She regarded his sad face and couldn’t help but laugh. He looked pitiful; standing with only one shoe, tears falling for the one that lay abandoned beside him. “Bad mother,” she scolded herself, but it did nothing to abate the chuckling that escaped her. She knelt down, carefully guiding his foot into the discarded shoe and fastening the velcro tightly. Entirely clothed once more, his tears no more than a sniffle, he beamed at her. She kissed his forehead, wiped the dribble that had escaped his nose and knew she couldn’t love him more than she did in this moment.
There was so much she wanted to say; things that had been left unsaid for an eternity. Inside her head she’d screamed them so loud, but had never given them any sound. She really was the coward they professed her to be.
Her stomach knotted and churned as the words resonated inside. She knew them all exactly so that their meaning could not be mistaken, the message misinterpreted. But as he held her in his arms she found only silence escaped her parted lips, with his breath warm against her skin quieting the voices screaming to be heard.
The oak tree had lost its imposing authority as its branches were stripped bare. Autumn had shed it of its leaves, a skeleton shivering as it lay exposed. It had fought hard, clinging onto the last, but it could not beat the encroaching inevitability of autumn’s wicked ways. Now the frailty of its being was made apparent to the world, the branches quivering as the wind that only autumn knows wrapped its tendrils around each and every one. They creaked and moaned as they screamed in an unheard agony carried away on the wind.
I approached the wrought iron gates to the cemetery. They were ornate beyond necessity: filigreeing and pointing and posing in every which way. But that didn’t distract from the truth. Existing in the empty spaces between each constructed spindle, the cavity atop each pointed diamond shape, the voids swirling in and around each perfectly curled piece of metal were the gateways to hell. The doorway for the demons and ghosts and curses that are the haunting of each and every one of us until our dying days. Those spaces, each emptiness a playground for the devil himself.
He knew he didn’t look well with his pale face and sunken cheeks. Yet there was a glint of mischief as he clutched onto the paper bag, safe guarding its contents. A Cornish pasty that was a rarity these days, and he planned to enjoy it with a cold can of beer, followed by a doze in his old overstuffed armchair. He was going to eat this as nature intended; out of the packet with dirty hands and supping on his beer. He already had the can cooling in the fridge, hidden amongst the carrots and last Christmas’ forgotten sprouts.
The old man strode with purpose, whistling as he went on his way. His rubber wellied feet kicked up the leafy carpet, his arms balancing a rake over his shoulder. The rake suited him well; the metal rusting and old like him, the spokes bent out of shape from a lifetime of labour. He began to rake up the fallen leaves, the old whistling tune mingling with the delicate notes of the leaves as they cut through the air. He worked tirelessly, amassing piles standing proud like monuments amidst the trees. All the while he whistled that old whistle tune.
He stood by the river bank with murder on his mind. It had been too long and his body was becoming restless. His blood boiled hot so that his whole body screamed, the monster inside protesting against its incarceration. He had been watching her with a desire so strong he thought it would be never-ending, and he knew the time was near. Each night he fantasised, her contorted face emblazoned in his memory as he hacked, strangled and beat his way to ecstasy; his actions the shields against insanity. The madness of his monster needed to be fed.