Nightfall

Image result for black and white forestThe sound feet hitting the pavement in perfect rhythm was the only sound which resonated through the quiet street. They belonged to a young woman taking the same route she takes everyday, with her knowing that she would arrive to work late and that no one would realise. She continues at her relaxed pace, with footsteps growing slightly heavier as the same unease shot through her. This unease was the reminder that this was her life until the end of her days. The town was too predictable, thus for her, too boring. Nothing ever changed, not the people, and never their routine.

This was proved when she turned into the busy street, greeted by the eyes of the barber peering out of his glass shop front. There was the same awful aroma coming from the real estate agents sucking their morning fag. Then the barking of the dog with his owners resting on the bench. All sounds and senses dulled ever so slightly with the familiar bustle of cars in traffic. This isn’t where I’m meant to be, she had always thought. It just doesn’t feel right.

A singular raindrop fell, leading her to sigh and pull an umbrella from her bag anticipating this change of weather. Not much time passed before the downpour increased, leading to the streets to clear. She watched a bus crammed with people stuck in traffic and decided to continued by foot — extending her beloved solitude. Another turn led her to enter an empty park, her usual shortcut which truly was not shorter. She stopped the blaring music in her ears to listen to the sounds of the rain hit the surface. 

The clouds above merged into a grey storm, showing no sign of stopping. The pitter patter of the water hit her umbrella forming a gentle beat which calmed her. The rhythmic sound was disrupted with the emergence of footsteps running through mud, accompanied by a heavy panting. It was sudden but the footsteps were closely approaching. 

Her pace began to quicken and it was not long before she achieved a full out sprint. She did not dare turn around, instead she glued her eyes to the setting directly in front of her, praying never to hear that gnarly panting again. A time soon came where she could no longer run, her ears ringing and vision blurred. She hunched over, squatting close to the wet grass, still with the umbrella in hand but not positioned above her. Her throat was aching due to a combination of the weather and the most exercise she had done in years, breathing hurt, yet she was hyperventilating. Her chest felt like it was on fire, and a twinge of fear remained instilled into her. When she was able to hear again and the need to throw up finally subsided, she had realised she could not hear the rain, nor any footsteps and bad things which followed it. It was replaced by an undisturbed tranquility. 

The feeling of was cut short when cold bony hand touched the woman’s shoulder. “Finally,” a deep voice said, belonging to a man towering over her. He stood upright making his six foot demeanour seem even taller, he was composed, no sense of uneven breathing, just serenity, in contrast to the woman near him. She turned around, examining the stranger’s face. Due to his paleness, his skin seemed to illuminate, his dark attire did not help his complexion — he wore a long black jacket with a hood over his head while strands of long damp black hair peeking out. His most prominent — and unsettling — feature were his black eyes staring down at her.

“Why were you running?” he asked, monotonously.

She racked her mind, wondering how she could explain to a stranger that she was running from something she never even saw. She stood upright mimicking his posture whilst dusting off her trousers. “Just late to work, so I should make a move.”

“I don’t think you’re going to make it there.”

“Excuse me,” she pushed past him and walked with urgency.

Her apprehension had returned, not able to stay near the strange man but her mind fixated on the initial creature she was trying to escape. She roamed further away, expecting to see the same red bricks from the wall she encounters every day, but instead was greeted by an unfamiliar terrain. The path that would lead her to work was no longer there, replaced by trees vaguely concealing a railroad. Though the heavy downpour stopped, the grey sky remained, however darker than before. 

She stood frozen at her new surroundings when the stranger approached her again. She didn’t know where to go, but wanted to run. “Stay away from me. I bet you were the one chasing me before as well.” The minimal composure she hoped to maintain had disappeared. 

“What are you talking about?”

“Something was running behind me, which is how I ended up — well I don’t even know where.”

“Please, honey, I don’t run. The real question is how you got here. What are you, like a witch or something?”

“What did you call me?”

“So not a witch.” He held his hands up. “You can’t be a reaper too. Sure, you’re pale enough but your eyes are brown.”

“Excuse me. I’m not going to stand here and be insulted, especially after you have already threatened me.” She turned around, grabbing her phone hoping to see where she was, but instead came to face a black screen.

The strange man was before her again, he had no audible footsteps, nor presence. “I guess you’re small enough to be a fairy.” He slyly smiled at his quip, while she just glared at him. “That can’t be it. There is hate in those eyes, you are nowhere near ‘sparkly’ enough to be a fairy. With those eyes, you must be a siren.”

“Hey, weirdo! What the fuck are you on about?”

There was silence. 

“Actually, you know what I don’t have time for this. Just tell me where I am so I can go work.”

“Nightfall.”

“Where am I?” she repeated.

“That is where you are.”

“Nightfall is not a real place.”

“Look around, darling. That is where you are.”

“I am lost in a strange place with strange man.”

“I am no mere mortal, miss. I am a reaper.” 

She fell to the ground and uttered the most pathetic words: “I’m gonna be late for work”.

A silence swept over them once again. He didn’t leave – a kind gesture that she did not want, nevertheless she quickly became consumed with her own thoughts. “I’m going to die here,” she muttered.

“Hate to break it to you but if you’re here then you’re probably already dead,” he said.

“You severely lack any sensitivity.” God, why could he not leave? “Earlier when you said you were a reaper. Did you mean like grim?”

“Is there any other kind?” a proud smile spread across his face as he bowed dramatically.

As he hunched over she grabbed his collar. “You bastard did you bring me here. I’ll fucking kill you.”

“What a gross misconception.” He sounded hurt and easily escaped her weak grasp. “Reapers don’t take lives, they only guide them to the afterlife.”

“Genius, are you meant to guide anyone today?”

“I usually get a name, one second.” He gestured with his index finger as he turned his pockets inside out like a schoolboy. “Nothin’”.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The warmth of the mug radiated to her fingertips. She stared down at the hot beverage, firmly believing that comfort can always be found in a cup of tea. The steam raised up warming face as she slowly took a sip. Familiarity, is all she thought.

Due to pity and curiosity, the “reaper” could not help but invite the lost woman into his home. She never went into a stranger’s home, but considering the circumstance, an exception was made. It was homelier than she had presumed. From the outside, his house looked like a small bungalow, however inside it was strangely spacious. The minimalist composition further added to this sparse look. There were no dividing walls, the bedroom overlooked the living room and past this was the kitchen. The kitchen particularly stood out, differing from the rest of the house, as it was contemporary and bright. She also could not help be comforted slightly by the thought of a reaper wearing an apron and preparing meals like a normal person.

The rest of the house was dark, which suited him more. The sofa she sat on was black, similarly with the rug that rested below her feet. Behind her was his bedroom, with a black brick wall complemented by an array of  grey decor.

Her trance was cut short from the harsh steps of the so-called reaper. Before she even looked up, she  could see him pacing back and forth in her peripheral vision. “I don’t understand,” he said.

“You and me both, dude.” Finally relaxed and embracing the new warmth, she gulped down the hot tea. She stretched on his couch and began to lay down.

“No, no,” he rushed toward her before her back could rest against the leather of the sofa, placing his hands on her back and pushing her up. “No,” he repeated. “Don’t make yourself comfortable. You’re going to heaven or hell or whatever the afterlife is. But you don’t belong here.”

“Well, apparently you’re the expert, so you tell me what to do.” I was clearly a novice at this whole dying thing, she thought. 

He wanted to retaliate, but quickly deflated, knowing he had no rebuttal.  “Why are you relaxed now? Ten minutes ago, you were frantic, cursing me out.”

She shrugged. “Ten minutes ago, you were level-headed and carefree. You’re looking pretty flustered now.” She knew she was irritating her only hope to get answers but in this moment she finally did not have a care in the world. “What usually happens when someone dies?”

“I get a name and when I read the name I see the person’s face. I wander out to the forest and in the middle of the plains, someone’s lying there. They’re unconscious, laying in the same exact place, every time. When they come to, they can’t recall their life but when I look into their eyes, I see it all — guiding them through these wastelands, where they gradually remember as well. When they know their truth, then they have reached the end. For each person, it’s different but it’s usually a gate — a gate to the next life. The final one.”

“Interesting. But it proves I’m not dead. I remember everything, my whole life. My house for example, it’s nice. Not too big but not too small. There’s the porch door which is white and leads to the black tiles where I throw my shoes when I get home. Then there’s another door, a cream colour. This leads to our hallway. There’s two doors, the one with a glass pane leads to our living room. It’s all open, so we have a long room and the kitchen at the end. Above the kitchen is a skylight, which you can see from my room. The kitchen has a lot of light which I always hated a bit because it blinds me first thing in the morning. The-”

“Okay!” He cut her off, clearly agitated, “I get it! Was there anything weird about the events leading up to before I saw you?”

“It started off as a pretty normal day. It was raining before I got here, real heavy rain, it even had the same rain smell mixed with petrol and mud. And of course, the weird rabid dog panting which I thought came from you.”

His eyes widened. “Hellhounds,” was all he muttered. “Did it bite you? Tear you limb from limb?”

“No, I ran.”

“No one could ever outrun a hellhound, especially considering how unfit you are. Coughing your lungs out from the slightest bit of exercise. It is just so strange.”

She walked up to him extending her hand out as a sign of friendship. “We spent a bit of time together and I find it odd that we haven’t introduced ourselves yet. My name is Noor.” There was brief silence therefore Noor took it upon herself to continue speaking. “It means divine light in Arabic, fitting right?”

He was wary but graciously accepted the act of kindness. “Right.”

“This is the portion of the conversation where you say your name.”

“I’m reaper, I guess.”

“That’s not a name, you must have had a name once. A life aside from reaping.”

“This is all I know. All I have ever done. I am but a reaper.”

“So how long you been doing this gig?”

“What is with the interrogation?”

“I’m trying to be friendly.”

“I think I preferred when you were threatening me.” He sighed, “as far back as I can remember. The beginning of time, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know when it started or when it will end.”

“De-pressing,” she said in a sing-song tone.

“I am sorry I don’t get the same luxury as you deplorable humans.” Noor was shocked, wondering what she had said to hit a nerve, and also hurt by his harsh words.

It wasn’t long before he spoke again. “I apologise for my outburst. I’m never like this, reapers don’t have a lot of emotion —  it helps maintain a judgement free zone. But I have met a lot of people. I have seen their deepest darkest secrets and all their desires, the flaws. I am not the one to pass judgement — but I see it and I can’t pretend like I haven’t.”

“So, you don’t like humans, how about the witches and sirens and fairies you mentioned? Maybe I’ve met one.”

“Doubtful. There are things not in your world which can enter mine. It’s like walking through a neighbourhood for them. Any being with free will have the same issues. And for the record I don’t hate humans.” He smiled, slyly referring to Noor. This was the first time he really smiled at her and she couldn’t help but grin back.

“I don’t want to make this about myself again but can you see anything about me, even a glimpse?”

“That’s exactly it. When I look at you, it’s a complete blank. Usually, I see everything when I look in their eyes. I see their souls. The eyes are a window to the soul, never underestimate how true that is. I see what they don’t know about themselves. Just to summarise, paper, vision, memory lane which then leads to the gate. I’m a glorified delivery boy. With you, there’s nothing, I didn’t even realise you came here, I didn’t know your face, I know nothing about you. It irks me.”

“Maybe it’s just a delayed reaction. What if you look in my eyes, like really look in them?”

“It couldn’t hurt to try,” he said. They sat opposite each other, legs folded like school kids. As they stared into each others eyes, his face betrayed him to show that he once again reached a disappointing blank. “You have black eyes,” he noted.

Noor knew that he was unable to see her years unfold before his very eyes, instead she saw his. The entirety of the reaper’s existence flashed before her. However, he was no reaper, not anymore and he wasn’t from the start as he believed. There is more to his story, that he had yet to learn. A sad story of a boy destined to live a normal life, but died before he became a man. As her vision became clouded, she felt a dampness on her face, but she saw his face change. Something he hadn’t felt in years despite the thousands of people who previously broke down in front of him — empathy.

“Micah,” was all that left her lips.

He looked at her in disarray, completely unaware of all that she had seen. He instinctively wiped Noor’s tears with his thumb, which she knew that he had never been compelled to do for any other soul. That only made her tears flow more. She abruptly stood up, startling him slightly. With her back turned to him, she quickly wiped the tears with her pulled sleeves.

Micah stared at her, restraining himself from comforting her. Before she was ready to face him again, she dug her hands deeps into her pocket and felt a roughness at the bottom, brushing over it with her thumb. Removing the foreign object — a scrunched-up piece of paper — and unfolding it, which revealed the new name Noor had just learnt.

“Micah, would you like to go for a walk?” Noor asked.

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The Long Exhausting Life of a Vulture

I am a bird of prey,
Knowing only two things: to fly and to feed,
There is not much else to say,
Abiding to a cycle of search, eat and breed,
The same, every day
What more is there that I need?

For humans, it is difficult,
But when there is a war,
They’ve lost, knowing it’s their own fault,
But I continue to soar.

To me, they are no more than meat,

I should be content not to die,
While their corpses are littered in the street,
My own kind flourish in the sky

Surely, they are just like me,
So why am I filled with disgust?
Food, like them, is all I see,
Their next victim is seen in the dust,
Although this is no body,
However, it’s still what they lust.

The human is alive,
Albeit, on their last strand of life,
Someone must take a dive,
So they don’t yet feel the sharp scythe.

If they are as good as dead,
It shouldn’t be left to rot,
We should be fed,
As long as it’s not for nought.

As they drew toward the child,
I feel I want to cradle the thing,
They were so wild,
That something tugged at my heart string.

Every instinct I have installed in my body
Is aching,
I didn’t think this feeling was a possibility,
My very being is the very thing I’m contradicting,
As I flew to she,
And perched my body next to hers, in the warmth under my wing.

I gave the heat,
That no one showed the compassion to,
I gathered our food with my crows feet,
I did whatever I could possibly do.

She had no life nor a name,
She’s only known war and struggle,
It was such a shame,
She didn’t look like food because I was full.

I’m the only one to show any kindness,
The truth is kind of sick,
But better than nothing in this mess,
Everything, like it happened, was too quick.

The disgusted glares of my brothers as they looked over me,
My emotion was not invited by them,
But I couldn’t leave her be,
I would much rather be the one to face the condemn.

They would often taunt me,
However I wouldn’t shake,
Even when they used their long claws to bully,
And then my wings would break.

I would limp to the river,
My spirit still not be crushed,
But my frail body would still shiver,
These moments away from her was the only times I was fussed

It would hurt not having a home,
But watching her age,
Seeing her able to roam,
It was like a book turning another page.

When I saw that she lived for her,
No amount of grief would take away that joy,
Therefore when I left bloody trails further,
I could only play coy.

She began to look over us,
When I was completely wrecked,
She never kicked up a fuss,
It was almost perfect.

But everything changed when the hunters came,
They damaged my beautiful home,
It was such a shame,
That once again I was left to roam.

They burnt the forest,
Killed for sport,
Truly becoming a pest,
Like the ones the fought.

My loathing for them was intolerable,
But she became infatuated with these fools,
Once upon a time her eyes were dull,
but they sparkled upon seeing these animals

She watched them from afar for a long time,
Until those tyrants took her away,
It was really the greatest crime,
And for that they shall pay.

For her I left the place I call home,
Yet she could not do the same,
I was left alone,
Most definitely lame.

By this time the war was long past,
The humans have entered a golden age,
But every other being had to run fast,
Away from the humans rage.

We were not so lucky, not allowed to rest,
We are hunted, running,
Barely alive at best,
We are homeless again — left with nothing.

Many of my brothers since thenhave passed,
I always thought their spirits have been starved,
But as I go past the place I once called home, which will be the last,
I see that they have nests of children, in their spirits are their parents carved.

Not hungry,
They scoured for them when push came to shove,
And the truth that I couldn’t see,
Was to provide for the ones that they love.

It has dawned that I’m the one who is pathetic,
They were not monsters — they did what they must,
I felt sick,
Left by myself in the dust.

The humans did what they did not for survival,
But for entertainment,
Just like an animal,
I raised the monster I was sent.

As I flew to find food,
I had no purpose,
So for me to still try to survive was albeit kind of crude,
But I’ve lived for less.

Now that I had nothing, not drive or even energy,
I truly believed this to be my ending,
Until a woman with her resemblance uncanny,
Had approached me, and upon her seeing.

She grabbed her bloodied knife,
And granted me a corpse,
I did what I did best in my life,
And fed of the poor creature as my mind warps.

She patted my head,
And spent time until I could fly,
Said she was glad I wasn’t dead,
And when she parted with me, she did genuinely cry.

Seeing her children and her family,
With her own happiness,
It made me smile and I didn’t know I could be so sappy,
I’m glad, I must confess.

And it was like the beginning, my life on repeat,
She left food out,
Happy, full and complete,
But why did I feel still some doubt?

It got all too familiar when she got ill,
She became skinny once more,
I watched from the windowsill,
When everyone would come through the door.

Unable to walk,
What was left was skin and bones in a pile,
No more could she couldn’t talk,
Or even smile .

They carried out a party upon her death,
Wearing all black,
As I let out a breath,
Watching them crowded as a pack.

They were completely disgusting,
As I felt moisture run down my face,
It was somehow touching,
That I wasn’t, as I always believed, a lost case.

As they screamed and blubbered,
I still watched from the fence,
And joined as they mourned,
Her beautiful existence.

I wasn’t just watching,
I participated,
As we celebrated her living,
and this day that was fated.

I stayed,
Watching her I let out a cry,
There was still a happy face even in the dirt where she was laid,
Now was the time I could finally say goodbye.

Doing what I couldn’t do those years,
Because of the pity I felt before,
But now as she grew and overcoming those fears,
I devoured begging for more,

Tears that I didn’t think I was capable of still flowed,
It was intoxicating,
I ate and I was full once again in the cold,
I had taken away what was left of her being,

Now it was truly over.

Beyond the Window

Going back to my routes on this one, creative writing from words from a random word generator. 

The words were: Hostage, Talkative, Deal, Infection

Image result for window  photography

I lay on the soft mattress, sinking in as the covers surround me. I made it a habit to lay in the dark, I was not concerned about my surroundings. It was nice to not think, not dream just be. I had to savour this feeling. As I relax further into my nest, my safe space quickly became intruded. 

The lights turned on and a young man strolled in. Leon came here everyday, wearing a smug grin on his face accompanied with a chirpy attitude. “It has been a lovely day.”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said while sitting up, leaning on the headboard.

“You’re not a hostage, Mika. You can leave whenever you want.”

I felt my lips tightening, I had nothing to say nor any desire to leave, feeling too comfortable within these four walls. I was sick for a long time and once I got better rather than returning to my life it was just easier to stay here. 

No one came to visit me besides Leon. Not that I could recall many of my memories from before that time but I thought if they came then it would trigger some memory. Instead I was left alone with Leon, it made me bitter and Leon was the only one I could take out my frustrations on. 

On some level, I should be thankful but I’m not, he just reminds me how weak I am. Besides I never asked him to see me, he just does. I realised that he wouldn’t stop no matter what I said. 

I glared at him as he sat on the foot of my bed. It was no longer a quizzical stare, wondering why he came to visit or why he seemed so happy to see me I gave up on that a long time ago. Instead I glared at him to make it clear I didn’t want him here, make him not feel welcome enough to stroll in as he likes and make himself at home. 

“You’re very talkative,” he joked. 

“I don’t have much to say. Nothing has changed since yesterday or the day before. I haven’t done anything.”

“Are you still having those dreams?”

I did have dreams good dreams. In those dreams I can relive the feeling of happiness, of being uncomplicated. A blue sky, watching the clouds with a pair of eyes staring at me. The eyes were full of warmth. Even though I could not remember the face, I know I was happy. They were mundane activities, dreams of cooking and dancing, walking outside, going to the store. They were normal,  yet I craved them. However, I could not will myself to leave.

I looked at him for the first time. He wore a light blue jumper with white trousers. I have only seen him in some rendition of blue. 

“You really like blue?”

“It was my wife’s favourite colour.” He played with the silver band on his finger, smiling. He must really love her. In some way it made me jealous. Not because he was taken, but he was happy I did not have that luxury. 

“Was?” I repeated.

He ignored me, instead he observed the curtains, pushing up his glasses. “You haven’t opened the curtains again,” he stated. 

“No need. There is nothing out there for me.”

“There is nothing in here for you.”

“This is my home.”

“It was.”

“I remember how I used to be here. I remember laughing so easily. Smiling. Why does it not feel like me?”

“You remember?”

“Only a little.” After that sudden confession, I became defensive. “ I don’t know why you care, I don’t even know you.”

In that moment I thought I saw his eyes become glassy but focussed more on the hurt expression he now wore.  I had pushed him away before but this is the first time it had affected him. That is what I wanted but a knot still formed in my stomach. “Please, just indulge me,” he pleaded.

“I loved watching the clouds. The blue sky.”

“You did.”

“Can you tell me more?” I asked, this was the first time I had wanted to know more about my life, no longer content with the fragments.

“It’s not fair to ask me that.”

“How about a hint?”

“Here is a deal. I will look outside if you give me a hint.”

He leaned in closer to me. Initially, I thought it was to deny my request, instead he pulled me closer to him and kissed my forehead. “I love you.”

For the first time, I felt hope. The face in my dreams, the kiss on the forehead confirms it. It was all Leon. 

“You would humour me before.” 

“You had a strange outlook on the clouds but you loved looking at them, coming up with the most absurd stories.” I recalled him giggling when I would say the wildest observations about the clouds, the face were no longer eyes but Leon’s face. If I could remember him even a little then I was sure he would remind me of the rest. Finally the world was bright and I thought that I could live that we could live. 

He slipped a matched band to his on my finger and smiled weakly. 

Fulfilling my promise and with a new sense of confidence, I drew open the curtains, expecting to see my blue sky. But that is not what stared back at me. 

The sky was a blood red. The streets weren’t the ones I grew up in, the buildings were falling and resembled rubble more than structures. There was no form of life beneath us. 

“It hasn’t got any better, I’m afraid. Everyone left.”

“We will follow them.”

“Mik, the infection spread. I don’t have much time left.”

“I got better.”

“And you’re the only one.”

“Why did you stay with me ?”

“I was sick too, ” he lied. 

“You liar, you should have left me.”

“I could never do that.”

“I will stay with you.”

“It is more dangerous. You don’t know this world, Mik. It gets worse every day, the air is toxic for most animals, they’re going wild. The longer you stay, the further everyone else gets. You won’t find them if you wait around for me. “

“No.”

He rested his head on my shoulder and I felt a dampness on my t-shirt. “You have to,” he sobbed. 

I already decided that I would not leave him. Just like he refused me.