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.

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.





All in the head

I forgot I’m not supposed to go on rollercoasters. Still here I sit like a beer glass on a coaster, I’m shaking inside my teeth are chattering. It’s not cold. I’ve got adrenaline through my viens 10 times a dozen. I’m about to have a heart attack. I’m fizzing up, I’m frothing at the head and I’m running over like a liquid. The rollercoaster goes upsidedown, everything looks right this way down. I throw up my guts over some innocent person just walking along minding their own business. “If my head falls off,” I start, to the stranger beside me, “It’s okay.”
“Um.” He shifts his eyes from side to side.
“Your eyes looked better where they were originally.”
“The doctors say everythings in my head anyway.” I grin, sick smeared round my mouth.


For each smile I manage to build the structure of on my face, I feel the cracks. There are crevices in every smile. I know the bridge is going to break, one foot wrong and it’s all gone. My version of feeling ‘good’ is to walk on egg shells, I can hear the creak of the mechanisms that string my smile up and they’re breaking at the seams and soon they’ll loosen their grip till I’m lost screaming. I take the blade across my skin and it feels like I’ve popped a balloon, the pressure is released through the blood and for a moment I can breathe without sadness, without happiness, I can just breathe in and watch the blood. It’s not like meditation, it’s not peaceful, it’s not nice, and it’s nothing. She knocks on the bathroom door, I can hear the TV blaring in the living room and some people arguing on one of her soaps “What are you doing?” she asks in THAT tone. That tone means she’s pissed. Eager at the chance for her to beat me, I open the bathroom door, hiding the cut on my thigh “Yes?” I beam an unnatural smile her way “What are you taking so long in there for?”
I shrug my shoulders and just look at her blankly before lurching towards her with a kiss
“woah! What you doing! My tv shows are still on”
“I want to eat out” I wink
She smiles coyly at me “Oh yea?”
“Yea” I wink again
I wonder if she can see the desperation in my eyes. I want her to bruise my loneliness, I want her to beat it out of me like she likes to, I want her to love me the way a woman like her does, teach me the error of my ways for all my impossible dreams. I was always a fucking dreamer, such a fucking loser. Have her beat the loser out of me, I look better in cuts and bruises otherwise I’m just a blank a canvas. I am her canvas to paint her rage upon!

In-between all this I still search for escape on the internet, but at this point I don’t know why. In the glow of the screen my loneliness is reflected on my face as I sit a click away from all the resources for women suffering domestic violence. It makes me ponder the idea of hitting her myself, so that she’ll leave me go to a shelter and I’ll have escaped her and she’ll have escaped me. A good few punches for a good cause? Could I really do it? To a woman? Then again I feel worthy of the destruction that comes with it, the aftermath and all its guilt is such an alluring idea. The thought has occurred to me I could just leave, but she’d follow me, I know she would. She’s done it before.
“What are you thinking about?” she looks at me, head tilted
She puts her feet on my lap “I’ve had a hard day” she says
I know that’s a way of asking for a foot massage. I hate feet.

The tv is still blaring in the living room, glowing up the room with its falsehoods and we’re in the bedroom, I’m unfastening her bra and her breasts fall out in front of me, nipples erect. I feel the venom rush to my groin in all its sexual glory and I taste the poison on her lips, she smiles at the kiss and it feels like it did at the beginning of the relationship, when the smiles were so enticing to me they made me just want to pounce on her, and here she is now smiling as my lips press against her lips, it’s familiar, it’s comforting but it’s cold. It’s like ice is pressed between my lips and the eyes I will look into when we open our eyes, they’re blue like frozen lakes, danger lurks beneath them. One wrong move and you crack those lakes, you fall in, surrender your soul and you drown in the ice cold pit beneath. ‘mmm’ she moans as she feels my breath on her neck, I think about her like she’s a stranger, my breath on her neck and the hairs standing to attention as adrenalin kicks in. I plant kisses down her body, little seeds that were always meant to sow my love for her body, her form in all its splendour, but now each kiss is laced in secrecy and lies from one beating to the next and one reason I couldn’t but wanted to cry to the next and it goes on. I kiss a map on her body, down her legs, even her feet. I hate feet. I kiss her just where she wants me to, where she’s been waiting for me to and I’ve been building it up to this moment. I look up to her face to see the frozen lakes in her eyes become liquid and ripples sending shockwaves through her body. Never have I been so turned on, never have I felt so lost and alone.


What do you fear most? Heights? Spiders? Snakes? All the usual fears.
Me? I have something called Cherophobia, do you know what that means? It means I fear happiness. Oh you better believe it, I properly fucking fear those smiles stitched on your faces. The pivotal word there being stitch! You’re not happy to just stitch yourselves up, no you try to stitch me up too. You’re all walking around in a masquerade ball I evidently wasn’t invited to. I want to rip your masks off and reveal the true darkness within, the raging sadness that treads on your soul. Because deep down you know you’re just like me, a syringe of air and bubbles and when you sigh, like me, it’s simply the bubbles and air releasing from the pressure and then you breathe in and more bubbles and air consume your organs. I consumed my own lungs, I’m almost dead. The air isn’t weightless, it’s got a heavy mass to it, people describe depression sometimes as being empty, this is what that emptiness is, it’s empty but it’s heavy. Its air and bubbles, it’s dinosaur piss.
It’s the food we consume; it’s the air we breathe. I’ve felt this since I can remember, how could I not fear happiness? It is the unknown to me.
Like with most fears, I probably fear something that is nothing. As in happiness doesn’t exist in the first place, a manifestation of a prolonged childhood nightmare

In masquerade ball terms I stand bare before you, naked in all my splendour as you gaze upon the darkness. And I believe that you see your own reflection in my darkness, that you gaze upon him or her and then you look away. I fear you. You fear me. I remember as kid tiny glimpses, a butterflies wing worth of a glimpse into something that could be labelled happiness, joy, but I found it to be only veils and walls of lies. It lasted for a moment, with the click of the fingers it’s GONE! The wall tumbles under the weight of its own pressure and the veils are flung open by the wind and you see the darkness, the tears, the blood, the dirt, the consuming of one another.

And I’m lost in a sea of dancing bodies, each move they make is lit up in a different colour as the lights flash manically and I feel like I’m stood in the middle of a mass exorcism. I begin to wonder if I’m stood in the middle of a cult, disguised as individuality. My knuckles are sore and my eyes are bloodshot. The hood still shrouding my head and my eyes are puffed up from tears I couldn’t cry. A woman smiles at me with a green face and then winks with a purple face and then she’s wriggling her way around me, I brush past her and she looks genuinely disgusted that I didn’t pay her any attention. I stand outside the club, the music blaring even outside and I stand under the pink neon sign and light a cigarette. A bouncer looks over to me, in that way they always do where they suspect everyone, especially men like me. I blow smoke out through my mouth and imagine myself as a bull stood in the middle of a ring exhaling morning air through my nostrils and my front leg kicking up a sand storm underneath me, shrouding me for a moment from the crowd before a red flag waves before me and I charge. “What you lookin at?” I jut my chin forwards at him
“A mess” the bouncer replies with a sly smile
“Don’t look in mirrors for too long” I reply
He has his big tattooed arms folded over his chest and he laughs but doesn’t say anything else.
The night is through; no one wants a fight no one wants to fuck. I don’t want to fuck either. I think I might just go home, switch all the lights off and look at the walls, if I stare long enough I can spook myself out and for an hour or two I’ll be running on adrenalin and I’ll have a reason to thrive again.