Sunday, 28 January 2007


Naomi stared at her reflection, excited at her thoughts and plans for the night. They had a reservation at Dielle's, the most expensive restaurant she had ever seen, and she had her suspicions why. James had seemed determined enough that it be perfect. Anticipation bubbled up in her stomach and she adjusted her silver necklace and put her earrings in. James had bought them for her some months ago, telling her that the diamonds were really pretty, and so was she. Naomi smiled at the memory; he didn't have a way with words, but the thought was there.

She had tried on three dresses already, always glancing nervously at the clock. He was supposed to have arrived by now. Seven o'clock came and went, minute by minute, as she put on makeup and made more final adjustments to her hair than were really necessary, more out of a need to be doing something until he arrived.
At exactly - she checked the clock again - twelve minutes past, she called him on his mobile. He didn't pick up. She looked out of the window at the deserted, rain-drenched streets and left a message.

"Hi baby, I'm sure you're just running late, but I wanted to check. You said we had a table booked at Dielle's, remember? Oh, you can't have forgotten. Well - look - um - call me back, or, yeah." Taking some gum, she started chewing, and called his home line. The machine kicked in. "Baby, pick up. C'mon, where are you? It's... quarter past now; they won't hold the table forever... James, please, call me?"

She sat on her bed, and chewed her gum ferociously, as only an ex-smoker can. The road by her house was usually quiet, but tonight it was dead silent. All Naomi heard was the clock ticking. By half past, her anxiety had reached a point where she was craving a cigarette more than she had since she quit, months ago. Muttering threats and curses to her very late beloved, she called his work. No answer. She called his parents, no answer. Panic began to set in; her phone clearly wasn't working. What if he'd tried to contact her? She called her home line from her mobile, and vice versa, until she was satisfied that both were operating as they should.

It is possible, she supposed, that he had gone on ahead and expected her to get there herself. In which case, he must think she'd stood him up! Hurriedly, she pulled on her shoes and pulled her coat on.

Heading out the door into the inky blackness, it struck her just how quiet everything was. Even on the rainiest days, there'd usually be some old man walking his dog, or a horde of drunk twenty-somethings calling across the road to one another. But tonight, nothing. Silence, apart from her own breath and the sound of her heels on the pavement. It unnerved her.

Dielle's was about half an hour away from her house, giving her plenty of time for thought. By the time she arrived, she had run through every worst-case scenario she could think of; from visions of James in a hospital bed, to zombie attacks that she had somehow missed. The blue-black evening was punctuated by the occasional hazy orange glow from the streetlights until she arrived in the centre of town. Dielle's was a bright glow in the darkness, promising warmth and comfort. She pushed open the unlocked door, and stared around her at what she saw.

Dielle's was the most in-demand restaurant in town. James had sworn to her that he'd booked the table in advance, because otherwise they had no hope. And yet before her, all Naomi saw was empty tables and empty chairs. There wasn't even a waiter or a cook. Wandering further into the exclusive, luxurious establishment, she called out:

"Anyone there? Is there anybody - anybody here? Hello!" A tremor of uncertainty had crept into her voice, a note of panic evident through her false confidence. "Don't worry, Nay," she said to herself, "there's nothing to worry about. They were clearly closed tonight, and James just forgot to tell me. That's all." She looked briefly again around the deserted room, and pushed her way back into the cold, muttering "Shouldn't have left it unlocked really, anybody could come in here..." But the street outside seemed as starkly lacking in 'anybodys' as everywhere else.

Hanging around in the doorway, she went to call Claire, but hesitated. What if she didn't answer? What if nobody answered? Naomi decided she'd rather not know, and put her phone away again.

By the time she arrived home, her makeup had run from rain or tears. She hadn't seen so much as a stray dog on the way home. "Fine. Tonight's been one huge disappointment", she said, still trying hard not to think about what was happening. She focused instead on the smaller picture, on how James had let her down, and how he better have a good reason. Settling into bed in her nightshirt, she flicked the television on, half expecting every station to display a test card or something. But no, there was the chat show, set up to look warm and inviting to all - but completely abandoned. There was the nature programme, cameras panning across endless plains devoid of any animal life. There was the music channel, showing only instruments laying silent on the stage.

Being her usual methodical self, Naomi tried to watch a video. The set was empty. She played a CD; only the backing track could be heard. Tears ran down her face as she pulled out a photo of James from her wallet - showing only the bench he had been sitting on at the time. She felt a jolt as she realised that this meant she would never see Ben again, and a pang of guilt as she became aware of that thought.

It was half past ten, and Naomi hadn't seen anyone since she'd left work at half four. Curled up and sobbing in her bed, she eventually fell asleep, exhausted from the worrying and crying and the deep, soulful sense of loneliness that pulled on her heart. It seemed to her that in the whole wide world, there was nobody living or breathing but herself, and that even her one life was one too many.

The next morning, she was awoken by warm breath on the back of her neck. "Morning, beloved." The soft, warm voice of her James was unmistakable, and at first her thoughts were too fuzzy to know why she was so shocked and pleased to hear him. "Or should I call you fiancée now?" Speechless, Naomi looked at her hand, and stared in wonder at the diamond ring there. "Last night" - he kissed her neck - "was amazing. And the food was great. They don't exaggerate about Dielle's, do they princess."


Which is all fair enough, as fiction, but that's not all it is. It happens to me every night. As soon as I leave work, the world empties of all company, and I return to my bedroom to spend the next however-many hours alone, waiting for the noise and the presence of someone with skin on. But, for your company, as far as it goes, I thank you.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Rage (warning: bad language)

Damn it,
Damn it.
Off my planet,
Or face me if you dare.
Fuck it
Fuck it
Kick the bucket,
You see if I care!
Screw you,
Screw you,
Never knew you.
Never wanted to.
You prick!
You prick!
You're so DAMN THICK!
I'm quite pissed off with you.

Magic Mirror

Once upon a golden age,
In some quite perfect place,
A flawless girl with honey curls
Beheld her smiling face.

The mirror there, upon the wall,
Great magic it possessed.
It said, as fact, with no great tact,
“My dear, you’re badly dressed.

The ringlets, girl! The chequered frock!
The cheeks so sweet and pink!
You are a lass with little class,
What must the people think?”

She gazed upon her tartan gown,
And she began to cry,
“You and me both!” unkindly quoth
The mirror with a sigh.

The golden girl, she turned her back,
And slammed the old oak door.
The mirror heft, it now was left
In pieces on the floor.

The moral, kids, is simply this,
So hear it loud and clear;
To get on well, austerely tell
Folks what they want to hear.

Manic Lullabye: Part 1

How doth the lonely pudding stand,
Within my green and sweaty hand?
Alooba-looba, pudding said.
My big repugnant palm fell dead.
The pudding then, it flew away,
And blew a kiss, which made my day.
Over my shoulder, if you care,
Invigilators hovered there.
They fled my fearsome tremblous voice,
I kicked my heels and didst rejoice.

I danced in circles. As I span,
I saw a breathless-looking man
Running very fast indeed
To keep up with my spiral speed.
He smiled and he took my hand,
And told me he was in a band.
And though the lights were pretty dim,
I saw hundreds run with him!
In a band of people, they
Circled me then ran away.

Shortly after this man left,
I wept as I felt bereft.
As my tears did flood the room,
I heard an almighty BOOM!
Followed by a sonic patter.
Never was there such a clatter!
A centipede with wooden limb,
I never saw one big as him.
As he trampled down the halls,
Gigantically he shook the walls.

And I quoth, “That’s the last time I
Fall asleep to Manic Lullabye.”

Wednesday, 17 January 2007


He leaves his life behind these locks,
Secrets safe in a simple box.

The deafening tick and the tock of the clock,
The sickening click of the key in the lock,
He promised he loved me but I want the proof,
And lifting the lid, I look for the truth.

Secrets come flying from where they were hidden,
And I understand why the box was forbidden.

The deafening tick and the tock of the clock,
The sickening click of a key in the lock,
The deadening draw of the opening door,
The pad, pad of his feet on the floor.

He sees me kneel with the key in my hand.
He smiles, and whispers "Now you understand."

I look in his eyes, all broken and blue,
I whisper and smile "Yes boy. I do."

Monday, 15 January 2007

New Girl

- New Girl -

I don't like your girlfriend, I don't think it's fair.
She's new on the scene but I've always been there.
Our friendship has lasted 'coz we worked it through;
She argues, she bitches, how *did* she get you?!

What's-her-name, new girl, the one that you chose,
Spreading her trouble wherever she goes.
You're just a fool with a cheap plastic jewel,
Mistaking a thorn for a rose.

I don't like your girlfriend; she doesn't like me.
She's making you choose between us, can't you see?
Don't get me wrong, I would love to be friends,
But I've seen this before and that's not how it ends.

What's-her-name, new girl; you're starting to care
Like she has stars in her eyes and her hair.
Which she doesn't, you know, and it's starting to show;
Your lovely romance has a tear.

I don't like your girlfriend and neither do you.
You kind of still love her; I get it, I do,
But you're staying in when you would have gone out,
No wonder you're wondering, starting to doubt.

What's-her-name, new girl, she's not heaven sent.
I said she was evil - that's not what I meant.
You know that it's true, that she's not good for you,
Now it's time that she packed up and went!

You've now left your girlfriend, or she has left you.
All that's for certain is, now that you're through,
I'm getting to see you around so much more,
As empty and lonely as you were before.

What's-her-name, new girl, your angel on ice.
She's not very pretty. She isn't that nice.
But you say she's the one, and cry now she's gone,
So... if you want my advice...

I don't like your girlfriend, but it seems to be
Now that I know her, she's growing on me.
I have to admit that I didn't expect that,
But now that you're married I guess I'll respect that.

Lucid dreams

It's been a long day, once again. As I settle back into my bed, I think about all the things that have to be done tomorrow. Louise and I are house-hunting, again. We'll be discussing plans for the wedding, again. And I'm leaving my job for pastures new, so it's a very interesting time to be me. These thoughts fill my mind, each one coming round as soon as I dismiss it, like a merry-go-round. I close my eyes, and eventually drift into the darkness of sleep.

I dream. The walls of my room fade away to reveal a great grey plane, stretching into the distance in every direction. The first thing I notice is that, despite the sheer black sky, everything is as brightly lit as a summer day. The sky itself seems too low, oppressive; resting inches above me as I wander the endless plane. I don't know how long I walk for, but when I turn around, there's a girl. I swear she wasn't there a second ago.

"Hi", she says, and shakes my hand. Her skin is cold, almost glassy. Only then do I notice the strange way the eerie, sourceless light seems to shine through her simple black clothes. Hm. Jeans and a blouse. She only looks about eighteen.

"Hi", I reply uncertainly. "Who are you?"

"My name's Sarah. And you, of course, are the great Daniel Holland." She states it as fact, not a question. "I'm a great fan of your work."

I wonder what work she could possibly mean.

"I've come to warn you. You're going to make a decision you'll regret, one that will affect your whole future... sorry! I know this comes across as 'destiny of mankind' stuff. But it's important."

"Is this a premonition?" I venture, unsure who she is or what it is exactly that she's a fan of.

"Right. I'll start from the beginning. We understand a lot more about dreams these days."

"These days?"

"Yes. Look. Have you ever wondered how people dream of the future and call it psychicness?"

"Actually, I'm not sure how many people call it -"

"Shush. And some people dream of history and call it past lives?" I nod; she has a point.

"Well, dreams aren't limited to one place or time. Premonitions, reincarnation dreams - they're all cases of two minds being in the same place. To make things easier for the scientist in you, imagine it as two minds that share a frequency."

I put my hands up, cutting her off in mid-flow. "Hang on. This sounds like bad sci-fi to me, and I should know! Two minds sharing a frequency? What? What does that mean, what would it do?"

"So essentially you're saying 'please, continue', then?" She stands there, hands on her hips, surrounded by vast grey emptiness. I nod, sheepishly. "When two minds are in the same place, thoughts and memories can be transferred from one mind to another. Although rarely as directly as this. Only since we worked out how the sleeping mind -"

I interrupt again. "Hang on, go back. You said I'd make a decision I'd regret. And you're here to stop that? Change the future - past - and improve the timeline? Surely you know the damage that could do?" Ignoring her fed-up expression, I say "And anyway, how can I be sure that the stuff you're saying is true? It sounds like nonsense."

"Well if it is, it's your nonsense. We're in your mind. And I'm not asking you to change your mind about the decision. You'll make it, you'll regret it, that's how it's got to go." I take a breath to argue this point, but she continues: "And as for whether this 'stuff' is true, here's proof that our minds are on the same wavelength. My hair reminds you of an ex-girlfriend, whom you ended it with because she kept calling you 'puppy'."

I look at her blonde-brown ponytail, and raise an eyebrow. "Oh my gosh, a figment of my imagination knows what I'm thinking!" I say, resorting to sarcasm. "Truly, this is a miracle -"

"Fine! Fine, you can have your proof! Tomorrow - well, today by now - you'll meet the person who'll convince you to make the decision you'll regret." She looks irritated, as if I wrestled this information from her against her will.

After that, the oppressive black sky and the endless plane begin to fade, along with the girl. Then, there is nothing but the usual dream nonsense, probably involving public nudity. I wake up with vague recollections of going to a zoo and watching my mum do a pop concert; but the dream on the grey plane is as lucid and as inexplicable as the moment it happened.

I wake with an eerie sense that something isn't quite right, but I can't put my finger on why. I'm sure you know the feeling, as if you've dreamed something unsettling but you can't remember what. There's something hovering just on the edge of my memory; something that worries me. I roll onto my side, contemplating getting up. I stare at my grey carpet, frowning. Why is today important?

... Ah well, if it's that important, it'll come back to me, I reason, and I push myself out of bed.

Madness: chapter 1

She glanced casually around the pub. No matter how far civilisation advances, she thought, pubs will always stay the same. The same old surroundings, with the same old atmosphere. After what she had correctly judged as a good disdainful pause, she returned her attention to the stranger. The Salesman cleared his throat, and tried again.
“I don’ think you unnerstan’ wot I’m off’ring you. We’re talking ’bout.... what are we talkin’... oh yeah. A release,” he declared dramatically, flinging his arms wide and knocking his empty glass to the floor. “A release from the madness!”
Skye eyed him critically. “You don’t look very released to me.”
“Tha’s coz I’m drunk, isn’it? Tit.” He passed out on the bar, his face resting in a puddle of warm beer.
Skye gathered up her belongings, and left. There had been dozens of these so-called Salesmen buzzing around, trying to convince everyone that Mental Readjustment Medication, MRM, was the best way to go.
MRM, your window of opportunity. Your doorway to the future. Your drainpipe of hope for tomorrow, and so forth. It had been getting worse recently, the Authorities were getting more and more insistent. It hadn’t been so bad at the beginning.
“These shots will need to be administered monthly, to prevent a breakdown in the neural networks between the dream and logic centres of the brain.” In other words, we’re going to pump you full of instant obedience training until you don’t know what’s what.
That had been 3 years ago, when only a few had seen the inherent danger in MRM shots. Skye had been one of the masses who fell for this clearly transparent attempt to subdue the people of Great Britain. Every month, without fail, she would walk around the corner to the nearest MRM clinic. Every month, she would take the vaccination without complaint, and every month, she would return to the familiar mental numbness to which she had become accustomed.
This had gone on for almost two years, just before the Mental Oppression Resistance had made their first Sweep. Right from the beginning, some had seen through the MRM facade, and they Liberated several hundred people in a single week! Skye had been one of the very first Liberated.
Skye had attended a Sweep once, and it had been the best moment of her life. The MOR squad had fanned through the clinic, forcing all the nurses and salesmen out of the nearest exit! Then the MRM vaccine was destroyed, and the people were given a choice.
Skye remembered taking her choice, the amazing surge of adrenalin as she realised that she was free to make her own decision. The MOR squad had lined them up, and gave them their choice.
“Look, we’re not going to pressure you into this. That isn’t how we do things. You have a simple choice, but you can’t make it until you are in possession of all the facts...”
Well, now Skye had all the facts, and she had thrown off the shackles of the MRM shots. Now, she knew what she was doing and why she was doing it. Now she was free.

Sunday, 14 January 2007


“Come down here right now!” She ignored her father’s calls. Every time they asked her father to ‘deal with her’, he would come to the school and shout at her; and every time, she would ignore him and keep climbing. She didn’t want to come down. She was safe up there, leaving everyone and everything at ground level as she ran across the roof… at least, that was how she thought it should be. The reality was very different. Every time she thought she had succeeded in freeing herself from the worries of the world, somebody - usually her father - would come and shout at her. It wasn’t as if she was doing anything that terrible; she knew she wouldn’t fall. She had been climbing things for as long as she could remember.

I remember a seven year old girl, running from a boy with a dog. He chased her through the park until she climbed up a large tree with spreading branches. He waited at the foot of the tree for an hour, taunting the girl and shouting at her, until he realised that she was long gone. She had climbed across to one of the other trees intertwined with it. She kept climbing through the treetops, long after she could have come down safely, knowing that nobody could get her while she kept away from the ground.

“I’m not kidding, young lady, you get down here right now!” Sighing, she jumped from the art block, to the bench, to the ground. “That’s better. You know I don’t like you climbing things, it’s dangerous! You could hurt yourself so badly. Now come on, we’re going home.” He took her hand and led her to the car, which she entered silently. He shook his head. He worried about her so much, and she kept risking her neck. She only had to be unlucky once…

I remember a nine year old girl, helping her father put the Christmas lights on the roof of their house. He threw her a string of fairy lights, which she caught and wound around the chimney with a smile on her face. “Good girl!” He laughed, clutching the end of the lights as she threw them back. The girl smiled again as she dropped from the edge of the slates into her father’s arms.

“What was it this time? Homework you haven’t done? Kids picking on you? Mean teachers?” The girl frowned at her father.
“Well whatever it was, you have to learn to deal with it! You can’t keep avoiding your problems, darling, you’ve got to face it head-on.”
“I know.”
He slumped back in his chair; it was no use. She was going to keep climbing whatever he said. She’d been doing it her whole life, and it hadn’t bothered him at first.

I remember talking to a man. I said, “I wish you wouldn’t encourage her. One of these days she’s going to break her neck up there, and you know she’s starting to climb at school as well. It’s not safe!”
He replied, “You worry too much about her. I trust her completely; she knows what she’s doing and it won’t help for us to stop her. Besides, you have to get used to the idea if you’re going to come rock-climbing with us!”
I remember looking doubtful. “You’ll have a wonderful time”, he assured me. “We’ll both be looking out for you, and I would love for us all to have a shared interest. We never seem to do anything as a family any more.”

After she had gone to her room, he took out the last photo album of them all together, at the beginning of the holiday. She looked so much happier then, he thought. So did he. He took out the photo of his wife, taken hours before she fell.

I remember being strapped in to the harness. I remember him reassuring me. I remember the girl looking excited. We climbed for three hours up a vertical cliff with plenty of handholds. I remember pulling myself up by one, and I remember it crumbling. That’s all I remember.

She entered the house through her window. Her father had never realised that she could get anywhere she wanted from her room without going downstairs, and she did so every night. This night, she had gone back to the park. She had climbed the huge, sprawling tree in the middle of the park and sat in its branches thinking of her mother. Now that she was back, she went to check on her father. He wasn’t in bed, even though it was past 2am. He was downstairs, asleep in his chair, holding the last picture of her mother in his hands. The girl went slowly up to her room.

She didn’t climb again.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Pretty peoples

There are sites that let you make pretty people all over the place... so I made them and put them somewhere nice. I'm lovely like that.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Object description

There is no life in it. Even the creatures of the forest recognise it for what it truly is. It stands alone in a clearing; crooked, hunched. As dead as the dry soil that surrounds it, the twisted black branches strain, grow, reach desperately for the midnight darkness above. The roots writhe and crawl through the earth, dragging the gnarled aching trunk onward for eternity. For countless ages, this monstrosity has crept towards the fires of civilisation; inexorably approaching and destroying everything and everyone in its path. The ground dies and fades to grey around it as it casts flickering shadows on its surroundings; black flames. Its determined form, silhouetted against the night stars, is a stain on the natural beauty around it. It is an error. How could nature produce such corruption? Red sap bleeds from between its cracked boughs, seeping into the earth. Nothing will grow here again.
Imagine, supposing you could bear to approach it, pressing your palm against the blistered black bark. The world rushes away and only it remains, violating your mind; it uses you as a conduit for its malevolent soul. You would feel a diseased conscience, inherent in this distortion of nature, beyond screams and beyond fear. Just an endless void of despair and desolation. How long before you pull you hand away, appalled and terrified by the pure, unyielding horror before you? How long before you couldn’t pull your hand away at all?
It remembers the sacrifices. Trees have long memories; it still recalls with twisted joy the pain suffered on its cruel branches. The marks of rough nails still scar the surface, reminders of a ritual long since passed. Though the pagans and the peasants are nothing but history, the power willingly given in sacrifice still sustains it, forever waiting expectantly for the next innocent to be nailed, hands and feet, to its freezing, scalding bark. One hundred, one thousand years; it makes no difference to an entity without end. There is an inescapable certainty about it; an awful, confident patience. It will be worshipped, revered again; and the sacrifices will come.
It doesn’t move now. Not now, not while you’re watching it. But don’t turn your back. Even when no wind blows, the warped, twisting limbs sway gently, the twigs rattling like a twitching horde of insects.
Sometimes, it looks as though it’s melting. The sunshine, what little can penetrate the thick forest canopy, glistens on the sticky, sap-drenched bark. Even in daylight, this is a thing of terror. Its utter blackness is a void in the scenery, a dark shape that emanates darkness itself.
Growing in death, bleeding, advancing; this, surely, is evil.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Noir Heartbreak

Quite proud of this one. Read it twice :)

It was something of a professional rainstorm; one that clearly intended to do the job properly or not at all. There was a flash of lightning, a clearing of the throat, and the symphony began.

I was walking through the city, my coat wrapped tightly around me, but it made little difference against the rain. The falling water flowed through pipes, off roofs, down gutters; washing the streets clean, or so it seemed to me. The city is a different beast at night. Paths I walk every day become unfamiliar. The warm orange glow of the streetlights barely penetrates the inky blue darkness. There was something about the weather that brought out the introspective side of me as I stumbled home that night, looking forward to the relative warmth and comfort of my bed. I thought about Claire, wondering where she would be right now, if she was safe and dry with her fiancé.

A car drove past, throwing up a spray of ditchwater that soaked my jeans, making them even more uncomfortable than before - if that was possible. I cursed under my breath. I hate that.

My mobile rang. I thrust my hands deeper into my soaked pockets, only to have it slip out from my sodden gloves and fall into the river of rainwater. “Shit”, I muttered, pushing the now dead mobile back into the coat pocket. Whoever it was could wait.

I got home to find that whoever it was hadn’t waited, that they’d left a message on my answering machine. I collapsed into my old green armchair as I heard her voice, so familiar to me still. “Alex, where are you? You said you’d come round tonight! I cooked for you and everything. This is the second time, I’m starting to think you’re avoiding us. Mark was very upset…”

“I’ll bet he was.” I was surprised by the note of bitterness in my voice. I turned the sound off and hit delete. The thought of Claire with that slimy maggot was bad enough without having to see them together, pretending to enjoy themselves. I knew they didn’t feel comfortable with me, so why they kept asking me round was a mystery… except, of course, that Claire is a good girl and still wanted to be friends. Well of course she did. But I just didn’t feel up to it, and they should respect that. Besides, she deserved better than him…

I pulled myself out of the chair and staggered upstairs, almost tripping over Kasper on the way. “Sorry dog”, I said as I ruffled his ears. I jumped up the stairs, the prospect of a warm shower enough to make my shrug off my damp clothes before I reached the top.

I climbed into bed that night, the rain still hissing against my window, trying not to think. About anything. But I haven’t yet learned how to turn my thoughts off, and as I remembered the great times I’d had with Claire, I decided it was worth it. I’d ask them around for dinner, I’d cook something nice, wear a pretty dress, and be civil to the bastard that broke my heart, and my best friend who betrayed me. I fell asleep with a smile on my face. Tomorrow would be a brighter day. Besides, I had a sneaking suspicion she was going to ask me to be a bridesmaid…

Something Lost

I wrote this a couple of years ago for a creative writing lesson. So while it isn't as I would write it now, the sentiments are the same, and it's still quite personally significant.

- Something Lost -

I lay my head on my pillow, relaxing into a sleep deeper than any ocean, falling back into the Dream again. And there I am. Just like last night, and every night before that, only this time is different. This time I’ll find it. I know I will.
I walk uncertainly into the dense, tangled forest. Thorns grasp me back, and pull at my clothes and hair, but they can’t stop me. It is dark, and I am the only person there, I am the only person ever there. As I struggle through the hostile woods, I am gripped by the inescapable fact that I will never make it. Just like every time, I would fail. I shake myself, and try to feel confident. I tell myself, I can do this. I can. I don’t feel the cold or the damp air, because I am driven by the knowledge that this time will be different. This time I will find it.
The forest ends abruptly, and I force my way out of the greedy briars, trying to restrain me there, onto a great precipice. I am in the valley. I slip, tentatively inching my way down the almost-sheer cliff face. There are no plants or roots to anchor myself; this valley is dead. It has always been dead.
The vague, indifferent darkness makes it difficult to see, but somehow I struggle up the loose scree and grasp the ledge. Ordinarily, I would given up by now, but this is different. This time I will find it.
I only made it this far once before. I’ve made it through the forest of doubt, I’ve triumphed over the valley of the shadow of death, and I feel it.
There it is, can’t you feel it? Right over the horizon... here, is what I’ve been looking for.
A river. The river. The only way I’ll ever get it back is to reach the river. Walking towards the clear, cool water, I see myself over and over again. I see myself failing, giving up and going back, or just dying out there, with nobody to help me. I was alone, I was afraid, I was ready to give up... when I saw it. There, in the water, that’s what I’ve been looking for! It has been lost from deep inside my heart my whole life, and there it is. I run towards it, hot, and out of breath. I plunge my hand into the icy cold water... I’ve never got this close before!
There, on a bed of perfectly rounded pebbles in the crystal-clear stream, is the locket. A simple, heart-shaped locket... is it gold or silver? I can’t tell in this light... and I pull it out of the water. I am just about to put it back where it belongs when I feel the sliding, fading sensation again. I clench my teeth and mutter under my breath:
No, not now... please not now, I’ve tried so hard, I did what you asked of me...
And I am awake. Alive again to live another twenty-four hours of despair, of emptiness. I know that any second now, I will forget. Just before every trace of memory disappears from my exhausted mind, I feel the words:
So close...


My darling, you look lovely!
You're the only one above me.
In terms of sheer beauty,
I do feel I've done my duty.

I've turned you from a grungy slob
Into a Playboy bunny.
Sweetie dear, I've done my job,
Now give me all your money!


As we danced among the flowers blue,
You looked at me and I at you.
You looked again and I looked back,
I wish your face were in a sack.
We lay down on the soft, green grass.
I watched the stars, you scratched your arse.
Romantic as a tonne of bricks,
I hate all men, the stupid... people.


When you're given once last try, one last chance to learn,
You'll know your heart is breaking. You know you'll crash and burn.
Your friends all want to help you, to make you feel so proud,
But however loud you're shouting, you're still lost in the crowd.
When you've lost your strength, all you can do is crawl
Right back to the people who will catch you when you fall.