Morning, Post

flash

This one’s not about me.

It’s about that final morning, the distracting headache, the mouth of ash. Stepping over sleeping bodies and holding myself against the frigid air.

It’s about the way you spoke to me, or rather didn’t.

The coldness of you. How you pulled back. How I racked my fractured memories for words uttered, actions committed. Ways to take it all back.

This is about how you never returned.

This one’s not about me.

Light, Burning Clear

flash

This is the fifth day in a row we traipse down to the shoreline before daybreak. I’d like to say my feet have gotten used to it, but the rocks still feel like broken glass, against my soles.

It all becomes a race the moment we hit the sand, and my chest already burns when the cold shock hits. I throw my arms into it and resist that first big breath.

Water’s choppier than yesterday and I’m figuring out the rhythm when the butterflies drop out and I crest; there it is, the breaking light of day.

That moment is forever.

The board drops and I fall, then rise, belly pressed hard against it. The wave is a sheet of murky glass, hewn to a dangerous edge. Through it, I see the light, burning clear.

One Apart

flash

“Come with us, come on, it’ll be great.”

“I’m fine, honestly.”

“Don’t be boring,” she tugs at his arm.

“I should be getting home.”

“And you will.” She loops hers into his. “Later.”

Mirrors

flash

As a child, my Aunt’s house fascinated me. She owned a vast array of mirrors, all in fanciful frames of differing shapes, sizes and colours. I remember running through the hallways, my distorted reflection following, dancing along as feet thumped against the worn floorboards.

I recall a woman with long coils of dark hair and wrapped in patterned fabrics from places I’d never heard of. Kind, a little eccentric to some; always willing to give her whole heart when it mattered.

She passed not too long ago and I helped my cousin get the house in order. We pulled them down one after the other and wrapped them in old cloth, each one leaving behind a bright reflection on the faded wallpaper.

Thunderstorms

flash

Thunderstorms have filled my thoughts of late. There’s something about that low rumble resonating in my chest; being woken at midnight by shocks of light in the gloom.

My father tells me I was born in the fiercest storm – on the cusp of autumn, when the sea is still warm with the memory of summer sun. He mentions it often, despite the hurt it brings up. He saw it from hours away, on the horizon and over the water, moments after dusk settled.

And as they set off for the hospital, the clouds started rolling in fast and low; Orange, from reflecting off sodium lamps. The air was still, the streets quiet. No sound to be heard. They were inside and safe when the first flashes appeared.

I arrived at two in the morning, at its worst point. Silent when I came out, and at first they were worried, until the crashing stopped and my lungs opened up.
People tell me that’s strange, that I must be getting it the wrong way around, but I’m not: I’ve always found thunder relaxing. There’s no fear. A familiarity perhaps.

Reminds me of home.

Dissolve

flash

He lay facing the window, head buried deep into the passenger seat. Acted like he was sleeping but, in truth: restless.

“You can use the blanket if you want,” she said. “There’s one on the back seat.”

“I’m fine.”

He yawned, twisting around to face forward.

“You okay?” She dialed up the heating; its whisper became a deep purr. “You don’t have to talk, if you need the sleep.”

“I’m awake now,” he said, giving his head a shake. Leaned forward then, arms crossed on the dash, chin on top. He peered out at the dulled trees slipping past, their tops lost in the-

“Hey, what’s the difference between fog and mist?” His head lolled, left ear to the black plastic.

“Sorry?” Her eyes darted over to his. They took her in, watching her slightest movements.

“Take your head off the dashboard.”

“But what’s the difference?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm,” he pondered. Fog or mist, they now drifted through dusk made manifest, the firs nothing more than dark smudges dissolving into the distance, the sky.

Apocalypse

flash

“Where will you be?”

He asks: “When?”

“At the apocalypse.”

He snorts, rolls his head back. Her stare continues, unmoving and deadpan.

He clears his throat.

They dangle their legs over the concrete ledge, close to the lapping canal water. Dead scum floats beneath their feet and it smells faintly of harbour when the tide rolls out. They watch as light dances against the blank underbelly of the bridge carrying traffic. About them, the detritus of shattered industry: a burnt-out car, rusted steel drums, puddles made iridescent with a thin veneer of oil. A halo of fast food packaging flutters in the wind. Few boats wander past. Crickets chatter.

He thinks about her question, how it would feel, to watch the world end. Would it be quick, or drawn out? Could he make a last phone call? He lays out on the hard concrete, tries to picture his last moments. The sun above becomes a searing explosion erasing his body. He’d be dead, then: one permanent shadow amongst many. He notices how her silhouette blots out the sun’s warmth. She’d be one of them. “With my family then, I guess.”

She sighs.

“I don’t think you understand.” She looks down at him. “It’s not about where you want to be, but where you will be.”

He sits up.

“It’s not such an easy question, is it?” She holds her hands out, palms up as though the concept were an object for him to see. Her naked feet form a Newton’s cradle. The sound of skin kissing bounces off the water and concrete. And he is reminded, for a moment, of sitting by the municipal pool as a child, listening to the hollow sounds of water slapping and voices ricocheting.

He draws his eyes down, shuttering them from the sun. “I’d be at home then,” he says: “Sleeping and it would mostly be over by the time I woke up, or I wouldn’t and miss everything because I always do.” He adds, quieter, “Important events, that is.”

“I like that.” She pulls a loose hair from his cheek and blows it away. “Permanent sleep. I wonder if you’d carry on dreaming.”

“Probably not.” He bites his lip.

“There wouldn’t be anyone you’d want to say goodbye to?”

“Like I said – my family.”

“No-one else, I mean: no-one you would need to say one last word to?”

He shakes his head.

“Okay.”

She brushes back one side of her hair, tucking it behind an ear. She cranes her head a little. The chug of a pleasure boat rolls around from a distant meander.

“I think I’ll be in a supermarket,” she says. “And I’ll be the only one smiling. Have you ever noticed that? That people never smile in supermarkets? They all carry expressions of boredom; or else annoyance, or inconvenience. I saw this woman once, in the queue and she was worried, you know? Like something was distressing her. She had the face of a trapped animal.”

“I’ve never noticed anything like that.”

“Well I have. And that’s where I’ll be, with all those people and I don’t think their expressions will be any different.”

“Why do you think that?” He asks.

“Why don’t you?”

“That’s not what I was asking.”
She shakes her head, and lets her gaze drop away from him.

“I want your coke.”

“What?” He frowns.

“I want it. It looks refreshing.”
She knocks into his shoulder, tilts her head and slips her eyestoward his.

He stutters a moment.

Her eyes drop to the cup and then back up. “It’s hot. I’m hot.”

“Alright, take it. I’m not thirsty.”

She leans into him, pressing their chests together, swapping heartbeats. She grabs his drink, without thanking him, and draws on the tall cup, as her eyes lock with his. The swell of her lips glistens in the sunlight. He shifts a little. She licks the last drop before it can roll down her chin, a laugh in her eyes.

“Done?” he asks.

She nods, leaning back. A thin smile of satisfaction on her face. “This is what I think,” she says. “All those people in the supermarket: the reason they won’t change their expressions is because they can’t – they don’t realise what’s happening to them; the idea that they will all die, that no-one will be there to remember them, will be too much to handle. They won’t be able to comprehend it, so they’ll carry on as if nothing is wrong.”

“You’re a pessimist.”

“I’m not deluding myself.” She lifts a finger. “There’s a difference.”

“But what if they did realise?”

“They’d laugh. Really hard.”

“And then?”

“It’d be too late: the apocalypse will have happened.”