This House

This is the house where we grew up. We filled it with laughter, with  friends, with time. But there were spaces that grew in this house; gaps in the walls, cracks in the skirting boards.

Those spaces were filled with ghosts, ghosts that would leak out into our hallways until the air was so thick we could hardly see each other. A hazy miasma would slowly fill each room, and soon we would only feel the dim flicker of our own mind alone, not able to see the other. The haze pulled us apart, and through the fog of time years leapt.  I found myself in new houses, but as I looked in each mirror, it was you I saw, reflected on the bathroom tiles, a shadow.

Guided by an unseen force, I found myself back at the house. This house, where we grew up. I remove each charred pebble in the fireplace one at a time, and start the flame anew. A light, a soft glow, a simple warmth. Gently, each ghost fades away, and I can see you again, smiling back. We tend the fire together. This room is safe.

We will walk through this house again, and shine light on each room. We will drive away these ghosts together. It will be our house again.

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Cough Syrup

My house is full of cough syrup and painkillers that are too strong for you. You tell me the syrup tastes like bubblegum, but the packet says it is orange flavour. You laugh at how my kitchen counters don’t match, and how I have never noticed until just now. I tell you that sometimes when we see things we only notice what use we can get from them, we don’t always notice what they look like and how they feel. There is an awkward silence. You take another spoonful of syrup and then you leave. I choke down two more painkillers and hope I stop feeling my heart break.

Ursa Minor

I have a dream that we go out together to the lake. We take our bikes, secure them to the car with the rope that you bound me with earlier that night. We ride around the water together until sunrise, soaking in the calm and the peace.  I smile, you smile, we’re content. I put my hand to the lake, and the carp suck at my fingers. The sound of water rushes, the fresh smell of water drifting through the air. You watch the stars. I look at you, and you trace your finger in the air, Ursa Minor. When I start to tell you the story of Kallisto, you smile. I touch your cheek, draw a kiss, feel your hair brush lightly on my skin.

In my dreams, I can say “I love you” without being afraid of what you might say back.

When you get tired, we tie the bikes back up, I drive us both home.

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.

Secret world

They are crawling all over you. They’re moving across your arms, your legs, your face. They are burrowing into your follicles, subsiding on the dead skin and oils that are secreted by your pores. They are excreting their waste on to your skin. They are moving and jittering. They are falling in love, settling down, having kids. A new generation is crawling all over you, sucking your blood, mining you like a mountain. Empires are rising and falling in your hairline. Their nations are waging war on your legs. Your navel is a peace zone. They are developing weapons of mass destruction. They will kill you. They don’t mean to kill you.

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.

A canyon

There is a painting of a canyon and a waterfall hanging in my room. In my dreams, when I am sad, you take me there. We sit, overlooking the water, curled up close together. Nothing bad can reach us there. The land is peaceful, just the sound of the waterfall, and we are safe. I am so relaxed and comfortable with you that I can fall asleep in your fur. You surround me, a patient guardian, and you’ll protect me from any danger. You have calm brown eyes, and you are as gentle as the rolling mists. I don’t need you to tell me you love me. I already know. You’ll be by my heels forever.