Chapter 11: Dragonfish

We walk along the beach like a couple in a rom-com, the backs of our shoes hooked onto our fingers. The sea froths at our feet and the rollercoaster from the amusement park behind us laughs its maniacal laugh as screams of its victims penetrate the wind.
“I don’t think I love you.”
Jasmine steps further into the sea so that the rim of her skirt skims the water, she looks over her shoulder at me but turns away quickly.
The hush of the sea seems to divide us further apart with only the laughing track of the rollercoaster behind. I look over my shoulder to the pier behind me where the lone figure stands watching, waiting with smoke billowing out of his mouth. ”
So,” Her words finally crack through the laughing track, the menacing tone of it seeming to stifle the breeze, “You sure know how to make things awkward,” she laughs trying to make light of the moment.
“It’s true.” I agree.
I wade through the water till I’m next to her, “Love is never enough.”
We walk even further into the sea till it’s up to our knees. The waves lapping around us. It’s hard to tell in the darkness, but I think she’s frowning
“But you just said you don’t love me.”
I look out at ahead of me at the vastness of the sea, “And I’m saying it doesn’t matter because love is never enough anyway.”
I turn to read her shadowed expression again but she’s disappeared. I look to my left and she’s not there either. My light bulb head flashing erratically, “Jasmine?” The rollercoaster laughs at my plight distantly. As a shrill scream calls out from the ride I feel a sudden weight against me and my head goes under the water, “Is this what you want?” Jasmine asks through gritted teeth, her voice sounding far off and away, “Well” She pushes my head down harder. Submerged under the water, salt water getting in my mouth on automation a panic sets in me, I try to push myself up against the resistance. She pulls my head and I spit and cough, “What…” Is all I manage to get out before she’s plunged my head back down, “You want to die?”
I gurgle under the water. All these years of feeling like I’m drowning and I almost laugh as the water takes my breath away. She lifts my head out again, pulls my head toward her and before I can cough and splutter her lips are on my mine further suffocating me. “Of course you don’t love me,” She whispers as she pulls her lips away, “You’d rather die than love someone else.”
I cough and splutter up my lungs violently.
“If I didn’t love you,” the rollercoaster laughs at this exact point and it seems appropriate, “I probably wouldn’t hate you so much.” Her voice catches in her throat.
“I’m sorry,” I splutter.
“I know you need help,” Tears break her voice, “You’re too far gone for me.”
I close my eyes and feel the water against my body, “I’m sorry,” I repeat more clearly as she wades through the water and back to shore.

I watch my trainers float away on the water ahead of me before heading back to the pier. My clothes drenched and my lungs still burning. Couples walking home after an evening out walk hand in hand, turning their heads to look at me the drenched shoeless man walking along the pavements as I head towards gates of the theme park a moody man looking me up and down with a sigh, “Really?” he shakes his head again and tuts as he rips tickets off his booklet and takes my money. My face is flapping in the wind, the clouds above begin to spit as the clown laughs at my decline, my stomach lurching at the pull of gravity my mouth gaping open from the automatic bodily horror and excitement. My heart is racing. The laughter is followed by the whooshing sound and click-clack of the rollercoasters momentum. The laugh starts up again but more maniacally as it twists and spirals and I’m upside down. It probably looks comical, just me on my own hanging upside down suspended, the moon shining down on the world as if nothing is wrong. My heart is pounding not because I’m alive but because I’m dying. I look down at all the dots walking in all directions, humans that look like ants. Apart from it all, watching, trying to be like you but always seeming to fall short somewhere.

Concerts, parties, clubs, I watch you and I can’t connect to it because I’m feeling everything and nothing all at once. A balloon about to burst.

Noticing everything, but noticing everything is as good as noticing nothing.

”I do love you, Jasmine!” I whisper to the air around me as the ride pulls to a stop.

“One more time,” I tell the tickets guy, he shakes his head and tuts which I take to be a signal for no, so it’s with a jolt when I realise he’s let the ride start again.

 

Chapter 10: Dragonfish

A bright white light shines like a star, making silhouettes of the band in front. The middle of the floor is oddly empty; everyone gathered around the edges of the room as if existing only in the periphery.
“We’ve come all the way to Foxbarrow for this?” I ask Jasmine who stands wearing band merchandise beside me, the band’s logo on her t-shirt with a guitar going through the writing.
Jasmine smirks, “Do you like anything?”
The lead singer is singing about a dirty magazine, “Would It surprise you,” I pause to get myself psyched up to say this, “if I said this band sounds okay to me?”
Jasmine raises a brow, “Only okay?” She shrugs, “If that’s the best I’m gonna get from you then its good enough for me.”
It’s atmospheric, ambient music. My favourite kind, but I won’t tell her that. The crowd of people is slowly dispersing throughout the hall so that we’re no longer just filling in the edges. Some people are swaying to the beat of the music; others are laughing and taking tokes of what I gather to be marijuana.
“Another dirty magazine to see me off to bed,” the band sings, and some people in the crowd join in.
I pull Jasmine to the bar away from too many mingling bodies,”Can we just sit here for a bit?”
Jasmine smiles, and for the first time, it seems like a sincere, warm smile, that smile only women know how to do that spreads a warmth with it. It’s like a smile that caresses you, makes you feel cared for, for a moment.
She lights up a cigarette casually and sits down, “Sure.”
Maybe it’s the music working on us like a drug, calming our nerves.
“Do you know what my soul sounds like?” I ask her, my eyes almost half shut from feeling so mellow.
“Like an explosion.”
I look at her lips, “Why an explosion?”
“Because you’re a wreck?” She shows her teeth in a grin, trying to pass it off as a joke. But we both know it’s true.
“No the explosion is history; this is the aftermath.”
I take a swig from my drink, “No, this music.”
We sit around for another hour not doing much, just taking in the dark atmospheric guitar strings ringing out with the deep voice now singing about poisoned kisses that they’re still chasing after. It’s their last song before they start packing up the stage in front of us and the hall starts to empty.
The hall erupts into silence, and we just sit back in our chairs. Jasmine looks at me, a question forming on her lips.
“What?”
“Do you…” She seems shy all of a sudden gazing down at the table drawing invisible circles with her finger, “Do you really want to die?” I meet her eyes for one fleeting moment, both of us averting each others gazes immediately, “I’ve seen your internet history,” She explains, “All your searches about suicide.”
I get up out of my seat and look down at my laces.
“Can you just answer me this one question, Gilly? Do you really want to die?”
I shrug my shoulders, “I don’t know.”
She lifts her gaze to my face; I stare at her lip. “You don’t know?”
“I don’t know if ‘want’ is the right word.”
She draws lines back and forth with her finger now, “now that I’ve heard your soul I can’t help but feel sad.”
“But I thought you liked this music?”
“It’s good music, but it’s also sad music.” Her chair scrapes across the floor as she gets up to leave, the scratching sounds echoing through the hall. A man is stood waiting at the door holding it open for us, keeps shouting over that they have to get the hall ready for the ballroom dancing. Jasmine grabs my hand and starts running to the door; she flips the man off and giggles. The man looks crossed but doesn’t respond, just closes the door. ”What was that for?” I ask her
”Just felt like it.” She smiles as we wait for a car to drive past and then she pulls me across the road towards the pier.

The street lights wash the roads in orange like we’re living inside a tangerine. In the beginning, God made an orange. The evening breeze rustles through our hair. Jasmine runs ahead of me letting go of my hand giggling against the hush of the sea. I walk fast to try and keep up with her, the further we get away from the roads and onto the pier the less orange the world becomes, getting darker like we’ve reached the periphery of our existence. My lightbulb head flashing against the near black vastness. I can see her, just a figure at the end of pier leaning on the railings and I can smell the awful smell of marijuana before I see the smoke billowing out of her mouth like a chimney. I lean on the railings next to her, and she hands me the spliff. It’s funny to think how averse to germs, and human contact I am yet a very primal drive in me has allowed me to get past that and I’ve licked this woman out, kissed her lips! Just thinking about that at this moment when my primitive instincts aren’t currently ramped up by all the hormonal changes of sexual friction makes me want to heave. I take a deep breath; I mustn’t overthink this. I take a small drag and hand the spliff back to her. The hushing of the ocean lulls me into sleepiness. I turn to watch the lapping of the waves just visible in the dark and take a leak onto the sand between the railings, before I tuck myself away she grabs my dick,
“Here?” I look over my shoulder left and right as I feel her take me into her mouth. I’m getting hard, and into the moment driven by my primitive side again, I watch the waves blankly as her head bobs up and down on my cock, the fingers on my right-hand curling in her hair. I check over my shoulder and am stunned silent by a dark figure, who I take to be a man just leaning against the right side of the pier watching us. I pull myself out of Jasmine’s mouth in panic, but she moves forward and wraps her lips around me again before I can put myself away, “someone…” I utter through the conflict of pleasure and fear. I try to pull out and I want to hide and never be seen again.
She wipes my semen from her lips and is laughing till she peers at the figure down the pier. She stares startled then looks at me wide-eyed, “how long has he been….Shit!” She curses.
“I don’t know.” I lie

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9: Dragonfish

I sit listening to the tick of the clock on the boiler. Tick, tock, tick tock. It’s been an hour since I got off the phone to Jasmine, she’s not arrived. I start to wonder where she is, I can hear the light breeze outside and the sound of birds singing their last songs for the evening. I look out the window at the rustling leaves and for a moment I think I see a shadow of a man watching me, only to blink and find the shadow has disappeared. Breaking me out of my mind I hear a knock at the door. I look through the peephole, take a deep breath mixed with relief and disappointment all at once but unsure why. Jasmine looks strange in the fisheye lens of the peephole, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. “Fag out or I don’t let you in,” I shout through the door. “A hello wouldn’t go amiss,” She frowns and inhales the last bit of nicotine before stubbing it out on the corridor carpet with her foot. I open the door, my eyes immediately avert to the cigarette butt on the carpet, “You’re not meant to smoke in the corridor.” She barges past me and ignores my comment. “I thought I better come round,” ,” she heads straight through into the lounge and scans the place, “Wow,” she exhales and whistles, “I didn’t notice how empty your flat when I was here the other night!” “Don’t think we made it past the bathroom.” We both smile with hazy memories playing in our heads, whether each of our versions is different though one can never tell. She sits down on the sofa letting out a sigh as if she’s deflating. She spies the little blue flashing light on the table in the corner, “I see you still see the need for a laptop, though,” she winks, “I guess a guy can’t live without his porn.” She grins. My phone vibrates and buzzes on the arm of the sofa. Jasmine picks up the phone and smiles mischievously, “Well, well, what have we got here?” She wiggles her eyebrows, “You player, you!” She laughs. I lurch forwards in panic, to grab the phone from her and she quickly moves out of the way, “Come on!” I hiss more harshly than I meant to, “I wouldn’t nosey through your phone!” “Ooh,” She starts teasingly, “Got something to hide, have we?” I hold my hand out, insistent that she passes it to me. She rolls her eyes, “Alright!” The phone lights up my face. It’s just a message from my phone company offering more minutes. I sit back on the couch next to Jasmine and she looks at me with smile curving her lips, “So, what ya hidin'” She carries on teasing, making a beeline for me, grabbing hold of me and rolling on top of me and tickling me. “Stop! STOP!” I scream.
But she carries on, carried away, laughing. “STOP!” I shout, “Stop,” So carried away in her teasing fun my hand is at her cheek before I realise what I’m doing. She jerks upright and jumps off me stunned, “Fuck!” She hisses, “What was that for!”
I swallow, “I…I didn’t mean…I’m…” I look down at the carpet, “I don’t like being tickled.”
She sits down at the edge of the sofa, “You’re an arsehole you know that?” I shrug. She exhales with a sigh and slouches back on the sofa, “And you slap like a girl,” She grins.
“Is that not misogynistic to assume a girls slap would be weak?” She raises a brow, “Who said it means it was weak?” She winks, “Who assumed then?”
We sit in silence for a few moments, tick tick of the clock on the boiler the only sound between us until she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a spliff, looking across to me expectantly.
“You’re the type of woman my mother warned me about.”
“Me in particular?” Jasmine smirks, “Moi? She warned you all about little old me?” She takes the bobble out of her hair and lets her hair trail down her back. I think she looks better like that.
“Yes, she said something about a girl called Jasmine. Said she’ll try and turn me into a druggie.” I can smell the marijuana and think it’s not a pleasant smell at all, “You are aren’t you?”
“What?” “Turning me into a druggie?” She doesn’t answer my question, just holds the burning spliff towards me and I hesitantly take it.
“it ain’t gonna bite!” She laughs. I
inspect the thing between my fingers, turning my nose up at the smell, “it smells awful, though!”
“I still haven’t forgiven you, you know.” I hear my blinking like a cartoon in my head.
“You know, slapping me,” She shakes her head but she’s smiling which confuses me.
“I don’t understand what you’re feeling.”
She just laughs.

The laptop is the only source of light between us. Hours have passed, and it’s completely dark out though I keep checking for any human-like figures looking in. At some point I think I see a human looking figure with broad shoulders, I stare out straight at this apparent man of the night until the moment is broken by her voice, “Earth to Gilly!”
Why does everyone say that? I turn to look over my shoulder, “Yeah?” I look at her blankly. The sound of my own blinking in my head clink, clink.
“Wow,” she looks a mixture of amused and worried, “Are you alright?” Then she beams, “It’s probably the weed, it’s the first time that’s pretty clear.”
A thought occurs to me, and I laugh out loud, “You introduced me to E the other night and now weed, I think you’re doing it the wrong way around!”
She moves the laptop from her knee and places it on the couch arm, “There is something strange on your laptop,”
My heart thumps against my chest, “Whay?” My voice comes out shakily.
”Yea. You’re history is all wrong. I can’t find any porn!” She laughs and moves towards where I’m standing at the window, she looks out and then back at me, “What are you looking at?” She asks, and I finally look a person in the eyes. I look her in her vivid brown eyes, and she places a hand on my cheek. . I avert my gaze from hers quickly, “I bet you didn’t know the colour of my eyes until now.” She says softly.
“Don’t mind but I won’t look again,” I tell her.
“You’ll look again,” She says, her voice still soft. Softer than I’ve ever heard her.
“Don’t expect it much.”
She looks saddened for a moment, deflated I think. I put my hand on her shoulder, flashbacks of my awkward kiss with Sam play behind my eyes and I let go of her.
“Sorry,” I look at the floor and feel at the back of my neck.
“No,” She, touches my shoulder, lifts my chin with her fingers and kisses me.

I wake up with her bra on my head and her feet on my lap and my boxer shorts are around her ankles. She stirs and rubs the sleep from her eyes, I turn to look at her chin and mouth and a question forms on my lips before I think much about it, “Why did you turn up last night?”
Jasmine shrugs, “Felt the comedown from the E the night before.”
We sit in silence for a few ticks of the clock, “Once we’ve seen past the illusion there is no going back,” I think out loud.
“What?” Jasmine cocks her head to one side and itches her foot.
“Are you sad without drugs?” I get up from the sofa and saunter into the kitchen forgetting I’m naked. I look down to see my penis flapping about freely and instinctively cover myself.
“No use hiding now!” Jasmine laughs.
I go back into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of water, “Well?” I ask from the kitchen
”What?”
I stand between the kitchen and the living room, “Well?”
“Well, what?” Jasmine asks
“Are you sad without drugs?”
There is a silence as I gulp down the entire glass of water and pour another one. “Sad people need drugs.” I continue, “It’s the only way to go back to the illusion.” “The illusion?”
“The illusion that is life.”
Jasmine rolls her eyes, “Life isn’t an illusion.”
“What I mean is the illusion of meaning.”
“I’m not sad without drugs,” Jasmine finally answers as if there was a delay between the sound waves of my question and the vibrations in her inner ear. “Drugs are just an enhancement of life to me.”
“If I became a drug addict,” I thought for a moment and looked out the window, “I’d never stop.”
“That is what an addict doesn’t do, doesn’t stop.”
“No. I mean, no matter how many people try to break through to me that I’m killing myself or whatever, I’d not be able to stop. I know it.”
“You’d have to go rehab.”
“I’d fail rehab.”
“Well lucky you’re not a drug addict then!” Jasmine grinned
“But I will be if I keep hanging out with you!” I try to smile, “If I become a drug addict I won’t stop till I die. I know this because…” I pause and squint to try and make out movement in the bushes, “I know there is no meaning to life and life is too tedious. Drugs would fill the emptiness.” I turn from the window to Jasmine, “I’ve seen those shows where they talk to drug addicts and give them the ‘gift’ of rehab, and they’ll ask them things like, “Do you want to die?” And they always say the same thing, “No.” And then they cry. And I imagine myself in their position, and I’m thinking, either they’re lying, or I’m the most depressed person on this planet because do you know what my reply would be?”
Jasmine takes a sip of water.
“Yes I want to die!” That’s what I’d say!”
“I’ve never known anyone have such a comedown from a spliff before!”
“Oh,” I wave away her comment, “This isn’t a hangover thing, this is just me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8: Dragonfish

My cheek is wet from dribbling and it’s numb, I run my hand across my skin and feel the pattern of the grooves that have imprinted on my face from sleeping with my head on the tiled floor. I run my tongue over a sore spot on my inner cheek, running my hand over my head I jerk up right at the sensation underneath my fingers. I look into the mirror with a start at my shaved head. And then it comes to me, I remember seeing her in the reflection behind me, her knickers around her ankles as she sits on the toilet. The sound of the buzzing as I took the clippers to my head and then the gushing of her pissing behind me. Remembering how I looked into the mirror feeling radiated as well as aroused. She stood from the toilet, her legs apart as she wiped herself before slithering down and taking me into her mouth. Her face looked up at me, her hair everywhere in the bath as I moved up and down on top of her, my knuckles going white as I placed my hand around her neck. Her red lips puckering, mascara running down her face. I inspect my head and face in the mirror, trying to get to grips with my new look before looking to my right and seeing her lying there lifeless in the bath. My heart pounds hard against my chest, a rush of blood to my ears pulsating and the bathroom light suddenly too bright. A cartoon plays out in my head of my heartbeat being visible in my chest and then bursting out and flinging out as if catapulted from my chest into the mirror with a splash of blood splattering all over the room and on myself. The room starts to spin, I look at her pale body until I feel the bile rising from my stomach and lurch towards the toilet bowl. I draw an O for a mouth on my light bulb head along with big round eyes that have reels of a film playing out a nightmare, all while the light flickers in and out. I breathe in sync with the flickers, gasping with horror every time the fish flashes into my consciousness. Water starts to drip down until my head is almost submerged, but the light still flashes. Blinking on then off again. It only just occurs to me as I run out of the bathroom that I’m still naked. I close the door to the bathroom and run into my bedroom and get dressed. I’m dripping wet with sweat or the sea. I’m drowning. I take a quick peek back into the bathroom, catching my breath at the sight of her before closing the door again and rushing out of my flat and off to work. Images of us having sex in the bath plague my mind, my hands around her neck. The taxi driver is listening to the radio, a song about going to church is on as if the radio knows my sin. The driver looks through his rearview mirror at me, his lips contorting into a grin I could only be dreaming up. “Are you okay?” The driver asks me. Now I notice he’s actually frowning in concern. “Yes,” I lie. The silence hangs heavy over us.

The tap in the kitchen is rhythmically dripping, filling the empty silence and my heart is pounding against my chest again, the gush of pulsating in my ears syncronised with both the tap and my heartbeat. The water and I, we’re always in sync and we’re always playing cat and mouse. My phone is ringing out in the hallway between the bathroom and the lounge. The light illuminating the hallway. The ringing and the drip, drip of the tap seem to have the same rhythm, filling me with dread. By the time I get to my phone, it stops ringing and the screen flashes a missed call from Jasmine. My fingers smudge the screen as I press to call back, “H…Hello?” I stutter. “Hello.” Her voice sounds hoarse. “You…You phoned,” I manage. My eyes darting to the bathroom door across from me, the room seeming to shrink, closing in on me. I open the bathroom door and peer cautiously over the rim of the bathtub. My heart jolts at the sight. The bath is empty. “Yea just wanted to check you were okay. The comedown from those pills I gave you, it can get pretty bad. Especially the first time.” “The comedown?” I ask blankly, still not convinced it can really be her. “Yea, the hangover is always a bitch. But you got through it obviously.” “You’re…” I take the phone away from my ear and look back at the screen, it definitely says Jasmine, “You’re alive!” I can hear a sharp intake of breath on the phone and then laughing, “What you on about?” “When I left you…” “Oh, yea!” Jasmine blurts out, “Why’d you just up and leave this morning?” “What?” I swallow, “I..I had to go to work. I…You were in the bath…” “What did you think had happened?” “I don’t know,” I lie. How can I tell her I thought maybe I’d killed her? “I think I better come up and see you.” “I’m fine, honestly,” I say unconvincingly. “Be there soon,” She says ignoring my words. “But…”I Start but she’s put the phone down.

Chapter 7: Dragonfish

“What are we meant to do now?” The cartoon cinema inside my mind reels an image of me as a lemon stood at the bar looking clueless. Everyone else around me appears to be going bananas (cue a cartoon of dancing bananas in my head) dancing to the noise and different colours light each expression they pull. Jasmine cranes her neck back as she looks at me, and I have an urge to ask if she’s a brontosaurus but feel it won’t go down too well, it’s too much like asking if she’s an elephant. “What?” She shouts over the music.
”What do we do now?”
”What?” She grins, her yellowing teeth somehow managing to glow, “You’ll have to speak up! I can’t hear you over the music!”
I swallow hard before opening my mouth to speak but the words won’t come out. My words are stuck in my throat, in my brain like razors cutting through me reminding me I’m not normal.
I find myself fidgeting on my feet, compelled to rock on the balls of my feet.
Jasmine looks across at me like I’m an alien and I feel sick.
”Gilly?”
I hear her voice a little but the music is vibrating through my body and I don’t like it. All the faces are flashing their different hues as they dance and everyone appears monstrous to me.
I run to the toilets a fluorescent strip flickers intermittently, this club has an obsession with flashing lights, or is it I that is obsessed? My light bulb head flashes between the flickers above. Artificial suns, artificial light. We sacrificed the stars; the sky is bloody with murder! We sacrificed the stars! The white tiles are yellowing, and the long silver gutter like urinal is orange with hardened piss that had failed to reach the drain. Clumps of chewing gum seal cracks in the walls and stick to the dotted floor tiles, people have left their mark in the form of grooves from their shoes in the gum. Artificial suns, artificial light. I breathe heavily.
“Gilly,” A female voice enquiries in a conspiratorial whisper.
“Jasmine?” I find myself mimicking the conspiratorial tone. The door opens and the music blasts through like an unwelcome draft.
“What, you can’t come in here!” I look at her puzzled, “It’s the mens!” I explain as if she doesn’t already know.
Her shoulders lift in tension, and she folds her arms as if cold, “I’m just checking you’re okay.” She chews her gum loudly and I find myself clenching my fist at the sound.
“I’m alright.” I’m so used to these lies now.
She leans against a stall door, and the door opens inwards, pushed by her weight and she falls in with it. She just about holds herself up via the stall wall. After a moment of what felt like impenetrable silence she laughs and I find myself laughing too, “You’re anxious.” She decides out loud.
“No.” I lie. “There are too many people. And the lights, all the lights, all the dust. Everything.”I knead my hands and visibly shake.
”What if I was to….” She pauses and licks her lips seductively. I blink and hear my blinking inside my head as my eyelashes meet. She’s walking over to me and shimmying her butt, bulging her chest out to emphasise her breasts. She pouts her lips and slowly wiggles her way down on her knees rhythmically, and her head is right at my crotch. I gulp. The light flickers above us. A tap drips. and the light clicks and buzzes in sync with the drip, drip, drip.
The light has flickered off for a longer second than usual when I hear her giggle. The light comes back on, and she’s stood in front of me. Her mint breath in my face, “I know what you need!”
“Whats that?” I step back a bit, my back meets the rim of a sink and digs into me. She takes some pills from her pocket and holds out the palm of her hand. We just stand here in silence, blinking again, the light clicking and the tap dripping.
I’m claustraphobic. I’m drowning.
“Go on.” She shoves her palm closer to me, “Take two,” she smiles, “You’ll be right as rain.”
“Okay.” I gulp down the tablets trying not to heave them straight back out.
I look in the mirror looking for some change in my face, though I don’t know what that change would be. “What now?”
Her eyes light up behind me in the reflection, “Now,” she wiggles her eyebrows, “We have fun!”
She grabs my hand and pulls me out of the toilets and into the horde of zombies being lit up different colours.
She moves her body near mine, shimmying her body up and down her breasts brushing against me. The music that is playing has some classical music I recognise underneath it. Sweaty bodies are dancing all around me, invading my personal space. My light bulb head flashes on and off in the middle of this berserk crowd of rainbow people. People pull strange faces and back away from me as the Anglerfish in my bulb greets them with its toothy grin. I watch dust motes floating in the light streams from where the light source is on a balcony, shining down on us all like infected ants.
The lights are brighter than ever to my eyes and as I look around me I feel like I’m at a mass exorcism. Bu I can’t connect to their delirum, their sense of fun.
The music is making my skull ache, “Can we leave?” I find myself shouting it over the music, shocking myself by my own voice.
“Just wait,” Jasmine replies with a knowing smile.
For a while I don’t notice anything different, deciding she’s just given me a sugar pill I smile to myself with the knowledge. “You can’t fool me,” I whisper.
She moves her body to the music, “What are you on about?”
“You think you’ve got one over me, but you haven’t.”
She frowns but carries on shaking her arse to the music. The music seems to get louder which at first makes me panic and flail about, storming back to the bar trying to wave the sound away from my ears. People look at me weirdly, but I figure it’s the scary Anglerfish inside my head. men and women are dancing bathed in multi-coloured lights, some dancing together with sexual tension almost visible as an aura around them. I float back to the crowd of dancing zombies to find Jasmine, and she’s dancing with a surreal smile on her face from ear to ear. Her body shimmers with its own source of illumination, the grin still splitting her face she beams, “Unicorns are just horny horses.” and giggles.
The music vibrates through my body, the music and I are one together. “I’m a…” A wave of green light shines on me and I bathe it in, spreading my arms open wide like an Eagles Wings, “I’m a dragonfish.”
She gives me a questioning glance.
“It’s an ugly little fish that lives in the depths of the ocean. It lives in the darkness.”
“Cool!” She says with real enthusiasm, “wow that’s so cool. Actual dragons in the sea!”
“No, they’re fish. Great fish.”
She gasps, “Oh my god!”
I think something is behind me; I check over my shoulder. “What?”
“Gilly!”
“What?” I grasp both her shoulders and shake her, “What is it my glowing angel?” I laugh loudly. A woman with a purple face glares and pushes past me.
“Gilly! You’re a dragon FISH. FISH. And you’re called Gilly. It fits.”
“I’m not really called Gilly!” I argue.
“People call you that more than Jacob, so you are!” She beams her massive Cheshire Cat grin.
“It fits!” I find myself agreeing, a wave of nausea caused by little butterflies in my stomach. “I think I ate some butterflies.”
“And what did the butterflies eat?” She asks, genuine curiosity on her face.
“A dinosaur.”
“How does a butterfly eat a dinosaur? Nincompoop!” She slaps the back of my head.
“Well, they fold the dinosaurs to an edible size first, obviously,” I roll my eyes. Another song comes on with classical music as background underneath all the added shit. “We fold what we know into our brains so that means a butterfly can eat a dinosaur!”
Jasmine has wondered off amidst the crowd; I barge through the people and their barriers radiation. “Jasmine,” I stop in my tracks because a man gives me a dirty look, a sheen of green over his face which then turns to purple. “Wow!” I find myself saying out loud as I usher him out of my way, “Jasmine!” I make way through the crowd till I’ve come full circle and I’m back at the bar. I turn back to the dance floor to watch everyone and their radiant faces, and I stick my tongue out to taste a trace of the dust particles I can see in the split streams of artificial light, artificial suns and moons beaming on us all. “It tastes like a lighthouse in here.”
I feel a presence close to me and then a hand on my shoulder; I look over my shoulder to see Jasmine’s face hovering above me. An unfamiliar expression crosses my face, “I just had an epiphany,” I start,
She drags me outside, “And what’s that?”
“Dragonfish have to be their own source of light!”

Chapter 6: Dragonfish

I’m in the maintenance cupboard; I can smell bleach and something else that is stale and musty. A lone bulb, not long for this world hangs from the ceiling above my head with cobwebs above it casting shadows on the yellowing ceiling and walls. I cast a shadow across the hard concrete floor, overflowing onto the wall like I’m a giant. What I’d give to be a giant under this dark sea! The door creaks open slowly; she peers around then steps in closing the door behind her.
“Gilly?” She squints her eyes in the dim light.
“Sam?”
She shrugs her shoulders and just stares blankly over in my direction, the light bulb hanging between us. “What are you doing in here?”
I could ask you the same thing,” I whisper conspiratorially. “Damn it!” I hiss.
“What?”
“I missed the best opportunity to say ‘I’ve been expecting you.” I sigh, “Go back out and come back in.”
She sighs now and looks around the room, her hands open in question.
“I come here for a break sometimes.” I finally answer.
“I came in to get a mop. There has been a spillage.”
I look at her sceptically, “Since when has cleaning been your job?”
“Since Rob decided to call in sick for two weeks running.” Her shoulders slump as she leans against a wall. She chuckles to herself.
“What?”
“Nothing.” She smirks more.
“Come on!” I ask eagerly, wanting in on the joke.
“It’s just…” She looks down at her shoes then at the wall behind my head, “Being in the maintenance cupboard kinda just reminds me of story lines in films. It feels like there should be a camera here and this is the scene where we kiss.”
I stare at her, blinking. I can hear the sound of my blinking in my head like I’m a cartoon. Clink, clink. “Um…”
“I mean because” She starts defensively, “it’s like we’re sneaking around.” She shrugs her shoulders, “I’ve seen it on Scrubs.” She laughs.
“Okay.” I mimic the action of undoing my belt.
She covers her mouth to stifle her laughter.
I have an urge to kiss her, and in haste, I launch towards her like a man on a mission, all my instincts never to share bodily fluids with anyone have evaporated, and I kiss her hard on the lips.
She pushes me away, “What?” She gasps, startled, wiping her lips “What was that?”
“It’s called a Kiss,” I shuffle uncomfortably on my feet and feel at the back of my neck, “What do you call it? Did I do it wrong?”
She closes her eyes a moment and shakes her head, “This is…” She reaches the door handle “Gilly…” She murmurs and fumbles with the door handle, “I bet you don’t even know what colour my eyes are!”
”Blue.”
”You notice no one but yourself in this world,”  She hangs in the doorway hesitantly, looks back at me with a sad expression lit on her face.
“Sorry,” I whisper to the emptiness of the room as she leaves and the door closes.

The clouds loom low over town hiding the stars. Sometimes the weather just syncs up with how you feel. We never see the stars in Shademore anyway; we’re much too deep under the ocean, lost in our artificial lights, our artificial suns. Jasmine is at the bus stop; legs stretched out in front of her. “Gilly!” She pipes up, gum churning between her teeth and a cigarette between her fingers.
I nod to aknoweldge her presence.
It’s started to rain that summer rain; the road has a sheen to it reflecting all the different sources of light.
”You notice no one but yourself,” Her voice repeats in my head, “You notice no one but yourself.” Everyone seems to think that, but I swear it’s not true.
“Get a bus with me.” Jasmine asks pleadingly.
I look down at my shoes blankly. You notice no one but yourself. No. Sometimes I notice so much it coalesce to noticing nothing at all!
“I’m going to The Insider.” Jasmine’s voice finally burts my bubble
“The…The insider?” I ask
“It’s a club,” she tilts her head and smiles, “You ever been?”
“No,”
We watch a few passing cars, watching as they spray water under their tyres.
“You called a taxi yet?” She interrupts the swooshing sound of traffic.
“Might have.”
She smiles furtively, “I’m betting you have.” She flicks the stub of her cigarette onto the path, “Fuck the taxi. Get on the bus with me!”
Why do people get on buses but get in cars?
She winks and chews the gum hard with new found enthusiasm.
My taxi arrives just in the nick of time.
“Go tell him to bog off,” Jasmine laughs.
“Nah.” I go towards the taxi and behind my step I sense someone close behind.
“Okay, we’ll get a cab.” She grins. She walks around to the other passenger side.
The driver smiles at me through the rearview mirror, “Going home?”
I look beside me at Jasmine feeling as though she’s an intrusion.
“We’re off to The Insider. You know it?” Jasmine butts in.
“The club?” The driver starts typing a postcode into his sat nav system
“Yea.”
“Near Blackpond Avenue, right?”
Jasmine nods.
“Okay,” The car jerks forwards. The driver’s teeth appear to glow, “Never took you as the clubbing type.”
Jasmine rolls her eyes, “This one here,” she points at me, “the clubbing type,” she laughs, “I know right!”
“I’m a club virgin.” I pipe up.
The driver laughs as does Jasmine, “You’ve got virgin written all over you,” Jasmine raises a brow with a smirk.

Chapter 5: Dragonfish

My manager is in my face pointing to the spreadsheet with an accusing finger, “You haven’t even logged several sales we had on Friday!” Spittle is spraying from his lips until he glances at something or someone behind me, then he suddenly eases up and practices restraint. I follow his gaze and Sam is stood there, her cheeks blush a little as she tries to make herself look busy, her eyes sliding down to some chocolates on a shelf and starts ‘neatening’ the stack. The manager takes his accusing finger away from the screen and places his hands in his pockets, “Just make sure you log all the ticket sales before you leave in the future, okay?”
“Sure,” I nod in response. The screen glows against my face like a replacement for the sun. I scan the food section seeking Sam’s face, and she looks up over at me, I give her my best glare. She saunters back to the snack counter as a customer comes in, has another quick shot at me, bites her bottom lip and then averts her attention to the customer and puts on her best smile.
After work, I sit at the bus stop with the neon sign from the cinemas glowing behind my back giving me a green halo. I cast my eyes down onto the pavement, noticing all the lights reflecting on the wet tarmac, including the green neon sign, my artificial moon shining under all this water that I’m drowning in. Night time shoppers walk by, the constant tack, tack, tack of feet in light shoes as people take it easy with their shopping bags of artificial moonlight. An image pops into my head of Sam dancing to the beat of some music I can just about hear from someone’s headphones as they lean against the glass pane of the bus stop. Halos of green light outline her curves, and I’m taken deep into my head where the bus stop has disappeared along with everything and everyone else it’s just Sam and I.  She’s dancing, and I’m trying to move to the beat but coming off as awkward with two left feet. Her blue, blue eyes are looking at me enticingly, and an extra hollow layer makes its way into my psyche as I try to feel anything other than the water in my lungs.

“Hello,” my head flashes on, off, on, off and Sam just keeps on dancing, slowly shimmying closer to me, gesturing with a ‘come hither’ gesture. But just as we appear to float closer together my head flashes on, and the fish with  all it’s teeth greets her with a grin. She steps back, her eyes wide and horrified. “Hello,” I repeat as if she’s still somewhere near, even though she’s disappeared from my visions. “Hello,” I say again to the darkness.
“He speaks!” A woman squeals breaking me from my trance.
I freeze on the spot like a deer in the headlights. I knead my hands and flick my tongue on the roof of my mouth making a clicking sound, a nervous tic I get sometimes.
“What? Are you trying to call a dog?” Chewing gum woman asks, sitting next to me on the bench, too close.
I get up from the bench, and I run my hand over the back of my neck and hone my vision on a bit of reflected light in a puddle in front of my foot. “Hello,” I whisper.
She tilts her head “Are you speaking to me?”
I nod
She claps her hands together, which draws the attention of other commuters. I knead my hands nervously. “He speaks!” she screeches again.
I recoil inward a cartoon image of myself as a turtle going back in it’s shell plays in my head. I Remain still like a statue till all the attention is away from me.
I click my tongue on the roof of my mouth, “I’m J.J.” I mumble as fast as possible.
“What was that?” she leans forward on the bench
“J.J,” I try to speak more clearly, “I’m J.J.”
“Thought you were Gilly?” She chews gum loudly.
“No, No. I..I am Jacob James Gilbert. Gilly is a nickname people use, my surname shortened.”
“Ah,” she takes her phone out of her pocket, her artificial moon glows against her face, then she puts it back in her pocket, “I’m Jasmine”
“Both our names begin with J.” I notice out loud.
“Yea.” She lights a cigarette with a flick of her lighter and I step further away from the bench. “Whats up? Do I smell?”
“Y…Yes”
I can almost hear the turning of her neck as her body tenses up in some mental restraint and, the tension then flickers into to amusement, “Wow.” She stares ahead.
“Cigarettes” I nod my head towards the smoke
She looks at the end of her cigarette, watching the ash pile up with a puzzled expression on her face until it dawns on her, “Oh!” She beams, “I see!”
“I’d smoke if it wasn’t for the smell,” I remark.
“Why?”
I shrug
She stares into the distance, clearly thinking, “e-cigs,” she mumbles.
“What?”
“e-cigs, you can smoke them without the smell.”
“That isn’t the same.”
“So…” She sucks in some air and smoke, “Ya finally speak!” She starts excitedly.
I shrug again.
“Shit,” she flicks ash onto the pavement, “Don’t go all mute on me again!”
She continues to sit, and I continue to stand in silence till the bus arrives. The buses lights are glowing on the inside, and its headlights glare like eyes. I look at the faces in the windows, the bus turning into a submarine in my imagination. “You waiting for a taxi?”
“Yea.”
She starts towards the bus, “Hey,” she says over her shoulder, one foot on the platform, “How come you get taxis at the bus stop?”
“Bye”
She scoffs, “You’re a funny guy,” she hops onto the bus, “See you around, then, I guess.” She shouts over and drops her cigarette on the pavement and then shows a pass to the driver.