Eaten alive

I’ve been long absent and treacherously slack in my visits.  Work and study are so dastardly demanding. But hey, it’s a gloriously sunny day in the backwash that is February and The Perilous Reading Society has a rebrand pending.

During the meanwhile, and to stop the site rusting over, this is a re-post from 2016. Some stories don’t have happy endings. It’s not a metaphor for anything, I’m just a not happy ending sort of moody today.

 

EATEN ALIVE

Dark spells crawl simple into the world. 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. Anger slip-sliding on grey vinyl, boxed and 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 you’re made to feel like the enemy.  I hate the atonement for failing.  I hate that only spoiled food feels good enough. For me. I hate all of it. But unfortunately, hating isn’t the same as not needing…’ The girl backs down, stands down, eases herself down to shipwreck in the unfamiliarity of their containment. ‘If you could hear what I hear inside my head you’d understand.’

‘Don’t be so dramatic, Carla.  Everyone has that stupid little, critical voice sounding off inside their head. You just grit your teeth and choose not to listen that’s all.’

That’s all. Spell bites harder into flesh, deeper into mind. She tries to stand straight with it but the dizziness that rolls tidal won’t shift much anymore, ‘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…’

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 mouth in secret, ‘The voices, 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, 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, what would happen to the world if we all went 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 has to ask the question with her eyes. Voice snuck to tight to cry.

‘This girl, I’d seen her around school but nothing like saying hello. And she comes and sits down next to me and says she likes my lunch box. Calls her friends over. She talks about my shoes, asks where I got them. I said you’d bought them for me. It felt like I’d done something wrong when she smirked, and turned to her friends and said my words back. But then she talked about herself and, Mum,  it was okay. It was nice. We ate and talked and it was nice. Then she stood up, and she said, See ya, fatty. See ya, fatty. Just like that. And they all laughed. I guess tear is spelled the same as tear for a reason? Because I never cried but I sure got cut up that day.’

‘She was just a cruel, pathetic bully, she was only trying to hurt you because she feels bad about…’

‘Spare me the armchair psych, I know what she was doing. I know what she was. But you wanna know what the real pathetic in all this is? If she came and asked to be my friend right now, I’d feel happy, lucky to be in her company. I don’t even get to hate her for what she did, I just get to hate myself. Pretty messed up, eh?’

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

‘I wish I could tell you, Mum,’ she says, ‘because ever since the day I was born, everything tastes of  poison, and I’m sick to death of eating it.’

Dark Spells come crawling out small and black as tar. Made from mean and come to mean and all the things in-between. And bit by bit they eat their victims from the inside out until there is nothing left of them but skin and bone.

 

sn-fibrodysplasia

image – sciencemag.org

 

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After 9 days I let my mind run free

No matter how many times we storm the tower who we are can’t be rescued. Filligan let the thin line of blood run across his fingers before turning up his collar, ‘How long do we have left?’

‘You were out for 5.23 minutes,’ if there was any remorse Bastian didn’t show it, ‘which will reduce our time considerably.’

‘It’s still long enough.’

‘I’m curious,’ Bastian barred Filligan’s way, ‘the marks on your skin?’

‘We need to get moving.’

‘I would call them self harm, but considering the length of your arms and the angles required, it would be impossible to burn yourself with a cigarette like that.’

‘I can do the rest of this without you.’ Filligan pushed Bastian aside and picked up his bag, ‘It only needed two of us to break the lock.’

‘What’s your story I wonder?’

‘I have no story.’

‘Oh, my dear friend, we all have a story,’ Bastian grabbed the flashlight from the top of the cabinet and followed his companion along the corridor, ‘and I can assure you that everyone begs to tell it in the end.’

‘Spare me the serial killer rhetoric.’ Filligan tapped a series of numbers into a keypad and pulled open the iron door. He paused, ‘Once we get down there, you take what you want, I take what I want, there will be no questions asked on either side.’

‘I do believe that is the agreement.’ Bastian watched him disappear into the darkness at the bottom of the stairs. He hadn’t hesitated, he hadn’t acclimatised himself, he hadn’t even used a torch. It was almost like he’d been in the room before.

Bastian stood for a moment, finding the flavour of his reaction. There were whispers here, an everyday of fimilarity. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Lucifer was made in the image of man and even the stairs had something to say about his decent.

He flicked his torch around the concrete grey of the unpleasant room. A row of old filing cabinets. A set of wooden crates. Half a dozen boxes. Books. More books. Bottles. Oil paintings all stacked up against each other. A table. A bed. A set of wax crayons. A clock drawn on the wall.

Filligan had his back to the stairs. Crouched low. A ragged breath in the stolen light. There was a slow way of cooking that infused meat with everything that had gone before. Bastian turned out the torch and took the darkness into his lungs. This partnership wasn’t just about forging out a profitable business. For all his secrecy, this young man was leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs that Bastian found impossible to resist.

 

©2017 Jac Forsyth

 

HIVEMIND
Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free

 

 

 

 

Just depends what sort of mood I’m in

Bastian Celeste detested heroes. All that perverted selfishness and hidden agenda, where was the honesty in that? Sure, moral corruptions followed him around like a pack of rabid dogs, but lying had never been one of them.

He picked up a coffee at the station and ducked past the security checks, stone-skimming his phone ID across the surface of a dozen underground relays.

The woman had asked about his life too many times, her ill concealed hopes locked into the rhythm of his breathing. He’d given her Arthur, a media architect from Chichester. She wanted someone with an exciting credibility, but he’d slung in a subliminal Once and Future King for good measure. It was all about fantasy, even when they pretended it wasn’t.

Her phone had failed to load his QRID, so she’d printed off an inkjet copy and put it on her bedside table. He’d placed a strategic ring of tea over it as he left. Hell, it was fake anyway, but somehow tragedy always tasted of a sweeter and more permanent kind of cruel. He could have killed her a thousand times over, instead he made her cry out without even touching her. The mood for anything else hadn’t been on him. Sometimes it was like that. He’d never taken the time to figure out why.

The billboards flickered through another cascade of neon cubes. HIVE had bundled the IOT into a centralised unit and chopped everything else up into a target driven resource. It had been months since anything more than a punchy little strapline had made it past the public broadcast system. Freedom of choice was a dead sales pitch. And no one seemed to miss it very much.

He flicked a glance at a public safety drone that had circled down the alley ahead of him. He’d overshot his social permit by two hours, but what the hell, even he was in love with Arthur.

He was close enough to his street office to see that the ad-graphics on the door needed changing again, it didn’t pay to let any signs of business inertia creep in. They’d talked about replacing the cluttered panel with a clear, face recognition glass. It would have given them a much higher PS rating and an air tight way to conceal their more covert activities. But even with the incentive of government subsidies, it was still expensive shit to buy. Plus, ditching the ads would mean factoring the loss of tax-deductible revenue into an already sketchy looking end of year return. The business took virtually nothing through the legitimate checkouts now, discrepancies like that flagged up pretty damn quick on the HIVE, and the last thing they needed was another alarm generated inspection.

He could hear the drone buzzing, it must have picked him up as he crossed the street, this wasn’t gonna be easy. Bastian smiled, he hated it when things were easy.

 

©2017 Jac Forsyth

A return in your honour : drainbrainx

HIVEMIND
Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free

 

Tangled

Rains come rattling after the snakes, and she shines all the more for the venom they left behind. Woke up tied to the railings of a disused town. All the glass broken and just the signs, with only one good screw left in them. She’d check out. But the music just won’t let her go.

Dead leaves bend and break over and over and still look the same. Vinyl shuffled in all the right places, sparking like an AI system. She sighs of famine through the red tablecloth; greed always had all the aces. Makes no matter who deals the hand after that.

Drums on the roof. A song can get closer. Easy enough to get by on remembering how to feel. And most of the time it’s like they come holding up a mirror, looking to find out if they scrub up okay. She keeps the door open. No need to say goodbye when there was never a hello. Just the ghosts of this town, dressed in sheets. And black spots where their eyes should be.

Storm shakes the tumbleweed. She twists the blind shut and asks god to refasten the chains when he’s done.

©2017 Jac Forsyth

I’ll slip into something more comfortable…

The first thing that impressed people about Bastian Celeste was that he could speak two dozen languages. What they didn’t notice in all their admiring was that language was about control, and Bastian had an intent so complicated even he was unsure of how far down he’d crawled.

He flicked a glance at the pinnacle of youth sprawled out across his sofa. He was one of those kids who saw being under 25 as permission to rule the world. Every damn thing about him screamed – This is how you were once. Before you wasted your way through the magic lantern of frustrations. Bastian couldn’t be doing with it. He picked up his phone, scrolling through a series of imaginary texts, ‘If you’re going to waste my time, you should leave now.’

The young man didn’t even bother to look up.

‘Did you hear me?’

‘Yeah, I heard.’

The words came at him in slow motion artillery. What a fucking joke, like there had ever been anything to hear or not hear. Bastian smiled sweetly, but along the horizon the sun ripped up all the colours that weren’t red.

It was never really his fault, not when it came to it. It was more the familiarity of their arrogance that let them down. They always thought he was checking for texts because that’s what they did. Like the world was made in their image.

‘You know, most people are afraid of madness, because it has a fire in it they think they can’t predict. They forget that sanity comes in many …flavours.’ Bastian inhaled the word, gathering up the sickness in measured and treasured, ‘Have you ever put a jar over a wasp and watched it die trying to get out?’

The locking mechanisms were virtually silent. Bastian synced a satisfying clicking sound through the internal speakers. Fear was in the details.

He smiled again. Frankly, this was the best part. The bit when they realised who he was. And there was always enough victory in that moment to light a bonfire.

©2017 Jac Forsyth

9462347557_47b112e5fd_nImage courtesy of flickr.com

HIVEMIND

Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free

Missing the Maelstrom

You know I’m dying, right? And you. Waiting patiently for the adverts to end. Eating the popcorn rituals of your indifference. To see what happens next. While I politely asked for help. Because I was already holding on by my fingertips.

I only saw the storm once. A distant silver light. Unbridged. Untamed. Unwanted. Turned back on me in all the shades of an unfamiliar sky. I knew then that I was breathing recycled air. And the oxygen I’d brought with me had to last a lifetime.

Perhaps the care you felt was always in the watching? Hell, I’m not sure which words are even mine anymore. Just that this is series end. My final subplot demise. Seen from the couch of your living. Changing channels for the sympathy credits. Adorable in your smiles and nods. And then you’ll move on. Like a swan. But no frantic paddling underneath. Just the river carrying you softly. Tenderly. To the next box set.

©2017 Jac Forsyth

800px-Blake_Dante_Hell_VFeatured image: The Lovers’ Whirlwind by William Blake.
Courtesy of: Wikipedia

HOURGLASS

9am.
A dustcart trails cherry blossom in bridal chaos. Traffic roulette spins on who’s gonna carry the scent bouquet. A guy asks strangers for money and his words rehearse legitimacy through an ice show of withdrawal. £21 for shelter, he says. I don’t ask what sort of shelter he means.

9.15am.
I sit in a cafe and mourn the loss of cold coffee and stale nicotine. Normality filters everything from this windowed street life and I wander too far into the sideshows and circus tents to remember what it was like.

9.20am.
There’s a snake oil cure splashed out across repose and the scream of surrender.  The sun shines but the shadows still fall flat no matter what they wanted to be. I run the tips of my fingers through the filigreed agony of a thousand nights and watch the debris burn off in fireflies. It seems like I can only see the freaks in mirrors these days.

9.30am.
A streetcleaner calls symphony in crisp packets and paper cups. There is a girl sat in an abandoned doorway, every part of her life is covered in filth. She watches the stumpy machine, like it’s on TV, like it could mean something in another life. The brushes sweep grey spirals around her but she is too much rubbish for even the dust collector to recognise. Some people are measured for a coffin the day all return tickets get cancelled. I buy her breakfast and it’s me has to do all the crying because there’s only survival left in her.

9.50am.
I go to the polling station. Seems like the people who deserve to vote the most don’t get one. A gymkhana of rosettes talk outside, one candidate asks for my card number and tells me the grass needs cutting in this town. I shut my eyes and pretend it’s the sun. I’ve already raked through the canker of promises to find the ones who will do the least amount of damage. He smiles and I know there are only pencils and bad choices on the inside.

10.am.
The bank is full of old people. I transfer money from one account to another as easy as remembering my address. The automatic door keeps opening even though no one comes in. Ghosts of past employees, we joke as the roar of contrition plays Bach in the corner and I search out deliverance on my iPod. When I try to leave the door twitches like it doesn’t want to let me go. I turn the music up to max and let oblivion take me.

 

©2017 Jac Forsyth

Spaceman

The skies bled dark. And First Contact was unfurled in monuments of intent, as unfathomable in their science as the cold silence that had preceded their arrival.

And even before the news broke, we knew they were here to kill us.

There was nothing they wanted, the politician said through a firework of light, and all we could do now was to offer our cooperation around the whole extinction process. It wasn’t personal. He said. It was just business.

Refusal wasn’t optional. He said.

And it’s funny, I can see now that life carries on clinging to the sides of the upturned bottle even when there is no hope left.

The sun came up the day after. And even though we knew we were all crawling through the final remnants of our lives, we still needed to breathe.  To pee.  To eat.  So we got up too, and went to work. Everyone did. It wasn’t like we wanted to, we just didn’t know what else to do.

Sam asked Jessica out. Finally. And Mr Doughan gave us all a massive pay rise and bought a Tesla. My parents drove their caravan all the way from Cornwall and parked outside my house. We had a barbecue when they arrived. In the street. They brought all the burgers from their freezer. The neighbours brought food and beer and paddling pools for the kids. I know their names. Now. We all leave our doors open. Now.

In Denmark, the farmers let all the cows go. No one needs to worry about buying milk anymore.

They say that routine can hold you when everything else falls apart. They took the cities first.  And some days I feel older than thought.

 

©2017 Jac Forsyth

 

image: fi.wikipedia.org

Midnight anatomy

The whisper coiled translucent in veins of opal fire, ‘You would walk alone into my dominion?’

‘And you would seek to threaten me with ghosts?’ Jacob fought back a wave of nomadic nausea, ‘Vapors of bad dreams and past imaginings?’

‘Words bring a hollow comfort,’ the form twisted abhorrent in its flesh, ‘when I would watch you write a rope and drown in tempests of binary quicksand?’

Jacob lent against the cold glass and drew the tips of his fingers into a mirrored arc, ‘Ah, but she calls to me with siren tongue, what am I to do?’

‘So you speak of grazing for water in an ocean of sand?’ the speaking bubbled laughter through septic gills, ‘when I am grown fat on the rations of famine?’

And the cool night air stole in from the east carrying the scent of rain and dust.

‘Give me a choice and I’ll take it,’ Jacob whispered.

The darkness swarmed charred flesh down to sullied meat ‘Then you are cursed to live among the bones and settlements of shame.’

‘So it is then,’ his sigh broke in ribbons.

And in the heart of darkness, the first bird called out to drag the sun from its slumber.

Jacob turned to face the demon, ‘War can come from want of peace and peace from want of war.  Tell me then of your desires, you who would keep my sweetheart from me?’

‘Death,’ said the fettered.

‘Death,’ said the fury.

‘Death,’ said the foul.

Jacob smiled then, ‘True enough she can seem as death to those who would chase her. But the fragrance of her song is sweet when all sweetness is gone. And if this is to be my death, then I would rather die than leave her.’

And the moon, bloated and grey, smudged across the clouds like a rubbed out mistake.

The anatomy of angels

When I was fourteen, I saw an angel. It was likely 8 feet tall. And looking at it was like looking at the sun.

I wake at 2.30am. Someone is shaking me, asking me about canons. I don’t remember. ‘What would it be like, to meet an angel?’ they say. Their voice jumps in soundbites.

‘Hell, that would be a wondrous thing,’ I breathe words into darkness, but all those years ago I just ran. All the way back across the fields without stopping. And I slammed the backdoor so hard the windows in the front room rattled. Even Mam looked at me long enough to ask if I was okay.

I said, ‘Yeah, just been runnin.’ Feels like I’ve been running ever since. I never said anything about the angel.

The voice calls again, dead leaves on the wind, ‘Hush little one, remember the canons.’ But when I think about anything, all I remember is the last time I thought about it.

I search through an anatomy of corrupted files. Looking for answers when the damn truth was lost in the first telling. When I was fourteen, I saw an angel. And everything since then has been a lie.

Canons shake me awake again, I don’t even know I’m sleeping.

 

© 2017 jac forsyth

canons