This Prison We Share

“Can we carry this love that we share
Into the open air?” (x)

As Anna’s fury began to drain away, like the puddles after thunderstorms, she was left with emptiness, no feeling but the throb of her cheekbone. The silent rooms around her yawned out, the music that Cally loved so much silenced. That was all her fault. She’s destroyed the music, and laughed as she did so; and the expression on her face would be something Anna remembered forever.

Oh gods, what had she done? She hadn’t meant to push the girl so hard, to cut her so deeply. Months of being cooped up on house arrest were driving her wild, but Cally was sweet and vulnerable. Snapping on her was like taking a magnifying glass to ants and watching them burn, for a lack of more interesting things to do.

Anna slipped out of the doorway, treading past the evidence of their fight; Cally’s broken records, lying smashed on the stone floor. Never again would their music fill the rooms, removing their grim reality and replacing it with hope. Now the walls pressed in, a reminder of the prisoners they were.

Anna slipped inside the room, moving to the end of the bed. In the gloom, Cally’s form was a dark island in the white seas of sheets. Even asleep, her forehead was tied up in unhappiness, and the moonlight illuminated silver tears trails staining her cheeks. She looked broken, tiny in the expanse of the room. The girl was so coiled up within herself, it seemed like a desperate attempt to hide; to make herself less of a target. Anna looked at her, and the dam inside her broke.

“Oh, gods.” Her voice, riddled with guilt, shattered the words. Lifting up the sheets the girl slid in, pressing herself to Cally’s back, wrapping her arms around her protectively. The girl stirred.

“I’m so sorry,” Anna whispered, again and again. “I’m sorry, Cally.” She was trying to heal wounds with words, perfectly well knowing nothing she said would be enough. “Cally, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” The girl in her arms turned to face her, her hair dark in the moonlight. Cally’s fingers brushed against her girlfriend’s cheek, where the bruise was already swelling. She said nothing. Burying her face in Anna’s shoulder, her thin fingers dug in and clung, and she drifted off to sleep.

Anna stayed awake. The fragile body in her arms, so tiny and easy to miss, was infinitely precious. She kissed her cool forehead, wishing she could smooth out the worries that lingered there. How long will the two of them remain like this, locked up in this tiny cage? With Anna as the feral beast and Cally a mouse of a girl, there can surely be only one ending to this story. Anna shiverd, holding the girl close, and wished things were different.

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Everything You Want

“You shitty spoiled brat! Do you always get everything you want?”

I snap. My temper finally gone, I stride up to him and smash my fist into the wall by his head. “I didn’t want my dad to die!” I snarl. His expression freezes in shock. His mouth hangs open so stupidly.

Adrenaline is giving me borrowed power, sweeping away any boundaries I might have had. The pain is too recent, the wound too fresh. My anger fills every spare inch of me and my hands itch. Grabbing his lapel, I yank him down and throw him to the floor. “Don’t. Don’t ever think you know me. Don’t presume so much.” I hack up a glob of phlegm, spit it on the floor by his feet. “Keep away from me, you fucking freak,” I command him, and stride away with a new swagger in my step.

Reaper

The last words of a dying man. They’re supposed to be profound, aren’t they? Something that will sum up the life they’ve lived, be the conclusion that they’ve reached, the fatal punchline to their joke.

In my experience, there is nothing profound about them. They are always confessions; of love, of murder, of sin, of hope. Questions. A last minute redemption plea. In my job, I’ve heard them all.

You can always see the moment that they realise that they are about to die. Then the terror takes hold, the frantic fear that the secrets they’ve tucked into the creases in their cardboard faces, the urgent words that they never voiced out loud – all these things that are so important will die with them, and no-one will ever know.

That’s where I come in. I will come and stand by your shoulder, watch your time-torn face. Then bring in the king. Enter death as a beautiful woman. Enter death as a scar-flecked monster. The edge of a blade, a bullet to the heart, a needle in the dark. And kneel beside you, performing death’s wake. I am the reaper come to untie your soul.

I am the last person to hear you. I carry the confessions of generations. And your questions, as sweet as they may be, mostly go unanswered.

Except for sometimes, when I just can’t help myself. When you seem so lost and so scared and so hopelessly young that I want to cry, ‘No, this is a mistake – send her back, she is just a child’. It’s times like this when I will embrace you and tell you the story of your life. I will share with you the way that the last confession of your parents was one of love. They died with the words on their lips, just as you do now.

And I will move on, to my next body, to their last words. But the confessions take their toll, and the memories of humans fills my head. It is always the young ones are the ones that hurt me the most.

What Happened to Us?

Are you mad at me?
Or are you just tired?
Is there a lot on your mind or are you royally pissed?

What happened to us?
Where did that love go?
Did I miss your grand declaration of utter indifference towards me?

Should I leave now?
I can tell when I’m not wanted
Perhaps I’ve overstayed my welcome – or perhaps you are just a bitch.

Raw Red Devil

“Charlie Bradbury is dead. She died a year ago – you killed her. My name is Carrie Heinlein. Oh, and guess what. Now I’m going to kill you, too.” Her eyes narrowed, and she carefully knelt before her prey. Dean’s posture was slumped, defeated, broken; his horror at her transformation so beautifully clear in the lines of his face. He’d given up, and the woman felt a perverse rush of joy, of righteousness. This is my revenge.
The hunter’s mouth flapped open, as though he was trying to speak, and anger seized her. With a snarl, she dug her dagger into the soft skin of his throat, and a slick of blood ran down his collar. “No, I buried myself,” she spat in his face. “When Dick Roman went down, his company belly-up, I figured that for once everything would turn out fine. I got my life back. Now you’re here, come to destroy my world all over again. Do you enjoy taking everything I have? Do you enjoy watching me be torn me to shreds?”
Dean opened his mouth to answer, and her hand closed around his windpipe, flawlessly painted nails gouging into his flesh. “Don’t answer that,” she hissed. “I don’t care.” She straightened up, throwing her dagger to the side with a clatter. She slowly pulled her gun from the waistband of her jeans, the delicious fear flaring in Dean’s eyes making her heart glow.
“Are you proud of me, Dean?” she asked softly. A lifetime ago he’d confessed to her that she was like a sister to him, and that made this whole thing so much sweeter. “Haven’t I come a long, long way from that cute IT girl who liked to play dress-up?” One corner of her mouth curved up into a sneer. “Remember, it was you who set me down this path. It was you who abandoned me to the darkness.”
“No, I never –” Dean croaked desperately, and her nostrils flared. She slapped him full across the face, her long nails raking lines across his cheek. “Don’t say a word,” she breathed, eyes wild.
“You abandoned me. I was drowning in the darkness until I realised the secret – don’t resist. Don’t push out the dark, breathe it in. Take it deep inside your heart and let it fester, let it rot, until you are reborn.” She spread out her hands. “I am the perfect version of Charlie Bradbury.”
Pressing the barrel against his forehead, one beautifully manicured finger held the trigger. A smile pulled her lips apart, a smile that had no trace of humanity. “Brother,” she scoffed, disgust rising like vomit in her voice. “As if.” Dean’s eyes widened, mouth falling open and urgent words forming on his lips –
Charlie Bradbury pulled the trigger… and Dean’s last words remained unspoken.

Grandma

In the kitchen my mother is standing
Broken, arms cradling the dead baby
Of her smoky childhood.
Her eyes are shattered snowglobes
At my entrance,
She wipes her bleeding cheeks and smiles
Nothing is wrong, she tells me
But I know better

I know what day it is; the anniversary
My grandma, wide-eyed, lying on the bathroom tiles
I was only seven.
I did not understand, only knew that my mother’s tears
Were the most terryifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Grandma

In the kitchen my mother is standing
Broken, arms cradling the dead baby
Of her smoky childhood.
Her eyes are shattered snowglobes
At my entrance,
She wipes her bloody-stained cheeks and smiles
Nothing is wrong, she says. Everything’s fine, please go back to sleep. Her lie is not convincing.

I know what day it is; the anniversary
My grandma, wide-eyed, lying on the bathroom tiles
I was only seven.
I did not understand what was wrong, only knew that my mother’s tears
Were the most terryifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Every year, this day is a reminder
Her absence in the house is a dark bird,
Towering in the corner of every room
Her absence is a presence, every moment lacking dimension
Because she is not there to measure against

My mother cradles herself, the child she once was lifeless in arms
The woman she knew is folding herself smaller and smaller
The memories eroding, becoming fainter and confined to photos
Like the portrait as yellowed as her fingertips, tucked away
Into the pocket that once contained a fresh, beating heart

Five Pairs of Hands

The first had hands like butter
Slippery, smooth and sweet – a sugary smile
Her fluffy hair was cotton candy above frosted cherry lips
I grew fat on her love

The second had hands made of oak
Hands that made magical doors, flying ships and broomsticks
She used iron nails to hammer together our destinies
Our love was an impossible fairytale

The third had hands like birds
Wary and untrusting; you hid away and clenched tight
Your heart was that of an injured animal
And although my love healed your broken wing, you never belonged in this cage of mine

The fourth had hands like sledgehammers
And a shadow that I desperately clung to
My bruises spoke of a truth I refused to think about
Her iron fists told me that she loved me

And so, here I am
My life spent giving love away, working so hard to please everyone that my own hands are sandpaper
I must be doing love wrong – it shouldn’t hurt this much

In a shining future, I can see the fifth
Her hands are cloth that bandage my heart
She will be my teacher, showing me the simplest way of being alive
Her lessons will remove the stains and clean me pure
I will never let go of the fifth, my first true love

Her Confession

There’s a tear on her cheek
As she tells me her story
There’s a wound inside of her
As she confesses her pain

Each word falls like a stone
Such heavy truth that has been her burden
They line up across the table
The building blocks to who she is now

And though I asked for the truth
I never expected this
I didn’t know the deep oceans of her fear
Faced by her past and burdened with guilt

I am aghast, unhinged, stunned
All I can say is ‘I’m so sorry.’

Acid

Bloody and raw and screaming

Blistering, her skin burning, the acid eating into her face

One eye wide, the blue disk unseeing

The other eye mangled beyond recognition

Shrieking, writhing

-it hurts! oh my god, it hurts so much!-

And the man with the bucket crosses his arms

Watching, satisfied at least for now

He yanks her hair, forcing her head back

Spitting into her ruined face

-are you sorry now?-