Fly

It’s nothing new, this pressure that he feels welling up inside of him. He’s used to feeling it, he thinks, but the it’s the realisation that it’s growing inside of him that always manages to catch him by surprise.

It starts as a trickle, and his breaths grown shorter and shorter as he begins to feel like he might actually drown this time. He’s not physically moving, he knows, but he his mind whirls as his own thoughts self-destruct in his head.

His feet have turned to stone, he thinks for a moment, before he feels as though the ground itself is pulling him down. For a moment, it feels like the ground he’d walked on just moments before has turned to quicksand.

The trickle of pressure grows to a steady flow, like water running from a tap, as the panic dulls his senses so that all he can hear is his own voice telling him that he won’t be able to get free.

It feels like his wings are caught, turned to lead by the panic that he’s been burying inside of him, and he grows deaf to the world even as the voices around him grow louder. He feels himself nod, but he doesn’t know what he’s being told.

He wants to tell someone that he can’t breathe, and is largely unsuccessful when he finds himself unable to move.

It’s like the weight of the world is on his shoulders in that one moment, and he strains under it by himself until he feels a sharp clap on his shoulder.

The slight shock from the hit jolts him like he’s been electrocuted, but it’s exactly what he needs. He sees sunshine after that; fiery and intense, and he feels the weight lift from his shoulders, and feels his feet grow lighter until he thinks that he might be able to swim despite the whirlpool he’s caught in.

It’s nothing new, he thinks to himself as he inhales deeply, focusing on the buzz around him as his wings are freed. He can still feel the sun around him, still blazing, but it doesn’t burn as he tunes the mindless chatter around him out.

It’s nothing new, he tells himself, because now he can fly.

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Let’s Dance

It’s so nice to meet you,

Let’s never meet again.

~ We Don’t Have To Dance, Andy Black

Bright red and vibrant indigo colour her world as she twists and turns, fingers curling around a heavy lapel for a moment before she turns away from the man in front of her and wraps her arm around another. There’s nothing else in this moment, she thinks to herself, other than the warmth of their breath and the weight of this man’s hand as he pulls her into a dance. She waltzes with him easily, his grace and prowess showing as he twists and turns her, his touch as light as that of a feather.

His face is gold porcelain and crimson paint, and she feels the feathers of her own face tickle her cheek as he dips her carefully, the music around them swelling warmly. He murmurs something under his breath, and for a moment, she’s taken away by the deep, rich timbre of his voice even through the mask on his face. She doesn’t hear his words, but his grip on her tightens for a single instant as the music slows before changing, and she smiles, bright and careless, as he twirls her and dips her once more, with slightly more abandon than he had before.

When the music stops, she extends a leg out under her gown to curtsy, her head lowering demurely as he bows, and takes his extended hand to follow him as they make way for the next group of dancers. Her lips curve, red and radiant, before she pulls the navy blue mask from her face. Her partner has already removed his own mask, and she meets his warm brown eyes for a split second before she’s whisked away, another gown already shoved into her arms as she’s pushed into a small cubicle to change.

There’s a tall, narrow mirror in the closet of a room, and she shivers at the sight of the deep, navy-blue gown that she’s wearing. She only needs to turn to look at the gown that had been just shoved into her arms, and she sees a hint of ash pink in the dim lighting before she shrugs off her insecurities and turns back to the mirror, her lips now forming a wine-red slash on her pink-from-exertion face. When she emerges, now garbed in dull pink and wearing a mask encrusted with mauve gems on thin porcelain, she’s only handed a tube of deep red lipstick before she’s directed to another stage.

There’s another man waiting for her now, with onyx hair and warm skin, and she plasters a smile onto her lips before stepping out to meet him, her shoulders straightening with falsified confidence as she takes his hand, lips curving coyly, as she meets his deep dark brown through the cut-out holes in his green silk mask, and she dips her head in greeting before the lights blind her once again. The man beside her tries to speak, and she turns, a blinding smile on her lips as she gently lifts a finger to the edge of her mouth, lips puckering as she motions for him to keep silent.

“We don’t have to make friends,”

Alone Together

Let’s be alone together

We can stay young forever

~ Fall Out Boy, ‘Alone Together’


Burning.

Red.

Heat.

That’s all she feels as the fire reaches her. There is chaos all around her as she tries to find him. People are screaming, their faces and hands stained with blood as they embrace their friends and family for what might be the last time. Her wounds are smarting painfully, the cuts on her arms and legs pushed to the back of her mind as she forces her way through the throngs of people who are running from the hailstorm of smoke and ashes.

She’s screaming now, her lips trembling as she calls for him desperately. A part of her knows that he’s gone, but the rest of her perseveres stubbornly. She stumbles over bodies, and gags as the blood-stained, crumpled corpses crack under her as she searches for him.

Please, she screams as tears roll down her cheeks, and she thinks that she sees a shadow of him around the corner. Fire rains from the sky as she shields her head from the rubble, the thin scarf that she’s wrapped around her head hardly enough to protect her from even the thick dust.

It’s only after she comes to that she realises that she’d lost consciousness at some point as the flames fell from the sky, and she scrambles to her feet. There’s a sharp twinge in her ankle which tells her that there’s a possibility that she’s broken something, but she forces herself to keep moving.

She can’t help the tears that roll down her face as she walks through the broken, war-torn streets in the cover of night. The pain in her ankle has spread to her thigh, and she’s limping and waving off the people who come to help her. She tells them that she’s looking for him, and their broken, sad faces make her heart stutter in her chest every time she repeats the reason she’s still walking.

It’s pitch black when she finally sees him, a hint of him peeking out from under a particularly large slab of concrete. No! The tears double, her eyes aching from the dirt as she wipes her face with her filthy hands before attempting to dig him out. A few others come to help her, and it takes them a while to move the large rock. After that, they leave her as she sobs over the relatively large body.

She runs her hand through his grey-streaked fur, her tears soaking into his blood-stained head and muzzle as she curls up against him. This was a mistake, she tells herself even as she mourns for him. She should have never left him alone, especially when he was so old. His body is cold and stiff as she flattens the fur on the top of his head with a trembling, dirt-caked hand. He looks like he’s sleeping, and if she believes hard enough, she can almost fool herself into thinking that he is.

So she believes.

She curls up beside him just like she usually would and she wills herself to sleep. When she wakes up, the sun is burning her skin once again, and the screaming is all around her. Beside her, he’s still unresponsive and stiffer than ever, and she ignores the arms that try to pull her away, swatting them aside as she holds on to him.

When the fire reaches her this time, she welcomes the burn and the red and the heat.

Burn this pain away, and sear a new life into these bones.


Carry On

Carry on my wayward son

There’ll be peace when you are done

Lay your weary head to rest

Don’t you cry no more

~ Kansas, ‘Carry on Wayward Son’


His feet are burning, aching with pain as he takes another step. The shotgun in his hand is heavier than ever, and the warm blood that streams down his face is unnerving. He sees the woman, her dark hair and golden skin familiar as he raises the gun. There is understanding in her eyes as she meets his gaze steadily, and this time, he can’t help the tears as he pulls the trigger.

He wipes his tear-streaked face with a bloodied hand, ignoring the smear that stains his skin. Hell, he can’t remember how it feels to be clean by now, but he keeps moving. There’s a glimmer of hope in his chest when he crosses the empty street, seeing no one. His fragile hope is shattered, and he raises the gun again, this time begging the man to stop him. The dark-haired man simply shakes his head, dropping his own blade.

“Finish this.”

The words are short, but they hit him like bullets to the chest, and he can feel the two shots it takes to kill the man in front of him. He cries this time as well; this man had been his brother-in-arms, when the world was still spinning on its axis. He drops to the ground as he remembers hugging this man the first time he battles it out of his own hell, remembers this brother of his being the only one who was patient enough with him to coax his back onto his feet and onto the battlefield once again.

The next two kills he makes are easier.

They are monsters, though he is by no means better than them now, he tells himself. He’s stumbling now, trying his hardest to find the light at the end of this blood-stained tunnel. For a moment, it’s all darkness, then he feels the pain and the warm liquid. He looks down to see the sharpened edge of a knife sticking out of his chest, and when he shifts, he can feel his bones grinding under his skin.

It’s a kill, he notes, smiling even through the pain as he drops to the ground. It’s only then that he realises that the blade in his chest is a mere blur, and that what’s hit him is actually a bullet.

There’s gunfire all around him now, and finally, he remembers where he really is.

Even here, his brothers are falling all around him; their cries of pain loud and overbearing as he crumples over another body. He is not alone now, though, and the faces he shoots at as he falls, screaming in pain, are cold and hard and unfamiliar.

When all the pain recedes, he finds himself floating over the noise of a thousand men living and dying all at the same time. He smiles as the noise dies slowly, and he can’t help but let his eyes slide shut as he hears a voice calling him home.

Welcome home, it says, sounding like everyone he’s ever known and loved all at the same time, even though the voice is singular and clear. It resonates through him, the timbre striking him warmly, and he embraces the sound bodily. I’m home, he tries to reply, but no sound leaves his lips.

When he opens his eyes, he sees his mother and his father, warm smiles on their faces and their skin glowing with health and happiness as his brother waits just beside them. They are the centre of the picture that makes tears roll down his cheeks, and ashamed, he lifts a hand to wipe at them.

“It’s good to see you again,” it is his brother-in-arms, the man who had given his own life away just to make sure that he didn’t return home in a body bag. Now, the man is smiling like he’s never seen him before, and he returns the gesture, smiling widely and pulling the man into a warm embrace; half-checking to see if he’s really there even as he revels in the warmth and peace that fills him.

“You don’t have to fight any more.”

That’s his brother, a smile on his young face, and he wants to cry and apologise for the man’s untimely death. The man stops him before he can do so, though, and he finally allows the warmth to permeate to him from the crowd of people surrounding him. All these people that he had loved and cared for in his lifetime. All these people who’d, in some way or other, given their lives just so that he could survive long enough to do what he’d had to.

“You don’t have to cry.”

Size Matters

The home I lived in when I was twelve?

It was comfortable, if I were to describe it in one word; it was just small enough for the four of us that lived there, and still big enough for the six extra visitors we’d get everyday. It wasn’t cramped, though it did get a little tight when you had six children screaming and running after a ball.

It was a terrace, with the same, white walls as both its neighbours. It had too many plants for its own good, though I certainly did find butterflies of many colours more than once. We had a dog, too.

He was old when I was young, and it wasn’t too long before he left us for a better place, but he was a delight to have. He’d never fail to bark at any of the others when they visited. The same way he’d never fail to quieten down when either my mother or myself went to see to him when my cousins got scared.

When I pass it by now, it’s dusty. It’s still unoccupied, just as we left it, and though it looks nothing like it used to.

It brings back the memories of butterflies and company.

Point of View

I stared calmly at him.

“We can’t, John,”

I could see that what I’d said struck him deep, but somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to care like I should have.

I spotted the woman on the bench suddenly, and realised that she’d almost stopped moving the red lump in her hands. Nosy, I sneered before turning back to him.

“I know,” tears streamed down his cheeks, but his brilliant blue eyes were clear as he straightened, wiped at his face with a hand, and walked off.


I could see it in her eyes, the coldness, and for a moment, I wondered where the warmth had fled.

“We can’t, John,” those were her words, clear and sharp, and I knew that what she said was logical.

I know we can’t, I wanted to scream at her, but I held myself back and tied myself down.

I swallowed the irrational anger and hurt that flooded through me, which resulted in warm liquid splashing over my cheeks.

Something in her eyes flickered, and I wanted to laugh.

“I know,” I said, voice choked before I wiped at the traitorous tears that had spilled over. As I walked away from her, I spied the woman perking up as if she were snapping out of a daydream, and there was a warmth in her dark, knowing eyes that made something inside me soften.


I ignored the couple as they passed by me, I had better things to do than eavesdrop on other conversations, despite what most people seemed to think.

I could feel the sweater, already warm, between my fingers, and I smiled to myself.

Little Kathy would love it, I’m sure.

I saw Kathy in my mind’s eye, seeing her warm eyes and her bright smile when she told me that she was expecting her first baby.

‘It’s going to be a girl, ma,’

She’s been so excited that she’d spilt half a cup of tea when she’d told me.

Suddenly, the couple in the corner of my vision split apart, and for the shortest of moments, just before the man walked off, I saw a flash of bright blue and a hint of tears.