Focus

The world is a whirl of moving colour. It has no time for a mind that can’t touch long enough to stop its spin.

But still you are fixated

on the sound

of the colour yellow.

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Broken

I woke as the bombs dropped. The bed shook. Glass took to the air. The curtain pole dislodged, dropped the scarlet curtains like a matador taunting a bull. Sleep well and truly blown clear of my mind, muscle memory had my hand reach for the other side of the bed, only to be met with disappointment and a heavy heart as fingertip exploration registered nothing but cold, empty sheets. He wasn’t here. I knew that.

The wind stole in through the empty windowpanes and the hairs on my arms rose to salute its deathly chill. Pulling myself from the relative comfort of the covers was a trial, but one that had to be faced. There was breakfast to make and work to be done. Life goes on. As I shuffled into warm slippers and shrugged into a dressing gown, my thoughts slipped towards the dark place which questioned why, wondered whose war I was caught between. But that was quickly pushed away. Once power was back, the TV would no doubt reveal all… well, the most patriotic version of the truth, at least. For the moment my greatest concern was hunting down a milk bottle that hadn’t surrendered to violent force. I never could stomach dry cereal. My breakfast bowl was only slightly cracked, the cutlery still slumbered in ordered rows in its draw, untouched. I lifted a chair back on its feet, brushed dust off the tabletop and took my place. As I munched, I read the newspaper from yesterday, a morning ritual, although today the old issue’s lack of immediacy was more conspicuous than usual. No mention of war, not even the smallest of political slights. Instead, the front pages concerned with the success of a national tennis hero, the back with the whereabouts of a missing cat. There would be fresh “Missing” pages today, no doubt.

I dropped the dirty bowl into the sink without a thought for the crack, which took the hit and split the ceramic clean in two. The sound made me pause. My first impulse to throw it out was disregarded, my stomach churning on glimpsing the two halves. I left it behind in the sink as I threw on clothes and grabbed my bag, perched on the bottom step to tie the rough laces on my leather boots. The rubble behind the door offered more resistance to my exit that usual. I met the postman on the front path, his hat a little askew, a smear of soot across his cheek, but otherwise the same smiley, ruddy-faced man I had come to know well. He proffered my letters in response to pleasantries, and walked on to the next house, whistling a ditty out of tune. Well behind schedule, I ran for my bus, noting the lack of houses on the parallel row. The bus pulled up as I arrived. I should have missed it. Settled into a seat at the back, I shuffled almost unconsciously through my post, intermittently gazing out of the window, at the busy normalcy of Tuesday morning commuters. Nothing but unpaid bills.

The bus coughed me up in a cloud of acrid fumes, choking passers-by in the busy city centre street. People wandered by as if unaware of the hair matted to their heads by clotting blood. Injuries from flying debris. A man suffered alone, slumped in a doorway and nursing a bullet wound, spattered blood staining the wall behind him as his head bowed forward, unmoving. Another nameless civilian casualty to add to the toll on the ten o’clock news.

Automatic doors buzzed open, pockmarked but still functional, admitted me into the cool, air-conditioned building. The bloodstains on the carpet led me to her office, the well-manicured secretary waving me in.

“Doctor Herman’s waiting for you.”

Dream the Future

Teenage revellers gyrated off-tempo under unforgiving UV light, animated by the irregular beat synthesised by a cocktail of legal highs, cut with a strong helping of MDMA. The romanticised drugs of the past, ecstasy, opiates, had fallen by the wayside, cut too well, more talcum powder than high, the new generation of “clued-up” kids too ping-smart to be cheated out of chemical paradise. And they wanted it cheap. Body mods were still expensive these days, or the popular ones, at least. Fingertips fitted with chemical sensors sent drug breakdowns and calorie counts to microchips fused into skull bone. Displayed feeds across a high-tech retina replacement, the information travelling along microscopic optic fibre masquerading as neural pathway. Uninterrupted by social notification bubbles, pre-programmed software tinted teen vision green or red in line with the desirability of chemical breakdowns, ending in a swallowed bomb, or a dead dealer.

Tommo cursed Rezik’s name as he pelted flat out down forgotten back-streets, through the gaping maws of dead buildings, bomb craters, still smoking stacks of rejected human flesh. The enhanced cries of his already pinging assailant echoed in the empty streets like the bark of a vicious dog. Warm blood dripped from a gash across Tommo’s pounding head, a killing blow interrupted by a clumsy tween high for a hookup. He jumped a battered garden fence and for a brief moment forgot Rezik to berate himself, feet pounding across rough concrete and barren dirt. He’d known this would happen. The new mod updates released last week had updated scanners to catch sugar levels in chem soups, revealing the trick behind the deals Rezik’s guys had been offering pingers for the past month. And, as always, it was Tommo that inevitably took the hit.

Valentine’s

He picked me up at eight. When I opened the door he gave me thirteen roses; one for every month we’d been together. He complimented me politely on the dress I’d umm-ed and ahh-ed over for a good hour, a stylish silk number filched from the back of mum’s wardrobe. We held hands as he drove, his fingers brushing the promise ring I so proudly displayed. Our second Valentine’s. We’d made it past the “honeymoon” year, defied all the naysayers, the no-longer-friends, my parents. So what if Jay was a little bit older? He loved me.
The restaurant was perfect, as always. A classy affair with suited waiters who “yes ma’am-ed” and a server just for wine, who asked Jay to taste before he’d pour the scarlet liquid into my glass. God knows what we talked about, while I played with a caesar salad and he sawed at a steak, I was so distracted by those eyes of his, eyes that were somehow, unbelievably, only for me. Maybe we had a glass or two more than we should, but we found ourselves unable to control our laughter as we climbed the gates to the park. Jay mimicked pirouettes beneath the trees to the tune of my delighted squeals. I chased him across the bridges in the Japanese gardens, and we rolled together down the grassy banks, damp with evening dew, children again beneath the stars. We waltzed in the light of the moon to music only we could hear, and for a moment I imagined myself in white satin, and he in a tux, twirling in perfect grace across a polished floor. Out of breath, we lay in the grass, cuddled close against the night’s chill. As we gazed into the empty night he told me stories, his childhood, his life so far, what ours together could be. I revelled in his bitter-sweet scent, the dash of expensive cologne discolouring his shirt collar, the birthmark cradled by the curve of his neck. Muscles in his arms shifted and flexed as he pointed out a constellation, told me it was mine. Virgo. He pulled me closer to press a kiss to my cheek as he gestured to his, the archer.

When my curfew grew close and he reluctantly returned me home, he kissed me sweetly, wary of the disapproving stare of my parents behind the curtains. Afterwards, as I turned to go, he caught my hand, pulled me close to whisper in my ear, to promise me the world.
—-

I killed her at eight. Her blood dripped from my knife, blossomed into petals of gore on the concrete, stained white silk crimson. I took my pretty ring off her finger, for the next one, and laid her out across the back seats. Brushed the golden curls out of her peaceful little doll-face. As I drove to mine, I caught her eye in the rearview. My pretty little one. I’m taking you home.

Obsession

Rap. Rap. Rap. 

She isn’t answering the door. I trample the roses going round to the back to get in. The kitchen lights are on, the fridge hums but all is hushed. In the living room the TV mimes In The Night Garden. Creeping, cloying cold, a whisper in the dark. Evidence of her everywhere. A tap half shut. 

Drip. Drip. Drip. 

Nudge it shut, welcome the silence. But it’s not silent, is it? Not so clean. The cacophony of scents violates my nostrils, the lingering bass-toned bitterness of rich coffee, the harsh clash of bleach. I follow the remnants of some flower-touched musk up the curve of the stairs. Her scent contaminates my pure, fresh skin. Let her noise intrude upon my silence, everything has its moment. 

Creak. Creak. Creak. 

The landing is long, stretches out like the red carpet she loves so much. Fawns for. Prostitutes herself for the stutter of shutters, bursts of pearly light, like a discharging machine gun. Mowed down by media tyranny. Conquered by the press. Displaying her back for the world so they too can memorise the constellations her freckles form. Movies. Advertising. Magazines. The door hangs open, an invitation. How did she know? Has she followed me as I’ve followed her? Darkness interrupted. The seconds blink into being, cast a green glow across her, encased in the warmth of bed. Catches the gold of her hair, the slope of her nose, the curve of a lip, a jaw, the expanse of a long pale neck. Counts towards the twilight hours. The beginning of a new world. My hand shakes as I crave to touch, reach towards those ever-tempting locks. Mine. Breath whooshes. I bathe in this moment.

“Mama?” 

Freeze. The door creaks where it was silent at my touch. Snatch my hand back as the knowledge of my intention burns. Feel my face cast a burst of heat across the room, feel her stir and shift away, repelled by the extra warmth. Light from the hall casts a shadow on the wall, clutching at a bear. Panic rises, catches in my throat, like a cricket rests on my adam’s apple. Chirps. Then comes the burst of previously unseen clarity. Breaks through the mud of my mind. Add it up. Add it up! Think. And then it slips into place, just as my hand slips into the space in my pocket where I know the chloroform will be. Buy one get one free. Only fun-sized. I can’t believe she hid this from me. Whored herself out to a vapid fan, no doubt. But I will forgive her that, once we are home together.

I love her. 

Forever.

Globe-Trotting

“Globe-trotting”. As a child, the term had conjured a frankly ludicrous image of the imagination – a feisty pony navigating the surface of my father’s favourite paper weight. Now, all-grown-up and weary of the true meanings of the world, the reality left much to be desired. ‘Travel the world’ they’d said, ‘it will tame you’ they’d said, pointing out it’d cost half as much as uni and there’d be a nicer view. Sat on the tattered windowsill of a grimy hotel room, nursing a glass of whatever the establishment liked to call Scotch, I couldn’t see it. If anything, my mood had been made worse, left to stagnate now that I had finally returned home, travel weary. Forgotten by the family I had left behind. The paperweight sat there on the battered chest of drawers, its innocuous little globe encased in chipped glass. Mocking me. No matter where I looked it drew my eye, a constant reminder of the inadequacy of my reality. Shell-shocked. All my failures, early release, termination of service, such a shame, such a disappointment. Didn’t take much effort to fling it across the room. The place was tiny, after all. A jail cell. Made a bit of a crash, flung a splinter or two into the air at speed. There goes my good night’s sleep, sacrificed to the inevitable discomfort sleeping with bits of wall would bring. Not that it made much of a difference. The sheets were already pretty grim. Pretty sure those dark stains were once fresh blood.

cinnamon sticks get your cinnamon sticks people bustling by market cries horns honk chatter radio chatter dust in my boots breathe it in sweat coffee fish snap snap snap just potshots stay alert sweat dust cough breathe in cinnamon

 The horrors of the world flashed beneath my eyelids, crept amongst my tortured mind, my stomach roiled within me.

 I reached for a knife.

*

That wasn’t any good – too messy. Behind the pleasure of warm blood splashed on pale flesh, their helpless grin, they took their time to fall. They choked too loud, twitching like a puppet whose strings I’d just cut. Ever so beautiful, but not enough. No. The sun rose and the sun set and each time I was different. It initiated change, only to wash it away. Yet the memory of it lingered. Like a hard-drive that could never be erased, it could not be forgotten. It clung to me, dirtied me, forced me to remember.

*

The gun was better. Harder to find, but not as hard as expected. Not when I had the knife, the blood-stained sleeve, the oh-so-welcoming grin. Everything was so perfect for a while, they fell like stones, never to get back up. Red puddled into pillows for splintered skulls. It got me in the papers, but only page 11 of the Sun. The Kardashian sisters had a fight that week. Something about Kanye. God knows. Somewhere in the middle of it all, caught in the thrill, somewhere amidst those oh-so-beautiful squeals, the pitter-patter of dripping life-blood, my moment of atrophy had ended. Unshackled from the inherent boredom of ‘normality’ that I had blindly pursued throughout my so-called ‘Life’. Love. Death. What was the difference? I had found my calling. Something I was finally good at. Drunk on the heady cocktail of success I couldn’t help but thirst for more.

*

The coffee shop was a quaint little thing, for a chain store. With a little bell that tinkled above the door with each caffeine-addict it admitted into the shop’s warmth.

warm sun bread in oven hiss of steam footsteps how was the train the train was good wind passes by the windows leaves on the breeze trees are dying water runs deep thirsty dogs howl wings flutter drumbeats on the air march to battle left right left right projectiles squeal splash rats ants flies scatter drowning through cotton towels kettle boiling off the heat was it two sugars here you go

Ada enjoyed the experience of the coffee shop. She bathed herself in the heady aroma while pondering the mouth-watering array of cakes and pastries, trying to decide whether it was a decaf-day, or half-fat, or syrup, or extra sprinkles, or cream, or whether she should just screw the diet and treat herself to all at once. What would it hurt? That iced mocha-latte did sound nice… She ambled along in the queue, taking the opportunity to people watch without appearing out-right nosy. At the counter she initiated a deep, meaningful rumination on the meaning of life with the flushed but rather handsome barista. Asked for his number only to be brushed off. You win some, you lose some. Said yes to sprinkles. Ada loved the coffee queue.

Henry, not so much. He needed caffeine. Now. With each precise, measured tick of the second-hand in his Rolex, he could feel money wasted, his grasp of the stock market slipping through his fingers. Coffee kept his hands occupied, kept him from putting that gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Black with two sugars. Another glance at the clock. The queue moved too lazily, middle-aged mothers with nothing better to do and students who couldn’t care less if they did. The barista took his own damn time, fulfilling every picky sod’s whimsical fancies, trying to sell an extra shot of some new syrup, chatting up every woman who asked for half-fat, complimenting the caffeine-frees on their complexion. Henry just wanted a damn coffee. Was that too much to ask?

So different in life, I united them in death. Insufferable in their mundane existence I treated them to spontaneity. With an earthshattering quake and a flash of hot, harsh heat I dismantled them.

WHOOSH thrown down rough hands hot flesh coughing breathing dust BANG hot heat flesh tornado blood rains dead weight push it off sir fuck oh fuck MEDIC oh shit death everywhere everyone dead dying broken

Disconnected from their idiosyncrasies. Rescued from the pain of living. Lord knows the poor sods needed it. They’re so grateful they’ve made me a star! BBC, ITV, CNN, FOX… they’re all great fans of my work. The world is my oyster – for once I decide who lives and dies!

Red bleeds tendrils across inky black night just as I too colour the world in Crimson 

Red Hot Angry Bleeding