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I sit back, enjoying the gentle chug of the train as it pulls out of the station, steel wheels gathering momentum as it makes its way towards the future. I consider putting in my headphones but decide I’d rather listen to what freedom sounds like, if only for a little while before the exhaustion of the day’s events takes me. My hands begin to tremble as the thought of them reminds me of the hell of the last year. Never mind, it’s over now... it’s over.
I wince as I close my eyes, instinctively putting a hand to the swollen one, the bruise already forming. It’ll draw attention but I’ll just say it was a trip and a fall, they won’t question it, why would they? And I’ll never get another, I’ve made sure of that, not now, not ever. All that’s behind me and the world’s brand new...
Second hand reality
Take a trip down memory lane, your memories, his, hers, anyone's, or just smell the flowers, feel the breeze, walk in the rain, all from the comfort of your own home. Memory streaming. The invention of the age and we all swooped on to bring it to an eager public, our adverts gliding and jostling, an intricate puzzle of pixels all seeking that space, all vying for attention. Me, me, chose me
We are The Magic Eye company. See it all, experience it all. Never mind if the colours are faded, the memories dull. Never think about what happens when there are no more memories made to share.
Outside the sun shines, the wind blows, the rain falls flowers bloom and blaze, the dew on the grass, a scattering of diamonds. All unseen.
Jeremy wasn’t built for intervening in fights. His stomach was soft, his skin pasty and any bravery he once possessed had disappeared with his hair.
Ear pressed to the dirtied wallpaper he could feel the tension rising in the room next door. A familiar knot of anxiety sat in his belly. How many times had he sat like this? But this time he was a man. He should act.
He flinched away from the meaty sound of a hand striking flesh. Half surprised the blow wasn’t aimed at him. The door closed and not gently either. This wasn’t the script he was familiar with.
Pulling the faded net curtain aside he watched the woman teeter and nearly trip as she lugged a suitcase towards the waiting taxi. As she climbed in their eyes met for a moment and she stopped realizing he’d been there all along. Scorn crossed her face.
Megan put the last of the snacks on the table. She had thirty minutes to get dolled up. She struggled with the zip cursing Stuart for being late. The doorbell rang downstairs.
"Idiot, he's forgotten his key again."
She opened the front door but it was Mike and Lisa.
"Sorry we're a bit early Meg, mix up with the taxi."
"Not to worry, go through to the kitchen, there's drinks and nibbles. Stuart will be home soon.
More guests arrived, still no sign of Stuart. Megan was getting worried and he wasn't answering his phone.
Suddenly the lights went out and people screamed.
" Don't panic it's just the trip switch, it's always doing that," said Megan reassuringly. She reached up and flicked the switch back on. She saw Stuart in the hall mirror behind her.
"About time too."
She turned to give him a birthday kiss, but he was gone.
A Summer Departed
Where shall we go on a trip, my dear? The summer is here, waiting for us to appear in its adventures. We must hurry, it likes to end soon. I know that whenever I travel, you are always there with me.
Shall we visit Verona, its streets perfect for our walks? Or maybe we should see Taj Mahal, the story behind is sad. Perhaps we should wander to Grand Canyon, observing its magnificence. There is so much to choose from and more, the world is our oyster. Yes, whenever I travel, you are always there with me.
What am I doing? You are no more, I should be honest. I put your ashes in my amulet on the necklace I wear. I carry it with me to remember what I lost. I should move on, I can't.
Whenever I'll travel, you will be always there with me.
Wish I'd Never Asked...
‘How was our trip, Bertie? Well, the night before the trip, the electric trips – typical! I’m sent off on a hunt for the trip switch, while Karen flies off on a power trip about how she’ll keep the trip documents ‘cause she’s ‘the sensible one’. It was more of an ego trip really, if you ask me. I’m the one who’s paid the whole bleeding thing. Anyway, once we got that under control, next thing she – ‘the sensible one’s’ tripped on the stairs and taken a tumble – well, wasn’t that another trip – this time up the A&E! That’s the rest of the evening spent there; whole trip -cancelled. She canny move her foot. Doc says bed rest and no trip altogether. Aye right, says I. I’ll be having a trip of me trip – a trip down the pub! So here I am, an’ after them 24 hours – it’s your round.’
The Infernal Mechanism of Night
In the vagaries of twilight, beneath a sky framed by the decayed stones of a ruined tower and studded by the first stars of evening, an unholy gathering met.
A fire was lit. The ceremony begun. Chanting figures dressed in robes, arms raised aloft, processed stately around the fire. On stopping the company fell silent; the black walls of the ruin were silent; the night sky was silent; and the sounds of nature, conspicuous by their absence, left a ghostly hush.
A priest, with a goat's skull raised to the heavens, called out to the circling spirits and Satan himself, demanding attention.
In that moment, the sense of awe in the proceedings changed to one of fear. Something said, an alignment of signs and symbols, the coming together of forces unknown and unknowable, made trip the vast and infernal mechanism of night and unleashed the forces of darkness.
The colours illuminated, the whites too bright for my eyes to filter. Grass tickling my legs as I step through the endless layers of twigs. Record player screeching the House of the Rising Sun.
Let the sun burn my eyes, let it touch my thighs. Pulsating the walls is the come up, the sun's coming up, it's time to let go.
The clouds are forming, binding, blocking out the sun, the rain dampens my ecstatic skin. Giggling, laughing, is this happiness I feel, electrifying every square inch of my body.
Where do you run? Where do you run to, baby? It's time to leave, the sun comes down, the darkness awaits. Dance, if you wanna, don't want to hear you say goodbye.
A 12 hour trip, body; a whiter shade of pale, the adventure of a lifetime. The record player halts. Is that the death rattle I hear?
Of Course I'm Listening
You said… the woman in the stilettos reminds you of mum—
Ok ok, and you’re getting Vertigo.
Stop looking down at the tiny cars, then.
Move back from the edge! Put your glass here… on the table.
Mmm… Warm sun… Champagne bubbles...
Oh, those voices. All the time… Stacey, they say, don’t buy that dress it ripples your flab… Stacey, not the—
I am listening.
Yeah we’ve seen her, stiletto-woman… and her yapping Chihuahuas?
I do get you! They don’t bother me, that’s all.
I don’t want to argue.
Oh my god. You pushed it off!
The Chihuahua! Off the ledge...
What d’you mean a trip into silence! You’re insane!
S**t. She’s on the phone.
Ok, breathe… Walk to the door… slowly.
No, she’s not watching us. No, she won’t notice one girl slipping out.
Are you even listening to me, Stacy?
With So Much Having Changed
He hears her, the sound of the gate travelling faintly down the path at the side of the house. He had hoped she was around. It was why he'd made the trip.
She appears through the shade wearing a white summer dress and sandals that wind their way up her ankles.
"Two days," she says. "Two days and I'm the one who calls."
He smiles; throws off his workman's gloves and picks up his shirt. "I've been busy."
"I know," she says sympathetically. "Is it done now?"
"Because I can go--"
He puts his shirt on. It's warm, heated by the sun that bakes the grass yellow. He frowns. "Your hair," he says.
She laughs. "There are people at school who never knew me blonde. Do you like it?"
"I do," he says. "It's the exact colour of milk chocolate."
Come on love, put your hands on my shoulders, that’s it, do you remember our first Foxtrot? Follow me. That’s it.
She remembers; a day trip, Chapel St. Leonards, sixty-seven years ago, no recollection of waking up twelve minutes ago.
That’s it, keep coming, they had a decent band didn’t they?
She remembers the bandleader’s pencil moustache and the skinny trumpeter winking at her. Her blue satin shoes. Saving up for them from her tips. And Mrs Taplow the salon’s manageress, taught her how to do perms, remembers her yellow teeth.
Keep coming, you always were a lovely mover. Nearly there. What were the band playing that day? Yes that’s it, Dancing Cheek to Cheek; shall I hum it? There almost there.
She ignores the coldness of the commodes plastic seat. He lowers her gently on. There can you manage? She’s nodding yes, but to a completely different question.
Thunder growls and rumbles across the ebony skies. Seconds later brilliant bursts of light illuminate the cityscape immediately followed by an almighty crack as if Zeus himself had just fired a celestial shotgun.
I love a good thunderstorm it cleanses the atmosphere of toxic negativity. The enchanting paradox of all that crackling static energy suddenly exploding, set against the soothing steady rhythm of raindrops beating against various surfaces.
Another grumble grows and rolls ominously just as a huge, pure white, bolt viciously slices through belly of the night sky. An ear-shattering clap rends the air, it's as if the heavens themselves were splitting in two. Simultaneously all the lights in the house extinguish.
Spontaneous raw power has flipped the grid's trip switch plunging a whole city into darkness. The deeper velvety blackness enhances the unfolding spectacle.
I watch and listen as nature roars, flickers and beats across her domain.
The sky was as black as a crow's eye when he finally dared to venture outside. Careful not to trip over piles of rubble and bodies, he hurried along, eyes scanning the road ahead.
At the crossroads he waited, momentarily disorientated by the absence of familiar landmarks. No longer did the hideous, Twisted Tower skewer the market place, or the pompous fountain splash into the Chancellor's garish flower garden. All gone. All destroyed so easily.
Left or right? Did it matter which way you walked when you could go anywhere? His guts rumbled the answer. Food. He was hungry. Where would he find food?
Supermarket silence. No irritating, cacophony of sound assailing his ears like during normal weekly shops. Or queues of annoying people blocking his way. He laughed, stuffing chocolate bars in his jacket pocket - free gifts.
They'd all been wrong...being the only person alive worked just fine.
Mrs and Mr Smith
The forge is the white heat of her forehead and of her clenched hand crushing his. It is the stoking breaths and the deep push.
It is their dry mouths. It is bile, burning with words unsaid. Here, the trip-hammer of their hearts pounds a truth yet to be quenched. One beat shaping it, another wishing it destroyed.
And forged by these labours, the first cry of a newborn rises; fashioned by a wife who cannot confess and a husband who already knows.
What stories can you tell? What moments do you hold? Which ones do you treasure in your heart? Perhaps you smile, or laugh, or wish to experience them all over again. Can your stories of adventures enthral the listener? When you're old and grey, surrounded by grandchildren what stories will you have to tell? What about the time you dived into a blue desert, only to discover radiant coral reefs. With fish colours never seen before, and water that danced with honeycombed light. Or maybe, the time you went off road in China, discovering a little town holding a lantern festival. Sitting on a river bank, tell them how red paper stars floated past. So go on a journey, a trip, an adventure. Experience what you never thought possible. After all, we are only just stories in the end.
Two days worth of wondering found themselves in the middle of a forest; they were probably around the outskirts of Germany right now. It had started as a road trip to Belgium, but it was clear that they missed their destination. Yet the group wasn't worried, company was pleasant with cheery music and random foods and drinks that would last them for days.
They had to get back to France before Sunday, work was calling and they were clearly lost. Anxiety began to spread, it was already Friday and they were probably farther away from home than before.
It took a day to find the way back, it took another to speed home. Tired and exhausted, the group showed up to work Monday with the intention to pay off their trip expenses, including the final ticket at the end.
My ice creams tastes like chalk
Turning past the shabby ice cream vendors cabin and the fluttering begins. Seagulls overhead ever hopeful for scraps wheel and, to mind, incant reward with their joust. Memory jars as my wheels rut and judder.
Locked in flailing against insistent progress panic holds. A voice behind "there, there we'll change that pad later". I hoot back. So near, there in sight high cliffs and sea grabbing at them (LOOK) I am back at their junction. Hungry again. I want ice cream . I want someone to understand my joy. Not interpret it.
I am being moved on, slowly, after my 600 mph trip that broke me here.
The kids fought. The cat hissed. The sun shone and the milk fell. The tea brewed. Bag by the door. Bucket and spade hanging out. A row of coaches. The window seat. Colouring books and crosswords. Snacks and fizzy juice.
The wind blows. The waves churn. The sand is scooped in the bucket and gets to be a castle for twenty minutes before being kicked into a thousand pieces, shapeless and nothing without the beauty of family and laughter touching his life.
“Ticket for one please, ticket man”.A trip down Reminiscence Street.
Something dropped to the floor with a clatter. The sound reverberated around the silent room for what felt like an age. In pitch black, every noise seemed louder than it would have done if the lights were on. I groped my way blindly to the door, taking small, cautious steps. I didn’t want to stumble over whatever I’d knocked down and, being honest, I wasn’t totally certain I wanted to go into the hall.
My eyes began to adapt to the darkness. I could just make out my keys on the floor. They must have been what caused the din. I stooped to pick them up, although was not really sure why, as I had no intention of unlocking the front door.
Fumbling my way out of the kitchen, I felt my way through the gloom until, squinting, I found the fuse box. I flicked the trip switch. Light! Safety.
"Take this," He said. "It'll make you feel good."
So I did. I took the tab from his sweaty palm, and swallowed it down before I could come to my senses. When I woke up, it seemed all my senses had been come to me instead, but worse. Wherever I looked there was a kaleidoscope of colours, dancing in my twisted vision. My head spun like a merry go round, except it was nothing like being at the playground as a child. Distorted music screamed in my ears and blurry faces leered at me, laughing. I could smell the pungent B.O on these wild, self-indulgent teenagers. The nausea rose up in my throat. I collapsed down onto the floor, and the last thing I could remember were people I barely knew crowding around me and whispering, "She's having a bad trip. Just a bad trip."
Trip of a Lifetime
The sign was small, curling up at the edges in the newsagent window. I paused and read it twice.
'All expenses paid. First Class.' There was a number to call, so I did. Anything to start again, to forget you. They gave me instructions to pack light and meet them at the station. I got there early, until a man appeared, and gave me a cold smile.
'Are you sure you want to do this?' he asked. He didn't really care.
'Yes.' I had nothing to lose.
He sat beside me and I watched the tiny houses chug by. I hoped it wouldn't hurt.
'Trip of a lifetime,' the sign had said. I felt scared, but it was a one-way ticket, and there was no escape. At least my tiny life would benefit mankind.
'Donate yourself to science' was printed on the van at the station. It was dark inside.
The Secrets of Confusing Musing
Confusing musing is being a bit melodramatic.
Confusing musing is to trip, on that golden path to knowing what the hell to do with the rest of your life.
Confusing musing is being 22 and three-quarters and be here bumming around the house, unemployed and seeing your friends living your dream.
That's confusing musing.
I did try. Believe me. I did try.
But, confusing musing is 10 failed short-listed interviews.
Confusing musing is my mental state now showing in unladylike unhygienic-ness.
Hello, shower, once a day. And, that’s all you need to know.
As long as I don’t smell funny, I’m fine.
Oh to be confusing musing!
Now, is that even a word? Who cares?
I walked past the mirror the other day.
'Hello, confusing musing'.
'You look beautifully, craze-zingly confused'.
I realize now, I am but a measly muse of confused.
And...that's confusing musing.
Tonight she closes the curtains to block out the night. For the first time in eighteen years the room is empty; the birds sleep in another place. Her hands tremble as she pulls the heavy drapes to mark the end of the first act. She worries they’ll no longer know their parts without her. Amy might be ok; her mile wide smile can charm the gruffest strangers. But little Katie trips over words as if they were paving stones.
Sounds of absence fill her head. The ticking clock replaces ear-splitting music and chatter like a swarm of bees. No more cheap scent pollutes the air disguising the whiff of rotten food. No discarded clothes trail to unmade beds. Everything is straight and neat as if she’d rubbed the girls out and started again.
As the tears come she longs for mess and noise and baby soft kisses.
As One Door Closes
Marcus looked at her, silent.
"I'm going away to put all of this behind me; a trip to New England."
"Wonderful idea," he said, taken aback.
She reached out, touched his arm. "Perhaps... you might come? I need some company right now."
"Well... perhaps. I might find inspiration for my work out there?"
She kissed him shyly on the cheek. "Oh, thanks Marcus. Listen, I'll call you next week."
"Take care, Bethany." He squeezed her hand. "Don't dwell on him, will you?"
She laughed sadly. "That's why I need distractions... far off places." She turned to go.
"'Bye then... until New England!"
She turned and waved, the sharp wind whipping at her loose coat.
Squinting into the sunlight, he glimpsed the coppery strands shimmering in her hair. As a curious jolt to his soul, he realised how much he was looking forward to joining her.
One Person At a Time
So, you think you can just trip into my world, turn my life and my thoughts upside down, invade my principles and my routine, occupy my already busy mind when I am supposed to be working, when I am supposed to be looking after my children and husband, elderly parents and disabled sister, when I am supposed to have enough to do without your pitiful presence.
But here you are, gnawing at my conscience. There must be something I can do. You don't want money, you want food. You want to work and to feel worthwhile. How can you feel anything but useless as you sit there in your wretchedness?
Here - take these. They belong to my father - he's giving them to charity. Here's a wash-bag. There's a sink in the shed at the end of my garden. Use it.
Can you garden? You did? You're hired. Off the street.
Trip of a Lifetime
He could hear her at the door and as usual, he shut his eyes, not to feign sleep but to exclude, to not witness. He let himself drift. The yellow lights of the tram in smog, the scratch-mark down his cheek on his first day at school. Twenty years later he’d marry her and ten years after that she’d leave him. His daughter would never recover and he would bury her at the bottom of her heroin descent. Thereafter his own life would snake down the board, through weekend binges, job loss and social isolation to house-bound decrepitude.
Time to engage. He opened his eyes. She was there, the bastard daughter of his bastard of a son. She would have had time to sneak a fiver from his wallet.
‘A wee trip down Memory Lane, Grandad?’
‘Trip of a lifetime,’ he said. Platitudes were so convenient sometimes.
A night in the forest
The shadows moved slowly towards the two long lumps attached to me. Legs, I remind myself, but don’t I normally only have two? This evening I had something in the region of four, at least three of them flickered out of sight when I tried to focus.
Where am I? I know the answer but I don’t know why I was in a forest wearing only a cape which a part of my brain assures me didn’t exist. But it hardly matters as the shadows are going reach me very soon.
The shadows are not black now, they are like fire burning through my eyes blinding me from the figures. I hear a voice off in the distance but closer than a lover’s, “Dude I told you not to eat those Shrooms before dinner, enjoy the trip I’m starving. I’ve left a note in case you forget who you are.”
I spotted her outside the restaurant, already seated at a table for two. She looked just like the picture, although perhaps with a little more lipstick and a little less patience. I called out, which both drew her attention to me and drew my attention from the uneven ground.
It wasn’t a quick trip, where you stumble a bit, but ultimately end up upright and a bit pink. No, the thing went on forever, and even as I flailed my arms and grabbed at nothingness, I had time to recognise the futility of my body’s reflexive response.
Around me, the restaurant patrons became increasingly interested and diagonal. What horrific life choices (they mused) had I made to end up here, as The Ridiculous Tripping Man?
I landed finally, having made some pretty grand decisions about the direction of my life’s course.
First step was to leave the area.
Sandy has seen her, of course, from her creaky wicker chair outside on the lawn. She’s all smiles, pink hair and studs running up her ears. Fluffing cushions, opening windows, helping with crosswords, closing windows. The new girl with the old people.
‘It’s lunchtime, Mrs Cornfield.’ She stands with a tray. ‘Potato and leek soup.’
The rhythmic clacking of knitting needles stops, and she nods at the girl.
She places the tray on the table. ‘There’s still time to sign up for the trip to Dover castle.’
Forced joviality, squashed in a bus, shuffling around dark, dank walls, drinking overpriced tea.
‘Nearly everyone else is going. Won’t you be lonely here by yourself?’
She looks up at the shapes of clouds drifting across the pale blue sky and shakes her head, a smile pulling around her mouth.
As kids we always joked about the trip from hell. Our annual cross country vacation that left us exhausted and our parents on the brink of divorce. It wasn't until they ended that we truly appreciated them.
Mom melted into dad's arm as we burned down the highway. Having no AC in the car made the back seat unbearable. They say that hardship makes people bond. In our case it was true. After all those years, we finally came together as a family.
The rush of water fought valiantly to smother the flames.
For hours the tanker burned like the lake of fire itself. Even after the fire was out, the melted car resembled the carcass of some metal beast.
The fire Marshall sifted through the remains. He found four skeletons, connected by a pool of melted skin, muscle, and blood.
At least they died together.
What I see
The Venetian blinds had cut the light into neat little lines and you tripped over, over one of them and landed in my eyes.
This is why I still see you, two little men splashing in the blue wading pools of my iris.
As much as I try to explain these are not tears, that I do not miss you, you are the speck in my eye, the double click of memory, the smell of your shoes I trip over in the room I cannot clean.
Y'all stare at me like the language I speak is a trick of the light, a sleight of hand, a trip down a road we stay clear of because of that monster that urges us to trip, tripping on what we shout we do not want but what rocks us like the final thud of a heart that no longer beats.
But this time, there were no old ladies. The one beggar woman doesn’t even seem to be putting any effort into her begging. She too was going through the motions. There were no kids selling tissues and gum, which was a relief because that means they must be in school. But I almost wanted those kids there. They were sure to bring life to the lifeless. I missed the laughter, kids playing tag and futbol in front of Al Aqsa and through the souq. I wanted to run back out the Gate and go back to the school children on the field trip. I wanted that bright feeling I felt when I was passing them by.
Dragging it out
Maurice, having been found guilty in his sleep of not using his head to the newly required levels, woke up to find it clamped. This made getting out of bed awkward, and put a serious kink in the rest of his morning routine.
Following some light research on his phone - neck at a painful angle the whole while, still in his night-shirt - he discovered that to have it removed it would have to make a trip to his local Post Office, be assessed, and then maybe it might be taken off. It was better than nothing.
Previously a dense and insular individual, Maurice's arduous and agonising trek to the Post Office opened his eyes. He was quite literally seeing the world in a wholly new way. The Maurice who arrived was not the same who had been clamped.
And, seeing this, they had the clamp removed.
The change didn't stick.
The Walls Are Always Whiter
"This town square reminds me of Rome."
"How would you know? You've never been."
Daniele is always quick to remind me that he is far more well-travelled.
"We could go next Summer."
Ignoring my suggestion, he replied: "The walls are whiter in Rome."
I tried a different route.
"Have you seen The Trip?"
This time my question went unanswered. Daniele's attention had turned to a crumpled map of Faro. After puzzling over it for a minute, he suggested we try the local archaeological museum; half-heartedly, I agreed.
Across the street, a mandarin fell to the pavement.
A Nightly Protest
The walk along the dock was never silent. Sprightly waves whispered while stroking pilings. Breaths from amorphous drafts of wind sifted through the dark. Last night, a strong storm lifted bouquets of seaweed onto the pine of the walkway and the desiccated remnants littered the path. Step-by-step, with my back presented to the ocean, I lowered into the water. Its chilly tendrils enveloped my legs, grasping towards my shoulders. I turned around. I swam directly out from the shore with my neck shackled in the immense sea, towards the green light of a navigation mark. Completing the nightly ritual, I touched the mark and returned to the house at the beginning of the pier. The trip was necessary. It was a steadfast anchor against the wiles of brutish nature, a protest against its capricious temperament. It was a declaration of domain over an action that the cosmos would not impede.
Foreign Cities at Night-TIme
They’re intoxicated by foreign cities at night-time. Once a mutual, dormant fetish; they’ve unlocked each other’s souls and cultivated this passion for the strange and dark.
Something in the way the rain falls in Paris. When, in England, was grey so glamorous? Berlin: an acceptable seedy. They swim nude in the Mediterranean, touch beneath the water. In these places they are someone. They are anyone else.
He orders beers in German, Negronis in Italian. She says ‘thank you’ in fourteen languages. Quiet streets ring with their clinical pronunciation. They shout and laugh in nightclubs. Later, in alleyways, there are softer sounds.
Laughter is the same the world over – but so is that lull between 6.30 and 7.30pm. This is when their trips begin, in the midst of post-work, uncanny quiet. Incognito. Sunglasses and coffee and small bites of sweet pastry. The locals are taking showers all over the city.
Trip-hop, D&B, curtains drawn all day. Words with bite said lightly like sun, silences between saying more. Rumours about some guy from college and something they did at a party that I don't understand.
See how she sits on the bus with her knees high. Crafts a greasy rollie on her lap, fingernails bitten to fleshy pink stubs. Headphones on, face an ocean that keeps its secrets so well you don't even know they're there. Eyelashes oily black and beautiful.
I creep into her room. I am methodical in my observations. Album titles, make-up brands, monochrome magazine photographs fixed up with tape. That stuff she puts in her hair that makes it stiff and rough like seaweed strings.
I have it all now, a whole inventory of her. I try to cloak myself in it. But my own red skin always creeps out and betrays me like a treacherous tongue.
My neighbour is mad. Her name is Brenda. She calls me a whore and says she has told the Queen I am bad. The Queen is cross. Brenda tells me the walls know my sad sins.
I smile with sympathy at this woman with her soft white curls and bright eyes and want to reach out to her but she sees me as she believes me.
I’m watching her now shouting madly from a window that she’s a prisoner and that her passport is missing. ‘Help!’ she’s screaming.
Her eyes fall on me and she recoils.
‘YOU have my passport,’ she hisses. ‘You want me to die here.’
Arms encircle her and drag her back. There’s a scuffle and shouts and then the window slams shut. I resume my reading.
Brenda comes running at me, a knife raised. I’m rooted.
Then a trip, a fall, she screams and I scream.
Sign Number One: The apartment door was flung wide open, nearly ripped off its hinges.
Sign Number Two: It looked like a windstorm had blown through the interior, not a single item left undisturbed.
Sign Number Three: There was a slight, cloying scent of bleach, nearly undetectable. But not quite.
Sign Number Four: He looks up, pale-faced, when he hears you come in and freezes in his tracks.
Sign Number Five: He gives a chilling smile before saying, “Oh, Lizzie? She just went on a… trip…”
It had proved to be extraordinarily difficult, far more so than she'd expected. Every morning George checked their bank statements online and could account for every penny spent. Not that he was a parsimonious husband, in fact he could be extremely generous. But he was careful, liked to know where he stood.
So booking the flights, hotel, theatres and restaurants had become a loving exercise in subterfuge, of shifting money, hiding emails and yes, telling outright lies in order to conceal her meticulous plans. But she'd done it, hidden the packed suitcase...only twenty four hours to go.
George's letter on the mantelpiece caught her totally unawares. It seemed he'd been spying on her machinations all along: as she was apparently planning to desert him he'd decided to jump ship first and was off to her sister's country hideaway.
Thelma's ruby anniversary 'Trip of a Lifetime' plan had seriously backfired.
It's dark down here.
The thing about darkness is that it makes you feel safe in the light. When I was in my way home, the night tripped over the morning and fell onto my lap and now I can touch it if I stretch my fingers. The sky is allover me, covering my skin. The stars are flying before my eyes lighting my face, I hold my breath for a second and then I inhale them all. I can feel them pushing through my veins turning my blood onto silver.
The morning light is waiting for me at the end of my trip but the tunnel is dark and I like it here.
Here lays the soul of my old self; may she rest in darkness.
"I don't want to wake up," I say, " I don't want to wake up" I repeat.
He turned the volume up, she saw his eyes light up as the music filled the car. They were both drunk, but not on alcohol. It had been a beautiful evening. They'd met all their school friends and reminisced all about their childhood. It had been a long time since she had taken such a trip down the memory lane. She didn't need to anymore, her first ever friend was sitting right next to her and she knew she had him for life.
She leaned towards him and kissed him on the cheek, making him grin immediately. He pulled over on the side of the highway and looked at her. He chose to go on a trip too - to that first reunion they had had after school. She had kissed him on the cheek on this same highway then, for the first time, and the rest was history.
We'd been waiting for weeks but finally the day arrived. How excited as we climbed aboard the coach for the trip of a lifetime. Confidence was sky high. This was what we had trained for. It would not be easy, we'd need to keep our feet on the ground, use our heads. We'd be faced by any number of challenges and have to tackle them as they arose.
So, were we prepared for the final event?
Several times we found ourselves cornered but in our defence showed solidarity. We were shooting for the top prize, more than ready to attack and felt we could strike at any moment. Tension was at fever pitch and we just needed a little extra time to achieve our goal but in the last minute.
A blatant trip the referee said flashing me a red card and pointing to the penalty spot.
The Devil's Punch Bowl
“Okay, I’ll do it?” I agreed because I was 13 and she was pretty.“I was just kidding, please get down from there.”“You shouldn’t have dared me if you didn’t want me to do it.” Fool-hearted logic from a young boy feeling his first real surge of testosterone.“You’ll trip and die,” she pleaded. Her red hair swayed with the wind and I felt alive for the first time in my young life.So I did it.And she was wrong. I didn’t die and my hospital stay was rather pleasant. They spoon fed me Jello every day.Sometimes I run my fingers over the lines of my scars as I watch my two young sons fall asleep.I wonder what they’ll do one day for love and I pray that they’ll survive it.
My psychotherapist – seeing me to the door after our sixtieth session – advised me to conduct a personal experiment. “Try one new thing every day,” he said. “Novel experiences will break your routine and distract you from your depression.” I handed him three £20 notes, whereupon he gave me £10 change back.
At home, in bed by 8pm, I racked my brain to recall activities that I hadn’t performed before: Stealing cars? Assaulting a stranger? Setting a banknote on fire? Unwilling to get up, I reached for my wallet and my cigarette lighter. Ten pounds – twenty tabloids, ten chocolate bars, four bottles of beer, one trip to the cinema – turned into dust. The money went up in smoke. So did my carpet. My curtains also caught fire. I heard the sirens of a fire truck in the distance. I screamed for help.
Later, the police came to arrest me for treason.
“Come trip the light fantastic with me,” he said.
“I’ll need more than your sweet talk to persuade me,” she replied.
“A cruise then, the Med, c’mon Brenda.”
She didn’t take much more persuading and before the summer was over they were floating around the Greek Islands waltzing and foxtrotting at every stop. Brenda in her silver dancing shoes and off the shoulder gowns. He in his patent leathers, bowties and tuxedo. They did indeed cut a fine couple.
When Jed twisted his ankle climbing to the remains of The Lionheart’s castle on the island of Symi it threw them for a loop. “What’ll we do Brend?” he wailed, sitting under the vine canopy at the outdoor bar sipping a cold Mythos beer.
“Like you, I’ll just have to soldier on Jed,” she said, looking in the direction of Andreas, who just that morning had taught her to Zorba.
All in time
Valuable Time tourists!
Unified Timelines welcomes you on board Moment 3000 timecruiser. We strive to provide a lifetime experience for our customers.
However, kindly keep in mind that following actions violate International Timecodex laws.
1. Attempts to kill yourself, your grandfather, Hitler or the inventor of the first time machine.
2. Attempts to smuggle vibrating sex toys to Middle Ages.
3. Attempts to bring back un-hatched dinosaur eggs.
4. Attempts to conceive a child with ANYONE from the past or future. (Einstein's sperm is available at Time Free Shops across the Timeport.)
5. Attempts to inscribe your initials/football scores/winning lottery numbers ANYWHERE.
6. Attempts to use alcohol and/or other substances from ANY timeline on board the cruiser. (Roman wines and Aztec drugs may be purchased as souvenirs after the trip.)
Unified Timelines wishes you a pleasant journey!
All in time. All on time.
The dying art of conversation
She can’t sleep. She struggles out of bed and logs on.
Light floods in, endless luminosity. God-like, coaxing her into existence.
No messages. Send one. She sends three, though they aren’t really who she’s after. Too short, too sporty, after No Strings. Anyway they’ll think she’s desperate, messaging at three in the morning.
She returns to her crumpled bed, tussles on through the night. Daylight comes. She drags on her jeans, takes a trip to the newsagent. Yawning, heavy-eyed. Picks up a newspaper, some chocolate.
He’s first at the counter. “After you,” he grins.
Around her age, dishevelled. Nice face, soft grey eyes. Stale aftershave, coffee on his breath. It’s not unpleasant.
She pays. Hurries out of the shop.
Log on, one message. Love your lips, so sexy. I just want to kissssss them. XXXXX
She should talk to men in shops. Next time she will speak.
Mystery Box Challenge
Let's take a trip to the Masterchef kitchen now as the finalists face their toughest challenge yet...
“Chefs! It's time to open your mystery boxes and find out what you'll be cooking with!”
Gregg's eyes are wild with practised zeal.
“That's right Gregg! Two beautiful dishes, one hour!”
The pair sidle over to Kevin's work station. The dentist from Truro has been wowing the judges with his Eastern take on French classics.
“What have ya got there Kev?”
“Err it's, oh God it's...my wife's head...”
Kevin's box contains puy lentils, heritage carrots and his wife's severed head.
“You look a little daunted there Kev, what are ya gonna do?”
“Oh Jesus God...I have no idea, Olivia! Baby, oh Christ....”
Kevin's hands shake as he takes up his oven cloth.
“I could braise the cheeks and maybe pickle the carrots with some star anise and ginger?”
Nancy had been told that she would go far in life. Under the assumption that the fortune teller meant her career, graduating and working her way up the career ladder until she reached the top.
She didn't realize how misleading words could be until one trip to Australia changed her view of what was meant.
It was never the plan to participate, her friends gave her no choice but to do it. Running the marathon was something she never thought she would enjoy, never being one who enjoyed exercise.
But that day, along side her friends, she realized that it wasn't as bad when she had them alongside her. From that day, Nancy began to take part in more marathons and soon she was stood holding the gold medal in her hand with a proud smile on her face.
I have a fresh blue notepad and a shiny new silver pen. I've got the best intentions, I want to be a writer!
For inspiration I make a trip to the beach and the shimmering expanse of ocean brings a smile to my face.
I shall sit and create wonderful characters, I think, and then sand flies into my eyes, children around me begin to cry in unison and a dog humps my leg.
Maybe the park will be better; it’s peaceful, I reason. I shall find a spot, sit and work from a great title. The daisies and dandelions seem receptive to this, swaying from side to side in the grass like an encouraging chorus. Perfect, I say aloud, but then before I can sit, I stand in something I shouldn't and a mosquito begins to suck my face.
I sigh and realise, maybe writing isn't for me.
The long brush strokes morphed the white canvas into a beautiful scene. Jet black silhouettes of birds stood centre stage against the blank background, their shadows following them and then fading into the pale sky. Their black onyx feathers grew bolder as the artist opened up their magnificent wings. Dark clouds stood directly above the birds ominously. The blood red river ran near the bottom of the canvas, with its glistening waves crashing against the far corners of the picture. A subtle red hue was added last, flooding warmth into the breathtaking creation. “You ready for the trip?” Her fresh faced roommate called out from the bathroom. Setting out her tools in front of her, she began creating her very own masterpiece. “Hell yes!” Came her reply. Soon the two stood side by side, creating one grand, glorious, framed painting on the hotel bathroom wall. “Do you think he’ll notice?”
I ruined my life with a trip.
Sharp thorns scratched at my face and my hands as I wormed out of the bush. A cacophony of rustles and snaps played around me, and it was then when my leg pressed against… something. That something was firm, but soft… A dead animal perhaps? I moved frantically to free myself of the thorny prison I was in, and stumbled out of the bush in the same manner that I stumbled in.
I dived in again and started searching for the poor creature, the leaves nibbling at my already raw hands. I felt the body, and I pulled it out.
Two eye sockets and a mouth full of earth greeted me. An electric shock pulsed through my body, my breath scrunched in my chest and scrambling to my feet, I heard the cold click of a gun at the back of my head.
My mothers eyes caress me intermittently as she goes about straightening the already pristine bedroom. Careful not to trip on the trailing wires.
She slowly takes in every inch of the person she created some 20 years ago, yet her eyes never meet mine. Unable to bring herself to hold my gaze.
She fluffs the pillows around me, pretending it makes a difference to my comfort. Putting off what we both know she must do.
'I love you' she whispers, removing the plastic lifeline from my mouth.
I love you too
'I'm sorry' her lips plant her love on my forehead one last time.
It's not your fault I want to tell her.
Tears fall silently onto soft cotton as she places the pillow over my frozen face. Freeing me.
I forgive you!
One. Jim blowing the candles on his birthday cake. Blue sweater dangling loosely around his body. To the right: Amy, Thomas. To the left: April, Chris. And me, gazing full of admiration at the birthday boy.
Two. The blue sweater hung around Jim’s shoulders. His left arm hung around mine. Behind us, a huge fireplace. Big smiles. Me because of him, him because of my gift. The trip. A week in a chalet in Switzerland. Skiing. A first for Jim.
Three. Baby shower at April’s after artificial insemination. Jim still sniggering. Chris and Amy beside him, laughing. A few feet away from the crowd, me. Hungry to catch his look. The sweater looking tighter and tighter, revealing the rounding of his middle.
Four. This one, I found on Facebook. Amy, wearing the blue sweater and nothing else. Stretching her right hand towards the camera, showing us a gemstone ring.
The Long Goodbye
I cross the fields of the Somme, my eyes red as poppies. Heading south, I dodge potholes left by stray shells, and the prising spacers of thick winter ice, long since melted into a putrid bog.
When I reach Armiens, I stand before the altar. This cathedral was your infirmary. It’s hard to imagine your broken body slowly giving itself up to the severity of your wounds. My tears spill, shards of stained glass from the circular gothic window.
I thought I would be able to feel it. Feel you.
I wonder whether it was worth the trip to exorcise the ghosts.
Fall from Grace
Tearing through my side, the metal burned hot, branding my spirit. Piercing shouts amid chaos, my mind numb rests on a teddy bear; arm ripped from clutching fingers. Trembling, I stand amid the remains, longing for one last moment tethered to the world, awash with the flow of people at peace, ignorant of evil, desperate to be loved. Memories fade as lives seep into the empty universe. I trip over regrets and stumble with fear to meet an end of dreams to begin an eternity in a frigid darkness, void of passion. Now I cast my soul upon the mercy of an unknown deity, spittle flying with obscenities for an unfair fate. Broken wings shed; the gleaming, streamlined coffin plummets from the Heavens, racing to meet Hell, impacting half-way for ghouls to wander without form, awaiting judgment. Here I find companions to warm the descent into oblivion.
I know I’m wrong; not only on this occasion, countless times in the past as well. What makes you so wrong? I always strive to become practical, though this was not ordained for me. How? Let me tell an example. Years ago, I was on a trip to hometown, to attend the wedding of a friend. In the train, that woman, an old associate, did explain to me that my friend is marrying an insane girl. That woman had evidences to justify her allegation, and there was no reason to doubt. Yet I did nothing to save my friend, since I didn’t want to volunteer something so contentious; my practical decision. Within a year, following massive suffering, my friend turned into a divorcee. Oh! There are numerous stories on my practical deliberations; ironically each of them was having ironical endings. Still, I never dare to return to my originality.
A pin-like point. A mote. The mote of motes.
A spec of light. Ejected from its prison; a ball of gas. You'll never see it of course! A trillion squillion miles away.
It stays out of trouble. It misses black holes. It misses rocky worlds and giant clouds. A squillion miles closer.
And you're not born, and I'm not born and the world's not born!
And still it moves. It's on a mission; it knows its mission. A squillion miles closer still.
It misses the sun... and the planets... and the satellites.
IT MISSES THE CLOUDS! Jesus, what a sorry end that'd be!
Ten billion years. The greatest trip ever.
And you look into the starry sky.
And you glance at your watch and it hits you on top of your head.
The things we do for Love
He cast a long shadow across the moonlit room, she languorously caressed his thigh and licked the blood from the cold blade. He turned his chin downwards and slowly turned to stare at her. His eyes were steely blue and piercing, through the dark night.
She purred, knowing exactly what he wanted. She moved on hands and knees across the room. A bright white shape in the corner squirmed and cried. Taking a fews strands of blonde hair between her slight fingers she moved in a fluid motion until she was pressed against him. Taking just a fleeting moment to look behind her for approval she took the blade to his cheek and drew a few droplets. She moved her warm tongue across the wound, moaning softly.
"What a trip!" His deep voice quickened her heart. She plunged the steel deeply in his throat, drinking.
I remember every school trip included (without fail) rain, and being certain the end of year trip would be different.
As a general rule of thumb, if a trip letter included the word "educational", one knew they would be in for a long, dreary day at a dingy museum; the tour guide's monotonous lectures would lull one to sleep. I remember finding the word "zoo" on the summer trip letter. My face had lit up as a trip to the zoo meant no tour guides, no lessons, no homework!
The excitement on the coach was contagious as the glorious sun shone in the clear blue sky. But grim disappointment took over as the second we had arrived Mother Nature on que summoned the clouds to rain on us. Nevertheless, our hope for a joyous day returned as the clouds subsided and revealed a cheery rainbow that arched over the zoo.
Two luminous seeds lie across my life line. Swallow: swallow, with day-old water. Now, I'll wait until my head is heavy.
This is no life. I should be running barefoot through the witching hour beneath the strawberry moon. It's the longest day. Boys and girls lie on hillsides, in fields, in glades, waiting for the light to come back. The smoke they breathe lets them touch storybook pages. Faery people fly past in their swarms, astride moths and bumble bees. They hang bunting from the old willows who cry over the stream. They giggle. Their song pulls the mortals to their feet, and they dance together in the lanterns' glow, forming a ring, bending, leaping, until the stars have vanished and bodies are burnt to the ground.
Inside my thicket, a sleepy fog falls. It might be midwinter. I hide under the quilt.
I swap that trip for this one.
Ballad for a First Timer
This is the thing about drugs.
You take them.
You think its working.
You want it to work so bad.
You think maybe what you bought was crap.
Then. All of the sudden. You can’t remember your own name.
Everything you thought you knew about getting high is out the window, along with most of your motor skills. You sit there; slack jawed, trying to remember what sobriety feels like. Songs you’ve heard a thousand times sound like they’re pouring into your brain for the first time. Lights dance and splash around the room. You feel as though you could float through the ceiling.
For a little while, nothing else exists. You are a brain floating through space. It’s a trip you can only really take once, but can spend a lifetime looking for again.
From Heaven to Hell
The electrodes had pierced his skull, carrying specific amounts of current into different areas of the brain. The senses were stimulated, memory affected and altered while feelings of joy were pulsed throughout the emotional core of the subject.
It was the trip of a lifetime for the subject- perfect happiness akin to all the moments of pleasure one would experience in a lifetime, all focused in a two minute burst of blissful nirvana.
'Reverse and terminate,' commanded the loudspeaker.
The two technicians did as ordered, flipping switches and turning heaven into hell. The subject, strapped to a metal chair within the small room, screamed as sensations of horror, fear and dread were forced upon him. After two minutes a final large voltage ripped into the brain, silencing the man forever.
'Clean up and prepare for inmate 4003-1, guilty of paedophilia; dream scenario 2, nightmare 14,' came the next order of the day.
The Light and Dark Next to Ron's Sweet Shop
When Danny Turner says, "Let's go for a little trip", he doesn't mean a bloody holiday down to Brighton.
What he means is to show you the light and dark next to Ron's Sweet Shop, and break your knee caps with a rusty steel pipe.
Next time he comes around, you, me, Ron and the butcher, we're going to meet him there, and before he can tell us to get lady mucked, we're going to knock his lights out.
Pack him into his van. Pilfer his glove box savings account. Partake in a little sightseeing tour down to Plymouth. Pay for a one way ticket for a ferry that he'll never catch, and send him on an extended trip to the seaside... if you know what I mean?
And when they come looking for him we'll say, "Have you checked the park next to Ron's Sweet Shop?"
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Ahaa Jan, Alva Holland, Amy, Anastasia Mikheeva, Ange Roberts, Arkady Arden, Brendan Bergmanski, Camilla I.M. Garuai, Carol Leggatt, Carolyn Ward, Chad Munger, Cherie Foxley, Christina Taylor, Christine Collinson, Daniel Wang, E.C. Andrew, Elaine Sanderson, Eliza Chapman, Elizabeth Graham, Emily Atkinson-Dalton, Erik D'Souza, Eve Lewis, Hebatullah Issa, Imen Al Nighaoui, Ishita, Jake Tallon, Jeanette Lowe, Jessica Knight, Jon Georgiou, Josephine L. Martin, K O Shannon, Karen Keenan, Kathy Stevens, Laura Besley, Leah Kuntz, Louise Mangos, Mark Corby, Matthew Dove, Michael Kelso, Michael Rumsey, Michelle Matheson, Mitja Lovše, MrQuipty, Natalia Kay, Nicola Bell, Olivia Tuck, Parker, Peter Harrison, Prince Cavallo, Reina, Richard Ballon, RJD, Robert Dudley, Rory Chad Bouffe, Ruth Banister, Ruth Tamiatto, S.B. Borgersen, Shashank Srivastava, Sophie van Llewyn, Stephen Wright, Thomas Malloch, Tom Bennett, V.C. Sharma, Will Downes, Zaida L.
29th June 2016