Lurching in my seat, a sense of vertigo; a hole opened in the world, pitching me down into its depths...
Grasping the keyboard, nonsense smearing itself across the page. Shivering, so cold...
A sensation of frost at my fingertips, sealing them to the keys. Laughing, slumping back in my chair. Not the first time I've allowed my work to run away with me; so deep, so immersed in it; sometimes dreaming more real than waking.
Several pages of work, though I don't recall half of them. Glancing at my phone. No missed calls; still twenty minutes before I have to meet Trevor. Good.
Aching to be back there; to know where my child is going and why; who it will meet, what it will find in the desolation.
Soon, sweetheart; I swear.
A cursory rummage through cupboards and freezer; enough raw material to prepare a Rogan Josh: a pair of lamb shanks, a tuperware box of my own spice mix, tomatoes, onions, coconut milk. Setting it singing; to slowly render down through the day (the prospect of him coming home, luxuriating in the scent of spices, roasting lamb juices, the pleasure that will come...enough to rouse a smile, and far more).
Like my imagined Winter, like the child that wanders there; something I lose myself in; the processes of peeling and chopping, of cooking out the spices, of setting the lamb to slow-roast...allowing me to drift; not to return, not yet, for fear I can't find my way back through the snow.
Other places; other whens and wheres...
Trevor, waiting at his flat, no doubt watching the clock every other second, counting down to when I buzz at his door.
Trevor, with his desperate, unspoken hopes; his obsessions and adorations.
Sweating, breathing hard; in need of air by the time I step back from the stove. Scribbled notes in case Alistair comes home early or for some lunch:
Lamb slow-roasting. DO NOT turn off oven.
Winter still calling, its chill in my thoughts; Autumn at my lips, my fingers. Not a bright day; no real dawn broken: heavy and overcast, clouds beaten blue by some celestial violence. Spots of rain in the air.
Wandering, lost as my sexless, story-devouring child, despite knowing my destination.
A beautiful day; dank and chill, a slurry of red and gold leaves in the gutters, swirling down the streets.
Rows of old, three storey town-houses, set back from the street on hillocks of earth and grass, many boarded up, in states of advancing disrepair. Weather-beaten “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs rising from their overgrown gardens, some torn up from their moorings or hacked down, left to sprawl amongst the weeds. Desirable properties, once upon a time; when people could afford such things.
Alistair and I lucky beyond belief; learning of the house from a friend of a friend; an estate agent, the current owner: Sophia Cawsen, letting us rent the place for a song and the promise of a few renovations, Alistair already in talks with her to arrange buying the place.
Buying a home. Waiting for my husband to get home from work. Impossibilities; fairy tales that my self of three years ago would have rejected for their absurdity. The dreams of others; never mine, never worthy or wanting of them.
Park and forest land across the way; paths that wind between trees and through fields to distant farms, across or beneath motorways and train tracks...paths known and alien; always a new way to walk, always calling.
A longer way to Trevor's, but unable to resist it; fishing my phone from my pocket as I cross the road, thumbing a brief text:
Might be a few mins later than expected. See you soon!
Trevor's kisses far from endless.
Not the only one chasing ghosts; sharing the path with other wanderers, no joggers or dog-walkers here. Only those in search of something even they likely can't name or define; avoiding my eyes, silently begging me not to say hello, to disrupt their communions of one.
More distinct, more real than these shades; these hollow-eyed and hooded strangers, my own ghosts; those that play and run and tumble between the trees, away from the path; that whimper and cry at the sting of nettles, the bites of thorns, the sight of their own blood.
The older species moving more slowly, more stiffly; not so bright to imagination's eye; grey where their former selves are lightning blue and burning amber; smeared and flickering where they flare and flow. Almost faceless; echoes of what once was; the strange, strange boy who came here to be away from the eyes and noise of all around him; away from the demands of friends and family and all the other stinking, bleating animals that confused him so. To walk unabashed and dreaming; to wonder at his own strangeness, the absurdities that tumbled from his every waking and dreaming thought. Those fantasies...flocking to me, now; clearer and more distinct than any shade of their creators:
Forgotten; the great dragon, coiled between the trees, molten stone and silver seeping from beneath its scales, from its great maw, slicking its worm-like way, its length winding from tree to tree, around the entire heights of some, its eyes half-lidded, flickering, smoke issung from its nostrils as it dreams. I remember...seeing it so clearly; the same species of projection that I stopped talking about to Mom and Dad, my sister...to anyone, for fear of what they might do; where they might send me. So clear, then as now; not flimsy and ephemeral, like an imagined thing, but as real as the fallen boughs in my path, as the magpies in the trees; the squirrels darting to and fro in the rain. Light seeping from beneath its eyelids, running in fluid rivulets down its horned cheeks. Not something merely encountered; something desired, that my adolescent self conjured, aching for his awkward, twisted, itching and too-tight human skin to be the delusion, the projection; the unwanted dream, for the dragon to be real, to wake and realise itself at last...
Others; a hunched, loping shape; a shadow against shadows, ragged and trailing tatters of its own densely furred hide...eyes swollen harvest moons in its lupine face, far too many, blazing in the surrounding air, orbiting its head as Lunar does the Earth. Many limbs, twitching and chittering like a spider's, its attention on me, as I trudge through the sludge and undergrowth, away from the path, inviting its suicidal hunger...
A lambent figure, striding upon great, goatish legs, the armour clasped to portions of its body seeming somehow grown rather than forged; too elaborately worked, too curvaceous and organic, to be anything crafted by human hands. A mane of silver hair trailing from beneath its beaked mask, multiple antlers breaking from its scalp, strung with dew-beaded spider webs, their weavers scurrying and dancing to the same rhythm as the entity itself, in its slender, jewelled hands, a wand or sceptre, every motion trailing light, its laughter echoed by others in the woods; others that come to dance, drawn by its joy...
So beautiful; all me and mine.
Smiling, almost laughing as I walk, hands in the pockets of my jacket, barely seeing the world, feeling the rain...
Snow. Still, silent cold. Sky blind and swollen, threatening another gale that might at last bury the world.
This park. These trees. These footworn pathways through the weeds and bracken. No wanderers here; no shades of reluctant humanity. Only statues of them; carcasses frozen in place, hands reaching up from beneath the snow like strange flowers, clutching at the sky, at the angels that were never there and will never come.
Barely feeling the cold, despite its lack of clothing. Whispers on the wind, rolling over the white, carrying suggestions of storms, stories of the dead but far from departed...
The walk supposed to clear my head; give me some respite. Barely feeling the rain, the grass softening to sludge beneath my feet, hearing the dogs that bark as I pass. The world a faded water colour, dim and distant; the shades that inhabit it impressionistic to the point of being indiscernible. Barely even recalling my way; destination as hazy as the rest. Grateful to be out, regardless; away from storms and whispers, away from...
Never. Of course, never. No way I can exorcise or divorce myself from it, any more than my blissfully ignorant child can the winter it was born to, that maybe it dreamed into being, maybe it precipitated; that maybe is its other, unwitting parent.
Knowing, in the strangest way; feeling me; a moth fluttering at its ear, a mote of pyre-ash orbiting its skull. Tossed on the currents of its confusion; the delirious curiosity at its own nature, the empty, ended world it has woken to.
Beyond the fields, now; stumbling as my sludge-slick feet make contact with concrete. The rain vicious, hammering against my head, streaming down my face.
Even those sensations vague, as though dreamed or remembered, rather than experienced here and now. Echoes of echoes of experience; some lingering thread of frayed childhood dreams, a rainy day lost in my sixth year of being, somehow embedded, resurging now, memory and fantasy and waking reality colliding: rain on my face, frost and snow in my mouth, cold fire behind my eyes.
Beyond the park, into the streets and neighbourhoods where the ghosts of my childhood still play. Hearing him, as I walk, the old streets and lanes and back alleys not much changed, since those times; new fencing, new coats of paint, gardens and houses more sealed away, now, more forbidden and fortress-like, the streets themselves quieter, less welcoming. My own ghosts agitating other memories, their games here, their flights and panics and strange fantasies giving way to returns home, to darkening evenings, to that evil, black pressure in the dead boy's mind...his Father's face, not flushed, but pale and still with fury, his Mother's...slack on the skull, eyes watery. Those of a terrified doe.
The child laughing as it finds them, protruding from the snow it kicks up, as though laid down out here together, in surrender to the inevitable winter. No longer furious, no longer vapid, but frozen in despair, tears shimmering like jewels on their cheeks.
Better. Away from proscribed paths, beneath trees, through long grasses, the air here...less tainted by civilisation, exhaust and frying fat and filthy concrete giving way to damp growth, old wood, rotting leaves...the funk of something dead and left to moulder amongst weeds and briars.
Others like the dead boy's Mother and Father; parents themselves, curled around the bodies of their babes, clutching them tight, as they never did until their hearts began to slow, until my winter claimed them. Siblings, cousins, lovers; perfect strangers clinging together in terror and despair. Frozen here, silent and unseen testaments to a world that was, that will never be again, for the lack of their love. Glittering pearls and jewels in place of their eyes, crystal tears on their cheeks. Whatever value they might have boasted beyond the aesthetic long since dissolved, gone the same way as the world they once believed so absolute, that they assumed unending; that nothing could undo.
The blonde-haired girl, on her knees in the snow, eyes upturned to the swollen Heavens, faint traces of a smile caught at the corners of her lips, star-dust sparkling in her hair, almost the same hue as the snow.
A wiry man whose torso is bared to the elements, mahogany skin rippling with acrobat's muscle, his crossed legs and bowed head lending him a priestly quality, as though he welcomed the winter that froze the blood in his veins, the thoughts in his shaved-bald head.
Pausing, catching my breath, laughing at my own absurdity; the sickness my imagination vomits up. Where the fuck does it come from? As though there's been a rupture in my mind since birth (maybe even before); an opening into other states and places, where the grey laws of this hold no sway. Where my stories seep from; not merely by-products of fevered mind, expressions of concern and neurosis I can't otherwise articulate, but living and alien things, parasites using me as their gateway into the world.
Ridiculous. I know, and yet, part of me refuses to entirely deny the notion...certainly how it sometimes feels, especially with pieces that obsess me like this one, that refuse to let me go, even beyond the bounds of the study where they're born.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.