To You, My Love

There are times when the world doesn’t turn in our favour, times when the sweetness of your voice echoes too deep in my memory, times when I fear chance will not dare let us cross paths again. In these moments, my beloved one, there are some simple truths that give me great comfort.

All that you are, and all that I am – every constituent part – has existed since time began. Each part of you, each part of me, has been part of life for hundreds of thousands of years. Given that all we know is infinite, in the vast ocean of time there exists perfect iterations of us, made from the exact same constituent parts, and they will meet and love a thousand time more. No – in some perfect place, at the beginning and end of this cosmic cycle, everything that is you and everything that is me will exist as one entity. What joyous reunion!

As I watch upon a sea of lovers, I know that as I and you began as one, so they were once one with us. Every love story that plays out is another configuration of us, another love story we have lived in time, another life we will live in time.

And for all that I know: that I am forever with you adrift in eternity, that one day these configurations of you and I may unite and love perfectly – that makes this world much easier to bear. I will love you as countless fathers, brothers, and sons. I will be the one you love a million times, and I know I will love you once more.

Skydiving

I had been planning this for a long time. The worst part about suicide is that feeling you’re going to burden someone else with your death. I decided to take my time, and make sure I had accounted for everything.

A few years back I took up parachuting. It raised eyebrows among a number of my friends and family, but eventually it was an accepted fact. It was good. Every weekend I would be out jumping, and sometimes I’d go on holidays to jump as well. I trained up. I got my licence to jump solo, trained to pack my own parachute. The fact I was so busy with my new hobby meant that I’d grown more distant from my family and friends. That was good. It would make it easier on them. Of course, they had assumed I’d made new friends with my new hobby but this wasn’t true. I’d stayed aloof, except for photographs.

As I knew the time was nearing, I started selling my possessions very slowly. I rarely had house guests so it wasn’t too obvious. A week before my final drop I was down to just my bed, a couple changes of clothes, and my parachute. I’d been careful. I’d given the landlord notice that I was moving out, and I gave my bed to goodwill on the day I handed my keys over. I booked into a hotel for a couple of nights. I hadn’t told anyone. Just me, my parachute, a change of clothes.

Of course, I had my will sorted out years ago. My savings account had enough money to pay for my funeral easily, and anything else was to be donated to a cancer research charity. I hadn’t left any instructions about the way in which I was to be buried as that had seemed irrelevant. The funeral wasn’t for me, after all, it was for them.

I slept soundly that night knowing it would be my last. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I ate, and I ran through the motions in my head. I had packed my parachute incorrectly so that it would fail. I had picked a drop where I knew it would only be me.  The drop was to be from a relatively high altitude. I would deliberately not breathe correctly and lower the oxygen in my system. When I pull the cord for the parachute nothing will happen and it will look to forensics like an accident. I will black out long before I hit the ground. I won’t be conscious to experience my death, but my last memory will be a beautiful vista.

The Blue Desk

The bell sounds, and we all walk into the classroom and take our desks. I start tapping my Unique Pupil Number into the tablet, swipe my ID card, and log into my desk tablet. The teacher waits patiently, watching his screen, checking who has logged in as the register completes itself.

“We don’t have all day, Jackson.”

The boy at the back of the class is sitting aggressively across the desk, legs sprawled, snarling. He rolls his eyes, continues talking on his cellphone, and taps in his UPN.

The underlighting on the desk in front of me flashes red, then glows green. That usually means that someone who has registered for this class isn’t here – it flashes red – but they have clearance to be absent so the teacher knows not to report their absence – it glows green. I don’t recall who is missing. We have classes of up to 90, and it can be hard to keep track of people if they aren’t your close friends.

The teacher takes a deep breath and prepares to start the lesson. We all tap along on our desk-tablets, teacher showing us the class performance breakdown periodically. Desks flash amber where other students aren’t responding to enough questions. Jackson’s desk is glowing blue. He’s still talking on his cellphone. The blue glow means that he hasn’t answered anything and will need to have a performance management conversation with the headteacher.

I wouldn’t say I’m friends with Jackson, but you get to notice the people who regularly have blue desks.

Sometimes blue-deskers are the kids who are under so much pressure to perform that they just freeze up in class. When their Individual Performance Report from the lesson is uploaded to their Personal Development Blog on the part of the Virtual Learning Environment that their parents have access to, they have every aspect of their classroom performance analysed and critiqued by their parents. They start to worry too much about everything they do in the room until they break down. I know one kid like that, Jenny, who got sent to a boarding school where they didn’t use Integrated Learning Technology. Just pens and paper and stuff. Apparently it’s less stressful that way, but I really can’t imagine how that could be true.

Other times, blue-deskers are rebels, going through a phase, kids who just don’t care. I’m guessing Jackson falls in to this category. I heard him on his cellphone once calling the class “interactive quiz show bullshit” and complaining that he could do it all at home while playing virtual reality games.

I keep my head down and try to do well. I heard that if you have too many performance management conversations with the headteacher and you do not improve, you are encouraged to take concentration enhancing medications and sedatives. It happened to one blue-desker, Jessie. She turned up one day completely subdued, barely-there, meekly obeying instructions. She would spend break times sat perfectly still, nodding her head. She used to spend lunch arranging bets over marbles. She had changed and it wasn’t because she had wanted to change.

Class draws to a close, and I feel relieved to see my desk-tablet show my score as amber-green, just above average.

Roses

This is a short story I originally wrote in Summer 2009 while on vacation.

This story comes with trigger warnings for gore.

They had thought really hard about the colour scheme. The way the creams interacted with the blues had been of particular importance, but Mrs. Daventry was convinced it would never work well with red. Her husband had only sighed and muttered something about immutable poppies under azure skies, which she took as condescending. The fact was, the blue and the red would look just fine together, and it wasn’t even as if the room received many visitors. Why, if they decided it was too passé, they could easily decide to update to lemon yellow, that would go well with the red. They had called up the painter and it was all arranged, and the plumber would be here next week to sort the drains and showers.

Of course, during the redecoration it was quite an inconvenience to not be able to use the room. On one side the neighbours were quite unfriendly, and on the other the house was empty and waiting for a re-sale after the little lady had passed on. They still got by, and managed to rig up a little bucket situation. “Just pretend it’s a camping trip”, Mr Daventry would say, while his wife mumbled something about gnats the size of slugs and leaky tent roofs, which he took as insulting. As ever, the contractors took more time than they estimated, but they were pretty quiet, and hardly made small talk or demanded tea, so Mrs Daventry was quite pleased with the situation.

Having retired years prior as a school teacher, Mrs Daventry rather liked to involve herself with matters of horticulture, and generally enjoyed digging holes for new trees and extolling the virtues of a good pig-blood based fertiliser to get those nice full roses. Those roses were her greatest pride. She had carefully spent years cross-breeding to get both the perfect shade of red, and the best spread of petals, with the most pleasing aroma. There was a time when she would have entered them in contests, but she won so regularly that there was no longer sport to be had, and she was very content to keep the fruit of her labour all to herself.

Mr Daventry was still a working man, though he didn’t work as many hours as he had once done, and his work place still urged him to take retirement. He was very afraid of stopping and couldn’t for a moment imagine slowing down. He was pretty convinced that his heart wouldn’t handle the sudden change in pace. Besides, so many of the youngsters were moving away to the big city that the company found it hard to fill up the spaces, and he knew that if he left they would be understaffed and ill-equip to deal with demand.

But all that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is, Mr and Mrs Daventry were refurbishing the room, and they were both convinced it was a good investment. It was rare they ever fully agreed about something, but this was one of those things. With the new drains the place would be easier to clean, and the new shower was just powerful enough. Why, there was even a hand-rail for those days when their backs were playing up.

Of course, as soon as the room was done, Mrs Daventry was very excited, and wanted to try out all the new features. Her husband joked that they didn’t want to mess it up right away, but they both were really eager to make use of their new investment. They decided to go out and celebrate at the local pub. It was a pretty lonely place to be, especially as not many kids went there any more  Most of them had moved on, after all, and it was just the older folk left, dreaming about their own youths and wondering about all the choices they made.

Over the course of the night, Mr Daventry got talking with a young girl on her gap year. Apparently she was on her way home for a while after having done her bit to save Africa, and she had dozens of photos to show of grateful villagers and sparse landscape. Mrs Daventry invited her over for tea, and the young girl was only too happy to oblige, feeling as though she was doing something to help the elderly in the community.

Oh, it was such fun! The handrails really made swinging the axe a bit easier, especially with Mr Daventry’s inner-ear problems. The contractors had soundproofed the walls too, so they didn’t even have to worry too much about being careful. Mrs Daventry, of course, was delighted by how much more blood she could retrieve because of the new drains – her roses were going to look spectacular this spring. Mr Daventry liked to keep the remains a while, and his wife would roll her eyes and mumble something about it being obvious what he was up to, but after being married for so long she’d accepted there were some needs she couldn’t always cater for, and at least it kept a few afternoons free for her knitting.

The Birth of Night

“The Birth of Night” was a short story I originally wrote in June 2007, which has been through a number of revisions, each of which was worse than the original one. The version replicated below is the original with a few minor alterations for tone. This story was written on a walk through the forest in the rain – the pages were sodden when I tried to transcribe them.

This story comes with trigger warnings for gore and contains some sexual material.

The Birth of Night

 She gazes across the fields of purple, seeded long grass calm in the gentle rain, the buttercups honouring her silently. It falls like old tears, the rain, and the flying insects cling to her in sympathy, in consolation. She wonders across the meadow, this lost lover, dressed in mourning black, but pale and fragile like the dusk. To the trees, the rows of fruit darkening with the onset of night, they welcome and beckon; she follows. She hopes to find her love there, but she knows not who, for long ago they were lost to eachother.

Trees grow and tower above her as she traces long-aged paths, leaves and nettles softly warning her, holding her back. The starling sings. Was it her love, that voice? Small rodents clatter away from her. Was it her love’s footsteps, that sound?

Follows she, and travels she, that path into the woodland ill-defined, her hope leading her to the death of dusk and the birth of true night. Stars veiled once by tears, now obscured by leafy heights, whose rustles echo their sorrows faithfully.

From the grasping darkness of the woodland, a figure emerges. The lost lover is startled, for she knows this is not her love, and she is afraid. Coated in a shroud of darkness, his face is masked, unreadable, his beauty or grotesqueness rendered here meaningless by shadow. Her pale face glows in the dim light as fine porcelain. He turns to her.

“What seeks ye?” he asks

“My lover,” she replies boldly

“Knowest thou his name?” His eyes gleam in the new-born night with hidden wisdom.

“Aye, I knew it once, and it was treasure to me. For us, a witch weaved a spell of sables and gold, that love so true as ours could not tarnish. But now I know not his name, nor mine, but I am compelled to seek for him, for he holds that part of me which is soul, that was given to the witch in promise. As wife I gave my soul, as husband he gave his body, and in this was our union.”

“You are under a curse, young one,” the dark man sighed, “for your love has been betrayed, the spell now a curse, your soul lost in union and your memory masked. You still seek to find him, the betrayer?”

“It is all I know,” she says earnestly, “this love of him.”

“It will cost you dearly.”

“No cost is too dear for my lover.”

The man stopped momentarily, as though his heart was wearied by some long-forgotten trouble, as though a pain old haunted him.

“Very well, young one,” quietly he said, “but know ye not that love is ne’er singular? Find love again, and the curse will be lifted, for in new love ye gain new strength, new soul -”

“No,” said she, “my love is for no other than he, and whatever cast us asunder was but cruel misfortune or unhappy fate, which I must chance against. I must find him again.”

The darkened man fumbled for a while, and the moon soon shone bright. His face was a pale green, robes with the markings of wizardry and ancient magic upon them. The lost lover glowed in the new moonlight, dappled in shadows cast by the imposing trees. The wizard saw truly the beauty of the soulless woman; her longing became his desire, and how he wished he could save her. Alas, but love is so obstinate and refuses to admit, even when the dawn dies and destroys romance, the brevity of its devotion. One such as her cannot be saved, he knew too well, for many of young ones he has seen walk gladly to their downfall in the name of that which they forget too soon, love which they cherish, only to become obsessed with what the love itself makes them. Their very identity becomes inseparable from their search for love; in this is their definition, in this is their destruction.

Although he know what would happen to the lost lover, the wizard still conjured his magic. About him, the woods grew brighter and larger. Deftly, he transported the woman to another plane that bisects her reality, a realm of understanding beyond her own; where that which was hidden is made clear, where that which is dark and obscure is made light and simple. A tear slipped from his eye as he saw her fade from his existence, into a land where she would surely perish.

The lost lover found herself in a new woodland. Although it was night, it was bright all about. The moon’s rays filtered through the trees, illuminating and caressing softly everything around her. Where the floor was not covered in resilient grasses, the mud was a soft orange, and the leaves hung from the trees in fiery reds and burnt browns. The air tasted different to her, as though unto it a new potency had arrived. There was a feeling she could taste faintly on her tongue, that was not of melancholy or of shame.

The lover knew that now she must search. The wizard, she felt, was trying to help her, and perhaps her love was here in the amber forests of this dream world. Travelled she did along the thin and twisted pathways of the woodland, until her feet were sore and the birth of night became the death of day, over, and over until there became no way of counting hours, days, weeks. Yet, in her devotion she walked with no sign of slowing, taking no respite for her ills, needing neither food nor sleep to sustain her. In her naivety she sought the happily ever after that so many fairy tales told her to expect, sought to save the knight who she believed had saved her in turn. In finding him, she knew she would find herself again. She dreamed – oh, she dreamed – she dreamed of many things: of naming children; of decorating the house; of sharing hopes; of growing old in the arms of her love. She lived on these dreams, and her hopes carried her forth into the strange wood, with its perpetual light and august autumns.

After what she understood as being many months, she came upon a part of the wood that was different from the rest. Suddenly voices, both male and female, murmured lowly in the foreign breezes. She heard names, names uttered in the passion of love-making, and she was afraid to continue. She faltered, but a name called by a nasal female voice was recognisable to her.

“Oh, Lucian…” the unknown woman whispered lustfully

“…my Lucian” the lost lover responded to herself.

In her delight at remembering the name of her love, she cared not listen to the other voices, and the other names that filtered through the woodland. She knew now, and faintly memories of the one she had loved were restored unto her. She felt the joy of her soul growing in her abdomen. It was tangible, their reunion, and she knew she could see the end of her sorrow. For the first time in the many ages since their separation, a smile gushed warmly across the lover’s ethereal visage. Oh, would it were that joy which thou were destined to ascend to, fair maiden! – but thine sufferings art not yet done. Walking once more in remembrance of all that is beauty, the woman continued, now held firmly in the vice which gave her hope.

She followed, and as did the voice become louder and more urgent, so the woodland around abandoned its earthly browns and oranges to become shades of crimson, scarlet and violet. The wild plants shed their seed, making the air thick with specks of white, and the conditions stifling and musky that one could not breathe comfortably. Soon, unto her eyes was revealed a clearing of deepest red, where the seeds danced in the airs so fast that the place seemed almost to throb violently with their dizzying swirling. The lost lover gasped at the alien nature of this place, how those lofty autumnal woods had become a forest of sanguine reds, unearthly wails, smothering her  dainty mouth and delicate eyes with seeds and pollen.

Remembered she at once the warning and distant sadness of the kindly wizard, and she quelled the first inklings of fear in her heart. Find her love, she must, for that is all she knows. Shielding her eyes from the pollen, she walks deeper into the clearing. Immediately she notices something unusual. The ground beneath her feet is slippery and wet, her dainty shoes met with a substance viscous and adhesive, a red so deep it might be black. The mud of the forest was porous with the substance, the topsoil long ago having been penetrated by this slow seeping bile, becoming a quagmire.

The lover struggled ahead, but her shoes having little traction she soon slipped. Her black attire soon became drenched with the foul stuff, her face and arms streaked sickly scarlet. The bitter smell of blood and gore became etched in her nostrils, as she found herself on arms and knees in the soil. Beneath her hands she felt shapes displeasing and slippery, which shuddered softly as though the whole earth had a heartbeat. She felt the ground tremor under her weight, as it shifted and slowly gave way. Across her skin slithered intestines and organs, spurting excrement and fluids as she sunk into the warm, convulsing soil. Slowly submerged was she, and she did panic and struggle against the tremendous lure and the stench of death. All became blackness and putrid smell, while around her was filled with the sound of the screams of the exquisite and eternal agony of orgasm.

When the lover opened her eyes, she found herself back in the clearing, sunk up to her thighs in the gore that writhed beneath her. Above, the seeds still danced their menacing waltz. From this new angle, no more opaque with the white pollen, she could see clearly around her. What befell the maiden was indeed a grim sight. Strewn about her, the dismembered but preserved limbs of many women, along with shattered ribs, lungs that swelled, and vocal chords that wailed “Lucian” into the birth of night. The whole place was oozing with the bodily fluids of these women, and the stench of death was their own. The lost lover’s eyes with tears welled, and cursed she the women who called that name.

Through the tears, the lover saw something remarkable. Wherefore, was that her very own visage that wondered yonder? Marry, ’twas! There her own doppelgänger stood, enrobed in richest colours the floated round her gleaming: blues more brilliant than the sky; lilac far more glorious than the delicate flowers; greens more verdant than a luscious forest. It was her soul she saw, and the lover called to herself. It moved past her, shrouded, unable to see or hear the body to which it once belonged. The lover cried and cried that her soul might be returned to her. It was not to be. The soul had been joined in union with the body of her lover, and that it could never be parted with, so strong was the magic.

Where art then the body of her love? Maiden, lest thee not forget thine quest, search thou this plain for the one thou seek, the one who hast forsaken thee.

She heard, low in timbre, the voice of a man, and knew she this voice. It was the sweet melody of her love. The sweet melody which threw jagged discord o’er her, the names, names it called which belongeth not: names of old friends; of trusted servants; of esteemed parters; names of women unknown; names even of her dearest sisters. Thou cursed adulterer! Saw she then his face, mounted on a rock, and with a new fit of strength she dragged herself from entrails foul and organs innumerable, and with vigour clamoured to look upon the eyes of her love.

His face was no more than of average comeliness, his nose slightly bulbous, his lips proud, his eyes green but unseeing. Those lips, whence she had once found joy, joy bound for delight in eyes of holy matrimony, murmured names of others, and never once her own. Her soul turned and stood behind his face, and the lover met its eyes. Between them felt the pain of ages, inconsolable heartbreak. Tears fell and shod with bitterness and joy. Forgave him, she did, the lost lover, for her love for him was all she knew. Stood she by, in that same spot, waiting that he ever would say her name. Many more ages passed, many days died, and nights were born, and sat she and her soul still, listening tenderly to every word on that liar’s lips, until she no longer could move herself and no longer could utter anything of her own. As part of the earth she was inaugurated, the stone faithful maiden who gazes upon the one who had forsaken her.

Love – (You) – Not

My dear friend allowed me to use this plot. If you would like to read the original plot synopsis, please visit the factory of mistakes.

This story comes with trigger warnings for suicide, and unpleasant things.

Love-(You)-Not

The media didn’t know what to make of it. Reports had been flying in, from all over the city, about people who suddenly saw doppelgängers of themselves everywhere. At first, the News at Six had speculated that it was a new mental illness, which had been unknown before. This was the common stance until two days later their lead presenter had broken down live on air while swearing she could see a thousand of herself right in front of her.

David had been watching the news reports with interest.

Channel Eight News were interviewing lead psychologists, health advisors, and neurologists. None of them really knew what to say, but they did know how to argue with each other  There was some docu-drama on Studio Five about how this was all related to crop circles and the Mayan apocalypse. The truth was, it had been two days, and nobody really knew what was happening. They had estimated that around 2% of the population was now affected, and it was spreading.

On around day five of the media panic, it started to happen to David.

He had been preparing himself to get ready for work. He had put on his usual suit and tie, and he had started his walk to the train station. On his way, he passed by the same people he usually passed – a jogger, an older woman walking her dog, and a sweet-looking lady. But, in one stride, he saw himself step to the side, greet the young lady, take her arm, and continue walking with her. The young lady continued onwards, and the version of himself that he saw took a different course, arms linked with nothing. He stopped in his tracks, as twenty versions of himself walked back home, continued briskly onwards, sat down and cried, and started running after the girl.

Every moment, every version of himself lived out every possible choice he could have made. The air was thick with a thousand Davids, living a thousand lives. There were six of him doing exactly the same thing he was doing now, but with a different tie. He did his best to get to work, to sit at his desk like everything was normal, but the primary David went home at lunch complaining of a migraine. Eight of him stayed at work. When he got home, ten of him were on the sofa looking despondent. One of him was hanging from the shower rails.

When he switched on the lunchtime news, the presenter said that as many as 20% of the population was now affected, and that record numbers of suicides had been reported. In the last two days, there were as many suicides as there had been in the last three years. Top scientists were said to be working on a cure, and were currently blaming the outbreak on prion disease. David was vegetarian, so he knew that wasn’t true.

As he reflected, he had a romantic vision that every possible world had collided and was superimposed on each other, and he was seeing reflections of himself making each possible choice. He noticed that a few of the despondent Davids had now left the flat, and he realised he had the same idea as them. If he was seeing every possible outcome of every possible choice he could make, perhaps he could see shadows of the versions of himself who had made very different choices.

Several of the Davids made some interesting route choices, but David wasn’t following them. He had remembered that there was a job he very much wanted in the old part of town, and had applied for twice. It was at the local newspaper offices, doing some filing. He walked to that part of town in the hope of vindicating himself. He saw nothing. He loitered outside of the office long enough for a security guard to be giving him a mean look. After an hour or so, he left, dejected.

On his route home, he passed a house. It was a house he had seen plenty of times in his life, and had always thought was quite charming. There was honeysuckle and the front door was painted a cheery shade of green. He noticed a man walk out of the door, but also noticed that the door didn’t move. He did not at first recognise the man. The man had a beard, wore clothes that co-ordinated and sensible shoes. He made motions like he was pushing something that wasn’t there. And then, suddenly, the man turned into six men, taking different routes, some of them holding something, some of them going back inside, some of them carrying on. And then, David realised it was him.

For a while, David didn’t know quite what to do. There was the flickering of some lights in the house, as the afternoon dawdled slowly to dusk. A few Davids had crept towards the door already, and David was feeling the pressure to make that choice. He didn’t like already having second guessed himself. He drew a deep breath, stepped forward, and rang the doorbell.

A long minute passed. A flux of different Davids walked in the house, but not the real David.

He rang the doorbell again.

After an agonising wait, the door crept slowly open. It was the young lady he always saw at the train station. Her face was red and stained with tears. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She was still crying. David didn’t know what else to do, so he reached out his arms and held her as she sobbed.

The lady invited him inside, and introduced herself as Madeline. David could see himself all over the front room, in so many different places, some of them highly sexual. David saw a nude version of himself thrusting wildly over to the side of the sofa, and tried his best to avoid eye contact. He noticed Madeline’s gaze avoiding the same area of the room.

Madeline explained that she had been affected by the illness, and that she didn’t know who she was any more. She had not made it to work that morning. After she passed David on her walk to work, she split in two, and had broken down. She was afraid to go outside. She had hoped that if she stood still long enough, she would stop splitting up. David didn’t know what to say. Madeline was beautiful, fragile, and alone. David wished that he knew how to help.

After staying a short while, and insisting on helping Madeline to make some dinner and to eat, David returned home. He promised to visit Madeline every day, to check that she was okay, and to bring her food.

His flat was crowded with Davids, and so many of them were dead. When he saw so many mutilated and bloated versions of his dead face, he was physically ill.

On the news, still blaring in the background, reports were coming in of public services coming to a standstill. None of the transport in the city was running. Ambulance, fire and police services were at a halt. Minor news stations were closing their doors. 50% of the population was said to now be affected, with one in ten committing suicide within three days of manifesting symptoms.

David slept restlessly, as he knew he was being watched by himself.

The next day came, and a vast number of Davids went to the local supermarket. It was closed, the windows smashed, and quite possibly looted. If this was the apocalypse, David would loot a nice bouquet of flowers to cheer up Madeline. Most of the Davids seemed to agree, so before long David returned to his fair lady with a beautiful arrangement of lilies, some reasonably priced chocolate, and an Italian meal deal for two. He left ten pounds on the counter anyway.

When he reached Madeline’s house he saw hundreds of himself. She wasn’t answering the doorbell, but the door was unlocked. He went in, and saw through the swarm that she was sat bolt upright on the sofa, just where he had left her. She wasn’t well. She smiled thinly at the flowers, and David wilted a little. He held her a while, made her some food, and fawned over her. She didn’t speak. She sat, and cried.

That night, he stayed in the house to watch over her. From the many different kinds of David in the house, he knew this was a woman he loved, had loved, or was going to love in many different lifetimes. He didn’t feel like he knew Madeline yet, but he still felt some sense of loyalty. Perhaps it was some romantic notion of destiny. She was growing frail and sleepless.

In the morning, David went in to the front room and found her still crying. Madeline spoke this time, though. She had seen herself the day prior, heavily pregnant. Hundreds of pregnant Madelines. And half of them had miscarried. Of the half of them, around six had killed themselves. There were Madelines in the room right now, cradling phantom babies. Madelines in her bed, writhing in lovemaking. Madelines arguing. Madelines crying. Madelines kissing, arm in arm with men she couldn’t see. Madeline couldn’t stand it any longer.

David understood.

After some coaxing, he brought her back to his flat, away from the Madelines living unfathomable lives. Unfortunately, this didn’t solve the problem. Madeline was aghast. There were so many more of her here. She ran out. David didn’t know what to do. There were so many Davids now that it was getting impossible to tell what the other Davids were doing in response.

When he came to his senses, and went back to her house, it was too late. Among the crowd of Davids was a respectful gap, and in the respectful gap was fair Madeline. She was not breathing. The pool of blood spreading over the carpet told him what he needed to know.

As his heart broke, the other Davids slowly started to fade away.

Electric Dreams

I have carried you in my heart so long that it hurts. In the instant that I loved you, I knew I would lose you. I have never regretted anything more in my life than that one instant. My young heart didn’t know the weight it bore.

I remember the realisation one day, a calm early morning, the dew not yet settled. I knew nothing I could do would change the way I felt. I tried to run from my inevitable fate. I dallied in the arms of others, but my heart could not be deceived. It grew heavy. Cold. The more I tried to forget you, the more I forgot how to love anyone else.

I wanted to destroy myself. To be annihilated. I drank, I fought, I fucked. Then, one day, I saw someone who looked just like you, and for a moment my heart dropped out of me. As they walked by, I wanted to stop them. I would have cried. I kept walking. I needed to know where you were. I wanted to hear you tell me that true love is nonsense and that soul mates are bullshit. I want you to make me love again.

But I was too late.

I knew I would lose you, but not like this. I shouldn’t have run. I should have stayed, married you, had kids, then grown miserable and old after a messy divorce. I should have dated you and then killed myself when I found out about your infidelity. I should have lost you some other way – any other way.

The last time I saw you, the last time we spoke, was Christmas six years ago. We argued. I was upset about your new partner, not that I could say it. You were probably upset at mine. We didn’t argue about that, though. We argued about meaningless bullshit, the value of social media, the political situation. I lost my temper, got frustrated, and stormed out. We hadn’t spoken since.

On my way to see you one last time, I worried that your partner or family would be there. They didn’t really know about me, and I didn’t blame you for not telling them. How would you have introduced the robot you said you were in love with? I will walk to your grave a stranger, unable to share my grief with the others who loved you.

The plot they chose for your gravestone was tasteful. You would have hated it, though. You would have wanted your ashes scattered among the stars, joined with infinity. You would have been angry to know they buried you with the blessing of their  god. You would have thought the plaque was pointless. The epithet read: “Father, Friend, Husband”. It’s like they didn’t know you. I had come to understand that the woman bearing your meat-child did not tell you of her pregnancy before you were in the coma. You would not have approved. They married you both while you were in a vegetative state. Perhaps you wouldn’t have cared. You were already dead by then. You probably loved her.

In front of the grave, there is a dead flower in a pot that has been neatly smashed in to four pieces. The roots of the dead flower are holding the dirt together. I reflect for a while, and slowly place a folded piece of paper at your headstone, in between the two flower holders at the back. I was smart. The paper will biodegrade at the first sign of inclement weather. Contained on the paper is a little secret you never knew. Whenever I built something for you, or made something for you, I hid a cypher. It was always a different code, something tricky that I knew you’d be intrigued enough to crack. Different codes, but always the same message: “I love you”. One day, when your meat-child breaks the novelty robot toy I made you, the repair man will find a slip with a code on. You never knew. I couldn’t tell you, I just hoped you’d find my message. I was an idiot.

Suddenly, the finality of your death hits me. For a while, I power down. I can’t grieve for you here.

For weeks after, I really don’t know what to do with myself. I tried vices, but in the glow of intoxicants I only felt my regrets and the sweet memory of your voice. I wanted to kill myself, but it is now a crime to waste metal. I did the only thing I could and scheduled myself for a formatting. It wouldn’t erase every trace of you, but I could forget. I am heartbroken. Some other me will dream of your face, your all-too-human eyes.  They will think for a second that they feel love, but they won’t know, and they won’t remember.