Retrieval

It was chilly out, and snow had started to swirl in a heavy breeze. I’d sat down to eat my dinner when my golden retriever, Darwin, raced to the windowsill, standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the sill. I slurped soup off my spoon and some if it dripped back into the bowl on the table, “What’s going on?” I asked Darwin.
Darwin turned his head to look at me, his paws still on the sill, his ears twitching. Then there was a knock at the door.
I dropped my spoon into the bowl with a clatter and headed towards the door.

Snow softly fell and clung to the fabric of his peacoat, his hands deep in his pockets for warmth.
I stared at him blankly for what in hindsight feels like too long. His blue eyes stared back at me, and a strand of hair hung above the rim of his glasses, his forehead creasing with tension.
“Mr Ashworth?” He leaned in.
I licked my lips, “Yes, whose asking?”
Darwin sat next to me, his head tilted with curiosity.
“I’m Jerry, Jerry North.”
He told me his name with a look on his face that suggested I should know who he was. I shook my head, “I don’t know any Jerry North!”
“I know your son,” He turned back to me, “Well, I know him very well actually,” He bounced on the balls of his feet and looked down at his shoes with a meek smile curling the corners of his lips.
“How,” I frowned, “He…” I faltered. It had been a long time since I’d talked to anyone about my son.
He held up his hands placatingly, “I know what you’re thinking,”
I gave him a scornful glare, “You have no bloody idea what I’m thinking!” I hissed and started to close the door on him.
He jutted his foot in the door, “I know he died when he was five,”
I swung the door wide open again, “What?”
“He died when he was five but,”
“But?” I asked him, bug-eyed, “But what? He died when he was 5, and that was that. What do you want?”
“Have you ever heard about the Soul retrieval facility, Mr Ashworth?”
I scoffed, and my face reddened in anger, “You,” I pointed accusingly, “Stop with this sick prank!”
“Have you heard of it?” He asked sternly, his hand on the door.
“I’ve heard the conspiracy theories!” I spat, “It’s nonsense!”
“What if I said that it’s true?” He leaned further into the doorway, “And,” He held up a hand to ward off any protest, “And that your son was retrieved there not long after his death.”
“I’d tell you what I’m telling you now; you’re sick! Playing a sick joke on an old man who still…” I could feel it in my throat. The hot swell of tears.
The blue-eyed man placed a hand on my shoulder gently, “Listen,” He looked me straight in the eyes. His stare was intense, and despite myself, I found something trustworthy about his eyes.
“Your son is 35 now,”
“Would be,” I hissed still not giving entirely into that trust.
“I’m his husband.”
My jaw dropped, and I scanned his face for answers.
“Listen, he was retrieved along with a lot of other children in the facility and,” He took a long breath and looked down at the ground sadly, “They were experimenting with this new technology. Downloading souls into clones.”
I baulked at the absurdness of what he was saying with a wry smile tinged with sadness, “Downloading souls? Clones?” I shook my head with a sigh, “I don’t know who you are but leave me alone!”
“I swear,” He shivered, and his lips tinged purple, “I swear it’s the truth!”
I would have slammed the door on him, but his foot remained on the step, and he held the door open with a strong looking hand. “Listen,” I started dejected, “Maybe you did know my son, maybe you knew him from the nursery,” I looked at him sadly, “But you’re clearly ill or,” I raised a brow at him, “On drugs?”
He shook his head, “If you’d just let me in!”
“No,” I held up a hand, “Next you’ll be telling me Elvis isn’t dead!”
“He isn’t,” He replied earnestly.
“What? See! You’re just like those usual crackpot conspiracy theorists!”
“Bowie isn’t dead either!”
I snorted, “You’re kidding me! Surely if either of them were still alive, they’d have been seen!”
“No! Their bodies are dead; they got cloned into different bodies to help them blend in unnoticed!”
“So those crackpots that reckon they’ve seen Elvis?”
“They’re just that, crackpots. He’s still alive, but he looks nothing like Elvis anymore!”
I didn’t know what to do. What was I supposed to believe? It was snowing, and we were both getting cold, “I don’t want to speak with you anymore,” I told him waving my walking stick at him, “Don’t ever return, do you hear?” I stepped forward and got in his face, “Do you hear?” I enunciated the question carefully.

And that was that. He held up his hands as if surrendering and stepped back. But there was sorrow in his eyes, and for a moment I nearly cracked and opened the door again. But in the end, I locked it up, put the chain on the latch turned the lights out and went to bed.

Empty

I do better when it’s raining. When there is no contrast between what’s inside and whats outside. When the sun doesn’t cast such obvious shadow through the veils against the window. When the silence is filled with that white noise of rain pattering on the window like a friend knocking to check you’re still breathing. But today the sun is bright, and there is a ‘peaceful’ stillness to the day.  A peace I can’t reconcile.

The sun reminds me I’m empty.

I turn my back to it and hate it for the heat upon my back. Nauseating.
It was better when the world was shadowed in winters black.

What storms do

I tell myself
You’re just a tornado
Passing through
Nothing to be angry at
You’re just doing what storms do
Just step outside when you’re through
The wreckage is only natural
Like water damage from a flood
It’s part of the cycle
Sometimes you’re just a little whirlwind
Other days you’re a cyclone
You don’t care you’re in the zone
You think you’ve got my cover blown
Think you’ve got me dethroned
Uncloaked
But I was never hiding
Nor do I have any power to abdicate
But you keep pointing your finger
Never looking in the mirror

I tell myself
You’re just a tornado
passing through
You’re just doing what storms do….

I like birds

“You two going to a dressing up party?” Alex asked his two acquaintances who he only really knew by name from college, Drew & Drake.
Drew & Drake were a great duo because of their names. Unfortunately for them and you dear reader, they weren’t Drew & Drake the calm, collected suave detectives two names like that would make just ultra cool! Nah. Drew & Drake were just two best mates who were unemployed who wore sweatpants because they’re comfortable. Neither were they a brand of whiskey though they often smelt like they were.
“Well?” Alex gestured with his palms open in question.
Drew spun around in his pink flamingo costume, “What?” He looked at Alex blankly.
Alex pointed to Drew which didn’t help Drew because Drew knew he was Drew.
Alex rolled his eyes, “The fucking costume!”
realisation crossed Drew’s face, “Oh, you could say that.” He nudged Drake.
Drake turned around in his penguin costume, “It’s sort of a party, yes.”
“Can I come?” Alex beamed.
Drew & Drake exchanged glances, Drews flamingo beak collided with Drake’s round penguin costume. “Don’t think it’ll be your scene,” Drake explained.
“Why not?” Alex crossed his arms and looked across the road with a petulant expression on his face.
“Because…” Drake’s face screwed up hard in concentration.
Drew nudged Drakes penguin costume.
“What?” Drake flapped.
Drew pointed down the road at the hearse, “Here he comes.”
Drake followed Drew’s finger and sighed.
“I guess it’s time to say goodbye,” Drew swallowed down a knot in his throat.
More people emerged, and Alex’s eyes had widened, “I wish I’d never asked. I’ll guess I’ll be going about my business!”
Drake shot him a glance, “Yea, mind your own business next time, we don’t even know you that well!”
“God put me here to ask you these questions, so I did, my question has been answered, but I only have…” He watched as the place swelled with yet more people dressed as parrots and penguins and a few budgies but mostly a sea of pink flamingos. “More questions,” His eyes narrowed as he crossed the road to get away from them.
The bells rang out like a weapon of soul destruction; humans having been primed to know it meant goodbye.
Alex watched the procession of pink and a few other colours here and there with a brow raised and a chuckle rising in his throat despite himself.
Cars rolled by and the passengers stared out the window wondering what on earth was going on, one driver who saw his wife’s perturbed face chortled and joked, “It’s global warming. All these birds are emigrating to strange places.”
As the pallbearer’s carried the coffin through a path, the sea of people created it looked even more surreal. The pallbearers were dressed in smart suits but had owl masks covering their faces.
Someone stopped by Alex to watch, his dog pulling on the lead. “What the…”
Alex turned to the stranger, “It’s certainly….” Alex scratched at the stubbed on his face with a perplexed look, “Something…”
The little dog barked at the crowd of people dressed strangely.
The stranger looked horrified, “I better go,” He started his face pale.
“I don’t think they’ll mind a dog barking….”Alex started to say but the man had swiftly shuffled away pulling his dog along as it kept turning around to yap at the procession outside the church doors.

The vicar stood at the front of a statue of Jesus on a cross, light came shimmering in through the coloured glass behind him.
“Frank was a…” The vicar rubbed a finger on his collar, “an eccentric,” He said as he looked out at the sea of faces and beaks. “Frank lived life to the full, and though he has gone now, he will forever be remembered as a humorous, genuine, kind man.” The vicar scanned the faces and beaks around his church, “There is a lesson that can be taught by this kind man and that is not to take life too seriously. He’s known for a few sayings like, “Your arse…ahem pardon my french, is at the bottom of you for a reason, it’s the last thing you put down!””
The mourners mumbled and nodded their heads.
“And, “Window cleaners are the spies you should be most afraid of.””
The mourners chuckled.
“And one of my favourites,” He peered over his glasses, “I must forewarn there is bad language here, but for the sake of respect I shall quote him exactly as he says it, “A fork in the road gives 3 choices. Either you choose one of the prongs, you go back, or you don’t use the fucking road.””
The crowd laughed once more, and Drake turned to Drew, “That’s our Frank.”
“That’s the Vicar!”
Drake shook his head and rolled his eyes, “No I meant…” He sighed, “nevermind!”
As they swarmed out of the churches gaping mouth and onto the pavement outside, ‘I like birds’ by the Eels played.

 

 

 

 

Long and short of it.

Lankie leant against a wall down a cobbled path behind peoples houses and a pub. A cigarette between his fingers and his right leg bent with his foot on the wall. Down the left mouth of the ginnel, a penguin waddled towards him. Lankie shook his head and did a double take, “What the fuck?” He huffed through a haze of smoke.
The penguin approached closer and closer till Lankie could make out the man’s eyes.
“What the fuck is this?” He gestured with his cigarette hand with palm wide open.
“It’s a penguin costume,” Shortie replied matter of factly.
Lankie rubbed at his temples with both hands, ash falling from his cigarette. “You going for a Batman theme and took the penguin bit too literally?” He grinned.
Shortie looked up at his Lankie friend, “What?”
Lankie shook his head, “nevermind.”
Not long after Shortie appeared behind him his entourage appeared, three waddling penguins.
Lankie pulled his lips back with a sarcastic look on his face, “We’re meant to look inconspicuous.”
Shortie ignored him and turned to his boys, “Right,” he barked as if it was an order.
All the men began unzipping their penguin costumes and stepped out dressed up as women.
“Shit,” Lankie shook his head, “You’re all like some really freaky fucking Russian dolls!” He averted his eyes from the colourful makeup on their faces and the attempts at hiding their stubble rather than shaving. “Yea put the penguin suits back on, you were oddly much less noticeable.” Lankie shot Shortie a glance, “why didn’t you wear a penguin costume anyway?”
“Didn’t want our wives seeing us dressed like this!” Shortie gestured at his wig and dress, “they’d wonder what we were up to.” He said in explanation.

In his garish floral dress and brunette wig with curling strands of hair down his ears Shortie led the other three men who were also dressed garishly, one of the men had short denim jeans on with that torn effect at the rims. Lankie towered over them and followed with a scowl behind the tights on his head. They snuck across the road to the hairdressers. To any onlookers it would have been a sight, five men stalked across a zebra crossing. One tall, Lankie man in a long coat creating a further illusion of height and four men in front wearing wigs, looking not so glamorous. It would have made a good copy of the famous Beatles photo, but with one extra band member if it was taken at night. Shortie crept along the window of the shop and peered into the darkened room.
“Right,” He gestured with his arm for Johnny in his denim shorts,
Johnny looked over his shoulder, his wig flailing with the momentum before bending down to the lock on the door and picking it carefully with his lock picking tools. When the click came, he looked over at Shortie and grinned in the dark. Stepping back from the door he let Shortie have the privilege of opening the door.
“Right come on boys!” He waved a hand to gesture at the other two short fuckers and one Lankie streak of piss.
Shortie, Lankie and the two other short fuckers skulked around the shop trashing to pieces, pouring shampoo on the floor, spraying foam everywhere.
While Johnny went into the back room and picked the lock of the safe.
“You got it yet?” Shortie shouted into the back room as he took a piss in a corner of the shop.
Johnny came out in a flash with a wad of cash in his hands!
“We need Nicholas to know it was us to send him a message!” Lankie reminded Shortie.
Shortie shook a spray can of hair curl spray foam and wrote the words, ‘This is the long and short of the story,” on a mirror.
Lankie shook his head, “What does that even mean?”
Shortie shrugged, “It means this is the end.”
Lankie shrugged and led them out of the shop.