The One After

The clock struck midnight and she was gone.

There was no spark of light, no crackle in the air, not a single silver shoe left behind.

She had simply vanished- vanished, not dead- when just the second before, she had lived. Her arms had hung limply at her side, breath held in, eyes fixed firmly on the clock as it ticked, closer, closer.

11:57

11:58

11:59

Voila.

And I was there, in the very place that she’d relinquished, breathing in the air that had whooshed out of her lungs, feeling the phantom touch of her, tingling.

Sparks of guilt and anger flaring up, uncalled for and unwelcome.

I felt like a snake slipped out of its skin; pristine in a way that is distinctly unpleasant, the knowledge of my own transience clouding the loss of my former skin.

You are reborn, renewed, they would say. Replaced is more like it.

She was gone, and I had never met her, never seen her. And yet, I knew her, like no else ever had.

She was a memory as faint as a song in a dream, a certain inexplicable sorrow accompanying it. If I pictured her, it would only be as a bright unravelling spool of colour that hung from the cusp of recollection, fleeing away into the wind at the slightest threat of capture, tangling in the smatter of stars ahead.

And she would never return now, her time here was over. Over. That grandiose thought, the utter finality of it, it scared me. I had taken her place. And I would follow.

The longest hand of the clock reached twelve, and I was a minute old.

I had just twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes left.

I wonder if the one after me would remember.

 

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

 

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You close your eyes…

When you close your eyes, your world is not void.

It is in flashes of red, of gold, of scandalously bright pinks, flickering like stars on the backdrop of a bruised black.

You can stand in the budding light of a winter dawn, the chilly morning breeze whipping around you, and shades of pastel pinks and oranges bloom into being.

In the punishing glare of a mid-day sun, your world is a flaring red: it soaks you in delicious warmth, drowning you in an ocean of scarlet.

When the night shifts from dusk to twilight, the wilting glare of the fading sun shines a queer royal blue, embroidered with strands of sea-silver.

When you close your eyes, your world is magic.

The world outside is harsh, full of dull greys and insipid whites. But it doesn’t have to be so. The world beneath your eyelids is beautiful, and it’s yours.

So you don’t doubt, you don’t question.

You believe. Ignorance is key.

This place you see, of laughter and joy, of everlasting beauty and frivolous magic, is real. It has to be.

Because when you can’t trust yourself, what is there to live for?

You turn a blind eye, let yourself get caught up in the charade you create.

The truth is right before you, they say, but they’ll never understand.

You do not want to see. You do not want to know. You don’t ask. You don’t doubt.

You close your eyes, and believe.

 

 

Photo by Cédric Klei on Unsplash

I was here.

Today is one of the bad days.

Today, I spend an hour over the page, spelling out my name onto paper, over and over and over again until it’s all I can see.

A curve here. A line there. A dot. Repeat.

A tear drops onto the ink and leaves a speckle of blue that wobbles when I exhale.

I feel my pulse steadily rising, my heart beating faster as I take another breath.

It’s all wrong.

It isn’t me.

The paper cackles as I crush it, mocking me.

 


I feel like a mirage, as if I’m made of smoke, fading into nothingness.

A cold squall of wind could hiss my way, and I’d be gone, only two sets of nails and thirty-four teeth swirling in a spiral down to the ground.

And then, just as quickly, they’ll turn to dust and ash, blown away in a gust of grey.

Maybe someone will look up as I billow past them, a look of distant incomprehension on their face.

Maybe another will mouth a perfect ‘O’ as my hand fleets right through their arm, grasping for a berth.

The moment will be forgotten as quickly as it came.

I’ll be forgotten.

I could have never existed.


On the desk I write on is etched three words and a date.

S.R. loves J.D. 2007.

If I close my eyes, I can look up and see two pale, shimmery shapes rise up from the letters, hands clutched together, eyes shining, a tender glance, a subtle kiss.

I love you. 

No one can refute that now. It’s evidence. Evidence that they existed, that they lived, that they loved.

I would like to have that, I think.

Decades later, I would like for a hand to run its fingers over my carving, sharpen the edges, perfect the letters. I would like to become a part of the wood, to live forever through it.

And if my name is on the page, if my name is scrawled on some distant pillar, I tell myself: I can’t disappear.

I was here.

See?

I told you.

I told you I was.

That’s my name, I was here.

I rip the page and start over.

The paper cackles as I crush it.

 

 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash