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Reminiscence by Robert Lloyd


Contents Our Hero 04-06 Welcome Home 07-09 Our Chosen Optimist 10-12 Welcome Back 13-13 A Glimpsing Reminiscence 14-15 And The Gravity Descends 16-20 Chasing Shadows 21-23 Welcome Again 24-25 Oh Little Rabbit 26-27 The Sound of a Whisper 28-28 Deja Vu 29-31 Welcome Me 32-36 Evening Mourning 37-40 Our Hero’s Epilogue 41-42


T

Our Hero

ell me which side I’m on. It’s a thought I’m often asking myself, drifting around in my mind so hauntingly. Right now, it’s into the later hours of the evening. I sit in a large room, and although it is filled with many pieces of aged furniture, antiquity in nature, it still feels empty. There may be a fire whispering its crackling song but the room feels a cold air brush its walls. In my chair I watch the fire, holding a small drink. Swirling it methodically, I become briefly transfixed, focusing on the liquid swelling and rolling around the rim. Contorted shadows dance from the flickering flames, dancing to the crack of the fire, and melodically blurred beats of rain hitting the windows. Even though the gnarled curtains are drawn, slithers of distant lightening pulse from the moonlight. This used to be my home. Now though, it feels my prison. Lowering my head and letting my eyes close, I take a deep breath. Strands of my sweeping fringe slowly fall across my brow. My senses feel heightened; as the hair strokes the skin, as each breath brings with it a tingling sensation throughout, the echoing booms and cracks of thunder bouncing down the forested hills ringing in my ears, and the aching in my eyes burnt by fire and memories. I remember how things used to be, back when I wasn’t afraid of myself. I was quite an artist actually; in fact, let me paint you a picture of my prior life. A life 3 years ago. A golden glow of sunlight diving through breaks in canopies above, lifting the hazel tones from leaves underfoot. The scene around brings warmth to the otherwise brisk air. Within this cradle of woodland and light, three friends walk in a leisurely bunch. Despite what you might be thinking though, I was not among this group. They consisted of a boy called Jack, a girl called Beth, and another girl named Charlotte. They walk and talk in a relaxed manner, wearing wintering clothes. Clothes that radiate warmth in a cosy sense yet appear relatively casual – as fashion of the time would dictate. A blend of grey or black woollen coats, high brown leather boots, and long green scarves. Then, Jack raises an arm with a pointed finger, looking down it like the barrel of a rifle. There, he sees me and another figure; sat beneath a proud and weathered oak tree amongst a shore of smoothed pebbles, sand and acorns. Now, why would he point to us? Well, this wasn’t the first time our woodland paths had crossed, not the second, not even the third. No, we had seen each other from afar several times in the woods, always from the same places. And every time, I had been increasingly entranced by Charlotte – although at the time she remained nameless to me, I simply named her ‘The Girl With An Angel’s Eyes’. In previous times, me and my friend Mark had been sat there with guitars, or a small fire, but usually a few drinks. Being from such a small village,

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this seemed to be a decent place to hang out and had been since we were young – an ideal den making pocket in the wood, not to mention the stream for swimming during summer. Right now though, it’s approaching the end of autumn. Mark can see Jack, or as far as he is concerned; “that guy”, pointing towards us in a gesturing way, and he hushes some words. I can tell Mark’s seeing the scenario fantasy I am. Charlotte, or in his case Beth, practically drifting through curtains of light towards me. It was, somewhat like that. Only in reality there was more frustration from knots of brambles and such on the way over. It took a little of the daydream away, but it was still sort of, adorable; watching her gingerly attack the brambles clawing her coat. I couldn’t help but smile, and neither could Mark, seeing as Beth was in a similar predicament just behind. Finally through, the three of them sat on the shore beside us, looking over the water. It bubbled, perfectly clear, like a sheet of glass which glazed the rocks and fish below. We talked, all of us, for what felt like hours but made us feel we have known each other for years. It was the first time we had spoken, and the first time any preconceptions could truly be judged: they were fairly accurate. Charlotte, to me, from the moment we first spoke was… I don’t know, but I could feel she would be something to me. I got a tingling tide flow through my mind, arms, back and legs as I thought that. One that told me I was right. Her hair was a dark shade, lifting the clear summer sky from her eyes. Peering shyly through slim and stylish glasses she gave an equally shy smile but one from her heart. I couldn’t do much but give into my involuntary gawky smile in return. Brushing a flick of her fringe out of her eyes, she tries to look down, masking a larger smile she could no longer hold back. Regaining composure, she introduces herself to us along with the other two. She may have been talking, but I (as I am sure is the same for Mark again) was becoming adrift in the sea of her voice, allowing it to wash over me and embrace me. I was lost, but I wanted to be, so long as it was she who I was lost in. Perhaps not the most masculine words to be spoken, but when this girl was concerned, I felt no other way. Eventually Mark jolts me to reality with a nudge like a lead weight, prompting me to introduce ourselves likewise. I am the older of us both, and so naturally have acquired the position of ‘leader’ per-say. That evening we all began piecing together the links of what would become a strong and loyal friendship: every story and every joke manifested itself into a link to hold us together. Night began to close in, and when it did so we all realised how each of us had utterly lost track of the time. The glass water now looked an icy obsidian, which caught streaks of the sunset, and later cried wavering photos of the cloudy moon. Although Charlotte, Jack and Beth had taken numerous walks

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in this woodland before, Mark and I guided them to the thinning edges. Under the youngest trees of the wood we waited in a moment of tension. Myself and Mark could pick up on their anxieties now, and decided to invite them back to my house; a large home on a nearby skirt of the woodland, at the base of the hills around. They were hesitant in accepting, but that was purely politeness. Charlotte looked beautiful in the moonlight, we walked together more closely than the others. Mark was clearly attempting to do the same with Beth, but he unfortunately seemed to have ‘a Jack’ following in suit, spurring conversation with them. The refreshing evening breeze danced around us as we strolled, although upon entering everyone realised how much more welcoming a fire seemed. Licking and tasting the air, it rose like a knot of snakes while we sat on a soft rug in front. One by one, our eyes grew heavier and pulled us to relaxed slumps, fast asleep, cosy on the floor.

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W

Welcome Home hy good morning”, a man welcomes. Walking into a room, I look around. It’s a strange room; it feels... ‘sterile’ with its cold frosted glass panes, yet almost rustically warm from the contrasting oaken beams which seemingly glide over the ceiling. Other than these great, and somewhat characteristically hacked timbers, the room is generally a clean white. When I say clean white, I really do mean white. A perfect snow white, no hints of imperfections like blue or cream, grey. It really was an immaculate white. I’m sure the room would appear to continue for as far as the horizon, had there not been smudged shadowed lines around the edges. Sat in one end of this room is a large, worn wingback chair holding a man in its embrace. He is a formal looking man, and upon my entering, other than the welcome, he leans forward beckoning me to mine. Another chair is placed at the other end of the room. It is not far away from him, thus, it is not really an entirely big room. This chair is deep and when I sit, it feels to engulf me. The man seems pleased, and reclines slightly in his wingback casually putting one leg over his other. As he does so, the chair’s leather gives a slow creaking groan. I look around to see the door I entered through, silently close. The frosted glass paints blurs of its other side but I’m still not overly sure where I am. “So, how have things been recently?” the man softly speaks, crossing his arms and cocking his head inquisitively. A moment goes by with no response from me, the moment grows and fills the room. I feel I know I recognise this place, despite the persistent airs of confusion in my mind. “How have things been recently?” he repeats calmly. My eyes narrow into a squint of confusion he clearly picks up on. “Urhm. How was your day? Yesterday, how did you feel?”. My expression doesn’t alter much, and my eyes almost unfocus as if I’m drifting off and losing contact. “Well, Tom, anyway, I have a book here I thought you might like...?”. With that he pulls a book from beside his chair, places it on a low, mahogany coffee table, and nudges it forward with a slide. Drifting to a halt at my end it slowly spins. This doesn’t overly help my confusion but I lean forward to pick it up, accompanied by another groaning creak from the leather chair. “I thought you might appreciate that Tom, was I right?”. “How do you know my name?” I enquired cautiously. “Oh come on Tom, I know far more than just your name”. All I remember then is a shallow smirk, crawling through the muscles in his face. It didn’t seem purposefully intimidating, but it really felt it. “Yes, I know far more than your name, Tom. I’ve known you for 19 years now”. “But that’s impossible, I’m 19 now” I cough back. He just sits, his face holding an expression where his eyes tell me his reply is simply ‘exactly’. Well, I suppose it is possible, “But how come I’m so unsure about all this, wouldn’t I recognise you? Surely, if I’ve known

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you my whole life, I’d know you well”. “We’ve only been speaking so much for the past few...” “but” I interrupt, undecided what to follow it up with. Truthfully, I just wanted him to stop. The confusions been replaced with a mild frustration now; both with myself for being so confused, and this... man, for... well I don’t quite know. Eventually my mind gives in and chooses to accept. There seems to be little else for it to do anyway. The man simply repeats my interruption, prompting my follow up, but nothing comes other than another intoxicating pause of silence. The pause gives me a chance to breathe, and with each inhalation of this intoxicating silence, I feel it course through me. A tingling relaxation, almost an epiphany overwhelms me. Suddenly, as epiphanies go, I feel comfortable here; ‘at home’. Finished staring at me, he lowers a judgingly raised eyebrow, and like a thawing warmth, the man breaks the icy tension. “No worries Tom, so, how are you?”. Now I feel more relaxed in the room, even without literal answers to all my confusions, I recline further in my chair, ignoring the snarl of leather. Closing my eyes gently I reply; “I’m, okay I suppose. There are things wrong but that’s why I’m here really”. I’m not sure why I said that, it just came out, and felt, right? “Good, good Tom. Care to elaborate on that?”. The man seems pleased again, which is reassuring. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure how I can elaborate on that. It just came out I guess”. “No, of course, that’s fine Tom. I want you to say whatever’s on your mind. Like you said, that is why you’re here. Now, what’s the last thing you remember?”. Immediately my mind begins what feels like a montage film of memories. Although I sit silent for mere seconds, this film ran for what felt like hours. Hindsight picking all my fondest memories and displays them as if I were there again. I reach out through the days past, try to place my hand on the side of Charlotte’s face affectionately. She smiles back at me, staying with me as the background scenes flash behind her. As they change and the skies roll from day to night, back and forth, shadows glide over her beautiful face yet she barely seems to move. There are slight movements though. The twinkle in her eye that glistens, a soft smile that radiates, and then gone. She’s gone. I’m left standing in a street, cold with the icy breath of wind, and droplets of rain slipping from leaves above. There aren’t really any shadows now, just silhouettes. My hand is hovering in the air, left frozen, holding the chilling face of a ghost. Fading, dissolving before my eyes, goes first the moon, then the rain, the trees, the street. All that it is left is an infinite night sky, above, around, and below me. I feel absorbed in this space, but can feel the man’s questions protrude into my mind. I answer, muttering replies which he hears and acknowledges. I can only hear blurred sounds from him but they’re still somewhat clear to me. “What do you see?”. “I see, her”. “Charlotte, Tom?”. “Uh, yeah. How did you know

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that?”. “I’ve told you, I know more than you give credit. What do you see now?”. “I see, nothing really. Just an abyss of star struck space. There was a life of memory, then it disappeared. I don’t know, I don’t know”. “Hmm, sounds like your mind is trying to stop you from seeing something. Not to worry, now I want you to wake up. It’s important you wake up”. With this, each star burns to its black satin veil, revealing an inked silhouette of the man. “Welcome Home Tom”.

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H

Our Chosen

Optimist

ey, c’mon, it’s 11am”. These words echoed into my dazed head, as it tried to make sense of them. “11am Tom, you should have been up ages ago” prompted Beth as she makes her way around the room. “Don’t open th...” I murmur as she whisks open the curtains with a grin, unleashing a flooding torrent of light. “Wouldn’t have this problem if you had gotten up earlier, would you” she whispers, crouching down beside the bed, staring at me with a raised eyebrow and that sadistic grin. Scrunching my eyes, still scorched by the sun, I politely, and jokingly, tell her to shut up. She knew that meant she had won, and decided not to rub it in too much. “Where are the others?” I asked in intermittent tones, my voice still adjusting as I woke. “Well, Jack is downstairs harassing Mark with conversation” “and Mark is trying to do something else?” I interrupted quickly. “You know him too well, Charlotte is just making some lunch. You missed out on breakfast, snooze you lose”. “Shut up, Beth”. Yeah that sounded better, really precise comeback, put her in her place I think. Beth meanwhile gave another amused smirk as she shook her head and left the room with far more dignity than me. Making my way downstairs, I sweep my hand along the banister feeling myself wake up more under each step. The wafting aromas of food hook me, drawing me in like a fish on a line until I actually find myself sat at the table, somewhat unsure of exactly how I got there. There she was, Charlotte. It had been a few months since we had all met in the woods, and we still remained a close group of friends. We had overcome so much and lost so little, spending the winter days together in the warmth after hours of sledging, snowball fights or quiet walks through snow laden paths encased in frosted white trees. When the weather thawed to reveal grassy fields we spent our days outside. Through the months we were all inseparable, and it all seemed to flash before my eyes every time I saw Charlotte. Brief clips of memory, to a symphonic melody stirring the most provocative emotions. Brief clips of memory where we may just be laughing together, hugging warmly in our darker hours, snippets of those little details; the subtle nuances that make someone, someone. Every tiny characteristic or tendency imprinted in my mind and treasured. These small things were treasured memories, because while I may forget some things, I can always remember these. And when I do, they surround me with such detail, I momentarily lose myself to the belief I could reach out and touch her delicate skin, or run my hand through her flowing hair. “Lunch Tom?”, snapped back into reality, my daydream collapses around me to dust and ash. “Well, I say lunch, more like brunch but who cares”. “mhmm?” I reply in a dozy, questioning tone while rubbing my eyes and yawning like a mute lion. “Got some cheese on toast here,

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didn’t have anything else in the fridge really”, Charlotte continues. She had such a beautiful voice, a hinted accent which lifted my worries somehow. No, no, I can’t get lost in another daydream, respond to her now Tom: “Oh yeah that’d be great thanks”. With this, she begins preparing some food while I... rest my eyes a little more. Or at least I tried to, before Mark interru“Morning dude, good night’s sleep?”. As I talk to him, meals are served, eaten and cleared. The constant trickle of movement makes the room feel gently alive, and as the day progresses we too move room to room, bringing with us that life. When the sky is at its clearest and the cotton wool clouds wisp and tickle the horizon’s peaks, we would go back outside to either the local park, the open fields or back to the shore where we met. Today, the park won our vote, and so we were each sat on swings and climbing frames kicking back in relaxation. Every now and then a spontaneous competition of who could swing the highest, or who could climb the fastest would break out. Our childish games were one of our ‘things’ really, something we felt some people really didn’t appreciate. Sat on the swings everyone swayed to and fro with the cooling breeze behind us. The sun had no clouds to hide behind, yet it softly gazed down without its usual ferocity. Falling in slow motion it descended through the hours, hours which inched mine and Charlotte’s hands closer. As it lit the sky to an amber and crimson wave, our hands met. Our hands had met before over the months; as we passed things, high fived, or accidentally, just general in ways. This was different though. A tingling breath swam up my back and throughout my mind. While Jack flicked through his phone, and Mark playfully pushed Beth around the carrousel, Charlotte and I just sat hand in hand as our eyes shyly looked up and into each other’s. Not a word was spoken, but non needed to be between us. We could see songs in each other’s eyes. The sudden alarm of Jacks phone brought not only us tumbling into the real world again, but did the same for the other two. With an embarrassed grin he looked around at us and laughed, so infectiously did we too. We found everything funny in the group, no one was ever out of place. On the walk home we allowed ourselves to fall back from the group, to the point where we could only hear blurred tones in the night ahead. It was a quiet street, no cars, no houses really, just a string of lamp posts watching over the road. “Thank you”, said Charlotte. “What for?”, it was pretty out of the blue, even for a spontaneous sort of person like her. “For being, you I guess” to which she wrapped her arms around me in a buried embrace. Holding onto me closely, I put my arms around her too and protect her from the chilled air. Resting my head on hers, I hear her say “This street usually

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scares me. I always feel so alone. You remember what I told you, about what happened to me don’t you?” “Yeah, I do” “Well having you here, it makes me feel safe again. Your hugs make me feel like nothing else can get me, like time stops for us”. Usually I might feel a little shyly awkward hearing that in person, being the slightly reserved guy I am, but it warmed my heart, as this embrace warmed hers. She let go, and took a small step back, sweeping the fringe from her eyes and gazing into me with a smile while I lightly hold her hands. In the brief pauses between us as we gazed at one another, there were distant cries from owls, and closer chirps from crickets beneath the long grass. The tension mounted until we both silently moved together and softly kissed. It felt, like a perfect dream.

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A

Welcome Back

hh hello there Tom, what would you like to talk about today?” the man enquired politely, using a caressingly soft tone. Everything is how it was last time. Clean white walls with coursing veins of oak through the ceiling. A pair of worn chairs, the coffee table, the man this time in a dusty black suit. His trousers pulled up his shins when he crossed his legs to a ‘professional’ posture. They revealed just plan black socks with his plain black shoes, so polished they reflect his wide smile in a contorted way. I look back to see the frosted glass door glide shut with a hush, again showing nothing but blotched blurs. Even though I don’t necessarily remember entering through the door, rather just appearing suddenly slumped in the chair with a creek, I realise I have yet to respond. I look up at the man who gives a loaded smile back; “What do you think I should talk about?”, “Its up to you, after all, you are the one who came to me for help”. I repeated the last two words in a questioning manner, and he once again raised his eyebrow and gave a smile that arrogantly implied ‘yes’. “Why did I come to you for help then?” I asked, seeing as there was no sign to him saying anything. “Don’t you remember? The last time we spoke, you almost put yourself in that scene”. “I remember that, but I still don’t remember, well whatever I’m supposed to be remembering here”. I didn’t understand, this man is supposed to give me answers to questions, not more questions. The man takes a long breath of air through his nose, puffing his chest like a frog as he gazes at me with narrowed, yet intrigued, eyes. They pierced me and dove into my heart, giving rise to an uncomfortable pain. Like a heat, it coursed through me, I felt sick, and scrunched my face while leaning down to face my feet. The leather gave another ferocious snarl. Then, seemingly quicker than a blink, I had a flashback filling me with a retching dizziness. The man reclined with the chair’s cracking rumble that seemed to crawl from his growing smirk. Fingers forming a pyramid in front of his face he whispers; “Who was it, Tom?”

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T

A Glimpsing

Reminiscence

he sun, disappearing behind a house, glistens and leaves a radiant border of light for mere moments before it is choked by darkness. It catches the corner of my eyes, reflecting a dusty sheen. I simply stare at it in awe, only for moments but appreciating the pure beauty of it. The trance is broken by the distant but distinctive sound of shoes, footsteps. A slow, leisurely pace gradually grows louder, echo’s haring ahead. My eyes wait for the figure to come into sight from around the corner. The few glimmers of light hit droplets of bitter cold rain on the leaves I hide behind. The breeze brushes by the branches and shiver the leaves too, none of this distracts me though, as I sit in wait. Someone’s coming now, it’s her. She looks nervous, as if she knows I’m there, as if she knows I’m here. She can sense me, and I can feel my hands clench and my eyes narrow as if I were hunting my pray. The girl had her hair down as usual, and was wearing her usual clothes; a smart-ish coat that looked very good on her, black skinny jeans, y’know…clothes. She begins to hum an upbeat tune in attempt to calm her fears, but it stutters and crumbles in her throat. Despite the creeping cold sense of vulnerability now caressing her shoulders, her loud footsteps help break the choking silence and makes them feel... not quite so small to her. A single leaf falls from an overhanging tree ahead. It’s heading into winter and so the brown skeleton floats in a sweeping spiralling descent. Then, there’s a noise. A subtle noise, one that would usually go unaware, but in such haunting silence, any noise breeds fear. Icier than the ground, a chill snaked its way up her back and like the droplets of breath in the air, our character freezes. Looking back with as little movement as possible, she gazes into the dark. From the shadows I can see the soft moonlight leave glazen streaks in here wide eyes, flickering to the pulse of swaying branches. Seconds feel like minutes for her now, remaining completely fixed. During these crawling moments I make no noise, move no muscle nor breathe a breath. Another leaf falls from the bowed ceilings above, mere inches from her face. This time there is no ballet, but what feels to be a resounding gust of air flowing around it while dropping in near slow motion. It rests with an echoed thud on the floor, to which our character cautiously turns again. As she does so, her eyes close with a steadied deep breath. Crushing the skeleton with the first step, she looks over her shoulder briefly, continuing her path. It’s no longer a steady rhythm of echoes, it’s ill timed and with each hollow beat the fear can be increasingly felt in the air. Overwhelmed by the silence, she puts on her headphones, leaving a trail of blurred and muffled sounds.

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I don’t know, my mind then began to panic, releasing memories along with remorse: I was only 14. Still though I hear the voice telling me that it’s got to be done. It whispers to me, deep, deep inside my mind. Resounding in a deceptive hush. Remember, remember what you have to do. It was imprinted into my thoughts now, she was my target for weeks, tracking her patterns and knowing her moves. And for what? Well that was the question and I remembered the answer. Feeling the draw of a smirk crawl across my face I look to the skies feeling a lone snowflake drift towards me. The radiant sun has gone, and another sadistic smirk wipes my face removing every thought of remorse, guilt and fear. All light now comes from the half moon hanging gracefully in the sky just as if it were held by elegant angels, hung from the stars or if it were perched upon the swirling, gliding clouds themselves. Its subtle light illuminated the thin mist that filled the blackening sky. Beside the moon it burnt from black to navy, watching over us. She’s out of my sight, I creep along the thick hedgerow to get a better view leaving crunched footprints behind. This now petrified girl can hear and feel the rustling sound in the air. Her pace quickens, soon bursting into a sprint. I reach out for her from the dark undergrowth. Driven by greed, frantically clawing for her, she slows and I take my chance. I grip her scarf; she has no energy left and makes no resistance. The hollow thud as her head collides with the dull tarmac would disturb most people; but I have no fear or pity. This is the extreme. This is how far we go. The girl is still on the damp ground, her sun-kissed snow hair strewn, her mind a mess. I drag her into the dark, her head lifts, she has no energy left to call for help though. Either icy rain, melted snow, or a trio of tears roll from her eyes. Reaching into her pocket I pull what I came for; the folder I need. Withdrawing myself from the crouch beside her, I notice a shimmer from her neck. Well well well, what do we have here? Removing the pendant and holding it, suspended between my fingers my eyes become transfixed, yet snap to her as I whisper; “Something to remember you by, beautiful”. Even coming from my own lips it chills me now, collapsing the entire memory into a blackened ash that disintegrates around me. My eyes open, not just to this glimpsing reminiscence, but open a newly poisoned reality too.

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A

And The

Gravity Descends

room fills with a black air, as darkness seeps through the windows and cracks around the doors. Blurred murmurs of voices find their way in from a television in another room. These noises seem to fade in and out, while the only other sounds are those of gentle rustling from the duvet, and noises created by my own mind. Silence is a strange thing, and there are many forms of it. This, however, is the more unnerving kind; the silence which breeds paranoia and the consuming sense of vulnerability. It’s unnatural; and while there are no sounds to hear, we wish there were... just in order to suppress the choking suspense. We sometimes wish so hard, we coax, and hoax ourselves into the belief that we hear something; be it a comforting voice, music to distract, or even a distant cry. There are always noises to be heard. But right now, I feel the weight of the room’s darkness draw down on my eyes. As the blurred sounds fade ever more, my arms pull the duvet around myself, shielding from all that the darkness may hide while I drift slowly to sleep again. My heavy eyes open and adjust to a brightening day. Shafts of light break through the trees outside the window leaving glowing auras to silhouettes of thick branches and leaves. A blurred hand of mine reaches out and fumbles for my phone on the bedside table. Being near routine I press some buttons, and slant the screen into sight with as little effort as possible. Gradually focus comes around, and I can see even the floating dust subtly reflect the lances of morning light, drifting through the room. 11:22 my mind sighs. Before I know it, I’m in the shower, eyes resting and feeling the warming water patter down upon me. There isn’t too much going through this drowsy head right now; an unorganised attempt at recollection of that night’s dream, patches of songs that clung to my mind, serpentine thoughts I prefer to suppress; the usual really. Drying my hair with a towel, I continue to rest my eyes; it was far too early and far too bright for my liking. Pausing, I stare into my room, gazing over the space. There’s nothing much to mention really, not about the room as I saw it. Filled with various objects placed around me, I felt like I was encapsulated in memories, and things that I felt symbolised me. Further whispering snakes slither into my mind, hissing threads of my dreams and poisoning thoughts. I collapse onto my bed, lying back across it, looking into the ceiling. Closing my weary eyes, these serpents sing to me and remove the haze blinding my thoughts. “Something to remember you by, beautiful” rings an echo in my head which triggers the cascade of a past upon me. Despite its torrential speed and the initial force it hits me with, it is slow in beginning to seep in completely; just murky shadows loom over my thoughts. They don’t take precedence in my mind, they don’t crowd the

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front like imposing columns. These thoughts meld together in the back of my mind. An oily slick that links the shadows, then it feels I can almost make one out, the picture pulls into focus and “Tom, Tom, are you coming down?” stabs into my thoughts. “Oi?”. Now the voice grows in clarity, to the beat of hollow thuds from the stairs. Opening the door a fraction Mark sticks his head in; “Hey man, you comin... you alright?” he asks, “just, you’re looking a little rough, y’know”. In truth, Mark knows me exceptionally well and always both picks up on my mood, and meant more than he said. “Yeah yeah dude, don’t worry, just a bad nights sleep. Feeling a little rough as you said”, and I end with a slightly forced laugh. I knew he would notice it was forced so I did my best to fade it into a yawn. “Okay, so long as you’re feeling decent Tom. Come down when you’re ready, yeah?” he replied in an unsure tone. He might have said it, but I could tell he was dubious. Fortunately, being the old friends we are, he knew that I would know he didn’t totally believe me, and that in turn would just give me a push to getting my act together. Downstairs everyone’s scattered doing their own thing. Walking around I pass Mark and Beth slouched on a sofa flicking through the TV channels together. My parents have definitely left for work now, since the keys from the hook have gone, their shoes are missing from beside the front door, as well as the fact its 12:21. They’re rarely in, but it never bothered me too much, all I wanted right now was something to eat and drink. Meandering my way to the kitchen, I find Jack sat at the table, sketching through some paper. Jack and that lot were always around my house now, and have been for quite a while, it tends to be where we hang out on days without college or anything like that. “Whatcha doing there Jack?” I enquire while pouring some juice from the fridge. “Ahh nothing much, just writing some stuff down, sketching some ideas. Man, you look rough... biscuit?”. If Jack noticed it, I must look rough. Taking a biscuit from the plate I slump into the chair opposite him. “Everything alright?” “yeah yeah its all cool, just not the greatest nights sleep” I reply, for the second time this morning. Annoyingly saying and thinking about it triggered those oily black shadows to begin their games again. Me and jack continued to talk, talking over general things and, well, not so general things too. Without either of us realising her entering, Charlotte gracefully slips into a chair beside us with a smile. “Good morning Tom, nice of you to join us” she smirks in a playful way. I loved the way she smiled, and even better, the way she laughed in such a gentle manner. Tilting her head and nurturing the smile she gazes at me with soft eyes, waiting for me to snap back into reality. “Mor... Afternoon to you too” I reply, nodding to the time. Not for one moment does her smile dim, nor the glisten of passion in her eyes. She’s so beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful, that one word flashes a glare of light into the depths of my mind where the

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shadows play. My tone drops, and life drowns from my eyes as I feel my heart both plunge into my stomach, and yet jump into a choke of my throat. “Urhm, one moment, please” I stumble from my mouth. She reaches out and tries to take my hand, but it slips away and I rush out of the room. She is left, utterly bewildered, frozen hand in the air like a mime as her glisten and smile fades. Jack simply gets up and follows me in a daze of perplexity. Back in my room I slam the door as I pass through, and collapse to a sit on the floor behind it. Slowly rubbing my hands to my face I try and make sense of everything, all the whispers that now resound in my head. For minutes that feel like hours I sit there, thinking to myself in complete silence, before pulling myself up and beginning a pace around my room. Taking a deep breath I step towards my wardrobe, and fumble blindly on top, my fingertips seeking a small box. Stabbing nervously into the clutter I feel it, lifting it down I shake the dust off. I can feel my heartbeat quicken in anxiety as I run my hand along the edge of the lid. Opening it slowly I withdraw the object inside, glinting to the shafts of light from the window. Suspended between my spread fingers the pendant subtly swings. It really is a beautiful piece of jewellery, carved with silver intricate patterns, threaded on a slender link chain. Nudging it, it turns and I catch an inscription on the back: ‘Charlotte’. As I read it I feel my breathing, my heartbeat, my mind stop... completely. ‘It can’t have been...’ my thoughts shake to the trembling of my breath, ‘It just can’t...’. I simply stand there, feeling a very sudden and very disturbing chill wrap me. “It can’t have been her” I mutter under my breath, in the naive hope that saying it out loud will make it so. “Not Charlotte. I... it can’t”, as I say it I can feel myself detaching from the real world, drifting into a void of my mind to swallow me whole. The bedroom door creaks open, to reveal Jack peering in. “Tom what’s u... what’s that?” he gestures to the pendant, still rocking methodically in suspension between my fingers. “Nothing, nothing” I reply cautiously, so cautiously though he suspects more. I can see it in his eyes, he knows something about this pendant, but doesn’t know what exactly. Before his craning neck can get a better look at it, I cradle it into a cavern of my hands, pulling tight to my chest. He narrows his eyes, straining his thoughts. “We going downstairs now, then?” I ask gently, as calm as calm can try. He pauses, halted by a vision fixed upon my clenched hands, the pause holds my breath and echoes my heart inside my chest; “Urhm, yeah, yeah sure... cool”. Slipping the token to the depths of my pocket I edge around Jack, and through the door. A sigh of relief wipes through me, it is shallow relief though; now I realise it was Charlotte those years ago.

18


On the way down Beth passes me and greets me with a smile, I limply force one back. Her expression doesn’t dim, but in her eyes I can see a flicker of slight perplexity. Beth catches Jack behind and begins talking to him, clearly that was her reason to come up. Making the most of the chance I continue without him, the encounter in my room was, yes, brief and uneventful, but it left me somewhat shaken to an unease around him. I could feel his cold breath creeping on the back of my neck, his eyes scrutinising my every move, each whispering thought drifting into mind attempted to being deciphered by his. It all made me feel so exposed while I tried to conceal this pendant from sight and mind. I slide a hand to my pocket and brush a fingertip over the smooth metal skin, running the delicate chain between my finger and thumb, feeling every link bump through to a solemn rhythm. Downstairs, I pass the table where Charlotte still sits. From the walk I gained some clarity in my mind, so I gave her a much more convincing smile than Beth. All trace of any remorse I left her with just a few minutes ago lifted in a fleeting moment. I swear the room lit up, probably as a cloud drifted off the sun but to me it was purely because of the angelic grin she pulled. As beautiful as it was, it just stirred the ghostly reminiscence, sending static chills through my smile that gradually crushed it. “Where are you going, Tom?” she asks lightly, propping her head on a hand and gazing deeply into me. “Oh I was thinking of going and lying on the sofa in front of the TV”. Continuing through I fall back onto the sofa with a sigh. The quietly creaking groan from the material triggers more memories, glimpses of a white room, blurred windows and finally a suit; I can’t picture a face, just shining shoes to a smart suit. Disorientated from confusion the room slowly spins around me. I close my eyes, but it just feels as though I’m perpetually falling to a chasm of whisping mental tortures, demons clawing around from the black trying to grasp their icy fingers around me while I pass them by. Shaken, I wake to see Charlotte curled beside me, an arm wrapped around mine and a hand warmly clutching mine. Still slightly disorientated I look over her, and pull her closer with an embracing arm. Turning to face me, a shyly giggling smirk spreads over her face then buries the side of her head into me, snuggling up. As she presses closer to my side, the pendant in my pocket digs in and burns me. We spend the day together, warmly curled on the sofa. I could tell from the constant smile on her face, and occasional kisses followed by tightly loving cuddles that I was all that was on her mind. She was the only thing on my mind too, but in such a haunting way. Every time I looked at her, I could see her beauty but it was always rushed by glimpses, flashes and distortions of her; lying there on the ground blankly staring with stunned eyes. I assume she doesn’t recognise me though, she has changed somewhat but my face was shrouded by a veil of the black night sky: shadowed by a peaking hood, erased by the trauma. Shifting, she presses the pendant further to my side

19


and it stabs me further too. This physical thorn to me, made it harder to lead my mind away from these thoughts. In actuality the stabbing was little more than an uncomfortable pinch, but the mental sorcery it concocted resounded, emphasising every sense.

R

20


W

Chasing Shadows ere it a week day and Beth, Charlotte and Jack would have left for their homes, but it wasn’t, and so as usual they were welcome to stay. Now entering the evening time, we finished our tea and began to disperse from the kitchen to do whatever we wished. As quietly as I could, I took Mark to one side, waiting for the room to be quieter. “Dude, I’ve really messed up. It’s bad Mark, bad”. “What? Are you alright?” he replies, pulling a chair up to the old wooden dining table with a screech from the tiled floor. He pulls another chair for me with a second screeching cry and beckoned me to it. “No. No, I’m not. It’s tha-” “Why? Is there anything I ca- sorry, carry on”. I can sense the tone of his voice change, the pace quicken and his mind begin to analyse every movement, word and sound I made. “When we were 14, 15. It’s that thing that happened whe-”, then Jack walked in seemingly bored and tired. Slumping in a chair opposite us he raises his eyebrows in a ‘hey guys’ sort of way. “D’ya mind if we have a few moments Jack?” Mark asks with a faltering voice. I can see Jack realise something’s amiss, I can see it in his eyes, a flicker quicker than a blink that just sparks interest. “No it’s fine. I’m just going to get some air. Don’t worry” I add, and with that stand pushing the chair back with a third scream that pierces the silent tension in the room, pat Mark’s shoulder appreciatively and leave. Outside a refreshingly cool breeze strokes my face and whispers in my ears. There were more sounds out here than in the kitchen, yet it felt quieter: A soft silence that left me to my thoughts and lulled me to relaxation and solace. As I stood taking in the chilled fresh air, watching clouds float eerily past the near full moon, I began to fondle the pendant. Holding it and touching it so attentively was peculiar. It scared me. It really terrified me. It snatched any drifting thoughts of what happened those years ago and firmly planted them to reality, back from my old world into my new. And yet, despite these asphyxiating epiphanies, I was thoroughly mesmerised by it. Transfixed, intrigued, obsessed. The subconscious attraction to it was alarming. Laying cold in my palm it beckons me like a siren, luring me from a silent scream resounding in my mind. I could feel my heart sink as I pictured my hand taking it from her neck, saying my farewell words under a hushed breath and leaving her. Beautiful. I crease me eyes as the siren song grows in my head and brings a seeping melody to my heart, flooding it and drawing it down. I hear the handle behind me click in its turn. Snapping my hand and regaining posture I look back as casually as I can manage from the shock, to see Jack stepping out. He clutches his arms together, pulling his jacket shut. A brief pause is born, “Hey” he begins, with clear intent of coming out

21


for me. “You alright?” “Yeah, fine cheers”. It’s not that I dislike Jack, but I’m neither in the mood for talking, nor wanting to talk to him about what really is wrong. I can tell he’s cold, the way he’s hunched up and from the breaks in his voice. “You sure? Seemed kinda off just then in the kitchen and dunno, seemed something was up in your room. Sorry for barging in by the way”, he tries to laugh but its cut short by the brisk air. “Yeah its fine, really”. “What was that, you had in your room, anyway?” he asks quickly. I give a brief reply that it was nothing much at all and after his defeated “Ah fair enough” I let a pause be born again to ensue distance between us. While he shuffles his arms and feet in an awkward way, I watch between him, and the twinkling stars above. The silence gets the better of him, and as he is about to go inside, I begin to try perching myself on the white wooden rail beside me. In doing so I lose hold on the pendant and it slides from my hand. Each link in the chain bumping through my fumbling grip after the pendant itself. Falling in slow motion I can feel my heart hover in my chest, not breathing a breath nor feeling a pulse. It clatters on the floor with a hollow ring, dancing as it bounces. The sound pierces the air and stops Jack cold, freezing his arm as he reaches for the door. Cautiously, he turns to see the cause of all the noise. Gazing down his eyes are caught by the glinting sheen of the pendant laying on the stone tiled ground. No words are spoken, but I can see his thoughts. I can see them behind his eyes, ticking and joining together. Time crawls by as the pendant softly glows with the clouded moonlight. I don’t even panic, I just go blank, no thoughts or fears, just a surreal and tranquil haze. The silence continues in building the tension between us as he too becomes entranced by the awe of the pendant. “Charlotte” he stammers. “That’s where I recognise it from. It was hers. She told me about it, but how did you...”, more spluttered words from an increasingly petrified mouth, scared by the reality its revealing. I can’t reply, I try, I take in a gasp of air and try to begin a sentence but can’t. Rubbing half of my face in one long movement with my hand I take a deep breath. “You don’t un-” I begin to mutter. “What, Tom?” “You don’t understand” I say in a clear and bold voice. It’s one of those moments, where you wish you would wake up. As if it’s all so bad, it could easily be a nightmare, one where you wish the ground would swallow you whole, just to end this feeling of bleakness. “You” “No, Jack, please”. I begin to reach for the pendant, but he lunges for it and snatches it from beneath me. Holding it tight to his chest he stares into me, while I simply look at the ground, out of energy and guilt ridden. Raising my head to meet his shocked stare I search for words. My lips quietly trembling to find anything to say. I reach out for him slowly, feeling weak and scared as the gravity of this situation bares down upon my shoulders. He pulls away in fear, and shifts to the side, away from me. The night feels even quieter than before. A moth flutters and meanders its way between

22


us. In this silence I can hear its wings drearily patter, like the beat of a nervous heart. The moonlight illuminates halves of our faces, casting the other into shadow. The light changes from wisps of cloud gracefully drifting past the moons face and as I utter his name, reaching out again he turns and begins to run away. The crushing grind of gravel beneath each sprinting step, eerily lit by the sky, bordered by dew stained grass bleeding into the dark. Soon his feet are burnt to the black air, but I hear “Charlotte WILL know, Tom” from a panting breath. I take a step forwards, then another, my pace quickening from a stumbling limp to a fleeting pace, hunting him down. I can still hear the break of ground beneath his feet ahead of mine and I catch it up, driven by a single minded motivation. The night around me is lifeless and dead, I pass snaring branches and gnarled trees but focus on him ahead. My path lit solely by the slim glimmers of starlight falling through the canopy above. It barely showed the ground ahead, yet every now and then, a clearing would be gently lit to my side. I could swear I saw a figure stood, or sat, in it but could never be sure. Our footsteps echoed through the woodland, bringing a sense of insignificance. Feeding a paranoia and deep fear. I knew these woods like my home, but when clouded by fear, your mind never works the same. I slow. The footsteps ahead fade away. “Jack” I call in vain. “Jack”. I stagger forward, unable to keep the pace, the shrouding veil of darkness ensnares me. “Jack”. Then I notice a figure, all I can see is black though. “Jack?” I whisper. Laying a hand on the shoulder I turn them to face me. I see no face, no features and no anything really. Just a perfect pitch black. “Tom” it whispers back in an icy tone. I stumble back, and the figure steps over me. I feel confused and fearful, falling flat on the ground and see the sky above me through cracks in the leaves. It churns and each star dissolves until there is nothing. The leaves burn to ash, which blows away with the wind until the trees too have gone. The figure now stands over me and as I feel I am perpetually falling down he too burns and wisps away like smoke, leaving the resounding words “Chasing your own shadows Tom” to be carried away on the wind too.

R

23


T

Welcome Again

ired, Tom? You seem tired”. I feel quite peculiar; a light sensation. The man hints a sadistic smirk from the corner of his mouth. “You’re looking tired Tom, are you alright? What’s the last thing you remember?”. Well, that figure hung over me came to mind but surely there was something more recent, between now and then. “A guy” I reply unsure of even my own answer. “Anything el-” “Chasing my own shadows. I’m chasing my own shadows he said” I fumble from my lips. I’m not sure where that came from actually. “Chasing your own shadows, ehy. Interesting, interesting. Tell me, Tom, do you know what that means?” “I don’t know” I say almost to myself after a moment’s thought. “No, no I’m not surprised. Think about it”. There was a harsh edge on each word crawling from his mouth then. “How are you supposed to chase your own shadows, I guess. It’s pointless” “GOOD, good, Tom” he exclaims with a sarcastic undercurrent, sweeping each syllable away. “So what do you think it means?” he asks me, although I was personally keen on asking him that very question. “I don’t know?” “It’s mad Thomas. Its insanity; one screw loose enough to chase your own tail” he retorts sharply with a hiss. I feel almost worried now, not concerning my predicament with Charlotte (although thinking of that now has brought it back to the front of my mind) but for my own safety here. I turn to look at the door. There was a slight crack in the frosted door, nothing that I could see through but a spearing gash none the less. “I did it” escapes my lips with a gasping breath from which I had no control. “What?” he asks, with yet another malevolently sadistic haze to his eyes. I wish I could describe those cunning eyes, and the subtle expressions he pulled through each word; but I don’t know how. They too, seem like a haze to me. It’s peculiar, I can see him in perfect detail now yet his face is just a blur in my mind’s eye; a gesturing smudge to be assumed. Despite these distracting detours my mind divulges, I still feel a hollow sensation bearing down on me like the weight of a world. “I did it” I mutter again under baited breath. Every time it slips my breath my heart grows heavier, sinking and faint. “I did it”, a twitching tingle climbs my legs and through me, numbing everything. Creeping around my back and across my sides, waves of static hold me. I find myself staring into thin air, down on the ground ten feet away but focusing out as if miles away. As the waves lap over my numbing body, they cause a silent storm to flood my heart and fill my lungs. With each tide I am left hollowed, yet heavier. “I did it, I did it”, to which trembling lips and wide wavering eyes fall in defeat to a single tear rolling delicately down my cheek; suspended beneath my chin and then to a plummeting end breaking on my chest below.

24


“What did you do, Tom?” and the sound of light breathing follows. “Was it what you remembered, Tom?” blurs from the quiet room. “Who was it? Talk to me...” I bury a cold hand into my face as the other crosses. Between my fingers I can feel another solemn tear roll away. “Charlotte” I say through my shielding hand. I can hear the snarling leather while he leans forward as I say it, and then slowly recline with a slight sigh in contemplation. He wasn’t sure what I said, and needed a moment just to work it out. “Charlotte?” he finally replies. In a short yet vigorous manner I nod, avoiding all words possible. “She was the girl in that memory, yes?” to which I reply with another nod. “I see”. There’s a pause as neither of us know what to say, nor feel it appropriate to. We just sat there. Me hiding from the world behind a hand, and him reclined in the leather chair; legs crossed, fingers poised together as his elbows rest on either arm of the chair. Taking a deep breath I say “I don’t know what to do. It’s not been long, but it’s ripping me up. It’s changing me”. “I know it is. I know, it is”.

R

25


B

Oh Little

Rabbit

leached sight from light bleeding into my eyes, I shield my face. Cautiously peering through cracks between the fingers I see the sky through a window. The sun burns my eyes so intensely I have to roll over and look away. Curling up, wherever I am, I close my eyes to sleep again. I can still feel the lingering wake from all the malevolent faces whispering bittersweet lures and echoing taunts to me from my nightmares. Every time I close my eyes I feel sick, as if I’m being thrown backwards so violently and persistently I must open my eyes, to tell myself I am firmly planted on the ground. Again, I try to close my eyes but again I am forced otherwise. Each time A haze thickens to slowly reveal a dusk silhouette. “Tom”, I hear it call. “Tom, are you okay?”. My shoulder shakes, in turn rocking my body to a cradling swing. Looking up wearily and still cautious of the bright light, I see Charlotte watching down nervously although that quickly changes to a beaming smile to see me react. “Jack found you outside, seems you took a nasty fall or something” she says, laying a hand upon mine with a soft embrace. She kneels down and hugs me, her fragrant hair caresses my cheek like a flowing veil. “What happened?” I ask as curiosity begins to seep in. “We don’t know, no one does, not even Jack”. I don’t understand it, so many questions but seemingly no one to answer them but myself. The group had decided to take a small trip out to the local park again today. On the surface, everything appeared as usual; Mark listening attentively to Beth, Jack doing his own thing while I sat with Charlotte. Only this time, I kept catching shadowed and intense glances from Jack, ones that ate away at my confidence and sent fears creeping into my mind like locusts. Charlotte held my hand close, resting her head on my shoulders and sitting to a press as close as possible. I liked it, feeling her so close to me. Or at least I used to, as much as I try to revel in the moment now, allow myself to get washed in a warm tide of massaging thoughts and feelings, I can’t. It all comes right down to the retching swells in my stomach, plaguing guilt in my mind spurred by stabs of Jacks eyes. I hold her hand tight, and wrap my arm around her to pull her close; as close as I can, just so I don’t feel quite so alone. I need her. I need to feel her here to dilute the fear. Although it began to work, it soon turned against me. Jack had been hovering around me for a while now, and he knew it was putting me on edge. I could feel his looks, loaded with suspicions and thoughts probing my conscience. Demanding to know why I did it, but not caring for the reply. ‘I was made to, someone told me to’ I repented silently

26


as if he really could hear my thoughts. ‘I was told by someone to just take some papers from her. That they needed them, urgently.’ They told me this for days, twisting my mind like vines to suit theirs. They chose me, simply because I was a shy yet a well known character. One of low self confidence that they could manipulate, leaving no one to suspect me: the innocent one. I was a fool to listen, but they threatened me. Torturing my morals and breaking my conscience thread by thread they began to wear me down until I agreed. The final straw, was their impatience; telling me that if I didn’t, then they both, most definitely would. They said it in such a macabre drone, that bore and resounded deep within me. I knew they meant more than they said, fearful for both mine and this girls safety I agreed. I was lost for words, and even now I am. Lost of words to tell a friend, over an incident I wish I could have avoided. Sinking back to reality I see myself, locked in eye contact with Jack. Looking away quickly I blink and shake, turning to Charlotte for affection and a warm, safe hiding place. Later that evening Jack approaches me while we are both alone. “Why Tom. Why?”. And to that, I repeat my thoughts from earlier that evening. I beg for mercy to him, but he has none of it. And replying in a drone he says “I’m going to make you pay. Tom”. I snap. A little bit of me inside snaps. Falling deathly silent the break echoes. I can feel my eyes remain focused on him, yet focus too on my minds flurry of reminiscence. Disorientating blurs of those bullies stood around me, goading and twisting me into their dirty work. Jack, unfortunately just became my revenge. His threat, became my vendetta. Did I lash out from a searing and blinding rage, powered by a vengeful repression? No. Nor did I take a firm hold of him aggressively and scream a retching howl into him. I simply broke inside, very slowly, and very quietly leant forwards to an inch of his face without breathing a breath or speaking a word, stared him down and allowed three small words to slither out over a serpentine tongue, through grating teeth and past a hooked lip to coldly caress his ears; “So will you”. As fast as my mind snapped just mere moments ago, I could see his change too. His eyes widened like he were a rabbit and I were the headlights. He seemed frozen there as my words seeped through every inch of his body bringing with them a sadistically chilling wind that paled his skin and raised every hair to attention. From the towering confidence he appeared before, his walls began to crumble in front of me. Taking a cautiously faltered step backwards he left without a reply leaving me to revel in the tightening grasp of vendetta’s facade. I didn’t pity the petrified little rabbit. No; revenge was feeling good.

R 27


A

The Sound

Of A Whisper

ll alone; silence is so odd. You should hear nothing, but your mind wills to hear something. So in the distance you may hear a ringing, a cry…a plea for help. But you never know. You want to, but you know that you shouldn’t. that’s what I thought, those thoughts ran through my mind as I leant over the desk, impatiently flicking through the papers. I hear nothing, or do I? ‘Argh c’mon’ my mind orders itself. I look quicker, the paper now tearing as I move it. A gentle breeze wraps around my ankles. A shock is sent up my spine. It stiffens my back. I glance around, no one, as I expected. The only source of light I have sways and flickers. Side to side, side to side, side to side, and stop. Darkness. I turn, no good though, I can see nothing. Fumbling for the switch now, terror seizes my body. The light comes back on, I survey the room…clear. Back to the papers. Tom told me although he took the papers, he couldn’t follow through, his conscience wouldn’t let him. So he hid the papers, never reading them he buried them deep in a desk in an old workshop shack near the skirts of the woodland. People rarely went there, and it was quite a mess, leaving even little chance of them to be found. All alone, silence is so disturbing. The distant sound of a door creaking then slamming. Turning to check there is no one there but a sliver of light coming from the ajar door. The corridor ever so slightly illuminated by the misty light. “Ah ha! Found it”. It was in her school folder still. There was her name, carefully written on the front in her delicate writing. I open the folder to see what it was all about, but I don’t understand. there’s next to nothing in here. Just a few scraps of paper with Charlotte’s doodles and notes on. He must have taken the wrong thing, after all he never looked so how would he know? Damn. From curiosity I begin skimming through all of Charlotte’s sketches and jots. This may not have been the revelation I was hoping for, but it was a revelation none the less. The sound of a trigger being pulled is so silent, but is followed by something so loud. The last sound I heard. All alone. Silence is so disturbing, isn’t it.

R 28


I

Deja Vu

cy droplets of rain run down my face. Looking up at the murky sky my eyelids flicker to keep out the water. I see a half moon. Just like that night, so long ago. Who knew that it would come to this. A muffled noise comes from my pocket as the phone vibrates. He’s not too far from here, I’ll be able to get there soon enough. Walking slowly to the car parked on the dirt by the track, I get in and start the engine. Resting my head on the steering wheel I pause, is it a tear or just one of the droplets of rain? I don’t know, I don’t want to know. I can’t have feelings or emotions, they hurt me once and wont again. I still have the folder hidden away. The engine finally starts with a grumble. Revving her she starts to roar, gravel under tread grinds and crushes to static sound. Leaving the drive a hauntingly silhouetted figure catches the corner of my eye, in shock I look back immediately but there is no figure. Looking forward again I notice them again in the distance, although the closer I got, the more I realised it was a trick of the mind; a tree, bush or something masquerading. As I make my way down the road I see no cars or buildings. No noise at all, just the sound of the radio talking to itself. Then I see a single car, abandoned outside the workshop. It must be him, the headlights dim in a discrete glow as I pull up beside the car. Sitting in the car all alone. The radio’s off and I realise how quiet it is, other than the dull mistimed patter of rain on the windscreen. A small screech cries as the glove compartment opens, I see it glimmering in the eerie blue light. It sits there so harmless. I load it with a series of metallic clicks and clamber out of the car, taking care shutting the door. Creeping over to the shack a mist of light is sneaking from the cracks around the door, and gaps in the windows. He is in there. I have to get in. The glow flickers and stops with the whip of the wind. I quickly get in and dive for the cover of darkness instinctively. I did it with one swift pounce, like the hunter I am becoming. The light returns and the door swings to and fro in the pulsing breeze. A sudden gust of wind slams the flimsy door shut violently. I can hear him turn, his breath is deep and quick. A fear that brings a smirk to my face, tasting the vengeance coursing my lips and roll my tongue. Despite this, the silence in the atmosphere is horrible. It’s disturbing. But I must do it. Not this time through the stakes to another, but to stakes of my own. Walking up to him, he doesn’t hear me; but I hear him. I pull the gun from my belt. He mutters to himself as he turns, his eyes widen, he sees his fate. Not even a final word has chance to escape, although his eyes scream a shattering symphony of despair and pleads.

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The sound of a trigger being pulled is so silent, but is followed by something so loud. Taking the folder, I dare not look. Simply turn and walk away. Back in the car I sit with my head resting on the steering wheel. Even the radio breathes silently in remorse. In the corner of my eye I see a rain blurred door flapping ajar letting the dusty air out. I try not to look though. I don’t know how long I left my head on the steering wheel, but it felt like an eternity. My eyes shut, and I could hear music in my mind, crying for my actions. Pursing my lips tightly, I look dead ahead through the rain spattered windscreen to see a road leading to a chasm of night. Blurred to my vision my hands clench the wheel, transfixed by the abyss everything else seems to fade away. Then, from the black mist, a figure cast in shadow steps forward leaving a haze wisping around him. Everything around him dies into a dull smudge so only he is in my mind. My eyes narrow, he raises an arm which stares a gun to me. I feel my heartbeat pause in a suffocation my breath mirrors. A shot rings through the hills and trees around and everything goes black, as my eyes slam fast and tight shut. My face, scrunched and buried within the top of the wheel the sound resounds. A moment passes as I realise I am okay. Looking up I hear another shot but see it strung to a bolt of lightning ripping the clouds in twain. My eyes frantically dart the street, searching for the figure. Opening the car door, sounds are no longer dulled and muffled. The rain sounds sharper, wind whips my ears and the night sky stifles me. With each step droplets of rain crash into me and chill my skin. Making my way to the front of the car I throw the door closed behind me with a slam, and stand in the glow of the headlights. The air around the car is thick and blank, yet when it drifts to the path of the lights every speck of dusk, every dazed gnat, every entranced moth and every plummeting streak of rain illuminates before disappearing, swallowed back into the abyss. After taking no more than ten steps away from the car I feel lost, I look back but see nothing but a light like a candle flicker. Never the less, I carry on in a bemused trance. Then, before I know it, there is the figure, nearly in arms length dead ahead. Not a word is spoken, we just stand there and I can feel the tension in the atmosphere rise. “Check the folder” he calmly says over the drumming rain. I can’t see his face and he begins to scare me, as if he begins to infect my mind with an oily ink. He takes a step forwards, to which I turn and run as fast as I can towards the flickering flame of the car. Hurling the door open and whipping it shut as I dive in I curl in my seat; feeling each raindrop trickle down my forehead and the cars temperature warm me up. The sounds outside are dull again, muffled pattering on the windscreen and hushed wind stroking the windows. My eyes drift to see the folder laid on the passenger seat. I pick it up with trembling hands

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and look inside. Pulling out a wad of papers I begin to flick through them. I don’t understand though, there’s nothing here that was worth stealing. It’s all personal stuff. They’re all just sheets of homework with doodles on. Then I look closer at the sketches and scribbles, scrolling through them, faster and faster thumbing the pages to reveal more and more of the same; each page growing in intensity and passion. Hundreds of scribbles of hearts, characterised and idealised portraits, each with ‘Tom & Charlotte’ elegantly scripted below. I can’t believe it, every page full of drawings of me hugging her, holding eachother hand in hand, hearts with arrows piercing through them, hearts floating up the page as doves and graceful swallows glide around them in swift sweeps. In the corner of the page I notice a small scrawl reading ‘I wish he would see me, like I see him. I wish he would dream me, like I dream him’ and then below that ‘I wish Drew treated me better, like I know Tom would’. She loved me, and I had never even noticed her. But Drew, I try and remember him. Suddenly it clicks, he was the one who told me to take it from her. He was the one who wanted to see what she wouldn’t show or tell him. Knowing him, he would have beaten it out of her but couldn’t afford to after all the rumours. He was just another cowardly bully. His venomous words wind their way back into my head and cloud my mind with anger and frustration. Yet I felt a deep resent for Charlotte, and guilt burn inside me. Just by noticing her I could have made her happy, but sadly I can’t change the past. Be it 5 years ago, or 15 minutes ago. I look back to the road feeling a final raindrop, or tear roll down from my eyes; start the car with a growl and set off once again leaving the shack door wavering to ghosts of memories.

R

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W

Welcome Me elcome Tom”, the seated man says delicately. I look around and once again, it’s the plain white room with those gliding rafters. Frosted glass panels flower the light trying to filter through, and as always the leather beneath screeches and growls with even the slightest of movements. “Oh, hi” I reply in a daze, slightly disorientated. I feel drowsy like usual, I don’t know what it is; the blurred glass, the surreal atmosphere, truth be told I don’t know. “How is everything?” he says, breaking my thoughts. Rubbing my eyes I stretch and feel the chair creak in time. “Shit. A total mess” I reply in a sigh, burying my face in my open hands, resting my elbows on my knees. He’s almost taken aback by my reply, recoiling first in shock, then overcome by interest he reclines, releasing yet another slow groan from the chair. He props one leg over the other, and meshes his fingers together in thought and amusement. Taking my hands from my eyes I look up at him in bewilderment, “I keep seeing a silhouetted figure but I don’t know who it is. Jack nearly exposed me, he reminded me of Drew who forced me to, you know, years ago. After that my mind clouded and I just wanted revenge”. “So, what happened?” he smirked malevolently. “So, I think I-” “you killed him, didn’t you” he interrupts. I throw my head back against the chair, pressing my eyes with my hands, and rubbing my palms up till they rest on my forehead, leaving my eyes massaged and shut behind. The chair’s growls just blend into the background now, they dissolve into the air and fall on blind ears. “I found out that Charlotte adored and admired me, and I never even noticed her, I saw it all in h... what is behind that door?” I stammer before interrupting myself, transfixed and intensely curious by the frosted door, again just drifting shut as I watch. “It doesn’t matter” the man calmly replies, but it’s too late. Getting up without a conscious thought I reach for the door. The man’s legs uncross to spring forwards, his posture shifts in tension in mere moments, rushing “No Tom, no” in a nervous tone. But it’s too late, my fingertips brush the icy cold metal of the handle. For a second I hesitate, both apprehensive of it, and to savour the sensation coursing through my fingers. He lunges for me, and I sweep through the door in one swift motion, leaving a tailing holler from the other side. The light dazzles me and causes me to stumble. Behind me the door whispers to a close, a gasp of air strokes my face and all that was blurry from the room becomes astonishingly clear. Before me lies a horizon of abundance. Miles of open expanse, I look down and see a shallow bed of wheat. Gazing out again, bemused by my surroundings I allow the golden sea to wash over my mind as it ripples in the breeze. Turning around the door frame stands

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lone yet proud. A frosted glass pane with the brushed metal handle, and a simple white frame, stood like an obelisk for the land to bow to. Slowly, and cautiously I survey the door in a patrol around it, but there is nothing behind it, nothing in front or to either side. It doesn’t make sense; I walked through that leaving a pale scream in my wake. Now behind the door, I push it open gently and move forwards to peer through. The light from the growing crack seers my eyes again, but as they adjust once again I see it is still the same landscape. Taking nervous steps through, the sensation of shear bemusement overwhelms me. Stood once again in front of the door I turn around and around in staggered circles trying to make even a slither of sense from, well everything really. The horizon spins in a daze around me; horizon, door, horizon, door, horizon. Then I fall, staggering to stand I stop myself. There, dead ahead, is Charlotte, Mark, Beth and Jack in a standing group facing away. A spark ignites inside me, bringing with it a surge of energy that forced me to dive forwards in relief, relief that I wasn’t alone. Within moments I had my hand laid on Charlottes shoulder and the other planted on Marks back in a warm welcome, but feel no response. Just a chill escalates through me. Taking my hands away I circle them to see their faces. They were all perfectly still, frozen in stance. Eyes glazed and emotionless they seem little more than statues and yet Beth’s scarf rustles in the breeze, Charlotte’s hair dances like a silken waterfall and marks shirt ripples over his chest as the air laps over him. Mesmerised by the surreal scene set here to me I feel a bitter bite inside, pulling at my soul and snaking around my stomach. The silence is so odd, my closest friends presented in front of me yet in such a dead manner. No sounds distract me, only the whisper of the wind. Not until a voice calls me over my shoulder; “Sad isn’t it”. It’s a familiar voice that speaks my thoughts. I turn around to see that emotionless shadowed figure watching me. My mind can’t keep up, it feels like being half asleep; drowsy and slow to think. Perfectly silhouetted he stands there while I try and figure out where I’ve heard the voice before. Then an arm is raised and a single thunderous echo rains from the skies. Astonished in a mortifying trance, Jack falls limp in a crumpled heap on the ground as the golden blades shiver around, swallowing him. Looking down I am met by only an obsidian gaze, void of life. I choke and cough, recoiling in fear. No matter how much I writhe, the sickness wrenches my stomach in a clenched grip. From the corner of my eye I see him take aim. I shout in a petrified objection, in a plea for an end. He pauses, cocking his head to an expression which I assume would show interest. “Please” is the only gasp to escape my lips. I knew Jack was already gone; by my own hand, but the rush of revenge had worn, and my regrets rapidly filled their place. I knew I didn’t deserve it. I knew it was my fault. “Not good enough” he says with a sharp edge of sadistic joy, with which he draws again and fires another single,

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sky shattering shot upon Charlotte. My reactions are fast though, instinct seizes control, hurling myself in front of her statue. Piercing my chest I drop in a numbly trembling spread. On my side at her feet, I look back up to see her in the same stance, same position; she was safe. My breathes are faltered and weak. Wheezing gasps for air as the world around me dies. Pulling myself along the ground I hear the figure tread through the field, crushing each golden blade under foot. I keep crawling. He crouches beside me and whispers “What are you going to do now then?”. It’s a thought that I had been agonising over recently, increasingly so. There was a harsh tone attached to his voice which scared me. Even though I kept scraping at the ground to drag myself along, he stayed crouched and watched me inch away. As I went further he got up and stood beside me, throwing the gun down to my outstretched arm; it was the same one I used the other night, I don’t know how he got it, but it was. Looking back there is nothing but a trailing crimson ribbon. At the severed end where it started though, the statues are now accompanied by a chair; the brown leather wingback, gnarled and torn at the seams. Perched on its aged skin is the man, just sitting in the middle of this barren landscape observed by an audience of my statue friends. As if nothing had happened, I clamber up without a scratch on me. Dusting myself down and passing my hands over my chest in search for the wound, I feel nothing; no shot nor blood. Precariously balancing on my feet, disorientated by the appearance of the man and inexplicable absence of bullet wound I turn in sharp glances. Not only has the man appeared, terraforming the surroundings to a saturated and white landscape baring a similar feel to that of his room, but the silhouetted figure has vanished. Not a trace of him is to be seen anywhere. The man beckons me to sit, like the first time we met. I sit, and as if falling from one world to another in a tumbling descent I land in the chair. He does not speak. “What’s going on here?” I query, but he doesn’t reply. If I were on the receiving end of that question I doubt I could reply either; in the state of shear shock I doubt I would want to. His face seems blurry till my eyes acclimatise to the halo of light screaming around him from the glaring sun behind. The body remains sharply suited in the slyly dominating style, while the face twists and moulds into something far different. Eroding and crumbling away it reveals Mark staring back at me. “Tom” he says in his tone, “What’s wrong?”. I stutter and stammer unsure of a reply, but bringing my eyes back up from a thousand yard stare at the ground, the face is no longer Mark, but Beth. Conversation continues to interrogate me, revolving through my friends; Mark, Beth, Charlotte. As their faces dissolved and emerged from our sharply dressed man they each stare at me and talk unaware of the entire situation that has now infected my mind to a state

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of clouded thought, with a single minded focus on their faces. As Charlotte asks ‘Why, Tom?’ I gasp a breath into a guilt and terror stuck body. But upon answering, her sweet face has blows away like wisps of smoke in the wind, leaving behind it a bitter chill and the icy obsidian gaze of Jack. His eyes hold no emotion, there is no life in there. My hand clasps across my face with a masochistic ferocity. A quiver from my bottom lip is the only movement in my scrunched face, until a familiar bead rolls down from my eye and through the heavens themselves. “Who are you?” I hear myself say in a stuttered stammer. “WHO?”. I direct my cry to that man, sat in the chair. Not Jack, the suited man. As I shout for a third time, I clear my eyes in an expectance to see the tortured face of Jack stare back at me; the mottled blood stain his shirt, crimson tears from his skin. No. There sat the man again in a perfectly reclined air of contemplation. “Who are you, who is that silhouetted figure, who am I: What have I become?”. The questions are seemingly endless and continue to roll my mind like breaking cracks of lightening and rumbles of foreboding thunder. Not all can be placed to a string of words so eloquently, and some cannot be said all together. They shall remain the demons of the mind till their answers are served by fate. Either way, my head swarms with them and they all want to be rested. “Why,” the man says to which he leans forward, resting his forearms on his knees to prop and watching through my eyes into all that lurks behind. “Why, that blackened figure is I, Tom” he says, stretching each word to a purr that resounds with the creaks of snarling leather. He keeps watching me as it sinks in to my ears. His eyes flicker to observe my every reaction no matter how subtle, a smirk crawls from the corners of his mouth and give way to a chuckling grin to push him back in a reclined sense of accomplishment. Crossing his arms with a clap, he continues to laugh and it drives me further away. I stumble to my dizzy feet and hurry away back to the door and out of this place. Hurling it open and closed behind me, an echo rings of howling laughter. Through, I rest my back to the door and slump down it till sat at its threshold. Running my open hands down my face I wipe my eyes and sniffle any remnants of despair back. Where am I? I don’t know if I care much anymore. I’m hunted by that sadistic man, a monster who haunts me. Never the less, I find myself in a long grey corridor with distressed faded white strips chipped and hacked flying down either wall, no windows nor doors; just one long corridor with my door behind me, and a set of double doors far ahead. After a moment’s pause in though, I begin to walk leaving echoed taps under my feet which bounce down the hall. With impatience my steps grow faster and faster till I am sprinting down the glazed black tiled floor holding ghostly reflections of my pace wavering with the light I obscure as I run. I keep running, and don’t slow down. But the double doors refuse to get closer at a rate that feels real.

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Glancing over my shoulder, the door I came though stands quietly and intimidating mere feet behind. Glancing once again at the double doors the silhouetted man is suddenly even closer than the door behind. I feel his breath condensate on the tip on my nose, my eyes widen and I take a deep breath. He draws his hood, beneath which is the smart mans smirk boring into me. “It’s always been me, Tom. You know who I am don’t you”. The smirk impossibly grows bigger and strains the muscles around his mouth, I fear the skin would tear but he continues. “Oh my Tom” he begins while laying a hand on my shoulder to which every hair stands to attention in fear struck panic. “Go on” he whispers in my ear and pushes me back with a vicious force. I tumble through the door and land back in the leather chair in the white room, greeted by... him, in his usual place. “Oh Tom, Tom, Tom. I am YOU” he guffaws. This time he gets up completely and struts around the table to my seat with great pride. With each step, the features on his face distort and sharpen until I am staring at a mirror image of myself walking up to me. My heart pounds to a hollow drum beat and my hands clench, gripping the arms of this leather with piercing nails. Winding his head around mine from every angle, inspecting me, I feel surrounded and claustrophobic. As he does so he hushes venom to my mind: “Every thought, it’s me. I am your mind, where do you think we are? Where do you think we have ever been? Welcome yourself Tom. Welcome me”. And here I am, lying in bed drowning in a cold sweat; suffocated by myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. Goodbye, me.

R

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P

Evening Mourning

icture your life, just a blend of radiant colours dissolving to grey. Imagine your dreams, like bright lights fading to black. Your hope and your faith in friends crumbling at the hands of people; people who you love and people who you hate. Waking up hollow. Falling asleep dead. Finding yourself staring into nothing, gazing at something you don’t see. With a heavy heart or empty eyes there is little left to feel because it’s all been taken away. A weary man walks down a narrow road. The clouds cry on him with a thousand tears of remorse, yet the man doesn’t seek shelter. Headphones plugged into his ears he cannot hear the pattering sound of the tears. All he can hear is the constant blare of the music being injected into his mind, drowning out his thoughts. Whilst the singer’s voice echoes words of eternal wisdom and the cocktail of notes merge to almost speak to the man, he keeps his eyes glued to the dull pavement. The brisk breeze whips his face, hurling rain onto his uncovered cheek. Hastily he pulls up his coat collar, pulling it tight up to the sides of his face in an attempt to shield himself from the harsh elements. For mere moments he can hear the pulsing beat of the rain against his coat and the irregular rhythm of the rain colliding with the concrete floor before the next song begins. Looking up as he thinks he hears a sound, he can only see a black abyss peppered with clouded stars, plummeting beads and flickering street lights. The dismal sight makes him sigh to himself. He just tries to remember why he was afraid, tries to remember what makes him fear the dark. A gentle duvet of clouds solemnly rolls overhead, misty, illuminated by the gaze of the midnight moon. The rain carries on falling and the man carries on walking. Picture your life, a blend of radiant colours growing stronger every day. Imagine your dreams, like bright lights only growing brighter. Your hope and your faith in friends rebuilt by the hands of those who are loyal to you, people who you love and people who you hate. Waking up with a feeling of joy and falling asleep content. Finding yourself staring in awe, gazing at what you have accomplished. With neither a heavy heart nor empty eyes there is little left to drag you down because you took it all away. The pen swiftly leaves the page as it jots the last letter. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s she finishes her work. Slotting the papers away in their pigeon holes the woman stands up with enthusiasm, smiling out of

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the window. She has a clear view of the city, the river, the wooded hill, each sun rise and sun set. Feeling a gentle tap on the shoulder she turns around, graciously flicking her long, brown hair. Smiling hazel eyes warmly greet the person. Whenever she flicks her hair, people watch it as if it were in slow motion, it is as if people are caught in a trance. Handing her a small collection of letters the person bids her a good morning. Casually taking them, the woman turns and looks back out of the window. A faint shimmering reflection smiles back at her whilst she admires the scenery. Placing a hand on the glass, watching her delicate fingers and the reflection meet then slowly fall, she thinks reflective thoughts. Letting off a quick but quiet sigh, then gathering herself the woman returns to the scenery. It all seems so peaceful, raising a smile again her day continues. Every day she does this. Every morning and every evening, always the same. No one knows why she is so happy, then again no one minds. People look up to her sense of optimism, she’s the one everyone likes. Even she could make light of a rainy day and pluck grey clouds from a blue sky. Silence is so disturbing isn’t it. It’s odd, like a whisper in a blind ear; you should hear nothing, but your mind wills to hear something. So in the distance you may hear a ringing, a cry…a plea for help. But you never know. You want to, but you know that you shouldn’t. Some people find it easy to survive silence, others fall and beg for noise to reassure them, they aren’t alone. The man still walks down the road beneath rippling blankets of pale grey clouds and the hazy glow of the distant moon. Cracks of lightening break above, stabbing deep into him. Gradually, the falling tears stop. Whilst the clouds in the skies peer down on the lonesome man, he gazes back. His head tilted, with arms held out and hands spread. He feels the last few drops of icy water tumble upon his skin. Music still infused with thoughts, the man continues down his weary road. Steadily all the echoing words and notes fall quiet, blending to nothing. As realisation hit’s the man, his eyes widen. There is no sound, no noise, just silence. Bowing his head the man begins to drag his feet as he moves. Kicking shadows that cross his path. Shutting his eyes he places a hand over his face, gently rubbing his eyes then sliding it down over his mouth the man mumbles. Silence is something he hates, it allows thoughts to run riot in him. Paranoia, accompanied by fear, memories and decisions all have the power to destroy him. Ripping the headphones from his ears the man picks up the pace, nearly

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running through the darkness, followed by shadows he can’t lose. He can’t run forever, grinding to a halt the man clutches his side in agony. Doubled up from waves of searing pain the man collapses. Hitting the ground with a hollow thud he lies there; cold, motionless, afraid. A droplet trickles down his cheek. A tear from his eyes or the last from a mourning cloud he does not know. Silence is so disturbing isn’t it. It’s odd, like a whisper in a blind ear. You should hear nothing, but your mind wills to hear something. So in the distance you may hear a ringing, a cry…a plea for help. But you never know. You want to, but you know that you shouldn’t. Some people find it easy to survive silence; others fall and beg for noise to reassure them, they aren’t alone. Another day has become history, quietly the woman returns to her window, overlooking the city as if she were God. The fading sun hides behind the horizon escaping the bitter night which seizes the skies. It’s only her now, standing alone with her fingertips lightly pressed against the frosting glass. Random speckles of rain crash against the window and trickle down in wonderful ways. She doesn’t notice, her eyes are fixed on the sun creeping behind the silhouettes of the trees and houses. Watching it fall inch by inch, as it does so, her hand falls too. When it eventually loses grip and squeaks off the glass she snaps back into reality. An icy draft brushes her shoulder making her turn around, just to be met by dark corridors and ajar doors. Confidently she walks down and into the dark. Although her strides are assertive, a feeling of nervousness embraces her. Shadowy images of her face flash beside her from door windows, showing the stream of hazel hair jump to her steps. Each reflection pushes her into a brisker walk. Progressing into a run the woman heads for the stairwell. Flailing the door open she hurries down the stairs, leaving a ringing stampede of echoes behind that chase her, feeling as if they were forever haunting her. Swinging the double front doors open she feels the strain on her arms. Breaking free of the claustrophobia she can breathe again. Taking long and deep breathes of cool air the woman calms herself, watching the last glimmering rays of the sun die from behind the horizon. As she makes her way home, a short distance from where she was, she sees something laying beside the curb. It just lies there; motionless, half curled up, drenched. She moves closer, creeping towards whatever it may be, wary of it. The woman still can’t make out what it is, cautiously edging closer she recognises it’s a man. She whispers to it, asking them if they’re ok but receives no reply. The

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air is cold and the street is gloomy. A light grey tide of mist glides down the road, engulfing everything into its chilling embrace. Gradually the man hears something, the distinctive tapping sound of feet, then a voice. A nervous and trembling, but soothing voice that warms the inner most sanctum of his now frozen heart. He raises a heavy eye lid, trying to make out who it was. He sees the person get on their knees to look at him, attempting to look him in the eyes. As the droplets of rain run down his sides, it washes away all energy, leaving him weak. Putting a soft freezing hand under the man’s chin the person lifts his head. In a feeble effort the man tries to talk, in his mind he hears himself repenting, crying words he had never before said. He can’t think straight. He can’t move, talk; He can’t do anything. The woman shuffles closer, now kneeling in a puddle of ice cold water that numbs her. Losing all feeling in her legs she gives way, propping herself up with one arm as the other cradles his chin. The woman lifts his head to gaze into his eyes, in search of life. In search of hope. She sees his eyes gravely open, and his lips move but no words escape. This woman doesn’t have a clue who this man is, but he reminds her…of him. A tear breaks from her eyes and careers its way down the smooth skin, eventually hanging in suspense before plummeting to the watery grave she kneels in. The man doesn’t know who this caring person is. For moments he feels special, he feels whole again. The person reminds him of the piece that’s missing. From cloudy eyes he can see a blurred face. Hazel eyes, long brown hair, and the voice of an angel. The man feels weaker by the second. He feels his hand raised and held tight. Muffled screams resound ‘Tom! TOM!’ while his eyes draw closed. The girl with an angel’s eyes. Silence is so disturbing isn’t it. Like a whisper in a blind ear, in the distance you may hear a ringing, a cry…a plea for help. Some people find it easy to survive silence, others fall and beg for noise to reassure them, they aren’t alone. Picture your life, just a blend of greys dissolving to black. Imagine your dreams, like empathising voices falling quiet. Your hope and your faith crumbling. Waking up hollow. Falling asleep dead. Finding yourself staring into nothing, gazing at something you don’t see. With a heavy heart or empty eyes there is little left to feel because you took it all away.

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S

Our Hero’s

Epilogue

he saved me; It had been two years since I hunted Jack down, broke down inside myself, and disappeared from the group. This is a further year from that. A year of living in a prison both physically and mentally, trapped in confinement.

Here I sit in a white room, frosted white walls surround me with a soft light. There are no windows so I cannot tell you what hour of the day we are dwelling and there is nothing in here but a low, reclined sofa like chair in which I pull myself up on with a squeak, a small coffee table on which a jug of water and two glasses are placed, a white noise generator in the corner singing a droning hum and an encapsulating leather chair close to mine. In walks a suited man through a white glass door; he walks quietly yet there is a slight bounce of echo from each step that grows louder as he closer. I barely notice it though as I swirl the water in a glass around and around, methodically; watching the liquid glass inside swell and roll around the rim. It mesmerises me till the tapping echo beat becomes a snap to my trance. “Thomas” he says in a soothingly calm voice like velvet on my ears, “how are you?”. The scene suddenly feels so familiar and I claw myself backwards in a fear that seizes me. “Calm down Tom, calm down. Don’t worry. I am not him, this is not what you think”. He sits with a comfort and stretches his arms slightly before crossing them on his lap and leaning towards me, reading the notes he brought in on a brushed chrome pad. “Who are you?” I pant as I watch him, from the corner of my eye noticing the shattered glass in a puddle of its watery blood; I must have dropped in my clamber away. He meets the subtle gaze of my eye on the glass and gently says “don’t worry Tom, about that or me. I’m Dr Lamorte, remember?”. A trickle of memory begins to pool in my head, collecting every drop of information I could from the tangled web of thoughts. “Yes, I remember” I lied; I’m sure I would but for now, I don’t. “Do you remember how you got here?”, there is a pause. This disorientation, it reminds me of the first time I met my inner mind, before he beca... before I became the monster. The pause thaws with his words “Charlotte saved you, Tom. Without her, you would be dead”. I take some time to mull it over in my head. Gradually it all comes back. Lying there, feeling lost and empty, hearing her beautiful voice, my hand in hers, her heavenly eyes. “Is she okay? Does she know about Jack? Where’s Mark? And Beth?!” I exclaim to the rush of reminiscence drowning my disorientation. “Calm down Tom. They know Jack is dead, and they know you did it~” he stands and places his hands on my shoulders to stop me panicking and getting up. The harder he pushes down on them, all be it with great fragility, I feel my head lighter and lighter, calmer and calmer.

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“They know you did it, but they know it was because of your state of mind. You’re not well Tom. That’s why you’re here. Beth was most affected by the loss of Jack, and as far as I have been told, moved away with Mark. But Charlotte, over the three years she has come to terms with it the loss and your condition. She’s here for you Tom. She’s been here for the past weeks, waiting till I thought you were ready” and he pauses again, still hands firmly on my shoulders and looking into my eyes, into my soul. I stare back in a nostalgic and guilt ridden glaze. I truly remember where I am now. For a year, I have been sat in this white room waiting for his visit. Waiting for him to help me welcome me back. Listen to my reminiscence and become the man in the white room I needed. This used to be my prison. Now though it feels my home. “Are you ready, Tom? Which side are you on?” It’s a thought I’m often asking myself, drifting around in my mind so dazed. Lowering my head and letting my eyes close, I take a deep breath. Strands of my rough fringe slowly fall across my brow. My senses feel heightened; as the hair strokes the skin, as each breath brings with it a tingling sensation throughout, the monotonous drone of the fan, the light breath of the man, the healed ache in my eyes burnt by white light and memories. The relief of pressure as he lifts his hands from my shoulders liberates me. He smiles caringly. I remember how things used to be, back when I wasn’t afraid of myself. I was quite an artist actually; in fact, let me paint you a picture of my new life…

R

42


Reminiscence  

When the past becomes the present, the present turns to a whole new, darker world.