“Don’t feel bad. I’m pretty hard to kill.”

The familiarity of the boyish face that stared back stopped Sebastian’s heart. He turned away, eyes flickering to the illusory temptations of the fruit machine. His pension investment, he would joke to those that would listen, on rare days when his pockets were laden down with gold coloured shrapnel. Coins that were consumed voraciously as lemons and oranges spun tantalising patterns of promise.

“Did you hear me?”

Sebastian turned back to his tormentor. A burning ache filled his heart that he quickly extinguished with the last dredges from his glass. Yet when he looked back so did those eyes, filled with resignation.

“I still love you y’know.”

Suddenly Seb found himself laughing uncontrollably, a braying crescendo that halted the ritualistic conversations that passed for friendships within the pub. Fat tears rolled down over tired skin, spittle flecking his beard.

“Y’alright Seb?”

Malky Milkshake, as pale and tall as a sundae, loomed over. His face bearing the standard calm-down-or-feck-off stare.

“All alright Malky, sorry about that. Get us another pint, and a chaser would ye?”

“Lazy bastard, get off yer arse and go to the bar.”

Malky snatched the pint glass from the table, dragging a dirt stained cloth across the table.

Taking the past with him.

And it was still hot.”

Wren closed the relic bound by tape and adoration. Around her voices barked orders, feet stampeding across the ship’s deck. She sucked on her drip-tube, the bitter water of the condense-pouch as warm as the sun beating down.

Hands shading eyes, Wren gazed out at the various ships lying prostrate on the desert floor. Squat beasts, whose residents waited to see if Project Old Faithful, her father’s dream, would become reality.

Mind racing, Wren parted the fading pages. Max staring back from his sailboat beside a beautiful tree growing from blue-green water.

Wren had never seen a tree, let alone an ocean. Her father had once told her that air had come from trees not factories. That before the age of wastefulness forests had stretched across the world.

Wren lay back, feeling water under the ship, imagining the dark shade of trees cloaking the sky, spreading life back into the world.

Another sip, bitter warm water.

A klaxon wailed, footsteps falling silent.

Sitting up, Wren felt her father’s familiar grasp on her shoulders.

They waited, together in silence.

A dull thud off in the distance, then blue shards erupted, piercing the sky.

As her father’s tears fell onto her hair.

The silver coin spun in the moonlight, lions and nobility blurring into a mythical beast. Tabitha snatched it from the air, her patron disappearing into the East End’s gloomy labyrinth. The coin magicked into the folds of her emerald satin dress, joining the eight other crowns already earned tonight. One more and Tabitha could retreat to Old Sally’s, a glass of port for her soul and balm for her sores.

“Evening young lady.”

Moonlight traced over an immaculately tailored suit, top hat and gloves. The face was old but handsome, fine lines echoed by a fine moustache. In one hand the gent held a suitcase.

“Somethin take yer fancy?”

“Indeed, though not your undoubtedly welcoming embrace, I’m a collector by trade.”

“Collector?”

“Broken things, discarded things. Would you care to see?”

Tabitha nodded, the gent keeling, locks clicking. As he prised the lid open silver light spilled out, filling the alleyway. Tabitha moved closer, inside, lying on a blanket of darkness was the moon.

“Is it?”

He nodded encouraging her closer, Tabitha leaning in, hand reaching out, wanting only to caress this pearl of lustrous silver.

A push in the small of her back, suddenly Tabitha was falling, spiraling into endless darkness.

As locks snapped back into place.

Scuffed boots trod across the cracked arid group. Max head bowed, let the rhythm of each step carry him onwards. Pausing only to lift his head toward the tree far off in the distance. Under whose shade the saviour would be waiting,

Hobbling with each step, dirt and dust coating his ski, Max cursed his toil. The sky was barren aside from the sun that burnt his mind as much as his skin. The shade of the tree when he reached it was as cold as the freshest mountain pool.

The man was there, the hood of his dark robe covering all but his mouth. Max waited as the grin slowly peeled back, revealing tombstone teeth, haphazardly leaning one against the other.

“Romans 3:23?”

Max ran his dry tongue over the crumbled remains of a white picket fence.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

The man nodded, Max’s belly growling as he watched a skeletal hand reach up into the dark canopy of the tree. White thin fingers grasping at a light bulb. Plucking it down.

“Feast my son,”

#

Max awoke, the crack pipe still clenched in his fist. Scorched black by years of devotion.

Before long the bulb glowed orange once more.

AL-Z1-M#R

The sand splayed out before Zoe, shards of glass sparkled like jewels amidst the undulating dunes. Poseidon roared again from his lair, a frustrated wail that filled the world. Dropping to her knees Zoe plucked at the glass, a scarlet bead bursting into existence as a barbed thorn pierced her skin. Waves rolled down over black clouds as Zoe sucked at crimson. Meanwhile Poseidon thrashed and wailed, oblivious to her pain.

He hadn’t meant it, how could he when the Furies had cast their influence so deep into his very soul. All Zoe could do was perch on the edge of the storm watching his once noble face contorted by confusion and pain. When he had grabbed at the hourglass, demanding to know where she was, the love of his life, the giver of existence to Zoe, she had tried to calm him. To assure him that everything was going to be okay.

He had screamed in disbelief at the revelation, holding aloft this revered relic whose grains had counted Mother’s daily writing ritual. When blue skies were omnipresent and they were together.

In dismay he had cast the hourglass down, showering the floor in glass and time.

Time, which had eroded his consciousness like sand.

Festive Season Blues

The backwater that was Yiwu shook with the frenzy of factories churning out endless glittering baubles. Wei scurried past LED workshops, wraiths tinkering with soldering irons in pulsing light.

He was late, caught up writing a letter to his fiancé. Responding to her assurances that a smaller wedding was what she wanted, her pleas insulting his sacrifice.

The letter departed, his crimson fingerprints staining tear soaked paper.

The boss man tapped a manicured nail onto a watch that a thousand life times could barely afford. Wei bowed apologetically before grabbing a paper mask and the glue sprayer.

Five thousand polystyrene stars awaited on metal shelving.

Wei grabbed a star, spraying it with glue, before dipping it deep into the crimson glitter held within a battered oil-drum.

Lifting out a scarlet jewel, sparkling in the light of the bare bulb.

Grab, spray, dip.

Repeat.

Another mask, fingers stained crimson. Lungs hacking with shimmering dust.

Whatever Christmas was, Wei truly despised it.

 

 

R3DRUM

Jack looked out across the blue sea, unnatural in this New Hampshire son’s opinion. Watching the waves assault this shitty rock crawling with monkeys, British assholes and Tex-Mex rejects.

Time to leave.

The trip had been Little Miss Perfect’s brainwave, hugging Danny close to her leg, as if Jack could hurt him. Sure the drink had taken hold more than usual, and his moods were at best unpredictable.

But Danny was his boy too.

Getting fired had been the final straw, her ashen face, all doe-eyed and questioning, “finally write” she said, “become Hemingway. Become You.”

Apparently she had scrimped and saved, “rainy day funds”, all gambled on a return flight to Madrid.

Now the money and bar had run dry. Jack returning home with just a resentful liver and worthless manuscript.

One solace, a job offer.

They’d start again in Colorado.

The postcard in his hand a hotel bordered by trees and mountains.

A place called Overlook.