To Be Continued (21-40)

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Photo by philly077/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by philly077/iStock / Getty Images

Silent Night

Owners out CHECK, alarms off CHECK, visual contact on nickable stuff CHECK. There’s no one in the lane, feel’s like there’s no one in the lane. You can do this, come on. He walks between the houses with their security lights disconnected. I’m not even here, says his body language. He’s focused. It’s like there’s no one in the village, feels like there’s no one in the village. What are you doing, Mick? I’m redistributing the wealth. The winds and snows whisper past him, brush at his face. He doesn’t say anything, just opens the garden gate and slips through it. Where are you going? I’m going to the Hemmings at No. 91. He is, he feels like he is, alone in the world. Time is still, bright and still. The night sky waits above him. I’m going for the patio doors, he thinks. He runs the routine through in his head as he checks out the doors. Check for laptops, check for Xbox, worst-case scenario grab the TV for eBay. He presses his fingers to the door. Single lock, thin wood. This is my home. The wood crunches and splits as he pushes and is in. Dim lighting, carpet, a tree. You can do this, come on. He tiptoes past the stockings, the cards, the decorations. He finds a Macbook Air recharging by the wall. 128GB iPad Pro in Space Gray still in its box. You can always rely on Apple. There’s an expensive whisky on a sideboard and he takes that too. But then: tiny footsteps, coming down the stairs. His heart thumps dully. Who’s there? Keep quiet, keep still. Is someone there? Keep still, keep quiet? I can see you, it’s OK. He doesn’t want to hurt her. Have you seen any other children? What? I think I am the last, I think I am the last child in the world. He keeps still in the shadow and listens to the silence. They’re gone. Everyone’s gone. Past the curtain, the door, the garden the lane, the village, the world, laughlessly silent. I am the last child, the last.

26.12.15

Lone

There’s no one in the house, feel’s like there’s no one in the world. Hello? Is there anybody there? I’ve not seen anyone for how long? For months definitely. Maybe years. I live on water and things I can just grab in the shop. There are people but they’re not even there. You can’t focus on them. It’s like there’s no one in the shop, feels like there’s no one in the world. Where have they gone? Like the snow, they’ve gone into the wind. I go out I come back, just open the garden gate and slips through. Where did they go? I am Julie Hemming at No. 91. I am, I feel like I am, alone in the world. Time is still, bright and still. The night sky waits above me. I stand by the patio doors and I think. I check the doors. Locked. But who cares if they are locked? The laptops are dead. The Xbox is dead. There’s no electricity. I press my finger to the door. The thin wood, the lock straining. This is my home. This is all I have now. Emergency lighting, almost dead. The carpet is cold and greasy. I walk to the stairs. The air is gray. There’s an apple still rotting in the bowl. I don’t move it. I like it. I rely on it. There’s a whisky on the sideboard but I’m just a girl, feel like the girl.

But then: splintered wood, suddenly, footsteps, below the stairs. My heart thumps wildly. Who’s there?

Suddenly quiet, suddenly still. Is someone there? I take three steps down. I can see you, it’s OK. He doesn’t move, only stares. Have you seen any other children? He looks at me. I hear his heart from here. I think I am the last, I think I am the last child in the world. He keeps still in the shadow and listens to the silence. They’re gone. Everyone’s gone. He looks at me, laughlessly, staring. Am I the last child? He steps out, little steps, boy steps.

27.12.15

The Last Child

There’s no one in the house, no one in the world. Hello? Echo comes back. No one for so long. How long? For months definitely. Years? I live on water. I go to the shop in a washing up bowl. There are people but they’re dead. I don’t focus on them. It’s like there’s no one in the shop, no one in the world. Like snow, they go. It’s cold, there’s a wind. I come back, row over the garden gate and slip through the first-floor window at No. 91. Where did the ground go? You talk to yourself too much. Don’t you Julie? Jewel-y. Jewellery. When you are last in the world, time is still, bright and still. The sky waits for me, just me. I stand at the top of the stairs. The water is higher today. I check the doors but who cares if they are locked? There’s no electricity. This is my home. This is all I have now. I lie on the landing and dip my finger in the water. Thin grease on the surface of the water. I think the water’s angry. Emergency lighting, almost dead. The carpet smells. The air is gray. An apple bobs on the water. It’s been here days? Months? I don’t move it. I like it. I rely on it. It’s like me. The last apple. The last girl. I dream of someone coming, footsteps under the water, my heart thumping with joy. Who would it be? Boots coming up the stairs from under the water. But there’s no one. I am the last child. I stare out into the blank water. There’s no one in the world. I hear my own heart. My bad heart. I sit in the shadow. They’ve gone everyone’s gone. I killed them. I killed them all. I hold myself, laughlessly.

28.12.15

Like Water

I’m no one in the house, no one in the world. Hello? Nothing comes back. No one for so long. How long? For years definitely. More? I talk to the water. I float on it. There are people in the water but they’re dead. I can’t focus on them. It’s like they’re not there, like there’s  no one in the world. I am snow to them, they are snow to me. It’s cold inside me, it howls. I float to no. 91, pass over the garden gate and slip through the first-floor window. Where did everyone go? I talk to myself too much, Don’t I Julie? July. Jelly. Lie. When you are no one in the world, time is bright and still and it waits for me. I am at the top of the stairs. The water is higher today. I am cruel. Who cares about that? There’s no one here, I am no one here. I am my home. This is all I am now. I sit at the top of the stairs with water at my ankles. Thin grease on the surface of the water. I think the water’s angry. It laps at me. Bites me. The carpet is damp and rotten. My hair is gray. I spit and the green spit bobs on the water. I’ve been here years? More? I don’t move. I don’t like to move. I resist it. Water is like me. The last no one. I dream of a hand, hand coming out of the water and pulling me down, my heart thumping with choke. Gloved hand coming out from under the water. But there’s no one. I am no one. I stare out into the greasy water. There’s no one in this house. I hear my own heart. My bad heart. I sit in the shadow. I am shadow. They’ve gone everyone’s gone. Did I kill them? Yes I killed them. I killed them all. I don’t laugh about that. Look, I am not laughing.

 

29.12.15

Open-mic.jpg

Don’t forget to tip your waitress

I’m not laughing, but I killed them. I slayed them. They’ve gone, everyone’s gone and I am shadow. I sit here, with my bad heart. I can hear it, listen. No wait, that’s my pocket watch. Anyone wanna get the comedian a drink here? That I should come to this! God, if you’re out there, come up and pull me under, I’m through. And if you should happen to be passing a liquor store... Hey! I’m choking back here! That’s a good hand, a hand you dream about. An encore no less, so let's go: I don’t like to do an encore, ladies and gentlemen. I resist it. When I’m off I’m off. Basically, I don’t like to move more than necessary, am I right guys? Hey, anyone there? Knock twice if you can hear me. Feel like I’ve been up here years. My hair is gray. No it is, ladies and gentlemen. It wasn't when I came on. I spit, you ever spit and your spit comes out black? That’s what I’m talking about. The carpet in my dressing room, I swear to God. I’m not one to complain but I think it bit me. You ever known an angry carpet? (Apart from Donald Trump of course.) That’s all I’m saying. There’s a thin layer of grease on top of the grease. I like that, gives you a feeling of history. So I sit there, trying to let no part of my body touch the floor. Or the chair. Harder than it sounds. Harder than it looks. I thought it was a cushion. Turns out it was a bag of cement. With mould on it. (You ever seen that? Who knew cement could get mouldy?) And I wait for the call. Time stands still. At my age you appreciate when that happens. I do my vocal exercises (I’m a professional ladies and gentlemen) Lie-July-Jelly- Elijah. Hey where are you going? You couldn’t have gone before? Sit back down it’s cold up here. I’m relying on you for warmth. Swear to God, would it kill them to turn on the heating? I’m not complaining but when I came on there was snow on the microphone. Hello? You know I’m getting old: you gotta applaud louder than that or I can’t hear you. It’s like you’re not there sometimes, like there’s no one in the world. I can’t focus on you. Like you’re dead. Are you dead? I need to float on your love, right now I’m drowning in it. How much longer? I give myself three years. Four years if I give up the cigarettes. Five if I give up the suicide attempts. Hello? Nothing comes back. Ever felt like you’re the only one in the house? Like you’re the only one in the world? I’m out. I’m done.

30.12.15

 

Angry and Sad

I killed him. No I’m not kidding. I killed him. He’s gone, everyone’s gone and I sit here, with my unworthy heart. Can you hear my heart? No, course not. I need a drink, can I get a drink? God, I’m shaking. Look at my hand. Would you say this is a good hand? I don’t like to repeat myself. I resist it. What’s done is done. I don’t like to speak more than is necessary. (Is somebody behind that mirror? Knock twice if you can hear me.) God, my hair is gray. It wasn’t always this gray. It wasn’t this gray yesterday, for instance. Listen, you ever spit and your spit comes out black? I bit my own tongue and it got infected. My own tongue. There’s a thin layer of grease on my skin. What do you want to know? I’m in the mood to talk. I feel light, like I’m not touching the floor somehow. You want this cushion? It’s not necessary for me. You think it’s possible to get mould on your heart? I feel that’s what happened. Time creeps when you do a thing like that. Hey where are you going? Where’s he going? Turn on the heating? Thank you. I appreciate that. At my age. Listen, you gotta ask specific questions or I can’t hear you. It was like he wasn’t there, like there’s no one in the world. I didn’t even focus on him. Like he was dead already. I swear I’m floating, floating or drowning. They’ll give me three years. Four? Five? I’ll never get out? I was the only one in the house, felt like I was the only one in the world. I was angry, I was sad. I'd had some bad news. So I killed my child. That’s all I did. I killed him, that's all.

31.12.15

 

Ring Finger

He lost his wedding ring. It fell and it’s gone and that's all there is to say. The weather was cold and it slipped from his finger, like it was fleeing from his unworthy heart. Does he even hear the distant small clang? No, course not. He needs a drink, stops for a drink. His hands are shaking; he looks at his hand, his unworthy hand and he sees the pale loop of skin where a ring was. (Why did he do it? He went to meet her.) What’s done is done, don’t beat yourself up more than is necessary, he tells himself, but there is someone behind that excuse and it knocksat his throat.
   He feels sick as he puts his key in the door, his hair is gray and when he spits, his spit comes out black. His skin is greasy and he’s bitten his tongue. He’s not in the mood to talk. He feels heavy, like it’s an effort to lift a hand to his chest. You want a drink? asks his wife. It’s not necessary thank you. You think it’s possible to get mould on your heart? he asks. I feel that’s what happened. It creeps her out when he says stuff like that. Hey, where are you going? To turn down the oven, she says. Okay, he replies. Thank you, she says, caustically. I appreciate that.
   At our age, he thinks, you got to ask specific questions or you’ll never know anything. He wants her to notice, hey where’s your ring? But it’s like she doesn’t focus on him. Like he’s dead already. His head is swimming with anger and pity for himself, poor himself, he’s not sure if he’s floating or drowning. I give us three more months, he thinks, angrily. Maybe four or five.  I’ll just get up and get out, she’ll be alone in the house. He doesn’t know if he’s angry or sad. He wants to give her the news. I lost my ring. That’s all I did. Okay? I lost my ring, that's all.

1.1.16

Extractor Fan

He lost his temper and nobody noticed. Just about a photocopier jam, nothing major, but still. Michael returns to his office to think. Outside the weather is cold and he rotates the ring on his little finger. He feels himself mentally fleeing the scene. Did they even hear him speak? He shouted, didn’t he? He needs to go back in there, stop them and have it out. His hands are shaking. He looks at his hand, didn’t he clearly slice the air with his hand? Why didn’t he tell them to stop what they were doing and listen to him? What’s done is done, don’t beat yourself up about it, he tells himself, but someone knocks at the door. 
   He feels sick and smooths down his graying hair and quickly examines a spreadsheet with his black eyes, tongue in the corner of his mouth. He doesn’t talk, like he’s not in the mood to talk. He feels heavy, like it’s an effort to lift his dark eyes from the paper. You want something, Jez, take a seat, he says looking down. It’s not necessary thank you. Silence. Well? There’s mould around the towel dispenser, says Jeremy. Silence. The extractor fan’s got something caught in it. Silence. I reckon that’s what happened. Michael wants to stand up and go, to leave the office and never come back. Hey, where are you going? To love and live and laugh and sing and hope and fight and fuck he would say, he would never say. Instead he says, okay. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, he says. I appreciate that.
   At our age, he thinks, you got to be more specific or they’ll never listen to you, because they think you’re angry all the time, or maybe that you should be angry all the time. But he wants them to notice, hey Mike is something up? But it’s like they don’t focus on him. Like he’s not Mike, just the boss. Like he’s dead already. His head is swimming with anger and pity for himself, poor himself. He wants to float above the world but instead he drowns in it. I will give it three more minutes, he thinks. Maybe four or five, then I’ll go back in and gather them together and tell them. I’m not angry I’m sad more than anything. I lost my temper and I don’t like to do that. Okay? You made me lose my temper.

2.1.16

Half

He lost his temper and everybody was crying. What? It was just a photocopier jam, nothing major. Michael withdraws to his office to think. His room is cold as he rotates the ring on his little finger. He goes over the scene. He was firm but he wasn’t rude. He didn’t shout, did he? He needs to go back in there, find out what happened. His hands are shaking. He looks at his hand, were they shaking out there? Maybe that did it. He may have seemed unhinged but he doesn’t think so. He runs through it; he asked them to stop what they were doing and listen; he pointed at the photocopier and said ‘this is the third time this week. Guys, if you cause a jam, clear the effing jam’. He even said effing and when he did so he dipped his voice a little. 
   There’s a knock at the door. He feels sick and smooths down his graying hair and quickly examines a spreadsheet with his black eyes, tongue in the corner of his mouth. He’s not in the mood to talk. He feels heavy. Come in. You want something, Jez? Take a seat. It’s not necessary thank you. Silence. Well? There’s a mood around the office, says Jeremy. Silence. What just happened, well – Jeremy coughs – well people aren’t happy. Michael opens his mouth but Jeremy is still talking. To be honest, some of us are in the mood to leave this office and never come back. Jeremy stops. Michael waits and says, okay. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, he says. I appreciate that. 
   ‘What just happened’. What just happened? He thinks, you got to be more specific or what can I do? It’s not like I get angry all the time. Is something up? Michael feels dead already. His head is swimming with self-pity and self-righteousness. He has no perspective right now, half of him wants to go in there and give it to them with both barrels. Half of him wants to lie down and beg forgiveness. These two halves of him battle and finally he feels a tearing and he splits, he actually splits in two. Down the middle through the nose. It hurts like fuck.  This is actually happening. Left and right ventricles distributed. Cock to the left, balls to the right. It hurts me, it hurts me so much. 

3.1.16

Yes and No

There’s a knock at the door. Michael’s black eyes flick to the source of the sound. Is he in the mood to talk? Yes and no. You want something, Jeremy? I can come back. Silence. There’s something going around the office, says Jeremy. It’s a chesty thing - Jeremy coughs – people are ill and I think I’ve given it to Liz. Silence. To be honest, we’re wondering if we could leave? Michael says, Thank you for bringing it to my attention. He says. I appreciate that. Silence.

‘Chesty thing’. You have to be more specific. People get ill all the time. Does that mean there’s something wrong? No. Has anyone died? No. No one is dead yet. You have no perspective, Jeremy. Of course, half of me wants to go in there and tell them all to go home. But half of me wants to go in there and rip their hearts out. There two halves of me battling and you know what it takes to hold me together, Jeremy? There’s stitching, black thick stitching and I can feel the stitches rip. Listen, Jeremy, lean in close, you can hear the tearing I’m so angry. If it gets worse, Jeremy, I will tear in two, actually split in two. Down the middle through the nose. And I don’t want that, Jeremy because It hurts like fuck. Right down the middle, Jeremy, listen to the stitching tear. Oh fuck it’s happening, Jeremy, see what you’ve done. Cock to the left, balls to the right. It hurts me, Jeremy, it hurts me so much. 

The bad bloody half of Michael went into the main office and everybody was crying and scared and they managed to corral it into the coffee room while Liz called the police. The room was cold and it fiddled with the ring on its little finger and thick blood poured onto the floor. It came over to the window and it was shouting. Its voice sounded thick and the words were unclear. It looked like it wanted to come back in. They looked at its hand, its one bloody hand, thumping, shaking the window. The door was coming off its hinges so they moved two filing cabinets in front of it. It was losing blood quickly. The good half of Michael was with them, watching in horror. ‘What the eff is going on?’ said the good half of Michael, and even when he said ‘eff’ he dipped his voice a little. 

4.1.16

 

Misdiagnosis

There’s a knock. Your black eyes flick to the door. You’re not ready to talk. He asks to come in. Silence. He shouts that there’s something he needs to say to you. He says he’s ill. You hear Jeremy cough. He’s ill and he thinks it might be serious. Silence. With your back to the door, you thank him for bringing it to your attention. You tell him you want him to leave and he leaves. Ill seems a bit unspecific. People get ill all the time. A cold is ill. What sort of ill? Someone dying-ill? Course not. You half want to go out there and tell him to fuck off with his ill. Half of you wants to go out there and ask him to explain. Jeremy, this is so typically you. I am so angry. And I don’t want to live this any more, Jeremy because it hurts like fuck. You hurt me, Jeremy, you hurt me so much. But instead you take your bloody heart and you continue wrapping bowls and glasses in newspaper and placing them in boxes. The room is cold and you fiddle with the ring on your little finger and your memories scatter over the floor. Hearing a noise, you go over to the window and down in the street Jeremy is shouting through the door. His voice is muffled and the words were unclear. It looks like he wants to come back in. His right hand is bloody because of the way he is thumping the door. The door is rattling in its frame. The good half of you is watching with pity. Or is that the bad side? The other half is about to laugh so you dip away from the window. I’m ill and I think it might be serious. Your shoulders shake and you clap your hands together.

6.1.16


Pick Up Artist

There’s a knack: you flick your eyes past her and say nothing. She’ll notice you look away, don’t check. You’re looking for better. Be inward. You are confident. You’re the king of this bar. She may say something to you. Leave a silence. Like you haven’t heard. She may repeat herself. A slow look towards her as if you hadn’t noticed her presence. Appraise her. Flicker of interest but let it die. Say you didn’t catch her name. If she tells you, you’re doing well. If she apologises and tells you, she’s yours already. Clear your throat. Ask her what she does, but glance away as you ask. You’re being ‘polite’. Maybe you want to leave. Tell her impatiently she’s being unspecific, however specific she’s being. Teacher? What sort of teacher? Senior registrar? Clinical or lab-based? She’s wasting your time. Ask if it makes you happy. Whatever the answer, laugh. Change the record, you say. That’s so cliché it hurts. Say you’re obviously not worth her time. Make out you’re almost angry. Finish your drink. She will stop you, maybe upset, maybe apologetic, maybe angry. Say maybe you misunderstood. Tell her you’ve wrapped my heart in glass and paper. Tell her you won’t be hurt again. Ask her to impress you. Impress you, yes, impress you. She can’t think of anything impressive to say? Tell her you speak six languages. Tell her you sprung my mother from a Paraguayan jail. But tell her we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you, impress me. Then – and only then – whatever she says next, you are interested. Tilt your head, narrow your eyes. Say ‘huh’. Listen hard and don’t blink. Your eyes are bloody with how much they are staring. Your stare thumps into her heart. She will be rattling in her frame. Half of her will think you are looking with pity. Half of her will think you are about to laugh. But you don’t do either of those things. You say gently: Are you serious? I hope you’re serious. Because I think I could be very serious about you. Explain you need to tell your friends you’re not going on with them. As you leave the room look back. She will be touching her hair.

7.1.16


The Story of the Doctor Forced to Treat the Policeman who was Partly Responsible for the Death of His Son

There’s a knot in Paul’s heart. The doctor sees it but he says nothing because there’s nothing to say. Paul notices the doctor look away, like he’s got better things to think about. Paul keeps this thought inside. He tries to stay confident. He says something. There’s a silence. Like the doctor hasn’t heard. He repeats himself; he says something like everything okay doc: a jocular talisman against evil news. The doctor looks at him slowly as if he’s only now noticed his presence. He appraises Paul. With a flicker of a thought he decides to let him die. He tells him he’s doing well. Paul apologises and thanks the doctor. The doctor clears his throat and asks what Paul does, but he already knows. When the doctor’s son died, Paul was the arresting officer. Paul says he is with the police. The doctor wants Paul to leave but instead he asks if Paul can be more specific. That’s all I’m prepared to divulge at this juncture, says Paul, and laughs: I’m such a cliché it hurts. Paul has taken up enough of the doctor’s time and he stands up. The doctor is invisibly angry; he has wrapped his heart in glass and paper. The doctor wants to hurt Paul but instead he shakes his hand. The doctor wants to curse Paul, in all the languages of the earth, but instead he opens the door for him. Paul hesitates in the doorway and he looks at the doctor, something vague stirring. The doctor looks hard at Paul and doesn’t blink. His eyes are bloody with staring. His stare thumps into Paul’s knotted heart.  It rattles in his chest. The doctor wants to say: seriously? nothing? But instead he explains he has other patients waiting. As Paul leaves the room he is touching his hair.

8.1.16


There Is A Silence That We Do Not Hear

There’s a Knight buried in St Paul’s churchyard. You can see his tomb but it has nothing written on it, because there’s nothing to say. You might be tempted to look away, to think you have better things to see, but keep looking. It does say something. It says: ubique silentium quod non audiamus but these words are etched inside the tomb. A talisman against the emptiness. A man with the dog looks at the tomb slowly as if he’s only now noticed its presence. He appraises it. He contemplates it. He clears his throat and tells the Knight he’s a widower but he’s doing well. That’s all I’m prepared to divulge at this juncture, he says, and laughs: I’m a policeman – I’m such a cliché it hurts. The man has taken up enough of the Knight’s time but he is invisibly lost; he has wrapped his heart in glass and paper. He wants to hurt the world but instead he stamps his foot on the ground. He wants to curse the earth, in all the languages of the earth, but instead he just stands on it. He hesitates and looks at the blank white tomb. He listens to the air around it. He stares and doesn’t blink. His eyes are red with staring. His ears are red with listening. His stare scratches into the knotted marble. He hoped he would find something secret written there, a voice, but instead he sees nothing, hears only silence. Self-consciously, the widower smooths down a hair and thanks the Knight for his time.

9.1.16


 www.amandanorman.com

www.amandanorman.com

One Girl

That night, the tomb lay silent in the churchyard. Not a sound whispered in the trees. A young girl, goaded by her friends, jumps from the churchyard wall into the small memorial ground. Jessica is twelve, just under five foot, her red hair in tight curls, her pale purple tracksuit is scuffed and muddy at the bottom. She walks carefully between the gravestones. Everywhere is silent, but she does not hear it. She is singing to herself: an enchantment against the dark. She stops by the tomb, as if struck by its presence. She gazes at it. She stares at the headstone, it’s taller than her. She clears her throat and says hello into the night. A willow sways behind her and she jumps. What a cliché, she thinks, and laughs. She looks around. It’s dark and she’s lost her bearings. Jessica has wrapped her glass heart in brown paper. She wants to hurt the world. She kicks at the headstone. It gives a little but not much. She takes a few steps back then runs at it, delivering a flying kick. It shudders but springs back. Jessica stops and stares unblinkingly at the dark white stone. She listens to the air around her. Her eyes sting with looking. Her ears ache with listening. A scratching sound behind the tomb. Jessica hellos again into the dark. From behind the headstone steps a girl. She is just under five foot, her red hair in tight curls. Her pale purple tracksuit is scuffed and muddy at the bottom. She is called Jessica.

10.1.16

I moved house here so there was a bit of a hiatus...

Dark

At night, Jessica lies silent in the bed, window open, listening to the wind in the trees, imagining it as the goading of her friends. Jessica is twelve, just under five foot, her red hair in tight curls. That morning, she walked carefully between the desks, everyone silent, but she doesn’t hear that. In class, she sings to herself, under her breath: an enchantment against the dark. She stops and looks up when she feels the teacher’s presence, looming above her. She clears her throat and says hello and everyone laughs which makes her jump; she’d forgotten anyone else was there. It’s dark now and she’s lost. Jessica has wrapped her glass heart in brown paper. She wants to hurt the world. She wants to hurt her friends. She wants to show them that they have hurt her but she mustn’t show that, no not at all. Jessica lies in bed and stares unblinkingly at the dark. She listens to the air around her. Her eyes sting with looking. Her ears ache with listening. Jessica hellos again into the dark. The dark swirls with friends. Jessica my name is Jessica. The dark lists her faults.

15.1.16

 

It’s OK, It’s OK

Afterwards, Jessica lies silent in the bed, with his arm flopped over her, and she listened to his breath sinking into sleep. She tried imagining her workmates’ reactions. Jessica is thirty, just over five foot, her red hair in tight curls. That morning, she had walked carefully to her desk, noticing but not hearing the silence around her. She had looked down at her desk and straightened the hole punch, the stapler, the pen pot, the mouse mat: she had stopped as she felt his presence, looming above her. He had said: you’re Jessie right? She had squeaked a hello and she had felt people stifle laughter; she had forgotten anyone else was there. In his office, he had explained to her that her actions have lost the firm not one but two of their most important clients. Jessica’s glass heart had pounded. She had told him that she didn’t mean to hurt the company; when he said make copies of their files, she had made a copy of their files. He had looked at her. You weren't meant to copy the whole file, how could you think that? She had looked down, eyes pricking. It’s OK it’s OK, he had said. Do you want to get a coffee? he had said. Jessica lies in bed, feels his dead weight arm on her waist, and stares unblinkingly at the dark. She listens to the air around her. Her eyes sting with looking. Her ears ache with listening. Jessica whispers hello again into the dark. The dark swirls with workmates. Jessica my name is Jessica. The dark lists her faults.

16.1.16

 

Bedtime

Jessica sits down quietly on the bed, moving his arm carefully, listening to ensure his breath stays regular. The duvet is balled up under him and she tugs carefully at a corner, watching his reactions. She pulls a little more and an S-shaped clump of duvet unfolds for her. She tenses as his deep breaths go silent. She looks down at him, praying that he doesn’t wake. He coughs sleepily and his head lolls away, as if uneasily aware of her presence, looming above him. Jessica, Jessie, he murmurs in his sleep. She hears a squeak of flatulence and she stifles a laugh. She waits until she is again sure he is fully asleep. She swings one leg onto the bed and holds her breath. She swings the second and listens for his breathing. Her heart pounding, her muscles hurting, she lowers, slowly, ever so slowly, her back down onto the bed. She copies his breathing, making herself invisible. He opens his eyes and looks at her. Hey. She keeps her eyes closed, trying to keep her breathing even, her eyes still. Shush now, back to sleep, she thinks. She feels the dead weight of his arm flop around her waist, and she stares at her own interior dark. She listens to the air around her. Her ears ache with listening. The dark swirls with his smell. She silently whispers her name in the dark. Jessica my name is Jessica. In the dark, she falls.

17.1.16

 

End

Jessica lies completely still in the undergrowth, her arm relaxed but poised, her finger on the trigger. Her breathing is calm and regular. A light cotton blanket is balled up under her and she presses herself comfortingly against it. She is alert. Her reactions are keen. The Heckler & Koch PSG1 sits snugly in the crook of her shoulder, the barrel cradled in an improvised A-frame. She hears a noise and she tenses, her breath stilling. Her right eye at the scope, the illuminated reticle sees the target enter the clearing 100m ahead, coughs sleepily, his head lolling, as if barely awake. Just a little further, she murmurs; she feels a gurgle of flatulence and stifles a laugh. She waits until he is fully exposed in the centre of the clearing. She shrugs gently and pulls the butt firmly into her shoulder. She holds her breath. Her heart thumping, her muscles tense, she squeezes the trigger, slowly, ever so slowly, her belly taut against the ground. She is invisible as she watches him breathing. He turns his head and looks directly at her. She keeps her eyes fixed on him, her breathing even, her body motionless. Shush now, nothing to see here, she murmurs. Crack. He feels something punch at his arm and it flops uselessly against his waist. He stares at it for a second and a second crack splits the air around him, he feels himself fall to his knees. He listens to the air around him, his ears aching with the listening. It’s becoming dark suddenly and he tastes it in his mouth. He silently whispers a name in the dark. Jessica? Is that you, Jessica? In the dark, he falls.

18.1.16

 

Transparent Girl

Jessica stands completely still behind the door, her arm relaxed but poised, her finger on the trigger. Her breathing is calm and regular. The wall is dark red she presses herself comfortingly against it. She is alert and keen. Her Glock pistol sits comfortably in her hand, the silencer pointing at the ceiling. She hears a noise outside and she tenses, her breath stilling. Her eye on the door knob, the landing light illuminates the long strip beneath the door. A key in the lock and then then door opens and the target enters, coughing sleepily, his head lolling, as if barely awake. Just a little further, she murmurs. He lets go a burst of flatulence and she doesn’t laugh. She is waiting until he is fully in the centre of the room. He shrugs the bag off his shoulder and she points the gun at his back. Her muscles taut, she presses the button on her belt, slowly, ever so slowly, and she feels the device taking effect. Now she is invisible. He hears the slight hum of the contraption and turns his head and looks directly at her but she is invisible. She keeps her eyes fixed on him, her breathing even, her body invisible. Literally, she thinks, nothing to see here. Ffdoomff. He feels something punch at his arm and it flops uselessly against his waist. He stares at it for a second and a second Ffdoomff hits the air around him, he feels himself fall to his knees. He listens to the air around him, his ears aching with the listening. It’s becoming dark suddenly and he tastes it in his mouth. He silently whispers a name in the dark. Transparent Girl, is that you, Transparent Girl? In the dark, he falls.

19.1.16

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