He awoke with a sense that something was lost. Something great, wonderful, rich in colour and fragrant as freshly-cut grass. The more he strained to put a finger on it, the more it slipped away from his perception, liquid through his fingers.
[Woke up after a very strange evening yesterday and I needed to write. Sat down, typed without thinking. No filter, no edits. And yes, I seem to have worked myself up into a frenzy. Again.
Alright, I will go and put my brain on ice now, wear it the right way and come back later.]
‘I don’t want to fucking calm down!’
Actually, that’s a lie.
I am calm. In this moment, I am extraordinarily calm. Calm as an assassin before a crucial hit. Adrenaline pumps blood through my veins like a war drum; loud but steady.
I may have failed in many things, but my hands are steady. Look, no trembling – see? Look, no hands! Risk under supervision – is that a risk at all?
Vision? Clear. Eyes? Unblinking. Heart? Cold. Mind? Empty. I know what I have to do. Precision is all. Precision of a neurosurgeon.
There’s no thinking here, just doing. Isn’t this what you want? What you wanted? The ‘real’ me? Well… surprise! You ain’t getting any help this time, sunshine.
Be careful what you wish for.
On four or five hours sleep. Most would crawl back to bed, I’m up and about, functioning at optimum capacity in the silence and darkness. I’ve begun to think I should just do away with sleep altogether. But alas, it is one of the things I need. Medicated, mediated reality needs sleep to function properly.
I come from that place ideas go to die. Spouting fury, philosophy, death. A mantra. A virus. Language is a virus – that’s Burroughs for you. He shot his wife, didn’t he? Oh no, this isn’t a work of fiction, my dear. A work of art, perhaps.
Morning pages, pages in the morning aren’t supposed to be like this. No. Nothing’s supposed to be like this. Pages, stages, cages. Poet’s rhyming words – not angry words. Chant rhyming words. Rhyming words will keep you safe. Rhyming words will keep her safe. Safe from me.
Repeat after me: rhyming words… rhyming words are fighting words.
A prayer? Oh you want me to pray? For my soul? Not in this world. In this world, you have to have a soul to pray. Only animals and plants don’t have souls. Well, that rules out most of the planet, then. Go back to your rhyming words; words, birds, curds.
Does word rhyme with dirge? The most important question of the day.
Write, write, write. Do or die. Kill a character, kill a man. Google search how to-? Internet fury. Cyber wrath. Oh, they’re just words; they don’t matter. Squiggles on a page. Can’t possibly mean anything. Can’t possibly… can’t possibly kill.
‘You’re just saying that to make me feel better.’
No, I’m not. Trust me. If I wanted to make you feel better, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, darling. Our paths would never have crossed. It might have been best they hadn’t.
If everything matters, then nothing matters. Nothing else matters. What else matters but the words? After all is said and done, what is left but the words? What inheritance have I received but words, words, words, and even more words? Words almighty.
I come from the place ideas go to die.
Some call it Hell.
I call it home.
[Apologies for disappearing – been working and writing loads (or, well, trying to…). I have to get back to it soon.]
‘When you sleep, you look like an angel,’ she said.
I smiled an empty smile at the words.
‘Please don’t call me that.’ I had tried to draw the line, to stop her before she stumbled into my darkness, but she continued.
‘Why should I not call you that?’ The challenge rose immediately in her question, just like I knew it would. Thus far, she had stubbornly refused to let me wallow in self-loathing.
‘Because I just don’t like being called that.’
I was foolish to think I would get away with it that easily.
‘Why not?’ Her question hung in the air, like a bomb ticking down to detonation.
‘Because I don’t feel like an angel.’ Lucifer was an angel too.
[Before going off for a break, I thought I’d offer up that scene – actually the scene I enjoyed writing the most so far. So much drama! Bear in mind, it probably needs a lot of editing.]
She cradled their limp bodies in her arms, rocking back and forth slowly, caressing their soft hair lovingly. Her mouth moved but made no sound – as though in silent prayer. The floor was cold, the flames of the torches were going out, but she wasn’t fazed.
“My children.” She whimpered. A river of tears cascaded down down her face, half-hidden by her flowing red hair which fell upon them like a cloak. Angry scratch-marks on her cheeks bled red and mixed hot tears with hot blood. There was skin under her fingernails. Grief rendered her almost unrecognisable. She seemed to have aged abruptly. “Come back to me. Let it not be true.”
He burst upon the scene, sword drawn in hot anger. As soon as he witnessed the terrible tragedy before him, his knees buckled. Upon seeing him, she seemed to recover immediately from her grief. Her face contorted into an expression of twisted pleasure and pain.
“What’s wrong, Jason? Does it hurt? Does it ache like a dagger in the heart? Have you suddenly remembered where your loyalties lie?”
“What terrible sight is this? What have you done, witch?” he spat, his voice breaking. “What have you done?!”
“This evil is your doing, Jason,” she growled.
“My children! What have you done to them?”
“They were never your children,” she embraced them tightly, like a poor, starving woman hanging onto her last piece of bread, or a dying soul clutching onto a final breath.
“What are you saying, Medea?” He crawled over to her, brandishing his sword, anger carrying him through. “Give me my children, viper! I will bury them with my own hands!”
“Are you going to kill me, Jason?” she hissed like a serpent. “You condemned them, Jason. When you shunned them to consort with that- that-” She could not even say the words, her white-hot fury maimed her. “You did this! This crime will be on your soul, husband, not mine!”
His weapon clattered to the ground.
“This is a dream,” he told himself, shaking his head. “This is just a bad dream. A nightmare. That’s right, it’s not happening.” He pressed his eyes shut, then covered them with his hands.
“Always closing your eyes to everything! To house, to wife, to children. Not seeing it will not make it go away!” One hand tugged at his violently, while the other was still wrapped around the bodies. “Open your eyes and look on them! Look on what you have done! Coward!”
“Your own children! There is no boundary to your wickedness, woman!” he barked back. “When will your revenge end?”
“Oh no, my darling,” the sorceress menaced in a dangerously soft tone. “This is just the beginning. You will die, miserable, tired, and alone, on your precious Argo, like the slimy, lecherous wretch you are!”
[I took on Rachel’s prompt: “It was the best moment of my life” and this was the gruesome result…I’ve titled it ‘Glory’.]
It was the best moment of my life.
It lasted about as long as it took the fire to spread.
“Excellent work.” A pat on the back.
Screams erupted everywhere in the night’s darkness, mixing with the crash and thud of things being knocked over as people scurried away from the blaze. Like rats… But we were ready for them; those that escaped the hell-sent flames were soon brought down by other means.
The massacre didn’t last long. After all, they were unarmed. Mostly women and children. I suppose I should be relieved. Proud even, since this was all my idea. A wonderful idea to end it all.
The pungent stench of burning flesh – the aroma of my excellent work – floats into my nostrils.
I did this.
It’s over. Relief seeps into my veins. The fighting is over. In one night. The tension disappears, as if all this never happened.
I want to throw up.
Day breaks, providing an unhindered view of the most glorious sight: our enemies have fallen. Smoke spirals skywards from the ruins.
It’s all over. Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it glorious? This is how you will be remembered, the man who ended it all. Overnight.
The new day’s beams bounce off hacked-up body parts, scattered among hot piles of ash. These were once mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, lovers.
All come to dust.
I did this.
Their blood encrusts my pores, already drying under my fingernails and stiffening my weary muscles. Their lingering souls accuse me. Sleep is henceforth banished.
Be careful what you wish for.
[No idea what this is about…if you peeps know, please do enlighten me!]
On this day, I grow restless. Let me then unburden my soul.
She said I have an old soul.
Tis strange to think I even have one. A soul, that is. It seems to me a word that belongs to an older time, a time of belief, of myth and wonder.
Is there a place where souls congregate?
Darkness and stillness and silence – “the rest is silence”
I’d blame Hamlet except… I understand him.
The thrill of spiraling darkness.
It frightens me.
In the end.
– Don’t ask me how.
I have no words to inhabit my purpose.
These are my sparring words.
Thoughts wither before the abyss.
And thus begins the fall.
[This is a tale I wrote this morning, originally in my very bad Italian. I thought I’d put it into English for your enjoyment.]
One day when the sun shone brilliantly in the clear blue sky, like it does during childhood summers that seem to stretch out into eternity, a mouse went for a walk in the lush green forest. When the sun reached its peak at midday, he stopped beside a stream to take a refreshing sip of water; the long walk had made him very thirsty. Having taken a drink, he then decided to nap. Without any difficulty whatsoever, the young mouse climbed a tree nearby and sat himself down on a leafy branch to rest. He had barely closed his eyes when he heard a strange sound. Wait a minute… he strained his ears. It was unlike anything he’d heard before. It sounded like someone was crying.
He jumped to his feet immediately and ran towards the source of this awful sound, so mournful that it seemed it could tear his heart into a million pieces.
And there, under a bright green leaf, the little mouse was greeted by a sight more beautiful and more heart-breaking than any he’d seen before. There, before his very eyes, stood a butterfly with striking black and orange wings and she was wailing sorrowfully. He didn’t need to ask why; one of her delicate wings was snapped in two like a dry twig.
The mouse made a quick decision: he sent a pigeon to inform all the animals in the wood of his discovery, calling them to an urgent conference.
He didn’t have to wait long – such dire news had them all rushing to get there. Within a few minutes, they began to arrive: every species of bird, deer, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, wolves, ants… and of course, the conference couldn’t possibly begin in the absence of the king of the animals: the lion and his majestic queen.
Upon their arrival, the birds began to chatter incessantly. It’s a well-known fact that birds – especially sparrows – are chatterboxes and extremely noisy, and they’ll gossip about everything and anything. Growing impatient, the lion kindly asked them to desist and called them to order because their chatter was giving him a headache. With the birds silenced, he launched straight into the business of the day.
“Who here can speak the language of butterflies?” asked the lion. “It’s the only way we’ll find out what really happened and who must be punished for this heinous crime.”
For it is a crime to injure such a harmless creature. In fact, in this particular forest, butterflies were sacred animals. Harming a butterfly in any way constituted a criminal act, punishable by death.
“I,” a deep voice resounded across the woods. “I can speak with her.” All the animals turned to look. The voice belonged to an owl perched on a low branch above their heads. Quite an ugly animal, but extremely wise. Everyone knows owls are the wisest animals in the world. Of course, this means they speak several languages.
A quick flutter of wings saw the huge owl land next to the butterfly. What followed was a silent interrogation. The bird and the injured butterfly spoke quickly and silently, using only a few gestures and their eyes. Butterflies don’t have an extensive vocabulary; they don’t need it.
“Unfortunately, it was a human who broke her wing,” announced the owl a few minutes later. “But she says she doesn’t wish him to be punished.” The old owl shot the upset butterfly a glance, as if to make sure he was interpreting her words correctly.
“She says she is in love with him.”
A weighty, shocked silence spread between them, like an invisible mist seeping into the clearing. A butterfly. In love. With a human? Inconceivable!
“So… what do we do, sir?” the mouse finally dared to ask the question on everyone’s mind, in his high-pitched voice. The troubled lion looked at the butterfly, his large eyes gleaming golden as the Sun itself. He had to think this through.
A long silence. Nothing moved. Not so much as a leaf, as if the entire forest held its breath.
“Find him, and bring him here,” commanded the lion. The search would give him time to contemplate punishment. The butterfly began to weep again.
In just a few hours, the animals found the culprit and brought him before their king. He was young, not yet a man and no longer a child. Just a simple shepherd. He had no traces of a beard to speak of, but his suntanned complexion and his confident demeanor gave the impression he was much older than his sixteen years.
The lion stood and approached the stranger, but failed to strike fear into the shepherd’s soul. His brown eyes gazed calmly back into those of the carnivorous feline. In fact, he seemed ready to face his destiny.
“You have harmed this butterfly. A crime punishable by death. Do you desire to say anything before we execute this punishment?” the lion asked.
The owl translated everything; as we’ve already said, owls are multilingual creatures.
“It was an accident,” the youth replied truthfully. “I was just trying to stroke her and ended up being too forceful. But I didn’t mean to hurt her in any way. I love her with all my heart.”
The butterfly cried out a tearful reply, echoing his words. The lioness then spoke up:
“You did not mean to hurt her, but you did.”
Nothing could be done; the shepherd had to be punished for his actions. It was the law.
The butterfly spoke up timidly.
“Before…before he is p-put to death, I would very much like to hear him sing for me again. Just one last time. Please, sir,” she implored the lion, clearly distraught. The lion, an animal neither cruel nor insensitive to her plight, agreed to grant her this wish, because he respected her greatly.
And so, the animals listened to the shepherd’s song.
The youth opened his mouth and out poured a sweet melody. He sang of lost loves, poisoned dreams, promises that were never kept, happiness and sadness, and the simple joys of being alive.
The song was so melodious and so moving that all of them had tears in their eyes by the time he was finished. Even the lion himself was greatly moved – it had touched his very soul – and he hated the idea that he’d have to execute such a passionate and talented singer.
So, the wise king made a decision.
He lifted his giant paw, and, before any of them could blink, the shepherd was gone. In his place stood a nightingale.
From then onwards, he was condemned to live as a tiny and rather plain-looking, unimpressive, bird whose voice was powerful as the wind and completely enchanting. And every evening, the nightingale searches for his beloved butterfly among the thick branches of trees, but will never find her.
This is why nightingales are the birds with the sweetest and the most melancholy voices of all.
And that is the tale of the butterfly and her love, the nightingale.
You told me the story in no particular order, handing me a jagged make-shift puzzle of possibilities in pieces. Your words gurgled into my ear, streamed quietly into my soul, perfumed my dreams. A touch of sunlight there, a taste of a smile here.
And so I listen.
And so I write.
[A wee bit of Monday morning fiction from the depths of ancient Greece]
His eyes scoured the theatre – full, like a sack of wine about to burst. It took his breath away.
This was his moment. All the known world was listening. From foreign delegates and dignitaries from the farthest reaches of the land, to farmers, traders, craftsmen… All the world was there, in one place, with ears, eyes, and hearts open. All to hear his words. And he could not – would not – disappoint.