Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. ~Markus Zusak

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Night Sky

Adelaide tore through the door, wrenching at the handle like the world was wrenching at her heart. She dived into the blanket and pillows, and immediately recoiled. They still smelled of him, of insolence and selfishness and of her love. Through the tears flooded the memories; scattered nostalgia of stolen kisses and interlocked fingers and stares, wholeheartedly naive stares into ocean eyes and endless pupils.

Downstairs she could hear the front door closed gently, and then the silence. The scream of uncertainty that comes after something like this echoed through the walls, permeating an air of tentative distance, a reluctant surrender to doubt. Like mice, the whispered their unimportant words in a world that was uncrushed. A world so far removed from when she was now.

“Adelaide...” came the muffled voice she’d been waiting for, hiding in the far corner of her room.

“Go away!” she screamed, slamming the pillow and playing it as a drum, a drum that had perhaps just called her fat or maybe have pinched her backside or might even have taken away her first love.

“Adelaide. I have something for you. Something... from him.”

She was up before the words had settled, darting cat-like across a floor lovingly littered with rainbow teddies. On top of the highest shelf, perched like a lighthouse, was a little UFO shaped box. She lifted it down gently. The top was curved, conical but flat, and stars were cut out of like the remnants of a pastry sheet. She lifted this lid up, hearing the old hinge creek in acknowledgement. Underneath, halfway through her plie, balanced a small plastic ballerina. She wore a distinguished blue dress, her head held high looking at where, just a few seconds ago, had been her night sky.

“Where is it?” Adelaide demanded of the figurine.

“Underneath. Locked.” Replied the ballerina.

“What?! Where’s the key?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t say. He might have taken it with him, before he...”

“Don’t say it,” Adelaide cried, her eyes glistening with rage and pain.

“You’ll have to go to his house to get it. I can’t go for you.”

“I don’t want to go.”

And with that, Adelaide collapsed into her bed, a hurricane in need of her drizzle.

Friday, 14 October 2011


There are certain things that people universally remember. First kisses and last days at school and the first time you did something stupid just because the butterflies in your stomach told you to. And there are certain things that are equally as memorable, but are less universal. A unique imprint on the isolated history of a single life. For me, that was when I discovered that custard made me immortal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If we keep skipping our merry way down those particular cobbles then you’ll be lost in the Everglades, surrounded by alligators. Figuratively speaking, of course. Reading on will in no way cause an onslaught by alligators, crocodiles, snakes, or hillbillies with rapey intentions.

I was twelve when I first experienced death. Not my own, that came later. No, it was my Aunty Maureen, whose soul – bless it – must certainly smell of cats, that snuffed it. Naturally gifted with a tremendous immune system, she stepped out onto the road outside her house and met oncoming traffic face on. She put a huge dent in the Nissan Micra -2004, cherry red, actually quite nice – which hit her. She would have been happy about that. At the funeral, closed casket, my Dad stood up in front of all the grim faces dressed in uniform black and told them that she had been sad her whole life, and that maybe death was a release. I didn’t believe him. She’d always seemed happy to me, always smiling and laughing and swigging from that glass bottle of hers with the Russian writing on the label. I cried all day. Not because I missed her, because she smelled of cats and wee and it’s hard to miss anyone who hurts your nose, but because it made my Dad cry.

When we got home, he ripped off his tie as if it was a noose. The ceremony and pomp was left outside, along with all the brightness of the unencumbered world. My home was the last walk of a doomed man, and we were his heavy heart.

That night we had custard.

Four years later, I died for the first time. Since then it’s become a bit of a hobby, but back then, dying was scary. It was as alien to a sixteen year old as clear skin. I got shot, if you’re wondering. I still have the bullet somewhere, a little keepsake. It’s not every day you die for the first time. It hurt. A lot.

I woke up five hours later, in a puddle of my own blood, alone in a pitch-black warehouse somewhere to the south of town. I’d been driven there earlier on the promise of free sweets and maybe a bit of dope. To be fair to the man with the handlebar moustache and the calloused fingers, he did give me the sweets. There was a hole in my chest, bullet-sized obviously, that went right through, creating in me a human peephole. It took me over an hour to walk home, but it was warm out and I got myself a bit of a tan and I enjoyed seeing this one dot in my shadow as a walked.

I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I didn’t really know what had happened. It’s the kind of thing that’s quite hard to believe, even if you experience it.

That night I had custard.

From that day on, I was fearless. I could survive anything, I assumed, and was willing to put my assumption to any potential test. In the three years that followed getting shot, I died another twenty six times. Four stabbings, nine car accidents, six shootings, one fall from an aeroplane, two suffocations, two bar fights gone nasty, one snake bite and one lets-play-chicken-with-that-rhino. I moved about a bit. If all these things had happened in the same small town I’d grown up, I would have been worshipped as a God. I changed my appearance a lot too. Miraculously, I managed to stay anonymous. And alive.

So that was my life. Die, then live, then repeat. It took all of those three years for the novelty to wear thin, and for me to get curious. I should stress now that I was always one of those kids that never concerned himself with the hows and whys of the world. Things happened, that was all I’d ever needed to know.

Then, one morning, I had custard.

Not just any custard, though, and not just cooked any old way. Ambrosia custard, Devon’s finest quality, microwaved for 3:41, then left to cool, then microwaved again for 0:11.It was the way my Dad had always made it for me, and it was the way I liked it.

As I spooned my yellow breakfast, a spoon devoid of cake because of my careless sweep, a spider webbed its way down from the ceiling. It hung there like the dazzling beauty from China’s finest troupe, perched and pausing for applause. I squashed it between my thumb and forefinger. Its fall reminded me of when I fell out of the aeroplane. That time, I’d landed in a lake. The spider landed in the custard.

My custard ruined by the flavouring of a dead arachnid, I picked up my bowl and just when I was about to place it down next to the sink to waited to be washed in a fortnights time, the spider crawled out. Now, I’d definitely killed it. I had spider blood on my hands and felt the crunch, but now it was walking. I killed it again, and placed in back in the custard. It crawled out again.

The next few weeks were littered with various animal deaths and bowls of custard and animal resurrections. I had found a cure for death. I’ll never forget that feeling, when I really knew that it was true. I felt like I’d just taken my first steps.

From there, the way I saw it, there was only one possible course of action: find interesting people to bring back to life…