short stories

~ Power Out ~

man window

~ Power Out ~

I sat alone in the darkness drinking rum. A power cut was a good enough excuse to finish off the emergency bottle I had stashed away. The remaining battery on my laptop was offering a little light for my room, and I stared at the shadow of my desk against the wall, listening to the winter wind howl against the window. A storm had been battering the country for a couple of days now, and this – alongside the national lockdown of the coronavirus – had left me feeling like I was living in some post-apocalyptic nightmare. Right now was perhaps the moment when the absurdity of the situation had peaked. I should have been somewhere else, living my one life, making the most of the last year of my twenties; instead I was imprisoned in a room of darkness, watching my youth disappear with absolutely nothing else to do but get drunk and stare into space. I couldn’t go around a friend’s house. I couldn’t go to the local pub. I couldn’t even go for a walk along the nearby river as it had recently flooded from the non-stop rain. It was a moment in time when life had just gotten so ridiculous I didn’t even know what to think or do anymore, so I just carried on sitting there in silence, drinking rum straight from the bottle, completely paralysed by the reality of the situation.

Like many people, I was frustrated and suspicious about what was actually going on with the pandemic, but at this point trying to have an informed viewpoint on the whole thing was a tiring affair. It had been almost a year since the initial outbreak, and it was hard to know what to think anymore when there was so much conflicting information out there, the media constantly creating hysteria, and everyone shouting their own viewpoint as if you were in some sort of football match. On one side you had the ‘sheep’ – the people who devoutly followed what the government said, lived in fear of the virus, and saw nothing suspicious about the whole thing. On the other side you had the ‘conspiracy theorists’ – those who questioned the rationale of the lockdown, pointed out that the statistics were being manipulated, and that there were hidden agendas at play. I researched and contemplated what I could, but it eventually got to the point where I started to question my own sanity and morality, so I had decided to just mentally detach myself from the whole thing. Maybe that was what they wanted.

Not having a job during the lockdown left me with nothing but free time, and I spent my days in a zombie-like state, daydreaming and mindlessly browsing the internet. Normally I would have used the situation at hand to get some writing done, but very little writing had been done over the last couple of months. Like the house, the power was just not there within me. That creative force that had once surged through me was dwindling, and I listened to the raindrops outside as if they were the sound of my soul being slowly bled dry. Perhaps a part of me was actually dying, I considered. This lockdown had me in some sort of spiritual prison, and looking into the mirror my eyes seemed a little dimmer than usual. Something was definitely missing inside of me, reflected by my writer’s block, and I knew I needed to do something soon to stop it from disappearing for good. But what could I do? Where could I go? How could I keep my inner flame burning in a world of rain and darkness and nothingness?

Of course, it wasn’t just me struggling in some way with the situation. I had one friend, a bar manager, who hadn’t been into work for months and was surviving off what would be half of his usual paycheck. He stayed at home all day smoking weed, playing computer games, putting on all the weight he had worked hard to shift in the time before the pandemic. Down in London I had another friend who had just been made redundant, stuck in a house-share with people he no longer liked, spending his savings on simply surviving while also struggling from a variety of health issues. Back in my hometown was a guy who had saved up to go on a big world travel trip before he turned 30; with that trip not looking like it was going to happen anytime soon, he sat at home every evening drinking heavily, complaining that his hair was going grey and that his trip was never going to happen. All in all it was a total shitshow, and one couldn’t help but wonder when everyone was going to crack and start rioting, like they had started doing on the streets of France and The Netherlands. 

I didn’t expect that to be any time soon; us British were too polite for things like that. We bottled up our frustration and instead sat in rooms of darkness, drinking our pain away, complaining about the world but never actually doing anything about it. I was no different and, in a sense of helplessness, I got out my phone and downloaded the dating apps to try and force some excitement into my life. In a time where excitement was practically illegal, you had to do whatever you could to get some, and the idea that you might meet up and have sex with some stranger on the internet was about as thrilling as things got.

Scrolling and swiping through the sea of faces, it was always good to know that there were women out there looking for companionship; looking for someone perhaps like you. Of course, the majority of matches didn’t result in conversation, and even the ones which did usually died out after a few messages. Most talk was about lockdown, about how shit life currently was, and how you were only on the app out of sheer boredom. Naturally you tried to push the idea of meeting up for a bit of fun, but most girls weren’t into that. They wanted socially-distanced walks in the park and constant messaging to eventually see where things went after lockdown was over. It was a tedious affair, and I was quickly reminded why I had downloaded and deleted the app so many times already. I put it away and carried on drinking my bottle of rum, which was now down to the final quarter, reflected by me starting to feel my head spin. 

It was then that an almighty bit of luck came my way. Like a holy bolt of lightning had struck, I got a message off a girl I knew. She was a twenty-year-old Spanish nurse who had been living back in Spain, but had just arrived back in the U.K for her studies. We had hooked up the previous summer and she was now inviting me around her new place to “watch a movie and chill”. Of course, by doing that I would be breaking the rules, but as a single man who hadn’t been laid in five months, I had no choice but to answer nature’s call. I finished off the bottle before heading down to the garage and grab my bike. Finally, some action was on the horizon.

I took to the road and started pedaling like a madman through the storm. Her place was on the other side of town, so I cycled as fast as I could, weaving my way through the deserted streets and alleyways, battling the wind and rain which almost seemed to be trying to stop me from reaching my destination. My willpower prevailed and after twenty minutes I arrived at her place soaked and exhausted. Unfortunately I couldn’t just knock on the door; there were two other students living in the building unaware of me coming over, so she would have to stealthily sneak me in. I locked my bike up against a streetlamp and used the last of my phone battery to announce my arrival.

She came to the door and immediately dragged me toward her room. “You have to be quiet,” she said, leading the way. “There is a girl in the room above us. I’ve told her I’m video-calling people, but if she hears your voice she might get suspicious.” I entered her bedroom, took off my rain jacket, and used a towel to dry myself. We then sat on the bed and started catching up about our lives over the last few miserable months. We were talking in hushed tones for about ten minutes until there was a sudden knock on the door. “Hey Eliana, are you there?” It was the girl from upstairs. My friend then quickly dragged me into the walk-in wardrobe and told me to be silent. I stood there in the dark listening to her and her housemate chat away, feeling like I was taking part in an act of infidelity. It was already the most excitement I had experienced in months.

After she had gotten rid of her, I came back out quietly laughing at how ridiculous life was at that moment. My friend then got out the alcohol: a bottle of red wine and another bottle of rum. We poured ourselves some drinks, chose a movie to watch, and got cosy in bed. Lying there it felt strange to be so close to another person; to lay entwined limb to limb, almost as if things were normal again – almost as if human interaction was actually legal.

“How are you dealing with the lockdown she asked?”

“Oh you know, same as everyone else I guess. Doing whatever I can to not go completely insane. It didn’t help that my house had a power-cut today.”

“Yeah, I can imagine. Well, I was thinking we could at least do something fun tonight…” My excitement level suddenly increased. “I’ve got some pills of 2C-B that my old housemate left me, and I thought we could maybe take it together. It’s like a mix of ecstasy and acid, but the psychedelic effects aren’t too strong, and the high only lasts a couple of hours.” I sipped my drink and thought about it. Well, I had never taken any psychedelic drugs before, and it had been on my to-do list for a few years now. And distorting my consciousness with Class-A drugs would be a nice change from the current depressing reality of life.

“Sure,” I said.

Next thing I know, she has her little bag of drugs out on the desk, measuring out a couple of pills of 2C-B. There were also a couple of tabs of acid which we decided not to use.

“There you go,” she said, handing me half a pink pill with a batman logo on it. “I think this is a good enough amount to take for your first time, and if you don’t feel high enough, there’s another pill we can crush up and snort later.” I looked down at the pill then grabbed my glass of wine to gulp it down. She did the same, and then we went back to watching the movie while waiting for the effects to kick in.

It was about an hour or so later when my peripheral vision started to become wavy. The curtains of the bedroom looked like strands of wheat blowing in the wind, and a little crack in the ceiling looked like the whole reality of the space-time continuum being ripped open. “Can you feel it yet?” she asked. I told her what I was experiencing as we started laughing, pouring more drinks, talking absolute rubbish; no longer in hushed tones. I then went to the toilet where I sat down and looked at a bag full of clothes in the corner of the room. On top of the clothes was a grey fleece which had assumed the shape of a baby elephant all cuddled up in the womb of the bag. I could see its face, its eyes, its trunk, its legs. It stared at me for a while and then suddenly blinked. It was at this point I decided that I was hallucinating for the very first time. At least I hoped so, anyway.

I returned to the room to find Eliana dancing to some Latin music. It was clear by then the movie wasn’t going to be finished. She kept telling me how much energy she had that she needed to use in some way. I was going to suggest that she used it through the act of sexual intercourse, but before I could utter my thoughtful suggestion she was putting on her shoes and telling me that we needed to take a walk around the neighbourhood. I wasn’t too keen to go back outside but obliged her request. 

Out on the streets, the storm had quietened down and there were even a few stars visible in the night sky. The temperature was now well below freezing though, and the ground was covered in a thick, glittering frost. The glints of ice on the grass and bushes looked like a starry universe itself, and we walked around like children marvelling at the world around us. The streets were eerily silent and we talked about what it would be like when things went back to normal; if they would ever go back to normal. For that moment, it didn’t really matter though as I felt the high in my veins and saw the world through a magical new lens. In a way it felt weird to feel some form of fun being experienced again, almost as if my body had almost forgotten what it was.

We eventually returned to the room to finish the rest of our drinks and climb into bed. It took about ten minutes of cuddling until we started having sex. I’m not sure how long we went for, but it felt like hours, and god how I needed it after all that time locked up alone in my room. It did make me wonder how actual prisoners in jail fared on their life sentences. Suddenly the soap in the shower scenarios began to make sense. 

The next morning we had some more sex before I grabbed my stuff and quietly left. I had barely slept and was in a strange state of mind from the tiredness and the comedown. By now it was snowing instead of raining, and I brushed my bike seat clear of snow to begin my battle back home. Cycling through the white stuff beside the flooded river, I had to think how much life felt like some sort of disaster movie. Truly, it had been one of the worst winters on record with the grim weather reflecting the mood of society. Storms, floods, snow, the sun barely making an appearance through the constant dark clouds. It really felt like the end of days. But at least I had had some sort of life last night, which helped my spirit as I tried to keep my eyes open while cycling through the slippery roads.

Back alone again in my room, I sat down on my bed and tried to warm my hands up. They were shaking from the cold and I lay paralysed under the sheets, waiting for life to return to them again. I was also completely exhausted, yet somehow unable to sleep. There were some leftover Christmas chocolates on the table and I smashed them down, trying to get some energy back into my body. By now at least the power in the house had been sorted and I was able to charge my phone again. 

I turned it on and started mindlessly scrolling through social media once more. It was then that I got another message off Eliana. “So I still have those tabs of acid left….” Jesus, for such an innocent-looking person, this girl was really wild. I looked around my room and thought about how to reply. It would be another day of staring at walls, existing like some sort of house plant, waiting for the world to go back to normal while another day of my youth died and disappeared forever. Well, maybe I was a bad guy for breaking all the rules, but at this point I didn’t care. I texted back and told her I would be back over in the evening. I then tried to sleep and I couldn’t. I then tried to write and I couldn’t. There was nothing left to do: no job to work, no project to work on, no life to live. There was no choice but to go back to hers, take some more drugs and hope that whatever life in me would still be there when this winter had subsided, and the light of spring had returned.

poetry

~ Caught in Nowhere ~

~ Caught in Nowhere ~

And the people my age were not like me
And the people younger than me were not like me
And the people older than me were not like me

I am caught in nowhere
No place to be
Or job to work
Or woman to come home to

This is how it is:
Approaching the age of 30
Living in a small rented room
Losing my youth and mind
Alone in this shit show

It’s just me and the word
Same as its always been
Hoping that somehow this madness
Will save me from this world

The reality is that I’m just another self-obsessed writer
Who can’t write a good poem to save my life
All I can do is spit out this pain onto the page
To at least feel a little better

There’s not much more to it than that
And believe me, I wish there was
I wish my words were good enough
To be found by some hotshot editor
Who sought to turn me into something
Different from what I am.

But what I am is inescapable
And this I have to accept:

I am alone in this
No job to work
No place to be
Nothing to get out of bed for
Nothing interesting to even write about

Caught in nowhere.

man sitting alone

poetry

~ Mutilated

~ Mutilated ~

The monsters under my bed

Have found me again

And what is left to do

But to lie frozen still

and let them have their way with me

.

They are beings of persistence

And the more their claws tear me apart

The more I become one of them

.

And the thought hits me 

That perhaps all monsters 

Were once scared children

Just wanting the light

But in denial of that

They were dragged into the darkness

To become the very thing

That haunted them.

claw

thoughts

~ Haunted ~

~ Haunted ~

“After another night of reckless behaviour, I went and faced that morning mirror. I looked into my eyes and saw a harsh truth staring back at me. It was one I had always tried to avoid. Something dark and sinister lingered inside of me. It was always there stirring in my soul, haunting the hallways of my mind, whispering into my ear in moments of peace and happiness. I didn’t think I was to ever get rid of this parasite inside of me. It patiently waited for its moment to lure me back into the darkness; to pull me back to the periods of self-destruction and madness. And even when I thought I was finally rid of it – that my life had finally become one of sanity and order – there it would appear once more in my reflection. A twisted smile, a sinister stare, reminding me that it would always be there inside. The thought hit me that perhaps this sickness is not something I am meant to be cleansed of, but only learn to live with. It was a fundamental part of my being and I had to embrace the fact that maybe I wasn’t the pure-hearted guy I believed I was. And when I looked back at my life and my behaviour over the years, I began to understand why things had been how they had been. Some of us struggle to let the light touch our souls, because deep inside we know the darkness is where we truly belong.”

thoughts

~ Cave Dwelling ~

~ Cave Dwelling ~

“Too often I stared into that mirror and felt pitiful and pathetic. That reflection showed me the things I didn’t want to face. I was a gollum, a wretch, a creature belonging to a cave. I had some dirt in my soul I couldn’t get out, but just try to scrub out in futility. I thought I deserved love, but I was sensitive in a world where the cold-hearted were the majority. I had to hide away; to hide myself far away from their piercing eyes. I retreated to the dark spaces to try and survive on the scraps of whatever strength I have left. Within those shadows, I resided myself to a life of loneliness and isolation. I came to realise that some of us are not destined to have inner peace and happiness; we are the broken ones, the lonely, the castouts, the rejects. We are ones that just do not belong to any heart or home. Our lives are ones of tragedy and heartache; of despair and desolation. And yet through all of this, light sometimes finds its way into my cave, offering glimpses of hope for me to crawl out too. The idea that one day I’ll stand back in the daylight; no longer locked away in the darkness, but standing strong and free and accepted for who I am. Finally escaping this internal prison. Finally being free of this living hell.”

pexels-photo-316681

thoughts

~ Words for the Darkness ~

~ Words for the Darkness ~

“Some days the world hits you a little harder when you walk out that front door. Some days you stand on those streets and don’t know which way to turn. Some days the sadness surrounds like a flock of ravens, the words of family and friends can’t help you, and you feel your whole world fade into greyness. We all go through times when the despair and desolation fill our hearts. One thing is certain in life is that we will all spend time in the shadows every now and again. But one thing that will keep us marching through that darkness is the knowledge that new dawns will come, worries will fade – our worlds will light up once again in vivid colour. The energy of the universe is perennial and all around us we witness the glory of things beating the darkness. The dawning sun, the spring flowers, the stars shimmering in the night sky. Your true state at all moments is one of infinite bliss, ready to burst back into life. So don’t be afraid of the dark; it’s merely the canvas upon which the light waits to leave its mark.”

words for the darkness

thoughts

~ An Emergency Within ~

self isolation

~ An Emergency Within ~

“Again I returned to the world of normality and every time I came back, it seemed that the place had gotten more insane than before, or maybe I had – often it was hard to tell. It was true that I was a wreck compared to everyone else. Everyone strolled through life living sane and orderly lives, but meanwhile I could feel the madness scratching away at the inside of my skin. I could feel the world attacking me for who I was. I could hear the sirens screaming inside my skull; cries of horror in the dark alleyways of my mind. I knew deep down that something was wrong with me – something was very wrong with me and my life. I guess like everyone else, I felt like I had a right to belong somewhere in this world. Even if it was just for a short while, I felt like I should have had a taste of home – a taste of what it was like to stare into the eyes of someone who understood me for who I really was. But everywhere I went I was left confused and alienated by what I saw around me. The empty conversations. The mindless conventions. The strange mannequin faces. As time went on, the idea of belonging somewhere in my lifetime increasingly became a distant dream. Some people assured me that everyone had their place in society, but for me that place was seemingly in the solitary shadows, in the sewers and gutters – in the dark rooms of isolation where my heart screamed out for a connection that would just not come.

Sometimes when it all became too much, I looked at the phone and thought of calling for help, but realistically there was no one out there to call. The times I had opened up to others and tried to get close, I had been shrugged off and cast out. I understood that I guess. People had their own problems to deal with and they didn’t need a disaster like me to add to their baggage. Over time I came to realise that my fight was to be a solitary one and one that was probably going to last a lifetime. And yes I can’t lie: at times the idea of giving up becomes desirable, but ultimately something inside will not let myself be murdered by this world without a fight. Like others before me, I will keep searching for whatever strength I can find. Fighting my way through the shadows. Dragging my smouldered, blistered dreams through the flames. Breathing life back into my starving soul. Another scratched and scarred being searching for the daylight that will one day make all this darkness disappear.”