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Kieran Borsden


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The characters and situations described in this book are entirely the product of the author’s imagination and bear no relation to any real person or actual happenings. Any resemblance to real events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

The right to be identified as the author/creator of this work has been asserted in its entirety to Kieran Borsden. The contents in this publication are not to be used or reproduced, either in part or in full, without the author’s/creator’s consent. Copyright ©2008 by Kieran Borsden


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Kieran Borsden was born on October 16th 1981 in Neath, South Wales, but lived the larger part of his life away. He spent his younger years up to a teenager in Suffolk, England and moved to the Netherlands with his mother at the age of 14. He suffers from a mental illness known as schizoidaffective disorder, which was diagnosed at the age of 22 after a serious emotional breakdown.


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Thank you to all who have believed in me and my pursuit - especially my aunt Elaine and my father, and as always, with every day again, thank you to my wonderful Gemma, my driving force and inspiration.


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50% of the proceeds from this book have been donated to MIND, a charity that offers support to sufferers of psychological illnesses


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1 *** “Shit! The box broke!” *** ‘Beyond this door is the fetid air of a foul world,’ he thought. Each carelessly placed step further from the sanctity of his threshold was, according to Rob,


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a step closer to the horrors of a savage society. He stood by the frame of the front door, watching the handyman his father had called out as he reattached the hinges, and looked out at the grey tinted manmade colossi of stone and steel, the labyrinthine alleyways that ducked between and behind them. Musical rhythms pulsated from the rolled down window of a passing car and a shiver passed through Rob’s body as a streak of coagulating fear clenched his spine. “That’s done it,” the handy man said as he began to pack his tools away, “I can’t see what might have caused that, seeing as those hinges were practically good as new, snapped clean they were.” “Jokers,” Rob replied, “kicking shit out of it last night, butt1.” “You do get ‘em,” the handyman continued, “even at this time of year.” He followed on from this statement with a nod, wishing a ‘Merry Christmas’ (Rob’s eyes rolled in response) before climbing into his van. Rob watched as he drove off and then quickly shut the door to return to the comfort and safety of the inner sanctum. Angelique would be home soon, it was 1

Butt – Welsh slang for mate/buddy


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nearly quarter to five. She would come in, have a grumble about her boss and bitch about the haughty pompousness of the people she had to wait on. Rob knew how much she hated that job. Sometimes he wished that he could go in her place, but that would be ridiculous. He also knew how she felt about going back to work so soon after having the baby, but things couldn’t be helped. “One of us has to bring home the money,” he had told her. Demy was sleeping in her Moses basket. Her soft breaths drifted outward from where she rested, filling the room with a gentle serenity. Rob was unsure at first about having a child, but when Angelique brought her home from hospital, he fell instantly in love with that little person he’d never met before. Her fingers and toes, perfect and complete with miniscule nails still brought tears to his eyes four months down the line. He’d made a promise that day, the first time he held her. He vowed to always be there for her, whenever she might need him to, and, for the first time in his life, be someone to look up to. The sound of the door slamming shut was followed by a fatigued sigh as Angelique came into the room from the entry hall, throwing her keys to one side and slinging her coat over the settee.


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“That fucking Nicos has got a bastard nerve,” Angelique snarled, “fucking perv.” “What’s he done now?” Rob enquired. “He’s too hands-on, gives me the fucking creeps.” “I’ll ring up tomorrow and have a word if you like,” Rob said in a vain attempt to cull her aggression. “Yeah,” she snapped, “and I’ll be out of a fucking job, what then, Einstein?” Rob decided he’d better keep quiet. Angelique was always in such a foul mood when she came home. Nicos would get the picture though. Someday one of his waitresses was going to slap him, or worse, file a complaint of sexual harassment. Rob couldn’t understand why Angelique hadn’t, he’d put it to her several times. Maybe the nuisance and aggravation of the whole scenario was just too much worry for her. “A few of the boys are coming round later for a sesh…” Rob said before he was curtly cut off. “What boys?” Angelique snapped. “Just Damien and Jarrod…” he managed to splurt before, again, being cut off.


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“You can’t go fucking about with those twats no more, Rob, you’ve got Demy to think of,” she deftly stated. Angelique didn’t understand. As far as Rob was concerned, he needed ‘those twats’ to complete what was to him an otherwise fruitless day. Pottering about the house, twiddling his thumbs and jumping to the cry of a child had been his daily highlights for the last four months. He’d be on pins until Angelique came home and ‘those twats’ offered some company and mental relaxation, a little escape, plus the free gear was a bonus. “And I don’t want any shit in my house,” Angelique added, “not with a baby about. What state do you think you’ll be to look after her if you’re fucked?” She had a point, but Rob was already in an altered state from his medication most days, so he couldn’t see it. “They’ll be here in a bit, babes. I can’t turn them away at the door,” Rob said in an attempt to sway her. “I can,” she spoke, swiftly placing a fullstop at the end of the conversation. Rob’s mouth moved as if to say something, but Angelique’s eyes tore away his tongue. “You know


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what?” she uttered, “fuck this bullshit! I can’t be around you, I can’t raise my child with a degenerate layabout, sitting in my own filth and living in squalor. I shouldn’t even be working. Fuck you, Rob, fuck you.” “Is this about the dishes?” Rob asked bewildered, “because if it is, I’ll do them now, I’ll clean the kitchen and living room, just sit down and calm yourself.” “I’m going to my mother’s,” she said with a definite tone. Before Rob could as much as respond, she’d grabbed the handles of the Moses basket and was headed toward the front door. He turned his six foot frame on his heels and rushed to stop her, but she had already stepped over the threshold. Rob stood at the entrance to his domain, trembling with concern and an obvious panic. She stood two feet in front of him, just out of reach. “You sort yourself, then we sort us. In the meantime, don’t call,” she said coldly before placing the basket on the passenger seat of her car, “I’ll call you in a week.” Rob watched helplessly as she fastened the seatbelt to the handles and then around the base of the basket. His hands shook uncontrollably as she


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walked with an elegant yet defiant pace around the car to the driver’s side. He felt tears well as the engine started up, then she was gone without a goodbye or a wave. He slammed the door shut, cursing the bitch. *** Damien knocked a tune on the front window. The doorbell hadn’t been functional for some time and this was the common method of letting Rob know you were outside. Rob shuffled from the living room to the entry hall. His swollen red eyes greeted Damien and Jarrod, betraying his pseudoforthcoming smile. Without words, they followed through to the main room where Rob dizzily took his usual place in his armchair. “Got any product?” he asked, “I could do with a little pepping up.” Damien pulled a bag from his inside pocket, knelt by the coffee table and proceeded to cut three lines on the mirror, which was by now in its own right also a habitual user. He gave the honour of the first line to Rob who took it back with an expert snort, recoiling his head afterward and pulling a sour face. The mirror changed hands in an illicit communion before returning to its mahogany altar.


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“You’re not looking too well, butt,” Damien remarked. “An educated observation, Dami,” Rob responded. “It’s all gone arse-over-tit.” “How do you mean?” Jarrod interjected. “They’re gone boys,” Rob sobbed, “my girls.” A moment of silence passed. For Damien, this was an interesting situation. When Rob and Angelique first got together, their combined usage alone could have kept him in business. Now that there was a child involved that was no longer so, but a depressed Rob, after an argument or one of their mini bust-ups, was a heavy user and thus also a prime customer. It was sad that she’d run off with the baby, but business is business. “I’ve got some new phet, butt, better than this gear,” he pushed, “the regulars are calling it ‘the madman’.” Rob’s eyebrows twitched. Damien progressed to cut another three lines, his attempt at sweetening the proposition. In his mind it was a simple seduction, use a little to get the mood right, then make arrangements for a more unremitting stimulation. “How much?” Rob asked. “I’ll get you some,” Damien replied, beaming on the inside, “then we’ll sort that out.”


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Damien exited in a hurried fashion, drawn to the secret partition hidden behind the mock radio of his car. After a few minutes, he returned, sporting a self-satisfied grin. “This stuff, butt,” he said coyly, “this stuff is too good to stick up your nose, fucking wasting it, that is.” “I’ll get the correct ‘paraphernalia’,” Rob spoke with a newfound elation. It had been a while since Rob had injected. He missed it, but, more often than not, had other things on his mind. He hoisted his previously downtrodden form from the armchair and moved with a noticeable jig to the kitchen. He rummaged through the drawers and, eventually, returned to the living room with what appeared to be a first aid kit. Damien placed the bag of ‘madman’ in front of his cohort and, without prompt, Rob immediately started preparations. Pinprick wound that does not bleed… sails upon an anthracite sea… quickening, eclectic feral beat… Rob’s heart pounded and large bullets of sweat bled from his forehead. He grated his teeth to stop them from chattering. This really was mad shit. “I haven’t


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had gear like this in years, butt,” he said through a euphoric grin. Damien spoke smugly, “hits the spot, right?” Rob was already preparing the next shot when Damien took it upon himself to arbitrate that he should perhaps wait a while. This was the hardest phet Damien had ever come across and he didn’t want an overdose on his conscience, however diminutive his scruples may have been. “I’m fucking spinning, Dami, whizzing like a madman,” Rob said in a rambled fashion, “fuck that bitch, I’m happy to be on my own.” “What about the babes?” Jarrod asked, ever the killjoy. Rob’s smile faded. His heart throbbed to a different tune at the thought of never seeing Demy’s face or never being able to touch her perfect hands again. “Another hit, Rob?” Damien offered, waving ‘the madman’, drawing the quarry back to the bait. Rob seized the baggie from Damien’s hand and cooked up a second, larger shot. He pulled the murky substance into the syringe, rolled up his sleeve and scanned his bicep for a decent spot to insert the needle. The tip pierced his skin as he entered the muscle, pushing the needle in until it


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had almost completely disappeared. His mind wandered for a second, drifting to a place outside the house, searching for Demy. He couldn’t find her. As his thumb pushed, the plunger sunk into the body of the syringe and all thoughts that might have dwelt on soft breaths rising from a basket were forgotten, replaced by an escalating pace of discordant drums. *** As the sun rose, Rob’s mood fell. He was sinking fast into a bout of hideous depression. Damien had ‘borrowed’ several valiums from Rob’s vast assortment of prescription medication and, as a result, was lying comatose on the settee, which was, according to Rob, probably the best place for him. He wasn’t a bad guy in Rob’s opinion, just ‘flawed’ and their friendship was to be seen more as a surreptitious, back-alley exchange of suitcases than a publicly acknowledged trade with a trustworthy ally. Jarrod had only just left. Not a moment too soon as far as Rob was concerned. He wondered at times why he even allowed such a vacuous person in his house. It wasn’t as if Jarrod contributed much to the conversation. In fact, if Rob were to be


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completely honest, he found him quite an annoyance. He wasn’t boring and didn’t mean any harm, but to Rob he was just a drip who sniffed around Damien’s backside as if it were smeared with honey. Principally alone, Rob pottered about the living room, tidying things away that didn’t need tidying until, ultimately, he came to rest. He perched himself awkwardly on the arm of the settee where Damien was snoring heavily. A crushing thought bore down upon his mind with severe weight: he was alone. Although it hadn’t been a full day since Angelique had walked out the door, Rob noticed the apparent emptiness she had left behind. He had never thought of himself as lonely before now, but the realisation of being without her or the baby had brought on some self-analysis. Rob had been lonely as a child, waiting each day at the front room window for his father to come home from work while his step-mother pulled at him to come away. Even though he had a sister, he was still lonely. It seemed to him that she tended to receive most of his father’s affection. His mother had never been like that. He was her special little boy. He remembered their hugs in the mornings before school, how she combed his hair and straightened his uniform, the


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soft kisses upon his forehead before sleep. He had only been lonely since she was gone. Rob climbed the stairs headed for his bedroom, not to sleep, but to sob. He stopped outside the spare room which he and Angelique had converted to a nursery. In years gone by it had been lived in by his sister, but had since then been a storage dump for all his accumulated crap. Ghosts of the weekend they’d spent papering the walls penetrated his thoughts. Angelique was hopeless and kept creasing the paper; most of what she put up would roll down again almost as soon as she started the next piece. He remembered how much effort they’d put into getting it as perfect as they could, Angelique’s precise mental design and instruction, and the feeling it gave him when it was finished. That moment was the first time he’d actually felt that it was real, that he really was going to be a dad. The memory of showing the room to Demy, even though she was too little to know where she was, was almost tangible. He entered in and sat on the floor, facing the window. Staring blindly into the slowly developing morning shade of sky, his thoughts wandered the streets outside with a solemn sense of desuetude. He wanted to go to Angelique, but leaving the bubble that was his home was an


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impossible fantasy. His mind, however, traversed his worry and fear of the lurking dangers that inhabited the iniquitous world as he moved through his malformed memories of childhood playgrounds, hounded by a sense of inadequacy. He was lonely. He didn’t want to be lonely.


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2 *** “I place it under my pillow, it’s safe there.” *** “You’ll grow up clever,” Susanne said lovingly, “just like daddy.”


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Susanne loved her husband. They had been high school sweethearts and married at eighteen. Their son, Robert, followed not long after. It had been hard, those first few years starting out, but things had eventually fallen into place. Not long ago, the three of them had lived in a one bedroom flat not quite big enough for one person, let alone a family. Aled was a work horse though, and his devotion to her was only surpassed by his ambition to provide for them. Almost as soon as she’d returned home from the hospital with Robert, Aled had found himself a job and within a few years had become an asset to the company. He had gone from stocking shelves to managing the staff at the supermarket. His succession of pay rises was followed by the purchase of a new home, a place they could call their own and bring up their child the way they had always wanted. Susanne enjoyed her mornings with her special little man. He was such a loving child, full of hugs and kisses. His father wasn’t around most mornings or the rest of the day. Aled left the house for work before either of them had got up, and hardly ever came home at a time she could be with him the way she wanted. It was always toward the end of the


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afternoon, or early evenings that he’d come through the door, more often than not too tired for quality time together. She had at one point accused him of having an affair, but realised later that she was just being silly. Of course he wasn’t playing away. He loved both her and Robert, but sometimes she’d wish he had a less demanding job, Robert needed a father. She worried often that because of Robert’s closeness to her and the lack of a solid male role model, he might grow up funny. She watched Robert as he struggled with his laces. She hated to see him frustrate himself, but he wanted to do it ‘on his own’, without help. He was so headstrong, just like his father. Sitting there, on the bottom step, coat across his lap, he was determined to be his own person. He seemed so grown up, more like a matured, wise old man than a five year old. He had always been forward, walking and talking early. She knew from the very beginning that he was destined for great things. From time to time she would still be taken aback by the things that came from his mouth. She would watch him sometimes from a distance, studying his concentrated expression, wondering what he would say next. He was such an inquisitive person, always asking questions about the strangest of things.


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“Mam,” Robert said suddenly, without lifting his eyes from his laces, “when will I die?” “Not for a long time, love,” Susanne replied with surprise, “what makes you ask that?” “We all die,” he said seriously with a slight cockiness, “didn’t you know?” Susanne spoke softly, pulling Robert toward her, “come here, babes, don’t worry yourself with things like that. You’ve got a long time yet.” “I’m not worried,” he said through an unashamed grin, “it’s okay.” She gave him a hand with his shoes, despite his disagreement. It was nearly time for school. *** Susanne stood outside the school gates, waiting amongst the gathered flock for her son to emerge from the doors. Merely seconds after the bell rang, hordes of screaming children chased its sound across the playground to the concrete steps that led to their freedom. It was Friday, not just the last day of the week, but also the last school day before Christmas. Only the weekend stood between the children and their presents, Monday/Christmas’ eve didn’t really count. As usual Robert surfaced last,


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taking his time. Several weeks ago, he had an accident in his trousers during exercise and since then he tended not to mingle so well with the other children. Although she was at first quite concerned, Aled had persuaded her that it would blow over and the other kids would find something else to laugh about before long. After all, it was just a part of growing up. As Robert tentatively approached, Susanne descended the steps to greet him. Tenderly, she messed his hair. He looked up at her with a smile before filling her in with the details of his busy day. She took his hand as they made their way to the car, all the while taking care to listen to his remarkable account of events. *** “Wash your hands, babes,” Susanne called from the foot of the stairs, “grub’s up in a bit.” Robert loved his food. He had never been a fussy eater. Ever since his first taste of solids, he had always cleaned his plate without argument. She took three plates from the cupboard and placed them on the counter. Even though Aled wouldn’t be


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home in time for tea and would eat on his own, she always prepared his food with theirs. She served up the mushy peas and faggots, putting the largest portion on Aled’s plate, and brought hers and Robert’s to the table just as her little man seated himself in his usual place. “Why are the boys at school so much bigger than me, mam?” Robert said from the blue. “You’re only just starting to grow, love,” Susanne explained, “you take after your dad. You’re going to be tall like him.” “Sometimes,” he said, lowering his eyes, “they tease me.” “What do they say then?” “Billy calls me short-arse,” he mumbled, “and he laughs.” “Well,” she said,” that’s just silly.” “Am I short, mam?” “I don’t know what that boy’s mother has been teaching him, but I think he’s silly,” she replied, without answering the question. “Billy lives with his dad,” Robert informed her, “he’s a postman.” “Is he?” she spoke, “maybe I should write him a letter then, explaining things like puberty and growth spurts so he can properly educate his son.”


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“What’s pooperty, mam?” “That’s what grown-ups call becoming older,” answered Susanne. “Oh,” he said with understanding, “maybe I should tell Billy that I’m smaller ‘cause I aint done pooperty yet.” “Yes,” she finished, “maybe you should.” Robert resumed eating his food without further comment. When they both had finished, Robert was dismissed from the table and made his way back upstairs to play with his toys. Susanne brought the plates to the sink. As she rinsed, their conversation from the morning returned. ‘What a funny thing to ask,’ she thought. Something was obviously troubling the boy. She had, up until now, never thought he’d known what death was. He had certainly never discussed it before. Maybe he didn’t understand the concept completely and was just using a word he’d overheard. Or was he sincerely worried about dying? She remembered how she would worry when she was small. Susanne’s grandmother had passed away when she was six and she could still recall how her mother explained to her what that meant. After that she became very concerned about who would be next and even woke up at night with panicky sweats. It wasn’t


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unthinkable that Robert shared those same worries. He wasn’t much younger than she was when she first discovered the meaning of mortality, but she couldn’t understand where he had got it from. She decided to do the dishes later. A little chat with her son was in order. Susanne climbed the stairs and proceeded to the back bedroom, Robert’s room. She stopped by the door to knock. She believed it was important to give him his own space and to respect that space. In this way she hoped he would learn to show others the same appreciation. Before Susanne raised her hand, she overheard Robert’s words through the door as he played out a soap-opera conversation, speaking with several voices: You’re stupid, short-arse, and you smell But I only had a bath last night Doesn’t matter when you do wee-wee in your pants, stinky That wasn’t on purpose, you scared me Baby loves his mammy, cry-baby, cry-baby


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Well, I’ve got a mammy My mam’s dead, and she’s coming to kill you too, tonight Susanne opened the door without knocking. This was a rare moment that she felt it necessary to ignore her usual protocol. She found what she had just heard to be quite distressing. “What are you playing, Robert?” she asked concerned. “Boys at school,” he answered unashamedly, in his usual manner, not that he was a rude child, he simply couldn’t grasp the notion that other people might not be as informed as he was when it came to what he might be doing or thinking. “Did you make this up?” she pushed. “This game?” “I told you earlier about the playground, mam,” he answered, slightly confused. It was puzzling to him that his mother should ask this question when he could recall clearly how he had mentioned in the car on the way home the commonplace discussions about Billy’s mother. “Mam was concentrating on the road, babes, tell me again,” Susanne replied.


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“I don’t want to,” Robert answered, “it’s okay now anyway.” “Is this about the time you had your accident?” she continued, in an attempt to get it out of him. She wasn’t going to accept silence as she’d been concerned enough about that incident. If the other boys at school were still picking on him about it, she was going to kick up a fuss. Such a thing could happen to any child of their age, and probably did, just not so publicly. “Billy was scaring me,” Robert said through a sigh. “What was he saying, babes?” “That his mam was going to eat me.” Susanne could see a distinct apprehension evolving on his brow. It was almost as if by saying it, he was allowing it to be true. He had always been a concerned child who would become anxious at the least of things, but she could imagine how something like this could be the cause of much discomfort for such a small boy. “Why would his mother eat you, that’s just silly?” she said in a calming tone. “His mam’s a monster ‘cause she’s dead,” Robert said.


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Susanne seated herself on the floor next to her son and put her arm around him. She soothed his worries and explained to him what death was in terms she thought he’d understand. People didn’t become monsters, they went to heaven where they could be happy and could watch over the ones they loved. He had nothing to be scared of, but just in case he should be afraid of anything again, she gave him something to help: imagine a small box, it doesn’t matter what it’s made of, and put all your fears inside there’s no way out of that box, because everything that the scary things hate is also inside put the box somewhere safe, where no one can get it, and forget about it Robert thought for a while about what his mother had told him. After their moment of silent reflection, Susanne kissed his forehead and left him to continue his game. She exited the room, heading down the stairs. She was tamping2, no way would she let this go. Billy’s dad was going to receive more than just a letter. *** 2

Tamping – Welsh slang for angry/fuming


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Aled came through the door, late and starved as usual. He placed his keys on the table in the hall and hung his coat on the stand. As he entered into the living space, his eyes fell upon an angry Susanne. She had been sitting in front of the telly for some time, not really watching it but instead running through a practice dialogue in her head. “Sorry I’m back so late,” Aled said, presuming her overly noticeable mood to be his fault. It wasn’t uncommon for her to fly off the handle, especially when Christmas was just around the corner. “It’s okay, love,” Susanne replied almost trancelike, “I’m just annoyed at Robert’s school.” “What’s happened now?” Aled asked, his tone slightly aggravated, “he hasn’t gone and wet himself again, has he?” Susanne turned her eyes to Aled. She couldn’t believe his attitude. How could he be so insensitive? She decided to keep her anger in as she explained the Billy-situation to her husband. If anyone could sort it, it would be Aled; Aled solved all their problems. That was what he did best. “What do you want me to do, love?” he asked.


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“You could start by going down there,” Susanne said, startled at his blatant disregard for their son’s feelings. “And achieve what? It’s just boys being boys.” It was clear to Susanne that she would have to sort it on her own, but for now, she would take her mood out on her husband.


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3 *** “Keep them their, locked inside.� *** In the upstairs bathroom, Rob washed his face with cold water. He looked intently at his image in the mirror. It seemed no more than a caricature of what


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he once believed himself to be. He rubbed his eyes, still red from crying. He had been weeping in the nursery for several hours, lost in self-pity, but by washing away the dried salty streaks on his cheeks, he was also washing away his pain. The Rob that he was, the inadequate Rob, would disappear down the plughole with his tears and he would be free to fashion a new reflection. By leaving, Angelique had proven to be in control of not only his life but also his emotions. She might have left him, knowing in her mind that he could never follow, but he wasn’t beaten. He loved her and Demy. He needed them both inside with him and would win them back, regardless of what it might cost. Rob realised an instability in his breathing as his flesh began to quake. His bottom lip, now a violent shade of blue, quivered. He was coming down, fast. The hours spent wallowing had replaced the usual pace of indulgence that he was used to and although the amphetamines where still raging in his bloodstream, it would soon be over and sleep would rapidly come to occupy his both physically and emotionally broken vessel. He shook off the persuasive dizziness that entreated entrance to his mind as he exited the bathroom and made his descent down the uncarpeted and unvarnished


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wooden staircase that he had promised Angelique he would one day renovate. “Dami?” Rob called from the bottom step, “You still here?” A groan from the living room. Rob entered, slapping Damien’s legs as he passed. “Come on, you lazy shit!” he ordered. “Time to get up.” Damien grumbled as he pulled himself to an upright position. Rob prepared a hit to spare himself the distress of the looming come-down and salvage what was originally intended to be a good crack. The spoon shook with a tremor that travelled the length of his arm to his shoulder, but as the powder dissolved, so did his qualms and fears from the previous evening. At that moment in time, all that mattered was a good hit, potent enough to expel any sentiment from his heart. He injected. A supernova swirled unseen in the depths of Rob’s enlarged pupils as the speed exploded in his mind, expanding from his core as an emotional Novocain, and his fingertips tingled with a seemingly electronic pulse. A new flare illuminated his inner-being, his heart raced and his mind


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bounded between thought and reasoning; he was ready. Strained thoughts, dulled with ecstatic anaesthetic; prosthetic inherent nodes explode in nebulas of a disintegrating brain. One more sip, slight delight of overcast, classed brass in an empty glass tidal wave, enhanced –inferior to the shot of ignited, excited stains of novocaine champagne – incited, uninvited pain released. Damien rose from his seat, speaking in a seemingly foreign tongue. Rob gathered the incoherent burble to be an excuse to leave and nodded a half-hearted farewell without raising his eyes. He heard the door close and bustled into action. As soon as he was sure that his friend had left, having peered at his


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departure through a fold in the front window curtain, he initiated a strategic campaign that would bring both his lover and daughter back home. *** “He’s not going to give up,” Raquel said, her mouth and nose fixed in an expression of disgust, “you should have ended it with that wanker a long time ago.” Angelique could see truth behind her mother’s wizened, bitter face. She knew from the start that neither of her parents had approved of her relationship with Rob, but, as is usually the case when we are young, we tend not to listen to the voice of those we later discover to be experienced in such matters and who were, in the end, correct in their conjecture all along. She thought in the beginning that her parents were being small minded and discriminating toward Rob, believing their attitude to be the petty product of their lack of understanding for his situation. She could see through his fretful and neurotic countenance, she could see who he was underneath. Why couldn’t they? From their first exchange of words, she had cared for him. She was fascinated by him, by the


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mystery and rarity of him. She had never met anyone who touched her so deeply and with such intelligence. The more time she spent with him, the greater she felt their connection to be. In hindsight though, and having discovered the mystery to be little more than irrationality and plain weirdness, she found that her attitude had changed. Had her initial feelings, perceived as ‘caring’, in actuality been nothing more than simple sympathy? Had she merely felt sorry for him? “Don’t worry, mam,” Angelique said, “he’ll quit sooner or later. Rob’s never seen anything through.” Raquel was more than aware of Rob’s failings. She had always been keen to point them out to her daughter. That he was a quitter, always looking for the easiest way out of any given situation, was her favourite observation. When it came to Angelique walking out, however, things could take a different turn. Each and every time she had left him in the past, the weak bastard had somehow managed to persuade her to come back to him. His incessant barrage of sobbing phone calls and whimpering excuses, promises to change and pathetic pleas weren’t going to work this time. She wasn’t going to let that pitiable sham of a man lure both her daughter and granddaughter into his emotional


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minefield. She had seen what he had done to Angelique, the two of them wasting away in that house, usurped by his fragility while he, a grown man too scared of his own shadow to make his way in life, consumed her energy. He had drained her of her life like a soul-sucking vampire. With her damning glare and critical mental checklist (ticking a fault each passing second), she could never deem such a person fit for her daughter, definitely not to be a father. His psychological frailty and feeble masculinity would corrupt that baby girl before she even had the chance to become her own person. She’d be as dead to society as he was, afraid to live. That wasn’t going to happen. The phone stopped ringing… …then rang again. Angelique could see the distinctly spawned aggravation upon her mother’s forehead take form as it sprouted from a frowning seed into countless buds of tempered disapproval entwined in thorny vines. Her stern eyes penetrated Angelique’s heart as the buds burst and their lucid colours (focused


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through that ocular magnification) showed the hue of her otherwise silent temperament as a livid, screaming purple. “Why don’t I tell that prick where to get off?” Raquel said, her complexion elevated by her annoyance. “Maybe that’ll get through to him.” “Mam,” Angelique replied, “he’ll give up in a few days.” Raquel shook her head. This was how it always went. She calmly walked over to the end table where the phone was located and pulled the chord from its socket. Rob’s telephonic reign of terror would end. She would not negotiate with terrorists. *** Rob lowered the receiver from his ear. The previously intense flare that had shone so brightly within his core had been extinguished in an instant by an abrupt silence. Thinking there must have been some or other fault with the line, he speedily tapped his mother-in-law’s home number in for the umpteenth time. Two rings…nothing. It became clear to him that his calls would, for now, go unanswered. Undecided in its tempo, his inner percussion banged a distressed rhythm in retort to


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this revelation. He inhaled, a slow and methodical breath to halt the imminent panic attack and felt a cinder of that doused flare, inadvertently, reignite. Within seconds, what had started with an ember had developed into a furious bonfire (no longer a suggested beacon of hope – now an angry blaze of pure rage). Slamming the handset down, Rob barked obscenities aimed wildly at whoever could hear. An opaque flash of white heat crossed his eyes as he gripped the base of the phone and tore it from the wall. He launched it, wires dangling, with a forceful, perhaps stroppy motion across the room and watched (squinting through the white screen with eyes as savage as he proclaimed the world to be) as it crashed onto the uncompleted wooden flooring. The flare again died in an instant and Rob was left trembling. He needed to calm down and shook with a violent tremor as he opened his ‘magic box’ - his pillbox, and counted out three valiums. He swallowed them without fluid and returned to his armchair to prepare another hit. ***

My feet, that walk as if on water that seeps between my slight stepping toes,


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glide with slow grace across to the shore and there, upon the sandy bank drift with wind paced steps at leisure; pseudo-flight, with arms gently raised by vaporous airstreams, takes its hold as the toll for this unhurried phase gaits in a low tranquil stride with each breath exhaled in relaxed recuperation of this cool island sun. Submerged in murky mental water, Rob’s head felt heavy as the syrupy surround oozed into his ears, drowning his thoughts. Sounds and images distorted, rippling outward from his slouched shape as he breathed with a deliberately sluggish pace. His ‘magic box’ sat a few feet in front of him on the table, his tablets scattered around it. Amongst the medical mess was a syringe, Rob’s final hit. He had been holding off using it until he received some company. He closed his eyes for a second and wandered wraithlike through a fog consumed landscape, a bitter image of a once happy childhood memory. Lost within frozen nebulas, he clasped his mother’s fingers with his tiny hands as flakes of snow kissed his cheeks. He knew it was cold, it must have been, but he felt warm in her presence.


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She knelt down in front of him and stroked his face. She mouthed words inaudible to his infant ears, pulling him close for a hug. Her embrace slackened and he broke free, turning on his dwarf-like legs, and ran, headed for the house. As he reached the door, he felt consumed by an inexplicable sense of guilt. A tear formed in the corner of his eye, and then crystallized. It fell and shattered into uncountable shards as it struck the ground, splintering the world. The scene spun, transforming through a kaleidoscopic saltshaker that sprinkled his mind back into his skull. He sat there, back inside his living room, back inside his house. He took the syringe in his hand (although he was still alone, he thought it better to embrace his solitude rather than wallow in it) and injected. Within moments, his head surfaced and he inhaled the deepest breath of his life, drawing in the protection and certainty of his seclusion. He felt a slight pressure against his neck, almost as if he had become aware of something, eyes upon him. He scanned the room with panoramic vision, examining every nook and cranny. There was no one, indeed nothing there with him. “Alright, Rob?� a familiar voice said.


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Rob turned his gaze upward to his right, where the voice had seemingly come from. “Alright or what, Glyn?” he replied. Glyn looked down into Rob’s eyes with a sympathetic expression that transcended simple friendship. His comforting smile, not crooked or cockily formed, consoled Rob’s broken composure. “Where’ve you been, butt?” Rob asked with neediness. Glyn sighed. “Watching you fuck yourself up,” he replied. “No matter how you work it, butt, you do it every time.” “You heard then.” Glyn smiled as he took a seat on the settee across from his pal. He had always been there when Rob needed him, like the brother he’d always wished he had.


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4 *** “Where all the bad things go.� *** Susanne woke to the muffled sound of another nightmare. She had heard Robert crying through the wall for two nights in a row. The previous evening,


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Aled had convinced her to leave the boy to it, saying things such as ‘he’ll have to get over it’, ‘we can’t go on babying him’ and ‘he’ll have to learn it’s just dreams’. Susanne thought different. If her little man was awake and upset, crying the way he was, he must have been terrified. She decided to get out of bed and go see to him in the adjacent room. His sobs fell against her heart, denting it as she neared. She knocked, set the door ajar, and called to him. “Are you okay, Robert, love?” she asked in as soothing a tone as she could manage at three in the morning. “Mam,” he called back, “I can’t make a box properly.” Susanne struggled to comprehend the meaning of his words, her mind still overshadowed by sleep. “Box?” she repeated, entering in, opening the door wider so that the light from the landing fell in a solid shaft across the floor. She moved closer to his bed. “What box, babes?” “For the bad stuff,” he said with surprise. Grown-ups were so bothersome, always forgetting what they had said to him. “I don’t think the one I got is good enough.” She remembered their conversation from a day or two ago. She had meant for him to create an


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imaginary box to contain his fears, believing nothing to be stronger than a child’s imagination, but maybe Robert had the right idea. Perhaps it would help him to have something physical that he could hold and look at to confine his nightmares. He would feel safe in the knowledge that his fears were securely locked inside, and thus overcome them. It was such an inspired thought that could very well have been dreamt up by a professional child psychologist. “What did you make it from?” she inquired. He produced a toilet roll with a playing card taped at each end from under his pillow. Although it couldn’t be described as particularly dazzling or well constructed, it certainly was an inventive use for the materials chosen. “Come on,” she said with a grin, pulling Robert’s bed sheets from him, “let’s go see what we can find downstairs.” Mother and child exited the room and descended down the stairs into the darkness of the ground floor. Susanne clasped Robert’s hand in hers as they neared the bottom step and the start of the treacherous trail that would lead to either victory or certain doom. They made their way, venturing through the gloom of the entry hall, fighting past the floating shadows that danced upon the living room


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walls until finally, after what seemed like an age of roaming, they reached the kitchen. “Any ideas?” Susanne asked playfully, switching on the light, “how about an empty ice-cream tub?” Robert shook his head. “Bad things aint scared for ice-cream smell,” he said with a giggle. “No,” Susanne agreed, giggling a little too, “they probably love it.” “What do bad things be scared of, mam?” Robert said, looking straight into his mother’s face with wide, moist eyes. His voice sounded small, almost as if he was ashamed of not knowing how to ward off the things that go bump in the night. “They don’t like people to know things like that.” Susanne lowered her voice, “but we mums have our ways, hundreds of years of studying and swapping secrets.” Robert sighed with relief, at least someone was informed about this ‘bad things’ situation. Imagine if even the mams didn’t know what to do. It would be a proper mess with kids everywhere being scared. He was glad he had such a clever mam who knew what she was doing. “Let me get my ‘special’ Mam’s Book,” Susanne continued, rifling through the wastepaper drawer.


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She produced an offers-booklet from Aled’s supermarket. “What now, mam?” Robert chirped with a hint of elation in his voice. “Well,” she replied, “first we think really hard about what you’re afraid of.” “And then?” he pressed. “Then we get all the things together that your ‘bad things’ don’t like,” was his mother’s uncomplicated reply. “So what is it then, exactly?” “I don’t know ezatly,” he said, “just when it’s dark, maybe people will get me.” “People like Billy’s mam?” “No,” he replied with insincere, almost forced arrogance. Although his intonation conveyed a sense of self-confidence, an obvious attempt to belittle the suggestion that he was still at odds with the subject, his darting gaze told Susanne a different story. She wasn’t going to push. They had discussed the situation enough and if it still was an issue - as it visibly was - perhaps not so much as it formerly was but it was still - on some level - playing on him, then it could easily be resolved with the box. “Just people that want to get me.” Susanne flicked through the pages of her ‘special’ book. “Let me look that up…”


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Robert watched his mother intently, waiting with heightened suspense, anticipating something, anything that would put an end to the bad things. He knew his mam would come through for him even if he wasn’t telling her everything. It wasn’t just the people that got into his room at night that he feared. Nor was it really anything to do with Billy’s mam, although he wasn’t all to comfortable with the notion of her. The crux of the matter was his mam. If Billy’s mother could die, then so could his own. Those people he dreaded at night didn’t come to take him, but to tease him. They mocked his closeness to his mother with horrible stories of how she would die. Even though it had been explained to him as clear as his mam could make it, he just couldn’t grasp the logic, the why. Why do people die? Susanne let her finger stop at the top of a random page – Gouda cheese (half price). “Cheese!” she exclaimed, “that’ll do the trick.” “Why cheese, mam?” Robert asked bewildered. “It’s complicated, babes,” she explained, “you see, some cheeses have very special properties, the way they smell for example.”


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Robert stared at his mother with a puzzled expression. He raised an eyebrow slightly with disbelief. It was apparent to Susanne that she would have to go into more depth if she was to convince her son that she was talking sense. She elucidated, “some bad things, especially ghosts and other such ghoulies have a very sensitive sense of smell. Not even some people like the smell of a strong cheese, like daddy. He hates it, he says it smells like sweaty feet.” Robert smiled, beaming from ear to ear. “But they aint ghosts, mam,” he explained, “they’re nasty night people.” “Night people,” Susanne repeated as she continued through the book. Again her finger stopped randomly – light bulbs (by one get one free). She showed the picture to Robert, “this makes sense.” Robert’s face lit up with his newfound wisdom. It did make sense: there is no dark in the light. He decided it might be best to let his mother in on a few more of the details, “they say things too.” “What do they say then?” Susanne pressed. “Nasty things,” Robert informed, “stories and stuff.” “Oh? Do they? Scary stories?”


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“The scariest,” he answered, pausing for a moment and then continuing, “about dying.” Susanne clenched a fist, her knuckles slightly discolouring, at the sheer thought of her little boy in bed at night, stories of death and God knows what else running round in his head, crying and, more than likely, stiff with fear. It was that stupid Billy boy’s fault. If it weren’t against the law, she would have sewn the little shit’s lips together for what he’d done to her precious, sensitive baby. “That’s an easy one to do,” she said, chuckling to herself, “sticky tape! And when you go back to school you can put some on Billy’s big gob.” Robert sniggered. His mam had such a wicked sense of humour. Sometimes, she would say things, especially about naughty boys and girls, and they would laugh about it all day. He took his mother’s hand and squeezed, “I love you, mammy.” “I love you too, babes,” Susanne returned, “now…what about the box?” “How do the bad things get inside?” Robert interjected. A simple enough question with equally as simple an answer – an answer Susanne didn’t have. She would have to think about it, not for too long, however, or Robert might discover she was as much in the dark as him.


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“I’ll get to that later,” Susanne said, winning herself some time, “it’s more important to get this box done first.” Robert agreed, it was vital that they gather the sticky tape and light bulbs - everyday items that, with a little knowledge, could save him from the night-spectres that haunted his fragile mind with their falsehood and evil. His mother gave him specific orders to search the bottom drawer of the kitchen unit as this was where daddy usually kept his tools and accessories. Robert pulled the drawer open and looked inside. His gaze meant to meet with glass pear-drops (how Robert described the light bulbs to himself) but instead became entangled in a mesh of wires and screws. It was quite a confusing sight for a young boy to handle. He had no idea where to start. Robert scratched the back of his head, his face masked with the defining marks of bafflement, his mouth hanging slightly ajar and a disbelieving frown etched upon his brow. He was about to ask his mam for help when he caught sight of a blue cardboard box tucked away in the back corner of the drawer. He thought he recognised the style of the box from the time when the light on the landing wouldn’t work and his daddy had to change the bulb. He could almost certainly remember


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seeing his father take a box like the one in the drawer upstairs with him. He pulled the drawer out further and dug his way through the plastic coated vines until he had freed the entangled treasure. He examined the outer packaging before lifting the lid and reaching in - a light bulb! Susanne smiled as she took it from him and placed it carefully on the counter. The sticky tape was where it usually was, in the cutlery drawer. For Susanne this was, although not the most logical place, the only place to keep it. Her mother had done so and she had grown up knowing that if she needed sticky tape, it was in the cutlery drawer. She placed it with the light bulb on the counter. Susanne turned to her son. “I’ve been thinking, babes,” she said, “we need something sturdy to keep those nasty night people and bad things in.” “Incase it breaks,” Robert added, his voice containing a subtle tone of expertise. “I bet you fifty pence I can find something better than you,” Susanne light-heartedly challenged. Robert nodded, the contest accepted – the game was on. He moved with haste, bouncing on the souls of his feet into the living room. After illuminating the room via the switch, he crossed the


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great distance of the carpeted field that was the floor, dodging round his father’s armchair and minding not to bang the coffee table, to reach the mahogany wall-unit. Once there, he gazed with informed eyes upward to the summit of that great wooden monolith. His father hid a cigar-box up there, tucked away – just out of sight. He had no idea how he was going to get at it, but Robert had always been a resourceful child. Susanne opened the sink cupboard. Moving cleaning products to one side, she hunted for her Tupperware. She pulled two different sized tubs from the cramped space and waited for her son’s return. The dining chair was in place, rested against the side of the wall-unit. Robert climbed onto it, much in the same way as he did the monkey bars during playtime at schools. Reaching up he could just about feel the corner of his prize with his fingertips, enough to feel it was there but not enough to take hold of it. He sprang from the chair, unaware of his mother’s curious observance from the kitchen, and, once upon the ground, drew open the top drawer of the unit to help himself to a pen. With his new acquisition in hand, he again braved the chair. He


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stretched his arms above his head, swiping at the cigar box with a certain finesse and a degree of professionalism until he had managed to knock it a sufficient amount forward. He slid the box into view with his index finger until it stuck out far enough over the edge to touch. A content smile, lacking perhaps somewhat in modesty, grew across Robert’s face – he couldn’t lose. He bounded back into the kitchen with a jig, holding the cigar-box at arms length, and sporting a satisfied grin. Susanne laughed on the inside as she responded externally to her son’s find with satirized defeat. Although she had never intended her own options to win, she still showed them to Robert in order to keep up the pretence, pushing mock reasons for why they might be better suited. He scoffed and shook his head, he had clearly won. Susanne wanted it this way all along. Now he was in charge of the operation, offering him a sense of pride and control, it would be him who had beaten his fears in the end. “Okay,” she said finally, “you win.” Robert, never one to gloat, didn’t dawdle on his victory and instead returned immediately to the mission. “What about dad’s cigars?” he asked.


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Susanne hated it when Aled smoked cigars, even if it was just the one every now and then. “Bin,” she said, “but keep one.” Robert did as he was told, handing the final cigar to his mother after he had disposed of the rest. Susanne tore it apart, sprinkling the tobacco inside the box, explaining to Robert that this was for bait – smoking was a disgusting, very bad habit that bad things loved to do. She handed the repellents to Robert so he could add them as well. The box done, mother and son recited a short prayer of protection and closed the lid. “You take that upstairs and tuck it away somewhere safe,” Susanne prompted, “tell no one where it is and it’ll stay safe forever.” Robert promised he would do as his mother had said and they returned to the upper floor and the bedrooms for some much needed rest. On the landing, outside his room, Susanne kissed Robert’s head softly before ushering him into bed. “Tomorrow is Christmas’ eve,” she whispered, “try and get a good sleep, babes.” She waved as she moved away, slowly closing the door - sighed and made her way back to a snoring Aled. Stealthily sliding between the bed


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sheets, she placed her arm across her husband’s chest and snuggled in closer to him.


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5 *** “Bait.” *** “What am I going to do?” Rob asked in a whimpering voice, his eyes transfixed upon Glyn’s face with over disciplined focus.


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“Sort it out, drop the drugs, and perhaps prove to her you’re not a degenerate layabout, that you love her, maybe?” Glyn suggested with a vague sarcasm. How could Rob, threatened by his own existence, possibly do that? The time of year was drawing closer, that one season he hated, that he kept losing everything that mattered to him over and over again, year after year – it had already started. The cycle was a continuous one: he would build up his life throughout the larger part of the year only to meet betrayal and disappointment at an unrewarding finish. After last year, he had given up on the building phase and moved straight on to the expectance of utter disaster, preparing for it, but when Demy was born, he thought the cycle might change. Of course it wasn’t an entirely convinced thought, merely a hint of recognition for the fact that there was a chance. Her birth gave Rob a scope, an extended view on his life and a glance at a potential future, spanning the previously outranged lengths of time, all of which offered a glint of hope at the end of that tunnelled view into a distant, unknown yet possible dream that might one day become reality. All he had to do at that moment was hope, but hope was a grating delusion to Rob. It was a lie, a deceitful promise forged between the lips of


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an ineffectual god. He let the notion of that likelihood (the dream and reverie of a blissful new cyclic subsistence) slip away in the receding moments that followed that transient wish. The fate of his desert life lay at a different destination, happiness but a milestone to be reached, its location - a clandestine oasis seen only in an evanescent mirage. Angelique, his love and connection, came and went with the season. Each approach and scent of scenic new winter weather would dwindle their relationship to a hum, a motorized whir above the electricity of their usual passions. She would make all the subsidiary effort to hush the purr of his discontented heart that she could muster, each time again, and he would simply push her away. As he did so, not only would she leave, but he would close the door on her until he could no longer blame her for walking out (he had never thought badly of her for heading out the door, he envied her for it). After a usually short period of time the realisation would strike him that he had been a ‘twat’, and he would plead with her to return. As this cycle continued throughout the last four years, the passage of time that passed between her departure and return had become gradually longer. It was clear to Rob that


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eventually she might never come back to him. Were they already there? Had it been just the two of them then it might not have been such a bad thing in the sense that although he loved Angelique, he would have been prepared for an end, but now they had a child, a beautiful baby girl, he wasn’t prepared to allow that end to happen. Again another period is conceived in autumn’s womb. The antenatal curd of this season brings forth a sour milk in pallid post-October tones; carries a bitter aftertaste of acerbic, lactic vinegar behind an initial sweet flavour, teasing the tongue with promise. This mother’s nipple is fetid, and pumps a stale, curdled liquor. Rob’s silence and inner-reflection painted his more common exterior of a more manic, animated character than the dull and empty shell that sat slumped in his chair as a teary eyed clown trapped


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in a canvas backdrop of gloomy grey shades. This change in his countenance was all too visible to Glyn. “Chin up, butt,” he said, “time for a rethink.” Rob shook his head, disappointed in himself for being so pathetic. If he were to win Angelique back, as he’d promised himself he would, he’d have to be more assertive and committed to the cause. No wonder Angelique had disconnected the phone (and possibly herself), he had shown no reason or will to have her back, nothing to convince her of his love. The control she had over him, he had given her. That would change. He was about to make a decision that would alter their relationship forever. “Help me get out,” he said suddenly, his words twisted in their sound through a lull of consternation he forcefully tried to swallow, “it’s the only way.” “Good,” Glyn said through a grin, his arm reaching to the table and taking a valium in his hand, “when you’re sober, we’ll discuss it.” Rob’s heart pounded. He was going to do it, after so many years, he was actually going to do it! Glyn rose to his feet. “It’s not a circle, Rob, it’s a spiral,” he said as he placed the tablet in front of his friend. “Go on, get some rest.” Their eyes met for a second that seemed to last an hour, a reunion and conference of understanding.


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Time bears a heavy weight in evening tones that blur the vision and confuse the hues within that sight with distant views brought close through seeming suggestions of illumined allusions, of illusionary creeping sighs and strangling fatigue, yet in this pose I wait for another moment’s breath to take me deeper, take me further from sleep. The growth of dream within my delusion climbs the spine to a cerebral cloud, where upon it inseminates the mind with a vague tinge intent on smearing my sanity with slowing, debilitating fluid. These shutters drop, but for a moment, before a distant rumbling mumbles a discordant phrase. The shutters drop as slighted thoughts become immortal statuettes, cast in iron, then forgotten, and – nothingness seeps to fill the grey with graceful light and colour.


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Goodnight. Rob’s eyeballs, sprained from being over alert, twitched behind their lids as they jerked to avoid the ethereal phantoms of sleep. The blackout that usually preceded his dreams had been replaced by a momentary flash of pink light (gesturing to his retreat, then quickly dissolving) followed by a forward rushing darkness in which a tiny star was born. That illuminated grain grew within his mind’s obscurity until it had almost completely usurped his psyche and consumed him. It multiplied much as a virus reproduces, spreading throughout, and eventually it became a whirl of flurried twinkling lights coiling inward forever. He felt his body decrease as it seemed to fall away from him one piece at a time until he existed only as compiled thoughts and memories that swam through that newborn nebula inside his skull. Each light upon that spiralling ribbon of gas seemed to consist of a multitude of other smaller lights, constrained unnaturally in lesser spirals that twisted inward again upon themselves into eternity. Rob was by now no more than the energy that held his matter together as he landed upon a luminous atoll, a shore


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in that interminable anthracite sea. Looking through the bright sheen of his newfound radiating terrain, wondering exactly where in the cosmos he was, he could see a spectral imprint of forgotten play through the eyes of an infant. His voice sounded all around him, “run away, run away.” A scream as he was caught - tickled upon the ground - screams of laughter. Slowly the star paled, its brightness washing out with the rush of darkness returning to replace it with the more familiar blackout. Rob opened his eyes and exhaled a thick condensation into the air around him. The cloud, having escaped his body, morphed into the slight features of a woman. At first he didn’t recognise the face, but his eyes, disbelieving the sight, identified his mother. He reached out with longing for the departed touch of her skin, her lips against his forehead before sleep. “Mam,” he whimpered, “no sweetness in this dreaming…” As her spectral imprint shifts – it folds as ghostly mist that drifts as a dream of ivory in that image, and words become white noise wrapped in a blackened robe, concealing her forgotten form with dark.


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Fingers stretch to touch but miss her subtle gentleness; arms embrace a shade of nightly hue with tenderness. She is a reduction of herself condensed in scents of midnight hours and whispering memories of her in spectral imprints of shifting folds and ghostly mist. She is tepid light within the dark reflected; a fading thought breathed out upon a windowpane as her spectral imprint shifts as folds of ghostly mist. *** A knock at the window. Rob sat, unmoving for a moment, still slouched in his armchair, before rising to his feet to clean up his mess. He used his right hand to slide the pills together and with his left holding the magic box at the end of the table, he pushed them over the edge. He placed the box in the kitchen drawer. Lethargically he walked to the door, hoping to


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answer it to Damien and some new gear, but was disappointed to see Pauline. Rob blatantly rolled his eyes, intending for the self-superior bitch see his obvious contempt. “Hiya, Rob,” Pauline said in her usual patronising voice, “how have we been?” “Fine,” he answered, “I’m busy.” “Not too busy for a cup of tea and a chat, I hope,” she said grinning moronically. “No,” Rob replied, gesturing for her to come in. They took their place in the living room, Rob, of course in his armchair and Pauline on the settee. Pauline began the conversation with the customary bullshit and questions about what had been going on lately in his life, all of which Rob answered with lies. He hated Pauline’s visits. He understood their reason and purpose, but if they’d leave him alone, they wouldn’t have to worry. He just couldn’t grasp the logic of a visit from a mental health community care worker when he’d nothing wrong with him, or, at least, nothing perceivably wrong with him at first glance. A fear of the outside didn’t exactly make him nuts, nor did his mood swings, but as usual, false concern was endemic in his father’s personality. It was Rob’s dad who had originally brought the doctors in, claiming that he wanted Rob


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better one day. That day hadn’t come in fifteen years and Rob couldn’t see it in the near future either. The so-called help and support were, to him, simply a nuisance. The ‘chat’ took a turn when Pauline began her question about how Rob was getting on with the baby and how he felt now that he was a dad. Rob smiled in a defeated manner, adding in words that it was great, all apart from the lack of sleep. Pauline pushed another line of questioning. “Are you sure there’s nothing you want to tell me?” she asked. “Like what?” Rob said, his tone filled with suspicion. “I know, Rob, Angelique phoned me last night.” Rob bit his bottom lip with annoyance. Why did she have to get that bitch involved? He would have been fine on his own for a bit. It wasn’t as if he’d do anything stupid, and anyway, she would come back in the end, she always did. Rob proclaimed his emotional state as fine, declaring there to be nothing wrong and that the whole situation shouldn’t be misconstrued as anything more than a simple tiff. Pauline continued, another interrogation, “and your meds?”


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“Yes,” Rob said, dropping his annoyance (he had to stay calm if he was to avoid interference), “I’m still taking them, that’s still okay.” Pauline closed her notebook. She stood and smiled a farewell to Rob and they walked together to the door. As she crossed the threshold, she said, “you know where we are if you need us. Just pick up the phone and dial.” “I will,” he promised in bogus compliance. Before Pauline had even begun to depart, Rob shut the door and revisited the main room briefly before wandering to the kitchen to retrieve his magic box. He counted out three valiums and two lithiums. He took them all, as usual without water, and returned to his armchair.


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6 *** “Just a peek inside.� *** Susanne opened her eyes and smiled that morning had come without further incident. Aled had already


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left for work, but she didn’t mind. Although it was Monday, it was also Christmas’ Eve, Aled’s last day of work until the following year. She had it all planned out, the presents, the food, everything. This was going to be the best Christmas ever. She even had a secret to tell. She got out of bed and left the room to wake Robert, who was, to her discovery, not in his room. “Robert, babes,” she called as she descended the staircase, “where are you?” No reply. She passed through the hall into the living room where she found her son quietly watching the telly. “Good morning, mam,” he said. “Why didn’t you answer, babes,” Susanne asked. Robert answered with a single word, “cartoons.” Susanne smiled a second time, everything was back to normal, she hoped. She decided to ask Robert if the bad things had come after the box was made, just to make sure. She went into the kitchen to prepare a breakfast for the two of them – eggs and bacon, perhaps some beans. As she cooked, a thought popped into her head. Robert must have slept well, maybe she should just forget about the entire incident. He would tell her if anything was still wrong. She served the food on the table and


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Robert joined her to eat it. They discussed his morning and had a little giggle at Robert’s jokes. He was being cheeky, not in a malicious way, but in a good, happy way, which was a welcome change to his anxious behaviour from the last few days. “Where’s dad, mam?” Robert asked. “Working,” Susanne replied, “but he’ll be back soon.” “It’s Christmas though,” he said with a slight sulk, “nobody works on Christmas.” Susanne sighed. “I know,” she said, “but it’s his last day until after New Year.” “What is bacon made of?” Robert asked, changing the subject suddenly. “It’s meat, love.” “What is meat made of?” Susanne grinned. “Pigs and other animals,” she answered, but wished she hadn’t when she saw the change in Robert’s face. “Don’t worry though, they’re happy to be eaten.” “I don’t think so,” he said in a brash, disbelieving tone, “they’d miss their mams and dads. Nobody wants to get eaten up.” Susanne was apprehensive that this might spark new worries for the boy. She thought hard, searching for an explanation, but she couldn’t find


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one. “What do you hope Father Christmas brings you,” she said, altering the course of discussion. Robert chewed the inside of his lip. “A bike, a fire engine…” he said, his list continuing. Susanne nodded as she listened to her son’s catalogue of Christmas wishes. All she wanted for Christmas was some time with both her men, Robert and Aled, but there was a chance that might not happen. Aled was always stressed at this time of year. Maybe it was his job, or, perhaps it was his childhood. He had a very poor upbringing and his parents could never afford to give him much. That’s why he was such a workhorse. He wanted Robert to have everything he didn’t have as a boy, but by doing so, he was depriving him of a father. Maybe not completely, but she saw how their son looked at him, how much he idolised him. She thought it a shame that Aled never saw that, and probably never would. He wouldn’t realise until it was too late how much he was missing out on. She had told him on several occasions, but Aled was headstrong and stubborn, as was Robert for that matter. Robert didn’t try so hard lately as he had in the past to get close to his father, maybe he had become conscious that his father was just too busy for time with him,


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or maybe he thought he simply couldn’t be bothered. “You do know your father loves you, don’t you?” Susanne said in a soft tone. “Sometimes,” Robert answered, “but other times, I think he’s angry at me.” A crack shot across Susanne’s heart as if it had been hit by a pebble. “He’s not angry with you,” she said, “he’s just tired most days.” Robert smiled half-heartedly, putting down his knife and fork – he had finished eating. “May I be excused,” he asked politely. “Yes, you may,” his mother responded, equally polite. Robert returned to his cartoons and Susanne cleared the table. *** As Aled came through the door, he could hear his family laughing from the living room, Robert in fits. He swiftly shut the door and rushed to participate in the fun. Both his wife and son were on the floor, Robert trying to escape his mother’s tickling hands. Aled slung his coat to one side and joined in, unaware that it was an ambush. Susanne turned on


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him, fingers on his ribs, and Robert leapt around his neck. Within moments they had dominated him, pulled him down and were frantically attacking his sides and knees with their hands. They slumped together in an embrace, laughing and giggling. Aled hadn’t had fun like this in a while. It was great to be home. “I love you daddy,” Robert said through a chuckle. The ten minutes of amusement, although Robert and his mother were still smiling, ended as Aled rose to his feet. “When’s tea, love?” he asked. “It’s ready now,” she said, her smile slowly turning upside-down. He could be so tactless at times. Here they were, having the first bit of fun in what seemed like years, finally some kind of bonding with Robert, an honest exclamation of their son’s feelings and all he could think about was his food. “We’ve had ours, yours is in the micro wave.” Aled proceeded to the kitchen to warm up his dinner. He didn’t mean to be insensitive, but Susanne’s eyes still followed him, burning a hole into the back of his head. He could feel her glare, but thought it best not to say anything. He didn’t want an argument on Christmas’ Eve. Instead of retaliating, he promptly placed his food in the


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microwave and waited for the ‘ping’. He reemerged from the kitchen, carrying his plate to the dining table. Robert watched him from the settee with a wide-eyed gaze, a gaze full of respect and admiration. “Don’t look at me like that, I’m eating,” Aled called back in response to his son’s eyes. Susanne felt disgusted with her husband. There were times that she could wring his neck - times like this when he was oblivious to his own son’s affections. Aled couldn’t help the way he was. He was an only child, quite spoilt by his mother, but his father was old-fashioned and never one to show him any emotion. Perhaps Aled had inherited that. Susanne had explained to him many times that he could, at times, be a little cold toward Robert, but he always shrugged it off, saying ‘he’ll be better for it when he’s older’ or ‘you don’t want a poof, do you?’, but Susanne didn’t care how their son turned out, as long as he was a good person who’d had the best his parents could offer, that was all that mattered. “Come on,” Aled said to Robert, finishing up his meal, “get yourself ready for bed, boy.” Robert did as he was told. He took his mother’s hand and started for the hall. “You’re old enough now to go alone,” Aled said in a strict tone.


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“I’ll do the mince pie this time, babes,” Susanne said softly, “you just go up.” Again, Robert did as he was told, letting go of his mother’s hand. He walked out of the room and in the silence he left behind, his mother and father could hear him on the stairs. “What was all that about?” Susanne asked sternly. “He’s just a boy, damn it.” “He’s got to learn to be a man sooner or later,” Aled replied. “He’s only five!” Their raised voices could plainly be heard upstairs as Robert pulled his bedcovers over his head. He hated it when his mam and dad were like this. He couldn’t comprehend what had happened. One minute they were laughing, the next they were shouting. He closed his eyes tight, hoping to dream of the next morning and the promise of Christmas. “Sometimes you’re such a bastard!” Susanne cursed. Aled took his plate to the sink without further comment, ignoring his wife’s loaded and angry words. It never occurred to him that he was in the wrong. It was, according to Aled, the only way to harden him up. The boy was too attached to his mother. If she wanted him to be a strong, healthy


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young man, the way a boy should be, then she would have to realise that Aled’s way was right. The way Robert was going, he’d be a cry baby, and that was not acceptable. Aled didn’t want a soppy, wet kid for a son, he wanted a real boy who played football, rode bikes and climbed trees, and who didn’t blubber for his mammy every time he grazed a knee. “We’d better get started on the presents soon,” he said. Silence. Aled understood that his wife would not speak to him again that evening until an apology had passed his lips. Aled and Susanne retrieved the Christmas sack from the cupboard under the stairs together. They had used the same one for the last four years. It had become the customary vessel for Santa to leave Robert’s presents in. Robert hadn’t noticed the similarity of the sacks each year, most probably because Father Christmas’ magic had such a strong and potent meaning to children. They filled the sack with the presents they had bought, still not talking. They crept up the stairs, quieter than they had been earlier that evening. Slowly opening Robert’s door, Aled put his finger to his lips. They stealthily


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snuck through the shadows to the foot of their son’s bed. Susanne filled Robert’s stocking with expert furtiveness. They left the room as silently as they had entered and headed to their own room. Before entry, Aled kissed Susanne’s lips, his short and wordless sorry. She acknowledged his apology with an equally short and wordless acceptance. They snuggled up in bed and chatted for a moment about the day to come before swiftly falling asleep.


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7 *** “The hinges snapped!” *** Robert wearily opened his eyes…


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His pupils struggled to focus, the lines within his vision seen as if through water. He exhaled, a slow, easy breath, filled with complacency. He rubbed his eyes and all became clear again. He straightened his back, stretching until he heard a crack, and then relaxed once more. A slight dizziness struck his head as he attempted to stand. His legs became unbalanced and he fell sideways to the ground with a dull thud. Raising his head with somnolence, he saw a set of feet a few inches from his face. He turned his sight upward and saw Glyn towering above him. “I knew it,” Glyn said, “you’ll sabotage yourself any chance you get.” Rob stuttered his retort. “What?” Glyn knelt down, and spoke in a low undertone of his usually friendly voice. “You are a selfish, useless excuse, Rob. You have the chance to get somewhere with a little effort, but you’d rather fuck yourself over every time. You make a promise, a promise essential to your cause, you want it, you need it, you know you’ve got to go for it, and then you fucking blow it like a hopeless tool. Don’t be a waste of space there, butt. Get up off the bastard floor and start acting! No wonder it’s all gone arse over tit for you time and time again. You create your situation with your own ineffectuality. You


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blame higher might and powers unknown for your own fucking haplessness. You’re a strange breed, Rob, a faulty prototype – one of a variety that should be extinct, one of God’s many wrong turns upon the path of humanity’s social evolution. You’re a joke. Look at yourself…you were meant to be sober. We were going to get to terms with this whole damn mess and sort it out, but instead you go and fuck it up, fuck yourself up. Do you know what freedom is, Rob?” “To be your own person?” Rob said, his voice slightly quivering at his friend’s fast developing angry tone. Glyn slapped him across the forehead. “Not what it means, what it is. The only way to have real freedom is if you’ve nothing to lose. You have fuck all, butt, but you’re living in fear, you need to get over it. What you fear isn’t outside, it’s inside of you. Nothing to lose, butt, think about it. You should be freer than a fucking naked bird, but instead you lock yourself away in a fucking prison cell of your own devise, too afraid to walk out even though there are no bars. You’re a contradiction in terms, Rob, you’re a bloody oxymoron. Now get up!”


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He grabbed Rob by the scruff and dragged him to his feet. “Cheers, Glyn,” Rob said sarcastically with a double tongue, “you’re a mate.” Glyn’s tone changed again, less aggressive this time. “I’m not always going to be there to help you pick up the pieces. Sometimes you have to fix your own shit. You’ve had the time to sort this out, all of it. Stop wasting it.” Rob wiped his brow. “I don’t know how to do it,” he said. “Coffee, and lots of it. Get sober, Rob, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Myself in affirmation gave truth in aberration before my abdication, sanctioned on deceitful vocation. To think that I once believed my silver words that deceived, and forced me willing to receive evil sponsors without reprieve.


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Now I live that squalid lie; that product of your decry within this eternal plight of life forged, hand-made by my devise. Glyn left as stealthily as he always did (he entered much in the same way) and Rob was, once again, alone. He left the living room, headed for the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, a strong cup, but before he’d crossed through the door, he heard the window. He turned on his heels and went to answer without hesitation. Surprise by who his eyes welcomed, Rob stammered his words, “Hello, Angelique.” *** Damien was bored. He’d been masturbating in front of the TV for hours. He had taken so much speed he couldn’t ejaculate. That was the one thing he hated about the drug. He wondered if Rob would need some more gear.


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*** The glorious winter flare of sun, missed by Rob, that had illuminated the day died in a film-set backdrop behind Angelique as she entered the house, her eyes scanning the scene, detecting Rob’s now external inadequacy splashed onto everything. She’d only been gone two days – he truly was a loser. “I’m not here to make up,” she said before Rob could interject, “you’ve had your chances.” “What about Demy?” Rob quizzed. “She needs a father.” “A father like you? I think not! We’re not coming back, Rob, accept it and get on with your self-pitying bullshit.” “I love you, babe…” He was cut off. “You don’t love me, you just need someone to stop you from being lonely.” Rob’s face dropped, this couldn’t be it. Demy was his chance at happiness, without her he was lost. Although he hadn’t previously been confident of that, the notion of a future with her, with them, had become his motivational drive (perhaps motivation is not quite the appropriate word as it hadn’t actually yet motivated him to do anything). “And now?” he asked solemnly.


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“Now we do our thing, me at my mams, you rotting away here forever.” she said with a cruelty that Rob was unaccustomed to hear from her. “This is no more a surprise than tomorrow being Christmas’ Eve.” She left, he couldn’t stop her. He wanted to. He wanted to grab her and shake the truth about his feelings into her, but he couldn’t. Something about not wanting to be lonely had struck his heart full force. He watched as she made her way up the street and then slammed the door when she disappeared from his field of vision. He cursed loudly as he reentered the living room, kicking his armchair. He felt the embers of the inner-bonfire glow with hatred and resentment, but took several short breaths to extinguish their light. He shook his head, where was Damien with some fresh gear? The sunlit day has perished with moonlit moments cherished in my nihilistic churlish wishes submitted and premised. And my memory daunting,


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serves a proposed pink autumn of malcontent; of haunting, taunting fears, testament to flaunting, loathsome, bygone reflection refracted in deflection; in sinuous, curved flexion; rationed fare of my interjection. *** Damien knocked his usual, casual tune against the window and waited for Rob to answer. “Alright, butt,” Rob greeted through the letterbox. “What’s up, Rob?” Damien asked bewildered, “You locked in?” Rob answered with a swift ‘no’, and continued to explain that he simply didn’t want company. “But I’ve got the ‘madman’ with me,” Damien pleaded.


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“Pass it us, you’ll get your money tomorrow,” Rob insisted. Damien complied half-heartedly, poking the bag through the letterbox with an over obvious attitude whilst tusking with discontent. He couldn’t understand Rob at times which was just as well, he supposed, as their friendship should be seen more as dogfight training than horse riding. After Rob had secured his prize, he returned to his armchair, leaving Damien by the door. His heart ached with harsh pangs carving a hollow inside it. He felt his eyes become moist, wells in which tears matured. He hastily prepared a shot to numb the stirring sentiment in his core. Rob had injected his drugs for several years before Demy was born. He had forgotten how he’d started. Perhaps he was introduced to it somehow by someone he failed to remember. That was how Rob’s life was before Demy. It was a void of forgotten moments, days and years lost in time forever. Many people who had seen him inject intramuscularly had commented on it as being unusual, but, for Rob, it was what made him stand out from the junkies: junkies put it in their vein, he used his bicep as a host for the illicit demon. He looked at the murky, sperm-like substance in the syringe, sighed and injected the


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liquid clouds of amphetamine without further thought, other than a false sense of hope that his feelings would diminish. The disheartened heartache breaks the quaking hand – and takes all traces of greatness inside the strident trident of hidden, forbidden deities once ambiguous now contiguous in their unearthly posts verbose; sweat with violet blood of violent intricacy. In ethereal bacterial contagion deep within the forsaken, mistaken binds and minds of men, awake lay snakes of pain through the unnamed vanities of game and impure, unsure sport; the ports of docking, mocking laughter thereafter – and silence prevails a testimonial exhale, a sigh for the hands that quake;


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a tear for the minds awake: my amendment to impudent impuissance. Rob sat in silence as a klaxon, sounding purely inside his head, signalled the rush. He leapt to his feet, now greatly motivated to take action, and began a clean-up operation of his living room. He would start with the phone. After a while, Rob prepared his second shot. Just as he began to ready his bicep, he heard a banging, not a knock at the window, but a thud on the door. Had they returned?


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8 *** “Stick it down, it’s safer like that.” *** Robert ran into his parent’s bedroom with his favourite Christmas carol, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, on his lips. He sprang onto the bed,


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stocking in hand, calling for both his mother and father to come down stairs to see what Father Christmas had brought for them. “Give us five, boy,” Aled said straining to prise open his sleep encrusted eye lids. “Come on, Robert,” Susanne chuckled, sitting up, “we’ll go ahead and daddy can catch up later.” She took her son by the hand and led him down the stairs to the living room. There, Robert’s eyes lit up and his pupils grew with the sight they beheld – a sack on the settee, his name on the label. He squeezed his mother’s hand tighter with excitement. “Go on,” she said, “merry Christmas!” “Merry Christmas, mam,” Robert shouted as he sprang forth in attack, tipping the contents of the sack onto the couch. Susanne looked on with a beaming grin. Christmas was such a special time of year, despite her husband’s stress and unintentional insensitivity. No matter what, she was going to make this a season to remember. She left Robert to unwrap his presents while she pre-heated the oven, all the while listening out for the ‘ooh’ and ‘just what I always wanted’ coming from the living room. Aled descended the staircase, scratching his head. “Cool head, Rob,” he said as he entered the


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main room, eyeing the clock (seven AM), “save some of that excitement for when people have woken up properly.” Robert nodded in acknowledgement, and took his time with the remainder of his presents. He took the largest of the pile, wrapped in shiny blue paper, in his hands and ripped the outer layer away with expertise – a fire engine. He shook slightly with happiness and ran from the settee to the kitchen to show his mother. “Look, mam,” he yelled with enthusiasm, “a fir engine.” “Wow,” Susanne said with surprise, “look Aled, exactly what our boy asked Santa for, isn’t that a wonder.” Aled grunted, unwilling to play along at such an unchristian hour. He’d make a fuss of his son and the whole happy Christmas thing after a coffee. Susanne, however, was not too pleased with her husband’s attitude, but decided to keep it under her hat for the time being. There was no sense in causing arguments at Christmas. Robert had finished unwrapping his gifts and had already started to remove them from their packaging to play. “Take them upstairs for that,” Aled ordered, “make a little room down here.”


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Susanne overheard this command. Her eyes spun in her head with frustration at her husband. What was his problem? Again, she kept quiet, but did emerge momentarily from the kitchen to speak to her son. “Have a little play if you like, babes, then come and help me if you like,” she said. Robert gathered what toys he could together and made his way to his bedroom in an elated rush. Aled watched him leave and moved hastily to the kitchen to squeeze his wife’s buttocks. She pulled away. “No time for that,” she said, “I’ve got to get this done.” Aled complained about the rejection through an annoyed sigh and moved away to instead made a cup of coffee. “Why don’t you go play with Robert after your coffee, love?” she suggested. “I suppose I could,” he said, “might help him to grow up a little.” Susanne spun round to glare, with eyes full of fire, at her husband. She couldn’t believe his stupidity at times. She even wondered at that moment if she could still say that she loved him. He shrugged. “What?” He wasn’t being nasty. He just thought Robert’s games were, on occasion, perhaps a little babyish. If he were to play along with them, he’d try to


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introduce some real-boy-themes, like a little violence here and there. She turned back to preparing the lunch without mention of her thoughts. She would, for now, attempt to keep the peace. Aled drunk his coffee in the manner that he always did, fast, and left his wife to the cooking. He perched himself in the armchair in front of the telly and flicked through the channels. *** Susanne placed the turkey on the table, ready for Aled to carve, and dished up the vegetables and potatoes. Robert looked at his mother with approval. He really did love a big dinner. Aled served the turkey, three slices for himself, two for Susanne and one for Robert. They ate as usual during discussion, mainly listening to Robert’s chat. ‘He’s always got something to say about everything,’ Susanne thought. It was true, Robert was a chatterbox and made an attempt to be informed about almost anything that popped into his head. After lunch, Robert returned to his room to continue playing with his new toys. During his


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game, he stopped for a second to make sure his box was still safe. He lifted his pillow and retrieved the box from under it and peeked inside to see if he’d caught any bad things, noticing that the hinges had snapped. He gulped. Could the bad things have escaped? He screamed for his mother with a shrill, high-pitched cry and Susanne came bursting into the room not long after hearing it. “What’s up, babes,” she through her panic. “They’ve got out!” he exclaimed, “the bad things are free!” He showed the box to his mother. Tears streamed from his eyes as she took it off him to examine the damage. She saw the problem instantly and thought of an immediate solution. She took the roll of sticky tape from inside and peeled off a strip which she then plastered onto the outer side where the broken hinges where. She did the same to the inside. “That’ll hold it until we get you a new one,” she said. “What about the ones that got away,” Robert asked. “You’ll just have to catch them again.” She returned downstairs to her husband. “What was all that about,” Aled inquired, an unsympathetic expression on his face.


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“Nothing,” she said, “he was just a little frightened by something.” “That boy,” Aled stated, “needs a good shake up, he’s too much of a baby.” Susanne’s fantasy ran away with her as she imagined herself punching her husband in the face. Sometimes it was him that needed the shake up. Maybe she wouldn’t tell him her secret.


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9 *** “They’re still there, everywhere.” *** Rob tried to ignore the bangs, but they were getting louder, harsher. He moved with an intimidated pace


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to the front door and once there, he peered through the spy-hole. The young lads from a few days ago were visible in a distorted fishbowl view of the world. They were kicking and thumping against the door. “Crazy fuck,” one of them shouted. “Come out and play!” When Rob was younger it was the bad things he was afraid of, but now he was older, old enough to understand properly, he new what the bad things were. They were bad people and they were everywhere. The world outside his house was overrun with evil men and women. Even his friends, Damien and Jarrod were soiled with their wickedness. The only person he could trust, who was not like them, was Angelique, his angel. “What you up to, weirdo,” a different voice, but equally as frightening to Rob, said, “Freak.” Rob cowered in the corner at the end of the entry hall a few feet from the door. He sobbed silently, wishing that his antagonists would leave him alone. They continued to bait him from the outside as he closed his eyes and imagined the box he and his mother made. There was no need any longer for the bad things to enter the box. He had learnt that a long time ago. It was meant for him. He would be safe inside, surrounded by what the bad things/people


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hated the most. He was safe in his box. It fell silent outside. They had obviously gone to rile some other poor weak person, perhaps an old age pensioner. To make sure, he once again neared the spy-hole and peeked out at the iniquitous, harsh landscape that was the malicious surround – no one to be seen. Rob turned around to return to the living room and jumped at the sight of an old friend. Glyn was stood by the door to the inner-sanctum. “You ready, butt,” he said, smiling at Rob’s startled expression. “How do you do that?” Rob queried. Glyn grinned smugly. “It would seriously fuck you up to know.” Rob joined him in the living room. A slight tremor quaked his body, his mind still anxious of the boys possibly returning. He sat himself in his armchair and prepared another hit. “This,” Glyn said, disapprovingly pointing to the syringe, “isn’t sober.” “No,” Rob confirmed, “it isn’t, it’s counter effecting.” Glyn raised an eyebrow. “Counter effecting,” he repeated. “Valium for the speed, speed for the valium,” Rob explained.


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His method may have worked in theory, but, in practice, it was an entirely different situation in which his brain swam upon a sea of neurotoxins and chemicals. He was, as Glyn would put it, fucked. “Does it work?” Glyn asked, genuinely interested. “No,” was the single word answer. Glyn laughed. ”Do you still want this?” he asked, pointing at the needle on the table, after a short pause. Rob nodded. In his mind, those few millilitres of water mixed with phet could turn his day around and possibly give him the strength and motivation (that word again) to push himself through the front door. Of course, it was a lie. As always Rob had to lie to himself, he needed to justify his abuse of the needle. He took the syringe in his hand and injected. Glyn watched with condemnation. “You’re running away again,” he said. Forty seconds of silence… <klaxon> …forward rushing air, carousel of sight and sound. A radiant rainbow, explosion of colour


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as this sodden ground bursts into life, an equinox of reanimation, plucked by soft, smooth hands, cupped with a palmed embrace. The multihued spectrum of vivacity, enrooted and enrapturing human soul, nurtures a thoughtful silence for the passing of this moment, an instant of celebration. The monochrome, dull season ends with a bloom of natural dye, tinting a seemingly endless pallor with a hinting suggestion of new verve. Rob contemplated the outside world and all of its shortcomings. He reminded himself of the twisted, mocking laughter from a passing car, driving too fast to notice him, screeching to a sudden halt, its sound like razor blades cutting into his mind. His vision turned black and white with the silver glow seen in old movie reels. He could see through that lustre, however, and a light, pink and twirling became clear. It grew until it was visible enough to study. It was not one light but many in a tightly coiled spiral. He felt his body fall away, the second time heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d had this sensation.


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“Rob,” Glyn whispered, “the spiral.” Rob could see it in a much clearer fashion than before. He could see a reflection of a moment from his life in the dewy casing of each light. His pupils grew larger as he tried to take in the glory of what this was before him – not one spiral but countless, all connected by a single light they each shared with another. The vision reminded Rob of a spirograph drawing. It was incredible, his life in front of his eyes in a massive model, he lived it all in a second …and with a second, it was gone. Streams of colour in my head


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bouquet of wrought words unsaid; the wilting decay is grey bled, dreaded change to venom inbred. Rays illuminate the lead as liquid silk runs ahead in dreams and nightmares of red blood's deadly manure of deeds upset. Graciousness is overfed in a grandeur of misled virgins deflowered, skin shedding, spreading the mentally green bread. Glyn smiled with his sense of satisfaction visible upon his lips. “Now you know,” he said. “That was beautiful, amazing,” Robert added, “what was it?” “Life, an omni-directional system, Rob,” Glyn explicated, “once outside of it, you can go anywhere.”


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“Outside?” Rob quizzed, his voice slightly trembling. Glyn nodded, a slow nod indicating the truth, but taking good care to be observant of Rob’s angst. Rob closed his eyes, he was strangely tired… Glyn spoke a velvety lullaby and faded slowly to black. The hum metrically moves in musical motion, a mumble hum, bumbling ineptly. Momentary hush, somnolent silence as drowsily the eye twitches in discord with swishing vision to sound. And numbly, the frozen clang of crisp retort, resumes echoed in pangs, evanescent strands… filaments of voices lessen in undertones of speech as mouthed words, muttering,


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repeat -‘Sleep soft’*** Dawn light crept through the crack in the curtain, sneaking across the room until it caught Rob’s closed eyelids in a net of illumination and a whisper of morning broke his hushed, dreamless sleep as he shook of his slumber. He felt renewed. He had seen something, something exquisite outside of his house, outside of his existence, yet at the same time containing it. He had been outside the box. His lungs were filled with a new air, a breath that could carry the stone within his heart and throw it over the highest wall. Now he had a purpose. There was no vicious cycle of disruption, bent on destroying him. There was only an eternal twisting model of light encased in dew, a spiral of existence. His self-appointed mission would be to create a new


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spiral â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a spiral of creation. From a single point he would move in ever larger circles forward until he had mastered his own fear. Only then could he leave the box.


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10 *** â&#x20AC;&#x153;Step inside the safety of yourself.â&#x20AC;? ***


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Aled kissed his wife in the hallway. “Try not to be too long,” he said before heading into the living room. “I won’t be.” Susanne zipped up her mock-fur coat that Robert had named ‘the bear suit’. “Are you ready, babes,” she called up the stairs to him. Robert came running down, shoes and woollen hat in hand. He quickly pulled his toque over his head and hastened to tie his laces. Susanne examined his makeshift knots – they would do for now. She thought to remind herself to show him more closely how to do it later. “What’re we doing then, mam?” Robert asked with immense enthusiasm. “Just to the corner shop and back,” his mother replied. “Maybe I’ll race you there.” She opened the door and stepped out into the crisp winter chill. Robert followed, tugging his gloves over his hands. It was bitter cold and the wind blew straight through him with a serrated edged blade. He shivered as they made their way to the shop. “Why do they not have Christmas at the shop, mam?” Robert asked as he grasped his mother’s hand. “They’re Muslims,” she answered.


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“Muzzlin? What’s that? Is it ‘cause they have different skin?” Susanne giggled to herself. “No,” she answered, “You can also have Muslims with our colour skin.” Robert screwed his face up. He was perplexed. Why were they Muzzlins? What did a Muzzlin do? “If a Muzzlin doesn’t have Christmas,” he supposed, “what do they have?” Susanne knelt down in front of her boy, wrapped her arms around him and kissed his head. Her mouth opened to speak, but the blare of music and feral, guttural roar of a nearing car made her words inaudible. Robert’s eyes peered away from his mother’s face, just over her shoulder where he spotted the source of the noise. He knew almost immediately, even with his child’s mind and dreaming ways – he knew what was going to happen. It came closer as Susanne turned her head to look at what had drawn the colour so quickly from her son’s face. Her surprise at the sudden close proximity of the vehicle startled her and her embrace slackened. Robert ran, fear his sole motivation. He ran to the front door. As his foot touched the threshold he looked back to call his mam, but an ear-piecing screech of tires had already


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spoken. Robert’s mouth quivered, the only part of him that was able to move. *** Robert sat on the bed, photographs of his mother’s smile in his head. He could feel her phantom hands on his shoulders, a comfort after his father had explained where she was. In the hospital, he had been told. Robert said nothing, and hadn’t for several hours since the accident. He was mentally frozen to the frame of the front door, fused with it almost. Robert’s aunt Vicky stayed with him while his father sat by his mother’s side. “Shock,” doc Jones said, “it’ll pass in a few days, but then the trauma will set in.” “What can they expect?” Vicky asked. “I couldn’t say,” the doctor replied, “never can with cases like these. He could make a full, speedy recovery when his mother comes home, if his mother comes home. Or…” “Best not to think about it,” Vicky finished as she left the room to show the doctor out. ***


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Aled wept, holding Susanne’s hand tighter than he ever had before. He cursed the boys who were driving that car. They were bastards in his eyes. They were subhuman shits. How could anyone so callously be joyriding at Christmas? There really was no decency anymore. The bleeps and pings from the machines had an almost musical quality about them as their symphony gradually accelerated with Susanne’s fading health. Aled sobbed, grasping his wife’s hand tighter. He loved her. He needed her in his life. They had always been together. He realised at that moment that he might have taken her for granted, that he should have been more attentive, that he should have spent that time with her she was always asking him for. *** Vicky knocked on the door to Robert’s room and entered after a short wait with a tray of soup. She placed it in front of Robert and messed his hair. “Eat something, love,” she pleaded.


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She was worried as she hadn’t heard from Aled for some time and although her sister was a fighter, she understood that some battles couldn’t be won. Robert turned his eyes to his aunt. They were moist, and his pupils were like dark, infinite holes. He began to shudder, first his shoulders and then his body as his mind came loose from the front door and he found himself in his room. His head jerked back and forth as he threw himself into his auntie’s arms. “I want my mammy,” he cried. Vicky couldn’t stand his pain any longer and broke down, weeping as hard, if not harder, than the boy. She held him close to her breast, doing her best to console her sorrowful nephew. “I want my mammy,” he cried again. Float away in seas of missing words as waves of angered seconds crash and die, converted to undertones of dead thought resting on sandy shores of false inner-peace, crushed by the dreaded shock of what conspired once upon a Tuesday afternoon. The day hangs like the thickest cock-crow mist, an eternal lurking presence of her, a streetlight illuminated shadow


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once upon a Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday, forever Tuesday afternoon. Vicky loosened her hold. “We’ve got to be strong for mammy,” she said, “just you wait. She’ll be home soon, good as new.” Robert smiled half-heartedly. Although he was young, he was not too little to understand the possible extent of his mother’s injuries. ‘We all die, mam’ – A statement of his own, forcefully penetrating his mind with a new gravity, its meaning now a harsh potential reality. ‘Didn’t you know?’ – He could have struck himself down at that moment. The night by night whispers of the bad things were right, his mother would die…and it was his fault. He began to believe that he had in some way, accidentally wished this upon his mother with his foolish ways, plus he remembered that the box had broken – had the bad things that had escaped done this. Of course they had, they could do anything and they were everywhere. They had made his fears an actuality. He should never have told anyone. He stopped crying and put on a strong face. He had an idea that would stop the bad things from


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ever getting to him again. What he needed was a box, bigger than the one he had under his pillow and large enough for him to safely and securely stay inside. “I know,” he said, the dark, bottomless pits of his eyes regaining some form of solidity and even perhaps a twinkle, “she’ll be okay.” Vicky smiled as best she could. She felt better in her self in her belief that she had, maybe, in some small way, managed to comfort her young nephew. She left the room, looking back with saddened eyes before exiting through door. She descended the staircase, her hands shaking. Why hadn’t Aled phoned? Robert thought hard about his aunt’s words. If he believed it enough, then it could become true. His mother would be fine. They would be together again soon, perhaps tomorrow. *** A flat drone reverberated from the machine next to Susanne. A sound with such an attributed deathly tone couldn’t mean anything good. Within seconds the previously empty room, except for Aled and Susanne, was full of nurses and doctors attempting


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to control the situation. They pushed Aled aside, verbally sending him out, but he froze to the spot, his legs like solid lumps of lead. Aled’s swamped mind could make out only one sentence amongst the oceanic crash of sound around him. “She’s arresting!” *** Robert felt his mother’s hands slip away from his shoulders as tears formed like lilies on a pond in his eyes. He sniffed, choking on his breaths, and ran to the wardrobe. Images of the car, his mother’s bear suit spattered with reddish-black oil and the sound of a devilish screech of metal, cruel, cold metal, breached the walls of his sanity as he climbed inside. All fell silent in the perpetual absence of light behind the wooden doors. He was safe in the dark, a confusing concept as he’d always believed the dark to be the place where all bad things came from, but now he was protected by it. Maybe it had been the light that was evil all along. The phone rang with a shrill resonance that cut through Vicky’s anticipation. She lifted the receiver. “Aled,” she said, “what’s happening?”


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A sob at the other end. Robert’s mother would not be coming home. *** Robert passed the time by forcing out his playful thoughts. There were more serious issues at hand, like how to protect his mam and himself from the bad things that lurked outside. When she came home, they would have to find somewhere larger than a wardrobe for them both. A knock on the side panel. The left-side door opened and a little boy peered in. “Hey, Robert,” he said, “want to play?” “I can’t,” Robert answered, “I’m waiting for my mam so’s we can be safe.” “Oh,” the boy said, “where is she then.” “Hospital, she got hurt by a bad thing, but she’ll come home soon and we can live in here.” The boy looked puzzled. “You’ll need somewhere bigger than this,” he said. “Like what?” Robert enquired.


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“Why do you want to live in a wardrobe anyway?” Robert rolled his eyes. “Because of the bad things,” he explained, “You’ve got to keep yourself in a box where they can’t come.” “Why can’t they come in?” “Well,” Robert elucidated, “stuff they hate is in it.” “Like a doll’s house?” “What?” “I hate dolls, they’re for girls,” the boy said, clearing up the confusion. Although it wasn’t an immediate suggestion, Robert grasped the doll’s house with the hands of thought. If he were to scatter a few bits and pieces from inside his box around the house, then the house would become like a bigger box, and there were no hinges to break. He couldn’t lose. “What’s your name?” Robert asked. “Glyn,” the boy answered. “Nice to meet you, Glyn, want to help me out?” *** Robert crept into his parents’ bed and snuggled to his mother’s pillow while his father snored between


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short, slumberous sobs. Susanne’s scent rose up inside Robert’s nose and ignited a flurry of fond moments inside his brain. Earlier Robert had, together with Glyn, hid either a strip of tape or a light bulb in every room in the house and thus protected each from the bad things. Everything was ready for his mam’s return. As morning broke into the house, accompanied by the air of birdsong, Aled opened his eyelids and gazed upon the face of his resting son. For the first time in years, Aled brushed Robert’s hair from his forehead with his hands and stroked his face. He would have to have a chat with his son sometime that day. He waned at the thought, emptiness inside him growing. He got out of bed, careful not to wake Robert and made his way downstairs. Somebody had to make the breakfast, the least of the problems as somebody also needed to prepare a small, timid boy for bad news.


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11 *** â&#x20AC;&#x153;No more hinges to break.â&#x20AC;? *** Rob tried to scribble a picture of what he had seen the previous evening. If he had to recreate it, or even replicate a similar representation, a reference


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was necessary. It was impossible to describe in words, let alone attempt to reproduce in a drawing. He simplified, and penned the basic shape:

The cut down general form and shape with each spiral now reduced to a basic circle revealed, in its build, more or less, a twisted 3D model of a semitunnelled format (the model itself but a splitsection); at the centre, when viewed as a 2D image that the intersection of each circle, or phase, was visible. An overview of the two possibilities (derived from the diagram) led Rob to consider a new prospect â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the chance of there being more than one model. He resulted to a fresh process of


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thought. What if both models were correct and in actuality the same? Maybe the tunnel was a route of transport within a multi-directional complex of an infinite amount of the 2D model, each of which connected at the central intersection. Could that connecting point be referred to as an axis, ‘The Axis of Time’? Rob threw his pencil down. What was he doing? He wasn’t clever enough to be thinking all this philosophical bullshit. He understood that what Glyn had shown him was supposed to help, but what was he meant to do with it. His general idea was to start a new spiral juxtaposed to the original composite that he could manipulate because he’d already know where it would end, but he couldn’t think how to start it. His eyes moved away from the paper, landing on the bag of speed he’d been given by Damien. It lured him with a promise of mental clarity and psychological alacrity, a touch of chaste white that kicked a whore’s boot into his skull. ‘Fuck it,’ he thought, ‘why not.’ “You’ve found the hub then, Rob,” Glyn said, startling his friend with his sudden appearance. “Just one hit, please?” Rob pleaded.


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“You do it and that’s it, butt. You need to be sober for this.” Rob returned his gaze to the drawing. “The hub?” he repeated. “Where everything meets,” Glyn explained, “that’s where you need to go.” “How do I get there.” “The hub is a giant hinge, connecting all fragments of existence. Each moment is a side door running off it.” Glyn clarified further, “you’re always there in some form or other.” Rob grasped the concept, he thought. A part of himself was always at the middle of the model - his essence. All he had to do he figured (as difficult as it actually was, it was still all he had to do), was stop his forth going subsistence for a fraction of a second and he would be there in his entirety and not just as a tincture of his being. “Tell me more,” he pushed. Glyn shook his head. “When you know more, I will.” Rob examined the drawing with more informed eyes. His original assumptions of the components had been correct, but where did the box figure in all this?


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Without reason or particular purpose, Robâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision flashed to a view in inverted colours. The photographic negative that was his surround revealed tiny inscriptions in bold italic white fonts written upon the straight surfaces of the furniture and the room itself. A streaming gleam of beaming Shafts, razor-edged light cutting through the darkened hues of lead within this airborne ether, exposing ethereal scripture and clandestine texts scrawled in indiscernible ink, invisible dye; scribbled words hidden with secret, accurate touches, concealed unseen and indecipherable, if not for slanted refraction of skipping omni-directional fragmentation in multi-toned spectrums on lips of glass: a subliminal message of subconscious control, a memorandum of scrambled letters and symbols to a pre-programmed, pre-designed,


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post-designated and computed mind. The meaning behind these texts was beyond Rob. They were simply records, names and dates – spectral graffiti. Were these imprints of people who’d been in contact with the objects? “You, Rob, are everywhere at once. You’ve got to understand that,” Glyn said, noticing Rob’s expression of bewilderment, “as is everyone, butt.” “My eyes don’t recognise the truth of life’s essence, so my mind creates an image I might understand,” Rob added, now almost fully comprehending the theory – or rather the practical reality. “Exactly.” Now the situation was lucid. If Rob was everywhere he had been at the same time, then he was also everywhere he would be, ergo also outside. That thought, or revelation worried Rob. His respiration quickened, a panic attack imminent. How could he be outside? If he did indeed intend to take that step, as he believed he did, then he was already there and that was not just forbidding, it curdled the milk of his very core. It wasn’t unthinkable, or impossible, but, as always, it was doubtful Rob would take the leap over the threshold


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after his panic attack. It was pertinent that he stopped it. He rushed passed Glyn, his feet carrying him to the kitchen and his magic box. He counted out three valiums, and, as was the usual ritual, he took them without water. He inhaled, taking in the air around him that was coalescent with his sense of security and self-preservation – and exhaled his mourning ethics and inadequacy that had been lurking deep within him. They would return shortly, but for the next hour, Rob was at ease. He closed his eyes… A curl of moonlight fading, a sparrow mocks my sill, waiting to respire my loss, exhale. Out— Agonizing grief, Out— Patronizing creed. Out— Another night through morning,


Lemon Tree House shouts and cries, soften at dawn, my calls, my sadness, my weeping, shallow breath in breathing thin, lips dry and cracked, weak beat of eurhythmic, eclectic snares. Exhale crushing vessels of steel. Exhale, falling hulls of dead weight. Outâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Another eve of moaning, howling sobs, hardened by dusk, my words, my sorrow, my lament, slowly killed and brushed away, as sunlight breaks, forcing life inside inanimate lungs. Outâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Pain of this disease,

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In— delighted new lease, In— Rectified, decreased. Respiratory seething atrophy of my discontent, for each night again, exhale. Rob opened his eyes, the colours back to how they were. Although his mind was still at odds with the information attained from Glyn, who had as usual disappeared, the concept was crystal clear. He needed to find a way to leave the box and yet, still be inside it. His distant future that he’d realised to live in the promise of his daughter drew nearer with each step he willed closer to the front door. His heart whispered a surreptitious need to be with her. Glorious, radiant tones manifest inside; close yet distantly, they shimmer in shifting shades upon a horizon of illusionary haven,


Lemon Tree House my haven inside. Folding views of yet to comes in magnificent tinge, tinted windows of lead and glass glow and shatter as the heat penetrates, expansive imagination— auburn to viridian transferral of value and voice in nature and hue – from their light, springs twisting transmogrification of a glistening thought: current moment, hush – a future nearer whispers close.

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12 *** â&#x20AC;&#x153;Deep mirror manifestations of an outside influence.â&#x20AC;? ***


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Lynnie would always be the one to start the trouble, but it was Robert who got the punishment. It wasn’t that she was favoured over him, it was his uncontrollable temper and the outbursts that were consequential of it that incited the reprimands. She enjoyed winding her older brother up, however, as it was always good fun to blow someone’s top, especially his, and she did it with such talent. After their father would tell him off, she would have a little giggle inside. Robert, although not particularly fond of the punishments, was not afraid of them since he never left the house. How can you ground someone, or even send them to their room for that matter, when that is the standard practice for them anyway? It was his father’s raised voice that alarmed him more. Since his mother’s death, he couldn’t stand aggressive behaviour, a contradiction when you consider his own angry eruptions. His socalled ‘uncontainable outbursts’ weren’t always as unmanageable as he made out. Conversely, he could manage them particularly well when it came to Lynnie. After all she was her daughter; the daughter of that woman that slept in his mam’s bed and kissed his father. How he hated that woman. Robert had been confined to his room after striking Lynnie. It was intended that he should stay


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there until he had learnt his lesson not to hit an eight year old, especially not an eight year old girl. However, he sat on the edge of his bed, his mind instead drifting back, searching for the last time he could say with certainty that he was happy. All memories of his mother had become tainted with a brushstroke of sadness. He missed her, and in remembering, his throat tightened and his heart ached as if the mere thought of his mother’s face could core out his soul. He blocked the memory. He felt empty without her though. Nine years of loneliness had eaten his emotions, leaving him with a vacant spirit. Sometimes he would pretend he’d never had a mother as that would have been easier than to have lost her. The door opened and Lynnie came through it, smiling smugly. “Do you want to come down now? I’ll tell dad you’re sorry.” she said, pretending her offer was one of amity. Rob gave her an adverse gesture with his finger. “Bitch,” he said. “I’m telling,” she informed with a gleeful smirk, “and you’ll be here even longer.” “I don’t care,” he said, his tone flat, “I’m always in here anyway.”


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“Because you’re a freak,” Lynnie added, “a smelly, stupid freak!” Robert got up from the bed and chased his sister onto the landing. He hit her for the second time that day. *** Robert, restricted again to his room, looked out his bedroom window. The frozen debris of winter clung to it, as he had once clung to his mother’s breast. He shook away the cogitation contained in his need and gazed coldly into the grey. Scattered rays penetrate the ice-covered glass, brittle and thinned through weather as knives of callous light. These satirical blades ardently slice abrasions into my mind; grave wounds, sorrowed pain. Their ragged serration and acidic touch


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not only cut but burn deep, intrinsic anguish forgotten, rediscovered in clefts of hard, lucid tears and translucent, condemned views in this cracked window. *** Aled looked across the dinner table and smiled at his wife. She was beautiful. He loved her deeply, and when their daughter arrived, she was a blessing. Although she was younger than him, younger than Susanne, she had perfect compatibility. He lost himself in her image as he remembered how they met, a silly meeting that could only be explained as fate. The night of their first acquaintance, Aled had received a call. His friend, Duncan, was on a date with a woman who had taken her sister with her. Slightly annoyed at the ‘third wheel’ scenario, he asked Aled if he would come to the pub. It was there that he met Cyla, simply doing Duncan a favour as he didn’t really want to go out (he hadn’t


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drunk a drop for the year since the accident). She charmed him with her intelligence and beauty, but there was more to it than that. She made him feel good about himself at a time when he felt there was nothing to feel good about. It was a rare situation to meet someone who immediately fulfilled him so completely. He discovered during conversation that she was an out of work teacher, and so he employed her and her friend, Helena Lloyd, to home school Robert. From that chance encounter, a friendship grew, and from there evolved an emotional connection. “What’re you thinking, love?” Cyla asked, her eyes searching Aled’s distant face. “Just how much I love you,” Aled answered. *** Robert descended the stairs, entered the living room and, with his eyes lowered, apologised to Lynnie for being so cruel. Aled looked on, pleased with himself that his method had worked and patted Robert on the back. “Can we all get along now?” he asked with a hint of sarcasm. Robert and Lynnie both nodded in compliance. Robert wasn’t sorry. He had just gotten bored of sitting in his room. For the last few hours, he had


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struggled to keep his mind from wandering to past pastures. “Want me to help you with your maths, Robert,” Cyla offered, “Ms Lloyd will be here tomorrow.” Robert shook his head. That bitch had tried to replace his mother enough over the last few years. He refused to let her win him over, bribe him. He hated the stupid cow, but didn’t show his disgust. Instead, he smiled to her face, and scowled to the back of her head. He despised her. *** In bed, in the dark, a gloomy shelter of black covered Robert’s face. He closed his eyes, internally wandering the avenues of his own creation. The world inside his head was so much safer than the one outside the house. It was full of luscious colour and streaks of radiant light, neon stars and flowing oceans of cobalt sky not grey and bitter, satiated with hoary false sentiment and debauchery. Day converges in a painted backdrop of shocking blue


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as the cool patina of cold aluminium gleams in a resonance of its echo of yesterdayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s light whilst highlighted with hinting glows of pastel pink hues. Robert felt his thoughts fumble, tripping again and again over themselves. The slurry of tiredness gushed into his head, slowing the processes of his mind with its syrupy consistency. The views he had visited, and always would visit each night, became clear through a vignette curtain, gradually increasing. The day was his dream, the night, his life, but, at times, even that life he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t control. As a sea of meadow streams through the gates of tomorrow, an open eye, waking, dreams of bygone loss and sorrow. Times I have spend in wonder of seconds still undying, moments beguiled by thunder and minutes of steady crying speak of lifetimes within that meadow swamped by guilty tears


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and constant memories that eat my core with ruthless fears. Distant sirens sing of hope in oeuvres of wishing words – beckoned onward, yet I dote upon the unfettered birds which pluck my soul with their beaks as, aching, I venture on until settled silence speaks and pushes my fate beyond those felled municipal walls that once concealed the meadow; built by laborious calls. Seated below the billows of exalted sobbing rest, I sigh that I scream aloud “this meadow is my bequest” and chirps are the only sound. The boy that he once was, timid and tender with external, seemingly inexhaustible, emotion, was no more. He had been replaced with an altered being. Robert suffered in silence, his pain a hot coal, buried under blocks of ice. He had matured from wistful play to ascetic abstinence and saw no


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purpose in himself. His devotion to his maternal figure had been concealed within his constantly spawned cryptic poetry, a mechanism of defence and expulsion. Robert’s body shook as arms revelled in waking him, rocking him back to alertness. He opened his eyes with a fiery anger. “Come on, butt,” Glyn said, his hands clasped around Robert’s arm. “Get up.” “Why?” Robert whispered, relocating the slush and slurry of his dream. “What’s up?” “You’ve got to come with me,” Glyn answered, “it’s all wrong like this.” Robert could see the urgency etched in Glyn’s eyes. Over the years he had often listened to what Glyn had to tell him. Glyn was so much wiser and his codes of behaviour often helped Robert through the hard times, but, having said that, he’d never snuck into his bedroom before and woken him in the middle of the night. It must have been serious. “Where are we going?” Robert queried. “I’ll show you, come on.” They left the room, heading down to the lower floor and the entry hall. “We’ve got to go out there,” Glyn whispered, pointing at the front door. “I can’t,” Robert said, a quiver in his voice.


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“You have to know, Robert,” Glyn persuaded, “you have to see, just once.” Robert grated his teeth. “Okay.” Glyn edged the door ajar and gestured for Robert to near. His friend did as expected, tremors becoming stronger with each step closer. “Look,” Glyn said as he opened the door wide, “Aurora.” In the sky was a light, a blue streak of illuminated gas penetrating the tar-coated shores of night and resonating a harmonious hum of angelic song. “That’s where we need to be.” Further than the present steeped in the past, illusions of a distant future dance to an aria of antique moaning and antediluvian disownment, exorbitant in their insatiable and ravenous, intransient rebirth; this resurgence is in blue flame estranged as so the pangs of eons are constrained in bone and muscle doused in kerosene. The lilting tune softens to silent hymn as gaunt and faceless shadows are distilled to refined skeletal purity, culled


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commencements of pleasured, dying moments that drift in the quiet of this air, and with the second movement flicker, once more as cerulean unsteady glimmers wrapped in satin fire; as silken swathed shimmers of bone and muscle engulfed in that pyre of dulcet pain, sung by things gone before. Looking upon that sight, Robert felt safe, even though he was, for that moment, no longer in the house. His feet had carried him to the pavement without his head noticing the change of location. As he watched, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s penetrating light that had in that second diffused his fear faded and he was once more engulfed in man-made light thrust upon him from a lamppost. It was then that he realised where he was. He collapsed, falling to the ground in a foetal ball, his colour transformed to an unpainted canvas. Frozen to the spot, he rolled up tighter.


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13 *** “She’ll eat me.” *** It was Christmas’ Morning, and Rob was seated in his armchair, struggling to realise a solution to his problem. He understood what he was meant to do,


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just not how. A spiral contrasting to the physical model and formed by his personal will was impossible to conjure, it seemed. No matter how hard he thought, he couldn’t process a place to start. He reviewed his drawing again, pin-pointing estimated, significant phases with numbers counting backwards: 1. Death 2. ? 3. ? 4. ? 5. ? 6. Discovery of life model 7. Angelique’s departure 8. Demy born 9. Meeting Angelique 10. mam’s accident 11. First day at school 12. Birth There were four phases beyond his current timeframe, and which he couldn’t fill in because he had not yet experienced them. He shaded these phases in grey.


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1

12

11 10

2

9

3 8

4 5

6

7


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The fact that he’d simplified the massive model to a scale of twelve phases also, suddenly, made sense. Time was no more than twelve phases of day and twelve phases of night. It was as if he had preemptied himself, which would, of course, add up if what Glyn said about being in all phases at the same time was true. The information he was learning was, in reality, already in his head, almost like a subconscious déjà vu. As for the phases he hadn’t allocated, it was now obvious that they were where he’d have to start – a new model pivoted on one of those grey areas, but how? “A vessel, butt,” Glyn said from over Rob’s shoulder. Rob turned his head to look at his friend, his face confused and wondering how Glyn had been able to answer a rhetorical question he’d only thought. “Don’t worry,” Glyn said, noting Rob’s face, “You were thinking out loud.” Was he, or did it just happen again? “How do I make a vessel?” Rob asked, intrigued and becoming desperate to solve the problem with as much efficiency as he could.


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“This is where it becomes complicated,” Glyn explained, “try and keep up.” Rob focused his eyes on Glyn’s mouth, ready to study each and every word to come from it. “The box, the original box, was allocated as a place to hold your fears. Once inside, they are trapped. Therefore, what’s inside that box exists outside of your reality – out of sight out of mind? However, that box broke, creating a tear in the partition between your reality and their counter reality and allowing the possibility of a crossover between them. You then, reproduced the box, making it bigger and put yourself inside. Thus, causing yourself to exist outside of your own reality, but, there are a few hitches. Because you’d already began your existence outside the box, you’re not fully here. That part of yourself, that you banished and replaced with mental doodles and emotionless poetry, is now trapped in the original box – a box within a box. The other glitch, possibly the worst, is that you allowed other people inside your current hiding place. Had you not attempted to coexist in your seclusion, you could have been here for an eternity without any problems, but you permitted other lives, plus their spirals to enter and thus also added yourself to their life-models, and


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then you also help to create a new beginning, a new life that now exists only as a shadow, unless you complete her – Demy’s – model. The vessel, Rob, is Demy, to go forward and the box to go back.” My digested expression, featureless, assimilated into your impression through suggested distressing strain and pressure; pressed stress regressed to egress as addressed by witnesses of that similar situation — the infatuated invasion of digression in proposed depressive distress, represses your face – my reflection. “Be one person, Rob,” Glyn said, his voice filled with seriousness, “not a deep mirror manifestation of outside influences.” “But,” Rob said, understanding that he would have to open his father’s cigar box, which had been hidden for fifteen years, “what about the bad things?” “There are no bad things, butt, that’s just life.” - Just Life -


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14 *** â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hide the box, just incase.â&#x20AC;? *** Although Robert was cold, emerging from his pose would be unthinkable. Outside his home on the


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floor, as small as he could make himself, was the best resolution to the situation. He was ashamed of his predicament, however, but shame was the better alternative to acknowledging where he was, and was easier to manage. Glyn had gone, as was commonly the case, after setting Robert in a compromising position. The state of affairs was a sad one indeed. He understood why Glyn had shown him the light in the sky, almost as if he could remember it or remembered that he had to remember it, a pragĂŠ vu, if you like, but why he had to leave the house to do so, was beyond him when he could just as easily have viewed it from the window. Rob raised his left hand to the foot of the door and tapped as fiercely as he could without giving in to physical negotiation of his safety. While I beat upon that door, I am haunted by visions and horrors that eat my countenance with a forlorn sensation rediscovered in such sights and sentiments within my heartbeat borne. No retort to my knock, no answer to my call,


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the hammered rhythm drones a hollow discourse, yet I beat upon that door with longing that such a heavenly home might warm me with a welcoming retort; I beseech this residence with pleading fist that I might enter once more its core. He hammered harder, releasing himself from the foetal position he so desperately wished to remain in. He was no longer able to ignore his fear and screamed his fright into the face of the world, his eyes watering with terror. The door opened, Cyla behind it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What are you doing out there, love,â&#x20AC;? she said in a tender voice. Robert couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t answer. His jaws were welded together with panic. He moaned through erratic, disjointed breaths as Cyla grasped him in her arms and took him inside. ***


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Aled had some thinking to do. The situation with his son was becoming worse. The poor dab3 hadn’t left the house for nine years. Aled was too hung up with the re-invention of his life to maintain any psychological support for Robert. He had the GP visit from time to time, and had him home schooled, but he had thought it was merely a phase that the boy would outgrow. Now, he thought differently. Robert wasn’t acting out or putting it on. He had a serious problem and Aled would get him the support and help he needed. His son would be healthy again. He picked up the phone, dialling his local practice. “Hello, how can I help you?” the receptionist on the other end asked. “I’d like for Doctor Jones to come out, please, it’s for my son, Robert Imerst,” he replied. It was his intention to discuss any options available to his son, without locking him away in an institution. Mrs Pauline Hugh came to visit Robert a week later. He took an immediate dislike to her.

3

dab – a sorry person


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15 *** “You need a vessel.” *** “How do you mean?” Rob asked perplexed, “I want to leave, see my daughter.”


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“The vessel is your choice, Rob, but remember, this future you despair for, is a product of your fuck up,” Glyn explained. “Release Robert from the box, go back.” “And Demy?” “A shadow, a dream…” Glyn said in a sad tone, “even you, right now, you’re no more than a possibility.” Rob strained his mind. There had to be a way to save both himself and Demy. “Can I merge the realities?” he asked after a time of deliberation.” “That,” Glyn responded, “would end everything. You are an outsider to the actual timeline, a paradox, a virus if you will. You’re eating the fabric of time with your existence.” “But,” Rob interjected, “you said I could go forward.” “You can,” Glyn said, “but to what?” The two friends sat together in the living room in silence, their eyes, at times, meeting and their mouths twitching as if to speak, but not a single sound was uttered for two hours. “I’ll do it,” Rob said, breaking the silence, “if fate and the model work, then I am destined to meet Angelique anyway, and Demy…Demy will still be my child.”


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He had to somehow become Robert again, destroying the self-fashioned reflection known as Rob. Rob walked up the stairs with Glyn closely following. He had no clue as to how he would do it, but maybe the box could answer that. He entered his bedroom and hunted through the wardrobe until he found the fated cigar box. It shook his soul as he took it in his hands. He peeled back the ancient sticky tape that had held the lid down for what seemed like centuries and opened it. The room spun in an ever decreasing circle of pink light and a pull, a force of sheer nature, sucked him inside until he was, for the third time, nothing more than a collection of thoughts and feelings. He could see the model as he drew closer, the sheen melting so that he could see, in lucid colour, a moment stolen from his reality. The view was of Robert, his former, as he forced the lid of the cigar box down, sealing the closure with black sticky tape. “React,” Glyn said harshly, “this is the moment.” Rob entered the globule of light and dew, becoming a simple, yet cogent being, existing in its entirety in the hub. He could pivot all phases of his


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life from within the cigar box, balancing his past against his future, and then it ended. The bulb of moist sentiment ripens as a blossom upon this flower of guilt that grows within my mental stone garden; matures to a bloom of pink and blue blame as it curls to the sun in evolution of my inner thoughts, winding with a green fuse of malefaction and a longing to be cropped, but I cannot tend this bud that has flourished within, for my hands are not stained with chlorophyll, but are tainted with blood. The rhizome expands, swelling with sexual pride before â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it bursts open in a spring of being, bringing a shower of sorrow, drifting as sterile pollen. The colours bolster in intense, bright expansion for a moment, then disintegrate and return as falling, faded petals to the earth.


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This corm of dry attitude devolves into thinned seeds planted in the earth and shrinks to a desiccated grain; contracts to a shrivelled grey, twisted within brown impugning as it withers within the core of the soil as my soul; sinful thoughts tighten, squeezing with hateful shame before â&#x20AC;&#x201C; nothingness consumes that bulb once bright with languid, stagnant emotion.


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16 *** “!?” *** Robert sighed as he stared out of the front room window, waiting for his father’s return. This was his


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usual daily practice, but today he felt different, odd in some way. He had a strange pressure in his head, a push against the inside of his skull, almost as if something was trying to force its way out, or worse, take control of him. Cyla pulled at his arm. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Come away, love,â&#x20AC;? she said. Robert gave her a dirty look, a look that could strip away her flesh and roast the soft tissue underneath. She stopped speaking and continued with her chores in the kitchen. He felt nauseous after she left the room, his stomach churning. He went upstairs for a lie down, his thoughts settling on the cause of his sickness to be a possible migraine. In his room he lifted up his pillow to check on the box. Although he acknowledged its lack of purpose now that he lived inside a bigger box, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d kept it all those years just incase its original objective would, one day, maybe, need to be reinstated and for the likelihood that it still did what it was intended to do, plus there was also a slight, faint but still there, sentimental value. Cherry fragrance drifts across a smoke filled room, its highlights tinted with nicotine.


Lemon Tree House Words, mumbles, hums, chants resonating in my ears, their vibrancy uttered in stillness. I stand, I walk, I turn and look upon the ruby adorned mirage of illusionary nymphs dancing in the browning photosynthesis. I gaze; I intend not to be alone tonight. Essences glide in wafts of undernourished hopes and clouds of pheromones. I marvel at the thought of fire-flickered nightly shrouds; of flowing cerise gowns, revealing pale white breasts. I am not here, but somewhere dreaming in a slowing world that is seeming to scheme and conspire to my demise

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in such haunting imaginings of places I have never been. I shall be alone tonight. Robert placed the box on his journal and opened the drawer to search for the black sticky tape he had used over the years to repair it. For a millisecond he saw a spectral shadow of his mother as he moved his head to the side. He spun his view to the direction of the image, but saw nothing there. There sits an angel weeping at my table, her vision partitioned by a wall of hands cupped; her head hanging as if a prayer could be too much breath for the tormented body to loose; her wings as rags of curtains felled and tattered; her frame contorted to wire, weak and feebly construed within the eye of the onlookerâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;


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a whimper released as debris screaming its descent through the atmosphere and burning into the soul as explosive passions repentâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; her whispers fall as silken dust to the ground, unheard; her sighs drift silently without push, but a faint hint of morning, mourning the dispersing dew of her night time tears; her ragged garments a faded pink smudge upon the muddled backdrop of a confused grey kitchen; this view of her, my companion, is seen only in fluttered vistas within mirrors and glass and never does she eat the bread I place before her. The food of his heart, his soulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bread, although mouldy was the only gift he had to offer his angel and he left it out often (as he no longer had any use for it). He found the tape and began to stick the lid of the box down permanently. That is when it happened.


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He wasn’t quite sure why he did it, but Robert had the uncontrollable urge to destroy the box. He thought he had been told by someone somewhere. He fought it, however, and continued to make sure it would be closed forever. Suddenly he could control himself no longer and raised the shoddy box, hanging together with tape, above his head before thrusting it toward the ground with a mighty throw. ‘Shit!’ he thought, ‘the box broke.’ A sigh filled the room, a tender sigh of peace, much like a soft breath rising from a Moses’ basket. The air became less heavy as if the years of torturous fear had been filtered somehow. A kiss against his forehead Robert felt different afterward, he felt completed again, although he’d never known he was incomplete to begin with, and yet he somehow did. The awkward feelings surrounding the box had disappeared too. He felt no connection to it any longer. It was as if it was the box itself that had controlled him and his emotions.


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The box had smashed, it didn’t matter. A thought entered Robert’s head: ‘the only phases that count in life are where you’re going, where you are, and, most importantly, where you’ve been – the rest is just grey’.


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Glyn had waited several years for his niece to arrive, and one day, she did. He hugged her tightly in the obscurity of the void. “We’ve got forever,” he explained as they moved, drifting through the syrup of space and time. It was all relative to Glyn. Rob was back to being Robert, his fears completely expelled, maybe not completely, but diffused at any rate. The only cruelty to the experience was the baby, both babies. He had been his mother’s secret, and Demy, his niece, would never be Angelique’s, but at least he wasn’t lonely.


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Kieran Borsden has written two poetry chapbook collections, also available through Lulu Marketplace: Moonlit Morning (www.lulu.com/content/956365) Starlight through Twilight (www.lulu.com/content/1359277)


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The riddle Her name is found within these words, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;though no pages shall be turned; discovery bound upon her birth, where upon this green-blue earth does she ride grounds out in the dirt? Through the stages is she hurled. there upon inside this dirge, undoubted she sounds into the world.

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This message is for Norbert, wherever you may beâ&#x20AC;Ś To my companion in fate, thanks for the discussion and camaraderie, may your broken piece become mended one day.


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Copyright ŠKieran Borsden

Lemon Tree House  

Rob is an agoraphobic who's life is turned upside down.

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