Category Archives: Story

Yield

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At first I am unsettled when she grasps that mop of copper curls and tugs it from her head. What I had thought was her hair had been a wig- Instead she sports a full head of soft, mouse-brown hair, unevenly cut and shaggy towards the ends. Her lips as she swipes the lipstick from them are not bloody red but ashen pink, and her long neon nails come off with a click to reveal chewed stubs. I sit awkwardly alone in her living room as she excuses herself to shower, studying the mismatched pillows and threadbare throw rugs until she returns plain looking but no less intense. Soap removed much of her magic, yet she remains enthralling still, scrubbed clean and softly perfumed. Gone is the dizzy party girl. The woman who stands before me now, wrapped in a silk dressing gown with dripping hair tossed about her shoulders, has a different kind of presence. She is quiet, and strong. She seems to make the room fold about her, instead of simply inhabiting it, and she looks at me as if she knows what I am seeing.

I swallow.

She makes us tea, and we sit and drink in silence, observing each other. Her possessive gaze unsettles me and I avoid eye contact, peering about myself at her tiny, lavish house. The glasses are small and intricate. “My father bought them in Azerbaijan,” She whispers, reverentially, as she peers into the depths of hers. “I have never been, but I am told their tea is legendary.”

I nod silently in agreement, as if Azerbaijani tea is something I know much about. She doesn’t seem to notice, or perhaps she simply doesn’t care. The tea is bittersweet.

When the cups are empty we leave them to cool on the table top, reflecting the faux-firelight in gold and cherry-red.  I lean forward to admire them but she wastes no time, catching hold of my shoulders and planting kisses beneath my throat. We fall wordlessly against each other, stripping, exploring, kissing and gasping. We make love on the floor for hours, catching our breaths on orgasms, writhing and rolling, feline in our ministrations. Her tongue is pointed; my fingers are wet. When we are exhausted we curl around each other and stare, still silent, preserving the sanctity of what we had just done.

I am hypnotised by her. Hours could pass; Days, weeks, months could pass, and I would lie there, unknowing, uncaring, lost in her. I can’t read her face, her eyes half-lidded but attentive. After a moment she shifts, burrowing her face against my knee.

Kisses punctuate her ascent along my leg and she pushes me gently until I unfold beneath her, stretched sanguine. She breathes against my breasts; her hair tickles my sides.

“I want to paint you.” Lifting her head, those heated green eyes catching mine and holding them, she murmurs with inescapable authority. “I am going to paint you.”

Far from the fire she leads me, into the cooler parts of the house, along winding limb-like hallways and past coloured doors with mismatched handles.

I am shivering when she topples me into the studio with more kisses, impatient kisses, and closes the door.

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Harlequin and Columbine

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I’m awake.

In the mauve haze of summer humidity it’s difficult to sleep, and so I lie there, speculating on the time: is it one am? Two am? Perhaps earlier. Your body heat makes the bed insufferably warm, but I won’t kick off the blanket, even though I feel as though I’m about to combust. A breeze from outside wafts humidity and exhaust fumes with the smell of night blooming jasmine- your favourite plant- and does little to cool the room. Sounds of the city seem far off here, in this concrete box. I think it’s the white noise of civilisation that keeps me conscious. That, or the feel of your skin so close to mine.

I know you’re awake.

If I rolled over now, would you be looking at me? Would your eyes paint the canvas of my face, the threaded angles of my hips? Perhaps your lips would remember that dusty smile I fell in love with, that dusty smile like a phantom now, a ghost beneath your sad blue eyes.

No, you would be watching the ceiling, if your eyes were even open. You know I’m restless and you pretend to sleep. I know the sound of your breathing when you sleep, love, I know when you are tricking me. Trickster, my carnival clown, my harlequin. Pin your heart to my door, Harlequin. Am I your Columbine?

I turn the words over in my mouth and my body follows suit, twisting me, twirling me in the sweat-slick that was once your bed. I find myself facing you. I find myself dreaming of kissing you; kissing you, your scarred shoulders, your hidden collarbones, tracing silver stretch-marks and olivine tan lines. In my dream I find your skin clammy and cold, hot beneath the blanket, wet with sweat. I slide against you like a fish, my hand skating across the expanse of your belly, latching beneath your far hip to pull myself close despite the stagnant heat. I rest my head on your chest and feel the weight of your hand settle on my head. I hear your heartbeat! It still beats for me, relentless, inexhaustible.

“My Harlequin.” I whisper before I can catch the worlds, tumbling from me like jumbled confessions. I love you, they sing, I love you, I love you. You read my voice and I feel your hesitation through your fingertips in my hair.

“My Columbine.” Mechanical. The response comes so swiftly and so naturally that the words should shine, polished with constant use. Instead they fall dull, slabs of fat slipping from the lips of a glutton. I clutch to you and feel you slipping away, never moving. Black dog, they call it. The deepening dark. Come death or dark water, we used to say in secret behind cupboard doors and backyard bushes. To the end of time, forever and ever. This the dark water, your wretchedness and mine.

The dream breaks. I’m on my side still, hands tucked close. I have become my own cocoon. You gaze at the ceiling unaware that I watch you, your fingers scratching unconsciously at the blanket above your breast. You seem so sad.

I want to tell you how today the Earth pounded with billions of feet, dancing to a rhythm we can’t quite feel. A billion voices cried out in song, a billion hearts beat a bloody beat like a billion meaty drums. Within a billion chests, behind a billion ribs, between a billion lungs blossomed life and memory and old quiet joy. Here bloomed humankind, flowers at once brilliant and beautiful and excellently lethal. Here groaned the weight of time, the airy pull of the future. Here, a string to tug you from your shade, as if that could return you to me, bring you to me.

I hear you blinking.

“I don’t think this is ever going to end.” Your voice startles me and for a moment I want to shuffle closer, feeling an unexpected agony. The finality in your voice echoes with defeat, a desire to give up. It’s the worst thing of all about the darkness. A disease came one day and took your joy and left you empty. I find most days that I miss you, even in your company.

Your hand slithers from the blanket to touch my fringe. You stroke my hair- once, twice- and tilt your face to the lavender light seeping through the curtains, your own hair mussed and unwashed upon a flat pillow. I half expect you to say something more, as if that fragment of conversation weren’t all you could offer up. Your body slumps in exhaustion just with that one confession. I’m left drifting. Unbidden, a torrent of thoughts cascade through my mind: a funeral, stumbling across your body hanging purple-faced from your bedroom cupboard, the feeling of living a life where I don’t wake to you every morning and fall asleep to your breath every night. This life, this life forever. Waking one day too late to tell you the truth, my truth. Terror takes the place of dull longing for a moment and you remain silent, unknowing.

It has to end. It has to. “It has to end.” I don’t know if I’m saying the words for you or for me, but I say them anyway, whispering them against your palm like a mantra. “You’ll come out the other side, my love.”

You give a short, curt nod and close your eyes.

How many times have I dreamt of kissing you? Of sleeping in this bed, waking to you, lying drowsy beside you on a Saturday morning, avoiding your cold feet and your hands smelling like rosemary. I’d like to help you with your braid every night and to kiss your forehead before our morning coffee.

Children. I’d like to have children. With you.

The night drags on in silence and sleep doesn’t come. You are finally heavy and still, truly sleeping. I can prop myself up on one elbow and watch you, like protagonists in cliché romance movies do: eyeing lustfully the faces of their desired in the half-light, the twilight of an unknown hour. Is there an hour, a specific hour, for romance? This could be it! An hour of unexpected courage. An hour of foolish courage. I can almost see it! If I lean here and kiss you while you sleep, our worlds will change. Your eyes flutter open as you are, I’m sure, a light sleeper; however, I daren’t guess your thoughts. You grow pink, your lips will fill and shift beneath mine to form a kiss or a curse. We stay awake through sunrise and birdsong. I confess my love, a heavy burden finally set upon another’s shoulders. You whisper to me of confusion. Whore! You spit. Freak! You scream. You chase me from the sheets, you throw me against a wall, you kiss me with the passion of the horrified and the joyous.

You love me too. You sing it beneath the cries of I hate you and how could you.
Your rage abates. We curl together, new, gentled, loving. I hold your hands in mine and breathe against your fingertips. Your dusty smile returns and the rising dark finally breaks, leaving you forever.
We live happily ever after.
It is a nice dream. I could make it happen. I could act on it now and bring our fairytale to light! My heart skips a beat at the thought. Oh, to kiss you, to have you as mine! It seems almost too good to be true.
My courage falters. What if it is too good to be true?
What if your cries of hatred and disgust are genuine?
I must take a chance. I must! Your life could be at stake. If I find one day that the world is without the glory of you because of a lack of love, I could never forgive myself. The world would be worse for wear in your absence. I must tell you! I must give you this gift, if not for your sake then for the continued health of our little planet.
Nerves steeled and trembling, I slide closer to you. I daren’t breathe. Your face is lavender in the filtered light of the moon, your lips a darker purple, your eyelashes like ash upon your cheeks. Beneath your eyelids tiny mounds shiver and twitch- you dream! I think of how I will tell you that I watched you dreaming, or perhaps I won’t, perhaps I will allow the kiss to be the center of attention for tonight.
I hover for a moment, doubting. I take a breath.
I deliver my one, perfect kiss to your sleeping mouth. Your lips are cold and your teeth are hard behind them. Oh Harlequin, my beautiful Harlequin.
Your brows furrow and I withdraw, awaiting your awakening, awaiting your delighted recognition of my love.

You sigh.
You rub your eyes.
You roll over, and continue to sleep.

Tidbit: Flesh

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I love the rampant destructive eroticism of this world.

Only humans could look at their existence and see the beautiful in the obscene, purity in excess, completion in termination. Excellence in grotesquery.  Sadomasochism is inherent in every thought and movement and we spend our lives studying ourselves, learning what makes us tick, wondering why something provokes awe while another provokes disgust, and often, why the two emotions can be connected to the same object. Religion is as perfect an example of self-torture as any, depicting intense suffering as holy salvation. The concept of revelry in excess applies still to the denial of all but the necessary, an excess of puritanism, an excess of resistance to temptation. Likewise, spiritual wholeness can be found in loss of control and release from the concept of ‘too much.’

No other creature is as immaculately drunk on its own senses as a human being. No other creature seeks as tenaciously to complete and understand itself. No other creature will hunger so voraciously for the suggestion of perfection, and no other creature is as willing to gently hold death as a symbol of the unknown. It is a fascinating, awkward, gibbering philosophy, and I adore it.

When I found her, she was curled upon a decrepit garden bench beneath a streetlight, glittering pink heels hanging from two crooked fingers as she stared in wonder at the stars above. Her white gown was filthy- green and brown grass stains, all over her knees and shoulders and, I guessed, her back- and hitched up over her thighs, revealing flashes of threadbare Hello Kitty underwear as she kicked her toes up in the air. Her thighs and knees were smeared with hour-old blood, but it did not seem to bother her. She was unaware of me. The faintest tones of a broken lullaby drifted from her lips, accompanied by the sickly sweet aroma of vodka and vomit that never failed to turn my stomach. I continued to near her regardless, fascinated, entranced by her messy copper curls, her brilliantly painted neon-pink nails. She seemed to vibrate with the effects of a party drug I was unfamiliar with.

“Don’t you know it’s dangerous to be out here alone?” I threw out my voice as clearly as I could manage it, still a few paces from her bench, pressing my hands into the pockets of my jacket as she lolled her head to the side. Her eyes glittered as she struggled to focus on me in the dark. A dizzy grin spread across her face, gaze finally locking on my form, carelessly free and heavily drugged. I swallowed rising bile. She was more than a little drunk. I could forgive her that; I was more than a little thirsty.

“Thass what I came here for.” She barked a mirthless laugh. “I like the danger. M’names Lucy. What’s yours?”

“I try not to give my name to girls who court danger.” Melody. My name is Melody. I bit back the words in favour of self-preservation and walked a little nearer, offering an apologetic smile as I entered her little hemisphere of light. She was even more intoxicating up close. “May I sit with you a while, Miss Lucy?”

Her grin spread wider and her cold, clammy fingers found mine before I had even lowered myself onto the seat. “Be my guest.” She purred, resting a foot on my lap. “I don’t bite. Much.”

Tidbit: Circe

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Zero

Directed to the couch I swaddle myself in velvet and recline awkwardly.

I can hear my heart in my chest. Thud-thud thud-thud, it tells me. Thud-thud thud-thud.

One Hour

A spotlight shines from behind her. It illuminates her shadow on the canvas and forms a wall between us through which I can see faint outlines of paint and oil pastel. Thick phthalo blues and glowing desert oranges seep, faded, through the dusty cream of raw canvas. I want to stretch out on the couch. She scolds me if I move. I lie still. Still as the dead. The velvet smells like the elderly, and yet I lie still.

Two Hours

I think about her voice and how I haven’t heard it for an eternity now. The scolding would be worth it. I think instead about what I could say, what could prompt her from her reverie. Silhouettes of her arms move in a jagged dance across nowhere space. The canvas wobbles in an uneven bass beat and enhances my trance-like state. It’s nice, but not perfect.

If I spoke, the situation could change. It could go like this:

Me: You look like you’re dancing.

Her: It feels like dancing.

(That accent, the gentle vowels and clipped consonants  of the northern countries, distracts me more than her movements. In my thoughts she speaks slower than usual, drunkenly, purposefully. Her eyes are heavy-lidded.)

Me: Is it nice?

Her: It is frustrating.

But I don’t speak. I don’t dare.

I lie still, and I lend her my silence.

Three Hours

Something has changed. The scratching of the brush has ceased for a moment as she peers from behind the easel, kicking out her hip, a scowl of irritation lending her an almost Pre-Raphaelite appearance. Her hair has come undone and harsh halogen light dribbles over her shoulders in knotted, greasy curls. For a moment she looks like Circe, cruel and beautiful. The witch of Aeaea. I am helplessly enchanted and dozing on the couch, beneath her glare, I wait for her to speak.

Panic

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I find myself terrified, most of the time, that I’m not a writer, and that I can’t write, and that this silent day-week-month-months-year will never end and I’ll never write another story.

I’m one of those people for whom a story doesn’t just fall out and rage across the page.
I have to work at it to get one page, one paragraph, one sentence.

The fact that it always breaks and I always write another story never eases the panic I feel when I find myself unable to write, whether for lack of inspiration, words, characters or plot.

It’s an infinitely more painful experience than any I’ve known throughout my life.

EDIT:
This was my dad’s response to this post:
“Some sage advice from a foot weary traveller upon the same arduous climb?
Revisit, rekindle, relinquish, rectify and relish. Take to your heart old literary loves, your older eyes will see anew that which your pubescent soul dismissed.
Renew your passion for the language, pop the juicy words loudly on your tongue. Gobble verbs, masticate nouns and sieve corpulent adjectives through your teeth. Never slake your thirst or sate your hunger.
Brandish swordlike the slick sharp steel of your vocabulary, curry no fear nor favour in your quest to slice open the arteries of creative expression.
Make it yours. However churlish, childish, covetous or controversial, own it.
Just. fucking. write.”

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Her skin tastes like salt.

My tongue points behind my lips and as I bend my head to place another delicate kiss along the sharp edge of her hip, that dainty place between thigh and belly, I can taste her; clammy and smooth and salted like a fish. Her legs twitch slightly under my hands and the faintest of giggles erupts from her cherry-flushed lips. She sighs with relief. I smile. My fingers pull a cup of ocean up along her ankle, right up her calf to her knee, letting it slip back into the vast abyss in tiny transparent rivulets.

Under the stars she shimmers, all bald head and gracefully bony body, a delicious nakedness that has nothing to do with our current nudity. Out here beneath the night sky her bad girl façade is gone, leaving the meat of her, the brilliant and fragile beauty that enchanted me so completely. Something in what we had done calmed her, allowed her a moment freedom from the defensive shell she’d carried with her all this time.

I’m still alive! Tidbit.

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“I can’t do this without you!”

The wind whips my voice from my lips and casts it out into the dark, ripping over the rooftop, catching in Sierra’s hair, echoing in her ear. She turns her head towards me slightly, her eyes unmoving from the city below. She refuses to meet my gaze. This yearning I feel, this need, it hinges on that glance. Those stunning green eyes, so sharp, so clear. She looks at me and knows who I am, who everyone is. One of a kind.

She’s perched on the edge of the roof, barefoot, clad in silky lingerie and a rough brown farm coat. The coat catches in a powerful gust, making her stumble, and for a moment my heart is in my throat as I wait for her to tip, to windmill, to fall into the oblivion nine stories below. She heaves up onto her tiptoes at the edge. I throw my hands out to catch her but pain shoots through my belly- like needles pushing through my hips- and in that horrible, fatal moment, I can’t move. I can’t do anything but grit my teeth and glare through tears at her wobbling silhouette… But then she catches her balance, splaying her fingers in the air, a stifled gasp escaping those smudged, ruby-red lips.

Tidbit: Trite Nonsense

Book Review: A Density of Souls

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Having not yet finished reading the book when I started writing this, I can only comment on what I have realised so far. When I have finished it, no doubt I’ll write some more. ^_^

The reviews for A Density Of Souls differ largely, fluctuating between 1-2 star ratings with bitter comments, and 5 star rave reviews. This book is a troublesome one that covers a lot of incredibly unpleasant realities, bundling up a dozen serious experiences that happen to people everyday, and then wraps them all up in a wonderfully written (if complicated) story. My guess is that the people who enjoyed the book are probably people who have experienced one or more of these- whether the destruction of friendships, the emotional damage of abusive relationships, the trauma of death and suicide, the difficulties of mental illness or the social otherness of being gay- and these people find themselves drawn to the characters they feel the most connected to. It takes a talented writer to involve the readers in what has been written, to absorb them in the story. I think those who didn’t like the book didn’t feel that connection, hadn’t felt those feelings.

When I picked up A Density of Souls, I expected Christopher Rice’s writing to be a pale imitation of his mother’s. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He has his own style and while some of the places mentioned are familiar to Rice fans, everything is somehow different. Intense and beautiful and ugly all at once, and sometimes, incredibly uncomfortable. I would recommend anyone read it, regardless of how they might feel about it. It’s certainly an experience to be had.

That said, they say that an author’s first published novel tends to be heavily autobiographical. The way some of this is written… Well. I wouldn’t be surprised.

5 stars.

Tidbit: Patient Zero

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Spring, the following year.
I move in. Yelena and Veronika help me relocate my meagre possessions from my apartment to their family home. The day is hot, the sky clear, and as I make my way up the wooden steps to the front door I’m greeted with a chorus of bees and suburban birdsong.
The world seems somehow lighter in this big house with the rain-stained windows and brightly coloured walls. Art decorates every surface- tiny sculptures, blotchy paintings, dainty photographs- and everything in the kitchen is mismatched. Yelena shows me her espresso machine, and we laugh about how the bright red matches Veronika’s lipstick. It is the kind of moment that belongs in polaroid photographs, stuck to a wall with aging blue-tac and a scribbled note: ‘Lena and Mary, coffee in the spring.’ perhaps.
Vero watches with a quiet smile, but then her beeper trills and she excuses herself. I catch a glimpse of hard muscles beneath soft skin as she collects her purse and bag, rushing out the door with an air of urgency.
Yelena laces her hands around my belly. She stands behind me as I watch Vero’s car pull out of the driveway, bathed in fallen wisteria blossoms. “She works for the army, medicine things, very complicated and boring ljubov.”
Her voice makes me giddy and I can’t help but laugh. Confusion crosses her face as I twist on the ball of my foot to encircle her in my arms. Her eyes glitter and her kiss tastes sweet. Her lips are painted with honey. I want to lay her on the floorboards and claim her, but now is not the time. Heat flushes her cheeks, she leans against me for just a little longer than necessary; Suddenly overwhelmed with love I find myself grinning.

“You are so beautiful.”

The smile I’ve come to adore creeps across her face and she laughs with me. Disentangling herself from my embrace she grasps my hand. Her cold and crooked fingers tug me away from the window. I notice the strange outward curve of her nails as they brush my skin. “Come!”

Down hallways, padding across musical wooden floors, we navigate the rooms. Yelena introduces me to each one as if it is a person in itself- “This is Nika’s room, very neat, see? It rattles in the night, I think it sings to her.”- and her hands brush the doors lovingly, grasping the overly high doorhandles with the same gentleness she treated me to when I first met her. Each door is pale pine, each room a cohesive world behind it, a story of the things it contains.
Our room is warm, modern, with multicoloured curtains and fairylights above the bed. It smells like sandalwood and amber. The pillows smell like her.
I move to kiss her but she skips away, laughing, reminding me I haven’t seen the rest of the house yet. She takes my hand again, and the tour continues.

Intro to Patient Zero

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Below is the intro to the story I’ll be writing for NaNoWriMo.

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As I stand here, in the dark humid warmth of this abandoned studio, memories flicker like old photographs superimposed over everything I see. I can feel the softness of the pink couch without touching it, the sharp points of dried paint on dusty palettes, the elastic fabric of the canvasses. It has been five years, though in here, in this anachronistic space, it seems like fifty have passed. Everything is just as familiar and clear to me as it was the last time I stood within its turpentine embrace.
Back then things were different. I wasn’t on the run, the cities hadn’t locked down, and Yelena slept in my arms every night. Life was good. Wine, cigarettes and a warm body pressed against mine were daily pleasures, beautiful delicacies I found I still craved even now. Back then terms like “Carrier”, “Transmissive” and “Infected” meant nothing to me.
It takes me a moment to collect myself enough to take a short, slow stroll around the room. I trail my fingers over surfaces. Dust gathers under my fingertips, light and gritty and fuzzy brown. Touching these things I had missed for so long makes them seem hyper real, as if I am dreaming. Echoes of Yelena’s laughter, of Veronika’s comments in rapid-fire Russian, of our gentle sounds of love and passion fade in and out just beyond my hearing. It is all exactly as I remember it, no less beautiful without their warmth to give it spirit. I want to wrap myself in the silks and fall asleep on the velvet couch. This grubby notepad and my mission can be forgotten, abandoned in favour of temporary sanctuary.
There is no time, I cannot linger here. I must write what I came here to write and be gone. I wish for Yelena’s comfort but she is in quarantine, mind-sick, and I am alone.
I settle on the couch. I light my last cigarette. I try to remember my life before I became Patient Zero.
I stare at the page.
After a moment, I begin to write.