No Surface All Feeling

IMG_02261

For so long he has stared into mirrors. The passing, fleeting kind: shop windows, car windows, the sunglassed eyes of strangers. What he sees will always follow and taunt him.

It is better when the rain falls and all is blurred and distorted.

“You need to get out your own head for awhile,” is what his flatmate said. It reminds him of his mother, all those years ago, scolding him for the time he spent alone in his room.

“There’s nothing attractive about a narcissist,” she’d chide, poking her head round his door, “you’ll never make friends if you stay like this.”

“I’m sorry,” he’d reply, staring at the floor, “I’ll try harder”. The trouble was, it wasn’t narcissism that kept him trapped inside himself – it was fear.

Always he was fighting the mirrors. What was it about their silvery, slippery surface that so taunted him? He hated to see himself, hated the way his cheeks bulged and his stomach poked out like a bag full of water. In the world outside, there was no way of avoiding his reflection. Just being around people was enough: their curious stares provided the chasm of mirrors into which he lost himself. Once, in a supermarket, a young woman pointed at his legs and whispered, loudly, to her mother:

“Gosh, look how skinny he is!”

But she knew nothing. How could she know how wrong she was?

He was only ever happy in the afterglow, the slump against the bathroom wall after puking in the toilet bowl. In the mirror his pallor was otherworldly, and for a moment he felt invincible, having cheated the weakness of his own body.

He drinks in the afternoon with or without his flatmate, watching the sun melt like a flaming ice cube, dripping down the cold blue back of a twilight sky. The alcohol is a solvent, in which sorrow and fear dissolve together. He could do anything when drunk: go dancing, write a song, kiss a girl, stay out all night long, running through the city streets. Instead, he doesn’t. He lies there, supine and unreal in his bladdered paralysis.

In the morning he wakes with a headful of nasty memories. He has to fish them out, one by one, like a child picking unwanted peas from their plate of dinner. He feels purer when he stands at the window. It is raining and the rain covers the streets with sheets of lucent alabaster; almost snowlike, the way it glows in lamplit puddles. The sky, these days, is far too white. He likes to stare into its abyss; seeing not himself cast back in the glass reflection, but a hundred other monsters, blinking their hungry eyes back at him. Feeling, feeling. He knows this is the life he must seek, the life so far that he has missed.

–Maria Sledmere

(Flash Fiction February prompts: rain, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”–Friedrich Nietzsche)

 

The Firefly That Woke Up Too Soon

Coco was in shock. Her world had suddenly been turned inside out and upside down, and her many legs clung desperately to the branch while she stared around her. Coco was one of many suns, illuminating the thick darkness of the swamp. She was also new sun, only now learning her route, the dances and the power of her light. The universe around her was a dark mass that she and her kin illuminated every day. Her world was simply made up of light and dark: but not this kind of light.

Coco had woken up early. The cold light around her was nothing like the fire she carried around everyday and the world suddenly seemed so large. Everything around her now stood out in sharp, weird hues that she had never seen before. Crawling forward, still in shock and still dazed, she reached the edge of the branch and looked down. Coco shuddered and her body flickered uneasily. The world spun around her as she attempted to judge the distance between her and that thing called ground. She dared not look up, as the stories she had heard – but never believed – invaded her mind.

The ‘other’ sun. An even bigger sun than they, which shone a very different kind of light on the world, but a sun that never came out during the day. Coco had never really believed it and now she was afraid that if she looked up it would all be confirmed. She closed her eyes for a minute, then opened them again. The world started spinning, the vertigo gripped her so fiercely this time that she had to back away from the edge. Coco attempted to flex her wings, surely in the air she would be safe? – it was her element after all. But only hoovering over the branch proved impossible. Bewildered and scared she crawled back under her leaf and settled down, blatantly ignoring the light and the colours around her. Feigning sleep she waited for the hideousness to go away, for the darkness to return and her day (and her universe) to be restored once more.

The darkness came not long after and it did not take long before Coco started to forget the light and the vertigo. Although the memory never completely left her. It resided as a faint echo in her mind, occasionally surfacing when she touched down on a new branch or settled down to sleep. It was the faint notion that something else, something bigger, was waiting just beyond the darkness and the trees. But even that soon moved into the realm of legend.

Nina Lindmark-Lie
What were your prompts?: Firefly, Vertigo

Moan Towards You

Your moaning echoes through the tunnels of my ears and so I slam my palms to my lobes and mutter in pain.

Again you grumble out, no words but I can decipher the meaning. Joining you I groan in unison, a harmony to your melody saying that I have no desire to come to you, no matter how much you might beg.

Beg for company as you lie in that bed, striving to rise. Around you there are whispers of the haunted thousand voices of those who came before. You try to interpret them, wailing to me, but I remind you, with a shout, that I hear them too, silly soul, I have always heard them too.

I do not want to look around the corner and watch you. Despite your cries. For I know I will look and become enthralled once more in the terrified depths of your eyes. The fear is much and great, without resolve, but it captivates me to the extent where I just want to stare, state, stare.

So abnormal, my rabbit bunny tells me. So I stopped. A long time ago. And now I just attend to your needs with a long pole and a mirror as you moan once more. If I was another person maybe I would have abandoned you with your chains and straps holding you down, and shoved the pillow over your face and held it until I could no longer see the terror in those blue blue eyes. Held you down as you danced, danced, danced a little jolly dance, a reward for all your good deeds.

Maybe, if I was another person. But I am not. Instead I take your noise, and greet it with my own, then roll another bottle of water towards you. Another catheta towards you. Another tin of soup towards you.

And scream at the ghosts with you.
What were your prompts?: whale noises, reward and terror

by Ailsa Williamson