Stuff (an Autumn poem)

The crisp wind’s kisses bless my cheeks,
the golden leaves begin their dance.
A woollen jumper worn for weeks,
a cup of tea at any chance.

The crinkling, crunching leaves in piles,
and walking through the longer dark.
A bonfire we can see for miles,
and Halloween to make its mark.

My breath takes form before my eyes,
an inner dragon starts to wake.
Autumnal clouds in leaden skies,
this season’s gifts are ours to take.

Shitty Days

Phil had a bit of a problem: the universe didn’t like him. People tend not to realise that the universe has its own views, they don’t realise that it has thoughts at all, let alone desires and certainly not a sense of humour. Sometimes the universe does things we can appreciate, like creating beings which can appreciate. But sometimes the universe does things we don’t like, sending meteors careening off towards a planet filled with life or causing earthquakes; it does not do these things cruelly, it is simply indifferent. The universe was not indifferent to Phil, it actively played pranks on him, deliberately trying to bring mischief to his life. It hadn’t always been that way…

One morning, Phil woke up to his alarm as per usual, but sitting next to his bed was a short, elderly man on a stool, swinging a pocket watch in his wizened hand with a pendulous motion. “You will go back to sleep,” he began, “you will forget about work for today.” Before he could object, before he could even panic at the sight of an intruder, Phil had fallen back to sleep and forgot about going to work.

Later that morning, Phil woke up without his alarm. There was no little old man, the window was closed, the bedroom door locked. An odd dream, he thought. Phil tried to sit up, but the effort it took was enormous. He felt his body begin to be pulled down into the bed, it was agonising, his head, neck and shoulders stayed where they were, pinned firmly down, as his legs and torso were being stretched for miles down through his bed. His body was on fire, his eyes boiling, his flesh blistering. He was ready to give up and die when he passed out.

Phil woke three days later, he did not know the time as all of his clocks were showing different times. He got out of bed, his back was aching, and stumbled to the bathroom. As he stood in front of the sink, cleaning his teeth, his phone rang – it was work – he felt a sudden lurch and was thrown to the floor, his head hit the mat with a thud. He shook himself then stood up, paying no attention to what was around him, or rather what wasn’t around him. His bathroom had disappeared, his house had disappeared, the whole planet had disappeared. He looked down, but there was no down, there was space everywhere he looked, distant stars as far as he could see. He clung to the mat, struggling to breathe, slowly freezing. He closed his eyes, trembling violently, then opened them again and was back on the bathroom floor, his toothbrush resting near his head, the toothpaste smeared along the tiles. It was the last of the toothpaste.

Phil spent most of the day buried in an ant-hill with only his head poking out. The ants which owned the hill tickled him all over, crawled over his face, burrowed into his ears and prodded his eyeballs with their tarsal claws. He had resigned himself to this fate when his phone rang again. He agreed to go out for drinks – anything would be better than the ant-hill.

None of Phil’s clothes would fit. They had all been altered. His trousers were too long, his shirts were too tight or missing sleeves, his socks seemed to be paired between one the size of a sleeping bag and one which barely covered his big toe, his shoes even appeared to be made out of cardboard. Nothing he wore looked good, but he still found the resolve to go to the pub despite looking his absolute worst. Finally dressed, he walked down the stairs towards the front door. His staircase was nothing unusual, boasting the standard thirteen steps, but over three thousand steps later he had reached the bottom, sweating through his mismatched clothing, still unaware of the actual time.

He reached for the door handle but could not grasp it, like in a dream where the usually tangible becomes intangible, as though he was vibrating at completely the wrong frequencies and passing straight through the gaps in the atoms. This torturous phantasmagoria drove Phil to bash the door out of frustration. He heard a creaking. The door handle was suddenly physical again, but the door hinges were starting to buckle. He threw caution to the wind and opened the door; the wind threw him back against the stairs without caution. He charged head first against the forceful gales, he knew he didn’t have far to go to get to the pub. Everyone he passed on the way was heavily armed. He saw all manner of weapons, mostly guns, swords, the occasional axe, a cricket bat, and even an unusually large, muscular man with a peashooter.

He wasn’t strong enough to open the pub door but managed to sneak in when, what must have been a fourteen-year-old girl with a fake ID, opened the door with ease. The pub was crowded, he spotted his friends in amongst the throng, past a large group of girls. There was a deep rumbling beneath the music, at first he thought the bass had been turned up, but it was getting louder. The wall at the other end of the pub came crashing down, waves smashed through the droves and slammed down on Phil. It forced its way up his nose and mouth, choking him. It pounded his ribs, putting pressure on his chest. He tried to breathe but felt the fist of the water thumping down his gullet. His body buffeted off the bar, the tables, the walls, as the waves carried him back towards his home.

He washed up onto his bed, where he curled up into a ball and cried himself to sleep. The universe doesn’t do that sort of thing to Phil every day, it often leaves him alone, but sometimes it just takes the piss. If anything knows how to really take the piss, it’s the universe.

First Kiss

They stood, gazing nervously into each other’s eyes. Oliver had placed his left hand on Sarah’s waist, his right hand, slightly sweaty, was palm to palm with hers, their fingers intertwined. She was trembling, but Oliver didn’t notice. He was breathing slightly heavily and his heart was trying to force its way out of his chest through his ribcage as she bit her lip invitingly.

Months had led up to that moment. Neither of them had been keen on the prospect of dating, but after countless furtive glances and repeated fleeting eye contact, their mutual friends finally forced them to act on their attraction. This led to a lot of awkward messaging, a lot of ambiguity and misunderstanding as they both repeatedly bottled attempts to ask the other out, but eventually they agreed to meet up, alone, with neither daring to call it a date.

The date that wasn’t openly acknowledged as a date wasn’t a complete disaster. Oliver wasn’t able to drive and had forgotten to book a taxi, so they had to get the bus. Sarah nervously rang the bell on the bus early, resulting in them having to cross a very muddy field – she was too embarrassed to admit her mistake and stay on the bus for two more stops. They eventually arrived at the zoo, where Oliver hoped to impress his date with some esoteric facts about the animals there; some might refer to Oliver as an animal lover, but he prefers animal enthusiast, not due to some fear that people might accuse him of bestiality, though he wouldn’t put it past them, but because he could honestly say that he has only ever loved one animal – his pet cat, Jones. His mental fact-file of animal trivia had gotten stuck on just one section – sex. ‘Did you know,’ he blurted out, ‘that female spotted hyaenas have an elongated clitoris called a pseudo-penis?’ They weren’t even looking at hyaenas at the time, as they are not to be found in the reptile enclosure.

The first part of the sort-of date led to the second, the meal, where Oliver mostly worried about pairing the wrong wine with the meal, though neither of them were drinking wine. They ate in relative silence, mostly reverting back to the quick, stolen glances they were more used to. She was damn near perfect, or so he reckoned. He could overlook the occasional grammatical errors in her messages, the way she dressed as though she was about to spend the evening on the couch, her lack of understanding of quantum mechanics and her distaste for Fifth Element. She was flawless. Oliver insisted on paying the bill but was overzealous with the tip. When they left the restaurant, Sarah ended up having to pay for the taxi.

Oliver and Sarah got out of the taxi together just outside her house. Oliver was feeling bold and yet terrifyingly nervous at the same time. The wine he hadn’t drunk had somehow gone to his head on top of the beer he had with his meal. She was intoxicating enough without alcohol. Oliver found his hand toying gently with hers, his other moving to her waist, and he leant in to kiss her.

At first, he wasn’t sure what he was doing, but it was amazing. Her lips were so soft, her tongue teased his, her hands pulled him in tighter. He felt the warmth of her body next to his, feeding into him, making him feel stronger. His body tingled, he felt electricity in his fingertips, in his toes, his hair was surely standing on end, he’d never felt excitement like it. The pounding in his chest was drowned out by the most ethereal choral music, entire hosts of angels in exultation for him, singing his praises to the heavens.

His mind went blank, had emptied in one orgasmic pulse, then filled again, slowly, liltingly. He felt the rhythm of her entire being as he saw everything. The entire universe, every particle, every antiparticle, every galaxy, every black hole, every flow of time and imaginary time, from beginning to end and end to beginning. She was melting into him, every inch of her body was consumed by his, every thought in her mind absorbed into his essence. They were one, now and forever, united by a kiss.

The first kiss. Sarah would never forget it. She’d always had a soft spot for Oliver, he looked at her as though he wanted her for who she was and not just another pretty girl. It took him a while to ask her out, but he didn’t dare call it a date and neither did she. It was an immensely awkward day, but there they were, outside Sarah’s house, pushing each other’s boundaries. Then he kissed her. It was tentative at first, but nice. She began to feel relaxed and pulled him in closer, she did not want the kiss to end too soon. He was warm, he’d been sweating a fair bit all day too, but it wasn’t too noticeable. He seemed to be getting hotter, it felt like he was melting. She felt herself unable to pull away, being pulled in tighter, his gravity was increasing; the parts of her body closest to him felt as though they were being torn away from her back, like some warped tug of war with her body. The pressure was intensifying, she felt her flesh searing as vibrations shattered her bones. Her febrile mind was rent into pieces as he forced his way into every memory, every private fantasy, every dream. Everything went white.

Sarah awoke in a prison. She could see out into the world but could do nothing. It was dark, it was lonely, there was no way out. She had been broken beyond fixing, she didn’t even want to be fixed. She wanted nothing. No life, no thoughts, no desires. Nothing.

Oliver stood alone outside Sarah’s house, looking up at the stars. He felt Sarah’s warmth deep inside him, smiled to himself, and went home. He had everything he wanted. It had been a good kiss.