Monday, 1 February 2010

Leave Me Alone

The curl of smoke rises slowly; grey figures dance and twirl within the fading mist. Their voices wash over me, haunting and melodious. The angels that frolic within the swirling clouds will protect me from Them. When the shadows lengthen, They will come. I trail my fingers through the craters on my arms; tracing silken paths that lead to Heaven. Heaven can wait, I watched that once, where? The television I think, no it’s broken; the same static scene glares back at me from high up on the wall, never changing, dogs playing pool with little hats. It’s crooked, smashed, like me. My Aunt gave me that picture, not the television stupid, a picture, Aunt Mary; she had a little lamb. The drums rumble in the hills. Zulus? Too far away, rain tapping at the window to be admitted, names not down; sorry. You have to invite them in. Something wicked this way comes.

I catch a glimmer of movement on the table top as brittle laughter pierces the seraphic chorus. They have arrived. My eyes try to follow the turn of my head but my vision follows at a crawl as if caught on a soft close drawer. Another scuttling behind me and I try to rise; the concrete in my legs denies me. I feel them moving around my feet, nipping at my ankles as I struggle to move, laughing at my inability to engage even the most basic motor function. I hear the crunch of bone as one of them bites into my trembling hand, his yellow tongue darting to and fro and he starts to climb my arm towards me. Others join him scrambling up my legs. “LEAVE ME ALONE” I scream as they edge ever closer, reaching to embrace me with those tiny black hands. A familiar face melts in from the left blocking my vision, a voice soaked in cotton wool soothing, calm, “nothing there, just relax.” I feel the scratch on my arm and the golden horses carry me away into the soft light.

The sun shining through the window blinds me as I drift back to reality and the hell in which I live. There are bodies still sleeping all over, some I recognise, others not. Syringes hang from yellow-grey arms and mouths gape in silent echoes of ecstasy. How many started as I did? Watching others inhale the soft tendrils of smoke then drifting off with eyes at the horizon. Watching and wanting a taste, just a little, just to see. The first time the Dragon bites is nirvana, like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Trying to grab its tail as it runs further away to recapture that rush turns inevitably to the needle. I placed my mat upon the junkie helter skelter and let loose. I hit the bottom and as the song goes, behold the tracks of my tears. Someone, somewhere in the days when such things mattered, wrote of Captain Trips, the super flu; a virus tearing through humanity killing all those that it touched. I live that tale every damn day.

The speed freaks and the stoners that drop by call us sleepwalkers, the insomnia that shackles us only fixed with a fix. What do they know? Do they get the reaction we do out there from the nine to fivers? They shrink from us as we go about our day, wide eyed and panicky, expecting us to attack; to take their money to feed the monkey gnawing constantly at our throats For the most part, we ignore them; we’re just taking care of business. What use would we have with them? Will they carry us away on a cloud of happiness to quiet oblivion? Will they ebb and flow with orgasmic pleasure through our veins as they unclench our muscles and lay acres of feathers beneath us as we float on a summer breeze? I was told once that heroin is named after the German word for heroic so why do they cower, we could save the World?

Don’t get me wrong, I want to stop. Living wrapped in these chains is not living in any sense of the word but I’ve tried. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. The days of shaking, agony and panic an unending misery that your body knows can be cut short with just ‘one more time’. That single moment that eases the pain sending you back down the snake, back to the floor. Easier to go on then go back I guess. I need a drink. I weave my way through the undead littering the floor to the kitchen. Plates and cups jostle for space in the stained sink, why can’t I find a spoon? The click of the kettle wakes someone from their slumber, Ed; I think that was him last night, chasing them away. I make two cups.

“They were there again then?” he asks scratching at the scabs bisecting his arm. “You need to do something if you wanna stay. You scared the crap out of that new lot from the park. They were just starting to cook up and there’s you thrashing and screaming until I topped you up. Sort it out.” I nod and light a cigarette, watching the flame flicker, wishing he too would leave me alone; why can’t they all just leave me be. I need to sign on later and she’ll be there; that woman with the moustache and name tag hanging round her neck. Jean, Joan, Jesus woman give me a break. She hates me, hates us all I guess. Hands out, asking for help; help to go on, help to get by, help to forget.

I stub the half finished cigarette in my tea and reach for my kit. I’ll go later.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


No fourteen year old should have to go through this. As I back slowly into the dark alley I beckon him to follow, shaking with the grotesque horror of what I must do. I have no choice.

Looking over his shoulder constantly he shuffles nervously towards me. Away from the glare of the streetlights he seems to grow a little in confidence. “How much?” he asks licking his lips, his eyes hungrily devouring. “Thirty” I whisper, head down. I take his frantic fumbling at his trousers for assent. I feel sick. I hate myself. What did I ever do that could deserve this? As he edges ever closer I can smell him, the negligent cocktail of sweat, stale cigarettes and urine. But beneath that, deep beneath those surface odours, I can smell IT. The rushing, calling me.

My teeth rip into his soft white throat as my hand holds him up against the wall. My eyes roll back into my head as I drown in his blood. The finest wine coats my tongue, dripping drunkenly from my chin. He struggles only briefly as a fly might against a spider in her web, the end inevitable. Shaking my head from side to side, I tear, bite and rip at his flesh, licking, sucking. My thoughts are no longer my own as I surrender to the moment. The hairs on my body are individually aware, each one alive, thousands upon thousands of microscopic fingers reaching out to grasp the ethereal power that passes between us. Perhaps the wraiths that I see, haunting dealers on street corners have some idea. Watch their rapturous faces as they plunge the liquid ecstasy through their veins. As the blood flows through my body, I see the man as a boy, terrified.

I wait alone in the dark, hoping that he’ll not return.

I must hurry. I use his coat to clean what I can of the mess from my face and hands and run. Through the rain, a fine mist that slowly soaks through my clothes and onto my cold grey skin. Are these God’s tears cleansing me, washing away the sin of what I’ve become? I run ever faster through the empty city, splashing through puddles on and on, pushing to get home in time. It always seems so quiet in these hours before dawn to those that cannot hear. Like the boy and the girl on the corner, arms around shoulders as if on an invisible ship. Laughing and stumbling they don’t see the huddled shapes they pass hidden in doorways, watching them. I can smell the fear and jealously boiling just below the surface of those snarling faces. I can hear their anger; it deafens me as they scream silently after them. The red cloud suffocating me starts to lift and as my humanity returns, I think back to the bundle of rags that I have created. My tears join His.

No! The front door slams and I can hear the steady thump of each foot louder and louder as he climbs the stairs. My father is home.

I kick aside the corrugated sheet that is my door and crash gasping into my room. My chest heaving, I steady myself and stand in front of the full-sized mirror. I stare in wonder and joy. My skin is so alive, pink and smooth. My damply glistening eyes sparkle, my hair although stuck to my forehead dark and lush. I can feel the strength of my arms and legs, the energy bunched within me, waiting to be released. My heart pounds at my innocent beauty. I glow with life.

I sink beneath the quilt hoping that the drink has dulled his craving. I hold my breath as he reaches the top of the stairs. He must be able to hear my heart thumping through the silence of the night. The sourness rises up from deep within me as the door starts to open.

When I was a child, I remember there was a large wooden box in my parents’ room. When I opened that box, I was transported to a different world. It had old dozens of old coats, shirts, trousers, hats and scarves. My imagination would run wild and I’d stand in front of the mirror and pretend to be anyone that I could think of. One day a swashbuckling pirate, the next a spaceman, forever exploring the endless sky. Anything I could imagine I could become. I have come full circle. Now, as then I dress up. I can be anyone I want to be, for a time at least.

I’m older now, I watch them play. Mothers sit in huddles on benches chatting while their eyes scan the horizon like frightened deer. A girl falls from the slide. She starts to cry and her mother lifts her to her shoulder, whispering sweetly as she holds her cheek against that soft white skin. I see boy away from the others oblivious. I rise and…

I can’t remember. As his blood was, so now his soul follows, seeping slowly away.

Within the mirror, I gaze at my soft white skin. Cracks slowly appear at the edges of my lips and snake their way across my face. My eyes deaden and my fingers yellow as the brittle nails start to chip. My hair recedes back across my paper thin skin stretched too tightly across my skull. A phantasmal corpse stares forlornly back at me. An intangible shadow, there yet not, solid yet smoke. “Please,” I whisper, “just a little longer.” Watching myself, I fade slowly away to nothingness, like the scent of a woman on the air as she passes you in the street.

I venture out into the rain once again.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The Fallen

We sit with our heavy woollen cloaks wrapped tightly against the biting wind, watching them.

Their black scales glisten in the flickering glow of the firelight. A small party of Cadutori, the Fallen. Long ago, the Gods banished them to the surface for their arrogance. They dared to rise up against the creators and in the great battle told to us as wide eyed children, the skies raged and crashed for forty years as they fought. Defeated, their wings torn from their backs they were thrown down, to walk among us poisoned with the essence of man. Forever destined to carry the greed, the anger and the pride, sins that had destroyed that race many years previous. Now they plague our lands. Locusts, stripping bare the villages and fields that stand in their path.

They sit laughing with one another in the clearing, empty wineskins scattered about their feet. The smell of venison slowly turning over the flames makes me long to be back in the warmth of the barracks with a hot bowl of stew. My eyes covetously drawn to the fire as I hold my shaking hands to my armpits to ward off the cold. The snow lies heavy on the ground and my feet are already numb from the prolonged immobility. I chew slowly on the dried rabbit that we all carry tied to our belts and wait for the order to attack.

We came across the destruction that shadows them earlier in the day. We had been scouting the forest east of the City as there had been reports of raiding parties coming down from the mountains to terrorise the local farmers. It was uncommon for them to leave the warmth of their caves in the winter months. I was the one that found them. The broken bodies and torn limbs a bloody jigsaw against the white carpet on which they lay, steam rising from the carcasses. They were still close.

We had been trading with the mountain folk for the past few years. Their skill and knowledge of the metals that they unearth unsurpassed throughout the borders. Each of the bodies had been stripped of weapons and clothing. Even I, accustomed to the horrors of war could not hold back the hot bile when I saw what had been done. The bodies ripped open and the insides removed, leaving just empty husks for the birds to pick at. We had heard tales of their love of entrails in the taverns late at night when the alcohol starts to loosen tongues but to have it confirmed in such a manner sickened me to my core. We followed the tracks not yet swept clean by the storm to the here and now, waiting for our moment.

I turn my head at the soft touch to my shoulder. “Soak the arrowheads” Jared whispers handing me a small vial. “Holy water?” I question. Nodding, he moves on. The wind cuts into my bare skin as I pull the stopper free and coat my arrows. To each side of me I see others following the same routine. Bows are being readied and knives unsheathed. A rising sense of anticipation flows through us. Blowing heat into my hands I notch an arrow in preparation and watch for the signal.

The arrows fly through the air, a soundless swarm of death. Mine catches one just beneath the chin and I see the shock register on his face as he collapses. His hands claw at his throat as he chokes on the blood. At once we are among them, slashing and snarling. I don’t remember drawing my sword but it clashes against the blow that comes from my right. I thrust the knife in my left hand into his neck and shoulder him aside. In the flickering shadows of the firelight I see Jared fall. A tall Cadutori kicks him off the blade he has buried in his belly. I throw my knife but it passes harmlessly by his head as he turns to face another. Something smashes into me from behind and my face crashes into the snow. The many hours spent training with Martin take over and immediately I roll. As the blade thuds into the ground inches from my face I hack out at the exposed legs. I scramble away as he falls screaming.

As quickly as it starts, it ends. Bent double with my hands on my knees I try to catch the breath that clouds the air around me. I’m surprised to see that we’ve managed to take a prisoner. A few of the others have crowded around him raining blows on the arms that cover his head and kicking out at his exposed body. Aaron, our commander shoves them aside and pulls him to his feet. At his order, they drag him over to a thick tree and tie his hands around it. Heartbeat slowing, I walk over to watch.

Even with the knife held to his throat, the Cadutori captive exudes confidence, a smile touches his lips and his blazing eyes bore into anyone brave enough to hold his gaze.“What are you doing down here this late in the year?” Aaron asks him swirling one of the vials of water around in front of his face. Not waiting for an answer he splashes some onto the prisoners face. If he’s disappointed with the lack of reaction that the burning skin brings, it doesn’t show. “I asked you a question”, Aaron prompts. As if in response, the thunder of war drums echoes through the silent night and as one our heads turn towards the mountains.

Thousands of torches, like glowing rivers of lava, flow down the dark slopes toward us.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Yonjunana

I am, at least I was, Yakuza. Much is written of what we are and what we do, but above all else, we are family. We are one. The kobun or head of my clan, the Yonjunana (the forty seven) was Asano. He was an honest man, strong in mind and body, a man to love, a man to follow. He was taken from us and I have been cast aside, divorced. I am alone.

Each year the various kobun meet under the roof of Tokugawa Tsunayosi. He is Oyabun, father to us all. Control of the drugs, girls and gambling held tight within his fist. Kira Yoshinaka is his Saiko-komon, his advisor and has risen quickly to the status that he holds to the indignation of the others. He doesn’t walk the same path as the elders believing fear rather than loyalty will gain him the recognition he craves.

My master as is the custom bought gifts for the kobun to show his love and obedience. Kira became upset with the quality of Asano’s gift and insulted him in front of the others. My master took this initial slight with forbearance and grace as he was within the house of Tokugawa and to react would be a grave insult in itself. Kira however, would not be calmed and continued on his attack. Eventually Asano could not restrain himself and tried to kill Kira with his wakizashi. The guards intervened and Asano could only manage to wound Kira before he was stopped. The council met and decided that Asano should commit seppuku to atone for the gravity of an attack within the Oyabun’s house and so it was that my master took his life in the tradition of our fathers.

The house of Yonjunana was thus destroyed. For eighteen months I have played a role that has kept me free from harm and allowed me to plan for this moment. Others from the clan have attempted vengeance for Asano and paid the price of impatience. For me, sake was both my friend and protector. The disgust in the faces of people who I had called friends as they passed me in the gutter was just more fuel to the fire that burned within. My dishonour complete, my threat extinguished, Kira relaxed.

So it is that I stand here, cloaked by the absence of moonlight watching Kira Yoshinaka, the man responsible for my master’s death. The light from within the smoky glass allows me to watch him drift from room to room oblivious to the pain that I carry for us both. Once all is dark and quiet within I head towards the house.

The guard turns just before I get to the door and the look of surprise turns to one of fear then pain as I plunge the knife into his throat. The blood bubbles against his pale skin as he tries to shout a warning and his radio drops to the pavement. I hear movement from within and know that surprise is no longer a weapon I can use. I smash the window with the radio and climb in. I run through the corridor to the main bedroom but on first glance find it empty. I hear a rustle from the cupboard and open it to see his wide frightened eyes peering from the darkness within. I grab his robe and pull him out onto the soft white carpet.

I kneel in deference to his rank and lay Asano’s wakizashi on the floor ahead of him. “Asano still lives within his blade” I whisper nodding to the brittle brown powder like rust against the gleaming steel. “Follow his lead and do what you know to be right. I will act as your second”. His trembling hands push the blade away and he starts to cry. It sickens me that this man, as close as he is to the heart of what I love can be so weak. “Take it”, I say, unable to keep the irritation from my voice at the lack of honour being displayed. The incomprehensible sound that comes from his mouth I take as another refusal. The four movements that follow are as one. My sword slices through his neck and is back within the scabbard in a fraction of a second. His body slumps sideways to the floor as his head rolls towards the speckled wall.

As I lay his head at the gravestone of my master I know that I am whole again. I have almost closed the circle and I can be at peace with myself once more. The clans will come for me now that I have raised a hand against one of their own regardless of the context and this is how it must be. Unity is their strength and an attack on one is an attack on all.

The scent of the lilies helps me to find a place of tranquillity as I savour the last of my breath. I have asked Kamei one of the original Yonjunana to act as my second. He stands to one side waiting. I take four sips from the sake and place the cup back on the wooden table and take the paper and pen and start to write.

What are they to me
Money, health and happiness
When my lord lies still and cold
Vengeance I have had
Equilibrium restored

I slip off the kamishimo that I am wearing and tuck it beneath my knees to stop me slipping and grasp the blade.

My skin embraces the growing pressure of the blade and so it begins. Eyes fixed, I pull from left to right and at once feel the darkness creeping through my veins. The upward thrust takes my breath away and I almost falter. Shadows dance at the edges of my vision and I ask for just a little more strength as I bite down against the pain. I extract the blade and plunge it into my groin willing it towards my sternum.

I welcome the whisper of Kamei’s katana as my journey ends.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Ulfheonar Unleashed

In the dark I watch and I wait. The others are sleeping but not me. The jungle never sleeps. It speaks to me as I stare into its black heart; a constant hum which creeps into my soul and courses through my body. I close my eyes and the sound slowly starts to bleed, to break away into its individual components. The chirping of birds high in the canopy, the hoot of monkeys scrambling through the trees, the scratching of mice moving slowly across the leafy floor and the buzz, the ever steady buzz of the innumerable insects that cloud my vision and crawl over every uncovered scrap of skin. I hear the shifting of weight behind me and turn my wrist to check the time. Floating green numbers tell me that it’s almost three; time to change watch so I can grab some sleep. Tomorrow we move.

The dappled light incessantly tickles at my eyelids and with a groan I wake. No fires burn, no clattering of pans and plates to welcome me back to the living, just the silent movement of men taking stock of their surroundings as they slowly wake. The cold seeps into my joints and the strips of meat I pull from my bag are tough but tasty all the same. I think back to last week, a world away from here, when we were inside away from the rain sipping hot steaming tea as they instructed us on the mission. They have used us for tasks like this for as long as I can remember, always secrecy is paramount; no-one can ever know we exist. The orders are passed through the men and we rise and set off towards the enemy position. We should get there just before nightfall which is when we work best.

Stretching the march out of my limbs as we reach our destination, I take a seat in the leaf litter and wait for darkness. Grabbing my knife, I start to pick the leeches from my skin, horrible sucking masses that seem to shudder with the pleasure as they drink my blood; a more primal version of our superiors sitting warm and dry miles from here. I think through my orders, step by step. I look around me, at the faces that are by now as familiar as my own, anything to try and keep at bay the anticipation that threatens to envelop me. The waiting is always the worst; we are dogs straining at the leash, waiting to be let free to run, to attack, to kill. The light is fading and the order is given to prepare. I start to undress, packing my clothes away in the waterproofed sanctuary of my Bergen for when I return. Naked, we kneel on the damp earth and look to the sky.

As always, her simple beauty astounds me. Her pale angelic silver face high in the darkness, calling me and my kind to her. I can feel her power start to trickle through my veins; the elemental voice that commands whole oceans now steadily increases until at last it crashes through me and I feel myself, my real self emerge. My screams pierce the night as my spine snaps and reforms. I feel my fingers break one by one as they elongate and nails tear through the tips curving to razor sharp points. My hip dislocates and my entire body feels like it is being hammered and twisted by giant hands. My jaw stretches to breaking point as the canines push through the bloody gums and as the skin sloughs from my body it reveals the coarse hair below. My howl joins the others as we answer her in the way he have for hundreds of years.

We can smell them now, cowering in the depths of the forest, eyes wide at the sudden new additions to the jungle chorus. Order, discipline and stealth are distant memories to us now as the rage surges within us, our only need is for blood and we crash through the undergrowth towards them. Night is our ally. Our eyes see more in this absence of light than humans could on the brightest of days and confusion reigns within their ranks as we rip and tear into their helpless bodies. The sound of gunfire and screaming fills my ears and the realisation of the inadequacy of their weapons still does not keep their fingers from triggers as they react in the only way they can. My claws rake across faces and plunge into soft bodies as we lay a spreading red carpet to welcome Her back once again. Panting, I look around at the chaos we have unleashed and the human part of me understands that for now at least, we are done and I allow my pulse to steady. I curl against one of the others and let myself fall into an exhausted sleep waiting for the Keepers to arrive.

They pull us up and cover us with blankets to keep us warm now that we once again have taken the feeble form that we are forced to endure for most of our lives. They herd us coughing and shivering into a clearing where huge metal helicopters wait to ferry us back. Many years ago, we lived alone. Each of us hidden from sight, hidden from those that did not, could not understand us. The unwanted, the demons of the moon, forced to wander alone until at last we could change and run with Her. Now we are kept together, once again hidden from view but at least with each other for company. Mothers used to warn their children to stay inside when She was full. Now, instead of hushed fearful voices, stories of us litter the world. Bring us out in the open to keep us safely tucked away.

The great metal beasts rise into the sky and we return once more to the cells where we stay until we are called.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Fall of the Nizari

As I stepped through the door, I could just make out the dark figure in the corner. The embers in the fireplace cast an orange glow in the otherwise unlit room.

“Must we always engage in such theatrics?” I asked with a sigh as I crossed to light the torches on the far wall.

They blazed suddenly to life as I neared; a trick he often employed for the entertainment of the serving boys in the castle kitchen.

“It is hardly the time for such party tricks” I rebuked, the shadows melting away from the corners of the room.

With a small nod, he gestured to the empty wooden chair and as I have done many times before, I took a seat and waited.

Waited to hear who it was I would be asked to kill.

“It is madness”, I whispered once he had finished speaking. “To go against the Mongols is to go against the wind that blows through the valley beneath us; they are unstoppable”

Our leader, our Imam stood and started to pace the tiny room.

“It will be difficult yes, but God has spoken to me on this, Ashur. It is not madness but necessity which prompts this decision. I have been shown what awaits us should we hide away in our stone fortresses like eagle chicks unwilling to leave the nest and it is death for us all.”

“We made peace with the khan’s grandfather Genghis,” I implored. “Why would we choose to poke the snake now it has retreated from our lands?”

“This new khan, Möngke is crazed with power,” the Imam said. “He will not be content with what has been achieved in uniting the tribes. They wish to wipe away from the earth any that do not bow to their sky God. You will travel with two others to Karakorum with the annual tribute and you will strike down this barbarian where he believes he is most secure. His death will bring disorder and chaos as his siblings vie for control.

I sat for a while contemplating on what he had said, the brazier he had lit diffusing the hashish into the air around us. Regardless of my concerns, the Imam was God’s vassal and His word was not to be questioned. As I rose from my chair he held out his hand.

I knelt and kissed the fingers of Rukn ad-Din.

“Your will my lord.”


As we three rode slowly into the Mongol camp, I kept my eyes lowered as we passed through the mass of people crowding around us. I patted my horse, mouthing soft words to try and quell the unease she felt at the hands which pulled and pushed at her sweating body.

I heard a shout and glanced up to see one of my companions dragged from his horse. He half rose and began dusting himself off as the armour clad warriors hemmed him in. A large Mongol pushed through the group pulling a curved weapon from his belt. Pointing once at the fallen man and back to himself he spat on the ground and moved towards him.

“Enough”, a voice rose above the excited chattering and the crowd backed away to allow a man riding one of the short ponies these nomads favoured to come forward.

“I am Hülegü, war leader of the Mongol nation and right hand of the Supreme Khan. Come with me.”

We followed the khan’s brother through a forest of short fabric structures until we came upon a larger more ornate tent decorated with silks and animal skins. Dismounting, Hülegü gestured that we do the same and pulling the tent flap to one side he beckoned us through.

The smell as I entered almost turned my stomach. The heavy smoke which hung like a morning fog in the hot air wound around a cloying fusion of excrement, sweat and animal fat. Taking a breath, I knelt before the small wooden dais upon which sat the khan of the Mongols.

“Great Möngke, beloved of the Sky Father and Supreme Khan of the great Mongol nation, I bring for you gifts from our divine Imam, Rukn ad-Din in tribute to your honour.”

Still kneeling with my face against the hard mud of the floor, I heard muffled movements around me as I waited for the acceptance.

I received only silence.

To rise from my position of supplication would be an affront to his hospitality yet to cower in the dirt like a filthy animal was to accept my place as such. These dark skinned warriors respected strength above all else and to shrink from such a challenge would be even more dangerous.

As I raised my head, I gasped as the Mongol leader stood before me with the dripping heads of my two companions in his fists.

“You talk of tribute and honour yet come to me with death in your thoughts and treason in your blood” he spat.

“Great Khan, I beg…”

“Do not beg anything of me, worm. My shaman has spoken to the spirits and has seen the deceit that riddles your body. You speak of honour yet seek to poison me with words and then with potions as I sleep. You will take my message to your Imam and others will learn what it is to oppose me. Once again my people will march and we will devour the World.”


I stand alone in the rooftop garden letting the scent of jasmine caress me in her silken arms. The chants of the Mongols echo through the valley as the barbarian horde edges ever closer. I can feel the mountains themselves tremble at their approach and wrap my arms around my body against the first icy fingers of winter’s touch.

They tell me the Mongol army seeps from the horizon like an endless tide swallowing all in its path.

All I see is darkness and where eyes once were, phantom tears flow down my ravaged face.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


The cursor winks at me, constant, mocking.

I stare forlornly at the white virgin snow of the page awaiting the footprint that will begin the journey. I’ve been huddled in this dark stinking room for six long weeks, feeling it slowly shrink around me as I battle with myself. A paragraph here, a line there, an idea scribbled in my notebook then discarded angrily onto the overflowing pile of rancid detritus in the corner. Trying so hard to will a spark to ignite, to grasp at something from the very air around me.

Before she had left it had been so easy. I would wake, ideas pounding through my head. With steaming coffee at my side I would sit and the words would flow from my fingers as water from a tap. The ever increasing mountain in the astray marked the passing of time. She would stand quietly in the doorway, watching me at my desk, alone, as the hours passed me by. The soft tapping of keys and cigarettes the only sounds as the pages swelled before me. I would fall exhausted into her warm soft arms at night knowing that my dreams in the darkness were destined to become my words in the daylight.

The days had stretched into weeks and then months. The end was tantalisingly close, always just a hairs breadth away as I raced towards it. People were waiting for me to finish, publishers, editors, my fans. I could not stop. Meals would be taken in silence as I re-read past chapters, made notes and corrections. I never saw the tears cloud her eyes as decisions were made, the tightness of her mouth as she willed herself to act. I saw her as I saw the bed, as I saw the chair; simply blurred items that I would pass, day by day at the edge of my consciousness.

I awoke to her pain the same day I awoke to her note.

My imagination has drifted away through the open door that she left. My words are my lifeblood, they feed and clothe me. I prostitute myself for the adulation of the faceless. Without them I am nothing. The cheques that once fell like autumn leaves through my door have become as scarce as the ideas that gave them birth.

I stretch and the cracking of my back echoes off the sparse walls. I chose this place to be free of distraction, free of the phone calls, the droppers by and the endless emails all wanting to know what was next, wanting more and more. Never content with what I'd given just what I had left to give. I thought alone, unbothered I could find peace, find myself again and it would come again. But instead of a place of serenity, an oasis in the whirling maelstrom that is my life, it has become an anchor around my neck dragging me down into the depths of my own self loathing.

A lone window I have allowed myself, an only view into the needful world beyond. I peer through the murky glass to the life outside. A river snakes through the valley off into the distance. Would that I could follow? Above the hills the grey/white clouds drift slowly across the sky, icebergs floating across an endless sea. I can hear the songs of the birds as they soar overhead. A smile touches my lips as I admire the simple beauty.

A glimpse of red just above the fence line shakes me from my reverie. Squinting to counter the glare of the morning sun I make out a shape, a person, coming this way. My heart starts thundering in my chest, sweat soaks my hands and the blood rushes through my head in crashing waves. I told him I needed space, time to finish. I can’t be rushed. As he gets closer, I swallow against the dryness of my throat and try to slow my breathing down to calm myself as I realise it is a hiker, nothing more. Some company may be what I need, inspiration to smash through this mental obstruction. Wiping my hands on my trousers I pick the breadknife from the table and reach for the door.

With the staccato drip of the coffee machine in the background and the cigarette smoke billowing gently up from the crammed ashtray I glance over at the bloodied rucksack in the corner and at my silent friend. My fingers fly across the keyboard.