It started with a name on my mind drifting as I read an email. A message. Someone’s shit I wish I had never borrowed. Dusty notes where only archaic doodles interest me. We met in an ally behind a bookstore.
Now it was a kitchen where a box radio was the only thing that worked. It was green with plastic posing as bronze. I was thinner with the beginning of a mustache. I had just thought of actually wearing such a thing. Ice with my drink, a sip. Directionless, I could never hear a single thing in the kitchen. My companion toyed with a paper box, a poorly pasted dragon on it’s side, in it a mixed up order of rice which I couldn’t eat.
I had a question, so did they. Spoon feed familiar nothings that rush to my stomach so fast I could feel it through my skin. It works, I stay hungry all through the night.
You wake up and realize you have turned into Rupert Murdoch. A dream revealed to you that a former game show host in Utah has vowed to seek revenge. You shudder because you know he has 978 teeth.
You run to a supermarket haunted by the ghost of a Sumerian physician. He keeps repeating a mysterious phrase: “The poison is down aisle 3. Next to the land of Swad, but before you reach the gardening tools.”
You arm yourself with scissors and shield yourself with a looking glass. A prophecy echoes over the intercom. “The world is to be be consumed by a scented eucalyptus, the likes of which no soul has ever dreamed of.”
You go to the aisle with lead paint and attack the red. You wait for your enemy standing in red paint scattering plastic plants over it. A child is missing and only you know the kidnapper is Treasure Island.
I opened my eyes and saw I had been transported to a city made of water. A child appeared and gave me a coin. I looked all about me sidestepping and backtracking in circles, dizzy, straining my neck gawking at all the watery skyscrapers shimmering and wavering like the surface tension was going to break with the next wobble.
I grimaced in fear and thought I had heard the water break with an oceans roar but it was just a ringing in my ear. I ran anyway hidden under the shady canopy around the park and appeared upon a quieter lane. The houses were opaque and threatened to pull down at any moment into a gushing vortex spilling into the streets and mercilessly flinging the inhabitants out onto the street.
I looked around wondering if the next bus would make for a viable boat, wondering how life by the riverside would be in a flooded city. I reached for the coin, pulling it out in surprise. It was not circular but a shaped like a square with rounded edges, an old coin out of circulation em-bronzed with an extinct animal I could not name for it was never discovered. I dropped it and it broke into sand. I reached into my pocket to find it again. I raised it again and took a bite. It had no taste but smelt like sea shells. I thought of the dark and obscure waters of the Arabian sea, an old sight, as I looked at the pure and lifeless waters, probably boiled and purified, built up around me.
Ah the sun on a cold but cloudless day, dragons zooming against the untroubled blue of an afternoon sky. Four wings on an arch-predator circling its pray, dancing its day.
Bees nestled in pollen, butterfly’s drifting among leaves. The birds are discreet on afternoons like these, and the dragons duel charging, clashing beneath the tall shade. Leaves are shed at intervals between duels the afternoon decays with a ting of evening, the sound of office hours closing. Only under still wispy clouds and silent imaginations do dragons reign.
Under every roof is a crowded cabinet, under every cabinet is some lost charm, under every dusty charm is a bit of lost novelty, under every lost article is dust ball, under every bit of dust or grit swept up is loathing and under every pange of loathing is a longing for a life that wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Skittish shadows leaving wet footprints and proof of our crime, right to the unlit pool, where the dark mirror has but one flicking moon.
The reflection melts as we enter and the biting chill drowns us, a pair of silhouettes sneaking a glace at each other while we look around for anyone who might see us at this hour.
I would have said it was a honest mistake, I came back after college and walked into the wrong apartment and someone else’s flame embraced me. I shook off the rain and I didn’t know where I was. The evergreens brushed against the windows and my breath steamed as we sneaked outside.
Here in the ice cold water I look at the walls before I turn on my back and push down into the darkness. My body freezes and then flows as I swim towards the light. I wonder if my reflection would shattered if I swam back fast enough.
For no reason at all I remember a novel, a child with a yellow origami dragon. I see my companion buoy back up again. We meet, the lights gone out and we’re faceless in the dark, laughing and shivering.
Tears shimmering metallic in the moonlight, we turned down the roads back to our homes, far, far away.
Far from this howling corner a plague has swept the world away, but we are the only ones running, walking on the railways. You may run your hand over a shoulder and say “I know, I know” but you fear you’ll never really know. That’s the convenience of guilt blasted from TV sets, product placements come next.
The days are heavy with summer and monsoon brings misery. The master is screaming as we bowed our heads and march on. It smashed the place were we slept, it tore up the railways, it took away our work and people but our family were days away. The rest we could handle, not this.
Now you wait for the ad break and what they say next.
Migrants on their own soil, the caravans walk on thin legs, one hundred kilometers from home. Their calloused skin numbing as the empty roads curled unmercifully across the great resurgent hills and plains. As stars invade, the water slides clear in rivers, brooks, and their home are burning.
When they finally look up, having outrun the silence, there are rifle shots of hunger and life as it always was. Flames illuminate the roads they have taken, thick pillars of smoke blot out the moon of harvest and the bridges are empty.
You are children only in news reports.
A prisoner orders Chinese for his last meal, his fortune cookies gives him these pearls of wisdom:
Don’t look back, life is short
They know you didn’t do it
Your future will take shocking turns
All your troubles will end soon.
See you on the flip side.
Suprise reunion with an old friend.
And now a little less
Better luck next time.
The cat walks past, cobwebs in her whiskers
clearing up the cardboard boxes
I thumb through picture books and socks
I listen close and hear laughter,
from a picture of my sister, who I take after
I fold it away, reach past a button-box,
I remember, every outfit, our stilted talks
so little was said, my sister’s sick bed
her hands as cold as mine