Sunlight

Web dug whilst I sipped the water we shared. Unexpectedly, his pickaxe bounced back in his hands. As the sound echoed through our tunnel, the flicking torchlights from our helmets lit up a red brick wall. Studying them through goggles, Web tapped timidly with the pickaxe point and the grey concrete crumbled away. He smiled, but in the torchlight it looked like a wicked slash on the side of his face.

Raising the pick, Web brought it crashing down as I grabbed my spade and ducked out of the way. I heard the familiar sound of metal on brick and turned to see large cracks forming across the surface.

‘It didn’t break,’ Web’s voice shouted above the ringing.

He raised the pick again; the blade edge glistened in the light. He dropped it with a sudden swing and a mighty roar left his mouth. Web had perfect aim and hit the same spot as before, but the bricks didn’t fall. I crept to his side and we studied the wall once more.

‘Seems pretty sturdy,’ he muttered.

I nodded, ‘Do you think on the other side is….?’

He eyed me and frowned, ‘They say it feels warm and the soil’s lighter.’

‘Still, this might be the first wall,’ I said, clinging to my hope.

‘Right. Stand back.’

I scuttled to the side as Web raised the pickaxe and then brought it down harder than previously. He swung with all his strength, whilst screaming. The point of the pick stuck and Web threw all of his weight behind it.

‘Stop! I smell something!’ I cried.

I grabbed his shoulder and foolishly tried to pull him backwards. Web was like an angry bull; all his muscles were tense, his feet were glued to the floor and red blazed in his eyes behind his goggles. Also, his breathing was steady and mine was coming out in gasps.

Web dropped the pickaxe, his body stayed tense, ‘is it gas?’

I sniffed, trying to catch the smell again now the pressure was on, ‘I’m not sure.’

‘Better not risk it,’ Web replied and pulled up the mask he had around his neck.

I did the same. Fitting the simple breathing device on and quickly pinching the side to save me from breathing deadly air.

Web pulled some of the chipped brick away from the hole and pressed an eye to it.

‘Do you see anything?’ I asked, my words muffled and breathy.

He shook his head and pressed his shoulder to the wall. Then he signalled for me to do the same. We pushed together and the wall gave way, causing us to fall though. Everything was shaking and I could hear so many sounds at once. My breath caught and then my body found the ground with a loud crack.

 

‘Ty? Ty, hear me? WAKE UP!’

Pain…excruciating pain…all over. My body flickered back to life and my brain went into over drive with the sudden flood of pain signals. I screamed.

‘Ty, you’re right. Come on, talk to me.’

I felt cold hands on my head, fingers pulling off my goggles. I tried to open my eyes, but the world stayed dark. Something warm brushed across my cheeks and suddenly there was light burning into my eyes. Sluggishly, I drew my left hand up.

‘Hey!’

Hands shook me and I wanted to throw up. I rolled over and pain roared in my right shoulder. I still made it though and started gagging.

‘Oh, no, don’t do that!’

A hand snatched down something that was across my mouth as I heaved and vomited. Fire burned in my throat and every mouthful of air stuck in my lungs.

‘You okay? Lie down….’

Strong hands grabbed me, pulling me back down gently and then they were on my face once more, pushing something back over my mouth.

‘Don’t shut your eyes, stay awake.’

I mumbled something as my head started clearing, the pain dulling down and things coming back into forces.

‘I should put your shoulder back.’

‘Don’t….’

‘Sorry, mate.’

I heard him move, but felt nothing, until he started pulling. The pain shot through me, worse than before and I was sure death was coming. I screamed and flopped around on the floor, trying to get away. I felt a foot dig into my ribs and the pain reached a new height. My screams ripped from my throat then bounced back to me. I didn’t hear the sound of my bones clicking back into place or Web yelling at me till he’d slapped me twice.

I lay quiet, dragging in deep breaths, as the pain rippled and dulled away, leaving me feeling numb and cold.

‘Quit sucking all the air,’ Web snapped, ‘Control your breathing.’

I shut my eyes and began counting whilst thinking about each breath in and out.

‘We’re right,’ Web said, ‘We didn’t fall far, just brought shit down with us.’

‘Safe?’

He leant into catch my whisper.

‘I think so…Not sure about the air, but nothing’s moving.’

‘Want…up…’

I reached upwards, grabbing at nothing.

‘Wait,’ Web pressed his hand to my chest, ‘How’s your head?’

I paused, ‘hurts a little.’

‘Slowly then.’

He took my arms and sitting up, I curled into a ball and begin breathing deeply, ‘Sent…for someone?’

‘I can’t leave you.’

‘Can…get…out?’

He stood up and I watched him walk over to the hole we had fallen through. He brushed the wall, then started to climb. The soil gave away too fast and he was unable to scurry upwards. He jumped back to me.

‘Doesn’t look like it, but there must be another way.’

I held my hand out and he pulled me to my feet. I swayed and he grabbed my arm, ‘Whoa.’

‘I’m right,’ I replied, rubbing my painful chest.

‘Let’s move,’ Web spoke.

A shiver went down my spine as we started walking and I glanced around. The light from my helmet didn’t reach very far and I couldn’t make out a lot. The floor was covered with the rubble that had fallen down with us, but also there were white stones and strange impressions in the soil.

I tripped into something and looked down; there was a metal pole on the floor and bits of wood. I stepped around it and walked on, trying to have my eyes everywhere at once. Web was slightly ahead of me, feeling the brick wall with his hand. Then my light flashed across something and I had to turn my head back so fast that the pain started up again. I blinked quickly and then looked up; there was an outline of a metal shape in the space ahead of me.

‘There’s something…’ I pointed out.

Web turned and we walked over to the object. My breath was ragged and my heart beating in my ears. We got closer and saw that the shape was the back or front of a train. I reached out and touched the cold, dusty metal, leaving my prints there.

‘There’s a gap we can get through,’ Web called.

I watched him disappear down the side of the train, then followed him. My boots brushed against the wheels and I bumped into Web’s hand. He pulled me up onto the ledge and we stared around.

I’d seen places like this before; an underground train station. I was the third generation of my family to be born underground and had only heard of these things in fairytales. I took in the rows of blue plastic seating, the display boards with their yellow posters and the silent electric stairs. The place was so still, as if frozen in time.

‘Wow, check this,’ Web said and moved to a line of metal boxes.

I followed him and saw that there was a ticket machine and a vending machine. Web brushed the dust from the second machine.

‘There’s still stuff inside!’

‘Wha-’

‘Look, tinned drinks!’ Web grabbed me and pressed my face to the glass, ‘How’d we get in?’ Web banged a fist on the plastic cover and the sound echoed.

‘I don’t-’ the word stuck in my throat and I grasped my chest.

‘Ty?’

I doubled over, trying to breathe but not taking in anything.

‘TY! What is it?!’

I shook my head wildly and reached up for my mask. Web beat me, tearing the thing off and almost strangled me. Suddenly, I could breathe again, though my lungs were on fire. Web checked my mask and then pulled my head up. I had to stare into his different coloured eyes as he watched me breathe.

‘You good?’

I shook my head again.

‘The air….need…out…’

He grabbed my hand and pulled me over to an exit sign. My mask swung about my neck as he dragging me over to a flight of stairs. The next breathe caught in my throat and my mind filled with the wonderful idea of the freedom that the stairs could lead to. Web took me up them, though every breath had started to kill me.

My heart was hammering loudly as we reached the top. My whole body was trembling. We both saw the rusty gate barring the way at the same time. The hope died, my shoulders dropped.

‘I’m sure we can break through,’ Web said, walking over to the gate and considering a very rusted patch.

‘Think….safe?’ I whispered.

Web shrugged, ‘my great-granddad was the last of the sun-seers… He said, it was the idea of seeing the sun again that kept him alive for so long. But he knew the radiation would still be there.’

A hacking cough grabbed me and I stumbled backwards into the wall. I clutched my chest and then started scratching at my throat.

‘Stay calm!’ Web shouted, ‘I’ll get you out.’ He threw himself at the gate, only to bounce off it. ‘Break damn you! Break!’ he shouted and began kicking the sides.

I sink to the floor, the cough racking through my bones and then I vomited again. The sound of the gate shaking echoed in my ears. My cough faded, leaving me feeling better. Then my torch light caught what I’d thrown up……

‘Wed?’ I crocked, but he didn’t hear me, the gate had given up the fight.

In slow motion I saw the gate fall with Web on top of it and suddenly I realized that if he was injured, we’d never get out. I screamed his name and stumbled after him, only to trip and fall on to him.

‘Ouch,’ Web moaned.

‘You…hurt?’ I asked, pulling myself up.

‘No,’ he replied and got to his feet, ‘Do you smell that?’

I shook my head and put a hand on my chest.

‘Come on.’

He pulled me up and we walked into the main station. I doubled over. The pain in my chest increased as the poisoned air effect my lungs. Web yanked me over to a sliding metal door and with a few sharp tugs he opened it. A sudden fear hit my stomach, but then clean air floored passed me. I took deep breathes and tasted the rich, untainted air on my tongue.

Web snapped his mask down and started doing the same, ‘God, that’s good,’ he said.

I nodded and walked out into the sunlight.

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Three Things

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Amber woke up and saw Luke standing over her holding a coffee cup. Groaning, she rolled and stretched out. A line of sunlight lay across the bottom of the bed and she knew he’d caused it by peering out of the curtains. Turning back, she fixed with him with her best anger face. However, it was softened by sleep and caused Luke to laugh at her instead of being afraid.

‘What is it?’ she muttered.

‘I’ve a surprise for you,’ he said.

‘Can’t it wait? I’ve just done a nightshift.’

Luke shook his head and offered her the cup, ‘drink this.’

She took it from him, expecting to find coffee, but instead there was a thick, sticky blue liquid. Frowning, she sniffed it before turning back to him.

‘It’s safe. Honest. I finally got that smoothie recipe right.’

Slowly, she brought the cup to her lips and took a sip. A mixture of fruit juices hit her tongue and as she swallowed, it tasted super sweet. She chocked and handed the cup back.

‘Well, I thought it was okay,’ Luke said in a low voice.

‘It’s fine,’ Amber coughed, ‘Please tell me you didn’t just wake me for that?’

‘No, erm, put this on.’ He handed her a satin blindfold.

Amber hesitated and then took it. In the whole six years of them dating, Luke had never shown an interested in kinky stuff. Still feeling groggy from sleep, Amber tried to read him. Luke had moved to sitting on the end of the bed, drinking the rest of the smoothie. He was dressed casually and seemed disinterred in her.

‘Why do I need this? What’s going on?’ she asked.

‘Put it on and you’ll see.’

With a heavy sigh, she tied the blindfold across her eyes. Dropping her hands in her lap, she suddenly felt nervous. Luke hadn’t done anything like this before and he wasn’t very good at surprises. She flipped through ideas about what it could be and then pushed everything away.

She heard him stand and place the cup down on the bedside table. She counted four seconds and then he pressed something into her hands. It felt like a small pieces of paper.

‘Now look.’

Amber pulled the blindfold down and looked at the blank paper resting on her palms.

‘What’s the point in all of this?’ she asked angrily, ‘You know I don’t like playing games.’

‘I know. Just look,’ he pressed.

Growling, she turned the paper over. It was a plane ticket. The date was tomorrow and the destination was Hawaii. Her mind went blank and she struggled for words. She looked up at him and then inspected the ticket again. How had he offered this? Granted they weren’t struggling for money, but they weren’t swimming in it either.

‘I don’t understand,’ she said finally.

He nodded and handed her something else. This time it was a small box.

Black Hole

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These last few days have made me worse. I don’t want to get out of bed. It feels like my last safe place from the outside world. With the duvet over my head, I can imagine myself far away from here. Perhaps living on an undiscovered island where I’m the only inhabitant. I could do the whole Robinson Crusoe thing and find God.

Rubbing my tried eyes, the edges of my bandaged wrist scrap against my skin. Bound underneath is the growing scar of my second attempted. The doctor said it was a cry for help and my mother replied that she hadn’t done enough again. They’re both wrong and still believe the lies I’ve spun.

Curling into a ball, I pray for sleep. Time is meaningless to me, so I can just stay here. I don’t have to go to school any more as I was upsetting everyone. Going there and to the shops where my only reasons to leave the house. I thought that my wish to never leave my room again would make me feel better when it came true. However, its’ made me worse.

Cramp bites hard into my foot and forces me out of bed. I stand and rub my foot on the rough carpet. My eyes, now wide open glance around the childish room and to the window. The curtains are still drawn. I go over with the cramp fading and peer outside. Rain is splattering against the glass, making music for itself. The street below is empty. For a few moments, I imagine that I’m the last person on earth. Something like a plague has wiped everyone out. I survived because they forgot about me.

Lingering at the window, I start to get cold. I get back into bed and wrap myself up again. The sleep won’t come and instead the anger and bitterness strikes. A voice, which is very much like mine, starts to whisper negatively; what’s the point? You are worthless and you always have been and shall be. Look at the scars, you are a failure. I bet everyone knows it too. You should just do it. End your pathetic existence, END IT! Go on, no one will miss you and in fact they’ll feel better. They won’t have a carry the burden of you anymore. Go, go on, end it, END IT, END IT!

‘No!’ I scream and throw the duvet away, ‘I don’t want to! I don’t want this!’

Tears cloud my vision and run down my face. I sit on the floor and paw at the duvet. The voice starts repeating itself. I claw at my head and mutter the mantra, but I’m drowned out. I climb back on the bed, dragging the duvet with me. I make a nest and curl up. My face is wet and sticky. I sniff and then placing my hands together, I silently pray. Dear God, help me through this. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Please take the pain and the bad voices away. I want to be normal.  

I take deep breaths and empty my mind. I picture myself in a white room, wearing a white robe and being surrounded by light. I draw comfort from that and find my body relaxing. A voice, different from the others starts up and though I’m not sure if I’m imagining it or not, God might be talking to me; you are strong. You can fight against this and help will come. Look forwards.

Sleep arrives and swirls me off into dreamless peace. I don’t want to wake every again. However, I’m not lucky enough and soon my eyes are opening again. I rub them with the bandage and have to get up for the bathroom. I try to stay on automatic as I pee, then shower and dress. I go downstairs and put on my shoes. I’m not sure where I’m going. As I put on my coat, I realise that the voices seem to have stopped. I can’t trust them though and they hum at the back of my mind.

Outside, the rain and wind touch me as if they are blind and trying to remember of my face. I hurry down the street and towards the church. The tower and the Cross rise to the sky, calling me. Once there, I try one of the double doors and find it open. Inside smells like bees’ wax, damp and lilies. Pews line the way to an altar and candles are flickering off to the side. I sit down and for the first time in months feel a wave of relive wash over me.  

Shadows

Untitled

The Tube

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When asked for my account this is what I told the police;

 

It was a normal Tuesday half past six scene.  

The tube was busy, packed with people heading home after a hard day’s work. I was just like everyone else, a zombie sheep, standing still, eyes half closed and stifling yawns. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see people pushing though the turn stile and trying to squeeze on to the platform. 

Voices talking and shouting were echoing off the tiled wall and down into the black tunnel. A baby was crying somewhere and the long haired youth next to me had his music so loud, I could hear the Iron Maiden song he was listening to. It was Powerslave, if you need to know.

The sounds of a train approaching vibrated through everything, arousing us. Eyes turned to check the flashing board and people tried to move forward. I was forced to step over the white line. Hearing a shout louder than the others made me turn. I’m not sure why. I couldn’t make out what was said.

I saw her then, a blur in a blue dress and brown hair. She was running, forcing her way through people two feet away from me. As she did so, there was a ripple effect on either side. People bumped into each other, muttered apologies and then turned to the actual culprit. I’m not sure how she got through.

The train whipped past me and she jumped in front of it.

You know in the movies when they have that slow motion thing? Nothing like that happened, in fact it was the complete opposite. Chaos spring up and the next half a minute happened so fast. People were screaming and yelling. There was a surge of bodies. The train had stopped and the driver had gotten out. A man jumped down onto the tracks. People said ‘be careful the track’s still alive.’ ‘She’s dead,’ he cried back.

There was a flurry of suggestions. People wanted her to be moved, others’ didn’t, the police were needed, so was an ambulance, London Underground services had to be connected and people had to find other ways to get home. A man wearing casual clothes fought his way through and tried to get to her. He was held back by a group of people. He was yelling ‘Cassy, Cassy. Let me go. She’s dead? No!’

The party holding back the man who knew her, tried to get him to leave, but he wouldn’t. He broke down and sat on the platform. We stood around, unsure what do and talking in low voices. A few people started to leave as the officials arrived. The long haired youth stared at me and I stared back at him. A minute ago we had all been strangers, but now we’d been thrown into this tragedy and it would connect us for a long time.

Photos

Looking through the photos caused the lost memories to return vividly. Along with them came the sounds and smells of that night. They remembered meeting each other at the ball and dancing happily. It had been life changing for them and in turn had brought them to this moment.

Empty Door

surreal door to nowhere spotted in the Alps

Mish saw the door when he reached the top of the mountain. Catching his breath, he shrugged off his rucksack and sat on a rocky ledge. The half open door, he noticed, was standing in a frame which had been strapped in place by rotting ropes. Wondering why it was there, he pulled out a bottle of water and chugged it down. The cold liquid felt good on his parched throat and he felt a little better. Screwing the lid back on, Mish wiped his lips, then swept away strands of his long black hair.

With his breathing steadying, he took stock of the view. The German Alps stretched in all directions with their ragged tops cutting into the sky. Banks of grey clouds charged above them as if to stop their attack. A lazy breeze was waving the short grass, causing a constant change of colour. Foreign bird songs repeated themselves in the distance and the door stood out like a broken window.

Mish went to inspect it. He pushed the door fully open without a problem or a sound. The view captured within the frame was breath taking. The mountain slopped bumpily and dipped out of view as the next peak rose up, with another range shadowed behind. They reminded Mish of ocean waves. He took a hold of the latch handle, which was the only thing on the door, and pulled it shut. He faced the weathered wood for a few moments and then opened the door again. The view hadn’t changed.

He searched the ground, but couldn’t see the remains of a house. Someone had put the door frame here deliberately. Probably an artist or a photographer, he thought. Mish closed the door and put the latch down. He walked to the other side, careful of the loose stones and stood in front of it. This side looks the same, he decided. He lifted the latch and released the door.

A different view was now before him. He recognised it from the glances over his shoulder as he’d walked here. The dirt track he had followed faded away around a curve going downwards. Other peaks towered up alongside and with the low clouds blocked the way. Mish eased the door to and walked back to his rucksack. Putting it on, he set off following the track once more. However, as he looked back he saw that the door had disappeared.

Box

She pulled something off the wardrobe and carried it to the bed. It was a tatty white cardboard office box covered in dust. She carefully took the lid off and peered inside. She knew what lay there already, having spent countless hours going through the box over the years.

She lifted out items; a pink teddy bear, a pair of yellow boots, sleep suits, bibs, a blue knitted hat, a tiny nappy, baby wipes, a bar of soap, a cream blanket and at the bottom a small sliver picture frame.

There was a heavy weight in her chest and a stinging pain in her heart. Her mind was screaming that it wasn’t fair. She put the box on the floor and sat down. The bed springs creaked loudly, the sound unpleasant and unwelcome.

The teddy stared at her. It had been in a charity shop window, sitting in a mosses basket. She had gone in, brought it and left feeling satisfied. The bear had lived on her desk at work, until her new boss had asked her to remove it. Since then the poor thing had been stuff into the box.

 Putting the teddy down, she picked up the booties. They had been her’s. Knitted by her grandma and trimmed with matching ribbon. She brought them to her nose and breathed in deeply. The faint scent of lavender and baby powered took root in her mind. She picked up the knitted hat. It was tiny and misshaped. She had made it, one of her first attempts at knitting.

The baby wipes she had kept in her handbag. Somehow they had ended up in the box. She reopened the seal and let the scent drift out. It was a smell she guessed clung to all babies. She pictured herself changing and cleaning her baby. Gently, she used the wipes across soft, warm skin, whilst making cooing noises.

There was nothing special about the soap, just that it was small and non-perfumed. A part of her wasn’t sure why she had kept it, but she had felt the need too. She liked the idea of bathing with her baby. She had seen a black and white photograph in a gallery of a mother and baby in a birthing pool. She had liked the idea of giving birth that way.  

At the tiny nappy, she stopped and remembered how she had taken it. A work college had brought her baby into the office. Everyone had gathered around and she had taken the chance to remove the nappy from the pram. She still didn’t know why she had done that. She had slipped it into her own bag and then gone to hold the baby. He had been so small, which had surprised her, but for a few seconds she could believe that he belonged to her.

The wrapped clothes still had price tags on. She had often imagined the joy of ripping them open and placing them on her baby. How lovely her baby would look going out in a pale pink or blue outfit. On laundry day, she would love preparing the clothes to be worn again. She would buy special clothes for important occasions, like Christmas and birthdays.

Swallowing, she picked up the blanket. How soft it was! She pressed it to her cheek and rubbed against it. She would wrap her baby in this and hold them tightly. She would stare down into that angelic face and watch them sleep. She would feel fulfilled and content and as if she had found her place in the world.   

Tears appeared in her eyes. She buried her face in the blanket and cried hard. She rocked back and forth, letting the pain consumer her. The only thing she could think of was the fact that she’d never know what motherhood felt like. She would never carry a baby, give birth and hold her new born to her chest. She would know the emptiness forever. 

Dropping the blanket into her lap, she brushed away the tears. Shuffling the box over, she placed the blanket in then the empty sliver frame, followed by the other items. Though, she shouldn’t let her hope bubble, she wanted the next time taking the items out to be because her baby needed them. Just like she had said last time, but she knew deep down that none of those clothes would ever be worn. 

She put the lid on the box and stored it away again. She went to the window. Her hands grasped the curtains. A tapping noise and movement on the other side of the glass caught her eye. A large white month was fluttering against the night. She watched it for a few moments then closed the curtains. 

Will

will

Guitar

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