Methods of Escape

Lita lived alone. Her whole life was an unbroken routine, just like most people around her. Only that she minded it more than others did. Still, she began this morning the same way she always did – at the local supermarket, where the endless beeps never failed to leave her in a trance, with ringing ears and numb fingers.

Queues dragged on, like the quartz clock’s tick to its next destination. Five minutes before five o’clock, she waved the last customer away without a word, and endured the resultant sour look. It affected her none. Her empty mind commanded her to stare ahead, as she slammed the ‘Counter Closed’ sign down louder than she needed to.

She waited patiently for the customer to stomp off after promising an unfulfilled threat. It was one that she had heard too many times before. Then, she started to lock up the cash drawers, as a faceless someone once taught her to. These habitual motions took no more, and no less, than two full minutes.

Once that was through, she smiled for the first time this day. She delighted in the idea of doing something that she had never done before. She meandered along the familiar aisles of her second home. Certain that no one was watching, she began slipping whatever could fit into her jacket pockets.

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Blinded by the Light

A vagrant busker strummed his scarred guitar, crooning a folk song with feigned sorrow for a few crumpled dollars. Above him, the sun glowed orange and pink. Lost souls wandered past in search of solace and contentment, none with any admiration for the beauty of such simple sights.

Further down the footbridge, triplets rode tandem on a small bicycle made for two. Their parents raced after them, but proved no match for wheels. The kids zipped by with ease, yelling at the top of their lungs, “Don’t you try to come after us!”

For hours, Alison had been watching all of these, taking in every bit of emotion she could feel in the air. Woes of the poor man. Frustrations of the working class. Pure happiness of the young family on a short-lived vacation. This was what she did every morning, since the day she found out that her imminent future would be in darkness.

In time, she had learnt to see more than this city ever would. Even if it never seemed enough, she knew it had to be. Turning to the seas that she loved, she leaned against the railings as she whispered, Remember. Remember everything.

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The Ratconteur

An antique dining table stretched across the dust-streaked, cobwebbed room. At each end sat one half of an odd couple: an old man and a large rat. One was painfully oblivious of the other, to the other’s amusement and partly, chagrin.

This soon changed, when the smaller creature decided to break the silence and make its presence known, “Where do I begin?”

Abandoning his bread and wine, the man looked around with furrowed brows. The voice confused him. He had lived alone all his life, which explained his less-than-savoury dinner, or home on the whole. His eyes darted about. No matter where he looked with his neck stretched taut, he saw no other person in the room.

And so, he cried out impulsively, “What? Who’s speaking?”

“Right here.”

Upon the second statement from the stranger (and intruder, if he may so assume), the man almost fell from his chair and most certainly, did knock over his wine glass. He stood up and began to shout, “Where, where?!”

“Here, here, here,” the calmer voice reiterated. “I am right across you, seated with my feet on your leftover breakfast.”

Unwillingly, the man followed the voice. And true enough, there it was. For five full minutes, he sat down in silence and poured himself a second glass of wine. Then, a third. And a fourth. He was thinking of what to say, but simply could not find the words as he looked through his new wine glass – at the warped shape of a talking rat.

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Cemetery Gates

There is a place that lies deep within the forest, where the children sleep through the morning lull and the midday sun. Past the cemetery gates, we see their tiny, silent homes that we call tombs.

From beneath the soil, they wake at night alone together. After all, no one really sleeps forever. The abandoned children of this earth roam free in the late hours, in their putrid shells of dry hardened skin.

Most people are clueless to the truth of this age-old myth. That is because small corpses have quiet feet. Some have feet so rotten they can hardly be called feet at all.

Those wise enough to suspect a little, they say, have never seen it with their own two eyes. If they had, their mind had chosen not to believe them. It is after all true, that humans are more often than not, willing cynics at heart.

Whether you believe it or not, the dead children walk. When the moon hangs high and the time comes, he rises. She rises, too. They all rise and yawn, letting their stale breath fill the air. A sharp ear can hear their jaws creak, as door hinges of old homes often do.

Samuel climbs out of his plot, sluggish like his (also) late Gramps, who lives in a different adult cemetery. His bones make an unsettling cracking noise as heavy mud slides off them. He is only seven. But to be fair, he has stayed seven for a rather long time. In fact, his death anniversary had begun right from his seventh birthday.

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Ghost of Days Gone By

I looked back at my home and for a while, could not pull myself away. Leaving was no easy thing to do. This was where I had spent four happy years together with my family, before everything fell apart.

But it was now or never, wasn’t it? Piotr will be home any minute now. If I saw him, I was not sure where I might find the strength to leave. Before he – or I – could change my mind, I got into the cab with my suitcase in the trunk.

At the airport lounge, I sank into the seat and parked my luggage at my feet. There was an hour to spare before my flight. Already, I am starting to wonder if it is the right thing to do, leaving my whole life behind without telling a soul. But I knew I could no longer stay in this place so full of painful memories. Even here.

Kara’s bubbly laughter still echoed so clearly in my mind. Our lives used to be so perfect, with nothing more I could ask for. How could everything have changed in just one day? What had I done to deserve losing my loving child? 

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Work has kept me away from writing this week. But I do want to keep my Postaweek series going. So I’m cheating with a story that I wrote a few years ago. In place of trigger warnings for the violence that lies ahead, I will instead quote one of my favourite authors Neil Gaiman:

“What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk.”

Rain fell that night. Rafe and I drank from the dark skies for the first time in weeks. We embraced, but our smiles did not last. As comforting as the weather had been, it did put out the last of the fire we built. A makeshift tent was no match for wrathful winds either.

Where we eventually slept, or at least tried to, was on soft mud in a cold cave. Persistent hunger pangs woke me throughout this fitful night. My heart pounded as every brief moment of shuteye ended with dreadful nightmares. Rafe did worse, running a high fever after the downpour.

It had been two long weeks since our last meal – a doe with a pike through its tender neck. What little fighting chance it had against the strength of desperation. As Rafe roasted its flesh over the roaring fire, I mourned. Not for the doe, but for us. Every hunt had since turned up empty, each shorter than the last.

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