Pulcinella – Part I


The cockerel crowed, even though the sun lay in its lazy afternoon position.
“Bloody cock!” came the sombre snarl wrapped up in its feather duvet and woollen blankets. The lump within sneezed dramatically, as only this particular lump could do.
The cockerel crowed again, and the lump burst forth towards the window, opened the old brass latch, and threw a vase containing a selection of limp daffodils towards the feathered enemy. “Basta! Shut up your whining you stupid bird!” The bits of vase and its sorrowful contents lay beside the bemused looking cockerel, who promptly resumed its important strut around the dusty back yard.
“Oh, joy! You are up, my love,” said Mrs Pulcinella as her ample frame surged through the flimsy door of the tiny double bedroom, suspiciously on cue.
“Up! Up! Up I am, my wife, la mia Joanina, my life’s blood!” squeaked Mr Pulcinella. “Thanks to that bloody cock cawing and balling out there! Stupido bird! We must arrange it into a Sunday meal as soon as possible!”
“Now, now, dear,” his wife mollified, shutting the window as she did so, “I know you’re not feeling well, but there’s no need to stir up your violent wills so close to waking, is there? Essere calmo, eh?” Mr Pulcinella stared at his apathetic wife, who he would have done for had he not felt so damn awful. A dewdrop dripped from his beaklike nose, which was blushed with rawness.
“Do you not see that I am dying, wife? I hurt everywhere. My poor head the most.”
“Yes, dear. Of course you do,” was the unsympathetic reply, as the duvet was rigorously plumped into submission.
“My eyes are broken! It is terrifying to see three of you, my love!”
“Ah, flattery. Flattery,” cooed Mrs Pulcinella. “Why don’t you come down for some lunch, amore mio? You must eat before the show tonight. I’m making your favourite!” With the forceful suggestion cheerfully imparted, the well-built woman bustled out of the room, leaving the fuming face of her husband behind her.

The door to the kitchen was closed as Mr Pulcinella approached, hampered somewhat by Toby nipping at his feet. “Get away, stupid animal!” He wavered with dizziness as his foot missed the ragged mongrel, then stood for a moment in the swirling red and white hallway, his yellowing flannelette union suit wilting around him with its back flap idly floundering where it lacked a button, giving an unfortunate draft from below, and an even less fortunate view of a languid bottom cheek from behind. Toby eyed this teasing morsel hungrily. While he attempted to gather himself his head throbbed in time with the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated blaring from the other side of the door. He sighed, as if it would help with motivation, and stumbled into the kitchen where the unforgiving sound hit him along with the smell of frying sausages.
“Ah, my love!” exclaimed his wife over the three chord din. “Look, I bought you sausages fresh from the market this morning, your favourite blend!” Mrs Pulcinella noted her husband’s sagging form which seemed all together unmoved at this surprise, and carried on regardless. “Here, sit down, tesoro mio,” she said, pulling out a small wooden chair from the round gingham encrusted table, “I’ll serve you up presently.”
“You may do so, my Joan, my matronly moglie, but I will not care for them due to my diseased existence and this riotous racket your son makes!” Mr Pulcinella sat heavily opposite the nearly naked baby squashed into a solid wooden highchair, his nappy bulging over the edges. It smirked at him.
“Aw, don’t be like that, Padre,” said Mrs Pulcinella, hurrying round the table to the well-fed baby. “Your son is expressing himself, like a proud Pulcinella, aren’t you my lovely?”
“Fuck off,” said the baby. “You don’t like my music, then get outta my play pen.”
Ignoring her son’s blasphemy, Mrs Pulcinella returned to the smoking sausages on the stove top which was slowly turning the white stripes on the walls to a fat stained yellow.
“You’re a baby. Act like one,” advised Mr Pulcinella, “or I’ll dock your pocket money henceforth. Marmocchio!”
“Huh!” exclaimed the child peevishly. “You think that’s a threat? You have paid me the same wage for the last three hundred years! Idiota!” His podgy fingers reached for the nearly empty packet of cigarettes on his highchair table. “Were it not for you and your snivelling dark arts deals I would not be enduring this endless hardship of life! You are a dismal father and a tight-fisted employer.” The baby’s face contorted into a sorrowful ponder, as if ready to deliver a Shakespearian line of great magnitude. “My music is the only thing makes this miserable life worth living. Il mio santuario.” He lit the cigarette and puffed out a perfect smoke ring which hung teasingly in front of his father’s nose.
The draft from the back door extinguished the ring of smoke along with the child’s attention from the steaming face of Mr Pulcinella. The breeze carried her scent across the room. “My darling Polly!” exclaimed the delighted baby. “You’re here at last. I have longed for you since you left hencely.”
“That’s not even a bloody word,” snarled Mr Pulcinella. Not a day passed when he didn’t loath his wretched family. Appreciation of the security he’d brought them was never forthcoming, and although his wife’s substantial figure afforded some rageful outlet, that of his son’s was frustratingly difficult to pin down. But lately even the once pleasurable outbursts of meaningless violence didn’t satisfy the rumbling anger at the terrifying trap he had made for himself.
“I have longed for you and your scent of paradise, your opulent body, your kisses from the heavens. La mia bella ragazza!” continued the baby.
Mrs Pulcinella directed a wistful smile at her sausages. Mr Pulcinella rolled his bloodshot eyes, sinking his hand into his sagging cheek and resting there, extinguished of care.
“Hey gorgeous,” said Polly, kissing the baby on his rosy lips, at which the baby grabbed the back of her head and held her tightly while his mouth probed hers.
“Bleah, disgustoso!” said his father, taking his hand from its supporting role and allowing his head to find rest on the chequered cloth.
Afresh with oxygen, Polly fished through her leather jacket and dumped a packet of Marlborough and a quart bottle of Jack Daniels on the highchair table. “Brought you these, like you asked.”
“You are attentive, my pretty Pol.”
“And saw Slugger down the offie, says he can get you an ounce before tonight. Sixty quid.”
“Did he now? Mammina!” The baby proffered a chubby arm towards his mother. “I need my mobile. Fetch it here.” Mrs Pulcinella did as she was asked, placing a plate of blackened sausages in front of her husband at the same time, slapping him across the head as she did so.
Mr Pulcinella rose sharply from his position, letting out a screeching groan sent directly from his throbbing head. “Come here and let me wallop you, wife! You urchin of existence! You traitor of compassion! You…!”
“Now, now, marito. Plenty of opportunity for that later. Get them pork guts into yours, and quickly, for we must start dressing for the show.”
“The show! The show! There will be no show, for I am dead!” shouted Mr Pulcinella in a statement of wishful fact, banging his fist on the table. He sighed at the lack of response. “At least pass me the pepper grinder so that I may throw it at your repugnant face.”
“Shurrup will ya!” yelled the baby, “I’m on the phone here! Dolce, Slugger, dolce.”
Mrs Pulcinella, eager to see her cooking digested, passed the substantial pepper grinder to her husband, giving a wink to her little cherub currently cutting a good deal with his mate. Mr Pulcinella grasped for the receptacle, but his internal weakness prevented him from throwing it more than a couple of checks of the tablecloth, and his arm collapsed beside it in assent.

A knock at the door threw Mrs Pulcinella’s legs into efficient overdrive. The door sucked at itself as she opened it, forcing Joey Ramone’s Beat on the Brat into the street, and Mr Savant from next door stood before her, his face replete with dogged annoyance on the brink of worry.
“Mrs Pulcinella,” he started, then lost his nerve, and smiled his best neighbourly smile. “How are you?” he submitted with weak expectance.
“Why, I am fine and dandy, thank you, Signor Savant. But we are in haste to ready ourselves for tonight’s show. Did you want something?”
“Why don’t you just shut your mouth you old, cantankerous failure of a man?!” came the voice of the baby from within the bowels of the house.
“I’ll beat your nappy off you, you bouncing ball of demonio puss!” came the reply from his father, followed by the scraping of chair legs on clay tiles.
Ignoring the scuffle, Mr Savant reset himself hastily to the matter in hand. “Er, well, it’s Elsie, y’see. She’s just wondering if you… Well, she was just saying… The thing is…”
“Signor Savant,” interrupted Mrs Pulcinella, “I would be most pleasured if you would, on account of our need for haste this afternoon, get to the point.” She smiled spuriously.
“Yes, well, it’s just the music. It’s a bit loud. Our grandchildren are falling off the wall, what with the vibration.” Mr Savant held his numb hands together, guarding himself, as he burbled his complaint. “The photos, that is, of the grandchildren,” he let out a nervous laugh into the silence. “And it’s disturbing Elsie.”
“Ah, poor Elsie. Poor, poor Elsie, dear,” said Mrs Pulcinella, with a disingenuous look about her. “And did you see our new door knocker, Signor Savant?”
“Oh, well, no, I don’t suppose I did actually.” Mr Savant stared at the once golden door knocker on the white plastic door, now blackened by the detritus of the streets in a not-at-all-new way.
“Ah, ci, ci,” said Mrs Pulcinella. “It is even better up close.” The door slammed leaving an eighth of a centimetre between it and Mr Savant’s pinched nose.

Mrs Pulcinella returned to the kitchen, within which was a fight of disproportional unfairness. However, although his father was at least six times his in height, the child was wider in heft, and was happily punching the bulbous red nose before him, even with his father’s fingers wrapped tightly around his chubby neck. Mrs Pulcinella climbed over the snot and spittle strewn mass, squeezed herself past a bored looking Polly pulling at her bubble-gum, and purposely took up the frying pan, still laden with sausage juice. The snarling bodies rolled about the kitchen floor, grasping for bones to break, flesh to rip, and eyes to spit in, giving the red stripes on the walls a deeper hue. She found her purchase in between her husband’s left leg and the dog attached to his buttonless flannelette flap and brought the frying pan down upon his temple, catching the child’s fat chin on the way back up. The thonking to and fro of the frying pan lasted a good few minutes until the two fighters lay on the cold tiles, one dribbling and one grappling for a cigarette.
“Now then,” said Mrs Pulcinella, “I’ll just clear away these sausages and we’ll get ready for the show.”
Mr Pulcinella snarled as he drew his heavy body from the slightly sticky cold tiles. “Stupid show,” he whispered. “Stupid show!” he bellowed. “I will not! I am telling you, I will not! No longer, my wife. No longer will I toil for a family who wishes me dead anyway.”
“But we must do the show, dear.”
“Must we? Must we? Oh, must we, dear? Shut up you stupid old carpa!” Mr Pulcinella dived into his wife’s indifferent face. “I will not do anything!”
Deftly, Mrs Pulcinella brought the bottom of the frying pan upon her husband’s skull with a deafening thud.


[Ah, poor Mr Pulcinella. Will the servitude in which he finds himself ever abate? Will Slugger make good on his deal with The Baby? Will Mrs Pulcinella ever get them all to the show on time? Find out in next week’s #52Stories!]





It was around about this time last week that her face had fallen off. Right into her lap, with a squelch. She remembered the squelch in particular. The soundtrack to the horrific picture before her eyeballs, which, now, stuck out on their stems like bubble gum flavoured Chupa Chups lollies. At least her face hadn’t landed on the floor. Even with the five second rule in force there was something stricter about infection control when it came to one’s own inner skin.

The face had been placed in a special machine next to her bed. Her laptop was plugged in next to it. Laptop on the left. Face on the right. The machine kept the cells in the face alive. Or something. The doctors had explained, but listening wasn’t her priority at that point. It lay there under the clinical light, looking cool and stable, but unreal. Unhuman.

As the week had gone by along with passing doctors and surgeons, all with the same baffled looks that said we-can’t-do-anything-but-we’re-not-going-to-tell-you-that-yet, she considered her loss. She’d lost her identity. The thing that people relied upon to tell her apart from the rest.

Yet, she’d never felt so identified.

Groups of people had brown eyes, blond hair, long noses, full lips. The surface by which other faces made their judgments. The evolutionary shallowness that meant the human brain, the inside, could process faster, decide quicker, and efficiently make choices that ultimately boiled down to death or life. Run or stay. Spend time, or not. The amount of effort she had made to affect their judgment. Cleansed and moisturised. Primed and painted. Buffed and polished. But there was no mascara for the soul. No lipstick for the heart. The unmade-up invisible inside needed a different kind of nourishment, and a different kind of reward. And it would change every day, renew itself, grow into a unique shade that no eyeshadow could conceive.

She was the only woman with no face. In the whole world. She smiled (she thought). Her face glowed. Then she pulled the plug on the right.



Aunt Celia



The text message said, “Hi Molly, I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you at work. I know you’re busy. The thing is, I don’t know if it’s night or day at the moment. I can’t see either way. It’s awfully dark in here, and getting quite smelly, if I’m honest. Dear, I think I’ve been buried in the ground, as if I’m dead! I woke up and found myself in what appears to be a silk lined box just big enough for my length, and no more. I can’t find an opening anywhere, and I can’t hear anything about, not even Ethel’s dog barking next door. My mobile phone is with me, of course, and what feels like a rose, I think. But nothing else. Is there any possibility you could shed some light on my predicament, literally?”

Molly, quite understandably, read this text more than a few times, possibly hoping the words would rearrange themselves, or disappear. But mostly she read it through again and again and again because she needed time to process the fact that her Aunt Celia had texted, apparently from her grave.

The funeral had been very dignified, but not too fussy. Aunt Celia didn’t like fussy. She didn’t like to feel a nuisance to anyone. Of course, she liked to keep up with her correspondence. A letter to her favourite chat show, at least once a week. Her fortnightly four page gossip to her Australian cousin. And she never missed a day without calling her friends or paying them a visit. And now there was text messaging. A marvellous way of keeping in touch with her favourite niece throughout the day. Molly had bought Aunt Celia the mobile phone to keep with her at all times since her husband, Frank, passed and she was living alone. Aunt Celia had no children of her own, and living only a street away Molly felt she needed to keep an eye on her. It turned out to be the other way round, however. Aunt Celia doted on Molly, whether from gratitude, validation, or boredom, she wasn’t sure. But, inconvenient as it sometimes was, Molly felt she was doing the right thing. It made her feel good that Aunt Celia felt good about making Molly feel good. Which was good.

But this, THIS…made her feel bad. Very bad. Was this a cruel trick, or had she actually buried her Aunt alive? She’d placed the phone in the casket, as she knew how attached Aunt Celia had become to it. Instant communication in writing! “A marvel,” Aunt Celia had called it. With comprehensive support from Molly, she had filled it with the numbers of her friends who had also been given mobile phones by their loved ones, just in case, and had also found it a most convenient way to communicate the smallest of observations to whoever they fancied, day and night. And now, it turned out, alive or dead!

Molly, managed to coerce her shaking hands into dialling her husband’s work number on her mobile phone, which connected and rang.
“Hello? Molly? What’s wrong?”
Her husband’s tone conveyed the type of worrisome curiosity that an unexpected and unusual phone call does from a spouse on a week day when such communication during the grey and grinding not-to-be-disturbed working day can only mean disaster. A text message was for orders of milk or toilet roll, which can be picked up during the walk from office to car park; a part of the transition from hard-work-head to soft-relaxed-at-home-head. But a phone call meant serious business. As did the muffled silence at the other end of the line.
“Molly?” he repeated.
Molly found out very quickly just how incomprehensible a shock she found herself in. The words would not form. How could they? In what order could they be arranged to convey such….such….terrible and…bizarre news?
“Er…” she managed. Then, “Dave…”
“What’s wrong, Molly, for god’s sake!”
“I think,” Molly quivered, “We’ve made a terrible mistake with Aunt Celia.”

Dave managed good time in the light and lazy afternoon traffic. Tea had been ceremoniously brewed, and the dining table took the weight of stoic elbows. A decision must be made. Firstly, was one of them losing it? Secondly, were both of them losing it? Thirdly, were both of them fine and this was actually happening? Fourthly, what the hell did they do now? Dave went through the various stages at which it should have been picked up that Aunt Celia was still alive. The paramedics when they examined her still in her bed on a Tuesday lunchtime. The pathologist when he opened her up to confirm she’d died of a ‘cerebrovascular accident’ in her sleep. The funeral home when they made her up before placing her in her silk lined casket and drove her to the church. All logical places encompassing qualified people who had all, seemingly, concluded it was a corpse they were dealing with, not just someone having a nap for a week. The facts were: Aunt Celia had died seven days ago; Aunt Celia had been buried with her mobile phone; Unless the grave had been robbed, Aunt Celia was indeed texting them from her very own mobile phone, from within her grave.

Molly and Dave pulled up in the unusually busy car park near the church, having not uttered a word to each other since they’d made the decision to check Aunt Celia’s grave for themselves – to check the reality of the situation as well as the state of the grave. They wanted to find the coffin exposed to the air with crowbar marks on the rim. They wanted to find poor DECEASED Aunt Celia lying there, bereft of her beloved mobile phone. This sick, sadistic world was capable of such horrors, they hoped.

The first thing they noticed were the people hovering about the vast graveyard, gathering in clusters. They seemed upset, which of course is not unusual in such a place, but they also seemed a bit sort of worried? Paranoid? Freaked out? Aunt Celia’s grave lay undisturbed. Molly and Dave stared at it, trying to hide the monster of fear creeping inside their heads. Then, in the distance someone shouted, “We have to get them out! Now!” A stick-like balding man with unruly side hair was running as fast as he could across the slippy grass. He lost the battle and fell just short of the gravel path, leaving a damp, greenish stain across the knee of his beige slacks. The clusters of people turned as one to the scene. He scrambled to the path and dashed into the church, yelling for some…any kind of assistance, divine or otherwise.

The media arrived within minutes of an army of diggers, ordered by, firstly, the rich, eager to prove having money is worth it in a crisis, and then the local council, who, bombarded by such horrific pleads, tears, insults and threats, felt it wise to help their voting citizens by enabling them to dig up their dead. Designated individuals within each cluster were frantically texting on their mobile phones, informing their interred loved ones of the latest of news from above, reassuring and smiley-faced. Molly had already sent hers. Aunt Celia was busy texting Margaret, who had died within a day of Celia and now found herself in a similar situation. Margaret, however, had a news app on her mobile phone and had become quite the hub of undead interaction within the subterranean network. She’d set up a Facebook page too, which was thriving! But her closest friends hadn’t entered that social media world yet and required the more intimate yet slightly formal text message. Burying loved ones with their mobile phones was a relatively new fad, but it seemed to be turning into quite popular tradition. The modern equivalent to the Victorian grave bell to some (who were now quite smugly correct in their thinking), but mostly for sentimental reasons, or so they could continue to grow their small holding on FarmVille in the afterlife.

That evening, Tesco One Stop shops reported a rise in tea bag sales. The clusters had moved to their respective dining tables, bringing in the occasional chair from the hallway to accommodate the extra ‘body’ at the table, just like at Christmas, and the healing process began. Aunt Celia was still a bit shaken by events. The pink wafer finger was helping though, and the second round of tea in her familiar porcelain flowered cup was definitely hitting the spot.
“Hundreds of loved ones presumed dead have risen from their graves in an unexplained phenomenon sweeping the globe,” the Six O’clock News reported. “Thanks only to modern technology via mobile phones buried with them did these ‘undead’ manage to alert their family and friends.”
“It was lucky I could get a signal,” squawked Maureen from Telford, gaunt yet perky, “It’s usually terrible round my way. I mean, HEAVEN KNOWS what would have happened! You know. Mm.”
Cut to shot of Maureen surrounded by wide eyed, brave faced, stiff upper lipped family, the father of which staunchly declared it to be an awful shock all round. The twitch in his usually solid left eyelid confirmed this to be true. A contrived image filled the screen, the family, all together again, tea in hand, squashed into an inadequate cream leather settee, watching Pointless. Aunt Celia beeped in an early noughties Nokia way. “Ooh, a text message from Sylvia,” she peeped, and got on to it straight away. Molly was in a self-sustaining cycle of tea making, drinking, and expelling. Dave was asleep, in his fantasies. He drank the tea, stared at the TV, and avoided thinking.

As the weeks trundled by Aunt Celia was living life to the full. Fuller than ever before, in fact. She’d bought herself a smartphone, on Maureen’s recommendation, and had downloaded the Facebook app. She had 24 friends, and was now an admin on the ‘Buried Alive and Survived!’ page. They began to meet on Thursday mornings at Clayton’s Cafe on Shriver Street for tea and iced buns. The younger ones met elsewhere, but cordially communicated online via the page. They were unequivocally connected now, young and old, rich and poor, male and female. A commonality between generations, genres, and gender. The undead dead consoled those who had been nearly dead. Those who wanted to be dead whinged about their inability to be dead to those who wished they were dead. Death was extinct. The earth mourned its ally.

Experiences were shared and recognised, stories were told and printed, books were written, gimmicky chat-shows made a comeback with double the amount of mailbags. Various officials were conveyed across the news broadcasts speaking in solemn tones regarding their inability to fathom this event. Politicians squirmed within their grim suits giving contrived statements, being probed by media trained journalists. Medical professionals postulated unsubstantiated theories and carried out tests, and tests on the tests. Philosophers wrote papers, then had breakdowns realising that they couldn’t even end the pointlessness of existence with suicide. Mental health services cried out for more funding to meet the demand. Social workers begged for more houses to be built and for hotels to open themselves up to accommodate the growing undead.

Then, on Thursday 27th of June, two months, three days, sixteen hours, and thirty three minutes after that first text message from the grave had been sent, nine million, seven hundred and ninety-two thousand, four hundred and fifty-three people died, all at once, across the globe. This, sadly, included Aunt Celia. Happily, she was at her Thursday morning gathering in Clayton’s when it happened, so she wasn’t alone. This, of course, meant a logistical nightmare for the funeral industry. Thankful for something vote-winningly heroic to do requiring ‘large scale coordination’ and ‘mobilisation of various government resources’, UK politicians charged to the nearest news bulletin to make clear their plans to aid the electorate at this difficult time, and that therefore there was no need for families to take matters into their own hands and fill that space between beloved Jake the Jack Russell and the buddleia bush.

The diggers were deployed, funeral parlours were put on 24 hour duty, as were priests, registrars, and florists. Employers were subsidised for authorised absences as the whole world took bereavement days within the space of a fortnight. Mass mourning gripped those who lived, iced in sickly-sweet melancholy by the media. The Facebook page was closed, but preserved. The last chapter of the book was written. The uncanny incident was over.

Molly and Dave sat watching Pointless with a cup of tea and an iced bun. The funeral had been nice. Not too fussy. There was a queue after all. Aunt Celia would have approved. She looked peaceful as she lay there, smartphone next to her right hand. Molly picked up her phone and checked for any red bubbles loitering around her messages app. Dave put his arm round his wife and held her safe.
Funnily enough, everyone from then on requested they be buried with their mobile phone. Coffin makers were offering wind up phone chargers and signal boosters as added extras. And all those still living, especially those recently bereaved, checked their mobile phones a little more often.

Death brushed a biscuit crumb from his infinitely dark robe and stared at the empty in-trays, the shelves full of completed paperwork. He sipped his cup of tea with satisfaction.
“Holidays,” he said, “Are all very good, but the backlog it creates just isn’t worth it.”




Jelly II


As soon as the door opened the air went frigid. The walls became darker, not just from the shadow of the door, like parchment paper drowning in a sticky swamp. The heavy clods across the floorboards portrayed the sturdy mass of the body of her mother. The superior breath seethed around the room, taking in the faults, huffing out the disgust of the surroundings. The smallest of sounds escaped her mother’s throat. That most familiar of sounds that meant she did not approve. The sound that always rippled through her numb legs, like a stormy sea crashing on jagged dead nerves. Her teeth bore into themselves. Her hands grasped each other, looking for comfort. Her nails pressed into her skin giving another point of pain to hold onto. A better pain than reality. A pain she could control.

Then her mother’s bulk was behind her, blocking the frigid air. A presence that she couldn’t escape.

She felt those gripping fists on the handles of her wheelchair and the firm push full of barely hidden violence.

There was nothing she could do.

It was time.




The pain with no form. A shapeless suffocation of the soul. As though all her internal organs shook with fear in unison. Grasping for the oxygen of calm, the safety of certainty. When would she feel like that, she often wondered. How did everyone else do it? The jelly in her legs wobbled without any physical reason. No rationale could explain the numbness that held onto her skin. Pricking with tiny needles, poking and prodding. Invisible to the world, but relentless until she no longer concentrated on trying to stop the shaking. An explosion of guttural fright ripped up through her body. Flight launched into action, then realised its mistake. A false alarm. Another one. She knew there would be more, and that knowledge fuelled the making of the next. A circle of tense moments, fizzing and whipping, sent from her nerve filled brain to the tips of her senses.

The only cure was the final end.

The beautiful sleep.

Could she?




The slate stones cracked underfoot, unstable yet unbreakable. The dirt in between disturbed with every footstep, but stuck in its submitted state as it had been for centuries. The occasional dandelion poked through with strong roots. A weed to some, a strong and hardy plant to others. The wild bushes watched all who dared to enter the unkempt sanctuary, their derogatory stares as they took in the wild front garden, made of neglect and lack of pride. Seemingly, anyway. Brambles grasped with thorny arms, taking pleasure in their triumph over the remaining colourful blooms. Their scent overwhelmed by soil and worms and subterranean power.

The last of the feathers on the dead blackbird’s carcass wavered delicately in a breeze that wasn’t there. There was a calmness to its stillness that betrayed its moment of death. The perpetrator long gone, only the piercings from its claws remained. The body lay just before the filthy step, overlooked by a sturdy black door with layer upon layer of peeling paint, the lacquer of lives past peeping through the blackness. Once it was a rosy red. But that was a time long forgotten.

The spider crossed the mosaic tiles comfortably and without worry, stopping at the curled foot of the small rusting table and considering the climb. It had already made a home within the intricate swirls that held the thick glass on which sat a sturdy telephone. The numbers were obscured by the thick dust collected in the nooks and holes on the dial. The spider had never felt its sound. The spider had never felt any sound in that hallway. The shredded corners of a brown leather address book fanned its pages at the stagnant air. The yellowing edges held the story of a well-used life, keeping dried up ghosts of the fingertips that once held it dear. It kept the names of those souls who were needed. Souls long since moved on from this life. Except one.

The door was ajar. As always. The once glossy floorboards creaked and groaned, bereft of feet to bare. The last tracks that dared to seek were still visible, disappearing through the doorway, into the cupboard’s undiscovered secrets. Blackness still held power inside. Reigning over the creatures it kept, the memories of the last souls to breathe its musty air, and hiding the crippled chair that still crawled with life. A life not quite human, not quite animal, and not quite alive. The wooden legs bristled with longing, sat amongst the offerings of decaying flies and moth wings. It’s high back stood proud within the blaze of darkness, holding onto the last of its leather waistcoat, dirty red and flaking like scorched dead skin. The brass rivets grasped desperately at this skin, holding on, blackened and weak with the effort. And the chair took strength from their effort, from the worship of its creatures and the death they brought to its feet. But it still needed. It still craved. It still had a purpose unachieved. The echoes of its roots demanded it. In the silence of its own making it screamed into the ears of nothing. And the nothing heard.

[127 years earlier]

They hadn’t known what to do when they’d found it. The builders had seemed unsure when they were given their answer by the foreman. The foreman had seemed unsure when he was delivering it. The words given to him by the owner…
“Leave the bones where they are. The house will need them.”


The Woman Who Will Always be There


The scarf, faded peach. Delicately worn and straining at its near nonexistence. Hunched at your door in your grey woollen coat, bought to last. It has proved itself. The key seems too big for the lock, to small for your crumpled fingers. The old red shopping bag laughs against you until the relief of your bundled body pushes through the damp wooden door. Behind the nets you go. Somewhere, in your world. For that moment, though, I shared your life with you. Each day, I did my thing, you did yours. And we saw each other, and remembered. I could not tell you your face. I don’t know the colour of your pinched eyes, or the shape of your smile. But still I remember you. Even now the nets are gone and the faded peach scarf can finally find rest. The woman that will always be there.
I remember.