In Which, I Died

In Which, I Died

The moment has never been enough to sustain me, to hold my attention for even the amount of time that the moment needs to become the past; this crippling disability has forced me to grow into a permanent state of dissatisfaction, only occasionally broken by the slightest sensation. I can recall, perhaps, three occasions over the past year when I have been truly happy.

One, whilst I was growing increasingly sober in a nightclub in Liverpool, saw sitting against the wall, with my feet angled out and up, and my heels digging uncomfortably into the metallic edge of the box the place used as a table. I couldn’t hear anything besides sound – I couldn’t see anything but light, but light which came in flickering diodes and blinding still-shots which twisted through the filtration of my eyelids – I could feel nothing but sensation, from the harsh surface against my buttocks and my back, to the aforementioned heels, to the vague coiling of something in my stomach which warned me, in no uncertain terms, that I had ingested the same old poison into myself; I wasn’t quite immune.

But I was thinking how fine it would have been if I had died then; if I had lived in that moment from a literal perspective, and if I was dead the rest of the time. What if my life, a mean, scrabbling, laboriously dull affair, would have been greatly improved if I learned, at the end, what it meant to be alive?

I flickered my eyes open, to draw in one last sight; I took a deep breath, to feel my lungs burst with oxygen; I curled my fingernail into the palms of my hands, that I might experience the pleasure of agony in one final moment; I pulled my lips apart, to feel the smokeless atmosphere upon my tongue and between my broken teeth; I tried to listen to the song, and heard the words displace my last thoughts.

There were three women dancing some feet ahead of me, on a ledge which led to a few steps which, in their turn, trailed down onto the main dancefloor. There were stop-motion, the lights illuminated their solitary positions for a long moment, before darkness descended and they were free to move. I saw arms raised in unheard pleas, strands of hair whipping the atmosphere in reproof, feet propelling slim, young bodies from the cruel floor and gravity and constraint. I sensed arousal skirting on the edges of myself, and I rejected it. For a moment, I longed for it to consume me.

I felt my nostrils complain as they stole every scrap of air they could, felt each follicle of hair tremble beneath the sudden onslaught, felt the air punish the back of my throat as it passed and my lungs expand within my chest; it was an eternal death rattle, a scentless inhalation.

I thought I felt dead protein burst through my skin’s veneer, felt it pierce through the flesh and into the muscle beyond. I felt the warmth of blood pulsating around them, a warmth which spread through my fingers and arms as though some dam had suddenly burst beneath my pressure; I felt knives in the dark and rejoiced in the fact that I was so feared that my own body could such a thing to me.

I tasted the air, tasted the sweat and the manufactured smoke and the sickly sweetness of foreign vomit like I never had before. I found beauty in that taste, in those ugly components, boasting their hideous countenances. I could taste the three women, knowing nothing but themselves and their audience; I could taste the barmaid, pouring out shots and nodding along with the music; I could taste the DJ himself, like a pontiff on a pedestal, bringing his people closer to their gods.

The words were alien, beyond my perception, and I was bacteria in the undergrowth of existence, studying two monkeys as they rubbed sticks together and drawing closer to the warmth. I followed the song down strange, illicit pathway, I felt it permeate my being and force my heart to beat along with it. I felt my lips move along with words I didn’t know, words I had never known and would never know, and would reject as a folly if I did, if I had, if I could.

 Had the world been kind, I would have died – I would not have bastardised my moments with trying to capture it; to live it, that I might repeat it, in my dissatisfied memory. Like a picture, like anything which has ever been recorded, the moment was a falsehood beneath the weight of the moment – the Art was meaningless beneath the paintbrush of Art – the picture was broken, out of focus, through the lens – I was dead, as I longed for death and struggled to stay alive.

But he, my friend, sat beside me with a heavy exhalation; made some crude comment about the girl on the right-hand side of the trio, and shoved a plastic glass of whiskey and coke into my hand. I felt him knock our glasses together, as though a toast over recently acquired farming tracts in Africa, and his speech vanished into the sound and the liquid as my thoughts wove themselves a noose from his company.

I was happy then.

Just a quick reminder, every eBook you see on the left of the page is completely free. The Caitiff is my first full-length eBook, in terms of a novel; Mychandra is a novella and my Broken Polemics are the more experimental forms of writing I began in university.

Reading Kerouac

Just a random bit of prose I conjured up on the bus. Conjured looks weird, doesn’t it? Conjured, conjured, conjured; con-jured. Never mind. Enjoy

He isn’t a particular interesting figure. His hair is unkempt and overgrown and bedraggled, like vines, like that of a homeless man recently caught by the rain. His jaw is obscured by a slim beard, shaved at the cheeks and the throat, but still the hairs that cluster there loop over each other and create a wild aesthetic. He doesn’t have much in the way of a chin, and the tips of his beard are in-line with his upper lip, so pronounced is his overbite.

He laughs with the bookseller, says something about his sister and they talk briefly about Kerouac – they don’t know each other, that much is obvious, but instead share the laugh of men who might have been friends. He pays on his card, calls the bookseller ‘mate’ in a voice unsuited for it and stuffs the four books into his bag before leaving the store. I had seen him pick the books up; I knew what three of them were. The Tropic Of Cancer, by Henry Miller. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. On The Road, by Jack Kerouac. An eclectic collection and, despite myself, I find myself dropping the book I had in my hand and following him out into the main hall of the shopping centre.

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I tell you, I’ve walked through Wigan on some miserable goddamn days, but this morning was a pretty bad one.

He is already clipping away across the faux-marble. He walks with a strange gait, one that looks almost lopsided. Whilst his right foot does not make a sound, whilst he moves like a ghost and his impact on the earth could have been a whisper, his left lands heavily with every step. It isn’t a limp, but the suggestion of a limp.

His entire body is rigid, firmly held in its position as he moves – his is not a choreographed rigidity, but an innate thing, like he has arthritis in his entire body, like it has permeated his personality and left him stiff – inhuman. He has to wait for a moment at the glass doors to let a fat couple through; they don’t even look at him, but I have to slow down so I don’t walk so close to him. I don’t know why, but it seems wrong to let him see me – there is something about this, a voyeurism, perhaps, to know that I am viewing him and that he cannot see me or, if he did, his eyes would flicker onto someone, something, else.

The wind is hot, like that of a hand dryer in a public bathroom, and the smell of the main street is much the same. It is raining, weakly, and the man buttons his blazer and pulls the hood over his head. He is a tall figure, and easy to follow as he moves through the meagre crowds. I can hear his left foot, every second step it hits the floor like all his weight comes crashing down on it, as though he couldn’t lift it for any length of time.

He turns into a sandwich shop and I take up position on the opposite side of the road. I can see him through the window as he queues, and taps his phone with his thumbs whilst he waits. He is the tallest person in there, towering over those on either side of him by some inches. Oh, that I could know what he ordered – that I could know this figure in such a way! I see him chatting to the young woman behind the counter – they both laugh, but even from this distance I can see a certain wariness in her posture. She doesn’t like him, it is obvious, but he still smiles – he still turns his head to say something as he walks out of the door.

By the time we have walked on some more, his leg has developed a defined limp. I catch up to him easily, though I try not to. I catch a flash of his expression in an empty store’s window as we pass, the darkness and dust creating a mirror like surface. His mouth his a grim line, his skin is pale and his eyes are bright, feverish, and his pupils are distended. He is certainly in pain, that much is obvious, and I pretend to take a phone call, and slow my pace to allow him to gain a few more feet on me once more.

I hold half a conversation, and he vanishes into a small, ugly-looking building opposite a mechanics. It is an office of some kind, I read the name above the doorway as I move past. It kills me not to know what he does, what he is doing; is he a digital marketer, a technical analyst or a copywriter? An advertising consultant, a first-line support employee or a cold-calling salesman?

I wonder, briefly, if I should wait for him to exit the building and exist once more, but no; he has let me down. No man who reads Kerouac should work in an office – I wonder how he hasn’t killed himself, and I consider murder.

Small-Town England

Small-Town England

It is a conscious decision. I allow my feet to carry me across uneven oceans of stone, broken by islands of dirty rain-water like a British, land-locked archipelago. I let them trace broken circuits throughout the town and follow the ghosts of themselves. I try to consider how often these same angular cobblestone have eaten away at the soles of my boots; how often these same walls have loomed over me and rejoiced in their dominance.

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Just a quick picture I took on my phone, and experimented with nostalgia filters – because I’m unimaginative and pretentious and I think some deep, dark part of me thinks that this is ‘artistic’.

I can still taste coal-dust in the air, or I can dream that I can. It is a romance that hangs over this town like a shroud; a romance that moved through the thoughts in silent, subtle ways; a romance that curled about the larynx and then, without a moment’s hesitation, tightened. This place would render a man mute, if you let it.

The road stretches upwards and I walk along it. Some feet behind me, it is cut off by a series of black iron bollards and so I make the most of the uncommon freedom to move in a twisted, snaking pattern along the tiled stone itself. There is a distinct pleasure to be found in walking in any direction you please and, if I had been the last man alive, I could have spent my last days moving in pointless shapes across any terrain I pleased.

I catch reflections of myself in those few shop windows which have raised their shutters at this early hour. I refuse to look as blatantly as I might desire, and I resort to fleeting glances at the state of my hair, at the shape of my shoulders and the angle of my arms as my hands seek the warmth of my pockets. I would look better as a silhouette, as a blackened image in a burned retina.

I am following someone, unconsciously. My feet have taken advantage of their liberty, and they pursue a tall, broad-faced woman as she descends a set of stairs into the shadows beneath a bridge. The bridge is an internal one, closed off from the world, and it is part of the dead shopping centre which clings to the centre of this place, like an old God refusing to believe in science.

It is not an ominous pursuit and, in fact, she is moving a little faster than me. She vanished into an arcade several seconds before I arrive at its entrance and, though I see her moving through the narrow causeway of commerce, I ignore that turning and move on. I pass beneath another bridge, and try to count the pieces of chewing gum stuck the floor. I lose count at twelve, and the rocking of my body’s motion jars my brain until I cannot count past ten.

I dream, then, that I am following in a ghost’s footsteps. I follow the spectre left, and then right, and through a small, dimly-lit arcade within which the very first stores were opening. I saw a jeweller’s, and the young woman with neon-red hair and a lip ring offered me a fleeting smile as she typed in the code to an electric lock. I smile at her, and can almost feel her shudder in revulsion. I do not have a nice smile – it twitches dishonestly across my face and makes a mockery of my emotion.

The shadows give way to light again, and the wind picks up. A little way up the road, I can see a family stabbing at the air with their hands and their voices. The mother is rounded, and she is leaning heavily against the handle of a pram as though it were a crutch. The child itself lolls in its seat, rocking its head left and right as though trying to ward off unwanted nightmares. The elder child is walking beside them both, in a school uniform with a navy blue blazer and grey trousers. He has a flat face, still grazing at the edges of masculinity, but it will grow harsher in a few years and turn into the expressive front of a pugilist.

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This is imaginatively known as the ‘Big Face’. Say whatever you want about us ‘Wiganers’ we’re nothing if not creatively honest.

We pass each other, and I cannot help but feel the divide between us. It breaks the air around us into sharpened wounds, and I cannot move through those sharpened edges to this family. I avoid looking at them when we are close together, but I may as well be staring at them. I think I hate them; I think they hate me. We would all be fools not to.

I pass through another arcade; this time an internal one which stretches over the outside marketplace, now nothing more than narrow iron girders where stalls once stood, and an elderly woman selling cheap, but hardwearing, handbags and travel accessories. Makinson Arcade, it is called. I walk past a shop called Love Forever – it has closed down and the dust wages a gentle, deathless war against our health.

Thank You. This little piece of prose has been cannibalised from a short poem I’m working on – it’s more of an exercise in description than a genuine narrative. I think I’d like to ‘prose-ify’ (that needs to be a word; I’m going to start using prose-ify (prosify?) in everyday conversation) the rest of the poem at some point, but I don’t know how well the imagery might translate towards the last few verses.

Flash Fiction – Senses – 301 Words

I can see the ocean, its waves pawing at the white-gold sand that lay far below us, and the blinding sun reflected from the normally dull, grey rocks.
I can see a spreading crimson move from the rocks towards the horizon, and a cruel, broken whiteness lying amongst the glimmering rocks.
I can see the small orange mitten, being carried away on the tide.
I can hear the gulls circling above us, the laughter of our children as they play in the sun, entranced by the view of creation, suffusing them with an omnipotence I knew they would never feel again.
I can hear your sharp, desperate voice, mingled with the fading cries from the cliff-edge.
I can smell the fresh sea-breeze, which carried the scent of salt and mysterious spices from lands unimaginably distant, a by-product of foreign cultures sailing towards our shore. The pungent stink of sweat from the brows of long-lost sailors, tolling their huge, cracked bells in forgotten cities below the sea.
I can taste life, its bouncing joys and unimaginable cruelty dancing along the tip of my tongue. I can taste horror and pity and blame in the pit of my stomach, rising like bile to touch the roof of my mouth.
I can feel your lips on my cheek, their slim, young bodies in my arms, and that long hideous scream tearing my throat. I can feel it stretching, ‘til long after the piercing noise stopped.
I can feel sharpened blades, tipped with fear and anger and guilt, running across the muscles in my breast and the sheer, blinding panic as we ran.
I can feel your cold, pale flesh beside me, like the broken bodies of our children, lying where we had to leave them, crushed between the rocks and the glimmering, whispering sea.

Flash Fiction – Fat Man & Little Boy – 170 Words

The Fat Man watched, eyeless, as his Little Boy was carried away, gently, nervously. Fat Man tried to weep for the youth, feeling in his metallic heart that it was what Little Boy would expect of him. He listened to the falsified, and yet, heart-rending cries of Little Boy, steeling himself against his sudden, perverse desire to rescue him from the Gods, from the intellectuals with little knowable morality.

They had their differences, certainly, but the Fat Man loved his Little Boy.

‘They are taking Little Boy to a better place.’ Fat Man muttered. ‘Little Boy will make a peace to last generations, and Little Boy will save millions of lives.’

A few days later, on the Ninth of August, nineteen-forty-five, they told Fat Man. Fat Man was following his Little Boy!

‘Where is he? Is Little Boy okay?’

But, with eyes cast down and white coats tightened about skeletal framed, and metallic fingers enwrapping his sickeningly inflated body, they refused to answer Fat Man with any sound, save silence.

Flash Fiction – Cocaine Years – 409 Words

My friend knelt by the body, its face a mangled wreck, barely recognisable as human. He ran his hands over the body’s chest, searching for a wallet no doubt.
Moonlight glittered off broken glass.
He made a small, triumphant little noise, almost as if he had solved the idle matter of death already.
I hit her again. And again.
He stood up, running a long, pale hand through his unkempt, dirty brown hair whilst his other flipped open the black wallet he had taken from the corpse.
There was blood, a black stain across my fists.
His expression tightened subtly, so slight a movement that it was almost unnoticeable, even to me.  
She wasn’t crying anymore.
He was staring at me now, in a way he had never done before.
I hit her again. And again.
He crossed to me, stowing the wallet into one of the pockets of his ragged coat.
Expressionless, I watched her face cave under my fists, as I hit her again.
Hands clasped my shoulders, shaking me. I jerked from his grasp, amazed at the weakness in his arms.  
And again.
His mouth opened soundlessly, his thin lips shaped themselves around that all too familiar word.
My own skin had broken now, white bone rising from my bloody weapon, as I hit her again.
I hated it when he called me that now. That name that set my blood raging.
And again.
I hated him.
And again.
I warned him of its dangers. I told him this is where he would end up, though I would have laughed if told I would still be following him. It cost us everything.
I finally pulled myself away from her, my breath coming in short, painful bursts.
His once fine deerstalker was a ragged mess, as was his Inverness cape. These last years had not been kind to him.
These last years have not been kind to her.
His riding crops, his cane and Webley, his mind, they were all gone, sold to feed his addiction.
The years have not been kind to me.

He deserves this. She deserves this. For what they both did.
He shook my shoulders again, repeating that dreadful name.
I walked away. The footsteps lost in the foetid air.
I’m not him anymore, old friend. Your faithful lapdog died years ago. Slurred and desperate, his words finally broke through to me.
‘It’s The Woman, Watson! The Woman!’
I know Holmes. I know.

Flash Fiction – Hello Dad – 100 Words

The knock on the door was the sound of dead feet kicking at the coffin. He knew who it would be, though he had been buried these eighteen long years. He had visited the grave once every six months since then, a routine as sure as the rising of the sun. He had put it off, as he struggled with school, with his health, with his family. He pulled back the first dead-bolt. Then the second. The third. His pale, trembling hand pulled at the white handle. The door opened; a nightmare for his nineteenth birthday.

Hello Dad.’ He said.