As far as the world was concerned, Clara was part of the post office furniture.  Sure, she kept all the pencils lined up in order of size, but she was great, and never got cross, even with the man who always came in on a Friday afternoon to buy unlikely sounding foreign currency.

Today she had arrived early to work.  Clara was always early.  She arrived at the same time every day.  Most people didn’t notice, and those that did just put it down to her organised nature and said things like, ‘Oh, here is Clara, it must be 7.45.’

They had no idea just what was at stake and how important Clara being at the Post Office at exactly that quarter to eight was.

By the time the post office opened at 9.30, she had washed her face 4 times, counted all the tiles in the small bathroom, turned all the light switches heavy side up, re-counted counted all the tiles in the small bathroom and made sure all the chairs were still from Tunbridge Wells.  Once the pencils were lined up, she could finally relax, knowing that for another day the sun would not catapult out of the solar system, dragging half a dozen screaming planets behind it like a teen idol.  Plus everyone would get to post their letters on time.

Clara kept her true identity secret.

Eaten alive

The dark spells come simple to the world, and so they can seem like nothing at all. A seed perhaps. A look. A word. To water. A laugh to sew and grow and come to mean that eating in a dream still counts as eating.

The door to the communal lounge is unkindly heavy and she’s caught running to keep up. Her anger comes boxed peroxide, ‘Why don’t you ever listen to me!’

‘Fine.’ Mum spins, colliding the space between them, ‘Go on then, I’m listening.’

‘I hate that food is the enemy.  I hate the atonement for failing.  I hate that only spoiled food feels good enough. I hate all of it… but hating isn’t the same as not needing…’

‘Not needing!’

‘You wouldn’t say it that if you knew…’ the girl backs down, stands down, eases herself to shipwreck from the unfamiliarity of their containment. Before her needing shows, before another toxic wave breaks her flesh. ‘If you could hear what I hear inside my head.’


‘Don’t be so dramatic, Carla.  Everyone has a critical voice inside their head,’ Mum snaps out a smile along with her words, ‘you just choose not to listen that’s all.’

She tries to stand straight with it all but the dizziness that rolls tidal won’t shift much anymore, ‘How can you choose not to listen when it’s roaring inside your head 24 hours a day? When you’re too tired to fight anymore? When it’s so much easier just to listen…’ Something bites harder into her flesh, deeper into her mind.

Mum softens, ‘They say that we have two fighting wolves inside of us, one good and one bad, and the one that wins is the one we feed.’

‘Wolves?’ her voice, fingers to her mouth in secret, ‘They never leave me alone, Mum.  They tell me that I don’t deserve food, that I never do enough, that my body is repulsive, that I take up too much room, that I don’t deserve a life… they tell me that I should never have been born.

Mum turns to look out of the window.  A long stretch of grass down to trees, ‘Minnie sends her love, and Alex.’

‘Great,’ the girl curls her fingers around her arm, checking how much they overlap.

‘You hurt them too you know, doing this, being here.  Alex is too scared to ask how you are anymore, he doesn’t even want to come home anymore because he says you’re still there, reminding us of how we failed.’

‘People think it’s about control, being in charge of your own death.’

Mum goes perching on the words, ‘Everyone has difficult stuff going on in their lives, we don’t go around starving ourselves to death.’

Day scours through slatted windows, chopping the light to bars. Carla shifting smaller in her space, ‘You know, I remember the day I was born. I remember what I was wearing, where I was, who I was with. And most of all I remember what I was eating.‘ She smiles but there’s not sunshine there, ‘Just three words, Mum. That’s all it took. Three words to kill me and bring me back to life as another person.’ 

Mum asks the question with her eyes.

‘She sat down next to me and said she liked my lunch box. She talked about my shoes, asked where I got them. I said you’d bought them for me. It felt like I’d done something wrong when she smiled, and turned to her friend and said my words back. But then she talked about her holiday and what she did and it was okay. We ate and talked and it was okay. Then she stood up, and she smiled again and she said, See ya, fatty. See ya, fatty.’ She shakes more than head, ‘ I guess tear is spelled the same as tear for a reason, eh? Because I never cried but I sure as cut that day.’

The tilt of her head. Fingers uncurling, ‘Tell me what to do, Carla, please tell me what to do.’ 

‘Damned if I know, Mum.’ She says.

Dark Spells come small and black as tar to hide in sin and skin, and bit by bit they eat their victims from the inside out.