Silence blooms like reindeer moss. Unrelenting, unkillable. Growing upon the throats of those in the room, clogging passageways with a damp, green mass. As this nothingness stretched on, it continued to flourish. Moving onwards and upwards, snaking around the brain and tugging, as if to release it from its useless human body. We did not need to feel, much as we did not need to think. Right now, in this brutal moment, we just needed to try and find some contentment in existing and continuing on, where others no longer could.
I was tempted to scoff at this notion, which was made to seem so brave and so noble a task. As if being dead was better than being alive - we had something to be thankful for, I suppose. That the deceased could still find some entertainment, without touching us, in our ability to torment ourselves whilst they paraded in a world of mystery beneath our toes. We were our own selfish reckonings, everything is always about us. I take it back. Perhaps there is an ounce of truth that death is the better of the two extremities that life offers us. But a shard of my soul strongly believes also, that life is a trick; and that there was never intended to be any right answer, or path, or role, or indeed, choice. Angels spread enough misinformation to keep the ball in play, and the earth is the arena for the already damned to act out their sufferings. Puppets.
Incessant ticking was the only indication that time had moved. An overly animated cuckoo clock, an outlier in the swampiness radiated from these four burgundy walls. A burgundy like fine wine, sipped greedily in the inferno from dark demons lips. The world outside turned and bike bells chimed. Newspapers still scattered on porches and the sun, as it had never failed to do so, arose to leer over humanity in a terrifyingly beautiful blaze of gold. Another judge that we would not plead with.
I did not know why I thought that my own struggles and pains could alter the continuation of the universe. But for one, solid second, in which I was convinced that all had halted to allow me a chance to breathe without air bubbles boiling inside of my mouth, I grew to despise my smallness.
But just like the press of a button. The snap of rose tinted heartstrings. The continuation of a train despite the crunch of the tracks, too dense to be uprooted gravel. This motionlessness passed. A minute, heads raised from laps, shoulders flexed and grappled with the fatigue that had just started to set in. I hadn’t bowed, I had tried shutting my eyes, but even with orange dancing upon my eyelids, the unknown and the blankness made me feel scared. So I snapped them open not even five seconds later, and the faint traces of shame sloshed in my stomach and made me feel repulsed with myself.
“Are you okay, Dess?” a voice whispered with thick mournfulness, trying not to break the carefully constructed atmosphere that had allowed me an element of grieving. However concise it may have been - but i preferred it that way anyway.
Tilting my head, as the sun caught me, blinding me - the spiteful act was well received. I felt a laugh tickle my tongue teasingly. But that would have been a very inappropriate urge to give way to given the circumstances, so I chided myself and stowed the feeling away in a mental box for later release.
Without shielding my eyes or blinking, I nodded a few times languidly. This daze wasn’t slipping away, perhaps they put weed in my tea to make me relax? Coughing a little and sliding my body a smidge straighter up on the chair in a failed attempt to look more put together. Head bouncing on my broad shoulders. I couldn’t tell who was questioning me, but the prickles of a watchful eye were something I had learnt to recognise over a long time. Stabbing, ensnaring, thought consuming. I imagine it is what others feel before death strikes them with her fabled scythe. Albeit much more stronger and increasingly more terrifying.
“Really, I’m fine,” I added, wanting more than anything for this to all be over and done with, like him. One by one, the prickles multiplied. “I think i’ll just go home, binge some shitty tv before my bill runs out, and maybe empty my fridge in the process…you really don’t have to worry or anything.”
This sarcasm was not appreciated. The sun abandoned me, and faded back through the glass window, withdrawing. Now I could see, and I didn’t like it. I had forgotten that so many people were here, and it made my body curl. My mind failed to recognize the individual bodies surrounding me, and there were no faces (all were blurred, like a smokescreen) that I could pin paper tags to. Eyes gazed back at me, catlike and curious. Multicoloured lights in a disorientating fairground ride that I just wanted to get off of. As I mused at their positions somewhat hatefully, polaroids of violence snapped in my mind. One after another. I had never wanted to punch a cat before at all, but their red eyes and meek faces and startling similarities in the moment made me desire an aggression I hadn’t released since my youth.
“Dess, darling?” a louder call, tinged with urgency. This voice was different, like snow - gentler somehow. Promising and exciting. A soft hand, riddled with wrinkles that wrapped around her skin like vines. I knew who this was.
“Ada″ breathing out her name, I felt the coils begin to slowly unravel within me. But they halted just before snapping. Swooping my arms around her and bringing her down with me to the red plastic chair, my mouth stretched and ached with my smile. Her brittle back arched, and hunched, but remained in place. She didn’t leave. Tingles filtered up my cheeks as soap, and flowers and cake lured me into the only real safety I had. A hand was stroking my back, lullingly. I almost winced at the tenderness, and buried myself into the layers and layers of purple cotton that lined her frame.
Wispy, grey hair tangled with soft brown. A union of time and age. I didn’t want to let go.
“I’m so sorry that this has all happened to you” she heaved, and there was a strange art in hearing somebody who has experienced so much terror and brilliance breakdown because of your misfortunes. “You never, ever deserved any of the hardship you got. It was a disgusting play by fate, I tell you, and when I get to wherever I have to go I’ll be sure to tell John and Peter and whoever the hell else there is just what I think about their design of life!”
Ada always spoke like this. In dribbling, humorous, sarcastic monologues that critiqued everything in existence. I had no doubt that she would also do all that she proposed to, no matter the grandiosity of the ruling body she was fighting against.
“You’re like a cool karen” I jested, and in half a second a terrible ache had worked its way up my ear, pulsing. She had pinched me, of course, and i would be lying if i said i hadn’t been expecting it.
“You watch that tart mouth, little girl.” Ada guffawed, leaning away from the hug which had gradually grown looser through the conversation. The moss was retracting, off into the darkness. “You can say whatever you like to other busy bodies and I will gladly join in the assault, but don’t you be trying it with me - I know all the tricks, miss, and have triple the practice in deploying them.”
Breathing out a minor laugh, I pulled back fully. Looking up to peer into the planes of an old face that never changed, her smile was contagious. Rubbing my nose with the back of my palm, I looked around the cleared out barber shop. Hair still littering the floor like swarms of garden tiger caterpillars. Smeared mirrors bordered with fanciful hairstyles, a battered coffee machine still running in the back. Tan walls and black chairs - everybody had quietly made their way out during the small reunion. I felt a surge of compassion for each and every one of them - of which i was still unsure as to who exactly had been here to begin with. In repentance I dug my nails deeply into the material of my leggings, thrice quickly through to the flesh, for the thoughts I had let run away with me earlier on.
Turning back towards the only other person here, I leaned forwards to prod her cheek before quickly leaping back. Dusty trainers squeaking on the polished flooring as her hand swiped downwards.
“I was just making sure I wasn’t hallucinating!” I squealed, dancing on tiptoes around the room as she stalked around me, an awkward dance. Her skin was rough, yet natural, like sand. She could also easily turn into sharp glass, this much i knew.
“Why, I know I’m hardly young but I’m not some kind of apparition!” she shot back quickly, reaching for her long, knobbly walking stick that had been propped up by the windowsill.
Laughing in nervousness, I waved for her to put the block of wood down, a nervously excited smile propping up one corner of my mouth. That had been a terrible, terrible mistake. Gulping, i sat down in the nearest available seat, “I thought they spiked my tea.″ I deadpanned. Although the statement was honest enough. The chair began to spin as I started rocking my body, fighting staying still like it was a disease I was personally in danger of dying from. Long, skinny arms resting on the chairs leather back as I gazed out, the shuffling halting as her stick lowered slightly. I just now noticed the loose violet organza wrapped around the staff, fashionably signed off with a tight, exact bow. A series of quick exchanges ensued out of the weirdness that had left my lips.
“I don’t know, everything felt a bit trippy. Like I was Alice in a less exciting wonderland. A rip off version.”
“Thats beacuse your dad just fucking popped the case, Dess - not because barbers are trying to drug you! Lord have mercy on this child…”
“Ah” I deliberated slowly, vision swirling around the room as my feet kicked out below me, “that seems fair.”
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