The flames were hypnotic as they licked the logs. The embers escaped like fairies from their prison, dancing in the night sky, fading away to nothing in the cold night air. Mesmerised by the beauty, stolen my the smell we entered another world that night. The fire was our doorway, our escape to a place filled with magic; a hide away from such a cold, dark world.
As the flames died, so did the spirit of the night. The clearing smoke revealed the world we had briefly escaped, but the smoke that clung to us would not let us forget.
There’s a story about the old man and the big gnarly tree with roots six feet underground, but never grows leaves. Old man Hannigan, driving home from one of his nights boozing, but never making it home that night. Was never seen again. They found his truck up under that gnarly tree; engine running, lights on, radio blasting. But no old man Hannigan. The real kicker was it had been raining hard that night and the ground was nothing more than a bog, but they couldn’t find any footprints. He just vanished into thin air.
Or the tree took him.
The air around him was close, making it hard to breathe. His throat dry and sore, each swallow a strain, his voice raspy and weak. He pulled a cigarette, the last of the pack and stared at it with a painful longing. The first draw was bitter, burning his insides at it fell through him, coughing himself close to death. He watched the stub burn out, dropping to nothing but ash. It blew across the land as he fell to his knees. The breeze kissed his face, the briefest of embraces bringing no comfort, knowing it would soon take him.
She polished and polished until she could see her face, though it appeared distorted, almost unrecognisable. Who was this old woman staring back at her? Weather beaten and aged with cracked and wrinkled skin; whiskers and brown spots. Had life been so cruel as to leave such marks upon her face? Yes, she supposed it had; one cruel blow after another disjointed only by minor victories. Each bad decision she had made, each opportunity she had missed, every lie she had told evident there upon her face. She shuddered at the thought and turned away, sobbing into her shoulder.
It emerged, both at once and not at all. She could smell It, feel It, taste It. See the world reacting to It, changing, reforming. It was there, but not at all. Indefinitely absent, unmistakably present. She quivered where she stood, Its snarling teeth a flash before her, the fragrant odour of death punctuating each tooth; the last of life dripping from Its tongue.
Gone. Just like that, in a blink of an eye she dare not close, It had gone. Yet the air all around was still too afraid to move, knowing It was there, but not at all.
A cloud fell from the sky and landed softly beside you. You watched as small clumps broke free, dissolving as the wind carried them home. The bulk remained, you prodded it with your finger; watched as it quivered at your touch. Small wisps curled around your arm as you twirled your fingers; pin pricks of electricity vibrating through you, an echo of thunder passing over you. The cloud turned grey, radiating from you, tarnishing the silver lining deepest black. You felt it thud against your chest but unable to break free, the cloud becoming the heart that ruled your head.
I wake to the white feather lying on the floor, framed by my feet as I climb out of bed. Your feather, though you would deny it if I asked. But I know at night when you think I’m sleeping, you set them free. Your shoulder blades protrude, becoming whitest white as a downy hide escapes your skin. You spread them out and I can hear it, the silence changing in their presence. Then you hide them away, crawling back into bed beside me. When you sleep, I stroke where they once were, sending a shiver down your spine.