I could tell more murder was on the cards. My time was running out.

Having exhausted all my options, I slowly began to put my skates on. They were beautiful; sleek and black, with swirls of silver stitching and incredibly long silver laces. For some reason though, I had rollerblades, as if he didn’t trust me with real blades. I was also burning thin pillar candles in each. I kept them in.

As I reached the rink, the toffee-nosed forerunner of the leaderboard came over and smirked. “Dead already? That’s a shame.”

I smiled innocently at him and said, “oh dude. I’ve not even started yet,” and his face dropped.

Somehow, I needed to be top of that leaderboard. Somehow, that was the key to escaping Thanos. I just needed to not die in the process…

Tangerine Tofu

By the river’s clammed hand, quickly
the scholar finds heaven in the conifers.
Pain, young thing, becomes you.

Low clouds tear asunder
a lone piano in faraway June,
yearn for yew, the moon, and I.

*

From a mistranslation exercise with Robert Kiely, using the Chinese poem, The Jiang and Han Rivers

The Lactose Paradigm

I am out of milk. The last carton sits discarded by the bin, accusing. The shedding of fleecy skin and three sets of traffic lights beseech tomorrow. But threat lines my stomach: a whole day dragged through wretched necessity without that vital bitter lifeblood. Even my motivation needs motivation. This procrastination has to stop, or I’ll never leave this fuzzy haze, Stockholm syndrome of a dressing gown. It takes me twenty minutes to stand and partly undress, to persuade myself they’ll think my hair is deliberately a mess. Swathes of material puff up my thighs like pregnancy pillows. Jeans jammed over jammies. I suppose I am ready.

Prompt: Write a ten sentence prose poem about doing something mundane.

Believe

Character prompt:
Subvert – the independent badass woman who does not believe in love.

She was hot. She was independent. And most of all, she was badass. She flicked her shining auburn hair as she loosed another arrow, straight and true into the heart of yet another henchman. Before the next arrow could be nocked, an arm wrapped around her neck. Soon the arrowhead was buried deep in his oesophagus, blood spurting across her face and adding to her murderous aesthetic. Cool rock music began to play in time with the fight scene.

After endless cartwheels, high kicks and the odd elegant stabbing, a neat circle of dead and unconscious henchman surrounded the leather-clad vixen. There wasn’t even a bead of sweat, nor a hair out of place. With a perfect pout of full red lips, she stared off into the distance for a moment; hands on hips, eyes glowing from the heat of unfair battle.

She had no need of their weapons, but she searched the pockets of the nearest bad guy for a grenade. Pulling the pin out sexily with her teeth, she threw the grenade at their van. There was nothing in it; they had no precious cargo and weren’t likely to use it again. But she needed the explosion to walk away from.

As she walked – in slow motion, of course – she passed a stage; the source of the cool rock music. Justin Hawkins, in his tight white spandex and flowing pink locks, winked at her. He delved into an awesome guitar riff. She stopped involuntarily. Her feet wouldn’t move. She gazed upon this fine specimen, and just listened to the rhythm of her heart. She was a strong, independent woman who didn’t need no man. And yet… As she contemplated The Darkness before her, she now believed in a thing called love.