Younger

Abhishek had just found himself a pocket watch with a yellowed face. It far too weighty to ever be worn comfortably.

The old Bunglow was supposed to be cleaned out but someone had missed this little crumbling box, damp and old, hidden in the nursery rooms cabinet. It was hard to say how old it really was, this mansion was built more than a century ago and had burned through a endless series of families.

Abishek clumbsly turn the heavy clock around, using both hands as one grew tired. It’s chain was abnormally shiny thought it seemed to be of the same metal and make as the watch. It had ivory encasing it, the image of Janus, the two faced God, etched onto the front. No details or other markings were present – not even a date of manufacture.

He rubbed his arm across his sweaty brown and went back out to set the watch right. He made his way back to den and jumped suddenly noticing the icy cold of the watch and more importantly the ticking that had returned to it, like a heartbeat. Amazed but a little unsteady, he sat down to test it. Another chill climbed up his back as he realised it was only off by a few minutes. “A minute too late” he told himself.

He heard his children’s footsteps across the attic and down the stairs. He sighed- they would be before him in a second. As he moved slowly to correct his watch their footsteps were almost on top of him. Clumbsly he set it back by an hour. He sighed again and put his hand on his chin and felt… his bread?!

His mouth agape he went through the events of the morning. He had shaved before starting his work on the nursery. He stepped out of the room to get some quite. He set the watch back by another hour. Then another. He tried setting it right but it didn’t work. He couldn’t change it again either. It kept ticking backwards.

He looked in his dresser mirror disappointed by the watch, then shocked. His beard was no longer full, rather it was scraggly like it had only begun to grow. He looked again at the watch delighted. The watch was making him younger. He struggle to force the hands of the watch back by a few hours again. He was so happy he never noticed his children grow quite. Eventually after several hours before the mirror he heard the screams of babies. He walked back to the living room, and saw two babies inexplicably in his living room.

He ran across the house looking for his children, running faster then he had in years. He came back to the living room with a heavy feeling in his chest only then recognising his children. When people across the world first started noticing themselves growing younger, the oldest were delighted. A few weeks later the Earth’s last human child cried it’s last, unattended.

Tourist Trap

A tenement hotel on the lower bank of a back water stream. It is too late for traffic but it rings out anyway.

In a town of fishmongers, I lie sleepless on a paper thin mattress. The hotel room seems to contract trying to collapse on itself. The walls seem to sweat and the night grows warmer. Ugly neon lights pour in past the dust caked curtains, reflecting on the stains that mark all the furniture.
The walls thin and tried did nothing to stop the shuffling and humming of a hundred sleepless patrons- in it’s own way gasping for breath. I walked to the window and saw a police van pull up.

I shuffled out, the dust grabbing my feet, slowly over the peeling floor. I looked out to the hallway, the lights dim and fluttering. I went to my neighbours door, a fast friend. Both of us sleepless and drowsy eyed. We had been drinking away the inescapable stench of the day.

He seemed skittish that night, a grim expression of resignation. I frowned- I kept him around to cheer me up. He saw me upset and smiled, inviting me with more grace and eagerness than I ever expected from him.

I sat on his dusty desk, after pushing his carelessly strewn papers. There was some ash lining the edges of the desktop. He offered me a glass, the same one we’d been drinking from for a week. I told him the usual things, how work was going, how the story seemed to have died on the vine. We were both tourists, as I repeatedly told him, both of us just wandering in and out of towns. He usual seemed baffled by this but tonight he smiled.

My editor had me barking up trees and I wished I had a listener who actually understood what I was telling him. My neighbour was some kind of salesman, always with heavy briefcases and wooden boxes. It’s how we met, I went to introduce myself and complain after I heard one too many thuds and muffled sounds of objects being dragged around.

I noticed he was wearing his Sunday best tonight. Well whatever best he could muster probably. Large sweat stains had formed under his armpits. I laughed and asked what he could have to do this late. He just smiled and refilled my glass.

I looked around as he told me he might be going back to his home town. He had told me something about that before, but I couldn’t remember what he’d said. To be honest what he was saying now was boring me too. I worried what I’d do next week.
He excused himself to go out for cigarettes and asked me to wait for him. I wished I had better neighbours. I got up to look around when he left. There were a lot of vans outside the hotel, something was going down. I decided not to care, I wasn’t paid enough to bother.

I walked over to his bed and smelt something rusty, his whole room was brown and leather like. The boxes he had stacked up seemed to have been stained by the same smell. An ugly reddish brown had seeped down to the bottoms of the ones he had stacked up next to his bed. There were a few bags by it too. Nothing well kept in the whole mess.

I couldn’t help but notice a handle sticking out from between the bags thrown about. I went back to the window. Something was certain to happen. My neighbour had kept me too long. I walked over and pulled on the handle. It was a soggy knife covered with a smelly thick layer.

I pushed one of the boxes and a strange feeling washed over me. I heard footsteps marching and thundering up the stairs. You could hear anything in this hotel. In slow motion I opened one of the boxes, already realising what my neighbour had been dragging up each night and that he wouldn’t be coming back.

I reached inside a box, hearing the door crash open behind me and the shouts breaking into the room. Murder weapon in hand, bloody evidence before me, I had missed the big story of the night.

Wait a little longer

Out of why and out of wine the promenade besides us has faster traffic. The wind hums under the treeline and there are vendors snaking, dancing their way through the stopped lines of traffic.

I’m out of bandwidth and want to scream or rage clean. Then across the street a boy gets off the bus bench as his girl walks around the corner. They spin and dance with finesse for only a few seconds before they walk arm in arm, past the startled pedestrian traffic. Besides me you squeeze my arm and the world seems to go a lot faster.

Promenade

There was a window where you could walk by the stores with no mask on. There was a window where the cold morning made everyone blush. We walked with only our footsteps to hear. Back home with coffee at 5 am we bagged up the trash, the sound of the glasses being rinsed over the metal sink. Outside the windows it was still dark. Someone found a lost key- it lead to treasure. The dusty and soot covered roof. The sun greeted us racing, unbelievably fast threatening to wipe the last night away like a dream. We never mentioned the catfish in the pool or the mermaids offerings deep in the cold waters. That window had closed.

Keep it between the two of us

“Come closer” I say uneasily, turning my head in rapid jerks side to side. I lower my gaze close to you but my eyes dart to the edges.

“I’ve got a secret to tell you” I whisper quickly gulping for air.

I take a deep breath and hold it uncomfortably long, preparing to reveal all. You strain your ears and I crane my neck to see if anyone is close by. My head keeps craning, then turning, then spinning. Finally it unscrews entirely and out of my neck pours gemstones and echoes.

In the valley of the leopard

The dawn had just begun gaining on the night, when the leopard spotted the hermit trudging through the thick wet soil.

Slow rays and opaque shadows began to form around them. The leopard shifted on the tree truck with only his eyes staying where they were. The dew on the leaves glittered before crashing down in a shudder.

The rays were pale in this morning, no colours tinged the east, no flush warmed the dawn. The coldness left everything in a semi-translucent glow. The morning came as slowly as a heavy treasure box being opened. But the light was weak, like the monsoon had almost won, extinguishing the Sun.

Ragged winds wheezed, stirring the night clouds. They fluttered but did not stray like an over-confident flock of birds. The hermit looked up with a sudden jerk that surprised him, an unexpected spasm had jumped up on his back.

The sunlight filled slowly leaving a colourless silver gleaming grasp around the horizon. Under these delicate vapours the earth was sodden, puddles exploding over drowning grass, the earth giving way and moving with ease. It clung to paws and feet, gathering distressingly over the tips of claws and toes.

The night birds were still alight, rushing under the wings of the biggest trees that still had clumps of darkness lingering within them. The sun was then risen, a white clear disk, tintless, almost chilling to look at. It remained half hidden behind the dark crest of a hill, looking down solemnly down the whole length of the narrow dale. A dirty trail followed the hermits laboured steps growing ragged and uneven as it came closer to him.

A small grass plot surrounded by scanty brown stalks, flowerless let itself be glimpsed briefly. Behind it was a whitewashed mud wall, bare and stained by water logging. Around it were trees gracefully gathered and rising around the cottage. All alone in the dale they looked imposing. It held an air of seclusion and dipped out of sight.

The hermit only saw himself cast down, his muddy hands over the little flowers of weeds, and thorns pressing into his hands, the dew gathered on them began to mix with blood that at once rushed all around him as he lost all sense around his neck feeling a heavyness on his back, firm nails begin driven deep inside him.

Narco

Narcoleptic truck drivers running down the same road everywhere they go. It never changes, the same colour, the same stops and the same hours.

It’s a mean joke by the authors, you’d think men would have better things to pray for, but the prayers heard are in praise of and in want for a crueler mistress- insomnia. Eyes betraying a dangerous tendency and in toil also comes enough comfort for the stealthy thief to lay a man down at the wheel.

Streetlights go on and off, the roads cut by farmland and crawl through cities, warm dusty haze layering progress. Hold up your shoulders because they want to melt into the seat, your head lolling in a cabin crib.

The roads wouldn’t dare change, turning in the rythm of lullabies incidiously rocking back and forth in calling back bygone memories. A soft dream threatens in its slow grash pulling the hands away from the wheel and letting the axels and turns see to your fate.

Esoteric bank

In the northern banks of the great river, you’ll collect the whiskers of a great white leopard. He wanders along the banks still, though the jungle has fallen. He has thus surrendered his colours. These eyes will meet yours in 2024. The mystic path shines a blinding hue and no end can be seen while on it. Perish if you would turn away from the endless winding woody pathway along the water, where yesterday I was drowning in the warm and glacial waters. Along the sandbank you will see the same unsteady footsteps as I staggered and stubbed my toes envious of the unclasping of sacred scrolls.

The jade canopy turns to a shadow over the pebble glass, the lingering plastic cobwebs on branches wait for the water creeping. The welts of mosquito bites guard the heavenly fold in the shaking voices of birds. The dew will settle over both still and out-worn hearts where twilight once walked. Between the mangrove roots I found a clear view of the eddies gleaming in the light of the minds eye. Well deserved saline plunge, the flowerbeds the only lantern, stillness the midwife of rebirth on the lofty grass.

Exit 5 tails

There was once a cat with five tails, each tail for a house she could visit. Every night with the moonlight shining in her eyes she would go to a different home.

One day, the old servant in the first house of the street, the great yellow manor, asked the cat to stay another day.

“Why do you go away, my pet, night after night?”

“I can never stay except on the nights when there is no moonlight” said the black cat in response.

The old lady was curious. The black cat had been here a long time, longer than even she could remember. Then suddenly, she was unsure. How could it be that even she did not know when the cat came? No, even when she was not old at all, the cat lurked in the corners of what she remembered, all five tails carried through the past.

So one day, after the moonless night, she prepared a plan. All day she toiled away, making butter, a lot of it. She brought it out and left it by the kitchen stove, she kept the windows and doors open, she fanned the smell of butter all through the house. She knew that the night drew near and the cat would be waking from her nap on the thatched roof. The old lady slipped out of the room but kept watch through a door left ajar. From her hiding spot she used a single eye placed between the doors slight opening to protect her trap. She saw the cat slipping in through an invisible space between the rafters.

Intoxicated with the smell in the air, the cat slipped inside, leaping off the cupboards and landed nimbly by the stove. All five tails held high, she looks around, ears turning at every creek and eyes like mirrors. She sees nothing but the witches brew in front of her and starts to eat. She eats and eats, delighted by a truly rare treat. Soon the pot is empty and her stomach is full. She’s so full, so tired that she must sleep. She curls around the stove and lies motionless.

So deep is her slumber that she poops right by the stove, too deep in groggy sleepiness that she doesn’t even want to go far. Right then the old lady arrives and takes her away, wrapping her up under the blanket, to keep her home for the night.

The next morning, the old lady wakes up and only sees the night. She moves to a mirror and meets only the cat looking back at her, their eyes meeting in the reflection. Neighbors watch the cat appear on the roof, their eyes shine like mirrors turned to sunlight. She arches, all five tails held aloft behind her and without a thought disappears into a corner, as cats often do.