A story of
and where are we?
at any moment
and spreading into the green
like a plague of greyness;
A town where men
in the South
and lay down
tracks of self-preservation
for everyone to follow
with familiar names,
visited again and again –
late, of course –
using the same old trains.
There is nothing I can write which is scarier that what your mind can create. Different things scare different people. So in order to tell a story which will truly scare someone, a story which will lurk forever present in the recesses of a reader’s mind, it is necessary to leave the unknown inherent within your writing. A story which is void of certain pieces of information opens up vacant spaces for the reader to accommodate with projections of their own.
The closet door opens and presents a slither of darkness. In this darkness, you see a tiny red light. A pin-prick against the deep darkness around it. I do not know what this light is, but perhaps you do. What is the small red light you see half-recognised in your closet. What do you know that this light could be? A lit cigarette? No, you can’t smell the presence of smoke. A reflection off of a button of a piece of clothing? Perhaps, however when you move the angle of your stare the light does not move or change shape like you would expect. The red light is still and directed straight towards your bed; it is staring directly at you.
You’re just being silly. You open and close your closet day after day and you would have noticed that light before now. However, can you be sure that you would ever notice such a small light during the day? And during the night the closet door is typically closed. So why is it open now? Why is there a red light staring at you now, in bed and at night? Why can you not find the courage to move from your bed a reveal its truth?
Enough is enough. You throw the quilt off your body and huff in a way to make noise. It is a feebly attempt to invite sound into the room and within seconds a muteness returns. You return the stare of the red light and your mind begins to assess what it could be. Measurements and comparisons begin to reveal themselves in your head. The red light is approximately 3 feet from the floor, about the height of a fully-grown man crouching. What a sinister means of assessing the situation. Do all your comparisons have the image of an intruder lurking beneath the shadows? Well, an intruder is one answer. However, this is one answer out of an infinite number of reasons why there is a solid and piercing red light seemingly hovering in the darkness of your closet.
Where were we? Oh yes, silence and darkness and still the ever-present unknown. Your body moves. You are now standing and your joints feel reluctant and tight with anxiety. Ration jumps at you with so many solutions, but you remain unsatisfied. You need to know what that red light is. Does your room seem darker to you? No. It’s just that light. It has grown slightly brighter, illuminating only a small surrounding area within the closet and, in doing so, has plunged the rest of the world into a deeper darkness. In the small area of redness you see the outline of a coat hanging, arms long and shoulders sharp. This is your coat. However, it looks unrecognisable in this light. The light cuts red edges around parts of the coat leaving it still half-revealed. From what you see, your coat has taken on a completely new identity.
Another step forward and another shape reveals itself to you from the shadows. A pair of shoes at the base of the closet, seemingly unoccupied. Dark shadows rise up from the shoes towards the red light. The night stands infront of you parading in your shoes and your coat, wearing your clothes and piercing into you with that incessant light. You want to move quickly to get to the truth as soon as possible, however something is stopping you from doing so. The closet door appears to open slightly as your foot plants into the floor. You see something shift beneath the darkness.
What is it that haunts you? What is it that stirs within this current of wild shadows? You move closer and the light disappears as a shadow moves in front of it. Closer, the darkness moves towards you. What is this that stares back at you? Your hand reaches towards where the light used to be and you see the subtle shape of a hand stretch out towards your own. You touch the darkness and it touches you. Glass-cold. Fingertips mirrored in a double-world. A person stares back at you from the shadows.
Your eyes, wild; you look at yourself. A mirror. An illusion of an intruder. Relief spreads across your shoulders and your joints loosen. You scared yourself. Your own image, it tucked itself away within the unknown to create fear from the nothingness in this room.
With a smile, you turn back toward the bed and then then you see it. That same red light as before. In the corner, above and behind headrest on your bed. It too had been reflected in the mirror however its original source had been out of sight, dwelling in the unknown. A flash and a click. The room lights up and blinds you. Another flash and click. Again the room reveals itself. Flash. Click. Light. Flash. Click. Light.
You stand dazed trying to wipe the puddles of whirring colour from your eyes. That’s when you hear it. A voice, barely audible above the silence: ‘Come back to bed, beautiful.’
Happy Birthday, I hope this gets to you. 20 years and you have formed into the most beautiful woman I have ever known. You’re more than the English channel from me, but you’re always close to my mind.
It’s been more than two months, yet I still see you in the dress you wore during my departure, bright red with sharp shoulders which seemed to push your hair into loose curls around your neck. I remember how the autumnal colours of your hair swept across your face and stuck to your cheeks with the wetness of tears. I told you to smile for me. I didn’t want my last image of you to be without that smile. You were so strong to do that for for me. Thank you. I love it when you smile; it influences the shape of your face. Your mouth takes a pretty form and pushes your cheeks into a plumpness which compliments the almond cut of your eyes. A smile starts in the eyes. I have always told you this and I will continue to tell you the same once I return home – if I return home. Ignore that. I will come home.
The mud is life here and I could really do with a shower. You’d really disapprove of the state of my fingernails right now; they look like they have been soaked in hena ink. I have certainly kicked the nail-biting habit whilst out here. Worms are the enemy and I can’t afford to be eating for more than myself.
I’m sure that you want to know how I’m doing. I’m feeling fine. The other men in my battalion are amicable and easy to get on with. We talk about books we have read and music. It passes the time while we wait through the thick silence. I hate it. I can sleep through a barrage of bombs, but it’s the silence that really gets to me. It’s because the silence isn’t really silence; it’s just the moments between the deafening assaults where you can hear a slight humming sound saturate the air. The sound is deep and can be heard on the edge of existence. It is ever so slight, the half-recognisable sound of flies on flesh. The buzzing and humming filling the fields between each thunderstorm of war and gently vibrates against the back of the brain. The ever-present reminder of death. I hum to myself when I am alone to drown out the sound. It does help sometimes.
I have dwelt too long on death and must rejoice in life, more specifically your life and the twenty years that you have blessed this earth and those around you. Thank you, Rose, for being alive and for being the reason to fight on and survive. I will be home to tell you Happy Birthday on your 21st, I promise.
I love you.