There are words that resound in my head like the resonance through black thick water and the world sinks down in a whisper of drunken words, and a slur of madness. We trust no more, and the rain falls in long strings of acid on my skin. I am waiting on the steps, the water rinning down the facade oft he house, squeezed inbetween the two big ones like me, just like me, squeezed inbetween my worlds. Here I am, holding my black umbrella, with my glittery thights and the lace dress that is too old and too weird for today, a coat over my soulders, and my leather boots. My legs are thin, finally, and the red door behind me is like a celebratory congratulation from the universe to me. But why the rain. The rain suits me, in ist melancholy depth, like angels’ tears from the sky. I hold the bag with the books to my left and my hands are cold, my fingernails just as bruisedly blue as my lips. Like a beautiful corpse. I am not sure if i want to step outside in the wet patchy darkness where slipperly lights rush through the black night, the raindrops reflecting the lights from the street-lamps like diamonds. I hear the sputter of wings in the sky, but maybe it is only my belly. I don’t know and I laugh, laugh so loud the neighbours might hear me. I am thinking of going back inside, to the papers that are stacked on my table, on rainbow-coloured papers and inbetween books, threadbare, their backs in hyroglyphs. Greek, latin, english, and there the odd russian novel that I am still not too confident about reading. I remember the lamp on the table, I got it when I visited a market, it was only five pounds. It makes the light in my room seem red, straight out of heaven. Tea and heat. My fngers clench my bag, and I wonder. Why do I step out of my flat anyways, what is there to see today? And then, all of a sudden, my mind makes a twist, and I jump out and leave this safe dry place. My umbrella is useless in these conditions, it is trashed from side to side, my hair getting cought inbetween my lips; I have to spit it out. The cold seeps through my coat, through every layer of fabric until its chill moisture clings to my skin. I walk the narrow streets, walk past people hurrying, not many though; it is too cold, too wet, too unpleasant. I am used to unpleasantry. There are many things that I have experienced that are like sitting on a hard chair, your back at ninety degrees; it hurts.
This is the moment: when my world explodes in colours, a slashed rainbow which colours slush opon the world in a fountain of light. It is circles, spirals and twirling under the sun while a glaze of water glistens on my eyelash-tips. This is wonder, lightheaded feeling of freedom, spreading my arms outside like whiteish pale twigs that catch the blinding rays of the sun, turning my palms upwards, catching catching. There is the nourishment I need, the tastes of love and joy on my tongue, not sickening not fattening, pure and sweet as I dance underneath a blown up balloon sky. Colours dance in front of my eyes, and I run, try to catch the bubbles with my mouth, grabbing them with my hands and numbing the sickening feeling of death in my head. Underneath the black sky that is pierced with diamonds of colour, I fall to the ground and my body bounces back like a ball from the dust that rises around me like a halo, the little grains of sand catching the strange light and reflecting it against my body. There I lie, looking up and up and my gaze blurs, of all the beauty dare not even the angles sing, and I think, stop thinking, all thought vanishes int he beautiful well of hunger, filled with the water of pain that hurts so much it could not be more beautiful. There there, this is where it ends and begins again. I rise up from the ground, light and my feet heavy as steel, wondering why I don’t crush through the ground and fall through the earth, crumbling stone underneath my body of steel, right through the molten core and coming out unscathed on the other side – that is my life in metaphor. Falling and rising again, always being upright no matter how much I would like to slack like a sack of potatoes. Potoatoes, that is glazed golden lumps of buttery fear – did you know they are poisenous when you don’t cook them? The lava rushes through my hands and doesn’t burn me. I am filled with pain, thus pain doesn’t touch me anymore. The molten fire does not burn my skin, and neither my soul. The ice I walk upon, the precocious ice that might break any minute with each step I take, it does not make me freeze. My body of steel does not feel heat, nor cold, and remains here, forever undestructible. It is malleable, my body of steel. My soul of rainbow-lights that sparkle, and I am feeding of the flesh within, this metallic flesh that still tastes of blood and fat. I dance underneath the sky, and it reflects my gaze back and back again, an endless universal feedback loop. With each step I take, I am taken further to my home and with each step I take, I am more lost and my chances of returning are reduced. I can feel the ice underneath my feet, crackling and so close to breaking, and the heat on my skin that threatens to burn me to death until my heart explodes, but I do not flee these dangerous places. I lay my head upon the ice and watch the creatures of the deep stare at me with lampinous eyes. I kiss the lava and swallow it whole, and the heat rises through my body and I glow like a giant bulbeous corpse in the sky.
Über mir verschwinden die Wolken in einem Abgrund aus blauschwarzer Tintentiefe; es kräuseln sich Gedankenspiralen auf der Oberfläche des Himmels. Sterne stechen ihre Spitzen durch die Welt und durchbohren meine Augen. Die Welt verschwindet in einem blendenden Weiß, so hell, es schäumt in meinem Magen wie Gift; brennt sich durch die Haut. Auf meiner Haut glitzern die Tropfen der letzten Nacht, eingetrocknete salzige Tränenschlieren, rote Tinte unter meinen Fingernägeln.
The snow falls in vitreious spirals around the towers. Her breath curls up in the air like white smoke. The night is grey, nerved by blue and black spots; the pallid orange light being reflected by the snowflakes, turning the prospekt into a morbid stage where she could have imagined whores lurking in the red shadows like ghosts. But there is no-one, not in the frozen silence of winter. In this strange land, winter never ceases totally. Even on the hottest summer days, there is always the hint of chill air on one’s skin, and the white sky above the houses stays frozen in time. Now in January, the streets have been abandoned. Where black stains appear in the white nothing that covers them, you know that rotten leaves are buried underneath. No-one cares to swipe them away, to clean away the mess people leave, for the snow will cover it all; in absolute silence. So she walks along the street. This street has no name. The revolutionairies have ripped the name-tag off the wall that frames it to it’s left and never cared to replace it. As she walks on, one orange light after the other throws a thin shadow over the ground. It’s almost like stepping from one reality into another wonderland. The light distorts her hands, her face, frames her eyes in dark shadows and coats her lips in blood. She is muffled in a fur hat, pulled down over her ears; brown curls spill out from underneath, slightly soggy because of the constant snowfall. Her coat is brownish red, a slightly faded red that makes its use so plainly evident, it might be embarrassing if she cared. The colour of her boots is barely visible from down in the snow; they might be grey, or black. Only her thin legs stick out like matches. She is made from wood, this girl, thin brittle wood and metal. She, the princess of the cold, who gnaws on hard bread and starves for days, hides her heart under a coat of paint. Her eyes glow in the dark, changing from black to blue with the light. Her hands stuffed deep into her pockets, gloves too big, hat always slipping down over her eyes, she walks on through the snow. We do not know where she might go, but we follow her nonetheless. The snowfall has gotten lighter, but it’s not possible to see farther than about 4 metres yet. The street goes straight past the wall, past the park and the lamps, and the shadows with the thin hands and sharp nails. Sometimes, she stops and looks around her, almost as if she was expecting someone to follow her.
Maybe, she thinks, I am following myself. I am walking along this street, but my self is straight behind me, always following me everywhere. It would be nice to have a pause sometimes, just to breathe and forget myself. But how could I ever, when I look in the mirror and want to cry tears of happiness. How could I forget that I am when my toes are frozen blue in my boots, and my cheeks are frozen red in the cold, while my lips are cracked and bleed down my chin and in my mouth. When my tongue tastes of bile and my eyes like salt. How could I ever, and I always ask myself without finding an answer. I want to take a ship to a foreign land where the sun always shine, and I would melt into the sea and disappear. Here I disappear in silent, here I am sucked into the cold and get less with everyday. It’s not a glorious death, and it is only pretty in it’s terror. Here look, no footsteps in the snow, I am actually the first person to walk this path today, no-one has been here before me – does it make a difference? And the orange lights, those decrepid horrible lights that look at me like putrid eyes. Yesterday I cut my hand and it bled down on the table, and I wiped up my blood with the washcloth and now it’s soiled, the only one I have. But it’s not like I need it, do I. The trees look like men, grasping each other with iron hands, pressing the breath of life out of each other. And the orange light, the horrible horrible light! It looks sick, like it is dying slowly, rotting away in the darkness.
The room is small, a bench, a chair, a table, a window and blue curtains. A few ragged books on the floor, on the table; a cup of coffee. A lampshade clothed in red.
You see, love, the night is closing in. The sound of raindrops pattering on the roof of the shed; the air smells like wet earth and moss, and your moist hand presses mine so hard. The orange flame of the candle vanishes into the darkness. Slowly. You hum with the sound of the rain, dum-dum-dum; drops falling, clashing, breaking around us. The world is washed away. Your hair sticks to your head like seagrass, cold drops that taste like rotten flowers.
The world is coming to an end tonight. Big whirling sashes of purple smoke rising up from the gutters, and heels clattering on the pavement, still slightly wet from the rain. The make up is no longer pristine, her eyes smeared from sweat, her hair sticking to her forehead like algae. Like she is a strange creature from the depths of the sea, rising through the water. When she comes up, she chokes on the air and grasps for water and little fish circle in her hair that is broadened upon the water like a carpet of black. So we run along the street in the depths of the night. No, not night, already we can see the early mists of morning light rising up by the hill. A strange, orange glow that pervades the early morning. It smells of cigarettes and cars and most of all, water, dirty water. She laughs and twirls around the light-pole. Alcohol sloshing around in her stomach and that’s how she is. Always too much. The dress is wrinkled now, from the dancing. Remember, how they sat on the couch in the corner, with the glasses in their hands, and she was holding on to hers as if she could keep it from vanishing. Down the throat. Every day is so fleeting, and the constant knowledge that there is only a limited number of them drills inside her head, the constant noise, the voice reminding her to LIVE, because if she does not live now, then when. Consequences do not matter when you are not sure if you will be alive in the morning. She wonders, are my days fixed upon the day of my birth. Is there a clock somewhere, ever ticking, and with each moment, the life of me is getting smaller? Or is all of this simply a chain of random events, and I might live 10 days, or 100 years? In the end, does it matter? She stops twirling and looks me in the eye, and she asks if there would be a café open at this time of day, and of course, it is too early. At this time of day, life is still asleep around us. We can hear it breathing in the houses. We need to wait. She sits on the bench with the trees bending down around her, and taps her fingers against the wood. Complaining because it is outrageous that everyone else should be sitting still while she wants to run. She is hungry. Sometimes she is, and sometimes she goes days without touching a morsel, sipping tea and drowning wine like water. But now she is hungry, and she demands food. She notices that her stocking is ripped. It was not expensive. Expensive stockings rip much faster, she says, and you can buy a pack of three pairs for just two quid, and they keep forever. But sometimes, when you scratch yourself on the rough wood on the bench in the pub, it rips too. So here we are. It doesn’t matter, of course. Her hair is tangled, the seaweed hair, and her mermaid limbs are spread upon the bench like dead fish, white and luminescent and her eyes blue like the sea. The wind rustles through the leaves of the trees and she says, Oh, I am happy, happy. I would have never thought I was capable of that.
We sit in the café and she picks at her cake. Cake for breakfast, that’s how it is. It is rich, with chocolate and cream and she loves it to pieces, you can see that. I no longer think about how bad that is for me, she says, but by saying that, she negates her whole statement. And fresh tea. No coffee, it is disgusting and churns her stomach. Have you written your essay, I ask, and of course, she has. It is brilliant and 10 pages long, and the professor will love it. She has shredded the theory to pieces and left their corpses to rot. She has built her own palace on their graves, their destruction a safe foundation for her own little world of madness and grandeur.
It is a Saturday, and I expect to find her in her room. Last night was a late night, and it is 10, so she must be awake now. I knock and she calls Come In, and I always wonder if she is happy to see me, or if she wants me to go away. She would say it if I couldn’t come in, she sometimes does. Not now, or Go Away, Come Back In Two Hours. She’s in her morning gown, which is Asian and lovely. Stick legs like buttermilk. She has been combing her hair and looks as if she had stepped out of a novel. Maybe she has. What do you want, she asks, are we having any plans for today? Let’s go and have a picnic! It is a warm day! The sun is shining and the leaves are beautiful and I have bought wine, and strawberries, although they are bloody expensive, and chocolate and we could make little sandwiches and have you read this book, it is brilliant! And she tosses a book at me, which I barely manage to catch. I want to go to the museum too! She often wants to go to strange places, museums, and cemeteries, and old churches and abandoned warehouses. She always brings her camera and shoots the strangest pictures. Strange because they are so beautiful.
Our friends come with us. Madeleine and Lauren and Rachel. We sit in the grass, on a blanket, because the ground is too cold in October, and we munch on chocolate and drink red wine. She sometimes drinks it straight out of the bottle, and her lips are just the same colour of the wine. And it suits her, because it looks like she has been licking wine. Madeleine tells us of some guys she has slept with, and she laughs because she thinks that guy is gross and Madeleine could do better. We all tell her to get rid of him and never see him again. She has no problems with such matters, that is for sure. At least not on the outside. There is that guy, and that girl, but she doesn’t really care in the end. We lie on the blanket, limbs entangled and laugh laugh in the October sun. It is going to be one of the last warm days, and we soak it up as good as we can. The buildings reflect the sun, and it is like golden wine that drops down everything and coats everything in a strange glaze. It is a world not of this reality that we live in now. Everything is new and magical. Statues come to life and music sounds out of the flats we pass. She grasps Laurens hand and dances down the alley through the trees.
Winter comes too fast here. First the rainy days, then the leaves fall, and leave everything grey and dreary. She does not think so, of course. There is a certain beauty in dreariness, a slow and sullen melody that you cannot hear at first, but then, if you look upon a bird, or the strange shape of a tree against the sky, then you hear it, and it is beautiful in its own way. We sit huddled in coats and long scarves. She wears dresses mostly, and skirts, with thick stockings and boots and headbands and her great coat that was too expensive. Colour, because she wants to stand out in the grey. It is a great backdrop, the perfect scenery. We sit in the café, drinking the best hot chocolate that ever existed out of enormous mugs, with whipped cream even, and our tables is covered with notes and scribbles and sometimes she draws portraits because she wants to get better at that. Homework and assignments, and drafts for grandiose novels. Photographs of strangers and their stories. She writes them in her notebook, and sticks the photograph in. It is her book of stories. It is lives, collected, assembled, made whole. Random people stuck together between the covers. She wants their lives to make sense, to have some meaning. What we eat, is pasta. Tomato soup. Crackers. Mostly pasta, though. Wine warms you up when it is too cold to move your hands. Some people go mad in winter. Mania, in winter, that is what we aspire to. We run around, from place to place, from adventure to adventure. We live so hard we sometimes get afraid of falling. We stand on the bridge and look at the passing cars and wonder what would happen if the bridge collapsed around them, and us. It is a strange feeling, standing upon open ground. Christmas comes, the term is over. Lights on the houses, candles in the rooms. She has sworn off electricity, only uses candles and speaks in strange whispers. I want to make this a story, full of wonder and magic, and put myself as the main character. I want this to be my stage, my page to fill.
I turn the paper in my hand and the world descends out of shadow. Starlight jumps off the leaves and fills the atmosphere with an eerie silver light, like Quicksilver stretched thin. This light is worn out by time, so old its movements are subtle, a lingering change of shadow and definition; never sudden brightness, even bright daylight leaden with gravity and the promise of rain. Here, in this world, the day changes with the night almost imperceptibly; drawn out movements and the impossibility of distinguishing one from the other. Light and darkness. Same thing.
The wind is soft with sharp edges. It slices through the grey luminosity like a weapon, precise in its destruction, leaving ripples of sunlight behind that pave their way through the rustling leaves. Above, the burnt sky stretches like a topless dome from one cap of mountains to the forlorn savannah of red grass. Flimsy clouds are slivered from one part of the sky to another. Everything is suspended in perpetual stillness. Moving my hand through the air is like touching jelly. An amorphous strange matter that hinders my motion through space, holding itself against my palm, an invisible touch of time. This world is holding its breath. It should have been long gone, but here it is, fixed by the silver light of the suns like a memory that doesn’t want to die.
Memory is a tricky thing. It changes, burns with emotion, subjectified by our own personal hopes and dreams, subtle wishes twisting it this way and that. How could we ever know if we change it to our wishes because we, in some way or another, want to remember it that way. There, a smile, a change in tone, and the memory descends upon us like a nightmare, reminding us of what is lost and will never return. Memories burn upon our eyes like burning knifes, blind us to death, make us grasp the ashes, bury our head in the ground, tasting earth, worms and life, in its messiest, purest form. The earth, the eggs, white mushrooms prodding at the concrete, tip-tip-tap-tap. Choking, mouth full of earth and dirt, and it will never be enough. Listen, upon the world brimming full of life and death, so glorious, beautiful, and horrible. Then see the pristine terror of the supernovae, the cold touch of a black hole, its eye pulling you inwards, inwards, until you see yourself, standing naked and alone upon the cliff of existence. The cool horror of the inorganic universe and the burning fire of life, and you are still as lonely as ever.
This beach, a small strip of white golden sand and grey waves pulling themselves into spirals of blue, where cliffs like faces jut out of the ground and a thousand bloodless bodies once lay, this is where I came to seek you that one time. I stepped outside onto the frozen grass that curled itself around my ankle as if to pull me down with it into the centre of that planet’s icy core. The storms whooshed around me like hands, slapping the waves against the stones where they collapsed with a sigh. You stood upon that rock, rising up over the ocean, with your coat being ripped back by the gales like a living thing. You stood there like this was yours, all yours to take, to devour and rip apart, and, of course, it was. I did not once think you did not know I was there, but no sign of yours, no acknowledgement of my arrival. You remained a stoic statue at the end of the world, looking upon the largest ocean in the galaxy, where whole civilisations had drowned at your hands. I made my way across the plateau, the dry sand of this grassland crunching underneath my soles. You did not move, even as I stood beside you. From here, the highest point of that flatland, you could see the curve of the planet’s back, the water seeming almost flat in the distance, flat and dark of blood.
„You know how once, you were afraid of the water, not because you believed in the stories they told you. No, you could see upon the horror of the dark, the silence in the depths and the crush of drowning. It’s like being chocked to death by hands you will never see. You knew, even then, that it was alive, just so. It’s brim-full of them, I am sure you have noticed. All the screams, the wonder, the terror and the deaths, pulled apart and drowned, sliced and frozen. They couldn’t even scream in the end, not anymore. Do you enjoy the memories?“
Silence, and your mocking smile upon my face, and it feels like coming home again. The fear, and the pleasure of fear, the rush of blood, the pulse of anger – how could he ever, ever, enjoy this, not him, no – and more than anger, so much more. There he stands, like a mad god, with that smug grin on his face, knowing full well that I did not come to enjoy the outcome of his slaughter. The ululations of the waves sound hollow echoed off the cliffs, like laughter accompanying his words.
„Do you enjoy the memories, Doctor?“
And it sounds like our memories, it does.
The screams and the pain, and the sand soaked with blood, up to my elbows. The grains stabbing in my back, such dull pain, barely noticeable in the cold that numbs everything. The cold. But your mouth is hot and your body warm and smooth over me, and you pull at my hair, bite my lip, then down the way over my neck until theirs is not the only blood that drips to the ground. You are hard against my thigh and smile your smile, no need to say it aloud as you are screaming in my head. All mine, mine. I am helpless against that voice, against the hands on my body and your lips. The most poisonous in the universe, and yet the most beautiful. The black tide sweeps over my feet, like a thousand stitches through my skin and you scratch me open, open, until I moan into your mouth; your name, a thousand fold. Master, Master. And the sand under us, the cold between our burning bodies; the way you look at me when you lift your body off mine, hands on both sides of my head, looking at me like you’ve won: all you have ever wanted is yours to destroy; the burning waters sloshing around us, the end of a billion lives whispering through the grass.
Then you bend down, towards me, your back a glimmering curve in the dying light of a red sun, and you kiss me like a thousand worlds are vanishing around us and we do not care, like you would mind if I died, like, if that word was not such an absolute antithesis to your whole being, you actually loved me. Maybe it’s the love for terror and death, blood and smoke and destruction, the love for seeing me reduced to a whimpering wanting being, all because of you, maybe it’s your love for your own creations, but for a moment, I don’t care, I don’t think and let myself sink into that delusion. „I’ll be waiting, Doctor“, you say, and I do not know whether it is a promise or a threat. Then the world goes black in pain.
The lonely god someone once called me. In mad euphoria and singing frenzy, rushing intelligence and holding the whole of the cosmos in my hands, that is what I am being reduced to in the end: a lonely god. Whoever wanders with me, dies, vanishes, swallowed like an insect by time, a tiny flicker in the universe. Gone faster than the blink of her eye. But they matter so much, can do so much, see so much, oh, their potential, I was sure it must make a difference in the end. The end. I have seen the end. Billions of sick stars flickering in the dark, one by one ceasing to exist, leaving only a stretch of darkness behind. Space is stretched to pieces like the cloud on my planet’s sky and the remains of life huddling in the darkness, so scared and helpless. I imagine them achieving the feat: opening the whole of reality, breaching their way onto a new destination, a new universe, fresh and young, brimming with possibilities and life, so much life. But I have seen no proof of it. No bright minds remain, every spark of intelligence numbed, afraid of the darkness. Reduced to basic fears, the dark full of strange animals and voices and faceless gods. They return to what they once were and search the dirt for signs of salvation. So much hope in humanity, I cannot fathom that I should have been wrong. You would probably laugh at me.
I imagine. Upon the endless chasm, time is floating in eternal separation from the rest of the cosmos. A tiny part of reality, cut apart and defying the laws of history. Here we sit, floating over the end of time and space, and you raise your glass to me with a smile that does not mock me, not anymore. The drums are drowned by the sound of the floods of time, the tide of moments vanishing in the depths of space. These are the screams, the songs of existence, the fabric of reality woven anew; within this endless noise, we hear our own four hearts beating with the body of the universe. All the petty fights, paranoia, fear, control, disappointment and jealousy, all ceases to exist at the horizon. You open the door of the Tardis, looking outside; a boiling mass of matter and radiation, and my body keeps you from falling into insanity, again. I keep you against me, and for once, you do not protest, do not scream against my protection. Ionised particles spring up around us, blistering against our minds, your hands pale in the brilliant light of newborn stars. I imagine.
We are falling, gravity suspended, clinging to each other, so afraid of being lost in empty space, alone.
I had thought that you were gone. The whole of my universe was pervaded with the consequence of your disappearance, an almost tangible absence, a change in the breath of the world, not only the fabric of time and space ripped apart by the annihilation of my only home, every Time Lord brought back to an existence as tiny ripples in time, but also myself by the only person who had ever shared a part of me was gone. In the blink of an eye, the world was reduced to the most absolute loneliness one could imagine. Colours lost their saturation. Sitting there, in the cold of the cosmos, looking upon the sparkles of the Crab Nebula had lost its appeal. Nothing registers in the catatonia of being ultimately, utterly alone.
The worlds went by in a daze, in thrill and danger. You don’t feel, don’t think, and most of all, don’t remember, when you are running. Fight or Flight humankind called it. Fight or Flight and Forget. But I never forgot, not ever. No matter the number of distractions I selected for myself, no matter how far to the deepest pits of the universe I travelled, at the back of my mind, there was always that one thought. There is no-one. You are alone, as alone as any being could every being. You have wiped the possibility of there ever being someone from time, and no matter how far you travel, you can never go back, not ever.
- It is drawn upon her face like rivulets of ink, like scars etched upon a surface of pure white, reaching into the recesses of red flesh, so dark it seems almost black. In the candle light, she reaches out over the circle on the floor, tentatively, and her arms extends into the darkness like a pale fish. The darkness draws back from her limbs –
The sea is drawing back from the sand. It is not white sand, not luminous kernels of gold, but a strange colour of red, like rust on an old sword, or dried blood. The water left behind is collecting in shallow pools, like blind eyes in the desert of the beach. Leafless trees crouch over them, like a mother protecting the body of her child, the trunks of the trees like sturdy swollen bodies with wrinkled skin, so dry it crackles when a gust of wind whooshes past them. This is the only sound in the wasteland, the occasional sigh from the bark of the trees that peels of like strips of skin
- and her fingers reach for the water jug just there, on the table. Her fingernails are bitten down and it hurts when the stumps touch – anything. Touch is pain, to her. She draws the vessel to her, her hand receding back into the dark. It descends, heavily, upon the scene, like a lifeless body of velvet. The hand vanishes, the white luminous shadow. Outside, a crow screeches –
The knife comes down silently. The bird doesn’t make a noise either and for a moment, even the Singer holds her breath, clutching the hand of her who stands beside her. Her nails grab into her flesh and tear against the skin, while the knife tears against the flesh and tendons and muscles. Outside, mists are rising. She is not yet used to such savagery: the way she can see the windpipe standing out, the blood slowly collecting on the table, drop by drop, how Alba looks down on the corpse without tears in her black eyes, how small the body looks, how small all bodies look when their life has left them. She imagines herself, limp and bloodless, upon the altar with her throat cut through in a neat dissection, her hair dull, her eyes flat like stone. Then she can breathe again, draws in the air in an audible sigh and closes her eyes, just for one moment. The image burns itself into her memory. When she opens her eyes again, her hand is alone, hanging purposelessly in the air. The others do not look at her, are whispering in the twilight, strange noises coming out of their lips that she fails to understand. She knows this language: it is her own, but she has forgotten its meaning. The Singer draws back into herself
- She has ripped out parts of her hair when the night got the worst of her. A cauchemar, a black horse with savage eyes, burning with hellfire and the promise of hidden memories, his rider promising her, whispering, how he will bring back the nights of moonlight and the bodies in the wind, the boneless fingers and the deadly fruits of night, glistening purple in the dark. It lies in tufts on her bed. She could bind it with ribbons, like the herbs she used to collect. She has no ribbons. When she was still able to contemplate, she contemplated ripping her dress apart, but she only had the one. So she bunched them up, put them together with the piece of white bark and the golden ring and whispered spells to bind them to her. But they came, and took it all away, and only left the hair behind, thinking it was dirt and dust. They do not know –
When she comes back to herself, she is lying in a bed, not knowing what brought her there, or who. Pale blue daylight shines through the window and she can see specks of dust dancing in front of her eyes. She presses them closed again, hard, so hard that she can see little explosions of light in front of her retina. Are those stars illusions or do they exist? Maybe she can see hidden worlds when she closes her eyes in pain. Give in to terror, and you will see lights dancing upon the water. She does not see, cannot see, but she can still feel. The sheet, clammy upon her sweat-soaked skin, the wounded skin of her feet, raw and red, her hair, too greasy, too heavy upon her skull, crushing her down; she can even feel the soft light of morning, touching her ever so lightly, tugging her away from sleep. Sweet, blissful sleep.
The Singer’s mirror is a small slanted thing, with a crooked surface and a worn handle. She would much prefer to see herself in the water of a lake, but there are snakes, and she is not brave enough to speak their language yet. Her face on the surface is pale, and while her eyes are framed with red, her lips are white and bloodless. She must wash. Her memories of the last days are blurred and full of strange, borderless shadows. Maybe she has been asleep all the time. Memories after sleeping are always leaden with heaviness, they retreat back to where they belong too fast. Sometimes you catch a thought, a glimpse of what you have seen, remember something important, but it fades like the sun at twilight, and then it is gone and you are back to the world of the living.
- They must not come, the hushed voices, the heavy boots upon stone, the hands tearing at her flesh, they must not come anymore. They don’t. Only silence comes, silence and the ever-burning candle, flickering in an impossible breeze in front of her eyes. The dress she once had is gone now. Somewhere, far away, water is dripping. She can see it running down the cold dark bricks. She can feel herself licking it away, feeling the cold of the stone against her tongue, tasting mortar and mold and iron –
The steam is rising from the tub, curling up in the cold morning air like smoke, and when she lowers herself through the white mists, she feels as if she was descending into a foreign world, so far removed from her own that it seems like a dream. The water scalds her skin, at first, but she has to clean. There are cuts on her legs, deep gashes and small scratches, from fingernails, from knifes, from thorns and brambles. In addition to the cuts, she has assembled various stains from berries of all kinds on her clothes and hands. Earth has collected underneath her fingernails, earth and blood and the flesh of the odd worm. She remembers these things, faintly, a memory coming back like a snail, very slowly, almost excruciatingly slow. She could squash it, easily, just with the flick of her hand, her mind. But the heat soothes her thoughts, makes her languid and slow. She will clear away the grime, make herself presentable again, and all will be well. Taking a wet cloth, she rubs against her arms, her legs, all of her body, until its red and hurts. When she dunks her hair into the then lukewarm water, it changes its colour, from light brown to deep black. Like tar.
If you could see the Singer now, that’s what she would look like to you. She is small, lank and thin, with her hair reaching down to her waist. It is still moist and curls lazily, and it is dark brown, like a black chestnut, the ones she loved to play with when she was a child. Her eyes are green, like a leaf, and she does not blink very often. People are often flustered by that, it destroys their confidence when she looks like she can look through them so easily. Her lashes are long, her eyebrows thick. Her skin is the pale white of an apple, the kind that bruises so easily. It looks moist, full of water, as if it would drop from your hands if you touched her. Her nose is unexceptional, neither small nor big. Her lips are red now, from the heat, and her cheeks are flushed. If she opened her mouth, you could see how dark it is, the depth of her mouth, dark red and lush like cherries. Her teeth are like uneven pearls, and one is broken off halfway, on the side, which makes her smile look a little bit crooked and ironic. There are still scars on her legs, from the accidents – were they accidents? – of the last days. They will always stay that way. She has a scar on her knee, on her hand, birthmarks on her collarbone, like a small constellation that should have its own name. Her body is her diary, it collects her life, amasses reminders of accidents, mostly of pain, scarcely of pleasure. One day, she will wake up and find her whole skin covered in strange symbols, white etchings of magic, and she will not scream, but look upon herself and marvel for she has become a work of art. But now, she is only wet and shivering in the cold, the hair on her body standing up like little needles. She looks tired.
- The riders are coming tonight. The desert is suspended under a globe of dark blue spotted with stars. They look like tiny lampions, or little orbs of glass, filled with light. It is cold. The heat of the day disappears fast in this climate, it fades within minutes. It could snow at night. Sometimes, they find corpses underneath the trees, frozen still, caught in their sleep unawares. They bury them in the sand and leave a flower on their grave. It will be blown away by the wind, but it is a ritual that must not be ignored. The dead are carried away by the moist smell of magnolias. Over there, bones of trees whitened by the sun are standing out like lampposts in the darkness as they stride through the land. She can feel the wind rushing through her body, lashing her hair behind her. No deaths tonight, the stars are clear. They will reach the city, soon, she can already see the promise of it in the darkness before her. There are the unmistakable signs, the smell of food carried by the wind for miles, the way the trees curve differently, the way the horses run faster without their command. Their voices are carried upwards in the melodious language of the steppe, the languid words of honey and milk –
The Singer has donned her clothes, a blue dress of cotton and a ribbon in her hair, the smell of blood oranges and honey in her hair, wafting around her body. She goes out, slowly, breathing the morning air. It smells like rosemary. She feels faint, weary of leaving the safe confines of her house. She often tricks herself into thinking that her house is safe, imagines an invisible circle drawn around it (she has done this, planting various herbs and flowers in a big circle, but she does not know if she possesses that kind of magic). The circle should work here too, but there is a touch of blood and slaughter in the air. It clings to her skin like sweat. She knows that she will never be able to wash it away.
She doesn’t remember the last time she has eaten. Throwing various dried herbs in steaming water, she prepares herself a cup of tea, cuts herself a piece off a loaf of bread. The apples are still good at this time of the year, so she takes one. It is sweet and tart and she lets the juice run over her hands. She feels how it is getting cold, how winter is seeping through the gaps of her world. She looks down at her apple and its flesh looks human to her, alive.
- Madness has different ways of getting to you. Sometimes it creeps closer very slowly. You feel fine at first, your mind clear and calm, but with every day, there is more shadow, more foreboding, more signals and symbols, the urge to rip apart and devour getting stronger gradually. Sometimes it comes over you like a wave, descending suddenly, and you go from being a human being to chewing the skin off your lips. Either way, you are left in another world. There is a small threshold between here and there, and you can’t see it. It is covered in bird’s skeletons, tiny skulls, in dried flowers and herbs, and the door is heavy and smeared with wet earth. Once you have stepped over, you can always go bake there and remove yourself from the world.
It is a strange place: human mushrooms, swaying in the wind; your body, suspended in the air, floating over an endless sea; red berries, picked by hand in a frenzy; red berries of blood that taste like chicken; turrets and chambers under the earth where the soil teems with worms and snails; writhing bodies, like snakes; the moon, magnified a thousand fold, a gigantic balloon in the sky; the moon has a mouth and it will eat you up; insects, served on a plate of gold, grass hoppers crawling out of your mouth; kissing your lover, and looking into her eyes, and she is dead, her flesh ripped open by your hands; a room of spirals, and eyes devoid of bodies, wavering in space –
Mary comes. She always comes when you call her. She is not like the virgin, not holy, but she always comes. The Singer sits upon the bench in the garden, twirling a flower in her hand. Mary does not recognize the flower, it is pink and shines, like a song from a foreign land, like a jewel. The Singer looks up, and her eyes are glazed and big and beautiful. “What happened?” Mary asks, her voice tentative, her body tense. She can sense that something is Wrong, that something has happened. The world has been torn out of its wheel, time has stopped and the whole universe is existing in a state of non-being now. Whatever happens is a secret, and once the world resumes its usual course again, it will be wiped clean. “I don’t know, everything is grey and unclear, like dust,” the Singer says. “Hold me, please.” Mary goes over, over the wet grass and the blades that are too long, too wild, the weeds that sprout like expensive flowers, in all colours and shapes, and wraps her arms around the Singer’s body like a blanket. She is burning, like a blue fire, and Mary feels as if she singes her soul. Someday she will burn her to cinders.
- They haven’t come for days. Days, maybe weeks, no, she would be dead if it had been weeks. She is still alive, still breathing, she can feel it against her palm. Maybe they want her to rot to death, maybe she will get away with a slow death, no torture, but starving away in the darkness. She will not die of thirst. Rainwater from the walls – where does it come from? – is dripping steadily into her jug, enough to keep her alive, away from the edge that leads to delirium. She does not want to shrivel away like a mummy, but neither does she want to turn into a living skeleton and see her life wasting away. She is whispering the ancient spells, blood magic, only her own, they will get her out. She will fly through the air, away, away, to the ancient city where the smell of spices and milk is succulent and sweet and pain does not exist. She dreams of this place when she is not haunted by the dead and the white flowers. Not often, but it keeps her hope alive. They will come and get her if she doesn’t come herself. They will save her. She stares upon her hands, so small and cold, seemingly removed from her body. The light from the candle jumps off them and makes them glow.
I’m glowing. I’m a pearl, a white flower, a lamp in the dark, in the dark, the dark, dark.
Someday, every light will fade away.
The city sleeps under a mist of rain. The strangers look me in my green forest eyes and flinch, for I see everything-The blood, the tears, the laughter. They mass me by in the rain soaked streets, hurrying over the cobblestones that moisten my bare feet, avoiding my eyes. The season of the flowers. When the sun cuts through the mist, the dust, the grey clouds, slicing them like a blade until sunlight comes sputtering through like fresh steaming blood in the cold morning air when they slaughter the meat. Soft crisp flowers against my skin, my face buried within the earth, mouth full of worms and grass, all life buried deep inside me, entering me like a lover, but not gently. Ripping through me without restraint, life biting me in the neck like it wants to eat me, the most delicious pastry. Oh, so full of life. It bursts through the veins like fireworks, burns in my eyes like ethanol. They look at me, for they know, the faceless shadows. Untouched by the light of the stars, they wander the alleys with the blue-red lampposts, and their mouths like screaming pits. Burned-off star ash, white specks on grey ground. They listen to the songs of a dying world, but they cannot hear, their souls blocked with concrete. I walk through the moors, mud and grass up to the knees, like wading through unpleasant memories, like catching a dragonfly and swallowing it whole, smiling, because it flatters in your belly like a kiss.