The tavern was so quiet that Elias could hear the wind whispering through the gaps in the walls. When the serving girl brought him his drink he paid her with a whole silver, saw her eyes widen, and patted his coat pocket. ‘Keep ’em coming.’ She nodded and darted away. Apart from one table near the door, every seat was taken. Elias counted the mercenaries, almost all of them Roderick’s, their necks marked with his brand. The King had called the practice draconian, but that didn’t stop him hiring Roderick’s men when revolts broke out. That was why rebels had to hire Elias.
Stung between garden fences twilight coaxed you outside, to the square of wilding lawn uncut from summer’s end, the coils of wood smoke streaked with petrol rising above an evening glow of light behind closed panes as one by one they too flickered out.
‘Take a ticket,’ said the man behind the scratched perspex glass. ‘It’s empty,’ said James, glancing at the busted plastic dispenser. ‘Huh?’ The man looked up. ‘Oh, so it is. Well, take a seat to wait and we’ll be right with you.’ ‘We?’ asked James. The man didn’t answer. Turning, James shuddered and stumbled as the room stretched like elastic. ‘Careful there.’ A set of hands steadied him. ‘The voodoo throws you at first. It’s how they fit us all in.’ ‘Us all?’ James asked. ‘Yeah, all the demons,’ said the voice. ‘Sorry mate, looks like you got busted.’ With all the poetry I’ve been writing for ‘It’s All In The Blood’ I’m in need of a bit of fiction in my life tonight. It’s amazing how much focus it gives you to have a set word limit on a piece of writing. It makes you go back and think about each individual word. A very useful skill that transfers well into poetry.
Flesh parts so easily when pressure is applied. Tongues often prove more effective than crowbars. They break past words like ‘No’.
Was I a plaster you slapped on to cover the burns left by your family? Something temporary, to hide the harm. Was he water? More than you’d seen all in one place and so inviting you were willing to drown. Did you lose me on purpose? Or did the currents just pull us apart? Either way, did you notice that I was gone?
‘How can you forget where you left it?’ Samantha demanded, shooting Michael a withering look before closing her eyes and counting to ten. In a moment she would let out a deep sighing breath and give Michael her best, why do you insist on embarrassing me stare before ordering another drink from the bar and forgetting the subject altogether. 1,2,3,4- ‘I mean really Michael!’ Michael blinked, confused as to where the last 6 seconds had gone and why she hadn’t ordered a large glass of red wine. She wasn’t following the natural order. ‘It’s a bench!’ Samantha spluttered. ‘You cannot misplace a bench! Especially not one of yours! They’re massive and made of wood. WOOD MICHAEL! WOOD!’ Everyone else in the pub had fallen silent now, the hum of conversation dying as all eyes turned to stare at the couple having the argument. Or rather, Samantha yelling at her bemused husband since Michael rarely said two words to anyone about anything. ‘I could understand a nail or two, perhaps even your level metre, but misplacing …
She sat smoking three seats away from the door, cigarette pinched between black talons as she waited for the boy in a green apron to bring her coffee. ‘There is something of the devil about that one,’ whispered an old woman standing in line. She leant in so her companion could hear. ‘Something unnatural.’ The pair twisted to stare; peering over round spectacles to examine the girl in black leather and brass buckles. ‘Very unnatural,’ hissed the old woman’s companion. “Not the right sort at all!” The girl sighed, pouring the smoke from her lips. She smiled at the old women and stabbed out the cigarette on the table-top. ‘Problem ladies?’ she asked. ‘This is a no smoking zone!’ squawked the first, pointing a shrivelling, stumpy finger at the no smoking sign just beside the door. ‘You are no supposed to smoke that,’ she pointed at the crushed cigarette, ‘in here.’ The girl smiled again, teeth bone white against ebony gloss. ‘I must have missed the sign,’ she said, curling her lips back further. The …
The jetty had rotten clean through in places, creating a hopscotch of holes almost impossible to see in the dark. Gritting her teeth, Emile slid one foot in front of the other and eased her weight onto it. At the end of the jetty a light flickered and went off. She paused and steadied her breath. Patience, she reminded herself. She’d waited fifteen years, she could afford fifteen minutes to get across this dock unscathed. She ran a hand across the outline of the pistol inside her jacket. Fifteen minutes, she promised herself. That’s all she needed.
My mother taped mittens to my wrists, that made my hands sweat into wet worms without purchase. She told me that you were dangerous but by then I was older, knew how to sink my claws in, and to give in to the itch.
The ripples are gone when I look, searching the water for a slip of silver twisting back on itself leaping skyward in panic or ecstasy perhaps. I think about you and I, or at least the phantom of us that clings to my lungs on slow days, crawls onto my shoulders to press my face down, down, down, down where I deserve to be when my own body twisted back on itself, my mouth searching for a way to swallow the words I’d spoken, to return them to the saftey of unspoken rather than the spotlight of my glowing red cheeks as I fumbled to dress myself in what I thought was maturity. I can feel nails along my spine, when I think of how much I wanted to be loved.