Liminal Preparations

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There are cracks where the light breaks down and all the darkness left is nougat for shadow. I devour all I have; which is just this small room, a cabin that sways all night and day. When the sad hours come I fold into a question mark, hoping for nothing but sleep. The sea will rock me to sleep. This is less being than breathing.

As the hours pass, the honey crystallises in the jar on the window. I am always in water and yet the memories are hard and congealed. A lump of obsidian brought back from disaster. Black glass, hardened felsic lava. It’s smooth and slick enough to lick, a sliver of very dark chocolate. Bittersweet howl of the elements.

Sunshine feeds me nothing. The moonlight on the decking is lovely. My skin is like frosting, covered in crystals, white and shining. Gulls come in from the west on the thrust of the wind and we hear in our sleep their shouting. I live in the thin space, the evening whisky, the wafer of salty obsidian. I dream of a firth where the seaweed clogs the gorge of the sea and all is a dark, gelatinous, bottle green. You could float and not drown and the world would have you like that, microbial.

These hexagons dripping with golden honey, these desolate soundscapes of gun-coloured grey. If I close my eyes, close my eyes…If I am adrift like this for long, the mariner I’m sure will come for me. He knows these waves, these tides, like I know my childhood streets. He is still in his own way alive; still fighting for that acrid day, the old promise of solid concrete. Until then, I must blow this skin into glass, glow molten for a dawn that may not arrive.

/Maria Sledmere

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Honey and Frost

Honey and Frost
Maria Sledmere

At night I listen to the voices: some
are soft like honey
poured in your ears; others
grasp and grate at you, the raw frosty ones –
full of knowledge beyond you.

The honey ones speak of things I like:
love and music and life.
Oh, she’s married now to that man in the film —

What a cracker of a —
Here’s the latest track from a band called —
You never get the ending because
you’re always listening for the next part.

I love it in the dark, 
the sounds at night;
they are what keeps me awake—
I don’t like to sleep or to dream.
I dream of the cold fingers, coming
out of the darkness all creamy and hungering,
covering the bedclothes with their prints.
They are like frost on my skin
and sometimes in the morning I think I can see their prints
though most likely they have melted.

The raspy voices know all about my dreams of fingers,
but they never let on. They talk about news
and politics to pass the time;
Their words fill the walls like rime.
You can scrape the white crusts off the walls,
feel the cold in the nerves of your fingers.
I had never heard voices like these before;
it was like my dreams had morphed
the voices on the radio.

I have an old purple radio: my Mum
calls it a retro one. It’s purple like a nightshade.
The aerial glints silver
and if you wave it around, the sound will change.
I can warp the voices, stop the words
before they make sense. Make them noise.

All day the songs from the nighttime fill my head.
They are mixed up with the honey voices,
sweetly swaying like my body
tossing around the bed. I write down
what I hear and the notes don’t make sense.
They are nothing but black pinpricks
which escape like moths, taking flight
from the white sheet of my page.

You could not play the same song again that way;
not like you can on the radio.

I think one day I will stop dreaming altogether;
a day without toast and tea, a day without weather.

There will be moths in my room,
caught up, stickily, in the frost. I will pick them out
like dead flowers. They will crush
to dust in my fingers.
The nighttime will come
in silence.

(Prompts: moths, purple, retro)

Group Micro-Narrative: The Singstar Sleepover

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by Lousie, Nina, Harry, Nelly and Alyssa.

My sweaty fingers gripped the microphone.

The darkness in front of me is full of whispers.

A vase on the fireplace smashed to the floor, knocked over by some unseen hand.

“Be careful, my mum is never going to let me have a Singstar sleepover again if we make a mess!”

I cried, squinting my eyes and hoping to see.

I can’t believe my friends are making me sing this abomination of a song infront of everyone.

They think it’s a bit weird to have a Singstar sleepover as a forty-year old man, but they’re humouring me because I just emerged from my 27-year coma and still thinks of myself as a child.

I constantly crave ice cream and sweets and I wake up every morning ready to go to school but the mirror doesn’t reflect my mind.

I wanted to invite the kids from my local primary school as they are more my age but the local authorities would not let me.

So instead I ended up with a group of middle.aged men who decided to spice up the singstar sleepover with several cans of beer, which of course I am not allowed to drink, which means I am the only sober one in the group.

Everyone is finally at the point where they’re not really paying attention to me anymore. I’ve been waiting to bring in the Big Guns all night. Luckily my mum kept her phone number all this time.

 

 

Crusoe’s Ghost

How strange to find myself here at last! Many months I have waited, through my dreams of turquoise shores to the pineapple sands and the shells that cut into your feet. In my sleep I opened myself like a clam to the possibilities. I would be anything – animal, even – to be here. And now I am.

What a wonder to be the only one, to own some place of my own. To have the luxury of knowing I cannot go back.

I do everything by the book. I erect my shelter, sow crops on the inland pastures, throw stones in the ocean and kill all the feral cats. I am never homesick; not for one minute.

Sometimes I find myself whispering, though what I say and to whom it cannot be said.

People do not appreciate the loveliness of loneliness until they have fully experienced it. There is an inexplicable beauty to be able to plot out one’s day, one’s hour, one’s life with absolute sovereignty. To reign free over every thought and feeling, to tread upon soil that can only be your own, with nobody to challenge it, nobody to challenge you at all. To have no worry of intrusion or offence; to have no worry of the soliciting of difference. I climb high for the coconuts and crack their skulls against the sandstone. Their pulpy juice is exquisite.

I have a herd of goats now, and a dog and a parrot, though they are not my companions. I keep them only because I am following the story. I do not speak and so the parrot learns no words, the dog obeys no orders and the goats do nothing but eat and sleep and secrete my milk. The whole island flourishes as the mother of my desires and yet still I owe her nothing but my company.

In the midday sun, I dig my toes into the sand and kill the little slimy things – the ones that crawl towards the shoreline, ugly and green.

I eat fleshy roots and summer berries, and from the tops of palms I watch the watery paradise that surrounds my island. All society has melted into the sweet sweet sea.

A year; two, three perhaps, have passed. I am no longer a name; I am no longer a human nor even an animal. I am the island itself.

This is perfect.

But everything changes one day. I wake from my goatskin sheets for my morning walk, and what do I see? I see a human footprint. A human footprint. And the terror bubbles up inside of me because I know that this footprint cannot belong to cannibals or savages or Spaniards, because that has already happened in the story. I try to erase the footprint with my boot, kicking sand over and over it, but it keeps reforming before me. And so I am no longer the whole; now I am a fractured reality, a host. For I realise this footprint can only be Crusoe’s ghost.

(Prompts: footprints photo, introvert, curiosity)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Night Eating

So I have this problem the doctors call ‘Night Eating Syndrome’. Every evening, about eight, I start getting the shakes. I might be in the bath, in the pub, at my desk. They start deep in my belly, then shiver all cold throughout my body. Everything goes numb and strange. It makes me want to stand in an empty room and scream, because there’s nothing I can do to make it go away. And in an empty room, without food, maybe my dumb body would be forced to change.

It starts when my flatmates have all gone to bed, probably to watch porn or Match of the Day. I pace my room, counting the clock’s every tick. I’ll sit in bed with my laptop, flicking through distractions. I put on something vapid and stupid, like The Inbetweeners, sometimes even shitey reruns of The Jeremy Kyle Show, downloaded illegally from some American website, where they have subtitles for when the people on it are Scottish or Northerners. I don’t really watch or listen. It’s like my eyes bathe in the screen, sink into a sea of shimmering pixels. I don’t remember anything.

 This doesn’t last very long, and soon I’m up again, pacing. I check the morning alarm’s set for seven. I take out my work clothes from the wardrobe, double check they’re all ironed and neatly folded. I take out my Blackberry and scroll through emails, but my replies to clients can wait till morning. I just want to know what they’re saying. I’ll do the same on Twitter, my eyes glazing down the slipping timeline. It’s all shit; all words spewed up by idiots out drinking, ranting about their girlfriends, or lack of. I suppose it’s Valentine’s Day – or at least, the fag end of Valentine’s Day – but it all seems the same.

Then I’ll strip down to my boxers and get back into bed. I’ll lie awake tossing for an hour in the blueish darkness, with the digital clock filling the room with its glow, like bones through an x-ray. Then the shakes are back and I’m up again, at the window now, lighting a cigarette. I blow smoke into the lukewarm night, where the sky’s always the colour of burnt umber, of light pollution. Two cigarettes later and with the nicotine my shakes are in fusion; an emanating, waiting game in my stomach.

I sneak through to the kitchen in my slippers, watching for mice as the bare bulb illuminates the room. I’m at the fridge within seconds, clawing at carbs: yesterday’s leftover pasta, hunks of cheese, donuts.  Just a great shuddering loveliness of sugar and fat and salt. I’m barely aware I’m doing it; it’s like an inertia takes hold of me and I’m falling without stopping, and all I can do is eat, eat, eat – there’s no alternative, just this void of hunger, this flame that smoulders and hollows me. I move onto the cupboards, stuffing handfuls of cereal in my mouth: bran flakes, Cheerios, my flatmate’s muesli (he’s a health freak, obviously). Packets of crisps: cheese and onion, ready salted. Crackers with lumps of Nutella, white bread rolled up into a ball that’s soft and dissolves in my throat. I can’t get anything down quick enough, and I’m foraging so fast it feels like vertigo.

 I step back to look at the mess. I clear up crumbs, wipe surfaces. The trick is to leave no traces.

But it’s not enough, never enough. The sleep dangles tantalisingly over me; I know that if I get a little more, it will come to me, silky and smooth as a mother’s touch, a loving death. There is only one thing left. I know what I need: chocolate.

There’s a 24 hour store five minutes walk away. It’s three in the morning, and the moonlight pours down all cold and white on the deserted street. I focus on something other than my craving. I think of all the lovers, returning home from nightclubs after candlelit dinners. The thought sickens me. My appetite quickens, lurches. With each step I feel the mass of what I’ve eaten churn in my stomach like acid bubbling among debris. When I get to the shop, tossing five bars of 120g Cadbury’s on the counter, the little old man glares at me with suspicion.

I’m gobbling them even before I get back to the house, tossing away the glossy purple wrappers. The combination of sugar and cocoa and vegetable fat is absolute perfection, a dreamy, delicious relaxant. I close the door quietly behind me and rush to my room; someone’s in the kitchen. As I munch the rest of the chocolate – Caramel, Whole Nut, Turkish Delight, Crunchie Bite – I’m not thinking about tomorrow’s guilt, the brain fog and lethargy that burns worse than any hangover; I’m thinking about that heavenly empire that’s about to enfold me, that ether of absence they call sleep. It’s round about now that the shakes go away, and I’m finally ready to imagine.

by Maria Sledmere

prompts: valentines, chocolate, dreams