Surreal

His Skull

I left him staring into the eyes of his own skull and went to make some tea. Nothing special, but loose-leaf for the occasion. Brought it back on a tray with the sugar pot, and the strainer. Neither of us take milk.

He didn’t seem too interested in the tea when I laid it down at first, but eventually decided to come and investigate. The both of us have always seen tea as a bit of a comfort, and considering the situation I think it is fair to say we both needed it at the time.

He poured his, then I poured mine while he added an obscene amount of sugar – he’s always liked his sugar. He says sometimes that at least he died before he got diabetes. I tell him that’s the wrong attitude to have.

“That’s my skull?” he said looking over his shoulder at the yellowing object. The bone dome stood silently, teeth stretched in a never-changing grin. Looking its own way.

“Mm.”

“… God.”

I nodded. I wish I’d brought in a bit of cold water. Just to make the tea… drinkable. Far too hot as it is. And leaving it makes it stew. Or is that just if you leave the leaves in? I suppose that’s one reason why people take milk – just so they can drink it before their company has to leave.

“Why haven’t I seen it until now?”

“Why?”

“Yeah. Why.”

I frowned at him, “Well… the meat had to decompose. It was suspicious enough having to dig your bones back up.”

“You buried me on a hill.”

“I buried you out the way.”

He snorted, “Out the way, on a hill. Was a cemetery too much to ask? Didn’t a new one just open a few months ago? You could’ve put me there.”

I shook my head, “It opened about a year ago,” I said. “And besides, I wasn’t going to sneak into a cemetery to dig you up. Much easier just burying you on a secluded hill where no one goes. Made my job easier. Besides – you didn’t even stay in the ground.”

He didn’t seem happy, even though he couldn’t deny the logic of my decision. I’m rather surprised he cared that much. Honestly, I thought he wouldn’t care where he was buried. He never cared about much anyway. Why would he be so defensive about this?

Silence fell around us. I did my best to not feel too uncomfortable, though the way both of us left our tea to cool definitely gave the room a bit of an awkward feeling. And although I tried my best to come up with conversation, nothing seemed to flow at the time. You can’t ask a dead man how he’s doing. Or what he’s been doing lately. It’d be pointless.

I found out it was pointless after I asked him. I said, “What’ve you been up to lately?” as any friend would. And he just looked sideways at me and said, “Stupid question?”

That happened the last time we met, but at least conversation happened, no matter how much of a fool I looked.

“Hard to check if your skull was free of meat,” I said, attempting a bit of humour.

“Free of… meat? Why the hell are you calling it ‘meat’? That was me. That was my brain in there.”

“What? But you died.”

“So? Still my brain, even if it’s not working. Or wasn’t. I suppose it’s animal crap now.”

This is why it’s hard to talk to him.

“Um…” I said, trying to save face. “I’m certain it’s free of your brain. Or your flesh. It’s been in the ground… a good nine or ten months. And I cleaned it. And I bleached it in the sun for a few days. I put it on the shed roof.”

“Christ.”

“No one noticed, I swear.”

He sat back, his arms folded over his chest. His seemed to avoid looking at me, or anywhere near me. I was used to this. I wasn’t fazed by his attitude. He was always like this, even before he died. Equally standoffish, equally gloomy.

But he looked at me eventually, “Where’s the rest of me then?”

I shrugged one shoulder and tested if my tea was cooled with my top lip, “Black bag – ow.”

“Black–”

“I’m kidding,” that made me smile, despite my hurting lip. Didn’t make him smile though. Unsurprisingly. “Everything’s in a box in the shed. It took hours for me to sort it all out. I tried to put all the leg bones together, all the arm bones, all the ribs… that sort of thing. Not sure why. I mean, what am I supposed to do with it?”

He didn’t say a word. Just sat there with his arms folded. The same as he was before. He looked identical now to how he did before he died. Same hair parting, same bags under his eyes, same remnants of that skin condition on the back of his left thumb. Apparently it was a stress-related skin condition. I always thought otherwise; I always thought it was his skin reacting to the washing-up liquid. Because it always flared up after he did the dishes. He insisted it was stress though.

I scratched at my temple, “Do I just keep it all in a box in the shed? Bones in my shed? Human bones?”

“Fucking bury them again if it’s a problem. Sorry to be a burden on you.”

I sighed, “Not a burden, I just… what does one do with human bones? Honestly, if someone finds out, I’ll probably be arrested.”

“And being arrested isn’t a burden.”

“Well. I mean, it is. But… well what do you want me to say? Your dead body is a bloody nightmare to look after?”

He shrugged, “If you want to say that. It’s not even my problem.”

I sighed again. Same insufferable attitude. Plus my tea was still too hot. But at least it was cooling.

“It was so fucking creepy digging you up.”

“You don’t say.”

Despite his obvious disinterest, I decided to press on with my point. I wasn’t going to let his attitude deprive me of a conversation, “I mean, on the one hand you did ask me to last time you were here. So at least I had the peace of mind that you wanted me to dig you up. But on the other hand… I can’t tell whether seeing you made it more or less creepy. Because if I hadn’t seen you again, I’d just be digging up the bones of someone I’d spent years of my life around. Which is creepy on its own… but seeing you again, then digging up your bones is weird. Because maybe I don’t see those bones as yours? I can’t tell. But you’re welcome with the skull anyway.”

“What do you mean, ‘you’re welcome’. I never thanked you.”

“No I… I did what you asked.”

“Yeah, you dug my body up. Didn’t ask for you to display my head in your fucking house. Who wants that?”

I found myself truly glowering at him. Talking to him was getting me nowhere. It was just ending up annoying me. Still – I’d promised to take tea with him. Not that a promise meant much to him anyway. He never honoured his. Still doesn’t.

“Shall I take it down then?”

“Your house.”

I didn’t answer this. I just tried my tea again. Drinkable. A little hot, but not scalding. And perhaps the heat of the tea would quench the heat of my forehead. He was truly annoying me. And yet I felt awful being annoyed at him.

I’d mourned him. For months. And then… six months after he’d died, I heard a knock on my bedroom door and in he walked. In the flesh. Physical, nothing ethereal or see-through. I had a panic attack over it to which he stood there, scowling a little at me, but didn’t try to explain or help me. He just waited.

Waiting in the room probably helped, I admit. Probably helped me to come to terms with the fact that he was there. Unthreatening and… normal. Because I had missed him. A man made almost entirely of flaws, and I missed that? Apparently. Somewhere I cherished him, I admired him, I was amused by him. It felt strange to like someone like that, or to want him around… and, as I sat with my teacup at my lips, I wondered what I had missed. Had I missed the way he annoyed me, his blunt and unorchestral voice? What exactly had I lost with his death? Nothing much.

I’d actually gained a bit of positivity. I laughed a lot louder when I laughed during the understated healing process. When I wasn’t thinking about him, when he wasn’t on my mind. If I was amused, I was properly allowed to laugh… I was probably a bit happier.

Staring at him, I put down the teacup.

“What.”

“Nothing.”

“It’s cool?”

“I guess so. A bit hot but…” He was talking about the tea. He’d looked down at it when he’d asked. Tea came first. Insultingly enough.

He, with his new information, tried the tea. Then he complained he’d added too much sugar. So he added more tea. Then he complained it was too hot. So he put it down again. I watched. I didn’t say anything.

“You know something,” he said, unaffected by my silence.

“What’s that.”

“I discovered a lot about myself. When I died. It’s like… all the things I should have known, or maybe I did know them… all the things buried deep in my brain all were so clear. Whispers of thoughts were suddenly spoken properly, and facts were shouted. I realised a lot. It felt huge at the time. Just feels normal now.”

“Really?”

He snorted, “There, that perked you up, didn’t it.”

It had.

“Shut up. What did you… find out? Was it all about you?”

“Most of it. Some of it was about other people, some of it was about other places and things, most of it isn’t important. Perhaps I’d go and tell people things but… yeah they all think I’m dead so what’s the point?”

“I thought you were dead.”

He shrugged.

“Am I different?” I asked, with trepidation.

He just shrugged again.

Which annoyed me. But I tried not to let it show.

“What did you find out.”

“A fair bit,” he said. Then he kept me waiting by trying his tea again. Not to be put out, I drank some of my own. But when I put my cup down, he was huffing and adding a splash more tea and a lot more sugar. Apparently a dead man can’t make a decent cup of tea for himself.

I playfully asked if he needed any help – he declined less-than-playfully.

“Tell me what you found.”

“God, fine. I found out, well… this all might be a little surprising to you too. But I found out more about my actual family, I found out my actual name, and I found–”

“Hold up, your actual name?”

He nodded slowly. As if I was stupid.

“What parent calls their child Lull?” he said. “When their other children are called Rhesus and Lois? Why the hell would you think my real name was Lull?”

“I…”

“I know it’s what I told you, but I didn’t know I had a real name until I died. So. And yeah, I’ve apparently got an older brother called Rhesus. I didn’t even know that. Unless I did and it was just buried somewhere in my mind. Death pulled it out maybe.”

“Right?”

“You don’t sound all that surprised,” he said. Flatly.

I tilted my head, “Should I be? I mean, yes, you have an older brother, that’s new. But I don’t know him do I? Probably never will. Where is he?”

“How the fuck should I know?”

“Fine,” I said. “You don’t know. And I’m not that surprised. I’m more surprised about your name, though you’ve got a point about it… I suppose no parent would call their kid Lull would they.”

“No.”

“So what is it?”

And he smirked. In all the time I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him smirk. I don’t know if I’d ever seen his teeth, to be honest, that’s how little he ever smiled.

“What makes you think I want to tell you?”

“Um, the fact you brought it up? Is it really embarrassing?”

“Quite embarrassing, yeah.”

“Are you going to tell me…?”

He shrugged. “Ahh… yeah. I mean, what are you going to do. Tease, worse case.”

“I could tell Lois.”

He frowned. Darkly.

I blinked, “Or… not tell Lois? You could tell her yourself…? Actually, that’s a good point – why haven’t you appeared to her? I want the answer to that question first please, before your name.”

“Appeared? Hah. I’m not a spirit.”

“Alright, why haven’t you gone to her then?”

His eyes narrowed, and he developed some subtle snarl. Both combined contorted his features into something quite ferocious, and I regretted asking the question. It was a fair enough question too – Lois was his sister, his little sister, the girl he took care of even before she could walk.

“Why the fuck would I want to screw up her grieving process?” he growled. “She’s mourning, or she has mourned. If I showed myself to her… bang, whole thing screwed up. Whole thing pointless. There’ll be a point where you won’t see me again either, so if Lois knew I was here… well look at Lois. She’s a stupid little girl, she’d latch onto me again. Pretend I wasn’t ever dead and her head would make her believe that. Out of denial.”

“Alright, alright. Good point.”

“Then when I vanish forever, she’ll have to start all over again. You think that won’t be more damaging?”

I tapped the side of my teacup once and shook my head. I felt like I was getting scolded, like I was stupid. Because he had a good – better than good – point. He was right. Dying, going away seemingly forever, then coming back into Lois’ life wouldn’t be good. I’d never call her a “stupid little girl” but… he was right. He was. She’d start believing he never died.

Lois relied almost exclusively on me after her brother died. Perhaps because she thought I was closest to him, I was reliable like him. And I am reliable, I will call myself that, but I’m a lot softer than he ever was. If she pissed him off, he’d let her know. If he needed space from her, he’d physically push her away. I could never do that. I let her close to me, I held her when she cried, I talked about him with her, I smelled her tears and she smelled mine.

Something we both… realised… was that we felt as if he had never existed. It wasn’t long either. The denial was strongest, and scariest. As if he had just gone away on a trip somewhere and he would be back before long. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised I was waiting. I was waiting beside a door that he would never come through. I would buy cigarettes for him and only remember no one was going to smoke them when I was halfway out the shop door. I would prepare the sugarbowl when I made tea just in case he wanted any, before realising he’d never be there to take sugar again.

That was the denial. And it hit both me and Lois hard… but it affected her more. I was my own person, I looked after myself, but he looked after her. If I was waiting by the door, she was pressed up against it. With her nose at the letterbox. As if trying to use any sense she had to find him.

The belief that he never existed came soon after that, and Lois was indeed a wreck. I’d lost a friend, but Lois had lost a brother who was more of a father than a sibling. Not a good father, but a guardian nevertheless. So to believe he didn’t exist terrified her.

A year, and she is only just healing properly. She can go through his CD collection now. She can’t play any of them. But she can look at the boxes without weeping. Most of them.

 

“No. You’re right. Don’t go to her.”

“No.”

“I could tell her your real name. If you like.”

“Also no. What would that help?”

“Comfort?”

He sat back again. No longer as vicious. “Yeah. To reveal that her brother’s name wasn’t ever his real name? Lovely.”

“Fine, not that either.”

“Just… keep this to yourself. Honestly, it’s better if no one else knows. They’ll only ask questions about how you know. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

I scowled, “You can trust me, you know. I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

“Alright,” he sighed. “I know. You’re not stupid.”

“I don’t think I am. At all. Come on. What’s your real name?”

“Arby.”

I found myself smiling, trying not to chuckle. Arby? The man sat before me, who I’ve known as Lull, is called Arby.

“Short for anything?”

“Probably. Stop laughing.”

“I’m really not.”

He busied himself with his tea. Taking mouthful after mouthful. Until he had drained the teacup. I politely offered to pour him more, but he declined.

“Yeah, no more tea. I’ll be going in a few minutes. Back to the void of fucking nothingness.”

“Is that really what it’s like? To be dead?”

He shrugged. “Honestly I’m just speculating. I don’t remember a thing while I’m there unless it’s more subconscious revelations made conscious. Death is death. Nothing is nothing. Just how it is.”

“How much longer have you got?”

“How long has it been?”

“Not long, actually. Probably a couple of hours.”

“Mm. About as long as last time.”

I smiled, “Last time you were here for twenty minutes.”

He frowned.

“I suspected this for a while now – your perception of time is completely thrown off. Like you thought the cemetery opened a few months ago? It opened before you died, you know?”

“Shit. I remember. That’s annoying.”

“It’s alright. You just going to vanish again?”

“Most likely.”

“How do you know you’re going?”

He looked to one side. Perhaps thinking of the answer. Then he looked down at his hands. “I’m not… sure. It’s like an alarm clock in my head. Or something. I just suddenly realise I’m going to go. I don’t have long. Even if my perception of time is fucked.”

“When are you going to come back?”

“Might not. I can’t say.”

I felt suddenly vulnerable. My question, a child-like question, an innocent question. “When are you going to come back?” As if my happiness, my enjoyment in life, my purpose, relies on him… Even though I know that, if he never did return, I’d be okay. I’m logical enough – I hope – to avoid mourning too hard a second time. I know he’s dead, I remind myself of that fact every time he vanishes again. I remind myself that he’s dead, that he probably won’t come back. Ever.

But still. Asking that question, allowing that slice of childishness into my tone… it’s made me a little melancholic about the entire situation. I know I’d give up a lot to just spend a few hours more with him. And that’s proof I’ve not healed. Much. At all.

“Ah well. I’ll put the kettle on if you do come back. In the meantime, is there actually anything you want me to do with your bones?”

“Oh um… no. That is… you can bury them again if you want. Or you can keep them in your shed. Honestly, if I was you I’d keep them in your shed. Burying bones over and over might literally get you arrested.”

“Right… I’ll think about it. Perhaps I’ll invest in a big dog.”

“Charming.”

I managed to laugh.

 

He vanished not long after that. Fortunately, he wasn’t halfway through a sentence, or else it’d have felt even more abrupt. All that happened was that his teaspoon fell to the table. He had been fiddling with it slightly as he listened to me explaining what kind of dog I’d most want – my preference seems to fluctuate between one of those Russian bear dogs and an old English sheepdog – and then he’d –

He’d vanished. It was disconcerting, terribly so. To be looking at someone, chatting, and then they’re suddenly not there. No sound effect like in a cartoon, nor a flash of light. Simply, he was there, then he wasn’t. Instantaneously. No fade-out, no dissolve. Just vanished.

So the teaspoon clattered to the table and actually took a chip out of the teacup as its handle scraped past. I sat there for a while, still, not really moving at all. But I knew he’d not come back.

I cleaned up the table. Examined the chip in the teacup; nothing major, it wouldn’t cause a crack. So at least there was that.

After all that, I went back to the room and examined his skull. When he was sitting in front of me, the skull on the bookshelf behind him wasn’t weird. Now it was. I picked it up, and my fingertips didn’t like that. It felt too strange. Touching something which was, a year and a half ago, in the head of the man who’d been drinking tea with me…

Yeah, I put it down quite quickly. Simply too awkward for me to hold anymore. Even stranger to be in the same room with it after its owner had departed from the room so suddenly.

So I decided to leave the room too. Leave the room and call it a night. Tomorrow I’d feel differently about the skull – I’d be able to face it and feel comfortable with it. But looking at it now, looking at the teeth that, a year and a half ago, would have had held a cigarette while he lit it… it was scary. It made my head ask all those questions. The ones beginning with “how” and “why”.

I turned out the lights. All the lights downstairs. And I locked the front door. I stared through its window, my house dark behind me, and the streetlamp across the way glowing faintly, painting the surroundings in shades of brown and gold.

That hill he was originally buried on is a public bridleway. One I walked many a time either alone or with friends or family. It didn’t mean much to me then, it was only a bit of rough terrain with a few climbable trees… perhaps a dash of nostalgia here and there. I suppose it’ll mean something else now.

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Come and Dance with Me

Come and dance with me – no?

Come and dance with me – no,

Come and dance with me,

Oh please. And don’t you reject me,

 

Come and dance with me – “yes?”

Come and dance with me – “yes,”

Come and dance with me,

Oh come and dance with me?

 

Come. Come. Come. Come – Come – Come.

Dance. Dance. Dance – Dance – Dance – Dance.

 

Come and dance with me – oh!

Come and dance with me – oh!

Come and dance with me – oh!

Come and dance with me – oh!

 

Just dance.

I’m sick of waiting for you.

If you won’t dance with me then –

Just dance, just dance, just dance, just dance.

 

Just.

Dance.

Move

SHOULD I
allow whatever I must give myself to fall in the slowest possible way
to the tiled floor beneath the infinite landscape of the universe
and should I
try to beat the falling objects to the floor only to watch them
shatter completely into nothing?

Because,
And I may have held them five seconds ago,
They were worth something then
but they are worth nothing now. So should I
let them go with unflinching and uncaring eyes
as I, too, lean backwards over the dark blue infinite?

Just like
The curtains above my head when I stand on the far wall
with the floor on my left shoulder,
I fall the wrong way every way completely.
I want to beat what I drop to the tiled floor, and yet I
only feel myself falling upwards.

But here
in this uncertainty that the people with the minds call the universe,
But what I will always continue to know as simply, Nothing,
I doubt it matters which direction things fall in. Because
all of us, whether we have our feet on this blue earth spinning faster than water every second,
or whether we fall the wrong way in this vast Nothing,
None of us move anyway.

As It Moves Itself

At last, at last, at last.

I can hear Silence.

It buzzes inside my cranium

and the lack of noise is nothing short of terrifying.

It slowly shifts through me,

Robbing me of my remaining senses.

Sight. gone. Ocular windows open but

dead. Touch. Gone. The tingling of deprivation is gone too.

Taste. Gone. The roof of my mouth is empty of taste.

Smell. Gone. And my head fills with a cold

freshness. Like a wave of spiralling

hands, the deadness moves through me,

mixing into my body and killing it slowly

and I decay like a weed free from soil,

And my soul is released into an

endless black void.

Where it, I, lies softly and silently,

Humming faintly with heat and inaudible sound,

But it, I, will not be alone for long.

For I shall take others with me with my mind’s spiralling

wave-hands that move like worms through the smallest cracks in others

and up, up, into their minds where they begin to unhinge as it,

I, covers the internal oval windows in their brains,

So they, too, feel the

buzzing of

complete Silence.

 

And when their soul becomes an it,

them, my own will grasp it softly, hands touching

without sense on either of their, our, souls.

Come with me.

And be free.

At last, you can know what it is to live forever,

At last, you can feel the deistic bliss only reserved for Gods,

At last, you can be sure that there is land

beyond this senseless and tingling wall of Death.

I: Human Carriage

Always several unreal things cross my mind when I encounter empty things.
Be them… muraled bottles… or cans…
Theatres… cars… terminals…
Train carriages? Train cars?
We tend to call this type of thing a carriage. Though it is, technically, a car. Not a carriage.
But everyone calls them carriages.
Just makes it… easier. Carriages carry. Except
they don’t when they’re empty.
Do they?

That is what I mean. Unreal things – like the unrealness of the whispers of people who have sat there and who will – cross my mind when I encounter empty things. I have great desires to fill the space.
But that’s another thing, I can fill this space. In this carriage, I can fill it.
Make the collateral whispers into screams as physicalities take form.
And I can serve them their lukewarm waters, point them in the direction of the on-board shoddy bathroom.
While they wait and stew in the Human Carriage.
Because! -you see, you see!
I am the Human Carriage Maestro.
They bow by my hand, holding the unprestigious door open for them.
I guide them with a flourish of gloved fingers to their direction of seat.
And I tell them to have a pleasant trip.

I get the most gruesome duty of all though, too, which is picking up after the people. And that’s less mundane than it sounds, especially once you consider the emptiness. Because the carriage can be full but the emptiness can be more vivid than ever at that point too.
The contrast, see. So difficult to see through. It’s like a fog.
But.
But! Come and view my Human Carriage. Look at the colours if you’d like, the red
handles on the doors. I re-painted them with my own hand the other week.
And the paint’s already flaking.
Dreadful shame.
Did I just waste
my
time?

Well. That answer looks to be a stout but firm yes from the audience. The crowd. The gameshow contestant. None of which exist anyway. But. Either way.
Leave the handles here, the red will flake off on my gloves if I should touch them anymore.
God.
I’ll touch them up when I stop being depressed about how I wasted my time.
But with better paint.
Certainly, definitely, better paint.
I sigh as I walk.

Rounding the edge of the platform – or rather, going through the rusted chainlink fence to the corner and leaping off with a little shriek of enjoyment on my part – I begin to notice the breathy huddle I have come to be familiar with.
They’re mostly the same this season. About five to eight potential passengers, always huddled together like sardines. Or is it penguins that huddle?
Both perhaps. One in the ocean. The other, terra firma.
Before I make my prescence known – they’re slightly raised above where I stand, they’re on the first, second, third and fourth steps up to the platform real, whilst I am beside it near all the nettles and mulberries and goarses – I have a quick look at them all.
Mother and child, that’s two of the six I have this eve.
Then we have two men, wearing similar shirts.
But they’re standing apart from each other. Either they are strangers – probably – or they are…
Enemies?
Possibly.
Both in sort of pinkish-red plaid. I’m not sure I like it.
Who are the others, a young man – not in plaid – with sandy hair. And a girl.
Who seems to have a suspicious moustache-like thing. Dark hair.
She looks very odd. I cannot take my eyes off her lip. Her upper lip.
Very strange.
But nevertheless! These people are my people for now. All mine.
And soon they’ll be my carriage’s people.
And I’ll be their Maestro.
I do love being the Maestro.
Despite the cleaning up after them.

I know already these people have been briefed for the journey. Not too long, at least, they won’t know it is. For me, the journey seems to lengthen each time.
Or sometimes it shortens… maybe sometimes I get used to it and sometimes I am tired.
But for them it lasts no longer than half an hour to forty-five minutes. Usually.
Well. It depends how quickly they all go. Or how quickly I get around them all.
After all.
I am their Maestro.

I make myself known to the stupendous six, adding myself into their midst to bring the total headcount to seven.
If the child can be counted as a head. It’s very small.
Six months? Less? More? I’ve never been good at estimating age with babies.
Or did I call it a child?
It matters not.
I sidle up to them either way, pulling at my wrists. Where my gloves come down.
The white palms so pure.
But slightly stained with palm-sweat of the months.
Very much in my size.

I draw their gazes with a slight –ahem and by throwing my arms wide.
Six pairs of eyes on me.
I am their Maestro.
-Good evening.
-I am your Maestro for the next few hours.
I offer them a bow, very sleek and elegant. As I return their transfixed gazes slowly, I see how they all possess the same watery-looking sleep in the corners of their eyes. All breathing slowly, all calm, all with hair slightly out of place.
I smile, -Welcome to the Human Carriage. We are set to board. So. Do follow me, say I, before turning with yet more intense flourishes. I hop-skip-jump up the stairs, landing on my toes, all too happy to lead yet another group into my carriages.
It’ll be nice to take the journey again, I always think that.
Even if it does become lonely after a little while.
After about half an hour to forty-five minutes.

 

II: Human Carriage

 

Ever so Slightly Human – Part II of II

As a continuation, I’m astounded I wasn’t birthed sooner. I’ll enter into this world as blind as a shrew, unsure; whose continuation am I? I can stumble around in the darkness that is my world for as long as I have to, but what drives me? Heroism, thrust or something different? Desire, perhaps, or longing. Different but similar. I’m a continuation, I’m an echo of something written long ago.

Who is it though? Assume, momentarily, every story stands upright. Two legs, two arms, the boring human figurine. No wings, no snouts, no tusks.

The feet slink up from ankles, forming the curved swell of the calves, folding into knees at the front and still rising, thickening, spiralling around muscles to the hips, cascading down to form genitals and passing up again, a mid-line of the torso, and still the edges fold outwards, forwards and backwards, creating curves of breasts and soft spikes of collar-bones, switching perpendicular, falling down towards rippled elbows, over forearms and ending in the fingers. And no head or neck to be seen.

Is this what we all are?

Simple continuations, nothing ever thinking for itself. We live – our hearts beat softly beneath ribcages composed of backspacing and deletions. But it’s time for thinking that we’ve been here before.

We, the stories, are continuous continuations. Nothing new, I realise. The first episode of a saga stands a few metres away from me, headless, neckless. Not even that tall. The fantasy trope, I could imagine, redone and rehashed, made new, wringed out, tried again, but still a continuation, possibly, of another world. And unthinking and headless.

Episode two of the same saga stands to its left. Much smaller, missing the right arm. Missing both legs – but this is not why it’s short. Its body is much shorter than that of the first saga’s. And the third is nothing more than a torso, upright but unliving. I think I am starting to comprehend.

 

I search for the biggest body I can find. I want to discover what it is. I see it not too far off – black skin, a weak torso but strong legs, male, smooth and hairless. I stay below it, staring up, thinking nothing, mind quietly working. I stare at the place the body’s head should be.

And I see, I almost see a chin. It seems as though the neck extends – and it’s unusual there is a neck at all – into a chin. Nothing above, no face, no ear, no head, no brain. Just a neck, a chin and the rest of the heavy body, weight bearing down on itself. The feet are large, and I fully expect the white ground to crack and splinter beneath its form, but it remains stable. Supportive.

I wonder.

Is this figure the form of a story… or a continuation… that exceeded all limits? The types of stories some wonder why they ever got published or shelved. The types of stories some want to read but cannot dive into. The types of stories you feel envious that your friend understands.

I wonder.

Could this continuation be a book without a protagonist? Or written entirely without a full-stop? Or a book with no solid character at all? Or a story without an arc. Or a book devoid of all surrounding description. Or a story that uses the blankness of pages to enhance it. Or a book describing objects written by a blind man. Or a book filled with gibberish that becomes beautiful literature once you figure out how to read it. Or an event with no resolution.

Looking up at it, it is easy to think. But not so easy to consider a solution, an answer, to this. Who wrote this? Why is the figure of this book a huge, hairless black man? Why does this one have a neck and chin, an occurrence so rare I’ve not seen it before?

But alas the questions will remain floating in this emptiness, not one of them ever getting an answer. But I can understand this.

 

So I, a meagre and small continuation with no context to its birth, turn away. But still my blank mind rages with thoughts and I soon find myself still.

All around me, these stories, these continuations, these sagas and series and solos, stand as still as pillars. A storm could whisk the air around them, tsunamis could crash against their differing bodies, sledgehammers could buffet them, but they would not move. Any dents, or cracks, or chips would be minimal. But I, a moving version, would certainly get washed away. I am vulnerable, clearly.

And yet, another thought from my intangible soup of mind. I can see. I, unlike the tall and unthinking pillars, can not only move, but see. I can think. I can reason. I am small but different, very different. Nothing here can see me, though I am not hidden. These bodies are not dead, they live within their shaded shells, but they are senseless, motionless, invulnerable.

I am something very different.

 

I move on for some time, weaving, floating between each continuation. How am I different? What makes me a continuation worth eyes? What makes me worth movement? Numb feet that drag my body between lines and rows and columns and attentions. Are there more like me?

I pass bodies in the shape of women, some overweight, some slim, some missing limbs and some with extra. The same with the men, some have grotesque additions, body parts stuck on loosely, like a growth. And I remain silent through it all, letting my eyes take it in, letting my mind stay as silent and as cold as it needs to be. It works fast like this.

Some bodies are small, but not small like the 2nd and 3rd sagas I saw before. These are the head- and neckless bodies of children. Their tubby stomachs remain forever thrusted forward, elbows at their sides, and I wonder why some are smaller, some are bigger and some are missing limbs.

They are the same as the adult bodies in that way. The continuations of stories they are unlinked to, I suppose. Headless, thoughtless, but containing the heart and soul of something worthwhile. But yet, they see nothing, they think nothing, they are nothing.

I wonder about them.

V: The True Freedom – Material [Lull]

IV: The True Freedom – Care [Lull]

Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.

– Democritus

 

I’ve already secured a vault in my mind,

To slowly clear out. Without her

Permission, of course, for she would only whine.

When she notices the absence,

Of the phonograph,

Or the bedside lamp,

Or the hairpins,

Or the doorhandles,

I’ll tell her. But not before. She deserves

her shred of glory now. To live in sunshine now.

Before the perishing explanation of peace I hope to

gift her passes my lips as I tell her

where her life has gone.

She’s higher than this now.

 

She can look around, sure, look around, sure,

For everything she hasn’t got. Or she could glance

at what she has.

O, glory one,

It’s standard. Purpose. Life. Driven. All of it,

Waylaid by the struggles of material. Cast it aside.

Or, stand aside as I do it for you. And cast off your

dress. Unhook your bra. Step out of your shoes.

Your stockings too. They’re what you don’t need.

You’re purer than this.

 

And I imagine her body. Celestial. Sweat of work glimmering

like stars on that pale figuresse, I caress the sweet silk of her

dress. Before disposing of it.

A tight pucker of a belly button. The centrepiece between the

curves of her waist, flowing down, opaque, to thighs, knees, calves,

And I would fall at her feet, as the whole world should, if I wasn’t

her brother. To pollute her with my touch is toxic, thought

or practice, as I feel her shoulder in my palm.

Her eyes remain open.

And she goes to speak. But I quieten her.

Everything you need to say has been heard. Before you even move

your tongue or your teeth, everyone hears you, everyone responds.

And I respond.

 

Bite your tongue! Do not ask me. Only listen. Would any goddess,

Living or dead, require anything you say you need? Would any goddess,

Need obsessions, possessions, fodder and filler? Would any goddess,

Oppose the stripping of these things?

To purify, to nourish and exploit,

You are free of all. Your needs are moot, your possessions are forgotten.

Memory is a concept, time is unprepared, will is heightened.

Nothing you need. You need nothing.

So don’t ask me why. Bite your tongue! And raise.

 

I glance at her again. Empty eyes and the contents of tears streaming from them.

I have wronged her. But care, I do not.

This is for the best. And raise.

I promise her, I swear to her.

My goddess sibling, I swear to you.

You are higher than this. You are a form greater than the solar

system. A curse lifted from the single spoken word of God.

You are the white of snow. I swear to you, even snow is less.

And raise.

Higher than this material Earth, where your

spirit will attach itself to the clouds. You are deserving.

Let them see you. Let your hair become darker than the night sky.

Let your eyes be the sun and moon, and your sweat be the stars.

Only have yourself. Everything else is polluting.

Tumble and sleep in the empty universe and fill it

with yourself. You are purer than nothing.

So raise yourself.

 

Double Sunday

I lived through one Sunday, played football one Sunday, wore odd socks one Sunday, went out for a meal with my father and sister one Sunday, stepped into the road one Sunday, got home one Sunday, fell into a coma one Sunday.

 

I woke up out of the coma one Sunday, was greeting to a morning sun one Sunday, felt my hair was longer one Sunday, stretched my legs out of bed one Sunday, noticed I had missed three months one Sunday, sat on the edge of my hospital bed one Sunday, knew my sister’s birthday had gone past one Sunday, knew I’d missed my life one Sunday.

 

I lived through one Sunday and awoke on another.

V: Suicide Room

IV: Suicide Room

 

Disclaimer:

This file is not a pre-approved Suicide Room Case. However, it has become available to the public. It was discovered, and has been encrypted in such a way that hacking attempts have only managed to reveal unwilling words that do not work within any context. It is clearly a well-hidden file.

It has been released to the public under these conditions:
1) The main goal of releasing this file to the public is to recruit a larger number of people who could potentially figure out what it inside the document.
2) The contents of the document may not be used publicly until pre-approved by the Suicide Room.
3) Any readable and understandable contents of this document, if discovered, are to be reported immediately.
4) Any contents found unreported will be met with stern punishment.
5) Any names or assigned numbers within the document will be thoroughly investigated upon report and discovery.

To attempt to read the document, please select it below:

ENCRYPTED_DOCUMENT

Your co-operation on this endeavour is appreciated.

 

 

Hint: Pay special attention to the words used in III: Suicide Room