Monday, May 25, 2009

Undone: a tale of 140 tweets

1: “Emergency services, how can I help you?” “My girlfriend, she’s hurt, she’s bleeding badly…” “OK, we need to stop that, here’s what you do…”

2: But the bleeding doesn’t stop & here I sit on a plastic chair in a hospital corridor, with the sounds & smells of sickness all around me.

3: A tall man in a white overcoat walks reluctantly towards me. “I’m no good at this,” he begins, as though it mattered.

4: Later: I’m in an anonymous, windowless room, with a CCTV camera in the corner, catching my every move. My interviewers are gentle with me.

5: “And you have no idea who would attack her?”
“Dear God, no, Sass was beautiful, amazing…”

6: Eventually, they let me go, when they realise I have nothing more to say.

7: Later still: I’m at home, staring at the dark screen of the TV, at my dim reflection trapped inside.

8: There’s nowhere to be, nothing to do and I’m too exhausted to cry, so I just sit and stare at my lone self, silently screaming.

9: I go to the bathroom, wild thoughts of blades & pills running through my head. But I haven’t the courage & I stare at my reflection instead.

10: The magic that she taught me comes back to haunt me, the sigils of her spell still carved into the mirror’s edge.

11: “Show me what I need most to see,” the two-edged spell commands. Typical of Sass, to leave me such a bittersweet gift.

12: The mirror mists & then clears & I no longer see my reflection. Instead the mirror is like a TV screen, showing the first time that we met.

13: This, then, is what I most need to see. That moment in the crowd, when those haunting witch-green eyes caught mine.

14: “You will be undone” she whispered with a smile & I stared after her as the crowd swallowed her up, my husband tugging my hand, urging me on.

15: Just a brief glance of a perfect stranger, but if ever there was proof she was a witch, it was this – she’s haunted me ever since.

16: All I could see were her piercing green eyes while I toiled on the treadmill of my humdrum life.

17: I wanted only to see her again, to find out, at least, her name. But I had work and marriage and family… I searched for her wherever I went.

18: A family dinner, our Sunday ritual, my husband and I visiting my parents. I’d never before felt so imprisoned by duty.

19: “Pass the potatoes, please,” Mother asked primly as my husband beamed, proud of my cooking. The food tasted of ash and dung.

20: When had my life become this? When had I become so concerned for what others thought? I had traded my happiness for their approval.

21: In the light of witch-green eyes, it now seemed to me a cheap bargain to have made.

22: And then I saw her again – at the same place, a small club with a tiny dancefloor, packed out. My husband hated it.

23: I told him I was going on a girl’s night out, though I meant to look for her. & even as I lied, I felt ashamed – was I really an adulterer?

24: I had always looked down on those who cheated. You make your bed, you lie in it.

25: But then I saw her, in the crowd, those green eyes and that crooked smile, and she saw me and a thrill ran through me. She remembered me.

26: & there were no more thoughts of morality. There was only this beautiful witch for me.

27: She came over and she smiled and I asked her what she meant, when she had told me I would be undone.

28: She looked me over, mischievously. “Don’t you want to be?’ she asked. “Don’t you want to be undone?”

29: “Hell yeah,” I answered breathlessly, made ridiculous by my desire. She offered me her hand: “Let’s dance.” I shook my head. “I can’t.”

30: “Please?” she looked up at me with that crooked smile and, just as she foresaw, I was (willingly) undone.

31: “I don’t know,” I said, afraid to say yes. “Pretty please?” she asked, her green eyes glinting gold with mischief.

32: “Pretty please with a cherry on top?” she persisted. I laughed, undone by her charm. “How can I say no?”

33: We danced, me badly, and she held me tight against her and I breathed in her scent as I buried my face in her neck, unheeding of the crowd.

34: The memory in the mirror mists over & vanishes, leaving me to face the grim reality of my reflection. I have aged 10 years or more tonight.

35: She cast a spell on me, my green-eyed witch. Before I met her I was – not happy, but content, living a pre-fabricated life of small things.

36: There was no joy, but there was also no fear - I was surrounded by people, the illusion of friends. I hadn’t even known I was lonely.

37: And then she cast a spell on me, turning me on my head. For the first time, I saw that the world was upside down.

38: My friends and family were appalled at the transformation, the changes that she wrought so swiftly in me:

39: Alexis - the prim, the proper, the always concerned what others think – turned into someone so wanton, so lost, so given over to desire.

40: It must have been a spell that she cast on me. There can be no other explanation for my actions, then or since.

41: Or did she only awake my sleeping self? Was this madness always in me?

42: I sleep a little & then wake on the tiled floor with a guilty start. Who am I to sleep – or to eat or even to breathe – when she is dead?

43: Three days later, it’s her funeral and it’s one of those god-awful affairs, where everyone decides to ‘celebrate’ the dead one’s life.

44: They’re all so damn upbeat and smiling because, they say, “that’s what she would have wanted.”

45: Would she bollocks, she would have wanted us bawling our bloody eyes out & tearing at our clothes. & anyway, she would have wanted us sad.

46: I watch them all smiling bravely, speaking of life & light & laughter. The crematorium is too brightly lit, like an office.

47: & I want to turn out the lights, plunge us into darkness & howl my despair.

48: But I have no mourning rights here – after all, I’m hardly the only one she was sleeping with.

49: There are so many of us, staring dull-eyed at her friends & family & wondering how the hell they can manage to smile, when she is dead.

50: And now here’s her mother, pale and cold, with her pale and cold friends. She’s the one who arranged the funeral’s fun and games.

51: She smiles beatifically through it all - except for when she looks in our direction and then her face clouds over.

52: I wonder if she’s relieved, to no longer have such a scandalous daughter & I hate her for still being alive, when Sass is dead.

53: For Sass was a changeling, born of witches but unwanted and so adopted by this unmagical woman, who raised her with disapproval.

54: Can you know what it’s like? Sass asked me once. To never be accepted for who you are. For your own mother to reject you…

55: I held her while she cried and even though her magic frightened me, I never turned away from it, never let her see my fear.

56: She carved her spells onto mirrors and bones, using blood and sex to bind the words. She gave me gifts – love stones and charmed mirrors.

57: It was part of her seduction of me – not just sex, but also magic, that wild electricity that ran through her body, creative and free.

58: I feared her magic as much as I craved her love. Intoxicated by her though I was, I was intimidated by her potency.

59: Once, she gave me a death-stone, a tiny thing, carved onto a fragile bird-bone, stained red with blood. “What does it do?” I asked.

60: Her laugh: “It kills, of course. But be careful. It will only work on those you truly hate. No cold crimes of convenience for you, my girl.”

61: “Only crimes of passion?” I laughed feebly and I put the stone away in my sock drawer, not wanting to think of it. It was a dark thing.

62: Perhaps she’d hoped I’d use it on my husband. I thought: if I was a murderer, she’d be more attracted to me. She was a wild thing, my Sass.

63: But I am not dark, not wild. I am sensible Alexis, prim and proper even in the grip of a mad, infatuated love. I chose divorce, not murder.

64: She was disappointed by that. Divorce is so mundane, she complained. But nevertheless, I pointed out, very convenient.

65: I left my husband the next day. He watched me go, uncomprehending as a kicked puppy. I bit down my shame and thought of my witch.

66: “Where did my Alexis go?” he asked. “This isn’t like you.” “Thank God,” I answered. “I’d rather be someone else.”

67: I’ve lost track of the days. I spend them lost in the mirror’s spell or asleep. I no longer see my reflection, the mirror tuned to my need.

68: I see only her, our memories, all our times together. Those glorious times after I’d left my husband, the first heady days of our affair.

69: My friends & family shunned me, took his side. I didn’t mind, we were alone in our own cocoon. I wasn’t content, but I was fiercely happy.

70: I stand and watch the memories pass by in the magical mirror – her last gift to me, her last spell. Showing me what I most need to see.

71: Going right back to the beginning again - the first time we slept together & I see my agony all over again. Afterwards she asked me my name.

72: “Alexis”, I answered and she laughed, but wouldn’t tell me why.

73: Watching is painful, my former self so awkward. Trying to pretend I’m not hurt by her laughter. Hurt that she didn’t remember my name.

74: I’ve lost track of how many days it’s been. My boss comes to see me. His eyes widen when I open the door. No doubt, I’m a sight.

75: “When are you coming back?” he asks. Me: “I don’t know.” “Best to carry on as normal, stop you brooding,” he says, hopefully.

76: I glare at him, say nothing. “It’s been 2 weeks already,” he says. Still, I am silent, waiting impatiently for him to go.

77: “All right,” his parting shot. “But I can’t cover for you forever.” I don’t care. He leaves.

78: Ah yes, this, this is one of my favourite memories. On the summer lawn, painting each other’s toes. Exchanging sweet, watermelon kisses.

79: “Mrs Oakes is watching,” I grimaced, seeing the curtains next door twitch. It was hard to ditch Alexis, she’d been me for so long.

80: “Let her watch, it’s probably the most thrill she’s had in years,” Sass replied lazily and she kissed me hard and long.

81: Alexis disappeared, all that was left was white-hot lust and need. I tried to kiss her back, but she dodged me…

82: …I leapt to my feet and chased her, laughing, into the house.

83: How long has it been now? The mirror won’t show myself to me. I can’t track the progress of my destruction. I haven’t washed, I barely eat.

84: Another knock on the door, intruding on my grief. I make my way to the hall, unopened letters piled at my feet.

85: The police detective seems unsurprised by my appearance, when I open the door to him. I wonder, distantly, if I smell.

86: “Ms Jones? DI Woods. We have some more questions for you.” “All right,” I answer slowly, as though speaking in a foreign language.

87: They take me back to the windowless room and their questions are less gentle now. I think only of the mirror, of returning to my memories.

88: Eventually, they release me & I go home. I step over the unopened, red-stamped envelopes in the hallway, head straight for the bathroom.

89: Finally, Sass is returned to me. But now the mirror turns on me, no longer showing the good times. Slowly, it starts to show me the bad.

90: I curse it and pound on it and yell to the empty, echoing flat that this isn’t what I most need to see. But to no avail.

91: Through the mirror I see the progress of our relationship. My possessiveness and insecurities. Her charm and promiscuity.

92: Myself, tense & miserable, waiting in silence for her to come home. Outside, chattering girls pass by, their heels clattering in cacophony.

93: Once I was one of them, on a girls’ night out, frantically seeking a fragile escape from a humdrum life.

94: And I boasted to myself how I didn’t envy them, now that my life was no longer humdrum. I had nothing to run from – but nowhere to run to.

95: & I knew I lied as I cried myself to sleep in front of the late-night TV, to the lullaby of adverts for datelines & plastic surgery.

96: It was a long wait, each time longer, for her to come home to me. She stayed out days at a time & each time I was more frantic, panicking.

97: And I would vow I would leave her and in the next breath I would swear I would love her and never question again her needs.

98: For if you love someone, don’t you set them free?

99: And I tried to turn a blind eye to her infidelities, in the hopes that she would realise that she didn’t need those other girls.

100: & I even thought of cheating on her myself, to teach her a lesson. But I could never want another girl and I wasn’t certain she’d even mind.

101: And her spell was too strong for me.

102: She would come home and despite all my promises to myself that this time I would be cool & say nothing, we would fight.

103: Those endless, circular arguments: “But why aren’t I enough for you?” “It’s not like that. It’s just… I’m not made that way, babes.”

104: I hated it when she called me babes, the name she called everyone, & we fought every time she came home, smelling of someone else’s musk.

105: And the more we fought, the longer she stayed away and I was left alone again, unable to sleep or to work or to eat.

106: It was all I could do to remember to breathe, until she returned to me again.

107: My family and friends stayed away. Half mad from my lonely agony, I tentatively tried to contact my mother.

108: “As long as you’re with that woman,” she said, each word burning like liquid nitrogen, “you’re no daughter of mine.”

109: But no matter how many times Sass strayed I couldn’t leave her, for when she came back to me she always made it so sweet.

110: Loving me more passionately than I’d ever been loved before, catching me up once more in the web of her magic.

111: And I would forget, for a while, how she was; until time passed and once more she would become absent-minded, uninterested in me.

112: And the mirror shows me my frustration and my fear; my overwhelming fear that I would lose her. And I did lose her.

113: There’s a knocking on the door, but I’m too weak to answer. I’ve stood here for days, dizzy and nauseous, compelled to watch the disaster.

114: I don’t want to watch, I don’t want to see – the spell is corrupted, this isn’t what I need.

115: The mirror mists and clears again and there I am, that last time, kissing her nape, finding the bite marks on her back.

116: “Who was it this time?” I asked angrily, my desire dying swiftly. “Don’t be like that,” she reached for me, but I dodged out of reach.

117: “I’m never enough for you,” I spat. My anger burned so hot, for this time I had had hope. She’d stayed with me for six months – a record.

118: I’d thought that I’d finally won, that I was all she needed. That now it would be just the two of us, no need for those other girls.

119: I started to get dressed, fumbled in my sock drawer for clean underwear.

120: The thudding at the door continues, steady and distracting. I frown, a headache pounding between my eyes, in time with the blows.

121: The mirror compels me to watch, watch it all to the bitter end. There’s a crash in the hallway, but I’m lost in the past.

122: “I’ve never lied to you,” Sass said angrily, the covers pulled up over her breasts. Her tangled hair fell into green eyes gone cold as ice.

123: “You know this is how I am, who I am.” “Damn you,” I sobbed in answer and my fumbling hands found the death-stone in the drawer. “Damn you!”

124: “Why can’t you just accept me for who I am?” she demanded as I turned to her, her dark little gift gripped in my hand.

125: Strong hands grip me from behind. The spell breaks, the mirror mists, the memory vanishes.

126: “Why couldn’t I just accept her for who she was?” I ask the detective. “I dunno,” he says coldly. “Now turn around and face the wall.”

127: They find the death-stone, so fragile and yet so deadly, her gift to me. “Use it only on someone you really hate,” she said.

128: Did she know, when she gave it to me? Did she know there was only one person I ever truly loved, only one I could ever truly hate?

129: Did she want me to do it? I don’t know and the question tears at the ragged edges of my mind, crippling me with headaches.

130: Why did she give the death-stone to me? The courts don’t care. There’s no one to speak for me and I’m not able to speak for myself.

131: I am silent when they find me guilty, silent when they condemn me to life. Silent while the cameras flash. I’m the story of the hour.

132: I need no magic mirror now to show me the memories. I sit here in this windowless cell and she visits me, smiling her crooked smile.

133: There was so much blood. I regretted what I’d done the moment I pushed the stone into her throat.

134: There was so much blood. I loved her so much. I would have given my life to get hers back, the moment that I took it away.

135: But I haven’t the voice to tell anyone this and anyway, who is there to hear me? I have no visitors.

136: I gave her death, they gave me life – ironic, don’t you think? She gave me the means to kill her. Double irony.

137: And if ever there was proof she’s a witch, it’s how she haunts me now. Death can’t keep her from visiting me in this cement-lined cell.

138: I try to tell her that I’m sorry, but the words won’t come. She’s drenched in blood, rotting and horrid, smiling at me.

139: Her smile is the ghastly grin of the dead. She promises me that she’ll never leave, that she’s all mine now. She reaches for me…

140: … and I am, just as she prophesised, undone.


  1. I love this. I like the way I wait for more - wondering how it will unfold, what will happen next.

  2. the way this comes out little by little - bit by bit - to tell the whole story is impressive. Have you you already written the whole thing or are you writing it in pieces? Did you know the whole story when you started?

  3. thanks greg - it's basically written out, but then I'm tweaking it as I go along, as it reads very differently when parcelled up in episodes, particularly when sent out on twitter!

  4. I like 56 an awful lot.

  5. Great set up. Look forward to seeing how the story evolves.


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