Skin

“We kissed, then I killed her.”
Silence swallowed the room. The air grew thick with the evil this animal had just breathed. Detective Houghton sat as still as I had ever seen. His eyes fixed on the monster in front of him. A wiry mess of blonde hair and a resolute stare – his eyes were such an insane hue of grey – mirrored my friend from across the interrogation table. Jake Markey: killer of Lucy Palmer and countless others. Behind the emotionless face of this man was a beast who had lured vulnerable women to his farm in the countryside in Hertfordshire and then proceeded to encaserate his victims for days, subjecting them to the most horrendous torture, before finally skinning them alive and leaving them to bleed to death.
Markey’s face split open into a deranged smile. I had to leave the room. His face had warped into a haunting shape which closely resembled that of a reflection in a novelty mirror at a fairground. There was something inhuman about this man. He seemed to project a dark intensity around the room which drained all energy from those closeby, as if his presence was a burden upon their soul.
I felt safe once I had retreated to the back room and began to observe the remainder of the interview from behind a thick sheet of two way glass. The window was situated on the wall behind Detective Houghton so I was able to watch, over the shoulders of the detective, Markey’s face for distinct facial responses or significant bodily gestures.
Houghton shuffled in his chair before reaching into one of the internal pockets of his jacket. He revealed a packet of cigarettes, opened it and summoned a solitary cigarette which a swift tap at the base of the packet with the palm of his hand. He raised the packet, clasped the butt between his lips before slowly withdrawing the rest of the cigarette from the pack. He turned in his chair towards a well-armed guard standing by the door and clicked his fingers at the tip of his cigarette, as if attempting to use an invisible lighter. The guard nodded subtly and, in one swift movement, flicked out a flame from his left hand and inspired a pulse of orange-gold infront of Houghton’s face. Tightly-coiled ribbons of grey dancing upwards as the detective inhaled deep, before exhaling a smokey darkness in the direction of Markey.
“Tell me about Lucy Palmer.” Houghton tapped off the dead pieces of his cigarette into a metallic ashtray that a guard had placed in front of him moments before. Houghton’s eyes locked onto Markey and his hand dived back into another jacket pocket. He retrieved about 15-17 polaroid photographs, placed them out onto the table infront of Markey and, in one swift slight of hand which would put any professional poker dealer to shame, spread the polaroids into an elegant line.
Mangled shapes of meat were depicted in these photographs. Lucy Palmer had been disfigured so badly that she was only identifiable after a dental examination. It was a Thursday in May – 29th May, to be exact – and the weather had been incredibly indecisive over the weeks prior to the discovery of Lucy’s body in a park a few miles from Markey’s home. Weeks of summer heat followed by intensely cold rainstorms and then the return of warm beautiful blue skies had caused an atypical decomposition cycle. The first bout of heat had accelerated the decomposition to cause the flesh to open up in numerous areas. The rainstorm then flooded to body cavities, accessing the internal areas via the tears in the dermis. The body would have become bloated by this and, from the coroner’s report, the body had bloated double it’s original size. The extreme cold which occured during the nights of calm after the storms had caused water to freeze within her body, causing terrible ruptures to blood vessels and many internal organs. The second heat wave in the week to follow was enough to thraw the body and kick up such a putrid stench that the local council received numerous complaints about a possible sewage rupture beneath the flower beds in Grundy Park. Lucy was found by a contractor hired to assess the elegded sewage issue behind a thick cluster of brambles aroubd the edge of the park. She had been covered – in quite a lazy attempt – by 5-6 inches of dirt. Excavation of the body was both easy and incredibly arduous. The shallow grave meant that forensics uncovered the body within no time, however the extensive decompostion of the body meant that the ‘gathering’ of her parts was terribly messy. Flesh fell from the bones like tender pulled pork and in many areas had taken on a gooey consistency.

The Last Train

James stood in silence on the train station platform. His eyes were locked on the overhead matrix screen above him. It seemed as though his neck had been craned upwards for a lifetime. The night was cold and the platform was empty. With each breath, ghosts danced from his lips in smoke-like coils and then faded into the yellow light of the lanterns which hung from the roof of the station. A train had not entered or left the station in all the time he had been waiting. The overhead matrix was no help at all and merely stated: ‘Train expected shortly’. It had displayed this message for what felt like days. The matrix screen looked down upon him with burning yellow letters and no suggestion of a train destination.
Where was James going? He had been stood waiting for so long that he had forgotten entirely, all he knew is that he wanted to leave this particular station – James wanted to move on.

A slight breath of wind moved its way along the tracks pushing a cluster of reddish-brown leaves to the corners of the platform. James began to feel a presence. He no longer felt alone. Down the far end of the platform a figure with sharp shoulder emerged from the shadows. A tiny pulse of molten red sent a ghostly ribbon of smoke into the darkness. The figure discarded the cigarette and made its way towards James. The stranger made dark shapes along the platform until stepping into the same yellow light.

A tall man stood in front of James. His face was sharp and his features cast monstrous shadows across the floor beside him. His eyes were patterned with insane shapes and shades – a seemingly grey-blue colour. A long line of stitches ran down the entire left side of his face, from his temple to the underside of his chin. The skin around the stitches was a reddish purple and suggested that this laceration was acquired recently. His lips warped slightly beneath a well maintained moustache as if he was about to speak.

“Any idea when the next train is, mate?” the stranger turned towards the overhead matrix as he spoke.

“No, sorry. I don’t. There hasn’t been a train for hours.” James moved half a step away for the stranger and attempted to make this action seem as natural as possible.

“No trains in how long? Christ, that’s terrible service. And you’ve been waiting the entire time?” James nodded to the stranger’s question. “So what’s your story?” The stranger opened out his body, rolled his hand towards James and raised his eyebrows slightly in a silent request for his new associate’s name.
“James, my name is James. Honestly, I can’t remember where I’m going. I only know that I just don’t want to be stuck here.” James’ eyes followed the direction of his words and he watched the stranger’s face change. It seemed to take on a new shape, one of mild confusion.
“By the looks of things it doesn’t seem like you’re going anywhere at all, pal. Surely, you know why you are here, James?” The stranger seated himself on a nearby bench, he spread his arms and slouched slightly. He seemed comfortable and prepared to sit and wait forever. The stranger was dressed in black suit trousers and a plain white shirt with sleeves rolled loosely to his elbows. His hair was combed from left to right with a neat side parting – his appearance seemed timeless. He reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out an old battered packet of cigarettes. He tapped the base of the packet, sending a cigarette butt shooting out into his mouth. He then offered a cigarette to James, who politely rejected in a wordless exchange. A small flame flicked from within the stranger’s closed hand which inspired a pulse of red and a slight puff of smoke. James watched as the stranger shifted his body forwards, perching his elbows on the tops of his thighs, and exhaled deep sending a frenzy of apparitions into the night.

“Where are you headed?” James decided that, if he was going to be waiting for hours on end with this man, he might as well try and make an effort to talk to him. He perched in a sit-standing position against a bollard and faced the stranger.

“Home. I’m waiting to go home.” The stranger drew in a lung-full of smoke and let it escape slowly from his nostrils. He smiled slightly and his eyes looked out into the darkness as if he was picturing his destination. “It used to take me no time at all to get back home when I had a car. Unfortunately, I wrecked it not far from here. Maybe a minute or two down the road. Complete write off.” He began to scratch the tender skin around the cut on his face with the tips of the two fingers that he held his cigarette between. “No, not a pretty sight. So, train travel it is from now on, I guess.”

“Is that how you hurt your face? The accident, I mean, is that how you cut your face so terribly?” James immediately regretted asking such an intimate question. “Actually, ignore I said that. I’m sorry, how rude of me.” The stranger’s laughed at James’ bashful display.

“No worries, pal. And yes, the monster you see before you now was created from that car crash. I don’t mind too much. I was never much of a looker and besides, chicks dig scars.” His eyebrows moved in a suggestive manner as he pursed his lips. The stranger then laughed to himself. James was unsure whether he should laugh with him, so he did not. “Paramedics had to resuscitate me at the scene. I was dead for six minutes before they managed to resuscitate me successfully to a stable state. Six whole minutes – you can make a stir-fry in five. You’d like to think that in that time I was consciously looking over my body, urging and willing myself to breathe, but I wasn’t. It doesn’t happen like that. I was nowhere. It was infinite boredom and nothingness; it was just like waiting for a train to arrive.” James had become lost in the stranger’s words. He felt entranced. He had sunk into the story and now found himself standing at the edge of the platform, staring at the rail-tracks. Something caught his eye. A slither of light cut the shape of a mangled piece of metal out from the shadows. James tried to adjust his sight. It looked like a metallic red panel from a car’s wheel-arch. It was crumpled and blackened in areas as if it had been set alight. “I’m eternally grateful for the great attempts those paramedics made to bring me back. What are you looking at?” The stranger’s words snapped James’ mind back to the conversation.

“Oh, nothing. Just wondering what a piece of scrap metal from a car is doing beside the train tracks, that’s all.” James turned to face the stranger and was met by an empty bench. Where did he go? James’ eyes surveyed the platform, but there was no sign of the man he had just been talking to. He tucked his hands into his coat pockets and pulled it tighter around him. Then he heard a heavy scrap of metal coming from behind him, besides the train tracks.

“Ah, so it is. You’ve got yourself a piece of a car here.” James started and shifted his body to face the direction of these spoken words. The stranger was now besides the tracks, digging through the lumps of scrap metal he had pointed out. “More specific, you have got yourself a Ford Capri body panel in ‘Jasper Red’ – just like I used to have.” The stranger’s shirt had come loose from his trousers and moved in the wind like an apparition across his skin as he made large, over-exaggerated heaving actions to shift the scrap metal.
“Is that burn damage?” James jumped down to accompany the stranger and get a better view of the metal.
“Looks like it. Looking at the burn patterns on this wheel arch, the fire started under the bonnet.” The stranger picked up another puzzle piece to the Capri, the steering wheel. He held it out in front of him and turned it left and right as if he was driving an invisible car. “I feel for the driver. By the looks of this car, there is no way he would have survived the crash that caused this damage.” The stranger dropped the steering wheel and walked back to the platform, as he moved he shuffled his feet through the gravel. The stones made the noise of crashing sea water as they moved with his feet and hit against eachother. James watch the stranger hop up back into the yellow light and check the overhead matrix once again. Silence drowned the entire platform until the stranger begun to whistle a tune. The sound cut through the air in a way that magnified the lack of sound around the rest of the station. James listened and picked up upon the melody. The stranger was whistling the guitar melody of the introduction to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Hearing his recital of such a familiar song disturbed James; it’s minimalistic sound warped the song into something haunting and amplified a previously unpercieved horror that resided within him. A half-extinguished memory. Flashes of pain from another time. Blood, fire and metal filled his mind. Something terrible had happened between James and this stranger.

“Is this your car?” James stood, desolate, amongst the scrap metal. The stranger did not respond, he continued to stare at the matrix screen. “Excuse me! This car, is it yours?” James made wild gestures, but the stranger refused to acknowledge his question.

The bookshop

A thousand unbounded worlds,
neatly packed into shelves,
call out to us to explore,
to dig deep and discover ourselves.

Anxiety

Today, I shake

in a frozen state

between desolation

and suffocation.

 

Today, I was told,

by friends who understand,

to go to sleep,

to be a man.

 

Today, a doctor

laughed at me;

there was nothing wrong

for him to see.

 

Today, I sit

all by myself,

feeling a thousand miles

from everyone else.

 

Today is just

another day

where nobody listens

to a word I say.

 

 

We are all in this together.

How grand it is to live today
in a world where we’re told what to say
and how to think and what to do
because those who lead us know what’s best for you.

Camera to camera;
We are actors in their eyes
who need constant surveillance
to save our lives.

In their second houses,
let’s help them survive
and engorge them with taxes
for the rest of our lives.

Together we stand
against terrorism for one another;
We are all equal,
Yet some are more equal than others.

Touch

Please can you let me speak
in words which do not leak
all the truth and intention
from our conversation.
Our mouths move too much,
yet our skin speaks with certainty
and, in every touch,
you know what you mean to me.

Locks

Madness, my love;
madness is the key.
If you’re willing to be mad
then you’ll unpick me.
Help me open doors
to a life where more
can be discovered
through the hot press of another.

Twist and crack,
then never look back
at the world that let you go.
Pass on through
to a place that wants you
and will forever let you know.

Self storage

A light burns dimly
through the veil of uncertainty
as we set fire to the trail
which leads us back to a time
when you stopped being you,
when you stopped being mine,
and began to lose your way
in other people’s lives.
I don’t know why you chose to bend
your starry dreams to accommodate them.

Amongst the crowd,
you shared yourself
and, at the day’s end,
were left with nothing else.
Now I look into the glass,
the shine behind your eyes,
and see more of myself
than the self you denied.

Spring

Walk out into the warmth
and feel the heat press
against your shoulders,
against your skin,
like a lover you used to know
and waited in the coldness for.
Walk with the sun’s touch
through streets saturated in stories
from another time.
You’ll be fine
when the clouds cover the sun
and the coldness returns.
Wrap yourself in the memories
you once wore tight on your skin;
Wrap yourself up and stay warm, always.

Puzzles

Her eyes had faded to a foggy grey-white, looking onward with a glossy forever stare. She looked beyond death and beyond me. Her cheeks sat high up on her face; the left cheek had sunken slightly from the blow and made her look ugly. In this yellow light, the blood shone like thick tar across the backs of my knuckles. I tried to wipe the blood away, but it had worked its way into my skin and, as I raised my hands to the dying bulb that slowly swayed from the ceiling, I could see the outline of every cell – every cell marked in a thick border and made to stand out. I examined my skin and followed each cell as it interlocked with the next; it formed an endless puzzle of me.

The television had been switched to a station of static during the struggle. Perhaps we had accidentally rolled over the remote control? The television hissed at me as I picked up a small shard of glass from the floor. This fragment was once a part of a champagne flute, now it tells a story of something more. An empty champagne flute represents celebration, perhaps the celebration is yet to happen or maybe the party has already taken place. The flute glass is a synecdoche of good times, wealth and progression. A smashed fragment of a champagne flute, however, speaks beyond itself in such an uncanny way. The sharp glass piece cuts through the perfect image of celebration and turns it into tragedy. This shard represents the fall – a fall from the height of celebration. Now what went wrong?

I pressed the glass into my skin and carved out a cell. Well, nothing went wrong because the celebration was a lie that she chose to believe. Tragedy was always expected from tonight. I knew this and, to some extent, I think she knew it too.

The glass moved away from my skin to reveal one singular cell balanced delicately on its point. This was a part of me. It still is, but it now lives out of context: an artefact to an unknown city. This singular cell can now break away from me and live its own existence yet is also still historically connected to everything that has happened before. It is a lone puzzle piece which exists in its own right, but will forever evoke the ghost of the entire picture. This cell is my lone puzzle piece for those who protect our rights to be civil, who fight to keep the monster at bay and the idea of morality intact. You call these people the law and you run scared. You hide beneath the wings of the law because you are afraid of the chaos that can be found within yourself when you are completely unbound from civilised structure. This part of me will be a gift to keep those men and women, who protect you from yourselves, searching for the entire picture. In the end they will find the monster they are searching for. I hope they say “thank you”.

My blood filled the incision quickly and created a tiny dot which held a dome shape for a few seconds before the surface tension gave way and let the blood dribble down my skin. My blood washed with hers. A sex of dark reds raced down to my elbow and formed a large drop on the tip of my elbow. The drop swelled until it released itself and fell to the floor. A vacuous calmness had now occupied the space that primal thrusts and drives had resided moments ago. The ancient snarling animal subsided into the darkness and all that remained was silence.

I sat there by her side until the morning. We stared into each other, unblinking. I worked her face into a pretty smile and invented a little life for her. She had not previously told me her profession, but she looked like a teaching assistant. She – her name is Macaria – would early arrive to class, twenty minutes before even the teacher, and go over the plan for the day. Macaria was enthusiastic for everything in life, had the ability to flood a room in a calm that could wash over all.

‘She was magnetic, in a sense that life was drawn to her’, Mr Macaria will say through tears, eyes staring deep into the lens of public sympathy. ‘She was so kind…I just don’t know how anyone could do this to her…My beautiful baby girl’. The end of the sentence will be sobbed out violently, the words will be barely audible, but we will all know what was said. How unoriginal death makes us. There is a plethora of adjectives in the English language and all that can be said about the dead is how ‘good’ and ‘kind’ they were, even if they were absolute demons. You never see that, a man stand up in church and speak the truth about his dead daughter: ‘She was a slut and I haven’t seen her for years because of it!’ Now that is passion, my friend! But no, Macaria was not a slut… or a terrible person. I had not known her long enough to see anything about her character that suggested this, thus I decided that she was in fact an amicable young lady. She had given herself to me and for that I was eternally grateful.

Unfortunately, Macaria was now all used up and she needed to leave my life. I took a serrated knife from my suitcase and began to turn her into a puzzle. The flesh cut well, but the bone needed to be broken. I stamped down hard. I was a hammer. Fuck me, this made things extremely messy. By the time I had broken her down enough to fit into my suitcase, chunks of flesh swam like islands in blood. She had exploded into the pieces of herself and now I saw in her what I had always been – a scattering of pieces slowly drifting away from each other. There were no words, no communication between my pieces, just a continuous overlapping of broken thought. A mind muted by the vacuum of violence between its pieces.

After I cleared away all the blood, I walked over to the hissing television with my luggage prepared. The static stations always reminded me of pins and needles in the feet – such an uncomfortable buzz of broken noise. The power button made a numb click as I pressed it. The television sighed, the light on the screen raced from all corners to its centre and then, darkness. I opened the door to the hotel room and paused momentarily to listen to the night. Silence. Well, not complete silence. A faint murmur swam below the surface. I closed the door behind me. The murmur followed me into the night. It was drowning dead air – static noise, perhaps; an endless game of Chinese Whispers and, of course, chaos.

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