Sunday Morning Osmosis

Sometimes on Sunday our sheets are like chloroplasts. We move in and out, a kind of miasma where our skin is completely permeable. She refuses to draw the curtains, always, and the sunlight is steadfast and golden. Have you ever heard of a rainy Sunday? Our bracelets clink together, the metal like ice upon glass as our lips upon flesh. The exchange of stamps and marks is fluid. Her skin is white and she is fish-like, slippery; the scales of her body betray no secrets. The world is indifferent. She lisps with her singing; it is like a kettle boiling with just that frisson, that amount of whistling. The sound of the radio fills the air with crickets. I am proud of how easily she makes me free. I embrace an alien quality, morphing into the shape of her body. You cannot clasp it anymore than you could clasp a handful of ocean. She slithers. Her sheets drip with the sunniness of Sunday.

Today I am starved of light. There is no photosynthesis. It is a gloomy Sunday and I listen to Billie Holiday, the rain making music of my window. I curl under sediments of quilt and Norah Jones is crooning to me, as if magic would happen if only this were a tin roof and I was the peaceful queen. They know nothing of this suffering. She is so far away and there are metallic sands which ripple with the languorousness of a dying jellyfish, a sweet diffusion into tiny particles. No answer to the water, no language upon the sound. A preservation keeps me from coiling completely back into matter. I too could be fish-like, surviving upon the one taut muscle that would undulate back towards the river. Westwards I stare at the glare. The key in the lock, its passionate rattle. I’d give up my life to avoid his entrance, to see the storms, properly on the sea, a vendor selling melted ice-cream, children digging holes in the sand. I’d cry into the colours. I’d want to mollify like that; compress this silken membrane, exact my own mode of decay. I would see her adrift like me: the purple one, bruised and stung on the cold white duvet.

/ Maria Sledmere

(fff prompts: non-binary, pride)

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Electric Blue

 

Electric Blue

The bedroom swirls in plumes of dust. This is what she loves: spinning and lifting her skirt, eyes rolling back in mock ecstasy. Nobody has entered her room for a long time. The curtains have been drawn since April. In here, there was no summer.

The music skips, judders between trance and breakbeat. It is maddening, a trip of rhythm, of time signatures. She loves it. She spins and lifts her skirt. 4/4 drums and looping synths. Eyeshadow electric blue meeting the glow coming from the corner, by the bed. She will let no stranger into her bed. The glow is unnatural. The sheets are pristine, though everything else is trash. Broken crockery, smashed glass. She cuts her feet as she twirls and leaps, but feels nothing. She is waiting for the cry on the other side.

Blood spatters everywhere, quietly on the carpet.

She rises for her first laugh. Her makeup so blue, her lips drained translucent. This is her crazed performance. She is like the atoms dancing in space, aligning their beads into exquisite shapes. Her laughter is like the bending of glass, so close it might break. But still, she laughs. Eyes opening and closing, still she laughs. Her body the bending of glass.

Turns to the corner, the emanating glow. Unnatural. The light moves in flickers, as she does. She is like a sprite of glitched pixels. The music is fading, as she does.

A voice comes into focus. Sound waves expand and compress.

There is a screen, and she is dancing. She is dancing for the screen, casting her shadow on the sound beams of a hologram. She flickers. The screen spills out electric blue.

She blinks, she flickers.

–Maria Sledmere

(Flash Fiction February prompts: misaligned, breakthrough, Kate Bush- Running Up That Hill)

Forest

Forest

The trees are knotted
in the spot where the bluebells grow
in June.

Gnarling, their roots twist
into strange, exotic shapes—
Spirals and triangles, spikes
like barbed wire.

We used to sit here
as children. We knew the notch,
the dark hard eye,
the tender part which you cut
to get the sap out.

Everything here is a cycle;
there is no flow of time,
no regress or
degeneration.

In summer the frost fades
to forget-me-nots;
through the canopy, long
into the evening, light lingers
in splinters and sparkles.

So I return;
the trees seem to whistle.
You hear their singing, its softness
like pining. Walk with me.

The greenness changes with the seasons.
Now I look upon it,
these tufts of grass, these oak leaves
glow with yellow fire—
chocolate, chestnut, cinnabar.

I look upon the colour, my fingers
scratching the eye. Its hardness
comes apart like ice.

I stare into that black spot,
the cavernous passage laden with frost,
the eye like a moon.

In the copper of twilight I see you again:
grass in your hair,
bluebells in June.

by Maria S.

(Prompts: green-man.jpg, passage, degeneration)

cherry melancholia

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Photo by Manuela Hoffman

cherry melancholia
Maria Sledmere

rain on the lawn; the greenness
dark and deep. a handful of shells
clotted in the mud with the blossoms,
the pink ones
from the cherry tree.

she walks out slowly,
snow petals swirling round her,
silent.

in the garden she will lie
where the grass is softest. she will lie
staring at the glass sky,
a sleepful of memory.

just love, the garden will say,
just love.
she forgot the place where he kissed her once—
it wasn’t here

but she returns anyway,
the grass feels sweet underneath her,
the air tastes golden, the first taste
of crab apples in autumn. love
set her going in spring, a silk cut
from a willow tree.

smoke rises in the distance
to the smell of cherry pie.
once he kissed her eyes, her cheeks;
he told her she was cinnamon.

in the garden now she is older,
older as the trees are, ring after ring
in each year, each reel of string
that she unwinds.

they come to bind
the sweet peas with twine.
bitter berries,
summer wine.

she is older
and the pie in her mouth now
is cloying; she is older
and the leaves are dying,
falling with the raindrops, the poor branches.

The garden speaks
now she is older, the rings round her eyes—
old pools of light, cherry pie,
speaking
of melancholia.

(prompts: eloquent, garden)

Strawberries & Cream

Water cascades from the convergence point of the two lids, at the cusp, where the milky white of the sclera turns red and fleshy. The bottom lid puckers slightly, so to allow the liquid to flow in quicker succession. Where the cheekbone protrudes, the drops fall from the face and carelessly into the bowl below, each trickle making a dot in the cream and exposing the corpulent red of the strawberries beneath. The body’s water fuses with the cream, and dilutes it until the consistency wanes. But it does not matter, for her appetite is gone, and her menial portion teases voluptuousness. The stream ebbs now, blotted by a damp and crumpled tissue, which is subsequently tossed aside, to a pile of similar endeavors.

The man stares upward to the ceiling of his room, his fulfilled desire had transpired to sickness; a momentary slip through the fabric of sanity, his senses, for a minute, a separate entity. But they had came together again now, and the realisation tormented him, for he had forced the soul of another unto his, and had stained the inner walls of its cavity. He got up and opened a whiskey bottle, and drank until it dribbled from his mouth. The alcohol deluged him, and cleansed his defiled innards. He continued to drink until the bottle was finished, and not long after did it fall, from the released tension of his fingers.

by Marcus Bechelli
What were your prompts?: Waterfall, Strawberry

Corrosion

So long it had taken us to hike out here, even with the help of the guide who talked in soft, bubbly Turkish, and the sun beaming high in the sky despite the afternoon’s wearied position. Some of the locals call this place ‘Cotton Castle’, most likely due to the fluffy mineral formations caused by the crystallised carbonite which clusters upon the rock. My husband George and I had chosen Turkey because of the beauty of these natural springs, and the restorative promise that seemed to gurgle through the very turquoise of those lustrous, travel agent photographs.

The guide told us, switching to a lilted English, that the ground transported magical properties up through these waters. My husband is of course a sceptic of everything and he raised his eyebrows with such rudeness that I was forced to gush my enthusiasm. There were a handful of other couples here – mostly older folks – but also the odd young man or woman who had come like us to escape the tiring perils of modern life. While George stood with his arms folded looking out across the twining rivulets, I pulled off my shirt and let the hot sun glow through every nerve. The wonderful, life-giving sun. I recommend it to all. There is something indeed enchanting about the softness of the little wavelets as they ripple across the aqua baths, the tiny, tinkling sound they make as they purl in swirling whirlpools that pull against the chalky rock. A young man grinned at me unashamedly as I climbed with as much grace as I could muster into the hot springs. Steam gushed off my skin as I sank beneath the warm water, feeling the thick of it billow and shimmer around me. Light from the late sun shone on the glossy surface and I felt it reflect on my face in so many triangles of white. How good it felt to be warm, to be so refreshingly warm!

George glared at me, obviously disgruntled by my shameless entrance into the water. The guide seemed to sense this and whispered something in my husband’s ear that caused a lewd stare and then a grimace. These things are to be expected of men, I suppose. My response was to stare hungrily at the young man, to pick out the glitter of his eyes. It was then that George decided it was about time he clambered in, and there was an unpleasant splash as he did so. Thin streams of water trickled over the edges, dripping like molten silver down the terraces and glinting so prettily that it would blind you to watch for too long.

“I’ve never been so happy,” I murmur to George with a knowing smile.
“The water is too hot,” he said huffily, leaning back against the rock. We were silent.

I suddenly had the urge to be utterly submerged. Ignoring my husband’s protests, I plunged my whole self underwater: felt the hot surges rush by my cheeks and pull back my skin like gills. I pulled with my arms into a kind of butterfly stroke, forcing my body deeper below the surface. All was a potent, cobalt blue; the kind of blue you dream of in the sapphire-hued sleep of a winter’s evening. I blew bubbles and touched the bottom of the pool. The rock came away easily like gritted salt in my fingers; I clutched some tight in my fist and kicked up to the surface.

As I burst through the layer of perfect gossamer, I found myself up close to the young man. He said something in what might’ve been Spanish and laughed. I could not see my husband.

“How peaceful it is down there,” I found myself saying breathlessly. The Turkish sun was sizzling on my back and the water spilled off my hair in droplets that snatched the splintering light. My heart did a funny somersault as I found the man ran a finger down my wet cheek. I let go of the handful of silt and felt it drift slowly to the bottom of the pool. I watched the man as he took his finger from my cheek and put it in his mouth.
“Tastes like salt,” he said in crystal English. I remember being aware of the sheer precipice that hung below us: the millions of white icicles shining in sunlight; the infinite layering of cerulean pools and carbonite glazing; the steady susurration of trickling water and tinkling laughter. I felt myself dissolving in the pureness of this beauty, its centripetal pull towards a perfect present. I could not help but kiss him; could not help but let him ruffle his hands through my soaking hair. The moment was ours and we were part of that eternal flowing of water: the slow clustering of hydrogen and oxygen, the corrosion of soft rock over thousands of years.

It was only when I opened my eyes that I remembered my husband; felt his cold gaze like a cloud of dripping fog on the back of my neck. Of course, I never saw that man again.

(Prompts: photograph of Pamukkale Travertine Terraces, Turkey; middle)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

The Preciousness of Water

A bright morning, something calling… though who knows what because for so long I’ve been alone, so long I’ve forgotten what it is to hear something – anything at all – that wasn’t my own two feet trudging upon soil. I was standing by the ocean’s edge, the sand etched in my toes, thinking how weak the sea looked; so still as if the moon had given up trying to pull it. It didn’t make the usual hush and shush that the sea is supposed to make. If it wasn’t for that distant pattering sound, I would think the accident had deafened me after all.

You get a kind of deja vu, standing here looking outwards with everything unfolding in the distance. Once these ashen lumps beneath my feet were tufts of grass and mounds of soft pink heather. There were sea-flowers and elegant sand dunes. Now the beach is blotched with the remains of fallout: blackish dust and fragments of rock that haven’t yet been swept away, like the tide’s lost its power to barter with the earth. The news told us that there could be more fallout to come, a shower of dark rain to fall in a few days or weeks or even months. That was before the screens flashed off and haven’t lit up again since. What I miss most are cigarettes and the smell of lemon shower-gel, the cry my baby made in its crib.

I was thinking about all these things when the noises grew louder. At first it sounded like the distant beginnings of rain, but then there was a clattery thumpiness to it and a rhythm you don’t get with rain drops. I waited and waited, hoping this wasn’t to be another explosion, though half wondering what it would be like to see that shattering of mushroom-cloud that first bloomed in America. A secret part of me longed for the shock, the cataclysm. I watched a storm breaking against the bay; handfuls of seconds being snatched from the world. The pounding got louder and louder and the ground was vibrating and I was about to turn round when the wind whipped past me with the force of so many bodies and there they all were: a band of wild horses torn from nowhere, galloping fast towards the water. It was all I could do to catch my breath, staggering backwards. They were magnificent creatures, all chestnutty-coloured and shining in the whiteish light. I hadn’t seen such beauty in so long. The horizon seemed almost to open to them, its silky jaws of melty yellow parting as they splashed into the ocean with their powerful legs. I couldn’t help but run closer to them; I ran and ran till I was touching the sea with my bare feet, knowing the water was full of radiation but still not stopping, not stopping till I was closer to those horses. One of them neighed like a wolf howling to the moon, and it shook its head dramatically like a proud actress. I was thinking how strange it was and wishing someone else was there to see it with me. I stood still watching the last of the horses bound deep into the ocean; they kept running through the delicate waves as easy as scissors ripping silk; they kept running till even their heads had dipped underwater. I wondered if horses could swim, but then I remembered that these days there’s no point doubting anything. It all could happen. All of it; anything. Maybe they had gills, and maybe there were other horses with wings. The water gathered in pools around my feet and already I was feeling the tingling.

You can see all the dead fish and crabs and other slimy things being tossed about underwater like any old rubbish. I leant down to pick up a starfish which was fossilised in a coating of ash. If you pull their limbs off, they grow back. I held it in my hand, the ash flaking off of it, a thing so precarious. Looking down, you could see the dull yellow glow coming from odd areas of the sea bed. I sighed and threw the starfish into the distance, watching it spin away like a frisbee. It made me feel a little freer.

I stood there with the radiated water churning its forgotten neutrons and fishy detritus and plastic litter; stood there until I felt the very sand below my feet begin to sink. As usual, the day would not come as it should. The storm’s aftermath of dark grey clouds bloomed in the distance and already I could smell the pungency of all their nothingness. The whole horizon was a plume of flowery mist.

I closed my eyes and remembered the time the baby and I were on this beach, making sandcastles out of soft bright sand and in the warm sun eating strawberries. I opened my eyes to blink. A veil of ash still covered the sky, cloaking the world with unnatural mortality. I closed them again, to stop the sting.

And now when I close my eyes, I think of the horses. I cry and cry, thinking of those horses; though water is too precious to waste, a memory of some ocean that’s light years away.

(Prompts: photograph of horses, mortality, fall-out)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Of Agony and Ambience

The carnival was alive with all the coruscations of otherworldly sounds and playful particles of light. A dreamer from another world might be at home here in the terrible pleasures of fiddle litanies, fortune tellers and candy floss spun like the silk of some fantastic spider. Dancers whirled and threw about their lovely muscles upon the stage while children laughed and sang and played. All was a picturesque festival and the village and its people seemed at their happiest.

But happy to those immune to the allure of the magic booth. The sign outside was written in Old English lettering, embossed with gold leaf, and it said that the enchanter inside could read people’s auras. The children were forbidden from entering the booth: to know one’s aura was considered bad luck, and indeed a responsibility too great to be shouldered by the young. Typically, the only people who sought the knowledge of the aura-reader were those faced by some personal crisis: illness, a death in the family, a forbidden or forlorn love, a secret and implacable desire, or perhaps problems with coaxing the harvest to ripe.

They had expected the aura-reader to be some gnarled old woman, possibly wearing a witch’s hat, but certainly with a cat draped on one shoulder and a shimmering shawl of sorts on the other. They had certainly not expected the fresh-faced young man who sat up crossed-legged looking at a dream-catcher on the ceiling, a string of pearls around his neck.

“Welcome,” he murmured as a way of greeting. The villages were to come in two at a time, and leave their donations in a small pot by the tent’s entrance. The soft clink of silver in the pot chimed with the twinkle of metal slivers clicking together on the ends of the dream-catcher. Carefully, a couple took their place upon the rug in front of the aura-reader. They were not married, but in fact brother and sister.

“What is it you seek?” The boy’s voice had the uncanny bristle of a man much older. Yet as he spoke, no wrinkles betrayed his age, nor were there frown-lines to ripple his forehead. His face was as smooth as the skin of a ripe apple.

“Well, we came here because you can read auras,” the man said nervously.

“That I can do.”

“Y-yes.” The smell of incense wafted up from a corner of the boot, filling their heads with the dreamy airiness of distant promises.

“But why do you wish me to read your aura?”

“It sounds exciting,” the woman piped in, pulling back a strand of her ashen hair.

“Perhaps it is.” The boy closed his eyes and hummed gently, the sound seeming to illuminate his translucent skin. The man fidgeted and the woman stared at the boy’s long butterfly lashes and wished she’d been blessed with such an asset.

They waited a good hour or so for the boy to speak again. Time was a wispy thing; a silk-sliver dangling upon the streams his dream-catcher. The boy seemed caught in a trance and it would be a sin to wake him. When he opened his eyes, he stared first at the man and then the woman. He sighed deeply. He closed his eyes, then opened them to look one by one at the couple again, his gaze meeting theirs’ in ephemeral recognition.

“One of you will die a most horrific death,” he said after a pause. They waited with bated breath for him to continue.

“I see it in the after-image. Black: little snivelling swirls of it. It catches at your eyes and ears and makes a fool of your lovely soul. Soon you’ll be deep in the ground, cold.” His slow, emphatic tone savoured every word he spoke.

“But which one of us are you referring to?” the man asked with some desperation. Ignoring this inquest, the boy spoke again. It was just then that the couple noticed the shining bead of light emanating from the centre of his forehead. They tried to ignore it, looking up at the dream catcher as his words filled the tight space.

“The other has a most wonderful aura…such a rich, potent red… you are alive with carnal desires, so urgent and so lusty that I would love myself to reach out and touch you…but it would break the spell. You will live long and powerful and have many children, it is certain. Your body gives spark to the vivacity of your spiritual flesh.” He beamed, but his gaze was directed at the space between the man and the woman: the dark velvet of the curtain behind them.

“So one of us will live pleasantly whilst the other shall die?”

“It is perhaps so, as the colours tell me.”

They looked at each other and sorrow filled their souls as they thought of how the sibling bond between them was bound to inevitably burst. The thought of this sadness kindled a flame of rage and frustration, and it was all they could do to prevent themselves ripping at the boy’s throat; for how dare he cast such wicked slander upon their family? How could it be fair that one should live while the other perish in a most unpleasant death? It seemed a knowledge beyond all reason.

And so mania sizzled through their veins as they crawled from the tent, and once again faced the bright darkness, the fairy lights and lively music, the people and their bodies bumping and dancing and spinning.

“We must lose ourselves,” the man said. “It is the only way.” The sister swore to him that she agreed and so they took themselves off into the woods, stopping by at a seedy-looking stall to pick up the necessary paraphernalia. The needle would be sharp and sweet, as such things are destined always to be.

When they were found, dead, the next day, their bodies were swollen with staggering amounts of morphine. Black pocks marked their skin and already hoards of ants and maggots had begun feasting upon the cloth of their bodies. When the boy was called upon to witness them, he buried his head in his hands in a strained display of emotion.

“What a gorgeous aura – such passion and anguish! – and did they not know that an aura is but transience?”

So under the cherry glacé of a summer’s dawn the boy wept until all the sins crawled out of his soul like impatient worms; until he was a crumple upon the undergrowth, his aura black as a midnight sky or the ore of darkest coal. The ooze and cloud came out of every pore until his body joined his soul – so shrivelled and sad and old.

(Prompts: manic, paraphernalia, booth)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Starlight Elixir

‘Tis a lonely profession, and one that some say is no longer needed – what with your hospitals and injections and every person owning enough pills to send a small city to sleep for weeks. Lonely because there are very few of us left, and those who remain are engaged in bitter rivalries and vicious rumours that go back generations. Like anything, we apothecaries compete for spatial territories. Everyone wants the spots where the old folks linger.

Our customers are queer creatures: the cake white faces, quivering fingers, eyes black as juniper berries. They always pay, with great reluctance, in loose change, as if they were handing their last store of treasure to grizzly pirates. Often, they come to us with intricate enquiries, such as: will this cough syrup help get rid of mothballs? Will this tincture send my husband to sleep forever? Some get very offended when we tell them we are no longer allowed to stock opium, or arsenic too, for that matter. They ask if we will help let their blood for them; this always ends up happening when I am alone in the shop. Patiently I explain that it isn’t legal; not even, I must tell them, if we use supposedly harmless leeches. It seems most of our customers come to us expecting us to perform an array of illicit operations, from abortion and bowel dissolving to poison.

Probably it is Shakespeare’s fault, for slating us with the fate of Romeo and Juliet, all those years ago. It’s a thing people tend not to forget: assisted suicide.

My favourite job is sorting the cosmetic items: the orange balm lip salve, petroleum, rose water tinctures, hazel-wood fumes. Those lovely concoctions that promise youth or peace or merely the pleasure of simple activity. There are jars of loose leaf tea we keep on the lower shelf, for impulse purchases. I tend to have a spearmint and chamomile brew always on the go, because it makes the shop smell heavenly.

There’s an ancient lady that comes in once a fortnight, always on a Friday afternoon, with her new little puppy. It’s a grey husky with an eager face and bright eyes. The boss always says to me that when it gets big she’ll never manage it on her own. I tell him to have some faith.

One day though, she comes in, arms laden with shopping bags, and says she has a problem. Usually, she arrives with the usual prescription: fennel seeds for her digestion and lavender tincture for the backache. We keep a ledger of all the regulars under the counter, and it often makes for intriguing local gossip.

“I need,” she declares, “a cure for ageing.”
“Well you do know that’s not possible; not strictly,” I tell her.
“Oh no,” she mutters impatiently, “I don’t mean for humans. Christ, I’ve wasted enough money in my life trying to solve that problem.” She gestures to her snow-white hair. “I mean for Starlight here.”

Starlight. She’s never mentioned the dog’s name before. It rings out, clear and pure somehow, even with that harsh accent of hers.

“So, you…you need an anti-ageing solution for your dog?”
“Not just anti-ageing…I want no ageing. Little Star here doesn’t want to grow up at all, do you dearie?” she beams down at the muffin ball of a puppy. It shakes its tail frantically and stares up at her with those shining eyes.
“Um. Let me check my book, maybe there’s something I have.” And I’m thinking she’s crazy; of course she’s crazy. But there was so much love in that old lady’s face that I couldn’t bear to disappoint her. I mimed flicking through an old aromatherapy book, frowning my brow dramatically.
“You see, I don’t want to bear the poor dog’s pain. I can’t see her lose her energy and happiness, not like I’ve seen all the rest go through.” She sounded peculiar then – eerily prophetic, somehow.

“Aha!” I said, banging the book down. I had decided upon which harmless placebo I would feed to the animal. But just as I looked up over the counter, the old lady had disappeared. Bewildered, I stepped out onto the shop floor to investigate. There was Starlight, hoary as frost and silver smoke, sitting wagging her tail upon a pile of crumpled clothes. I recognised the paisley-print scarf and the tea-stained blouse; these were her clothes. But surely she hadn’t stripped naked and left the shop, in the time it took me to leaf through a book?

We never discovered what really happened to her. My boss told me she was mad and probably did a runner. He wouldn’t believe me when I told him what she had come in asking for that afternoon. He did, however, insist that we keep the dog instead of freeing it or giving it away.
“It seems a bad omen to let the thing go,” he said.

So Starlight remained with us for years and years afterwards, watching patiently in the corner and wagging her tail as the doorbell chimed to welcome new customers. Yet there was something in her glittering eye that stopped people going over to pet her. Curiously too, she has not aged a day nor grown an inch since the old lady left her.

Prompts: apothecary, puppy, grey

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Grapes

A bowl of grapes sits on the windowsill. Forgotten for days, a layer of dust clusters on the waxy skins of the grapes. Once, the skins were iridescent, their purple a pure Cadbury sheen, bunched behind plastic in the supermarket. A colour, indeed, that seemed a little unnatural.

Once, they had been swollen and fat grapes, ripe for the plucking. Grown, the label said, in the south of France, by a man named Giuseppe. Their colour was rich enough to drool over; the kind of colour that feels sickly in your mouth, too vivid for your vision.

Now the grapes had collapsed a little, their skins shrivelled like a blister popped by a pin. You could imagine the cellophane surface of those grapes: sinking, the juice inside slowly moulding. A clammy wine flavour caught in your throat. Earthy, somehow; but still so acid sweet, leaving that languid aftertaste.

They caught the sunlight that spilled in shafts through the kitchen window. Late February and the light was still winter white, making the grapes gleam a little. From a distance, if you saw the world in impressionist brushstrokes, they could be a collection of amethysts – dull, unpolished crystals. There was the black shadow between them that semi-precious gemstones have, a kind of darker, other self, that took the edge off their luminescence.

How lovely they are, somebody thinks as they enter the kitchen. How lovely and sad, these grapes that we have all forgotten about. These grapes that would quench nobody’s thirst or hunger. Their musk left a cloying, fruity aroma in the air, like red wine left out in the heat uncorked. In a way, they were disgusting. And yet there was a purity to them, a rot or sombreness personified in their fleshly pulp. It was, perhaps, the trueness of their purple.

by Maria Sledmere