My bashful, scruffy eyes planted themselves upon a delicious pair of lips. Blood pulsed from one arm and into the oblivion of the laboratory. And for the first time, I didn’t care what they found. I was innocent. A gentle soul, my mother used to say as she sprayed hairspray in a sticky halo about her head.
Others have been less kind.
But time has been good to me. Inching forward, gentle as a whisper.
Animals know they ought to be afraid of me but they aren’t. Birds observe me with a perplexed curiosity, their heads tilted to one side. They chatter at me, as though trying to make me understand something. Or perhaps they are performing. Auditioning for my friendship. Like the birds of Papua New Guinea.
Like the stray, vibrant imaginings of my younger mind. Bright upon the air.
Mountains perform the part of enormous arms, hugging the island against the worst of the storm. So the music can continue to bathe the air in colour and spice.
In a dream, I watch my brothers and sisters dance. Once vibrantly coloured feathers decorate their heads and arms. The true brilliance of their hue died with the bird.
Flames dance; each aggressive tongue teasing the next with the promise of touch.
Circling the camp, between the fire and the stars, are pinches of air. Knots in the fabric of the universe. Not souls. Not meteorological anomalies either. They occupy the space where the songs of the birds used to live; along with their feathers, chirping beaks and bashful, scruffy eyes.
And they watch her lips, as I have; every second without words like a tiny death. An apocalypse of the heart.
The statue of the ghost stands livid and ferocious. Flames lick around its ankles. The letter I wrote to her sticks like papier mache to the large buttocks.
Rotting sand bags are stacked around the pedestal.
The wooden bench is sodden. It’s rained steadily, brutally, for several months now. My underwear is stuck to my backside.
The sun barely punctures the dense cloud. It’s like sitting under a blanket.
I aim my cigarette butt at her ass and flick. A respectable pile of dog-ends collects at her feet, close to the fire.
I notice a pool of watery blood running down one side of the plinth.
I gather the collar of my jacket around my neck and look up at the birds of prey circling above.
The dancers will arrive soon. The music to accompany my own slaughter.
So I return to the belly, all the while wishing to be devoured.
“Welcome to Motherboard Road Surgery. Please listen purposefully to the following fifteen options…”
My feet are hurting too much for fifteen options.
Started on each of my big toes as no more than a mild, achy chafe. After a few months (during which I hadn’t bothered to do a self checkup, or whatever it’s called) scaly patches had formed around the heels. Some with faint hairs sticking painfully through the cracks. Couple more days went by before I looked again. Wish I hadn’t.
The hairs had turned luminous orange.
My toes were in no better shape either. Protruding from the outer edge of each of my big toes were what appeared to be tiny, malformed fangs. The tips of which had curled downwards and began biting into the hard skin underneath.
Then the orange hair developed blue dandruff. Then the cat died. Then my sister shot at my house with a desert eagle. Then the newspapers went out of print. Then Brother Dewey drove himself and his wife and kids off the Silicone Ford Bridge.
And I wondered how the obituary would read before realising that there were no papers.
I sat with the little urn, crowned with an elaborate pewter lid and embossed, gold paw print, and picked strands of glowing, orange hair out of my socks.
Then I emptied my boots of the blue dandruff.
Then I tapped the WebCell on the wall next to me. Nothing.
What with everything, I’d forgotten that they’d shut down the Internet too.
I drew pictures in the cat litter with a piece of graphine wire.
Passed out beside the train tracks. Occasionally, I will look up at all the faces. They seem asleep, not awake. And this sleepy expression, it’s more like catatonia. An apathy so deep that there’s an odd beauty to it. It’s basic. Not forced.
I dig my fingers into the sweating, cold mud. I feel some bendable, sharp objects. Fingernails. I had to laugh.
I found a selection of coffee, tea, soft drinks and hot and cold snacks. The rats had been at them. Now they assemble somewhere I can’t see and bide their time. It is obvious now…I’m breakfast.
Second time year it’s rained in my bedroom. Woke up swampy and confused to the sound of frogs chirruping.
Mosquitoes sat on my toes, mumbling whines. Conspiratorial. Seemed they were having a meeting. Deciding whether or not to drain me right there and then.
I said nothing about the fact that I was empty of blood.
Colleagues made snide remarks about me when I turned up for my first day after the procedure. Of course, I was eventually called into the office. Took them less than three minutes to dismiss me. They claimed I was inattentive. Slothful. Disobedient.
One of the mosquitoes (maybe the scout), flew away out of the window. It looked clumsy. Stupid. Stupid, fucking insect.
The bed began to vibrate. I smiled. This was a dream. Certain of it, I was.
Then the sky went black. The room became a hive of fizzing needles with wings. Each skin cell lanced by a pinprick of electricity.
That was last week.
I’m down to bones nearly. But I haven’t got the heart to tell them they’re on to a dud.
Do you still see the echo of the bomb? Think, girl, think.
…three horses lay motionless in the street…no policemen…just bits…and the horses were intact…foam still clung to their mouths…the legs seemed like they would move, awkwardly at first, then find their hooves and pounce away, reborn…
Day three. I cut another notch into my arm. The first was still a bit bloody. The second, raw. This one, like scored chicken skin…my watch had stopped…flames still patted the sides of the neighbours houses…
A warm fridge. Heat blasted sofa. Misty glass TV…
…and no tweets…
A thick mist of the inevitable. Lost minds clogged the lungs. A strand of junk thoughts messed with my mind. Memories of curves, of sensuality. Craziness from the centre of the universe. Longing. Laughter. A sombre day, spiked with possibility. The ghosts of 10 million soldiers marching across the tundra. Ragged uniforms. The muffled sound of military song. The clomping of tired boots through the shopping mall. The modern church of the damned. Me. You. We.
Notes left on lamp posts. Homeless postmen playing penny whistles. A friend coated in a suit of armour. The lost vessels of a long forgotten sea battle. The invisible waves running through my knees.
Mighty river, I would love to be like you.
Silver rainsickles hammered down like the javelins of some demented god. I flipped him the finger, sat down on the grass and opened my book.
* * *
“He appears to be stationary. More accurately, he’s just sitting there. Some kind of pamphlet in his mitts. A ruck-sack. He appears weather-beaten. Deafiant though. Damned defiant. And no beard growth at all. Just recieved a text: apparently he smells of freshly landered linen. The bars are melting. His time has come. Taking something from his pocket now. A cigarette lighter it would appear.”
* * *
Dear Sir or Madam,
The body was found a few minutes walk from the beach house. We believe this was his intended destination. Although no banned machinery was found we decided to err on the side of caution and take the target down.
* * *
She took the letter and tried to cut herself with its perfect edge.
* * *
The paper felt her moist, rich warmth. Then the flames licked it black and, finally, to ash.
It was dawn. Quiet. They had put up posters everywhere. Something about a ‘magnificent’ mystery. The poster had tits on it, obviously. That was only a hook, or so it said. This group, some Plato spin-off run by a used car salesman, they were coming to town with their pamphlets, tents and way to ‘maximise your potential’.
“Bunkum”, some bloke said on the evening news. I thought that was rather antiquated. I reckoned that he’d been wanting to use that word f
his entire life and he wasn’t about to lose his opportunity. I hated him.
At the cafe this morning, I laboured over my egg whites, rye toast and acai juice. An old man was reading a paper. He sighed, placed the rag upon the table and left.
I snatched the paper as the door tinkled shut.
There was an advert for the something. It had tits on it. Some group or another promised to ‘give you the life you always dreamed about’. Below the ad, someone had scribbled “the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes LOL!”
The brew was evil. And it left the breath smelling, no, tasting of ashtrays.
What had happened was that someone had stolen his ghost. Then another individual, presumably an accomplice, had taken his body to the grottiest club in town.
Who these creatures were is uncertain. They may have been downloaded from the congested ether. Whoever, or whatever, they were seems unimportant now.
He sits at his desk job and wonders if they have noticed the booze sweats, the way he staggers.
Vomiting in the sink, he becomes disoriented and faints.
The creatures steal his body and escort it back to the desk job. They get him sacked. He never knew how or why.
He awoke sat on a bar stool. An freshly emptied pint glass sits in front of him.
“Same again?” the barman asks.
And he says yes and wonders what it will be and what will happen next.