Lonely

Betty stared out of her living room window as the loneliness raged deep inside of her. She leant on her walking frame and watched the winter darkness envelop the houses opposite. The streetlamps flickered on and she screwed her old pale blue eyes up at the sudden bright orange light. Opening them again, she found that some of the darkness had departed as it always seemed to do in the presence of lights.

In the distance, she heard a car engine and smiled to herself. The cuckoo clock on the wall brought in the hour and from her window, she watched neighbours she didn’t know, arrive home to their families. Once their front doors had closed, she imagined what was currently happening inside. It’s like watching a play, she chuckled in her head, though I’ve not been to the theatre in years. Drawing comfort from the fake imagines she had conjured, she pulled the curtains together as best she could.

Shuffling away, she left the smallish living room and went into the kitchen via the hallway. The lights were off, but she knew the way well enough. Pushing against the cardboard like door, she walked in and fumbled arthritic fingers up the wall, until she found the light switch and turned it on. The low energy lightbulb took a few seconds to brighten the room, but when it did so, it showed a very modest and tidy kitchen.

Betty walked in and checking the kettle had water inside, turned it on. There was a mug on the sink draining board close by and she picked this up and brought it alongside the kettle. As she made her tea, her mind picked up the scenes she had been weaving before. She wondered if the stressed out business man across the way would spend tonight collapsed in front of the TV with his wife and two children. Or, if the single mum at number eighty-seven, who seemed to be a carer, would sit down with her teenage son to do his homework. Those thoughts made her grin.

Picking up the hot mug in a shaky hand, she hobbled back to the living room, which was far warmer than the kitchen. Sitting in her favourite chair, she placed her mug on a side table and turned the TV on. Whispered voices filled the room, reminding her that she wasn’t so alone. Aiming the controller at the screen once more, she pressed the buttons and spent a few minutes deciding what to watch. The buttons, though smooth, were small and sometimes difficult for her numb fingertips to press down.

Settled, she sipped her tea and after a few more minutes, started asking herself what she would eat tonight. Finishing off her tea, she watched the end of the program before getting up again. Her body was stiff and it took a few moments for everything to obey her commands. Walking back into the kitchen, she went to the fridge-freezer and looked inside both. Luckily, she could afford meals-on-wheels as they were know, so nearly all her meals were ready for her to just re-heat. Sighing as she looked, she remembered the days when she could go shopping and how wonderful it had felt.

Selecting stew and dumplings, she carried the plastic box to the microwave and poked holes into the cover. Mumbling to herself, as she sometimes did, she said, ‘I could make this myself and I bet it would taste and look better.’ She put the meal into the machine and hit some buttons. ‘Maybe, if my hands worked,’ she added, softly.

After eating, she watched more TV and tried to listen to the world beyond her windows. Betty felt the loneliness swelling inside her once more and wondered if she should go to the Elder Elms Day Centre tomorrow. She shook her head, ‘place smells like sickness and death, like hospital does.’ She coughed and rubbed the tightening in her chest. She drank from a glass of water wondered if she should go to bed.

The phone rang, startling her and making her jump. Tutting, she grabbed the receiver and answered it, ‘hello?’

‘Good evening, madam, I’m Evelyn. I’m calling from Better Energy and this call will only take a few minutes of your time. Are you the home owner?’ an Indian female voice spoke, in quick, well-rehearsed words.

Betty nodded into the phone, ‘Yes, I am.’

‘Well, I shall only take a few minutes of your time. I can help you find a cheaper energy supplier,’ the female voice continued.

‘Well, I’m not that interested to be honest, but do go on, Love.’

‘Do you know who your current gas and electric supplier is, Madam?’ Evelyn’s clipped voice asked.

‘British Gas, I believe,’ Betty answered back as she started to enjoy the conversation.

‘And what is your current status? Unemployed or employed?’

‘Retired. Have been for twenty years now. I use to be a head teacher at a secondary school,’ Betty explained.

‘And are you single, married, divorced?’

‘Widowed. Of ten years now. My poor Bert. He had a heart condition.’

‘I’m very sorry to hear that, Madam. Do you live alone?’

‘Yes,’ Betty said softly, feeling a sob in her throat.

‘Is your house a semi or detached?’

‘Detach, it’s a bungalow.’

‘And how much do you pay currently for your gas and electric, right now?’

‘I don’t know,’ Betty sniffed, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘That’s all right, Madam. A rough guess would be fine.’

‘It doesn’t matter. I should go…’

‘Wait, a moment, Madam,’ Evelyn’s voice said quickly, almost urgently.

‘Yes?’ Betty asked, her ears having picked up on that desperation.

‘Was your last bill payment; under one hundred, under two hundred or greater than three hundred? Could you take a guess, Madam?’

‘I’d have to look at the bill and I keep those in my spare room. I can’t get up right now and it would take too long,’ Betty explained, ‘I’m really not interested, Love. I just…I just wanted to hear your voice. You know, a real voice.’

‘I understand, Madam, but if you could just answer the question? I’m positive, I can help you today and you could get a better deal on your bills.’

‘No, thank you,’ Betty said and put the phone down with Evelyn’s voice pleading with her from the small speaker.

Taking a deep breath, she rubbed her forehead, feeling the headache that was growing there and decided that she would go to bed. Getting up and heading for the bedroom on aching legs, Betty decided that tomorrow she would go to the day centre.

Streets

Norman watched the first snowflakes falling as he huddled in his sleeping bag. It was a bad sign, though he wasn’t surprised by it. Clutching the paper cup, which rattled with a handful of coins, he watched the city shoppers and business people hurry about. It seemed to Norman that only the children and teenagers turned their heads upwards in wonder and watched the snowflakes drifting.

‘Spare any change, please?’ he called in a croaky voice.

Legs moved swiftly passed him whilst eyes voided contacted with him. He dropped his head, pulling down the too small woollen hat at the same time. Breathing deeply into his wild beard, he thought about what he was going to do now the snow had arrived. There’s that church shelter, he pondered, that was good last year. Or that other shelter place…what was it called? He shook his head, the name completely escaping him.

He lent back and listened to the many voices all round. Most seemed engaged in exciting conversations, asking directions, or other questions, carol singing and bells ringing came from around the corner. He tried to make out the song, but couldn’t put his finger on it.

‘Spare any change, please?’ he muttered.

More feet passed by, arms swinging with heavy bags, bodies seemingly ignoring him. He sighed and wondered for the countless time how it had come to this. Bad turn of events, he concluded. Coins clinked and he glanced up. An elderly woman, wrapped in a large brown coat, was dropping money into the cup.

‘Thank you. Merry Christmas,’ Norman said.

‘You too,’ she replied, before turning away.

He watched her go and feeling slightly better, called out to other people for their kindness.

The Blood That Gives

He walks down the wet street, avoiding the dim light from the old fashion street lamps as he does so. He turns the corner and is confronted with London’s East End. The terraced houses stretch out on both sides, looming out of the dark April night. He stands on the street corner; hands in the pockets of his black drainpipe trousers, rubbing the side of his brown brogue shoe against the edge of the curb. His eyes come to rest on a mass of damp paper laying in the gutter; ‘East London Advertiser, Friday April 6th 1956. TEDDY BOY GANGS CAUSE TROUBLE IN THE EAST END.’

The sound of female laughter distracts him. He listens. His unhappy lips turn into a straight thoughtful line. He flips the high collar of his white shirt up and begins to walk down the road.  He passes a light blue Ford Prefect and stops to glance at himself in the wing mirror. He runs his hand over his chin; feeling nothing but smoothness and warmth. He notices the red blush covering his pale cheeks and is glad of it.  He checks his straight white teeth, pats down the top of his damp, slicked back, black hair and then gazes into his own dark blue eyes.

A sharp laugh cuts though his thoughts and he looks up towards the sound. He walks on, till he comes to stand at the end of the street. He lets the shadows cover him as he spies on the girls. There’s four them and they can’t be much older than himself. They sit in a circle, amongst the rubble remains of a bombed out house.

At a quick glance, he’d see them as boys and not girls, because the clothes they wear are similar to his; brown drainpipe trousers, crepe-sole shoes and black drape jackets. Of the two girls who face him; one wears a light coloured polar neck, with a thin blue scarf. She has short curly blond hair, a round face and a large smile.  The other girl wears a white shirt-open at the neck. She has shoulder length, brown curly hair, tied back in a ponytail and her face is long and thin.  It is this one that he likes.

‘Ma’ll kill me, I better get going,’ one of the girl’s voices calls out.

‘I’ll walk back with you,’ another answers.

He watches as the girls that have been sitting with their backs to him, stand up, say goodbye and leave. He lets a few seconds pass and then makes his way over. The other girls eye him suspiciously as he comes to the edge of the bombed out house. The one with the scarf around her neck takes a long drag of a cigarette and then says, ‘You got another?’

He’s glancing down, turning half a brick over with his shoe, when she speaks again. He looks up, nods his head and walks over to her, pulling the packet and match box from his pocket. He hands both to her, then sits down opposite them.

They study him now, puzzlement and questioning expressions on their faces.

‘You got a name?’

‘William,’ he lies, letting it slip off his tongue as if it is the truth.

She giggles, balances one of the cigarettes between her lips and says, ‘I’m Kath and this is Susan. Will you come and light this, William?’

He likes the way she pronounces the name, with the emphases on the ‘Will’ part. He gets up, takes the match and box from her and strikes it. He brings the light to the end of the cigarette and when it catches, he shakes the match out.

‘You got a girlfriend, William?’

‘No,’ he answers, letting the used match fall from his fingers. He slips the box back in his pocket and glances across at Susan. She is stubbing out her cigarette on the corner of a brick.

‘You want one?’ Kath asks.

He doesn’t reply, his eyes remain on Susan, who raises her own to his and stares at him hard, ‘What?’ she snaps.

‘Can I walk you home?’ he asks, shyly.

The girls laugh.

‘Alright then,’ Kath answers.

He steps forward and helps her stand up. He then holds on to her hand as he helps Susan to her feet. He drops their hands quickly and throws his arms around their necks, causing them to lose their balance and fall to the floor. He pins Susan under him, covering her mouth with his hand, as he twists Kath’s head to the side and buries his head in her throat. When he is done with Kath, he pushes off her and moves on top of Susan. He looks down into her shocked face. He is breathing deeply, his mouth open revealing his blood covered fangs. Droplets of Kath’s blood drip from his face and down on to Susan’s.

He grins. The hunger is still burning deep inside of him, it needs to be fed and he has chosen well tonight.

Death of a Butterfly

Purple Butterflies - butterflies Wallpaper

I enter the cemetery holding the jar tightly to my chest. The large gate swings shut as I slowly walk up the path. Bring my protecting wards around, I mutter Latin words under my breath. The cemetery is quiet, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty, the Dead are always here.

Stepping off the path, I feel the loss of its security. The grass wet with morning dew, soaks through my trainers. I weave through the rows of headstones, listening to the birds singing in the weeping trees and trying to ignore the almost faded voices calling out to me.

At a row of new graves, I find a white headstone with his name on it. His plain stone seems lost in a sea of bigger ones which are adorned with flowers and ornaments. I balance the jar on top of the grave and slowly unscrew the lid. I’ve come here to show him the results of his teaching. I speak to him softly in my head, telling him the things we all say to the departed and I let my heart whisper what I cannot say. I set the jar down and watch the small, dark purple butterflies flutter out for their first flight.   Watching them disappear, I recall the first time we meet.

*

I walked through the woods, listening to the soft movements of nature on the ground and the trees. It was early spring and the air was shaking with an eagerness to burst into life. I stepped into a field and saw him kneeing by a bench, chasing something with his fingers. Seeing him alone, I crossed the field and went to sit on the other side of the bench.

He looked up at me and I saw the faded outline of a bruise on his cheek. His face was puzzled and there was a slight fear in the corners of his eyes. He couldn’t have been much older than myself, thirteen and on the cusp of teenage-hood.

‘Hi, what do you have there?’ I asked, nodding my head at his cupped hands.

‘You wouldn’t like it,’ he mumbled.

‘How do you know?’

Slowly, he opened his hands and I saw a spider resting in his palm.

‘Aren’t you scared?’ he inquired after a few seconds, ‘I thought all girls were scared of spiders.’

‘Well, not me,’ I replied.

He set the spider free and we watched it crawl under the bench.

‘I’m Becky,’ I told him.

‘Louie,’ he answered.

‘What do you have there?’ I pointed to the two jars at his feet.

He looked down as if they had just appeared beside him almost the rubbish. The jars were the same size and had paper lids punctured with holes.

‘A frog,’ he said slowly, picking up the first jar and letting me see the small brown frog floating in some dirty water.

‘What’re you going to do with him?’ I probed.

‘Take him home and put him in a tank.’

‘Why?’

He shrugged, ‘I like watching them…..My granddad taught me…..’

I frowned and put my defences up. I had a feeling Louis’s granddad was no longer here and I wasn’t in the mood to be haunted by restless spirits wanting to pass messages on.

‘He was a bug collector and he liked studying them. He built a special room in the attic.’

‘Well….that’s nice….I should get home,’ I said quickly and jumped off the bench.

‘Me too,’ he breathed.

‘Bye then.’

I smiled and walked away before the pressure of ghost voices broke through. As I headed for home, I had a strange thought. Louie was unlucky to have lost his granddad as he’d been protecting him.

*

Over that summer, Louie and I found a strange friendship in each other. He, like me, was an outcast, someone the other children thought too weird. So, we found delight and security in each other’s company and Louie taught me about his world.

He was sat by the small pond with a homemade fishing rod and a large hat on his head.

‘Hi, Louie,’ I called and ran to his side, ‘have you caught anything?’

He turned his head away and didn’t reply.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, kneeling down beside him.

‘Nothing. Go away.’

I sat back and watched the water ripple in the middle of the pond. He started sniffing. I glanced and saw his face. There was another large purple and yellow bruise under his right eye and across his cheek.

‘What happened to your face?’ I gasped, ‘Did you fall down the stairs again?’

‘Yes….do you want to see my fish now?’

From a small wicker basket beside him, he drew out a large jar, which was half filled with water and had small stones and pond weed at the bottom.

‘He’s a tiddler,’ Louie said proudly, holding the jar up to the light.

I saw a small fish darting around inside, the sun just bouncing off his scales.

‘He’s very nice, but Louie you have to start being more careful!’

Louie placed the jar back, ‘I’ll try,’ he sighed as he reeled in his line, where a dead worm dangled at the end of a small hook.

‘Do you want to come to my house?’ he said swiftly, ‘I can show you my collection!’

I pulled a face….houses were worse than people. All that energy absorbed over time meant that voices and images come more clearly into my mind.

‘It’s all right my dad won’t be there,’ Louie concluded. He stood up, smiling and holding his hand out to me.

‘Well…just for a little while,’ I resorted and took his hand…..

Big mistake! I saw a flash of white light and images poured into me, speeding by as if someone had hit the fast forward button. My head pounded with a migraine and things that shouldn’t have made sense appeared to unravel; laying the future bare of me to see.

I snatched my hand back and Louis stared down into his palm.

‘What was that?’ he muttered.

‘Nothing,’ I cried, ‘so your house then?’

I learned the hard way not to tell people once before. It’s not just ghosts that come to me, sometimes the future will come too. And that future is unchangeable. Sometimes, I hate having a gift that lets the dead whisper to me and shows the future fate via one touch.

He walked down the path, which was hidden in the grass and drew a key from under a statue of a Jack Russell dog. He went up to the house and unlocked the door, I felt goosebumps run across my arms and something seemed to warn me against entering.

‘Do you want to come in?’ Louie called, when I didn’t follow.

‘I….’

‘Its’ okay, no one’s here.’

‘Okay, but I have to go home soon.’

I stepped into the tight hallway and he shut the door. There was a room to my left and then a flight of stairs. The hallway was empty, the wallpaper faded and peeling at the top.

‘Follow me,’ he said.

We went upstairs and I threw my protective energy field out in preparation for any arriving ghosts. At the top, Louie turned and went to the farthest door. He opened it and turned on the light. The room was painted a sickly green colour and there was a low bed with a cupboard next to it, a scattering of toys and a scruffy teddy bear sit on the floor.

‘Is this your room?’ I whispered, stepping in behind him.

‘Yes, but I…..don’t really use it. This is my room,’ he said, nodding towards a door he had just opened in the joining wall.

I looked up the steps, but couldn’t see where they led to. He went up and I followed him.

‘Oh, it’s an attic!’ I cried, reaching the last step.

‘My granddad made it. Remember?’ he said, switching on the light.

I stepped into the small room and saw that there was a range of tables and shelves. Two covered windows let in thin trickles of light and dust was dancing close by them.

I felt a shiver run up my spine as I looked up at the shelves and saw a range of dead bugs in glass boxes. On the largest of desks was Louie collection. There were two large tanks and some large jars. I went closer as he drew the jar, which contained the baby fish he had caught, out of the basket.

‘This is my fish tank,’ he said pointing to a tank filled with light grey water. ‘The frog is in there.’

The frog who was sitting on a rock jutting out from the water, give a croak and jumped down with a large plodding noise. Louie giggled and taking the lid off the jar, he lowered it into the water and set the fish free into the tank. We stood and watched the fish swim around in circles.

‘I should go,’ I said softly.

He nodded, ‘Alright, but you have to come again.’

*

  The last time I met the bug boy it was late autumn. Winter was trailing his icy fingers across the air, making his presence felt on still warm skin from the long summer. I knew I had to be there in the woods that day….

It was raining and he was sheltering under some trees. I hurried over to join him, but he moved away when he saw me coming and I paused just under the branches.

‘What happened to your arm?’ I questioned.

He frowned and half raised his arm that was in a sling tied around his neck.

‘Nothing….’

‘And your face! There’s more bruises!’

‘I…fell over… on the street,’ he answered.

‘Really?’ I scowled.

He nodded.

‘Louie….’

‘You’re not going to tell are you, Becky? Oh, please don’t!’

‘But, someone has to do something!’

He shook his head and sniffed, ‘It’ll only cause more trouble….look….I caught a butterfly.’

He lifted up a jar and inside there was a large white butterfly, its wings were tapping against the glass.

‘Oh…’

‘I…have to go now….’ he said and dived out from under the trees.

It happened that night. I woke up with a sudden sense that something was wrong. I immediately thought about Louie and dressed quickly in the pressing darkness. I didn’t think about it as I left and walked to Louie’s……I just knew that I had to go there.

The rain started falling as I reached the house. I listened on the doorstep, but I didn’t hear anything and none of the lights were on. I took the hidden key and let myself in. I knew where he would be; in the attic amongst the smashed bug display boxes. I crept up there, the attic light was on and his small body was crumbled across the floor.

My face became a wash with tears and I went to kneel down beside him. I picked up his cold hand and held it tightly .

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.

Black Hole

1.13743-C0141244-Black_hole_artwork-SPL-1

 

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.