Sometimes escape is necessary. That icy grip in my chest, the angry butterflies in my stomach, and the barrage of voices, all my own, screaming so loud I can barely see. The office is thick with the hum of machines, the staff room echos with inane chatter, and today more than any other, escape is what I need.

So I go down. Down into the belly of the beast and find a quiet corner. The bench is uncomfortable but I am perched in such a way that all the tension seeps out and I am truly relaxed for the first time in weeks. There are no windows which I first thought would be stifling, but soon the automatic light shuts off and the gentle pool from under the door is enough. It’s calm. It’s comforting.

I take out my lunch and quietly graze, headphones on, music lapping at my soul. It’s about half way through when it starts as I knew it would. A black hole opens up behind my navel and I start to wear thin. My limbs sag, my eyelids heavy, and I stop raising the sandwich to my mouth, instead letting it rest in my lap. The leech drains me for all I’m worth, leaving me a shell, a ragdoll disguarded in the corner, and no one would think to look for me here.

I don’t move, can’t move, for what feels like an eternity; my vision swims but I am painfully present for every second. My breath is laboured, thought behind every inch, heart pounding in my ears with the force of it. I start to wonder if my body will ever be my own again as I reach a tendril of will down my arm in the vain hope that it will twitch. I just need to see the time, know my deadline, see what I have left. A finger taps and my phone screen ignites; the hour draws nearer.

I summon all my might and drag one leg from the bench, hitting the floor with a loud thud, the light blaring at the movement. I scrape the other from its perch and twist awkwardly, determined not to fall forward, I don’t have time for a trip to the floor. The black hole protests and I remain here a moment longer, head tilted back against the wall and all I can think is that I’ll need to summon the energy to smooth my hair back down before I leave. Energy I definitely do not have.

I feel the leech begin to fill and I count down in my head. Twice. As the final digit rings in my mind I hang myself on my bones and stack them one on top of the other. My breath heavy with the effort I take a moment to marvel at this feat of strength, quietly wincing at the task ahead. I shuffle, one foot at a time, dragging my meatcage to the door. I close my eyes and breathe deep, plastering on that mask I wear so well before I step through.


Turn back

The village was quiet and cold. The old stonework, grey in the dim evening light, soaking in the silence and revelling in it. The scar of my car engine rumbling through the streets seemed to draw the shadows in, coalescing at the corners of my headlamps and pooling in the dark nook of the doorway. I parked my car and shut of the engine swiftly, eager to withdraw my mark, plunging the street into an eerie darkness.

I collected my things and stepped up to the door, my breath appearing in wisps, my trainers tapping like heals on the frozen ground. I rapped gently and the door creaked open at my touch revealing an empty lobby and I hesitantly stepped inside.

“Hello?” I called into the void my voice echoing off the bare walls. I leaned through the doorway to my right, a sparse living area with sofas, a coffee table, and a dining area at the back, all untouched. I squinted, something catching my eye at the back of the room and I made for it. On the floor under on of the dining chairs lay a book, open as if dropped mid flow…

The quietest giggle, a childlike chuckle darting across the landing. I ran back to the hall, dropping my bag, the clatter ringing out as fingers of cold grasped at my heart, and yet I felt drawn, compelled. The boards creaked underfoot as I cautiously scaled the stairs.

The thick silence returned and I waded through it, heart pounding in my ears. The landing was as empty as I expected, the walls lined with doors. I should turn back. Now is the time you’re supposed to turn back.

A long piercing creak and a door to my left slid open. Leave. Go down the stairs, out the door, jump in the car and go.

Do it!

But my fingers tingled, like the wood of the door was an old friend, and my feet carried me forward like they longed to know. I took a breath, grasped the brass handle and pushed the door open.

“SURPRISE!” Lights, streamers, friendly faces, joy, excitement, and relief. Funny how your mind runs away with you.

She fell

She fell





And fell

















They had fallen together for a while but at some point their fingers had slipped apart and he was gone. He had suggested he was there to take her to what was next, that she wouldn’t have to do it alone, and yet here she was, falling through darkness, very much alone.

She braced herself for the hard, sharp smack that would eventually come. That’s what happens in these situations, that’s what always comes next.

And yet it didn’t.

When she eventually stopped, and stopped is all she could say as quite how she came to cease falling she couldn’t quite recall, she found herself on what she assumed was the ground. It smelt damp, and the moist surface felt firm yet soft against her cheek in the way that only earth can. She couldn’t say for certain only because of the dark. The kind of dark where you weren’t quite sure if your eyes were even open. The kind of dark that was all consuming.

She carefully felt about her, hands skimming over the dust, searching for something, a clue, her fallen companion perhaps…




Brilliant, shining, luminescent.

Burning to the back of her eyes. 


She raised her arm to shield against it, peering into it, searching for the source.






She rose, steadying herself, and gently placed



in front

of the other


Song: The Fairy and the Labyrinth from the Pan’s Labyrinth soundtrack

No One Should Be And No One Is

Take my hand

Her head rested on her arms as she leaned against the barrier, hair dancing in wisps about her face, her loose jacket rustling in the breeze. She looked out towards the distant hills with a faraway stare that suggested it wasn’t the fir trees she was looking at, or anything at all for that matter; the distant look of a thinker. I couldn’t put my finger on why but I knew I had to speak to her. Compelled you might say.

I let my hand run along the railing as I approached, the cold of the metal tingling at my fingertips. The water thrashed and churned beneath, throwing a fine spray into the air that made me blink hard while it caught on her eyelashes, seemingly unfazed. I came to stop next to her and rested my elbows on the side.  The air felt thick with her thoughts like they were pouring out of her, too many to contain, forming a cloud so dense I had to take a breath to make sure I still could.

I can’t

“They say the light here is beautiful.”
She said it like a statement but I felt it like a question.  “They do.”
“I hear it from everyone so I thought I should come and see it.”
“And now?”
She bit her lip, posing the question back to herself.  “I don’t see it.”  She propped her chin on her hand, still staring out, searching for it.  “I mean I see it, intellectually.  I can see that the line of the trees meeting the horizon just so, the mountain ridge folding inwards to the river, the rough and tumble of the water, I can see how people would find beauty in that…”
“But you don’t?”
“I guess not.”

Do you trust me?

“What do you think?”  She looked at me for the first time and yet it was as if she could see right through me; her blue eyes felt a strange blend of icy and warm, like snowmelt, like resignation.
“I think beauty is subjective.”
She glanced down, before turning back.  Maybe she had been hoping for more, something to give her what she lacked.
“I think it is a perfect example of the cruelty of nature,” she proclaimed, a sharp edge to her tone, “The water, violent and relentless, has carved its way through the land, doggedly determined to destroy anything in its path.”
“That’s a rather pessimistic way of seeing things.”
“Is it?” she challenged, piercing me with her stare once more, “It will take the very floor beneath our feet given time and inclination.”

Yes but

“True enough,” I concede.  She raised an eyebrow as her hair whiped in the wind, “That being the case, then what is the point?”
“Well there is none,” she retorted matter-of-factly.  “Life is short and hard and random and insignificant.”
“So you’re here to end it then?”
My blunt question catches her off guard and she shifts slightly on her feet.  “That obvious am I?”
I find myself fighting back a smirk dancing at the corner of my lips. “I have an eye for these things.”
She goes on the offensive, jutting out her chin, goading mixed with indignation.  “I suppose you’ll try to stop me.”
“Not at all.”
Her brow furrows, “Then what will you do?”

Then take my hand

“Help?” she spits, distaste and disbelief wrapped up in the word.
I nod gently, “That’s what I’m here for.”
She eyes me up, taking in my whole self for the first time, and apparently I am left wanting.  “You came to jump?” scepticism dripping from her voice.
“Not exactly,” I reply calmly, “I’m here for you.  If that’s how you want to do it then I guess that’s what I’ll be doing.”
The furrow deepens, the cloud of thoughts swirling once again.
“No one should be alone for this…and no one is.”  I catch her gaze and I push the cloud aside, dispelling it, and in that instant I see the familiar wave of clarity form on her face.

“Take my hand”
“I can’t”
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes but”
“Then take my hand”

Our fingers intertwine and the wind howls a cry across the valley.  Without a blink she grasps the railing and the world itself shifts as we pivot across the equilibrium.  She glances back at the railing, her pale bitten fingers the fine line between the now and the next, before locking eyes with me once more.  I smile and nod gently, and she lets go.


They bustled through the door; the daughter ushered into her seat, the mother fumbling with bags, neither looking especially comfortable at the prospect of being here which is generally how most people enter my office. I glance down at her record: fifteen, vaccinations up to date, no significant illnesses or concerns thus far, though prone to influenza. I look up at them mechanically with a smile that I hope doesn’t appear as rehearsed as it is.

“What seems to be the problem?”

A full silence sits between them. Mother elbows daughter, making wide-eyed encouragement and receiving very little back. I lean into my desk slightly, an attempt at closeness across the vast expanse between us.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, I guarantee whatever you have to say I’ll have heard a thousand times before.”

Her insecure gaze catches mine a moment and darts away. I look across at the stern-faced mother and back again.

“Maybe you’d be happier if we talked privately?”

“I’m in love.” The statement hung heavy in the air and while a tension remained stretched across her shoulders I could see a fraction of relief seeping out of her; the first hurdle successfully jumped.

“OK, well, first of all, you did the right thing coming to see me,” I offer in as soothing a voice as I can muster, “It takes a great deal of courage to acknowledge it, let alone say it out loud. Now, if I may, I have a few questions, is that alright?”

She shifts in her chair, legs and arms unfurling ever so slightly, and nods for me to continue. I pick up my pen and let it hover over the paper, the questions appearing stacked in my mind.

“OK. When did you first start to feel like this?”

She thinks, her eyes darting, replaying memories, searching for the beginning, “a few months ago I guess.”

Her mother’s eyebrows are momentarily lost in her hairline. I shoot a glance at her, one that says ‘do not startle the deer’ and she looks away. I return my attention to the daughter, carefully probing further.

“Was there anything in particular that triggered it?”

She stumbles over words, trying to find the right ones, “I dunno I… I guess I first noticed this day in maths. These guys were being rude to me and he told them to shut up and I… I guess I didn’t think he even knew who I was before then.” A gentle smile crept in at the corner of her mouth, her eyes glazed with memory, while her mother feigned something in her eye to wipe away a tear.

“So this love, how would you categorise it?”

Her brow furrows, “What do you mean?”

“Love comes in many forms,” I explain patiently, “Familial love for a parent or sibling, love for a close friend or kindred spirit, romantic love, love of consumables such as foods, love of a place or object such as books…”

“Romantic,” she interjects, her cheeks turning a soft rose, “this one is romantic.”

“This one?!” The mother, who’s lips have remained pursed until now, flails dramatically as if she were aboard a sinking ship.

“I don’t mean it like that, it’s just him,” the daughter huffs, tired of a cyclical argument that I imagine has been going on a while to bring them to this point.

“What do you mean?” I pose calmly.

“This instance of love.”

The air thickens to the point of choking but I press on. “So you’ve had more than one instance?”

She looks between the two of us, furrow returned, “Well, obviously.”

“Which kind?” I press.

She falters, the momentary confidence waning, “All of them…”

I nod and scribble a note on my pad, doing my best to keep a supportive smile on my face, “And these other affectionate feelings, they started when?”

She looks between us as if waiting of a punchline. “Always.” She turns to her mother to be greeted only by a cold shoulder, “Are you…are you seriously saying you don’t love me?”

I hold the tissue box out and the mother tugs at them; one, two, three.  The daughter’s cheeks puff with stone, fighting back the salty sting at the corners of her eyes.  “Mum?”

Breathing deep she turns to her daughter, the first moment of genuine eye contact during this whole visit.  To the naive eye I can see where the girl will have gotten the idea from, many of the surface signs of love are there, but then that is what I’m trained to spot.

“Mina it’s different,” the words fighting through breath, through the harsh realization that her daughter has been battling this unnoticed for so long.

“It’s true,” I find myself chiming in, “Chemically you are flooded with an excess of oxytocin, probably increased adrenaline and norepinephrine too, we’ll do some test to determine what exactly your imbalance is so we can get you on the best treatment programme.  Your mother…”

“Treatment programme?” her words cutting, “I don’t need treatment, there’s nothing wrong with me!”

“But you just said…”

“She dragged me here this isn’t….You can’t be being serious!!”

“I’m afraid I am, Mina.  What you’re experiencing…it’s not normal.  But it’s ok, it’s just a chemical imbalance.  We’ll have you right as rain in no time.”

Second Chance

She sank into the large leather wingback, crossing one leg over the other, enjoying the glimpse of her favourite shoes as she cast her eyes about the room. Ruby’s sported only arty mood lighting so it was filled with shadowy corners draped in red velvet, but then you didn’t exactly come here for the view.
Drink?  Yes
Dance?  On occasion
Escape?  Always

She closed her eyes and let the music move through her, the walking jazz baseline pulsing through the drink clutched between her finger tips, wrist hanging limp over the arm of the chair. Her tongue darted across her lips to catch a trace of liquor but caught only gloss and she pouted, partly at the now required effort to catch a taste, partly as she remembered the deep shade of red she had painted on for the occasion and knew how fantastic she looked when she pouted just so.

“May I?” The soft baritone was like butter and the tall drink of water it belonged to was gesturing to the chair beside her.
She let a wry smile crease her lips, “You may.”

He was older, dashing, fair hair shot through with grey, laughter lines tickling at the corner of his eyes. He wore his shirt collar loose, draping his jacket over the back of the chair before settling into it. His soft blue stare drank her in, and she loved it.

“To whom do I owe the pleasure?” she asked, that fine line between sultry sing-song and coy that the boys all like so much. This one though. A shadow seemed to flit across his eyes at the question, for so brief a moment that she doubted herself immediately.
He held out his hand to her, “James, and the enchantress before me?”
“Enchantress?” she gasped, a grin spreading wide as she placed her hand into his. “Why sir, I do believe you have quite the wrong impression of me already.”
“And yet I am certainly under your spell” He pressed his lips gently to the back of her hand, lingering a moment before relinquishing.
“Maggie.” There was something about him. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. Something warm and inviting yet teasingly aloof. “So, what brings you to such a fine establishment on a night like this?”
He glanced about a moment before answering, the question hanging in the air among the candlelight. “I was hoping to run into an old friend,” he sighed, “it looks like I’ve missed them.”
She leaned in, placing her hand on his arm, “I guess you’ll just have to make do with me.”

The song finished and she put her drink down to applaud. The enthusiastic slap of her hands rang out in the empty bar but that only increased her effort, an attempt to make up for the lack of patrons. He grinned and stood to join her, whooping and hollering for an encore. The band struck up again and they cheered.

Their eyes collided, breathless, and he thrust out his hand to her, an invitation. She grasped it and together they began to spin and twirl, weaving together as if they were one and had been always. The music slowed and her pulled her in close, swaying together.
“What’s the name of this place again?” his voice vibrating through his chest against her.
“Of course,” a fond smile tickling at the corner of his mouth, “we did always love it here. Made a good martini.”

She pulled away, reaching for her drink, “shame you didn’t catch your friend.” She took a long gulp, waiting for the whiskey sting at the back of her throat but all she could taste was water. Damn ice.
“I didn’t mean…” A frown streaked across his face and frustratingly he looked even more adorable.
“It’s my luck, I always fall for the unavailable ones,” she huffed, “Sailors on leave, cadets shipping off, married, emotionally stunted, I’m some sort of bastard whisperer.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” He stepped towards her and like repelling magnets she stepped away.
“So you’re married then.”  She drank deep again and still the whiskey came up short.  “What the fuck is with this drink?!”

She glanced down at the glass in her hand and confusion swarmed.  It was not the cut-glass tumbler brimming with gold that she had expected.  Instead she held a stout, plain highball containing naught but water.
“What’s this?  Did you get me this?”
“No, you had it the whole…”
“Did you swap out my drink?”
“No, I…”
“Does a woman drinking offend you?” she screeched as she advanced on him. “Are you one of those old boys that likes their women chained to the kitchen sink?”
“Midge, it’s ok.”

Her vision swam and time faltered.  The candlelit club flickered to a dim sitting room, the final turn of the vinyl halted the band.  Fingers of clarity crept in and she looked into his eyes again, and yet for the first time.  “Jim?”

His arms outspread and reaching, he approached her softly, like a bomb that may explode at any moment.  “Midge? I’m here, it’s me.”
She carefully put down the glass and backed away from it into his arms.  “Where am I?  What’s going on?  I thought…”
“It’s ok,” his strong arms folding around her, tears stinging his eyes.  “I’m here.  I’ve got you.”

The lucid days were always bittersweet.  It was a dream to have his wife, his best friend back, but it always began with that same explanation, the same tears, the same heart ache.
As always he told her about the children; how Mark is engaged and their first grandchild is due any day now.
As always she gave him messages to pass on, messages she tried to pack full of love and meaning.
As always she asked about him; had he moved on, had he met someone.
As always he said he never could, that he is her husband.
And as always she chastised him and tried to set him up with a nurse.

They would talk away the time until eventually it returned for her; her grip on his arm would loosen, the mist would fill her eyes and she would sink into her chair.  He would sit with her a while longer, clinging to the chance that it might just be temporary, but it never was.  The real her was the temporary version now.

More Time

The hush of the door
The pad of a foot
The stifled giggles of untameable excitement

I brace myself for what I know is to come.

I hold my eyes tight shut, burying my face into the duvet and savour the last brief moments of sleep, shadows of dreams still dancing across my eyelids.  A ball of knees and elbows hits me square in the back and my breath leaves me despite the anticipation. The whirling dervish throws herself this way and that, and any frustration quickly melts as Kaylah throws her arms around me, the laughter coming out in squeals.

“I got you Mummy!”
“Yes, you did, little bear,” I say as she dives under the duvet, snuggling into the crook of my arm.  “Did you sleep well?”
She nods in that way she does that ripples through her whole body and another knot loosens in my stomach.
“I dreamed that there were dinosaurs,” she exclaims, her hands flailing in front of her, painting the picture of the huge creatures. “We had a pet one called Rufus, and we played games and he ate a lot.”
“Did he?” I ask in the sing-song voice of all very interested parents.
“Yes, his favourite was pizza and milkshake, just like me, that’s why he was our pet, because we like the same things.”
“Of course,” I pull her closer, breathing her in, the fluff of her hair tickling my nose.  “Well maybe today we could go and see some real dinosaurs.”
Her eyes widen and her lips crease before spreading into a toothy grin.
“We can?!  For real?!”
I nod, “For real.”
Another elbow to the gut as she throws off the covers and bounds out of the room, but this time I don’t mind quite so much.  It’s always worth it for that smile.


We spend the afternoon wandering the rooms of the museum, weaving between statues and marvelling at paintings.  I purposely save the best for last.  Her charging and dancing slows to a stop as she gazes up at the reconstructed diplodocus looming over her. She leans, arching her back to get a full view, eyes wide, mouth gaping.

“Mummy look!” she gasps, pointing, and I join her, crouching down to take in the magnitude of what she is seeing.
“This,” I explain, following the line of her arm, “is what a real dinosaur looked like when they were alive millions of years ago.”
She wrenches her eyes away and tilts her quizzically, “Why did the dinosaurs all die?”
“Well,” I lead her to the sign at the foot of the towering creature, “we don’t know for sure, but most people think that it was because a large meteorite, a big rock, that it hit the Earth.”
“Not how Mummy, I mean why?” Her deep brown eyes swim with questions.
I draw her close and whisper, “I don’t know the answer to that sweetheart, I wish I did.”
I see the cogs turning behind her furrowed brow.  “But if they are all gone then where is Rufus?”
I chuckle, the crux of her woes revealed.
“I think I know, come on little bear.”
I take her hand and we exit through the giftshop.


The early evening light is still warm so we pick a table outside and enjoy our pizza and milkshakes, making sure to share a slice with Rufus.  She babbles on, as much to the toy as to me, and I just drink her in; my bright, energetic, beautiful girl.  I think of all the milestones still to come, each one flashing before my eyes like a photo album yet to be made: her first day at big school, her exam stress, her graduation, her first job, her first love, her first heart break…

She slurps at the dregs of her milkshake and I resist the urge to snap at her; it’s been a good day, there’s no need.  Instead I sigh deeply and pick up my bag, slipping a few notes under the edge of my plate, before slinging the strap over my shoulder.

“Come on then little bear, time to head home.”
She hops up from the table and skips a little way down the street, chattering away to herself.  She reaches the corner and she stops, spinning around, a look of gravity on her young face.
“Mummy, Rufus says he would like to play some more before going to bed, and I need to give him a tour of the house.”
I let the smallest hint of a smile crack as I nod towards her.  She turns back to the corner, a silhouette against the setting sun and I turn away.

I hold myself straight, eyes fixed ahead.
Just breathe.

Horn blares
Breaks squeal

After follows the void; a silence that screams with how full it is.  I hold my eyes tight shut, tears tugging at the corners, until the screams come.  I turn and walk, robot-like, and carefully scoop up the crumpled body of my daughter, dinosaur still clutched firmly.

The journey home is a blur of streets and cars, trees and lamplight, my wet eyes leaving my vision swimming.  I drop the keys on the counter and force the door closed with my back, pushing my way through the house.  Her room is a sea of purple, a torment, like the rising bruises belong.  I place her limp form gently on the bed and tease the toy from her grasp, pulling the cover up to her chin.  Aside for a small graze on her cheek I could convince myself she’s sleeping.

I place my lips gently on her forehead, breathing her in, before I back out of the room I have tried to repaint time and time again.  I look down at the bloodied Rufus in my hands, his big eyes and toothy grin too close for comfort.  I open the cupboard on the landing and place him between the crooked doll and the torn teddy, a flake of dried blood floating out like confetti.  The cupboard is nearing full, each carrying a little piece of her.  I’ll have to think of somewhere else to keep them soon.

I close my bedroom door behind me and slip between the sheets, clutching at the thick duvet like a lifeline.  I have given up on trying to save her, she’s always taken in the end.  No matter where we go or what we do death finds her.  Yet every night I hear myself crying out my unanswered prayer, “please let tomorrow be different.”  When I begged for more time, I never thought it would be like this.

The Sitter

She flopped down heavily into the chair, letting her limbs hang limp, willing the tension out through her tips.  What a day.  The chair back sat far too upright for her liking, but it was especially good for times like these; she pushed herself into it and rolled her tense shoulders this way and that, easing the knots and twists threading through her muscles.  The children had finally settled, she could breathe easy.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve had children for, or even how many you have, no matter what you always reach a point of confidence that is unceremoniously dashed by one of the little shits.  Not shits, obviously not but…shits.  She cast her eyes across the room to where they slept, the shadows settled over their peaceful faces.  They are always so cute when they are sleeping; the gentle flutter of eyelashes, the ruddy cheeks, the subtle twitch of tiny fingers.  It is worth it really.

She rose soundlessly and padded across to the mirror, collecting scattered playthings from the floor as she went.  She knew what she would see but that did not stop her from wrinkling her nose at the sight, distaste flowering into hopelessness.  It was her same self, tall and slender, but her once sleek curls hung limp and matted, her smooth skin now thin and worn like crumpled paper, and her hands rippled over with veins and spots of age.  Time ticks on and every day had carved its end into the lines on her face.

Maybe she could have just one.  She could practically feel her body screaming out to her in the way it often does, yearning, screaming into the void within her only a child could fill.  Patience, she insisted upon herself.  Timing is everything.  Plus, once you’ve had one the others go so quickly.  No.  Wait.  The taste of flesh and the touch of youth will come soon enough.

A rumble vibrated through the stone floor, slicing through her thoughts, and a smile curled at her lips.  The armful of remains dropped with a clatter, echoing through the web of bones strung across the ceiling.

“It seems the cavalry has arrived!  Ready for dinner, my darlings?”

She ran her fingers through the fur of the large cat-like creatures at her feet, their tails whipping the air with anticipation of the battle to come.  Well…massacre really but they do love to play with their food.

They followed her as she returned to the throne, throwing her feet over one side and digging at the sinew lodged in her teeth with a sharpened digit.  Rats are a fine snack but such beautiful beasts need something far more sustaining and she was loathe to waste too many of the children on anyone other than herself.  Thankfully the inevitable angry mob always served a suitable offering.  Like any traveller would rid a town of such an infestation for free, and she rarely accepts payment in gold…

The saviours edged their way into the cavern, blades drawn, their every step ringing through the bone chandelier like music to her ears.  The group was the smallest ever to visit her home, perhaps she had underestimated this little town, not quite as many idiots as she first thought.

“Ah!  The heroes of Hamlyn!  You took your time.”

It’s intro time

I’m Hannah, still confused reigning champion back to write another day. Having destroyed one of Steve’s favourite songs last year I’m surprised he’s letting me back in so, before he takes it back, I pledge to continue my quest as Queen of Darkness.

I could waffle more, I am a writer after all, but Steve made the mistake of saying beautifully flattering words so I’ll borrow those instead:

“Some would say that for every light, there must be shadow; in some areas, shadows are so thick they are palpable. I offer this statement so I can ask you to guide me to the light that created the darkness that is Hannah Torrance. Wickedly funny, slightly disturbed, and deceivingly innocent; also applies to her writing.”

You flatterer sir. It will not save you from your untimely demise…

A Heart Gifted

Once upon a time, some years ago, there lived a girl. Her fine auburn hair and bright green eyes could easily lead you to believe she was just another girl in just another story, but what would be the point of telling it if that were the case? No, this girl had something distinctly different about her, namely a small door in the centre of her chest. Now do not let your mind fool you, this is not a door to anywhere in particular and it is certainly not wooden or made of anything other than flesh. It was not put there by some witch’s curse or anything untoward at all; she was merely born in possession of a door to her heart.

Her mother, acknowledging that this was quite a peculiar situation, took the key born inside her navel and attached it to a fine silver chain that she wore around her neck, ensuring the security of her daughter’s heart. As she grew, her mother taught her as much as she could about life and love, filling their home with books of love stories of all kinds and regaling her with her own encounters so as to balance the knightly chivalry. But, as is often the case in these stories, not long after her sixteenth birthday, her mother fell gravely ill. Upon her deathbed, her mother took the fine chain from the safety of her neck and gave it to her daughter.
“Take care my wise and beautiful girl, for one day your heart will belong to another, but be sure that they offer their own to replace it.”

The girl had the gravediggers put her mother to rest in a clearing by the river so that she could always enjoy the rush of the water and the sway of the leaves. Every week the girl would walk the long journey to sit by her mother’s side at the water’s edge and tell her stories of her life. On one such day, as she dipped her toes into the cool river, a loud splash rang out from upstream. Poised to jump to the rescue she cast her eyes across the surface. After a moment or two a head broke through and proceeded to bob about in a most contented way. Relieved she settled herself again but found she was distracted from her usual routine. Instead she watched. Watched this boy with hair like corn and eyes like the sky swim from one bank to another, and as she did she felt a strange shift in her chest.

“I’ve seen you here before,” he said
He had caught her in a daydream, something similar to this but in slow motion, and so she hadn’t seen him swim right up next to her.
“Really? I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m here every week as you are. I’m usually much quieter but I felt it was about time we met.”
“You’ve been spying on me?”
“At first I didn’t want to risk missing out on your stories, but then I realised if I didn’t introduce myself I might miss out on your stories.”

A smile flew to her lips and the shift in her chest became a pull, like her heart was trying to escape right through the door.
“What kind of story would you like to hear?”

They talked for hours until dusk fell. Every week she returned and he was there waiting for her. For months this continued until one day as they sat beneath the trees, droplets of rain began to fall, getting rapidly faster and harder. The boy took hold of her hand and they began to run. She lead him all the way back home and once inside she set a fire for them to warm themselves by. By the light of the flames he leaned in close, traced the line of her cheek, and delicately placed his lips to hers. As he pulled away he nervously whispered, “my darling girl, I think I love you.”

At that, a smile flourishing across her face, she took the fine chain from around her neck and placed the key carefully into the lock. With a small click, like the pop of bone, the door swung open to reveal her heart. She took it carefully in her hand, lifted it from where it had rested all her life, and held it to his chest. Gently, and without resistance, her heart melted through his skin until it disappeared, and as it did so did a heart appear within her momentarily empty chest.
“You have my heart,” she said
He looked into her eyes and shone a smile full of warmth, “and you mine”.

I would love to say, dear reader, that that is where the story ends, but as I mentioned before, what would be the point of telling the story if that were the case? They were together for many years, living happily, loving much, until one day the girl awoke and felt something quite strange. She sat up in bed and as she did so she felt a rattle come from inside her chest. She took the key from around her neck and fit it into the lock. As the door swung open she saw the boy’s heart, where it had been for many years, and yet there seemed to be a piece missing. She reassured herself it was nothing, closing the door in her chest.

Later that day, while the boy was out at the market, she settled down to read. As she did so she felt a sharp pain strike her chest. She once again took out the key, but this time as the door swung wide she found half a heart gently beating. Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes filled with tears. What had happened for her to lose his heart?

She set out for the market to find him, to try to understand. But everyone she asked at the market insisted they hadn’t seen him all day. All week in fact.

That night as the boy returned home the girl was sat there waiting by the hearth, embers growing cold.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“At market, as I said.”
“You’re lying. I went to the market and no one there had seen you. Not seen you all week they said.”
“Well then they are as blind as they are old.”
At that, the girl turned towards him and the boy saw the door to her heart wide open. Empty.
“Who has your heart now?” she asked.
“No one.”
“You lie. You do not fall out of love in a day. Tell me to whom it belongs.”
The boy looked down to his feet before replying. “I met her at the market only last week. We talked for hours each day, as we did all those years ago, then yesterday she kissed me. I’ve never felt anything like it. I saw her again today and now… She has my heart.”
“Then return mine,” replied the girl through gritted teeth and salty tears.
“I don’t think I can.”

That night, as the boy slept soundly on the sofa, the girl tossed and turned, unable to settle without the familiar beat of his heart in her chest. She rose from her bed and stood over him awhile, watching the familiar rise and fall. She reached out and placed her splayed palm over his heart to feel the beat. She thought back to the moment they declared their love and how easily her heart had slipped through his skin. As she held that memory in her mind she pushed gently with her index finger and felt the familiar pressure of his body slip away. Slowly, carefully, she pressed one finger after another through his skin and closed her hand around his heart.

The boy awoke with a start to see the girl looming over him and he could feel her hand clamped around his heart. It was like he couldn’t breathe. He swallowed great gulps of air but it made no difference. He tried to cry out but the pressure was so great he quickly choked on his own voice. She met his gaze with a calmness that felt colder than anything he had seen.
“I am taking back what’s mine.”

At this she drew back her arm and with it the boy’s beating heart. She watched him stare at it, pulsing pink in her hand, before he heaved one last breath and the glisten of life disappeared from his eyes. She took the key from around her neck and opened the door with a click, placing the heart carefully inside her own chest and shutting the door after it.