Soul diva

As I lie alone chasing sleep,
her voice the only beacon in the dark.
Words like smoke drifting into my ear,
soothing the doubt in my heart.

She speaks to me and me alone,
as though standing at the foot of my bed.
Every breath between each word,
like a beat inside my head.

The song she sings of love and loss,
speaking from a life hard lived.
Painting pictures behind my eyes,
of the dreams she is sure to give.

As my waking mind gives up the fight,
and turns to dark and peaceful sleep.
her whispered tales of treasured hearts,
are mine alone to keep.

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My hometown

Overlapping circles
form on the ground.

Pavement transformed,
into a shimmering mirror.

Shoulders hunched,
heads bent low.

Windows blurred,
as though washed by surf.

Traffic restrained,
making waves through puddles.

Surfaces clean,
metal and rubber shining.

Sky bruised,
churning and dark.

Familiar sights,
My hometown in Autumn.

A dam as a metaphor

If life can be seen as a flowing river,
then the moments that arrive,
when we need to face a fear,
can be seen as a dam in our way.

We see it on the horizon,
approaching as our life flows onward,
growing bigger with each passing hour,
appearing insurmountable.

Our minds build this obstacle,
increasing its size with worry,
adding layers of stress,
with the contemplation of consequences.

The moment arrives,
life’s river crashing against the dam,
unable to progress or move onward,
until the obstacle has been breached.

The fear is faced,
the decision reached,
for good or ill life’s flow continues,
into clearer, calmer waters.

And like a flowing river,
we may look back and ponder,
wondering what might have been,
but unable to influence at all.

Anticipation

This was my very first attempt at some fiction, published on my ‘day-to-day’ blog four and a half years ago. I saw the image of the protagonist very clearly in my mind and it led me to write this little piece.

It’s raining as he looks out of his window. Even though it’s approaching midnight, there’s plenty enough light thanks to the street lights, the neon advertisements, and their reflections in the puddles on the pavement. The rain has eased off to a gentle drizzle, almost like a dusting of water in the air. This is good. It means the selection of his next victim can be done in relative peace. No one wants to be out and about in weather like this.
He turns away from the window to finish his preparation. He’s dressed in blue jeans and a sweatshirt, he shies away from the typical ‘psycho killer’ look of all black, he wants to blend in, not stand out. He pulls on his running shoes and throws on a light, water proof jacket. He could be just another man out for a drink, or a pack of cigarettes, or on his way home after a night out. He feels the reassuring weight of the seven inch hunting knife in the inside pocket of the jacket and decides he’s ready.
As he leaves his apartment, he feels the familiar quickening of his pulse, the slight clamminess on the back of his neck, and the fluttering of butterflies in his stomach. But his hands are still and steady and his movements relaxed. As he walks toward the red-light area of the town the moisture in the air feels good on his skin, and thinks that tonight will be a good one. Its not his first, and he doesn’t think it will be his last, but as he’s got away with it so far, why should it end tonight?
He spots her. Across the street from him. About fifty yards away. She’s smoking and looking bored as she scans the street, waiting for a car to be driving slow enough to indicate a possible punter. He’s not walking too slow as to draw attention to himself, and not too fast as to appear to be rushing toward her, so after a cursory glance she ignores him. He angles across the street and walks down the pavement toward her. She’s started to pay more attention to him now, part of her thinking “work” part of her thinking “threat”. When he’s no more than five yards away she speaks…
“Alright love? Looking for company?”
He can hear the slight tremor in her voice – yes, she’s still not sure, customer or crazy man.
He feigns his own slight nervousness with a small stutter as he asks about prices.
“Tenner hand relief, twenty oral, fifty full sex”, in business mode now, put at ease by his demeanour.
He asks if there is somewhere they can go – he doesn’t have a car, he explains.
“I know a little place, just round the corner, cozy, out of the rain.”
As she walks off ahead of him, leading him to the alley she uses for these short, sharp transactions, he lifts his face up to the rain and fingers the blade of his knife through the jacket lining. “Yes” he thinks, “this will be a good one…”

Drinks with a stranger

This short story first appeared on my ‘day-to-day’ blog as an experiment into whether or not I could write something that people would want to read. I wrote each part on a different day, and published them as I went, which meant people were drip-fed the suspense. I received some good feedback and positive comments, so I’ve moved it across to my fiction blog. I hope you enjoy it.

1.
Janine felt tired. She often did on her journey home, but then working as a journalist in London wasn’t an easy job. It was demanding, all consuming and left little time for personal pursuits or meaningful relationships. She had friends of course, a couple of close ones that she went to school and university with and a few Facebook friends but deep down she knew she was missing out on something important when her only affection came from the cat she had ‘inherited’ when she moved into her basement flat just off Ladbroke Grove.

She’d just completed another eleven hour day and was looking forward to nothing more than a long hot soak and some car-crash TV (the new series of Celebrity Big Brother had started the night before). Not really nourishment for the soul, but it would enable her to switch off and prepare her exhausted mind for the next working day.
She wasn’t really concentrating on the paper she was reading, just trying to avoid smelling the funny odor that was emanating from the Underground train she was travelling in, when she started to get the feeling of being watched. Not unusual on the evening train home, but this felt…different. Without wanting to draw attention to herself, she let her eyes wander around the carriage. And there, opposite and two seats down, was the source of these feelings. A dark haired man, mid-30’s with a nicely cut suit and impressive looking shoes. She caught him looking and although normally in this situation the man would look away quickly, embarrassed to be spotted staring, this man simply let his lips gently stretch into a half smile while maintaining eye contact. Janine was the one to look away. She was too tired, and being gawped at by people on the tube like this was just creepy.

“I don’t bite you know” he said.

Janine heard the words but at first didn’t register that they were meant for her. The voice was quite deep, like she’d imagine dark chocolate to sound if she could hear it speak. She looked up in mild surprise and said “I’m sorry, what?”.
“I said I don’t bite” he replied, with another slight smile.
Janine uttered a nervous little laugh and looked back down at her paper. “What was this blokes problem?” she thought to herself.
“I’m Luke” he said.
“Blimey, he’s not giving up is he?” thought Janine and looked back up at him. She noticed his eyes this time. Something about the way the tube lighting shone on his face made them look like pools of ice water that had just had something thrown into them… shimmering slightly and alive with energy.

“I’ve seen you get this train a lot, and I thought it about time I worked up the courage to speak to you. And now I have, it seems churlish not to ask you if you’d like to have a drink with me?” said Luke.
Janine was quite stunned – was he really being this bold? Did he really expect her to say “Yes I’d love to!” to some stranger on the tube home? But then something strange happened… she realized that she wasn’t instantly turned off by the idea. The voice, the eyes, and there was something quite sexy about the confidence he exuded.
“Is that right? Well you’re awfully brave just coming out with it like that. But I don’t know who you are and isn’t that a bit dangerous for a woman on her own?” she replied with, what she hoped, was calm superiority and slight aloofness.
“Well as I said, I don’t bite. And I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think you were quite breath taking”.
This made Janine blush. “Breath taking?” she thought, “Is he for real?” But despite herself, she felt her heartbeat quicken and her stomach flutter. Was she really going to say yes? Was she really going to take a risk and see if that missing piece was sat opposite her right now, smiling like he knew how she would look in her underwear?

2.
The evening passed in a blur of butterflies in the stomach, blushing cheeks and slightly sweaty palms.
Janine felt as though she were in some kind of film with Luke as her co-star.
After taking the plunge and agreeing to jump off the tube with him to stop somewhere for a drink, Janine felt as though she had spent a couple of hours being the complete center of Luke’s universe. All he wanted to do was talk about her. Did she have any brothers or sisters? Where were her parents? Did she enjoy her job? What were her hopes, dreams, aspirations? Against her will almost, she was flattered into a state of quiet arousal and preening self-promotion. She wasn’t always at ease talking about herself or her life, she was very much a private person especially with someone she hardly knew. But Luke seemed to have a way of asking questions and looking at her that made her want to open up and almost boast about herself.
The only slightly strange thing was that whenever she tried to ask questions about him, or his life, he seemed to be able to answer without giving anything in detail away, and would artfully steer the conversation back to her.
Not that she minded. When she was talking to him, his eyes would track hers as though magnetized and she had the impression he was drinking in her every word, to be analyzed and remembered fondly later. This was the reason her heart would keep skipping and her stomach would feel like it was made of water. The heat that was slowly rising from between her hips was not unwelcome either.
When the time came, she found it hard to have to suggest she leave as she needed to get the last train home. Much to her surprise she could have kept talking for a lot longer, but she was wary of the fact that she didn’t really know this man and the amount of wine she had consumed was more than she had realized.

“Listen Luke, I have had a really nice time, but I must get back to the station so I can get home” she said.
“Of course, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how late it had got. I have to get the tube myself, so I’ll walk you to the station” he replied.
“Oh, great, thanks” she said, as she gathered her jacket and handbag and headed toward the door.

As they walked toward the tube station entrance, Janine felt more comfortable than she probably should have done, and she put that down to a combination of the effect of the cold night-time air on her alcohol doused brain, and the proximity of Luke’s body as he walked by her side. It felt as though he was a buffer against which she could lean as the exertions of the day and the lateness of the hour began to have a tiring effect. She didn’t quite feel ready for any kind of physical contact, but she knew she would reflect on these feelings later at home and they would give her a warm glow that would follow her into sleep.

They arrived at the platform and their luck was in as the next train was two minutes away. Luke pulled a piece of paper from his inner pocket.
“Here, here’s my email address and mobile number. I won’t ask for yours, that way there’s no pressure for you to call me” he said with a smile.
“OK, great, thanks!” Janine replied. She then thought to herself that that was a nice way of doing things… no pressure on her, but it shows she could be interested by taking the contact information. She had a feeling she would be at least emailing in the next day or two though.
“I had a really nice evening Luke, thank you” said Janine, “it’s such a shame the night has to end right now”.
As the train pulled into the station, with the usual cacophony of rushing air and screeching brakes, Janine could have sworn Luke replied “It’s not going to, I’ll be seeing you soon”.
“I’m sorry, what?” said Janine, raising her voice above the noise.
“I said, I think so too, I hope I see you soon” shouted Luke.
The train doors opened and Janine stepped aboard, turning in the door to wave goodbye.
“Thanks again Luke, I’m sure we’ll speak soon” she said with a smile.
She turned, and went and found a seat. She sat with her back to the platform and smiled to herself, thinking that for a spur of the moment decision, the evening had panned out very well.

As the doors closed, she didn’t think to look over her shoulder and see if he was standing and watching. So she didn’t see Luke suddenly sprint to the end of the train, and dive into the last set of doors.

The night hadn’t come to an end just yet.

3.
There were not many places that Janine felt she could completely relax, but behind her locked front door and entry phone she could finally shed the weight of the day and breathe deeply. Her adopted cat, Fitz, would not go so far as to greet her with any great enthusiasm but he deigned to look up as she closed the front door and let out a sigh.
“And a good evening to you too,cat” she said, hanging her jacket on the coat hook by the door.
She really had surprised herself in the amount of pleasure she’d had tonight, but now that it was over she needed to focus on getting ready for another busy day tomorrow. Preparation would consist of a long, hot soak, a last glass of wine and a catch up on emails that she would have missed between leaving the office and getting home.
Although Luke’s arctic blue eyes had seemed to have taken residence in her mind, she decided that maybe she wouldn’t be calling him as soon as she thought she might when she said goodbye. He was a nice man, and although the ‘dark and mysterious’ type wasn’t normally the sort she’d go for, there was something quite enigmatic and attractive about him. However, she’d already taken a risk in agreeing to a drink with a complete stranger and to push that any further might be asking for trouble.

As the bath was running, she poured herself a glass of wine from the fridge and scanned her email inbox for anything that might need attention before tomorrows staffers meeting. The usual nonsense about non-disclosure agreements being contested (which happened a surprising amount of times, more than the general public knew), missing deadlines and the latest corporate guidelines on what constitutes a ‘good’ story. In short, nothing worth sitting down and responding to right now. Janine went through to the bathroom, carrying her glass, and called to Fitz,
“Stay out of trouble cat, I don’t want to have to get out of the bath for at least half an hour”.

As she undressed in her bathroom, Luke’s voice played out in her mind – the dark, almost syrupy, sound of a man who would never have to raise his voice to command a room. The slightest chill scurried down her back and caused her skin to tighten as she remembered his cologne… something woody, yet spicy. She had a good idea that her dreams that night would be more ‘adult themed’ than usual.
The water slowly closed over her as she lowered herself, wincing slightly, into the hot soapy water. The moan she let out was almost climatic in its intensity and she settled herself back with the water closing up to just below her chin.
“If there’s anything better than this after travelling on the underground, I don’t know what it is” she thought to herself.
The heat, combined with the earlier alcohol, made her feel light headed for a moment and she thought she heard her entry phone buzz. She stopped moving and held her breath, thinking “no, no, no not my phone, I really don’t want to have to answer the door”. Ten seconds… twenty seconds…
And yes, there it was, the strident angry bee like buzz of the entry phone by her front door.
“Shit!” she exclaimed. With a sigh, she lifted herself out of the bath, grabbed her robe, and opened the bathroom door emerging from the steam like a magicians assistant from a cloud of dry ice. She tied the robe around her and snatched up the handset from the entry phone.
“Hello?” she snapped, thinking that although that might come across as a bit rude, she was in the bath, dammit!
There was no response.
“Yes, hello, who is it?” she demanded again.
Still no response.
“Hello?!” she said again, slightly louder this time.
As she was listening she heard the main entrance entry phone buzz, and after a few seconds the main front door open and then slam closed.
“Wrong bloody house, you tit” Janine thought to herself.
She replaces the handset and turns back toward the bathroom. As she starts toward it, and her cocoon of hot water and soap, she hears movement just outside her own front door. Like someone dragging some cloth along the wall. She stops, and tilts her head like an inquisitive dog. Her brow pulls down into a frown as she waits to see if there is any other sounds forthcoming.

Suddenly, there is a large bang as something is thrust against the front door. The door itself seems to jump in it’s hinges and the letter box opens and shuts with a sharp clap.
Janine lets out a scream – she can’t help it. She doesn’t think of herself as a girlie, lady-in-distress type but that noise scared her. Another thump hits the front door, this time making Fitz the cat jump up from his perch on the back of the sofa and hurtle toward the bedroom.
“Who’s there?” Janine demands loudly. If it’s the same someone who just mistook her flat number downstairs, she’s going to be mightily pissed off. But the next thing she hears sends a lightening bolt of ice and fear shooting down her spine. Her letterbox is eased up and a voice, still dark and thick but no longer pleasant – more like hot tar than chocolate – speaks to her.

“I told you I’d see you again soon”.

Outside my window

The constant ebb and flow
of people passing by
conjures an image
of perpetual motion

Individuals melt
into a template of movement
all emotion removed
replaced by pure intent

One single element
of this never ending parade
indistinguishable from the next
except when movement ceases

The unending stream divides
to flow around the immobile figure
like blood around a dislodged piece
of arterial plaque

The stationary person
soon swept up by the tide of humanity
to return once more
to the chaotic mass

Sleep

I could welcome death.
At times like these,
with sleep ever further away,
and the night seemingly unending.

The body knows it needs to rest.
The mind,however, refuses it peace,
with its whirlwind of thoughts
and circling song lyrics.

Eyes are closed against the dark.
Yet the images shown,
on one’s internal screen,
are more vivid than any film.

The beds landscape has changed.
The pillow now flat and warm,
the mattress hard and unyielding,
the duvet cloying and suffocating.

Dawn approaches all too soon.
A panic of insufficient sleep,
the countdown to days beginning,
and the braying interruption of the alarm.

Sleep should not be a challenge.
It should not be fought for,
nor wrestled into submission,
by an ever tiring mind.

To slip quietly into oblivion.
Surely the right of every man,
when reaching days end,
and laying down to sleep.