Rock Bottom

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I lay in the tub scrubbing away all meaning with a flannel and letting the warm water dissolve my worries. So many layers of unnecessary complication are hard on the soul. Surely there comes a time when we tire of it and simply let it all go?

There’s a knock at the bathroom door. I rise from my mountain of bubbles straight away, and open the lock before I’ve even thought of putting a towel around me.

It’s him! He looks different now, but then it has been twenty years. He still wears black but for the white scarf around his neck, and he still has dark shoulder length hair though now it is speckled with grey. With longing I look into his eyes – just two dark and endless craters, pulling me in and taking me beyond.

“I have made my decision,” he croaks. “I want to be with you always. Come with me and stay by my side?”

Hearing the words I have longed for all these years makes me instantly weak, as though I’m melting from the inside.

“That is all I ever wanted,” I say, falling into his arms. “I accept.”

He is cold and expressionless, but I don’t care. I know that he hasn’t reached his decision lightly, and I know that he really means it. I know this is how my myth ends. And so I let out all the water. I watch it swirling and glugging away down the plug hole. Then, with his hand to steady me, I climb back into the empty bathtub to lay down and close my eyes. The very next time I fall asleep must be the last.

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Intercampus

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

Has a sound ever held you, that won’t let you go? A sound whose waves have become enmeshed with yours so that you are, for all intents and purposes, inseparable?

This broken old shed made such a sound available to me, and now I am part of it. It’s like a distant organ surrounded by static. It’s like the low growl that is the nature of man beneath all of his fancy delusions.

When people visit they become scared because they detect my presence. I make their hairs stand on end and their stomachs prepare for flight. They see the bones of rabbits and birds, and their eyes become glassy like my collection of shards. Although they look right at me, they see only the wall I lean against.

I suspect that my atoms have collapsed in on themselves with no one here to observe them; their charges disintegrating away from organic form and out into this place they say is haunted. I have become tiny orbs of light; I have become dust.

The string of events that follows is all that I remember of the day I came to this place.

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Rescue

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You dragged me from the water for the third time that day with a look of determination on your face. A look which seemed to be new, even to you. This whole charade was driving you into uncharted territories; testing your endurance. I slumped myself down next to a rock, feeling nothing but raw. My senses were protesting at the stimulation they were expected to process. Not this again. The world was an inconvenience. I was sick from the things I once loved. We were way beyond reassurances by then, and there were no more words you could say to me. So instead you paced back and forth with your hands in your hair and your eyes to the sky.

What happens when things have fallen apart about as far as they ever could? Entropy take me.

Then you gathered a bunch of sticks, much faster than I could comprehend, and right there in front of me you started a fire. My tired eyes were some way comforted by the sight of colour, my worn and crumbled body warmed by the flame. In the crackle of the wood I heard you promise that you would find me a desert in which to dwell if that is what it would take to keep me from the waters edge.

We sat there for some hours in silence: I as a pile of stones and you as a boat. I fell asleep, and you took me home.

Frederick

Frederick's Writers Block

On occasion, it becomes necessary for Frederick to leave the flat. Of course he gets his groceries delivered along with any other items he may require, which as it happens is very little. However in order to sustain himself and his craft, he once in a while needs to experience human contact.

Frederick gave up seeing his ‘friends’ long ago. He knows what they say about him: ‘Frederick is always working! He could do to take a break one of these days, he doesn’t even post on Facebook! He just needs to get some perspective or a wife or a wi-fi. You never see Frederick smiling anymore.’ There was no sense to be found there.

Instead, he visits other men – and women too – in the private booths near the train station. To ensure the authenticity of the participants, recording devices of any nature must be left at the payment kiosk: it is assumed that if no one is streaming video to gain likes and bait trolls, then they must be in it for the genuine desire to grow brain function and further knowledge. Participants are paired off at random, entering their allocated booth on opposite sides of a plasti-glass panel. They then have the duration they have paid for – usually one hour – to converse, debate and discuss any topic of their choosing without the watchful eyes of their peers and public being upon them.

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Noodles

Abstract Art Painting

My mate Jerry is off on a fast-paced wild goose chase with his mind. Seriously man, he’s really going for it this time, grappling with any scrap of information he comes across like its a key to the holy grail. I’m just sat over here on the hill having a smoke, watching him dig deeper underground and burn out all that crazy energy. It’s quite entertaining to be honest, and it’ll pass the time ‘til Sheila comes round later. I’ll have a bath before then probably, if there’s any hot water, and maybe have a tidy round the flat. I’m gonna cook for her: pasta and cheese. I don’t cook for just anyone mind, but I reckon she’s worth more than a packet of 10p noodles, you know? She’s used to being wined and dined, and her Dad’s in the Air Force, so I’ll have to make a bit of an effort or I don’t fancy my chances of seeing her again.

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The Potency of Fantasy

One more appointment for the day, then I could go sink a few drinks and release my stresses. It had been a day fuelled by strong coffee, due to an unfortunate plague of dreams in which giant crows were scratching at my eyes the night before. I had awoken in terror sweats, and was just beginning to think the insomnia that preceded it was preferable. Both were borne, no doubt, from too many party drugs, too many dangerous affairs, too many loopholes I’d slipped through lately. Perhaps I should see a doctor.

“Doctor?”

“Yes, yes, come in, take a seat.” I waved the patient into the room without looking up from my keyboard. Only when I sensed reluctance did I register an imp of a man standing in the doorway, clutching a bowler hat and an umbrella. “Sir? Please take a seat.”

He shuffled forward, and came to perch on the very edge of the well worn chair beside my desk.

“Now, I don’t seem to have any referral notes, Mr -?”

“M-m-uninn.”

“Mr Muninn. So perhaps you could tell me a little bit about why you’re here?”

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We Are Not Angels

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Oakley balanced upon one leg, his arms out wide to steady him. He often did such things when June was acting oddly. She was sitting in a tearful hunch nearby, ripping herself apart from the inside all over again. Oakley had witnessed her doing this many times before over many different endings, and each time, like a ritual, she would go down to the rocky part of the beach to mourn what she had lost. The persistence of her attachment to Gregor, her most recently failed suitor, spun around and around in her core with all of its barbs exposed to her heart and her solar plexus. She was in turmoil.

Turmoil, thought Oakley. What an unusual word. Tur-moil. He then proceeded to repeat it under his breath, exaggerating the movement of his lips as though examining the word’s formation. Although he sported a smile, it was but a caricature of happiness planted on his chalky white face. Oakley knew very little about the concepts of happiness and despair; they seemed to him so alien, so unnecessarily polar.  

To June on the other hand, who was always looking at him through the filter of imagination, thought that his face changed with the onset of each of her new lovers. He had Gregor’s green eyes now, for example, but they were framed by Annette’s luscious lashes and Jake’s chunky cheekbones. Peter’s soft passionate lips pierced by rings of metal in two places had been a feature for years, but only recently had they been painted the deep red of the lipstick Shelley wore. In this way she moulded him into what she called her muse, and when she admitted his presence to herself she would build dark pretty things with her fingers out of clay. 

It really didn’t matter to him through which lens she chose to look. She belonged to him, and he to her, and there simply was no greater truth than that. All of these others were simply fleeting fancies; objects of desire satisfying her craving for normality and acceptance. More concepts alien to Oakley. More unnecessary polarities. 

Nobody else ever saw Oakley at all; he was just like a ghost. He’d heard himself referred to as an animus, or eros, by psychologists, and a guardian angel by those with more of a religious bent. 

But we are not angels. Oakley considered, hopping skilfully onto the opposite leg. When our truth was whispered, it was mistranslated like a game of telephone. Words are strange like that… Inaccurate representations of authenticity…

We are not angels, for we don’t know the meaning of virtue. We are simply the innocent: those who do not experience. And we are not guardians, for we do not protect. How could we when we don’t understand the way humans place value? Life or death, pleasure or pain, it’s really all the same. In place of the word ‘guardian’ I think I’d use ‘supervisor’. No, wait: ‘observer’, yes that’s much better. We observe our human.

Oakley observed his human. Her shoulders were beginning to settle, her eyes were drying, the storm was calming. She tossed the necklace Gregor had bought her towards the sea. The tide was out, but it seemed enough to know the gift would be claimed on the water’s next expedition to conquer the land. She took a pocket mirror from her bag and dabbed at her running make-up with a cotton pad.

A mirror, thought Oakley. That’s a good analogy. People are like shards of a huge broken mirror. Fragments of the all. Fractals. Each one gives rise to both the observer, and the reflected. The observer is indeterminate; indifferent without being uninterested. The reflection is the quite the reverse: full of purpose and will and definition. Neither really understands the other, and yet they are the same thing. Twins

As he regained his footing on both legs, Oakley wondered whether he should attempt to voice his semantic corrections to June. A revelation from an angel. But, on balance, he thought it best to simply continue observing. He wasn’t really cut out for changing the world.