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Saturday, November 25, 2017

röd sand

Tältduken fladdrar i den tilltagande vinden. Små gnistrande sandkorn fastnar överallt. Dammet färgar snart himlen och döljer det svaga solljuset. Vi har ännu inte funnit något av värde vid utgrävningen. Imorgon tar vi oss till den östra åsryggen, där finns det tydligast spår av passager vidare in i berget. Jag kan till och med känna dragningskraften när jag ser genom kikaren. Det är där borta vi kommer att hitta svaren på våra frågor. Den öppna, sandtäckta ytan framför den lodräta klippan tyder på en samlingsplats. Det måste vara vägen in. Jag drömmer om väldiga salar djupt inne i berget. Någon talar till mig i sandens vinande över tältet. Imorgon finner vi svaren. Jag silar den röda sanden mellan handsklädda fingrar. Det är dags att byta syredepå i rymddräkten. Vi har en vecka på oss innan nästa team tar över. Jag är säker på att vi imorgon finner något vid den östra åsen. Jag läser det i sanden, strax innan vinden suddar ut alla spår.

Dropparna sinar, torkar ut och dör. Ingen energi i världen kan få oss härifrån. Fast i sanden på gudsförgäten planet. Hon talar om röster, om väldiga salar djupt inne i berget, men har ännu att bevisa någots existens. Sanden slipar spår på mitt visir, inbillning säger de. Glaset är starkt nog att klara rymdens vakuum. Men vad vet de om vad jag ser, vad vet de om de vindspår sanden slipar över mitt synfält? Sand sand överallt. Inte gyllene som på barndomens stränder, utan röd, som om blod hade fuktat den, färgat den. Torkar av visiret med handsken. Vinden tilltar. Sandstormarna avlöser varandra, ibland utan mer än en timmes andrum. Kontrollerar tältets fästen, skyfflar sand mot sidorna för att stötta upp det ännu lite mer. Snart sitter vi där, lyssnar till sandens viskning över tältduken. På hur vinden utplånar alla spår vi gjort. Här vid klippväggen sjunger vinden för oss, ett nästan begripligt språk och alla sitter vi tysta, lyssnar, försöker tolka orden. Drömmer oroliga drömmar om hur vi vandrar över planetens yta. En evig vandring. Över sand och sprickor. Under Vintergatans gnistrande stjärnor.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Dust

A cold wind tore through the trees, snapping twigs and scattering leaves. It dropped to ground level and toppled the bicycle on the lawn in front of the red brick house at the end of the lane. Spinning the wheel it rose to the sky and set off north.

The house lies in darkness, the unlit porch light and the pileup of leaves in front of the door gives it an almost abandoned feeling. The door is unlocked. All the curtains are drawn, leaving the rooms in a perpetual twilight. The sink in the kitchen is stacked with crusty dishes, seeming to defy gravity in their crooked piles.

There’s a sweet smell in the air. It sticks to the roof of the mouth and the image of white lilies comes to mind. Creaking noises send chills up the spine. The house is settling, the cold wind outside and the curiously warm house have it sighing and moving. More sighing. Or is it breathing? Wheezing breaths come from a room at the back of the house.

Fear closes its hand around the throat. Swallowing gets difficult. The heart slams against the ribcage, feeling the pulse all the way out in the ice cold fingers. Everything quiets down. The wind has moved on again. The sighing and creaking has stopped. Towards the back of the house the darkness descends even further, there are no streetlights trying to send rays of light through the cracks in the curtains.

A small bedroom. A single bed. Covered in old clothes. The wardrobe open, emptied. Endless night never leaves this place. It curls up in the stale shirts, hibernates through the lighter, warmer seasons. Stirring. Woken by October winds and the smell of fear. Seducing the mind with sweet smells. Numbing the body with darkness.

Cold hands cradle your face. You fall into darkness, into night’s embrace. We are nothing but dust, prey, one heartbeat from eternal nothingness.



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Insomnia



Night makes the skin pale.
Bleeding under a full moon.
Lying there, sleepless.
Watching the dark sky.
Following the cold moon’s path.
Fingers cold, mind numb.
Slow crimson trickles. 
Night is long, never ending. 
No dreams, only death.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In the dark places in between

I had forgotten to turn the sound off of my phone and insistent chirping interrupted my dreams.
“Hello?”
“We need you.”
“What? You said…” The line goes dead and I pull the phone from my ear and stare at the blank screen. He called from an unlisted number, the asshole. Checking the time I see I've only been asleep for 20 minutes. 20 measly minutes. Turning onto my stomach I do my best to go back to sleep. Pulling the duvet up to my ears I try to find that blessed warmth and sluggishness that precedes sleep. I have the house to myself today, they won't be back until tomorrow. No one’s going to tell me to get up and do something. But the silence presses down upon me, filling my head with memories and making my body restless. Ugh. Showing unwanted images aside I get up. A glimpse in the full length mirror leaning against the wall shows a sleep rumpled, grumpy looking teenage girl in a school uniform. A perfect representation really. I wish I was bold enough to let my uniform lie crumpled on the floor until Monday. I'd get reprimanded for being sloppy looking and I'd blush beet red and I'd hate myself. But maybe that's what I need. To be someone I'm not. An hour later I'm getting off the bus across town and I doubt anyone from my school would recognise me. My usually carefully made up face is free of makeup and my hair is in a messy bun on the top of my head and not in a sleek ponytail. I have no idea what's going on tonight, or why my cousin called me and asked me to come back. The building in front of me is windowless and the only light showing is through the glassed front doors. An old fashioned neon sign buzzes slightly overhead, the words “Space Battle Laser Tag” shining in bright red. To think this was like a second home only a few years ago. Swallowing the lump in my throat I adjust my messenger bag hastily stuffed with a change of clothes and walk up to the doors.
“Here goes nothing.” Alice looks the same. Her thin black hair styled into spikes and her arms covered in black gel bracelets. She's watching the monitor mounted on the wall across from the front desk, shaking her head. The sound of bass thumping through the walls tells me there's a match in progress. At the sound of the front door closing behind me she glances in my direction. A double take.
“Shade?” Disbelief is morphed into joy as she hurried around the counter and envelopes me in a tight hug. “Honey, I didn't think I'd see you again!”
“Yeah, me neither.” My words are lost in her black hoodie. She takes a step back and looks me over and I wonder if I managed to pick the right outfit for tonight. My dark blue hoodie has white print front and back, underneath there's a black top and the only black leggings I could find were my old dance tights. I'm wearing white tennis shoes and she smiles a wickedly down at them.
“You've not forgotten.” I'm positive I have. “Carter and Isaac are checking the equipment.” Alice nods towards the back.
“Uhm, yeah. I don't… I don't know if...” What am I doing here? Alice’s smile is soft and she squeezes my shoulder.There's at least one person in this building who wants me here. “Think I could put my stuff in the kitchen?” Before she can answer there's a sharp whistle and the music stops.
“Sure thing honey, we'll talk more soon.” Before the group playing invades the small cafeteria by the front desk I hurry towards the back of the building to find out what's going on. I hear them before I see them. Isaac is checking the straps on a couple of vests as Carter is putting together a weapon.
“Shade! You came!” Isaac’s enthusiasm makes up for the cold stare my cousin gives me. I give my former team mate a small smile and a fist bump.
“You now you can count on me.” Carter gives a disgusted snort. “Really Carter? You're gonna be like that now that I'm here?” He stands up, a head taller than me but I don't care. He's never intimidated me.
“What can I say? We were out of alternatives.” Isaac shakes his head.
“Dude. Don't be an ass.” He turns to me. “We need you back. Desperately.” Carter grunts and turns his back on us. I should have known he hadn't forgiven me. Me not showing up forced them to forfeit the finals two years ago, I wouldn't be ready to forgive me either. “Alright. I'm here. What's the deal?” Isaac drops the vest he's holding and pulls his phone out from his pocket. Patiently I wait for him to stop tapping the screen and when he shows it to me I see a group of three guys in laser tag gear smiling triumphantly at me. “Another team I take it?” Carter swears under his breath.
“This is Team Renegade. See the guy in the middle?” Isaac’s finger points to a guy our age with curly blonde hair and I hope none of them notice me nearly fainting. “That's Nolan Locke, Grim as he calls himself. He's the guy we replaced you with.” Isaac won't meet my eyes. “Anyway. He left a few months ago to form another team and they've been killing us.”
“The fucker knows all our tricks, uses them against us.” Carter seems to have forgotten his anger towards me. “If we don't win tonight, they'll go on to semi and I won't let that happen!” He near shouts the last words. I put my hand in his face.
“Chill.” Carter looks like he's gonna lose it. “Dude, sit down and tell me all about him” Isaac and Carter stumble over the words, soon painting me a picture of the backstabber that is Nolan Locke. I realise that my no show is considered almost a nothing to what Grim did to them. My shoulders relax and I lean in to listen more closely. When their words seem to be spent I look them in the eye.
“Fucker’s going down and he won't know what hit him.” Isaac looks relieved, Carter on the other hand is hard to read.
“I haven't forgiven you.” I nod. He stands to pick our gear up. “Sword and I are gonna get geared up. You wait out there with Alice.” The plan is that Isaac and Carter are going to pretend like their third hasn't shown and that they'll be desperate enough to play the match to pick me as their stand-in. I'll be on my n00biest behaviour and make the other team think that it'll be an easy victory. My biggest worry isn't fooling the team into thinking I've never played before. The thought that's been occupying my mind since Isaac showed me the picture, is if Nolan “Grim” Locke will recognise me from school. He's a year ahead and the star of most Tameron Academy girl’s romantic fantasy. Including my own. I'm making us coffee when I hear the front door slam and a bunch of people enter. There's an excited buzz emanating from them and Alice is cheerfully greeting them by name. Drawing a deep breath I channel my inner laser tag fan girl and bring her the coffee.
“Here you go Alice.” Shy smile to the crowd. Close to no eye contact. Tuck loose hair behind ear. Nearly spilling my coffee isn't part of the plan, but I roll with it. No one spares my much more than a glance. My eyes are glued to Nolan and I have to force myself to look at the others in his team. Big guys most likely a year or two older than me, this shouldn't be too hard.
They've brought a few friends along, one of the guys on the team is sucking face with a brunette. Lovely. Fan girls are the worst. Carter steps out from one of the smaller rooms, phone to his ear and it's showtime.
“What the fuck? What do you mean you're not coming?” Everyone quiets down, the guys in the opposing team frozen in what their doing. “No. You fuck off.”
He ends the call and I can imagine Isaac stifling a laugh behind the door. Carter acts like he's not noticed us until now. Someone give this guy an Oscar. He grunts a hello and comes up the Alice and me. I have to stomp Alice’s toes to keep her from grinning and ruining the surprise.
“What's wrong? Did Greg bail on you?” Greg’s the name of Carter’s dog.
“Yeah. Fucker said something about a school thing.” He looks at me and I feel my face burning. I can't believe he's using my excuse! Mom and dad had just separated and I had changed schools and wanted desperately to fit in. When the autumn formal ended up being on the same night as the laser tag finals, I chose the dance. Looking back I've realised my place in school has nothing to do with me attending that dance, but at the time it seemed crucial. “So you'll forfeit?” Nolan is looking mighty smug, and I curse that fact that he's hot looking even now. Carter looks like he's about to punch him and I pray that he'll be able to control himself.
“He'll no. We'll just find a third and do this.”
“Where? Where will you find someone willing to be your third?” He looks around at his friends, pretending to be looking for anyone willing to join Carter. Alice pretends to think.
“What about Laurs?” She looks at me and I can't look at her, not without breaking down into a fit of nervous giggles. Instead I look at Carter. His eyes are cold, nothing like the favourite cousin I used to know.
“She could hardly help us…” I'll remember to punch him after.
“Nah, Laura would be a good substitute.” Alice puts her arm around my shoulders and I smile acquiescently.
“I'd love to help.” Nolan dismisses me completely.
“Are you that desperate to be annihilated?  Whatever. I don't care, I just want to play.” Alice claps her hands, probably because she could tell that Carter was a second away from throwing that punch.
“Great! You take Laura and get her outfitted, and Nolan, you guys go get ready too.” There's laughter behind my back as I follow Carter towards the gear room. Yeah, laugh it up, you'll be crying soon. Isaac is trying to help me with my vest, but I slap his hands away and buckle it by myself. I could do this in my sleep. Braiding my hair I toe my white shoes off and step into the black sneakers I had Isaac bring when he put our gear in here.
“That blonde hair of yours gonna glow in the dark.” I pretend I'm not ecstatic about the fact that Carter didn't swear at me and pull out a black bandana from the pocket of my discarded hoodie.
“I know what I'm doing, Rage.”
“That's good, Shade.”
“Woohoo, Sword!” Isaac raises his hand for a high five, but Carter and I just look at him. “Come on you guys! We're gonna kick Nolan’s ass!” We high five and the music starts. There are two ways I could go about this. One would be to camp somewhere and hope the other team would pass by often enough and not notice my camping. The other is to be on the move, move in and out of the dark places and strike fast and mercilessly. And I'm not called Shade for nothing… The two teams enter at opposite sides of the laser tag course. The enormous room lies in darkness, a red light above each door and those damn ultraviolet lights scattered here and there. Any white or neon piece of clothing, not to mention blonde hair will stand out whenever you pass them by. The walls and almost every other surface has been painted or splattered with neon paint, galactic swirls and ringed planets, aliens and flying saucers. There's a particularly wonky looking alien up in one corner, my eyes find it immediately. When we were 12, Carter dared me to climb the scaffolding and paint something up there. I don't think he expected me to actually do it. Alice had been so mad, scared to death when she saw me up there. She left the alien though, so maybe she was a little impressed too. Sword disappears to the right, towards the high ground. If he reaches it first he has a chance to camp out and get some lucky shots. Rage goes left, into a maze like part of the course where you run a risk of smacking into someone full force if not careful. My instructions are clear: stay out of sight, don't get hit and don't dare to miss. I shut my mind up when it tries to convince me I've forgotten everything about this. Crouching down low I scan an open area up ahead, sometimes someone will dare that space and come running across. No such luck today. There's movement to my left. I freeze. Carter is backing towards our exit, vest  and gun flashing. Looks like the maze was a bad choice for him. Toby the face sucker comes sneaking after him, I aim at his chest and hear him sweat as his vest and weapon starts flashing. Turning around he jogs across the open space and disappears behind a sloppily painted plywood wall. I avoid the maze, circle the centre of the room and get every hit I attempt. It's like I never left. They get me and I hurry in the other direction every time it happens. I come across Nolan a couple of times, he's really fast but so am I, and it's a draw as to who gets a hit.
Isaac is camping up on a ledge, picking off the other team every time they try to get him. Carter gets hit a lot, his anger issues have him being thoughtless and Nolan knows how to push his buttons. Often I see at least two guys in the other team go after Carter, like they're going all in to piss him off. After being hit again I dive behind the first cover I find. The maze looms before me, utter darkness and narrow corridors. There was a time when I was, if not the Queen, then at least the Princess of the maze. I really don't have a choice. Max is hot on my heels, stalking me to score another hit as soon as my lights stop blinking. I turn around and step so far back into the darkness that anyone coming into the maze will be visible to me, but I'll be invisible to them. Max peeps around the corner, his weapon in front of him and that's where I get him. He swears and turns around. I walk deeper into the maze. My eyes are adjusted to the semi darkness of the large room, but it takes a little while for them to adjust to the maze. Soon I see light through cracks between the sheets of plywood used to construct it and as I come to a crossroads I see light to the right, indicating another entrance.
It's hot and dust tickles my nose. I enter the room in the centre of the maze. It's tiny, but compared to the narrow passages before and after it's a relief to not have the walls brush your elbows at every move. To my left I know there's a shelf of sorts, sometimes when we were playing just for fun we'd place cans of Dr Pepper there, as a prize for those who would brave the maze. I stop to wipe the sweat off my brow, wondering if the buzzer is going to sound soon signaling the end of our match. Someone grabs me by the shoulders and as I open my mouth to scream he covers mine with his. It's salty and sweet at the same time and somehow I know who it is.
His hands leave my shoulders and find my cheeks, my own hands are gripping my weapon.
I give this kiss all I've got, I want him to feel it all. The innocent daydreams, the hot and heavy fantasies and the dreams at night that woke me up all a tingle. He pulls back slightly, I bite his lip and force another deep kiss from him. Then he backs away, his hand deftly pulling my bandana off.
“I'll keep this, as a souvenir.” There's a smile in his voice.
“A souvenir of what?” I shoot him straight in the chest. “Your loss?” The buzzer sounds and I leave him there in the darkness. Isaac and Carter are delirious with happiness when the scores are tallied and shows that Team Demon has won.
“Fuck yes!” Carter’s shoulder punch hurts, but I quickly get him in the kidneys, making him double over in pain. He looks at me and grins, the same grin he used to give me back in the day. “Welcome back Shade.”
Nolan and his teammates have been ignoring us, but when Carter uses my nickname Nolan turns his head in our direction. I meet his gaze and give him a wicked smile. Yeah. I'm Shade. Nice to meet you. “I'll text you our schedule and then we'll try to find a day that works for us all.” Carter acts like nothing's ever been the matter between us and I share an eye roll with Isaac before getting out of the car.
“Cool.”
“It's nice to have you back Laura.” Isaac is such a big softie.
“Yeah. It's nice.” I give them a wave as they do a u-turn and head back to their side of town. Monday at school I feel as if I'm wearing a costume. My face is all made up, my hair is in its sleek ponytail and my school uniform is wrinkle free. Before first period I'm sitting in the cafeteria, furiously writing that English essay I didn't finish this weekend. Because of reasons.
“I don't think I've ever seen you do your homework at school…” Mavis Long has almost forgotten her own as she's been too busy watching me write. I shrug my shoulders and try to find a good way to end this sad excuse of an essay. “Like. What did you do this weekend?” A light laugh escapes my lips as I write my last words.
“I played a laser tag match with my cousin.” Mavis laughs, she thinks I'm joking.
“Oh Laura, you crack me up!” I smile at her and she shakes her head and gets back to finishing her own essay. I sigh and swallow the last dredge of my now cold instant coffee, grimacing at the bitter taste.
“I'll see you after lunch.” Mavis nods. Turning around I freeze. Nolan ‘Grim’ Locke is sitting by himself at the table behind me. Our eyes lock. Oh the pun. I can't read his face. He looks annoyed, but amused, very confused and a little surprised.
“Hey Nolan!” One of his friends call his name and he breaks eye contact. My limbs thaw and I hurry out of there. There's a certain flow in the halls of Tameron Academy. Like right now, they are fairly empty as most students have gathered in the cafeteria. Setting off in a brisk pace I take deep breaths to calm my runaway heart and cool my hot cheeks. Stupid infatuation. Nolan Locke is just a boy like any other. No. He's a backstabbing douche and I whooped his ass fair and square. I realise I'm walking in the wrong direction.
“Seriously.” Muttering insults both to myself and Nolan I turn around only to bounce off someone walking too close behind. “Ouff.” Nolan steadies us both by grabbing my shoulders. This is too much like Saturday. Heat pools in my stomach, igniting memories from that night. A couple of freshman girls giggle as they pass and snap me out of it. What am I doing? I can't be fraternising with the enemy!
“Let go of me.” My voice carries no threat.
“You didn't mind it the other night.” Damn his pretty face.
“Only because it scored me a hit. I bet that's the reason we won too.” You'd think he'd get mad, but all he does is grin like a madman.
“You think Carter will let me back on the team?” I crack up, laughing so hard I have to clench my stomach. “So that's a no?”
“Oh.” My mascara must be running down my cheeks. “I thought he hated me, but you're a whole nother level!” The first bell rings, filling the corridor with students. Nolan lets go of me, I ignore the twist in my gut telling me I miss his hands on me.
“I have to go to class. See you around, Grim.” I give him a small smile and start walking towards math class.
“You can be sure of that. Shade.” Oh sweet heavens, do I ever like the sound of that.






Seedlings

The morning mist swirls around my feet, soaking through my trainers and chilling my bare legs. I’m trying out a new path through the forest. If I manage to not get lost I should be able to make the round in a little under 30 minutes. 

It’s very quiet. Not a bird or squirrel moving in the trees. An uncomfortable feeling settles in my stomach as I lengthen my steps and try to remember how the path twists and turns before it hits the road. Maybe I’ll cut it short today. Find a new path for tomorrow. 

Giggles. I spin around, nearly falling. The path behind me is empty. Stumbling I set off again. Running faster. Faster than ever before. This time the giggles come from the left. Something is moving in the bushes. Fast. I can see the road through the trees. 

It catches my foot. I fall face first into the dirt. The air gets knocked out of my lungs. Things crawl up my legs, around my torso, my neck. The giggles reverberate through my body. Something turns me onto my back. 

The last thing I see is a young girl, her skin a pale green and her hair poison ivy. She smiles. Her mouth full of razor sharp teeth. The scream gets stuck in my throat. 

Shade

Moving. You gotta keep on moving. Don’t stand still. Not even for a second. Only if you’re in the shade. Yeah. The shade is safe. They can’t do anything in the shade. Thing is, people don’t know. Don’t see. People haven’t got a clue of how much danger they’re in. All the time. 

My feet beat out a quick rhythm on the pavement. I feel the sun on my back. In front of me my shadow moves with me. It looks just like me. Like I feel. Blurry and black and not quite there. But I know. I know the truth. I can’t stop. Not until I’m in the shade. 

It’s tiring. This half-running. I wish I could slow down, but I know that they’re ready to pounce as soon as I relax. They know that I know. I’ll get no reprieve. I catch the door to my building before it shuts me out. It’s cool and dark and I can breathe again. 

In electric light my shadow is my own again. They can’t survive inside. They wait outside in the sunshine. Waiting for us to stop for a while and in that moment they fully form. Trickle into the shade our bodies cast. Attach themselves to us and fill us with darkness. 

I see it happen all the time. People standing still for too long, their shadows darkening and then they die. But no one knows that the world is full of shadow people. They move the way we do, they speak with our words. I know, I see. And now they know that I know. They watch me. Waiting. Waiting for me to make one fatal mistake. I stay in the shade. Inside. Safe. They won’t take me. They’ll never take me! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Prima Ballerina

It was the first day, last year of school. We passed each other in the hallway outside the cafeteria when she stumbled and bumped into my shoulder.
“God! Sorry, I’m so sorry!” I never had a chance to say or do anything before she ran off towards the stairs leading up to the library. But I remembered her. The smell of lemons and that impossibly long hair, the color of moonlight.


I had to know her name!


Days went by and there was no sign of her. I sometimes thought I had made her up. Then one day I saw her as she passed through the doors to the guidance counselor. I almost followed her, but the bell rang. If there was one class I couldn’t afford to miss it was Calc. Mr. Grabowski made it perfectly clear that I needed to up my game if I wanted to pass. Calc bores me to tears.


Second bell sounded and Grabowski rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt. “As you all remember from last week…” The door opened, and there she was, clearly uncomfortable being late enough to interrupt something. “Yes?”
Her skin turned the cutest shade of pink and she let that long hair fall in front of her face.
“Ehm, Mrs. Bloom wanted me to take this class instead of Trig.” I could barely make out what she said.
“Oh, yes. She did say something about that. Take a seat.” He gestured in my direction.
I couldn’t believe my luck. Our eyes met and I smiled a little. And nothing. Most girls smile back, maybe blush a little, but I’d never had anyone look away and walk right past me as if I didn’t exist. Inconceivable.



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