Tag Archives: stream-of-consciousness

Apathy

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That feeling that blankets mid-morning,

Coaxing you back to slumber

So much unlike true sleep.

Your bones of liquid lead drag you down

Your mind is heavy, yet, your thoughts fly.

This is the strange twilight time

When time is immaterial and reality an afterthought.

Reality? No, realities; so many merging together,

Descending to you in a fog.

The Drowning

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The gentle breeze that greeted them the day before like a childhood friend’s caress had transformed overnight to an old warrior’s booming voice. The girl released the last knot from her sash as the wind picked up again, sticking the wet sarong on her legs and whipping the long hair to her face. In the grey-gold sunrise the waves below looked like mercury. Sprays of foam flew all the way up the cliff, where she was standing, landing at her feet and putting away the candles from the night before one by one.

 

She had stayed up with the full moon, sitting away from the others and their noisy laughing talk as the hours grew longer, the air colder and the sea wilder.

 

With a hysterical laugh she took a few steps forward and jumped in the water.

 

The water had been inky black and, even with the moon shining above, they had nearly lost the shore as they tried to swim out.

 

A deep breath bringing air to salt-burnt lungs. Another wave dragging her to its embrace. The current taking her by the hand, leading her in an intricate dance, now waltzing towards the ocean, the next moment back to the shore. The rapidly rising sun burning overhead, changing the water surrounding her from nearly silver to foggy grey and blue. Another large wave and then the silence –blessed silence- of the underwater. Darkness behind closed eyelids, blood pumping against eardrums, pressure building against the temples.

 

She had lain on the pebbled shore and named the constellations that were still visible, the stars going brighter with each breath held a little longer, until she was racing amongst them and she had to remind her body to breath, counting inhales and exhales, one-two, one-two, one-two.

 

Her body was left to move with the water currents, while she floated above it, flying with the wind until the need to exhale became too strong and she slammed back inside the heavy, heavy body, crawled to the shore, even as the waves pulled her legs back in like an insistent lover.

 

He had come to sit next to her, the touch of his hand too warm, sticking to her skin. Her breaths were heavy, doubly now that he was close, and she pushed him away violently, ignoring the surprised words from the others.

 

Lightheaded and giddy she let another stilted laugh escape her lips before standing on shaky legs and moving to the water again. The winds that she dreamed of never lasted enough, not hardly enough to drive the maddening pressure of people and their thoughts…

 

Voices disjointed as they reached her ears, too many different words crashing against one another and why can’t they just be QUIET for one moment?

 

…against her mind. Another deep breath and she dove under again for just one more minute of peace…one and a half…two…before the burning became painful and she burst out of the water, in front of the wave, swallowing water instead of air.

 

She had burnt her finger whilst lightning the candles, trying to save the battery on their phones just in case, because of course they’d remember to bring drinks but a flashlight had been too much to hope for.

 

This time it took longer to resurface and by the time she is on dry ground again they are all there to berate and ask and even as she coughed the last of the sea from her lungs and tried to fill them with air (when did breathing become a chore?) the ever-present pressure is back. So much noise and how can anyone understand anything, answer anything, when voices and faces blur in a mess that is not the fault of an oxygen-starved brain.

 

In the semi-darkness the ground had seemed so inviting, the faces, drawn with sharper lines from the yellow-orange light, friendlier somehow. It was an illusion, as much as her race with the constellations but she had allowed herself to believe it, if only for a few moments, before the noisy talk had started again.

 

What were you thinking? Are you alright? Do you need some water? (I just drank a wave-full, I think I’m all set.) Did you get dizzy? That wave was huge! How could you miss it? It’s too windy, we shouldn’t have stayed.

 

What’s wrong with you tonight? Can’t you have fun? Why were you carrying matches anyway? What else do you have in that bag? Did you bring any water bottles? We’re nearly out of drinks? Did anyone bring food? Where’s my phone? Where’s my shoes? Is that a shooting star? Quick! Make a wish!

 

Even as she dragged herself to her bag and picked her things from the ground her eyes kept returning longingly to the waves. She could hear them whisper invitingly, and though she followed the others back to the house, well, wouldn’t it have been better if she had stayed under, in all the peace and quiet?

D is for Drama

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Ah…drama. The inevitable result of combination of family reunions, overeating and disappointing presents. What do I speak of? Boxing Day! You know, when the high from the partying and Christmas cheer are over and you are left to clean the house, store away the atrocious sweater that great-aunt you’ve never seen before gave you and nit-pick everything that you heard in the past two days, all the while nursing a hangover. Charming.

 

Personally, I’ve always imagined family reunions as miniatures of a United Nations conference. Add the word dinner and it’s practically a convention (complete with souvenirs)! You have the people you are glad to see again, those that are just meh, the new-arrivals (new babies or cousins visiting from out of town) and of course the once you dread to face. And face them you will. Armed with only a plate of nibbles and a glass of wine, you’ll have to fix a smile and answer politely to their comments, all the while trying not to look like you’re looking for the nearest exit.  It’s not even that they mean to annoy you. No, that’s what makes it worse! They are genially interested, but when it is the nth time you have to explain what you’re studying, what sort of job can you even find with your degree or –my personal favourite- is there someone special in your life and when exactly are you planning on settling down… -rage quit-

 

Let us all be thankful that the alcohol is monitored in this sort of gathering (what with kids zapping around everywhere) or the responses to those questions would no doubt be far less diplomatic and far, far more honest. No, I’m not a Grinch. No, I don’t despise family functions (although if anyone asks me again what high-paying job I can get with a Lit degree I will not be held responsible for my actions). Heck, I don’t even complain for getting socks as a Christmas gift! Good socks are more expensive than you’d assume. So what’s with the title?

 

Well, think about it: a special time/place setting, a specific cast of characters whom we like to various degrees, the exchange of rehearsed lines and actions. As good ol’Will said: “All the worlds a stage.”

 

Give me an audience and I will deliver.

Inner Monologue

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…And simply sitting on the sun, letting the breeze play with a few stubborn strands of hair that escape my bun is nice. It almost makes me wish I could capture the moment and live in it forever, with no worries, just the warmth and the peacefulness filling me in like never before and a pair of eyes studying me in an admiration I do not understand…At least the pose he made me sit on is comfortable… Peculiar, fascinating child-man…Walking back from work at the fields, the last thing I expected was being stopped by a complete stranger and asked to become his model. He said I was an everyday beauty, a part of Nature herself, ebony hair and golden skin (he doesn’t know of the sickly white I turn during winter) and eyes the shape of a teardrop and he would go on and on with his flattery if I hadn’t cut him off, asking what I was going to get out of this. He stumbled, probably did not expect someone to be more concerned about the mundane everyday struggles rather than “the eternal existence of a piece of art.” Regardless the money he’s paying is good. All I have to do is sit there in my work clothes -why would anyone care about those old things instead of that beautiful stitched skirt Mary gave me on my birthdate or the dress my mother made for my wedding I do not know- and stare at him unmoving and bored -thoughtful he says-. He has found this small field near the coast. No one bothers with it. It’s too near the sea to grow anything properly, but he finds it the perfect inspiration. Or so he thought until he wandered curiously further down to the beach. The view stole away any loud comments he might have had, all full of description and color. It looks the same to me, just a few rocks and lots of sand and the tide’s soft roar sending you to sleep like my old mother’s lullaby. How I wish I had children to sing the old songs to. He is an overgrown child; he comes from the city, the painter. I’ve heard that things are different there. Nessy was telling me the last time she was here that the house she works in does not even have a garden and yet it’s one of the best in town. Townsfolk is weird like that. So he makes me sit on the ground, my back to the water, only half-turned towards him so that the light will be “just right.” Then he spends the rest of the morning taking turns between staring through me and painting in his canvas. I have no idea what the painting itself looks like. He covers it the moment midday comes, insisting that he cannot work without the light hitting me “properly.” Then he returns to whatever he does the rest of his time and I rush back to my life and the chores that cannot be left undone because an artist -as he calls himself- wished to waste his mornings staring at me. Or through me. Jake worried that I spend too much time with him but the moment I brought home the first payment all his worries flew out of the window. This is the most either of us has ever made. We can finally make the repairs we needed in our house and even put a little on the side for when the good times are long gone. If I were to be honest (and I pride myself to be) I’d say it’s nice to be noticed. No one ever called me any kind of beauty and I never entertained the thought that I might be anything other than plain. Then this strange man stops me and declares that I would be the Muse for his latest work. I don’t know what a Muse is but his tone was nice so it must be something good. I wish Jake took the time to notice me. It’s been two years that we have been married and he spends more time in the fields and the tavern than with me. It’s not fair to compare the two men of my life and yet I do. Jake is sturdy; strong like the oak that he used to make our bed. The other is a child stuck to the body of a grown man with a tendency to drop things in the most inconvenient moments and places. What does he know of the real world? But then what do I know? I’ve never left our little spot in the world. I dreamed once, dreamed that a pirate like those of the old days would come and whisk me away. Then I woke up.

Meditation

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Astral Projection

Flickering and fluttering

Out of the corner of your eye

I fly ethereal

White

And silver and

Full of half-formed ideas

A sudden noise and…

Awakened

A sudden startled gasp.

I wrench myself from

Half-remembered dreams

Of flight. Pain

On my chest as if

I slammed back to

My body. How I fear

Those

Half-forgotten

Dreams

 Of

Flight.

Thread’s End

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Thundering could be heard since the morning, causing people to glance at the sky nervously before shuffling back to their work. Cloudy skies were common at this time of the year, although rain had been scarce ever since the testing grounds had been established. At the very edge of the village there was a hastily pulled-together wooden hut, the newest building in the village by far. Inside, golden hued shadows danced on the quilt-covered walls, the hiss of threads being weaved on the loom the only sound breaking the oppressive silence. Hevasti was staring blankly ahead, her hands dancing through the motions mechanically, as her entire being focused on the sounds outside her door. She had been hiding away on this obscure village, as near to the testing grounds as she dared, for nearly a year now, posing as a blind weaver.

 

She had been on the run for nearly two years, her hunter finding her only months after the band had gone their separate ways, deciding that fighting would be easier in smaller groups. Her lot had been the Southern Plains, what used to be her birthplace before the Empire had spread, engulfing the small mountainous province. Hevasti had been shocked when she had first arrived. The wild fields at the foot of the mountains, pieces of land that should have been shining golden under the pale, late summer sun were stripped bare. Where caravans of the Mountain People had been now stood a series of concrete buildings, the smoke from their chimneys turning the sky a sickly grey.

 

The years on the run with her brother and the rest of the band had changed her, so much that a cloak and slightly unfocused eyes were all that it took to convince the village people of her cover story. They had made her the hut and she had repaid them in kind, weaving and sewing anything they asked of her, never accepting money, too fearful of tying herself down to a single place. She had tried to find the others, of course she had; but all communication had been lost, and they were all too talented in disguising themselves for her to be certain that any rumor reaching her had anything to do with her precious ones.

 

Hevasti tugged at the fabric she was weaving sharply, trying to focus herself on the present. Arta, one of the local girls was getting married after the autumn equinox and the thick white cloth –it would be the girl’s formal dress once the ceremony was over – needed to be finished by then. The weaver shuddered at the thought of a winter wedding. She almost had had one. She almost had a life once, almost settle down, left the running and hiding and killing behind. And then he had been taken from her, just at the end of the summer, conscripted to an army he hated, to fight for a cause he did not understand. They had dreamt of a daughter, a little girl called Seela. She had taken that name afterwards, a tribute to a life she was never going to have. Marti had scoffed and called her sentimental. She almost stabbed him with his own dagger, nearly mad with grief at the time, screaming that how he, her own brother could not understand, not feel anything.

 

Another harsh tug of the fabric and she resolutely ignored the tear that fell like a stray raindrop on her hand. She missed them, oh how she missed them! Fighting had become the center of her life, their victory – hopeless as it seemed – the only light left to her. Now she could only hide away like a scared child, locking herself inside whenever the officials from the testing facilities scouted the area for ‘volunteers.’ Her eyes fell idly to her rows of paints, precious colors once used to hide her comrades’ appearance, now reduced to instruments of manual work. How the mighty had fallen indeed…

 

But isn’t this life so much more comfortable? A fire blazing at your hearth, a bed, three meals a day, not having to keep a weapon on you at all times? Why would you want to go back to the fear and the uncertainty and the heartbreak? Isn’t it time? You aren’t young anymore. Surely it’s time to be selfish, think of your own needs for once.

 

No, these aren’t Hevasti’s musings. So close to the Empire it’s easy for them to slip into her head, plant foreign thoughts, make her lose the scraps of identity she holds on to. She isn’t that old, she never will be as long as she can yield a weapon. And why begin being selfish now, when that’s all she has been? She had been selfish when she took her brother and ran from their house, selfish when she nearly left the cause they were fighting for just for a man and a chance at a fairytale ending, selfish when she returned more broken than ever, selfish when she encouraged the breaking of the band, selfish when she hid at her old hometown, putting all the people there in danger. Selfish is her name and nature, the one thing the voices in the shadows cannot tempt her with.

 

The wind picked up outside, thunder echoing closer now and the door rattled under the force of the oncoming storm. Hevasti frowned. The wail of the wind sounded ominous, almost like a lament she had heard on the coastal province, sang by the family of a drowned child. He had gone swimming in the middle of a storm and never came back. They hadn’t even found the body. She had made sure of that herself. The door rattled again and Hevasti felt a shiver race down her spine. This was less like the wind and more like a person trying to get in. Her eyes snapped back at the loom in front of her, fingers mechanically continuing the motions as the door finally gave in to the violence and slammed open, the wind rushing in, blowing away the few candles, and plunging the room in nearly complete shadow.

 

Hevasti, Seela, turned slowly to face her visitor. The figure on the door was feminine, draped in the black folds usually worn by the assassins, her face hidden in the shadows. Silence stretched between them and then, mechanically almost, the woman at the door, her executioner, took a step forward just as her fireplace roared back to life and Hevasti jumped to her feet, because she knew that face, had fought side by side with that women and oh the betrayal hurt all the worse.

“You,” she whispered in horror, her eyes wide and scanning at the impassive woman, looking for any sign of recognition. “How can it be you?” Why you? No matter how good a cover, this is too much. You wouldn’t kill a comrade to get to a target, right Destra?” Destra took another mechanical step closer, seemingly not hearing a word, a long, needle-sharp dagger now dangling from her hand.

 

Step for step they danced around the room, the distance between them staying the same, Hevasti’s harsh breaths and the now raging storm outside the only sounds in the room. Her back bumped against the white fabric hanging from the loom and she choked down a sob.

“Destra, you know me,” she tried franticly again, hoping against all hope for a sign, any sign of recognition. “Marti brought you to us, I dyed your hair black, showed you how to do it on your own, how to change appearances like they’re only dresses. Remember that Duke we had to seduce, the one who thought we were siblings the three of us and walked in on you and Marti kissing? Or, or that washer woman who thought we were artists because of all the paint stains in our clothes?” Another sob, this one tumbling from her lips as her former friend she would have been a sister if you hadn’t taken her from your brother because you were jealous of his happiness closed the distance between them and raised the dagger. The wind rushed in and finally smothered the fire, darkness descending on them just like the needle-like weapon came down on her.

 

“I want to die in autumn,” Hevasti, Seela, Rajiya had told her brother when she was seven. It was autumn then and they were sitting at the porch of their house watching the gold and red leaves dance at the breeze.

“You are weird,” was his mumbled reply.

“But why not?” her fingers brushed the fallen leaves around them. “Everything else dies in the autumn, why not us? Wouldn’t it be nice to know when you’ll die? To know how much time you have? Everything would be much more fun if you knew it was the last time you were doing it! Even boring stuff like, like,” she looked around, searching for something appropriately boring. “Watering the plants!” she concluded triumphantly. “Wouldn’t it be fun if you knew, you’d never ever ever do it again?”

“No,” her brother said, poking an ant with a twig. “It’d be sad. What if it was something you really liked? Or someone important? Goodbyes are not fun.” Rajuya frowned thoughtfully.

“No,” she sighed. “I suppose not.”

 

The precious white cloth was stained red with her blood and it was probably ruined. Rajiya thought absently what a disappointment that’d be for Arta when she found out. Her legs gave out and she slumped against the skeleton of her loom, slowly bleeding out. Her assassin long gone, she looked at the hut that was to be her tomb before dipping a finger in the small pool of blood at her feet and slowly, painstakingly, she wrote her name, the true one, on the floor. The eternal night was drawing near and with a wet chuckle Hevasti Seela Rajiya laid herself on the floor next to her name.

“Guess I got my wish,” she whispered to the storm still moaning outside and then she was no more.

Untitled

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The sirens blaze over her head, their shrill cries warning everyone that an inmate has somehow managed to escape. Swallowing her bubbling panic she ducks under the trees of the forest that surrounded the concrete building she had been confined in for as long as she can remember. Runrunrunrunrunrun! The mantra keeps ringing in her ears, the voices lauder than ever before. She stumbles in the dark, biting her lips to keep a whimper to escape. She can’t go back. She won’t go back. A hand shoots through the foliage, dragging her along to the darker parts of the woods; away from the search parties and their glaring torchlight. She follows the shadow, until a flickering light appears before them. She shrinks away, fire will hurt you, but he tugs her forward again.

“They won’t hurt you,” he assures her and she trusts him, because she has no choice.

She looks around warily at the other faces surrounding the fire where her shadow rescuer has led her. They are analyzing her, noting her features, her character, deciding what will be discarded and what kept. The name will have to go; they have agreed unanimously, so will the stiffness in her posture. The leader thinks on how to instruct her in the ways of the assassins without scaring the creature any more. She will need to learn to go with the flow, to blend with both aristocrats and commoners as if she had been born amongst them. Next to her, Derek goes through their meager supply of clothes, looking for the new girl’s uniform. Seela smirks, already planning to dye her hair. Black will look good with her pale skin but won’t be memorable. Marti thinks it is poetic how their latest acquisition has a mane that looks like a cataract of blood. Too bad his twin is already making plans on ruining it. He will teach her about knives and killing so that she will forever be draped in that beautiful red of life.

“Destra,” the leader finally says. “From now on your name will be Destra.”

The newly-christened initiate smiles hesitantly. The voices quiet down at the sound of the Name and then they start murmuring it like a chant: DestraDestraDestraDestra… Her unknown past can be led to rest. Destra is not merely a name; it is who she is from now on.

Her assignments are often elusive, most of them hiding in plain sight as civilians or high-ranking officials, some are even familiar. She accepts any mission without questions, focusing on her objective and on reaching the capital. The voices are adamant on her travelling towards the western city. She does not defy then, it brings back the pain of that time she cannot remember, the time before she was Destra, the shadow assassin. The city she walks through is familiar and part of her screams that this is her hometown, not home, the one she left years ago. Why did she leave? Half-formed recollections come from every familiar face and voice and scent and fill her with a sense of nostalgia for a few precious moments. She pulls her hood a little, grabs her staff tighter, hastens her walk. She should probably restock here, ask around in case her latest target has been sighted, yet the voices scream run, run and she obeys. A name is called behind her, one that she does not cannot hear over the sudden fight or flight instinct that makes her freeze as if she has touched cold stone or smelled smoke. I need to get out of here. I need to get out. The voice shouts again. There are people looking at her, so it must be her that was addressed. She runs, through the roads, away from the city streets, until she sees an abandoned burnt house and dives inside in a vain hope of sanctuary. As long as I get away I’ll be safe.

Light footsteps echo outside the room she has chosen to hide, curling in the darkest corner and clutching a dagger she cannot remember being given. The footsteps pause, the door opens hesitantly and in the light of the hallway her target appears. Without a thought she attacks, the voices rising in an ear-splitting crescendo, urging her to killkillkillkillkill….The man steps back in surprise and something in him is not familiar… Another knife gleams in the torchlight as he parries her every move almost like he knows her.

“Destra!” Marti is franticly trying to get her to listen to him in the midst of their dance. The glazed look in her eyes is enough to tell him that he is not succeeding. At any other instance he would be proud of her ability to fight with a little less than half her mind in it but right now he is finding it hard to be charitable. “Snap out of it, damn it! It’s Marti. You can’t have forgotten me?” His would-be assassin falters for a moment and it is enough for him to knock the dagger out of her hands.

Destra falls to her knees, struggling to form any coherent thoughts over the screams of the voices demanding his blood. She knows him; he used to be important to her, so why can’t she remember? White spots dance over her eyes, for a moment his face swims to focus, he was the one to give her her dagger, before the pain becomes too much and she closes her eyes and tries to curl to a ball.

“C’mon Destra, you’re scaring me,” he sounds scared, she thinks detachedly. They all sound scared before I kill them. Who were they? She hadn’t seen them before so how did they know her name? Why had they looked at her with betrayed eyes before she killed them? “I know you can hear me under all this hair. Listen, we have to get out of here. There are soldiers swarming the city and I don’t think they are here to give either of us a commendation.” He pauses and she hopes that he would go on talking. His voice chases the painful jabs of light away. She can only hear his breathing now, heavy but controlled, like he’s trying to stay quiet. More pounding footsteps over them and she knows they need to run. Destra pushes the voices back, ignoring the pounding at the base of her skull and grabbing Marti’s hand she runs back to her safe room. One wall is hollow and crumbles under their weight. She does not question how she knows this. She looks at the darkness and then turns clear, jade eyes to her target companion and asks a single question.

“Do you trust me?” Marti nods, because how do you answer this question when someone has just tried to kill you and is as likely to try again or save your life, and together they jump in the abyss.

Against everything her instincts are screaming at her she bursts out of the water, gulping hungrily for air, not caring if the entire army is waiting for her at the lakeshore with their weapons ready. Marti is leaning on her, barely able to keep his head above water, looking around in silent shock. Destra leads them slowly towards the shore, using the planks where the dock used to be to drag him first out of the water. An old boathouse is barely standing behind it. Marti stumbles there, looking very much like he is about to kiss the ground he is sitting on. His fellow fugitive follows out of the water, wringing her hair in a vain attempt to get them dry. She is only rewarded with a puddle of black colored water and a mess of slightly less damp, blood red curls. Sitting gracefully next to him, she searches for anything that might break the tense silence.

“You are afraid of water?” she blurts out, inwardly wincing when she sees the indignant look of wounded pride he gives her.

“You neglected to mention that we would have to swim through a very narrow passage to a lake after having run across half the city, fought a death match with knives and stumbled our way through these infernal tunnels!”

“Keep it down,” she hisses. Without the voices she has no way of knowing if someone is creeping up to them through the woods. “If we’re heard the only way out is through the lake again.”

Marti spares the innocent looking body of water a nervous glance. Much as he would like to continue yelling until all the worry, anger, adrenaline and dear gods I’m alive relief are out of his system, the run-down building they have taken refuge in does not provide much protection. They need to move as soon as they are dry and disguised again, perhaps through the small forest behind them. If they make it to the mountains before the law catches up to them, they might have a chance to survive and even find out what happened to the rest of their band. The shimmering of the sunlight in the lake catches his eyes again and he fights the urge to shudder. Innocent golden glimmer, like the lights in that first house. Swallowing hard, he seals the sound of thundering footsteps, tinkling coins and crackling fire back in the memory box. He has to keep it together. Destra on the other hand is experiencing the completely opposite sensation. The lake, with its strange, sweet scent of plants decaying slowly and the sound of birds singing hidden in the leaves is anchoring her to the present, the connections with the past that the voices had severed slowly threading themselves back. Even now though, at this quiet and almost peaceful moment, she can feel her defenses being pounded from inside, the voices struggling to free themselves.

The mountains lay at the north; they are closer than the capital. If they went there she wouldn’t have to worry for assignments. Marti can help her unravel her memories. Deep down she is certain she knows and trusts him, yet she cannot remember why. Up there they say the air is clear of the fumes that plague most of the plains and a quiet part of her, not the voices but something else, tells her if she could breathe clearly she might be able to remember as well. Do you want to?

“We should try to reach the mountains,” Marti says thoughtfully. To his surprise Destra stands immediately.

“Let’s go then,” she turns towards the door, marching determinedly towards the north.

“Do you even know where you are going?” he called after her amused. She turned to look at him with a light smile.

“No,” she said. “But I intend to find out.” The voices are silent.