All posts by jeanashbury

From Blood Sisters by Margaret Whittock

Chapter Two

Drip, drip, drip … the sound, regular as a metronome, kept time with the throbbing in Lucinda’s head. Slowly, painfully, she unwound herself from the foetal position she had curled herself into for protection. Hauling her body up against the bed she listened intently, but all she could hear was that irritating noise.
Time to examine the damage: her skull felt stiff and sore where the kicks had hit home, there was a throbbing in her shoulder which made it difficult to raise her arm. Wincing, she touched trembling fingers to her cheekbone: sticky, congealing blood, a lump the size of a golf ball. Experience told her she would have a black eye in the morning. More excuses for the neighbours. What would she say this time … a car accident? She’d already used that one. Fell downstairs? Walked into the door? Each excuse was more ridiculous than the last. What did it matter? Nobody would believe her anyway. They’d all have heard the shouting. But they would pretend to believe her. Things were easier that way. With the passage of time she would believe it herself and that was the most important thing of all.
She limped awkwardly across the landing and listened again. Where had he gone? Finally, the source of the sound: it was the bath tap dripping. With one hand she eased open the bathroom door, her other raised in a gesture of self-defence. No need. He was in the bath, fully clothed, unconscious now from the effects of the alcohol he’d consumed. With each breath he took the water rose a little, slopping over the edge of the bath to the floor where a substantial pool had already formed. The bath tap was still running, ever so slightly, the drips pinging into the already full bath. One part of her began to worry about the pool of water, how it would soak through the floor, staining the newly painted kitchen ceiling below. The other half of her brain concentrated on the comatose figure in the water. How ridiculous he looked, a graceless male Ophelia, his clothes floating out from his bulk like a dark shroud. His chin and mouth were below water level, he breathed noisily through his nose.
Lucinda stood and considered. One little push and he would be under. She’d seen him like this before. He wouldn’t wake up. Some months earlier he’d come home from one of his all-night drinking sessions barely able to stand, incapable of lucid speech. He’d torn off his shirt and thrown himself down on a deckchair in the morning sun. He’d lain there until teatime. When he eventually awoke he was so badly sunburned he’d had to take two weeks off work, covered in some hideous ointment that had made his skin go black and peel off. She’d pretended that she’d tried to waken him but she hadn’t of course: sweet retaliation.
The house was freezing. There must be a heavy frost tonight she thought, registering the icy patterns on the windows; so beautiful, like great crystal roses. She padded across to the bath and looked down at him, hatred and disgust making her stomach churn. The pool of water chilled her feet. It was cold too. She had forgotten to switch on the immersion heater in readiness for his return, the cause of the argument in the first place. Lucinda shivered and bent over the bath. Placing her hands on the top of her husband’s head she began, ever so gently, to push.

Blood Sisters is Margaret Whittock’s second novel. It is currently available as an ebook on Amazon, at:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Sisters-Margaret-Whittock-ebook/dp/B00AM0WG5A

Discover more about the author and her work at:
http://www.darkmournepress.com

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You Inside My Head by Rhianon Ryan

Did you wake up safe today?

did I hell  

Did you shed a tear today?

did I hell

Did you take your pills today?

did I hell

Shall we take our pills today?

go to hell

Let the sky be blue today

what the hell

Put on bright attire today

give ’em hell 

Still the grey is here today

off to hell

In my head i see you now

do you hell!  

Derailed by Kathleen Cornelia

Cleveland, Ohio was not a tourist destination in October of 1966.  The city was a festering sore oozing from the July Hough Race Riots with the pus of its rage exploding throughout the streets.  The Railroad station abutted the gutted Hough, the black section of the city.  White faces had evacuated to the suburbs and further.  Oblivious to anything but jubilation from a weekend of partying at the University of Dayton, I exited my train and searched for my Buffalo bound transfer.  The board read:  “Buffalo: Delayed”  “Expected: 5AM”  It was 10:10PM.

I was white, female and eighteen with “new to travel” written across my face.

The platform emptied except for a grimy guy who seemed to have found something to occupy himself.  Me.

My eyes darted up and down the shuttered doors of the lobby shops until I saw the mecca of a lit diner.  Tugging my weighty suitcase, I scurried ahead aware of feet padding behind me.  Panting, I plopped myself on a stool at the diner counter.   “Grill’s off and we’re closing in 20 minutes” said the waitress. “Got coffee, tea and pop.”  The grimeball seated himself at the end of the counter, eyes glued on me.  I ordered a Pepsi while time ticked away my options.

In the corner phone booth a receiver-less cord dangled from the phone base like a beheaded prisoner. It would be twenty years before people in peril could dial “911” on mobiles.

My panic was interrupted by a male voice behind me.  “Excuse me” but we think you might be in trouble.”  He was an older man about twenty- two or three dressed in khaki trousers, white shirt and a blue bomber jacket.  “We think that guy over there is following you.”  “He is” I blurted out trying to assess how serial killers dress.  After hearing my plight Mr. Clean made me an offer.  “We’re seeing our friend off in five minutes and we think you should leave with us.”  I looked at the corner booth with a uniformed Army guy and another guy in jeans and denim shirt.  I looked back at the searing eyes of Mr. Grimeball.  The denouement behind Door One was apparent. Door Two, unknown.  I tried not to think of my dismembered body as I left with the guys.

Scott, Mr. Clean, dropped off his remaining buddy at an apartment on a street where windows were still in tact.  He turned to me, “How about a tour of Cleveland?”

“Don’t you have to work tomorrow? I questioned him, suspicious of his gallantry.  “I do” was all he replied.  My knees were slamming against each other, my hand grippng the door handle.

At  4:45AM he pulled into the Cleveland Train Terminal.  “God, thanks” I began.  We’re not done yet he said.  The conducter yelled “all aboard”. Scott followed me on the train depositing my suitcase in the rack.  “Promise me one thing” he said, “Don’t ever tell your mother you did this” and he vanished down the platform.

Sudden Death by Rhianon Ryan

SUDDEN DEATH

Night time’s dark is with me

Cold creeps under the blue serge I wear,

As I approach another nameless door

Outside she stands, fear in her eyes

I reassure, splintering glass into the hall

Opening the door.

I rush to what I see,

hear the scream fly past my ears

A man older than her years

Lying prone upon the floor,

His eyes stare cold at me, all life signs ebbed away

His hands once warm have the cold strength of death

His spirit flown.

So as not to take his image home

To haunt my dreams

My hand closes gently his frozen vision,

No pennies to pay old ferryman,

I reach my hand to hers, hold her close

Grief convulses her,

She Ieans to hold the lifeless form

Of her lover, her husband, to say farewell.

The black hats are called

Sudden death hidden in a bodybag

I will see his eyes for several days

And only I will know

I will be expected to forget

But you remember every one …

 

A Walk in the Desert by Jean Ashbury

A dust devil rose from the desert floor like a phantom. It approached with the speed of a Cairo taxi and found me in its way. That morning began with silence so dead I yelled to prove I was still alive. Fog hung over the dunes. Winter chill nipped my nose and stung my fingertips. Around me, slithery trails and birdlike tracks told me desert creatures had checked me out while I slept.

I emerged from my sleeping bag dressed in a week old stink of clothes. I shook my boots and sent scorpions scuttling, tails curled and sting ready, before shoeing my blistered feet. Wood smoke drew me to our dawn campfire. I sat beside it like a half wrapped mummy thawing back to life. Over gallons of sugary tea, Mahjdi and his desert ‘commandos’ discussed the day. Our walk to the White Desert near the oasis of Farafra would be long, exposed, and incinerator hot so we must fill up like camels before heading out.

“You OK?” Mahjdi looked at me with concern.

I’d been trouble all week, passing out with dehydration, and whining about sunburnt lips, heat rash and bruises from camels. All week his espresso coloured eyes had asked, Why did you come? To unclog my brain was my silent answer. I was convinced that ten days on the Great Desert Circuit from Luxor to Cairo, stopping off at four oases to walk in the desert and sleep under the stars would do the trick. Just a tough holiday, I thought. But in Luxor, the guides’ briefing to our small band of trekkers rang alarms—“Drink, pee, drink. Cover up or you’ll fry. Don’t wander off anywhere. This is the Western Desert, not the Costa del Sol.”

When they finished, I realized I was on an ‘expedition’. Days were spent walking between dunes where footsteps left no trace. Where we went looked like where we’d come from, and every dune appeared the same. My skin flaked like old bark, and my constant mirage was cold beer with condensation running down the glass.

We set out that morning in icy light. Mahjdi was on straggler duty with me and my camel, a beast the colour of bleached rope with burnt tufts. Though slowest in the pack, her lolloping gait was still too fast for me. I kept in step with the spindly calf toeing behind as if in high heeled shoes. Midday heat shooting off the thermometer caught us strung out on the razor edge of a crescent dune. One sleek side sloped to the ground, glassy crystals glinting amid golden grains of sand. The other side rippled with waves as the seashore does when the tide flows in. Some poetry sprang to mind, but this was no time for words. I guzzled tepid water and taking my boots off soothed my feet in sugary sand cool as the sea.

Shimmering heat haze guided us to the White Desert. Light, diamond hard, played on giant white monoliths, mushroom sculptures and creamy boulders strewn on a bed of sand the colour of cooked pastry. It could have been a meringue cake made by gods. I sat beside my hobbled camel eating falafels (chick pea fritters) and listened to the rushing wind. That same wind had sculpted these chalky shapes when an ancient sea floor dried up. Beside me, sea shells from millenia ago stuck out from a limestone wall. I picked up a fossil of polished black stone spiky like a mace, my souvenir of time past.

And then they came—a corps de ballet of dust spouts and with a principal dancer, desert gatekeepers demanding an entry fee.

Djinns. Spirits of people dead in the desert. They will pass Insha’Allah,” said Mahjdi.

Tucked into the side of my camel, I remembered the houses and telegraph poles I’d seen sticking out under marching dunes, and hoped Mahjdi’s Allah would be merciful. Whooshing threats to bury me, the djinns rained over for a lifetime with a blizzard of grit and sand. When they were spent, my eyes, ears, nose and every part of me was filled with sand. Not the soft mush of sandcastles, but sharp particles of rock that turned me into human sandpaper, scraping and grating between teeth, between legs and under armpits.

I was alive, though, and I thought I heard the universe click. I’d beaten the desert.

Later, at peace in my musty sleeping bag, I recalled legends I’d read about the Western Desert, of lost armies and mythical creatures. I watched the sky turn pink then orange then become black and clustered with stars. I felt every tingle in the air, and just before I fell asleep, I added my legend to the list—I was here.

Old Bully Grief by Caroline McCarthy

Old Bully Grief

My grief saw me skateboarding at the supermarket

She peered at me through thick lenses

She asked what the hell I was doing

Sliding past the pickles

Over cavernous cracks in the floor

My grief watched as I locked eyes with the god at the end of the bar

She hid in silence as my eyes followed the curve of his glorious buttocks

Then she fell on me in a storm

Barged her dank breath into my face

And sent me out into the street

Wailing

A child lost in a hurricane

My grief waited as I hid under my fuscia feather duvet

Too warm on my face

Turning the bright grey daylight

Into an embryonic hue

A sack for keeping my weeping in

Floating along a toxic canal of emptiness and pain

Torn by a scream

A harsh reminder

That life must go on.