Resident

There was a block of flats which called themselves apartments because there were long hallways lined with doors and through these doors were dwellings or flats or apartments.

The residents or inmates or people didn’t see any reason to close their doors on this hallway, so as you paced its length you would hear and see all sorts. Most of this was not from the people through the doors but from the people inside the TVs inside the apartments.
You could walk up and down for hours on end, watch through a door for an hour, and no one would notice. I lived in the hallway for over two decades and my presence didn’t seem to be intrusive. Even when I watched on as a teenager tried to slit his own wrists, was calmed down by his mother, given his first drink and asked important questions like ‘would you like another?’ to which he’d respond ‘of course’ because he couldn’t say ‘I don’t care’. There would have been more questions so he didn’t have the heart for apathy.
It was a funny place to live, this hallway. So many voices gave no conversation because answers that mattered didn’t matter here but silence wasn’t tolerated.
I was content for a long time living here but I left to see what conversation was like. People who keep their doors closed can be much more interesting, I’ve found. But some people make me wonder if their doors are just painted paper.

To Walk as Molten Rock

I was walking against what was less than wind but stronger than a breeze. It was warm, but not uncomfortably so, just warm enough to give the air an almost sweet sense.

As I felt the air touch my hair and wave it back, it simultaneously filtered through the fingers at my sides, entwining with them.

Right then I felt utter contentment.

I felt like melting plastic, folding and curling. I felt like molten rock, flowing from the top of the volcano, tumbling languidly down to a watery destination where there, I would solidify and become rock again.

But right then I was magma. I could have flowed through anything within my reach. There was so much in the night and I was a part of everything.

I was undeniably real then.

I Was a Third-Rate Telephone (and Other Professions)

‘When you hear a ringing in your ears, pray for the dead.’
With this line my mother started a sort of obsession that I can’t let go of. Only recently have I been very aware of the ringing. It’s more prominent and it happens more often (or maybe I’m more aware of it). Every time it starts I find myself thinking, why the hell should I be a cheap telephone receiver speaking into myself when the ringing hasn’t even stopped. I mean, their call hasn’t even got through if it’s still ringing. I’ll be talking to myself and besides, who the hell is even ringing me? I’d imagine the dead have the same amount of care for me as I do for them: none.

Some verses on the matter:

My mother had some curious beliefs
To pass down. One I’ve heard for years:
When you hear a ringing in your ears
Pray for the dead
She said.

So from an early age I was
a third rate telephone receiver,
speaking into myself though the
machine was broken. How could they
hear my prayers if I could never
answer? I only ever listened to
the ringing.

Then I thought that maybe I was
promoted to the incompetent and lazy
switchboard operator that couldn’t quite
match up the right messages to the right people.
Because I couldn’t hear them. I could never
answer to the dead and the ringing
continued.

Then it hit me. I was the CEO
of Deathly Telecoms and, of course, I
had to make all sorts of delegations for
these calls to get through. But, apparently
people had their own ringing to deal with and
no one wanted work where the ringing
never stopped.

So I made an early career choice
to retire. I explained to the ringing
I was tired and it was absurd and it would
never listen. So the dead go straight
to voicemail now. ‘Please, leave
a message after the tone.’ A
never ending tone.

Electric Woods (Decline and Fall)

 

He thinks he fell asleep at 3:15 and awoke again at 3:45 following the horrible sounds in his dream. It’s always the same dream and never more than an hour of sleep.

                The dream feels like hours but the rest is mere minutes. He is his eight year old self on one of his childhood camping trips, but the family isn’t there. He’s alone in the woods, it’s midday and he’s holding a knife. He begins hacking at a tree, tearing the bark off and thrashing it’s solid flesh, eager to douse his hands in sap; that sweet, fragrant, sticky blood.

                The tree moans as it feels the ridges of the knife tearing through, but he can’t stop yet. Not until he’s covered in that sickly sweet… and the smell! He ravages through the pulp but it’s not enough that the tree is weeping for him. It must bleed, gush, pour!

                He lifts a log and beats the soft exposed flesh; sweet sap flies everywhere and lingers in the air. The tree is howling in pain and her surrounding family cries in hopelessness. The chorus mingles with the intoxicating scent and the boy falls to the ground as his victim withers and shrivels and dies before his eyes.

                The woods are wailing for their loss and the boy awakes, now a man, at 3:45am. He sits on the edge of the bed, takes out a cigarette and with trembling hands raises it to his lips. Spark. Adding more orange to the room, the street lights outside forever permeating the night-drawn curtains. His blood-shot eyes glare at the light stained curtains. His cigarette goes out. Spark. Getting dressed, he knows what he has to do. He will stop the wailing. From the garden shed he takes an old hatchet and goes into the street. He crosses the road to the wooden post connecting the telephone wires and with a resounding thud, sinks the hatchet deep into the wood. The action unfalteringly repeated. People have started to watch and shout at him from their windows and he knows it’s only a matter of time before someone’s dispatched to stop him again and take him away.

                The wooden post falls slowly, the remaining attached splinters groaning then snapping and a crash as the communications hit the ground. The smell of electric in the air.

                He swiftly crosses the road again through the screams of onlookers and stops before the generator that powers this half of the estate. A determined blow takes the lock off in one go. Pulling the door open wide, the screams get louder and frantic.

                He takes a slight step back then swings the hatchet into the core of the generator and a blast is heard in the streets that still have light.

Part 1

 

a beginning

 

The debate of whether to take a three minute stroll to buy milk or not was won by the argument of heavy rain patter on the window. ‘Black coffee will do just fine, thank you’  James muttered to himself as he turned up the volume slightly on his CD player to drown out the rain. He thought of himself as a child and how the rain didn’t bother him and of how he would have preferred to be out in the rain, shivering and playing than indoors doing nothing.

Most of James’ time was spent indoors now though. Not that he was unemployed or lazy or agoraphobic, but that his work didn’t demand of him to move a single inch from his home. He had a fortnightly article in a local literary magazine, an article which entailed a lot of subjective freedom. He was proud of his work and was content with his job and he made enough income to get by on top of his fiancé’s secretarial salary.

As the wind began to pelt the windows with rain considerably more forceful he began to worry about Sarah. She had a few minutes walk from her bus stop to their home and would probably be soaked through by the time she arrived at the door at her usual time between 6:15 and 6:25. A glance at the kitchen clock told him that he had about fifteen minutes for her arrival, so he decided to turn the central heating up to thirty degrees to make the house warm up quickly and keep her from being too upset about the weather.

James never liked the heat too much and was always more than content with just putting on a jacket or pulling a thin sheet around himself. He drank down his coffee quickly, which had become almost lukewarm since he made it, and sat down at the kitchen table listening to an old mixed CD of his, staring out at the rain, waiting for Sarah to come home.

The lock on the door was barely audible, but he heard the swift closing of the door clearly. His eyes lingered on the clock, which read 6:18, then rested on the kitchen door, waiting to greet his fiancé as she came through. He heard her footsteps go straight up the stairs, which he wasn’t surprised at, as he knew she probably needed to change out of her wet clothes, so he decided to fill up the teapot and put it on the stove to boil.

Five minutes passed until she entered the kitchen. ‘Hey gorgeous, how was work?’ he smiled through his words.

‘Fine.’

‘No drama at the firm today then? Aw well.’

‘No. Nothing.’ she replied wearily.

He laughed ‘I’ve always thought that it isn’t such a good idea for couples to work together, never mind as solicitors. Imagine the arguments!’

‘It’s all very well for you to joke James!’ she shot. ‘How about you write some of that down in your articles? Maybe you’ll sell more and get a raise and I wouldn’t have to support the both of us!’

‘What–where did this come from? I have an income, I make mon–’

‘Yes, you make some money but it’s not enough is it?’

He sat there, shocked and speechless. What could he say? The question “Enough for what?’ came to his mind but he didn’t need to voice it.

‘If you made enough to support us like I do, maybe then it would be okay for you to be eating up our heating budget, having it set to thirty degrees all day when it isn’t needed!’

He didn’t say anything in reply. The response of “It was for you” seemed rather pathetic and he thought that if he had to justify himself and say that it was only on for fifteen minutes, he would feel like a child trying to redeem itself for being “naughty”.

After watching him for half a minute waiting for a response, his fiancé gave him a sigh of disgust and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room to watch television.

James sat there for a short while feeling like a child, scolded and ashamed. He moved to the teapot and poured its dark contents down the drain.

As he made to retire for an early night, his eyes fell upon the heating control which was set to zero and he felt his face burn as he turned away to the stairs.

An Ignorant Foreigner

An Ignorant Foreigner

 

I just wanted out of the babble. Fresh air, a nice walk, left to my own ideas. I always found that I couldn’t put my own ideas into conversation anyway. Even if I could, they always held their own opinions too strong to even consider anyone else’s. There was no real point to the ‘debate’ in my mind.

Religion. Everyone has to have a standing point, don’t they? Whether they just can’t believe, or they believe a little too much. It’s not the belief part that I have problems with; it’s what to actually believe in. I’m agnostic. So many people are. It makes sense to me.

I didn’t realise it was cold. I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t seen that I had sighed. I was almost at the park though. My little retreat. There was a movement around my bench. My bench. I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. People are so possessive. It wasn’t a dog, someone just sat down. Of all nights. I’ll pass by to one further on, I suppose.

On passing, I saw that it was a boy a little younger than me. Was it a boy? I think it was a boy. A simple nod in his direction should suffice to make neither of us feel awkward.

It felt strange having to walk past my own bench.

I sat down at the neighbouring bench, which is a sufficient distance away from the boy to still feel like I had privacy with my own thoughts. Oh god. He was walking towards me. I hope he’s passing.

“Hello.” He sat not next to me, but before me on the grass. It was the accent that puzzled me most though. Where’s he from?

“Hey,” I replied. I didn’t want to ask. I wanted him to leave. “Why are you here?” he asked. That accent! What is it? And what kind of question was that as an icebreaker? “I like this place” I told him honestly. “I have never been here before” he said in a strange tone. Was it sadness? I can’t read emotions well. I didn’t really care.

His accent sounded muddled, as if he didn’t even know what he was supposed to sound like, though. “Where are you from?” He wasn’t leaving soon, I could just tell. I might as well satisfy my curiosity. “Just outside here” he said simply. I actually made an effort to converse, and he gives me that? He annoyed me. Also because I knew he wasn’t from around here originally. I’m sure he knew that I wasn’t asking where he now lives.

“It is late” he said after a few minutes silence, “Why are you here?” I knew what he meant, “I wanted a break.”

“A break?” He responded quickly.

“Yeah…” I knew I’d have to explain what the break was actually from, “My friends were arguing about religion. It annoys me.”

“Religion?” Again, he responded quickly. A little bit too quickly though. Maybe he’s just like them and wants to express his opinion too. I really don’t care though. I’ve heard too much. There isn’t much more I haven’t heard.

“Yes, religion. Everyone seems to want to put their point across these days.”

“What is religion?” His expression wasn’t inquisitive, or joking, or… anything really. Actually, he had a constant blank stare. Did he blink? It’s probably the dark that’s not allowing me to see. I laughed a tad awkwardly, assuming it was a joke. Of course it was. Why did I doubt it?

“What is religion?”

He was serious. He was a weird kid, I could tell that to start with, but this? Maybe he was brought up without any influence of it. Does that happen? He certainly made me think so.

“Well…” am I seriously about to try and explain? “…it’s hard to give an overall description really…” His gaze was definitely making me more comfortable about trying to explain something. If he really knows nothing, I’ll give him what I’ve tried time and time again to portray to my friends. My view on religion. I didn’t feel the annoyance I did with the others and I felt comfortable that I wasn’t the non-intellectual in this situation. For once.

“Well…” I repeated, his gaze still intent on me, “We’re better off without it, I think. It’s organisations, really. All with different views on things and depending which you’re a part of, you’re expected to follow certain rules, worship certain things and live a certain way… but a lot of the time, these rules, worshiped things and ways of life conflict with each other and this leads to entire nations fighting and killing each other…” his confused expression took me off track. But how could I make this more simple?

I started again. “Imagine a cube.” He seemed to comprehend this well. I’d imagine so, but then again, I’d imagine he knew what a religion was. “Well, this cube is the centre of everyone’s belief. Everyone worships the cube, which has different coloured sides because people came and painted each side a different colour. But depending where people stand to worship the cube, they will see a different colour. These people talk to each other about the cube, one says “It’s blue!” While another says “It’s red!” They are both so sure that they’re right, because, they technically both are. They only know what they can see. It’s not really their fault.

“Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes, I do. I would like you to continue, if there’s more.” He didn’t seem slow. Just that he didn’t understand a lot of how people are.

“Well, because what the different groups of people believe the colour of the cube to be, they begin to argue and fight. Even if some agree on certain colours they see, they still see the cube at different angles, which makes a different shape. They are all so sure that theirs is the correc…”

“Why did the painters paint this cube different colours? Why did they not paint it one colour which would give everyone the same perspective?”

I was startled by his questioning. It made sense though.

“I… don’t know.”

He simply gazed at me, expecting more.

“Well, there are people, myself included that don’t believe this. We believe that there is something, but we’re not sure what it is. Imagine that this something is simply a grey sphere. It will always be the same, not matter what way it’s viewed. It’s a grey circle to anyone who believes in this instead of the cube. It can’t vary, so these people can’t argue with each other about who is right about the shape or of the colours. But they believe there is something, which is what the sphere represents.

“There are also people who don’t believe in any shape of any colour, yet they argue with the people who believe in the cube. The more fearful of these people make hypocrites of themselves when it comes to them passing away, disregarding all their claims of believing nothing and becoming one of the followers of a certain shape and colour of the cube.”

I didn’t really know what else to say. I portrayed my view how I wanted to. How I believe it is.

We sat in silence for probably five minutes.

“I understand.” He said, as though answering a question I never asked. “These people that painted the cube do not realise what they have done. If only it could be re-painted and re-shaped. I have to go now. Thank you for talking to me.”

He stood up and turned to walk back the way he came. “Hold on!” I found myself raising my voice, my annoyance returning. “Where are you from, I mean, originally?”

“I am from just outside of here. Goodbye.” He walked quickly away, and eventually faded from sight. It had gotten quite dark; I should probably go back to the babble.

No. I’ll go to back and reclaim my bench. My retreat from the babble.