We labour under the midday sun, stumbling over the cracks in the parched earth. There is never enough water.
They say this was an ocean once – water as far as you can see in any direction. I can’t picture it. All we have here are the bleached skeletons of long dead beasts that roamed this place long ago. And the plastic. Everywhere the plastic.
Dying hadn’t been as painful as Mary expected it to be.
The moments just before she died had hurt, hurt beyond anything she had ever experienced – more than getting Malaria. More than when she got shot even. She didn’t think anything would be more painful than getting shot. Her mother had always told her she was risking her life “running around in warzones” – how banal to have died in a head on collision with lorry just outside Hemel Hempstead.
Mary had never been one for religion – which came as something of a surprise to a lot of people she met – she decided at an early age that what happened after death didn’t matter a jot, it was what you did before death that counted, and she’d not given it much of a thought after that.
What she definitely hadn’t expected was the plain white walled waiting room she found herself in now. One moment she was blinded by lights, spinning out of control, feeling the sickening crunch as her ribs folded in on themselves, puncturing her lungs, the stench of petrol hanging in the air, the next she was stood in her best dress and cardigan, handbag hooked over her arm, in front of a desk where a bored red-haired receptionist sat, idly flicking through a magazine.
After a moment, Mary gave a small, polite cough.
The woman at the desk licked her finger and turned the page of her magazine.
“Welcome to the afterlife,” she said in a bored voice, not bothering to look up. “Please take a seat while your paperwork is processed.”
Come sit on Nanna’s knee, little one, and I’ll tell you a story about when I was young.
Back in the old days, before even my parents were born , they didn’t have palm discs. They had no access to the HiveMind at all.
I mean, they thought their technology was cutting edge, they really did, but if they wanted to find out something, or speak to someone that was further away than you are from me now, they had to use a machine. The machines started off big and clunky, and were attached to the walls of the house with wires, you couldn’t take them with you anywhere. They were useless really, you had to read information off of a screen and everything, it must have taken ages to learn things. But without them we wouldn’t have the advantages we have today. Like the candle being the forerunner to the electric light.
Now, the more a person uses something, becomes accustomed to it, the more they tend to rely on it. It was that way with the forerunner of the palm disc. The mobile, I think they called it. People got fed up I suppose, having to get to their home or place of work to be able to find out a fact, or listen to a song, or talk to someone in another part of the world. They began to create smaller and smaller devices to do the job, tiny versions of their home machines, that ran on something called battery power, although don’t ask me how that works as I’ve no idea. All I know is that to keep the devices powered, they plundered the world’s natural resources, polluted the air, poisoned the water. There were many more people back then, in cities a bit like ours, and small settlements called villages, all over the globe. They were scattered across the entire planet, grouped into tribes and communities and peoples, not united into a few cities like we are. Imagine living so divided from people. Awful.
Years I’d been building up to this. All the times I almost said something, all the times I nearly kissed her, all those times I should’ve told her I’m in love with her smile, her laugh, that her eyes are the colour of heaven. It had all built up to this mundane Monday morning. I woke up and decided yes, I was going to tell her.
It’s week 25 of Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Flash challenge, and illness, work and general life chaos has meant I haven’t been able to participate as much as I’d have liked to, but this week’s image really spoke to me. Anyone is welcome to join in, the general guidelines can be found here.
This week’s prompt:
We dreamed of going to the ocean. She had this romantic ideal of walking on a moonlit beach, hand in hand, listening to the roar of the unseen sea. Our dream sustained us through the long, hard years we couldn’t be together, when our relationship was built of dreams and texts and snatched moments. We were going to go to the ocean.
They say life’s a bitch, but she’s got nothing on the twisted sense of humour Fate has. Finally together, finally able to touch instead of talk, to kiss instead of dream. We were finally going to the ocean. Packing up the car together, all excited. She looked like a painting, the light on her face too perfect to be real. I kissed her, then turned away to load the last bag into the boot. When I turned back, she was on the floor, lifeless, hair sprawled in the mud.
Three months later, life is drained of colour. She smiles through the pain and the sickness and the exhaustion, brave little stoic smiles, drained of their warmth. Every time I walk down this disinfectant scented corridor I hear the doctor telling us “I’m very sorry, it is terminal. We can make her comfortable…” and I have to swallow my anger, my pain, my disappointment, push it all down into the pit of my stomach and try to have my smile ready for her. I can’t let her down.
Those of you who have followed me for a while know that it has long been my dream to write an episode of Doctor Who. Well in 2016, with the help of multitalented political and philosophical poet and musicianSteve McAuliffe, that dream (kind of!) became a reality when I wrote and performed in an unofficial mini-episode of Doctor Who for the Ungagged podcast. Grab yourself a cuppa and a blanket and curl up for a 12 minute adventure that should (hopefully!) leave you laughing.
“You have to understand, we didn’t want this” said Berry nervously. “Every elf in the workshop chose this job because we are passionate about bring hope, joy and laughter to people all around the world-“
“Yet here you are, threatening to strike days before Christmas” said Santa, stroking his beard. Something about the movement made Berry nervous, reminding him of a Bond villain stroking a cat. “Happy to disappoint every child in the world, and for what? To make some kind of political point?”
Berry tried to swallow his nerves. He wished more than anything that it hadn’t been him that drew the short candy cane.
“With respect sir, it isn’t about the politics. Whether we agree with the expansion or not, things just aren’t workable as they are.” He scrambled around for the words to explain, words that would make him understand. Santa rarely visited the shop floor, preferring instead to sit in the grotto with his sexy secretary Mrs Claus and some of the perkier elves, counting out cookies and mince pies and basking in the adoration of the masses. He rarely saw the worker elves sobbing with exhaustion as they tried to work out how to craft the latest piece of gadgetry.
Shit, my head is banging. I didn’t think I was that drunk last night, but it feels like someone came in the night and replaced my tongue with a sock full of sand. I can’t even remember the election result, let alone getting home and going to bed. Maybe I fell asleep before it was announced. That would be embarrassing at work thank God I’m on annual leave.
I never really should have agreed to go to the work’s election party night. I don’t know what Tim, our manager, was thinking when he organised it. He’d seen the divide in the coffee room whenever the conversation came around to the hot political topic of the day. Nick and I had almost come to blows on more than one occasion. The whole team in a confined space with alcohol and the live election results? Great idea. I tried to make an excuse about previous plans, but Tim pulled me aside when our break was over and strongly suggested I reconsider.
I keep moving against the cold, never stopping my steady, ponderous progression. My body is warm – almost too warm actually, bundled as I am in heavy furs – but winter’s chill still bites at my nose, and my feet are tingly and numb.
It is rapidly becoming dark, and the snow is glittering with the reflected colours of Christmas lights that are just starting to come on. It might cheer the soul, if you were strolling along hand in hand with your lover, or heading home to your children. To me this day is always the saddest of the season.
They start to hang the lights earlier nowadays, though they have largely forgotten the reason. Some people have them up for the entire month of December, small points of cheer and defiance against the darkness. But today is December 27th, and soon they will all be gone. All the build up, all the belief, all the energy that built to wake me is slowly ebbing away. I feel myself weakening already. It is becoming harder and harder to maintain my stride, my breath wheezing now in asthmatic gasps. Continue reading “The Greatest Gift”
I have a jar full of story prompts and sometimes I pick one out at random to write a story about. This is one of those stories. The prompt that came out of the jar was – a new door appears in your home. This is what I came up with…
It was a sleepy Sunday morning when I first noticed the new door. It could have appeared on the Saturday night – I had been out drinking with my boyfriend Robert that night and was pretty distracted at bedtime, I might not have noticed it. It definitely wasn’t there Saturday morning.
My house isn’t the biggest – just a living room with a small kitchen attached downstairs, a bedroom and small bathroom upstairs. It’s not like I have a huge old rambling house where a door might be overlooked. Continue reading “The Door”
I did exist. I was real, you can’t deny it. Though no one but you ever knew my name, I had people that loved me, cared for me, respected me. I had needs and hopes and desires. I had dreams. You never thought about that did you? When you abandoned me for better things, you thought I would just fade away. Of course I didn’t, I am a person. People don’t just disappear.
Oh I know it’s easier with him. You don’t have to think so much with him, he is simple, relatable, he makes it all so easy. You just “get” him, don’t you? No need to work at uncovering his layers, work out his motivations, what makes him tick. He is an open book to you, not like I was. He doesn’t confuse you or deceive you or challenge the way you see the world or your place in it. I understand all that. He was the easier option. I was making things too complicated, with him it just flows. Continue reading “Character Flaw”
It was raining when I met my wife. It was about two in the morning, the streets just starting to fill with belligerent drunks. She had been out with a friendbut the friend got lucky and left her to get home alone. She had run out of money but decided to walk home as she didn’t live far from the town centre. To this day she insists that she would have gotten home just fine if her stiletto heel hadn’t caught in a drain, breaking the heel and twisting her ankle quite badly.
I was tipsy myself, having left my mates because they were already
out drinking me, and settling down for a serious session of liver murdering. I had a headache and was just finding it all a bit much. I had hoped the cool air would clear my head.
I offered her help, maybe hoping if I’m honest that tonight would turn out to be a good night after all. As soon as I got close I realised she was far too far gone to know what she was doing. I couldn’t take advantage, but I couldn’t leave her there, easy prey for any passing predator. I could have put her in a taxi, I suppose, but it just didn’t feel right. She was so ridiculously beautiful, and so ridiculously drunk. It didn’t feel safe.
First scribbled in my last notebook on October 7, 2012
The Show Must Go On
Everyone loves a good show, the lights, the make-up, the pretty girls singing songs, the actors that can produce a smile or a laugh or a
tear with the mere twitch of an eyebrow, the carefully pitched tone of a line.
The show must go on. So few ask why.
Partly it is the sheer energy that goes into it, the months of rehearsals, the bitter arguments over the precise stance of an actor delivering his monologue, the momentum. The performers think the show must go
on because of the paying audience, people who have worked long hours, denied themselves luxuries for this one evening of entertainment. The audience thinks the show must go on because of the hours of hard work the performers have invested, the energy and the time. They see it as a mark of respect, thanking those people for their time with rapturous applause. The truth is the build-up of those things – the energy it all creates.