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.

5 comments:

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

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  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?

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  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!

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

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