The Survivor

“Never trust a survivor until you find out what they did to stay alive,” she says, approaching the boy steadily as he backs away, tripping over a pile of wet logs in the process and falling backwards into the snow.

Even as he whimpers – a cascading jumble of pathetic pleas and empty threats – she continues to inch toward him with the felling axe raised above her right shoulder. It’s not that she isn’t empathetic – he’s only a kid after all, her guess would be about 18 or 19, but the fact of the matter is, she’s always been a survivor and surviving means putting yourself first. Numero Uno.

“I’m sorry I asked! Please!”

He’s still wriggling around in the snow, yellow staining the otherwise untainted ice as he pisses his pants. She can’t help but find humour in the fact that it looks like the sun’s coming out of his ass.

“I honestly would’ve preferred the company,” she says as she reaches his feet “but this is the only way I see us getting out of here.” He lets out a final yelp as her axe comes down and suddenly yellow isn’t the only colour painting the snow.

It had been two weeks since the accident. Fourteen full and agonizing days since the Sundowner, a four person carrier, crashed into a small summit the pilot failed to see because of testing weather conditions. He died immediately, so naturally Regina left him there as the gas tank sparked and combusted.

His son, however, had been unconscious but otherwise unharmed except for a scratch or two so she pulled him out of the carrier and into the safety of a small alcove. There they remained for a week, hoping that someone would come when no radio contact could be established. It soon became obvious the weather wouldn’t allow that, even on the off chance that someone was actually aware they were out here.

It was winter and when the snow didn’t fall, the rain pounded down, turning the earth into a muddy slush. The temperatures plummeted further every day, erasing green from the landscape to create a blank canvas. Beautiful as it was, it eliminated the possibility of foraging and setting traps became an impossibility.  Even if it wasn’t, there were no animals to hunt for – whatever wasn’t in hibernation, wouldn’t be able to make the treacherous hike up this way. Which meant only one thing, they had to go down.

Unfortunately, Jose – whose name she only learnt two days after the accident when he decided to speak again – had twisted his ankle and although it wasn’t a life-threatening injury, it meant keeping the pressure off. However, that wasn’t an option, so they just had to take things slow and soldier down, because she sure as hell wasn’t dying up here – especially not after what she’d been through six years before.

So on the eighth day, they set out. Jose with a makeshift crutch and Regina with an axe, a bag of clothes she’d found a few feet from the wreckage and a bottle of distilled piss. Classy gal, she thought. It was a timely process with Jose having to take regular breaks, but they made decent progress on the first day, especially given the dangerous route they were taking. It was slippery and narrow, but the quickest way down by Regina’s estimations.

They continued this way for the next three days; hiking during the day and stopping at dusk to kindle a fire from Jose’s dead father’s clothes, a couple of dry twigs Regina picked up in the alcove they left behind and her knowledge of survival skills from six years ago. Much easier, she thought as the fire sparked and she remembered being in a sodden cocktail dress, cold and shaking so much that it was impossible to rub the twigs together for long enough.

On the twelfth day, she was woken by an ache in her stomach that made her acutely aware of the one thing she’d been successfully avoiding thus far; she was hungry. Not eating is an interesting thing really. The first couple of days are sheer torture – your head’s spinning, your stomach’s screaming and food is the only thing you can think about, but as time continues and your body realises it’s not getting fed, it goes into survival mode and you can mostly move it to the back of your mind. They were, however, nearing the two-week mark and that wasn’t an easy thing.

As she lay face to face with Jose on the only sliver of dry land they could find, her stomach in a violent protest, she considered the only thing that would distract her and in the process save her from losing her mind. So she slid her hand in between his legs.

He was more than half her age sure, but she had always been complimented on her looks. A cared-for porcelain complexion complimented by her short, blonde crop and blue-green eyes. Her hair had been long her entire life, until six years ago when being stranded on an island during hurricane season meant that it was always dripping wet – she decided then to hack it off and had kept short ever since then.

Jose’s eyes flew open. Dark, chocolate eyes that seemed light in comparison to a head of dark hair that he wore in a middle-parting and down to his chin. He was handsome. Young, but handsome. Not that this was about attraction for her, she just welcomed a distraction.

“What are you-”

She cut him off by pushing her lips into his. At first he didn’t resist, but then he pulled away, rolling onto the icy ground beyond and coming to his feet clumsily. With his breath racing and his hand held out in front of him, he cast bewildered eyes on her. She met his gaze, completely unashamed. “Well, I tried,” she said before rolling onto her back and staring up at the blackening clouds.

“What the hell was that about?”

She doesn’t reply, so the boy continued. “Listen, you’re a nice looking lady and all, but I have a girlfriend back home.”

She closed her eyes, trying to meditate or somehow still her mind. She didn’t know how it worked, she’d never tried it before, only seen people zenning out on movies. Trying to focus proved harder than she thought and it only made on recurring thought more prominent; I need to eat.

So instead she sat up on the cold ground, looking at Jose who was still standing there explaining himself.

“- And anyway,” he said, “wouldn’t that just tire us out even more?”

She smiled, pushing herself off the ground and gathering what little they had before putting out the small fire that was still crackling softly. “Don’t overthink it, kid” she said, patting him on the shoulder, “it was just something to do. Ready to go?”

The slightest touch of pink graced his cheeks before he nodded and she handed him the branch that now dutifully served as his crutch.

As they started their walk, Regina’s thoughts wandered. The unwanted memories about her time on the island sprouted from her deteriorating mind. Glimpses of the small plane plummeting down flashed before her. She still believed that they weren’t meant to survive and not many of them did, but her and Jack did and he rejected her in a similar way. The only difference was, he made her fall in love with him first.

Glancing back at Jose, she wondered if he was up to something similar? She squeezed her eyes shut, realising how crazy that was – he was just a boy.

Jack. He had been a bastard, but he had survival skills and luckily too, especially considering that she was nothing more than a socialite with her daddy’s credit card and a nice rack. She definitely wouldn’t have survived without him and yet, quite ironically, he tried to kill her on more than one occasion. Remembering how that chapter finally ended made her flinch, so she pushed it back down to where it belonged; locked away.

When they finally stopped for the evening – earlier than planned because of Jose’s complaints – Regina tried unsuccessfully to kindle the fire, despite being able to do it every night before. She could feel the irritation building and not without reason, she was hungry, tired, scared and she had spent the entire day thinking about what she had to do to get herself out of a similar bind before. Her skin crawled and when she finally boiled over, she flung the twigs away with a primal scream before falling to the snow and breaking into a pathetic sob.

“Whoa,” Jose said softly, making his way over by scuttling on his knees “are you okay?”

“No,” she said honestly, truly vulnerable for the first time.

“I-” Jose started, but trailed off. He abandoned speech and simply put his arms around her as she sobbed.

“I can’t do this again,” she cried.

Jose pulled away. “Again? This happened to you before?”

“Something similar, yes.”

The boy settled down in the snow beside her, staring at her with expectant eyes.

“I was on a plane,” she started “with my father and some of his work associates. I really didn’t have any business being there, but daddy thought it would do me good to see how things worked in his world. The plane crashed and when I woke up, my dad was already bleeding out while everyone else had died on impact – well, everyone except for me and Jack Brazer.

I didn’t have any skills to begin with, let alone knowing how to survive, but Jack did. He showed me how to weave baskets from reeds and leaves and set them just behind the tide to trap fish.

He taught me how to kindle a fire, which berries to avoid, how to distil water. Everything I’ve been able to do here has been thanks to Jack Brazer and I-”

She sobbed as her heart ached at the memory of a man she loved and then had to kill. Jose pulled her closer again and as she felt the warmth of his flesh against her, she couldn’t help but wonder if it would still her hunger.

After a while, Jose let her be, moving instead to try his hand at kindling. She looked at him as he rubbed the twigs together unsuccessfully, suspecting the twigs were now too wet to catch. They had run out of kindling the day before and they hadn’t passed any dry patches or alcoves to stock up on, in the last couple of days. That worried her, as there was no way of knowing how long their trek would take and a lack of fire meant a lack of heat and no way to distil urine for drinking water. So no water, no food, no heat and a boy in an increasing amount of pain. May as well call it quits.

She watched him move as she pulled her fingers through her cropped hair – an action that had always soothed her. Not much meat on the bone, she thought, but I wouldn’t need much. As if waking from a lucid dream, she shook her head to get rid of the thoughts. Disgusting thoughts, she chided herself and yet her hunger seemed to disagree with her.

She darted up and past Jose, the icy wind carrying his questions to her. Naturally, he was unsure of where she was going, if she’d be coming back, if she was about to leave him there. All valid questions, but ones she couldn’t take the time to answer, in fear of what she’d end up doing to him. She had to clear her mind first and thought it wouldn’t be a bad time to do a bit of recon anyway.

So she walked for a while and when she felt herself stopping short of tumbling from the edge of a small summit, she was shocked to find she didn’t remember the way there. How far had she walked and in which direction? How could she possibly find Jose again?

She sank down, her knees ploughing into the thick layer of powdery white snow that had covered the landscape that very morning. Was it darker now than when she left Jose? Perhaps, she thought but suddenly found herself uncertain of what the sky looked like before.

Catching a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye, she tiredly pushed herself back up. It was a man. No, two men. Two men in red jackets were heading in her direction from the east and she found her heartbeat racing despite herself.

They were getting closer and she knew she couldn’t let them by without getting them to help her and Jose. “Hey” she shouted as loudly as her parched throat would allow her to, not surprised by how croaky her voice sounded. It worked, the men looked in her direction, pointing as she waved her arms and quickening their pace toward her.

“Ma’am,” the one said, “are you okay?”

He was an older man with a bearded face and two burly eyebrows shading his eyes. The red hood of the windbreaker jacket he wore was pulled tightly around a wind-beaten face.

“I- we’ve been trapped up here. We crashed. We- we didn’t know how to find our way.”

As she studied the younger boy’s face, she felt vaguely aware that her brain was struggling to make connections. Sentences felt harder to utter, despite knowing what she wanted to say. The younger one spoke then. “There’s someone else up here?”

He was young, probably around Jose’s age with sky blue eyes and otherwise light features.

“Yes. A boy.”

“Take us there, we can help and then get you to safety.”

“You know how?”

The men nodded in unison and she felt her soul soar at the prospect of their rescue. She would get to eat and drink and it’ll be warm and she wouldn’t have to think about Jack and that damn island anymore.

“Come,” she said leading them in the direction she thought best. Along the way, they questioned her about how long she’d been here, how they ended up here in the first place, why she had wandered out on her own. She tried to answer them as best she could while conserving as much of the energy she had left in reserve. She didn’t ask them anything. Maybe she should’ve, but she was just too tired.

Miraculously, they found Jose and even more wonderful, was that he had managed to get a fire started against all hopes. He lay curled up and she signalled for the new arrivals to be quiet. They sat down on a sodden log away from Jose, but still close enough to feel the heat of the flames.

“Do you have any food?” The older man asked and looked disappointed when she shook her head. For a moment she wondered why they didn’t have anything to eat. If they were heading up the mountain, wouldn’t they bring provisions? The thought vanished as quickly as it had occurred to her and she looked toward Jose instead.  

The boy was stirring in his sleep, groaning every now and again and she could see his face sheen with sweat in the firefight. Is he feverish, she wondered, knowing that his ankle had gotten increasingly worse and acknowledging that their lack of food and water wasn’t helping. Anyway, they’ve been saved. They just needed to make it down the remainder of the way.

“How many days walk?”

“Two,” the older man said.

Two. That’s good, they could make two.

“My friend,” Regina said pointing at Jose, “he’d need help getting down.”

The men looked at each other, nodding before the younger one came up with an idea for a pulley system. For now, they’d rest.

Sleep came surprisingly easy and when Regina awoke the following morning, she was disappointed to find that her mind didn’t feel quite as clear as she expected it would. Groggily, she went over to Jose to check on him. He was shivering, despite beads of sweat playing a sort of Candy Crush on his forehead – popping up, amalgamating into one and then rolling down and off of his head to make way for the next line. He was ill and she’d need to get him to a hospital soon.

The men, she realised with a start. Where are they?

As if hailed by her thoughts, the younger of the two came rushing from the tree line. “He’s gone”, he cried, “he lost his footing and he’s gone.”

His eyes were brimming with tears and despite their short encounter, she felt his pain. She also felt disparaged. Would they still make it to safety now?

Day thirteen was spent in a sombre mood. Regina was concerned about Jose’s condition and the young man, who she now knew as Jack, was mourning the death of the other – was it his father? His friend? Just a travelling companion? She couldn’t remember exactly, but she mourned with him.

“Jack”, she said again, rolling the name around on her tongue and in her thoughts. It’s familiar, she thought but was distracted by Jose as the young man’s actions seemed to become increasingly erratic. She was dying to move, to get down, but she needed the pulley system completed and she couldn’t do it without Jack. Looking over at him, without appearing insensitive, she asked as kindly as she could when they would be able to get on with the pulley.

They spent the rest of the day building it from clothing Jack had available and logs they found lying around. Satisfied, Regina went to sleep knowing they would set off the following day. Home. We’re going home.

The storm woke her. That and the screams of Jose. She could only assume he was in the grips of the demons occupying his feverish dreams. She was shocked at how much worse he looked, the colour had left him, except for two deep and dark rings under his eyes.

The wind was strong, too strong to walk against and she wondered how she would possibly muster the strength to not only make the hike down herself, but to get Jose down too. She looked over at Jack, who was just rising himself and for a moment, he became a flickering image – there the one minute and gone the next.

Her vision was failing her.

“We need to move.”

“We need to eat.”

She agreed with the young man, but in the time she’d been travelling with Jose, they found nothing. Why would that be different now?

“We still have a fire going,” he continued, “we could eat the kid.”

She looked from Jack to Jose. Guilt flooding her as she recalled more than one occasion where she had actually considered that very thing. Now – now she couldn’t imagine it. With safety so close, she could push on.

I’m joking,” Jack said as she looked back at him. “Look, we’ll warm ourselves for an hour or two and then set off.”

She nodded in agreement. “Is it easy? Getting down, I mean.”

“Yeah, you just follow the trail.” Jack pointed in the direction they come from and she could see the way down, more clearly than anything before. Had they really been that close all this time?

Jose groaned again and she realised how pressing it was to get down. Quickly. How though, she wondered as she realised again how little she had left in her tank. If only I could eat.

“So how did you make it off the island in the end?”

She looked at Jack – now familiar beyond just the name. There was something in his eyes. Who was he? “The island?”

“Yeah, you told me about the island you were stranded on. Remember?”

Did she? She couldn’t remember it, but she’d been forgetting things. She struggled to keep it all straight in her head.

“You said,” Jack continued “that you trust me and I should I trust you.”

She knew him. She – she killed him, didn’t she? She couldn’t keep it straight. She- oh god, she was so hungry. Jose, Jose was dying. She needed to eat. Needed energy. She needed to get him to safety.

She looked at Jack, rising with her axe in hand. “Never trust a survivor until you find out what they did to stay alive.”

She used what little fire she had to cook with and when she had consumed her fill, her mind felt clearer. With renewed energy, she could easily get herself and Jose down – she would even hike through the night.

Despite knowing she did what she had to, she was desperate to get away from her current surroundings. She slushed through blood stained snow and back toward Jose – except Jose wasn’t there. She spun around, looking in every direction. Had he woken up and stumbled off?

“Jose!”

She turned ice cold as her mind became crystal clear, recalling the events of the day. Jack Brazer. How had she not recognized him? A ghost from her past.

The realisation hit her like a wall of bricks. A ghost was exactly what he was and if he hadn’t really been there…

What have I

She walked towards the beheaded corpse, pausing to pay her respects to the boy she so desperately wanted to save. As she stood there, in a pool of Jose’s blood, she knew she could never return from this. She continued on, taking the quickest way down by stepping off the edge of the summit.

 

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Vex & The Lady Adventurer – A Short Story

Every single time, he thought to himself, as he looked toward the clouds; a place, coincidentally, where he spent much of his time despite not being particularly fond of heights. In fact, he always thought his wings would fail him, even if his mother reassured him time and again that it isn’t even a remote possibility.

Vex could feel the call of his companion. A vibration in the pit of his red-hot belly that shook him so violently that he could do little else but heed it. It had been that way ever since their coupling and where she didn’t have much to do in order to fulfil her end of their agreement, Vex had to be at her beck and call and every whim in between.

He was keen to see what she had gotten herself into this time. Perhaps another bout with Valaz? She did love challenging herself against that abomination. The first time she took on the half-snake half-lion, she was left with little more than a nasty bruise, but this time Valaz wouldn’t go easy on her.

As his companion’s call vibrated in the pit of his stomach again, Vex put his lunch of freshly caught trout aside and positioned himself for launch. Leaning back on his haunches, his scaly skin gleaming in the afternoon sun, he accumulated all of his energy in his back legs until he could feel his muscles tautening in response. He lowered his massive, horned head and put his batty wings out to his sides. Their span was incredible, or so his friends always said. He still felt unsure about how the size of his wings could accommodate that of his body. Now, however, was not the time for doubt. He had a companion to save.

As Vex pushed himself off of the ground, the green meadow he was dining in shuddered beneath his feet. The rocky earth cracked as attentive grass blades were upturned from his mammoth force.

He had always found himself quite fond of this part; the way the wind whooshed in his minuscule eardrums as he shot through the air like an arrow loosed from a battle-ready bow. Everything shrinking away as adrenaline fuelled his fire within, only to burn away the moment he reached altitude.

It always happened the same way. His courage fading away the moment he beheld the ant-like world through patches as he tentatively flew above the clouds. With his nostrils flaring anxiously, Vex flapped toward his target as the call continued, growing more desperate by the second.

Keeping his mind distracted always helped,  so he reflected on his companion’s knack for getting herself into sticky situations. There were many occasions that made her clash with Valaz look like child’s play.

There was one time, for example, where she went down to the Ferrymen himself to try and gain entry to the underworld. When Vex rescued her, she simply asserted she had some questions for Hades.

Another time, she purposefully ran off the side of a cliff, unknowing that Vex would be there to catch her because she had antagonised a pack of centaurs who were chasing after her.

She called herself a lady adventurer, but he thought more of her as a troublemaker and certainly this time wouldn’t be any different.

As his belly glowed as warm as a coal, he lowered himself down until he was beneath the cover of the clouds, affording himself a better vantage point. He had arrived.

It didn’t look too foreboding, he confessed, as he swooped down steadily turning this way and that to inspect every corner of the land. To observers, he may have looked like a kite, manipulated by the ferocity of the wind – of course, they wouldn’t have been able to spot him, as he turned his invisibility on. It wasn’t something he or his kind was proud to use and they rarely did, but Vex was careful and when it came to humans, he was more often than not proven right in his caution.

Moving closer, he could now easily identify the architecture of the spires, the building material used in the construction and the trenches surrounding the structure – this was a castle.

He couldn’t spot his companion and yet his senses confirmed that she was here, so he lowered himself down toward a patch of land he spotted earlier. He knew he had to be completely still for the next part and so despite the protest of the surrounding shrubbery to his wing-born wind force, he settled down staying as light on his feet as possible in an effort to avoid denting the grass and arousing suspicion.

From his lookout, he spotted a couple of humans in uniforms he had encountered once before; remembering their aggression, he thought it best to avoid them if at all possible. Turning his view toward the highest spire, he spotted a glint coming from within the watchtower and he knew that could only be her.

He crouched cautiously waiting for another sign as his body wound up like a spring and it was as he heard a shrill scream for the tower, that he unwound and shot into the air and toward the window. That was something he never understood. For all his cowardice, he never hesitated when it came to her.

Bolting toward the window, he pulled upward and perched himself atop the tower – this was all done with extreme caution, as he still had his invisibility on. He peered in, grateful for his dexterous neck and although the world appeared upside down, he had a clear view of what was happening inside and he didn’t like it one bit. Dissatisfaction rumbled within his chest as a fire raged through every vein and nerve en cell, so much so that the spikes upon his back became erect.

His companion screamed again within, “you’re hurting me,” she whimpered, but her attacker would not let up. He had pinned her arms back with one meaty hand and was grabbing at her frock with the other. “Let me go!” She screamed again and although Vex could tell she was trying to act like the lady adventurer she is, she was scared.

He had to handle this carefully, he thought pushing his rage away, knowing that it would cause more harm going in with his current temperament. He couldn’t afford to be brash as that could risk hurting the very person he was trying to protect. Vex knew a single swipe of his tail could topple the structure.

He turned his invisibility off and before he could take another breath, the shouting began. People pointed toward the tower. Some were stood where they were as if shocked statues. Others ran, but they were all shouting. This, of course, prompted his companion’s attacker to approach the balcony of the tower, his brow furrowed in concern or perhaps confusion. Vex didn’t much consider his emotions at that point, as this was the opportunity he had been hoping for. The moment the man stuck his crowned head out, Vex swiped his mighty head into him, knocking him against the wall and rendering him unconscious.

His companion followed through the door, touching her fingers to the slumped figure’s throat with a look of dissatisfaction. “You could’ve killed him for all I cared,” she said, knowing he was unable to respond to her outside of Homestead. If he could, he would tell her how tired he was of coming to her rescue, but he’d also let her know how happy he was that she was okay. He didn’t like to admit it, sure, but he did worry about her. 

As the screaming continued from below, Vex pushed himself off of the tower and flew around it to hover by the balcony which allowed his companion to jump on and grab onto his spikes. It was time to leave and just in time, as the volley of arrows scraped at his belly from the outposts. He could’ve gone back to wipe them out, but Vex avoided violence whenever he could and so instead, he took them home.

Touching down in his meadow he noticed that his trout had been claimed by another. “Great,” he said, “I’ll have to catch another now.”

His companion jumped off, rolling before jumping to her feet. “Oh Vex, what is it now?”

“My lunch. I will have to catch another fish, seeing as how you pulled me from it earlier.”

She snorted while rolling up the sleeves of her dress as she walked away. “I’ll go catch another. Now, if you’d like to scold me, now would be the time as I’m really quite exhausted and would like to get home for a nap.” With that said, she turned around to face him and crossed her arms defensively. He knew that posture all too well, she was hurting.

“Princess,” he said as softly as his gravelly voice would allow, inching forward until his mighty nose touched her, “are you okay?”

She patted his nose tenderly and smiled, “thanks to you, my friend.” Turning she walked toward her castle and Vex watched her go until she turned back once again. “I really thought he was my Prince Charming.”

“He’ll come.”

She smiled and then walked off into the sunset. He kept an eye on her until she entered the palace before flying back to his own home, wondering about the next escapade of his lady adventurer, Princess Cinderella.

9.10.2022 – A Short Story

9.10.22 - A Short Story

“The Timekeepers will have the answers, Pasha.”

“Or they will end you themselves.” She throws her hands up in resignation, but her eyes remain determined. I know Pasha, she’s been by my side since birth. It’s ironic that twins who were born one after the other should die so far apart. My sister, she’s prone to setting her mind on something and making sure it happens just as she’s concocted it in that head of hers.

“That is against the law,” I say.

“Law? What law, Mirka? They made the rules, they can just as easily bend them to their will”

Pasha has always been the pessimist, always wondering what trick life is yet to play on us. Not without reason, I’ll admit. We have lead a hard life and I can see reason in her cynicism, but on this occasion, I have to try one way or the other.

“Pasha,” I lay a hand on her shoulder and she turns to look at me with bloodshot eyes, before turning her attention to my outstretched arm until they lock onto their target. The tattoo. “Pasha,” I say again to turn her focus away from the thing that has her so upset in the first place. “I know this is difficult, but surely you, the person I’ve always had a connection with, surely you can understand that I need answers.”

I nod, somehow thinking that may encourage her to see things my way, but that only leads to another forecast of tears.

She takes my hand as we sit down on the edge of the bed. She pats at her cheeks and looks to the skies in an effort to pull the tears back in. “I understand that you need answers, sister” she finally begins, “but surely you can understand the weight I’ve felt in all of this. When we were children, I use to stare at that mark of yours for hours, well into the morning even and wonder why the time gods would bless me with a long life, while you had to perish after only thirty years.”

Reflexively, I look at her arm for a fleeting moment of jealousy. It had always been difficult understanding the stamps. Why the Timegods would curse us with the knowledge of our own deaths,  why some of us were destined to live a much shorter life. How the dates tattooed on our arms were never wrong… except for mine. I was meant to die yesterday. 09.11.2022.

The Timekeepers have always had the answers and I believe that they will again.

“Mirka,” my sister says, “The Timekeepers will not oversee a mistake. They will erase you themselves if that prevents the people from realising a mistake. They will not spare you or give you answers if that means compromising their doctrine.”

She was right of course, but whether I die at the hand of a Timekeeper or because the Timegods decide to strike me down, really makes little difference.

“I have to try. I love you, Pasha.” I say pulling her into an embrace. “I love you very much. Be strong sister and if I don’t see you again, know that I’m so thankful to have been blessed with thirty years of life beside you.”

I pull away before she can stop me and her cries, as heart-wrenching as they are, force me to run faster. I need to know why the Timegods overlooked my death. Why, if I’m meant to be dead, I’ve never felt as alive.
xxx
The walk to the chapel isn’t a long one, but you’d be wrong to think that it’s an easy one. It took me half a day to make the arduous climb toward the Timekeepers’ pyres. The rocky terrain made for a stumbled walk and at times I wondered whether it would be the end of me, thinking maybe the Timegods finally remembered me, but I made it and the green landscapes made for a pleasant view.

Budding daisies and lavender greeted me along the way and more than once, a crow crossed my path and I had to click my fingers three times. Thinking about it now, the superstition makes me feel childish, but I may as well take all the good fortune I can get.

When I finally approach, the magnificence of the towering pyres bring me to a halt. Seven in total, each flame threatening to break out of its gold vase, the pyres stand easily as tall as one of the small palms in our village.

The myth states each of the seven gods breathed a minuscule breath of their life force into the golden pots and that force has been burning strong for over thirty years.

One of the Timekeepers approaches from the front. Dressed in their traditional silk suits, this Baron chose a light blue sash to sit around his waist. He approaches with bare feet, his hands behind his back and a smile on his face. “Come,” he says and I’m surprised by his gruff voice.

I follow, of course, catching my reflection in one of the golden vases. I’m not surprised to find my infamously curly hair afluff, a dark collection of springs that I manage to smooth down a little to frame my strong jaw and flat nose. My blue eyes, the only thing that set me apart from my sisters blue-green, are puffier than I expected and I blink a couple of times, hoping to somehow deflate them.

The Baron motions for me to remove my weather-worn shoes, which I leave beside the wall of the open air hall we’re about to enter.

As soon as I set foot upon the red tapestry, the plump fibres of the rug welcome my tired feet. I follow the Baron unknowingly, which should probably scare me, if not for the majesty of this place. Lush succulent plants vine around the pillars that stand around an arm’s length apart, decorated in ornate golden engravings and splashes of red gemstones that reflect the shade of the runner we’re currently walking on.

A small entryway comes into view and the Baron looks around for the first time – whether to make sure I’m still following him or to signal we’re reaching our destination.

He stops outside of the door that’s really just a square cutout in the grey stone and holds out a hand to show me in.

I hesitate, finally feeling the severity of why I’m here and considering the possible outcomes of this meeting. They could execute me, sure, but wouldn’t the Baron have done so already? I look at him, still smiling. His face looks kind enough, which I take as a good omen.

“Thank you,” I say before slipping through the entrance.

On the other side, I arrive to find a single chair in a small circular stone room. I feel my anxiousness gnaw at me again.

Without instruction, I sit down, pushing my fears away. Unsure of what to do, I wait, when all of a sudden a white light appears against the wall in front of me. Mesmerised I stand, tentatively walking toward the light when a sudden voice echoes from within. “I’m glad you came, Mirka,” it says.

I don’t respond, instead, I look around trying to find the source.

“I know you have questions child and I promise to answer them all. Come forth, step into the aura and I will comfort you in any way possible.”

I hesitate, wondering if it’s too late to run. Run from the voice and the Baron outside and beyond and back to Pasha. Then I realise this is what I came for. I wanted answers and I am about to receive them. “Come,” the voice beckons again and this time I step forward and through the light into a white room as empty as the stone one before it.

“What is this place?” Probably a waste of a question, considering the matter at hand, but a necessary one.

“This is the Inbetween. The only plain I can be spoken to.”

“And who are you?”

The voice chuckles softly. “Usually the first question. I am Anac, Timegod and keeper of the Inbetween.”

The realisation of who I’m talking to renders me immobile for the second time today. I fall to my knees in reverence. “You’re one of the seven.”

“I am. Rise child, there is much to explain in a short time.”

I do as Anac commands, walking further forward. The white room suddenly changes. The colours seep into the world like a whirlpool. I find myself in a meadow, green and speckled with indigenous flowers. I recognise the meadow. Pasha and I use to come here with our parents before they died. Even being here now, twenty years later, brings back hurtful memories.

“What do you remember of this place young one?”

“Mother and Father use to bring us here every year. It was a time of happiness and we use to sit around the fire each night and reflect on the year past. We made bread with mother and went fishing with Father. It was wonderful.”

“Until…” Anac prompted.

“Until the Wantashi moved through this place and killed our parents.”

I fall silent again, replaying the memory against my will. There was so much blood and so much disgusting things that children often should never see.

“They were meant to die together?” Anac asks, even though I sense he already knows the answers.

“They never revealed their tattoos to us. They explained the significance when we were still young, but said it would taint our childhood knowing. When we found our Father-”

“It’s okay my child. I know it must be difficult to talk about.”

I wipe at my already puffy eyes. “When we found him, we noticed he had the same date as my mother, but there was something strange about it… it seemed fresh like it had just been done.”

She hadn’t thought about that day or how odd it had been in over twenty years.

“When you and Pasha were born, she had a different tattoo on her arm. In fact, she shared your mother’s date.”

Emotions swell in my chest. Shock and sadness and anger all at once, before disbelief gives way to anguish.

“Your parents couldn’t bear the thought of losing Pasha and so your father made the very same trek you have made today and begged me to change the dates. Of course, that’s not acceptable and we required a trade. Your father would take from his own life force and add it to your sisters and so the deal was struck.”

There was so much to process, so much to think about and yet I felt a certain sense of peace in the fact that my father would do such a selfless thing.

“Why are you telling me this story?”

“Because it’s relevant to you my child. Would you believe that someone made that very trade for you?”

“But who-”

“It does not matter. Only that someone loved you enough to exchange years of their life. It is a precious gift.”

“But my tattoo, it has yesterday’s date.”

“Look again.”

I do so, only to find a freshly inked date. 08.09.2072. Realising that I’ve gained fifty years of life, I fall to my knees overcome with emotion. Who would do something like this for me?  Anca’s words ring in my head. Love. Love is what this is about. Luke!

“I have to go,” I say, getting to my feet and head back toward the grey of the stone room.

“Do you not have more questions? You will not get this opportunity again.”

For a moment I had forgotten my place, so I turn back and kneel down. “Thank you. For speaking with me and the answers you provided me. Thank you also for agreeing to this trade, but I respectfully decline. I cannot take someone else’s life. I cannot take Luke’s life so that I may live.”

Anca takes a moment of silence, but finally he says, “It is done, child.”

I feel overcome with grief as I run toward the door and out past the Baron without a second glance. I dash down the red rug and down the cliffs as quickly as I can manage. In the hurry, I left my shoes and my feet feel cut and bruised as I reach the bottom, but I can’t afford to slow down now.

Is that Pasha, I wonder as I see someone running toward me. Soon, my sister comes into view and we run to each other, stopping only a short distance from each other before embracing.

“Mirka, I’m so happy.”

Her voice catches in her throat and I can feel hot drippings on my shoulders as the tears fall from her eyes. Finally, I pull away. “I will explain everything, sister, but for now I have to find Luke.”

I move past her, but she catches my arm. “It is true, then,” she says looking at the new date on my arm.

“How do you know?”

Pasha looks away, tears flowing freely again, but this time for another reason.

“Luke came by, sister. He told me about the trade and he told me that he loves you so-“

I feel desperation snake its way into my throat, making it harder and harder to breathe. “Is he…”

“He died peacefully.”

Something breaks within me, forcing me to crumble to the ground. Pasha’s arms envelop me and together we cry for the beautiful life lost. Sacrificed out of love and I know that although I will always be grateful, I will also carry a guilt within me. That is why Pasha can never know that our father died for her.

GB Pizza Co Restaurant Review – Margate, Kent

you’ll find GB pizza co. located in the quaint seaside town of margate, but don’t write them off as a small town joint – they’re packing big flavour.

Being on holiday is a magical thing. Everything looks a little brighter, the air tastes a little sweeter and you can feel yourself slowly unwinding until your soul feels just a tad more complete. That usually means holiday food also tastes that little bit better, but at GB Pizza Co. they don’t need the holiday magic because they already have magic of their own.

The magic isn’t just in their food, however. This little spot not only sports the coolest signage, but also looks as though it’s been pulled from the latest decor catalogue. The pink tiles zig-zag their way down the wall to serve as a compliment to the bright pink sign. The white, wooden tables and chairs are arranged around a snaking booth, that’s been adorned with tropically inspired scatter cushions.

The pendant lights parallel a wooden floor a short way from the compact counter where you order your food when you’re ready. You’ll also find the steel beer taps there and a coffee machine, which makes a mean cuppa joe.

If you’re keen for a window seat, there’s always this delightful little counter top looking out onto the beachfront with a visual summary, if you will, of what the shop has to offer flaunted on the left wall. Wooden stools are dispersed for you to come and grab for not only a view of the sea but also to people watch.

So we know it’s pretty, but that isn’t why they’re recommended by numerous publications, including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Good Food Guide. The GB Pizza Co has an impressive list of locals who supply them with the finest produce, which includes their juicy ham on the Chandler & Dunn ham and mushroom pizza that we shared.

The crust is thin and crispy with a generous scattering of toppings, perfectly baked and roughly cut for an authentic, rustic looking pizza that would do any Italian pizzeria justice. There aren’t any unnecessary trimming, just fresh ingredients and a whole lotta passion.

A great place that not only looks trendy but also serves great food with a smile. Not to mention the spectacular view! And if you’re unsure of how to eat your slice, they even have a handy chart for you – Buon Appetito!

James – A Short Story

James - A Short Story

The world seems fuzzy nowadays. Lines that appeared solid in the past now seem to flex and concave like a wild dance. Sometimes, it even looks snowy – the way it usually does when the wind nudges the antenna and the television can’t receive anything more than flurries and dead noise.

Colour seems dull, too and I wonder whether my eyes are the culprit. James has glasses, he’s been dependent on them for a long time and I remember being there to hold his hand when he went for the eye test when he was only about five.

I always tell him only intellectuals need spectacles. I figure it makes him feel a bit better, as none of his friends appears to need them. I guess it’s the carrots. They are James’ least favourite vegetable and mum always warns that his eyes will only get worse if he doesn’t eat them.
I think I’ll tell James-

-What was I saying? Oh, the carrots. Bunnies eat carrots or at least that’s what the picture books told us. I’ve never seen one up close and personal, but I imagine its tail feels like a little cloud.
Now that I think about it, we haven’t paged through Robbie Rabbit in quite some time. James mostly reads from textbooks nowadays, especially his mathematics book and I guess that really does make him an intellectual.

“James, can we read from Robbie Rabbit?”

James isn’t replying, but he doesn’t need to, I can already tell what he’s thinking.

Not now.

He’s been short with me lately. We use to do everything together. Play in the park down the street from our house, read from books like Rabbit Robbie or is it Robbie Rabbit? Anyway, we use to play and read and build forts together. I especially remember that time we made up an entire world. To mum, it was just our backyard, but to us, it was James’ Kingdom. We had towering spires and stained glass windows decorating the facade of our stone castle.

Dragons soared overhead and crocodiles secured the trench surrounding our fortress. We came close to adding fairies to our world, but they annoyed us, so we settled on talking, wild mushrooms. That way we could just step on them if they got on our nerves. That was a great day.

Nowadays, we hardly even talk.

The bell’s gone and James’ packing up his pencils and notebooks, they’re the spiral kind I like so much. I hope we’re playing today because he said we would when I asked him yesterday, but that hasn’t stopped him from bringing his new friends round in the past.

When Teddy and Alex join our side, laughing about how easy that test was, I wish I could join in, but then Teddy and Alex can’t see me for some reason. Maybe they’re the ones who need spectacles. As we all walk to the car, I get shoved out of the way. It doesn’t hurt, not exactly, but that doesn’t mean I like it and it’s not exactly nice either. In fact, mum always says it’s a bit rude.

There she is! Mum. She’s kind. She’s been around for four years now and even though she’s a bit strict on James at times, her hazel eyes always remain kind.

I overhear James asking if his friends could come along to play; she agrees, of course, on account of being so nice all the time. I don’t think she did it on purpose, she probably didn’t know that James had made plans with me already.

I turn toward James, hoping that we can have a word, but he’s not looking at me. “James, we were going to play today – remember?”
He doesn’t reply, not even with his mind. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge me. I need to talk to him about this, he always said we’d be best friends forever and now-

-I lost my train of thought again, didn’t I? That seems to be happening more often too lately. It’s like my mind just decides to follow a different trail of breadcrumbs. I’m not sure how I arrived in our lounge, but here I am watching James play on the box that I can’t seem to remember the name of at the moment.

I could’ve sworn I saw that Rabbit fellow I was talking about. Odd.

I feel increasingly more weightless. I wonder if that happens as you get older. I should probably ask James, but he’s not interested in me, so I’ll go ask mum instead.

We don’t talk much, not without James there with us, but she’ll at least acknowledge me in the way that she always does. Like that time she asked me if I liked carrots and when I agreed with James, she laughed her hiccupy laugh. Once she asked me if I could tell James to go to sleep when he was running around after bedtime and once he settled in, she told me I was a good boy.

I found mum in her usual spot at the kitchen counter as she’s preparing sandwiches. “Can I ask you something?”

She doesn’t respond. Instead, she continues spreading mayonnaise on the turkey sandwiches she’s making for the boys. She’s not making one for me, as usual, but that’s okay because I never really get very hungry.

“Mum…”

Strange. For some reason, she’s not talking to me either, but I think it’s just because she’s humming too loudly and my voice probably doesn’t carry that well.

“James, I tried-”

Not now.

“I know you’re busy, but I just want to ask something…”

Fine.

I recognise the feeling James has. He’s angry and I’m not sure if that’s because I’m bothering him while he’s playing or whether it’s because I went to mum without him. Either way, I’ve never been the object of his anger before and it’s not a very nice feeling.

“Why is Mum ignoring me?”

She’s not.

“Well I asked her something and she didn’t answer me.”

That’s because she can’t see you.

“Does she need spectacles too?”

No, it’s because you’re not real.

“What do you-”

I want to ask James what he means by that because it really isn’t a very nice thing to say, but first I have to deal with a rabbit in a suit that appears to be hopping upstairs. 

I turn away from James and take the steps two by two. I’ve always struggled to climb them, on account of my feet being so big. James always said they were like dinosaur claws. He showed me a picture once and I can definitely see the resemblance, it may very well have been an ancestor of mine. 

The rabbit is sitting on the bed, as I turn the corner and walk into James’ room. 

“Hello.”

The rabbit looks at me while adjusting his tie. Why does he feel so familiar to me? It’s like I’ve seen him before, but I just can’t place him. 

“Good afternoon Mr Saurus,” he hops forward, offering a furry hand in greeting. “I believe you already know who I am?”

I don’t-

“Ah,” the rabbit says, “I see it has already begun.Mr Saurus, I need for you to listen to me carefully.” He briefly checks the small watch on his wrist, before continuing. “I believe you have been experiencing strange things of late; fuzzy vision, lost thoughts and a fragile memory. Am I right?”

“Yes.”

He nods so vigorously that I think his ears may come undone. “Very well. I expect you are confused, my friend and I’m here to help.”

“That- well, that would be appreciated.”

“We don’t have much time, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to trust me for the most part. I’m here to guide you into our world.”

“Guide?”

“Hush. We don’t have time for questions, Mr Saurus. Your very world, the world you know anyway, is ending and it’s my job to make sure you’re not obliterated.”

The urgency in the rabbit’s voice makes me feel anxious. A feeling I’ve hardly ever experienced. Only that time James pulled on his bicycles brakes too hard and he went flying over the handlebars. He lost a tooth that day. I look over at the rabbit, but he seems to be flickering in and out of focus.

“Mr Saurus. Your purpose, our purpose is to be friends to the children who need them. Children who cannot afford to be alone in this world. It’s an important thing, but that importance passes and when it does, we have to move on. James is growing up and with his new friends comes a certain maturity that means you are no longer needed.”

“I don’t-“

“You don’t understand. It’s a confusing time, but all will be explained in greater details once you come with me. You aren’t meant to overstay your welcome in this world. We belong in the world of the imaginary.”

“So he was right? James said I’m not real.”

The rabbit nods. “He is right. You were made up to be his companion, Mr Saurus and you’ve done a fine job. Now the time has come to be among your own as James is among his. Follow me.”

We go down the steps again. James is laughing with his friends. Completely oblivious to the fact that I’ve been away from his side.

“We’re running out of time, Mr Saurus. You can either stay here and fade into nothingness when the time comes, or you can come with me to be repurposed.”

A bright light appears behind James and his friends and the rabbit starts making his way toward it. I still feel uncertain of what is really happening, but I do know that James doesn’t need me anymore, which is why I’ll leave. I follow the rabbit but pause beside James. “I will always love you, James.”

He pauses, finally pauses, to smile at me and I finally feel a little more complete. My world stops shaking as I enter the tunnel and suddenly my mind feels clear. I’m Mr Saurus and I’m an imaginary consultant to those who are in aid.

10 of the Best Slip-on Trainers

So it’s been a while since I’ve written about anything fashion related and thought what better way to get back into it than to write about one of my favourite things right now. Slip-on Trainers. Hence, my ’10 of the Best Slip-on Trainers’ post.

They’re so easy to style, incredibly comfortable and they can basically be worn with ANYTHING. Which is great for London living, because if you’re anything like me, you can’t do the heels thang. Not only am I pretty useless on a stiletto and even terrain, but imagine trying to navigate the uneven sidewalks in a heel!

That’s exactly why these are 10 of the best slip-on trainers because each pair is so incredibly versatile. Let’s use the Vans Metallic Gore Classic Slip-on Shoes as an example. Dress them down by wearing a pair of distressed skinny jeans, a flannel shirt, oversized cardigan and bobble beanie. Cute right? It goes the other way too – dress them up by pairing them with a crisp white shirt, a midi pencil skirt, stockings and a leather jacket.

There are so many more examples and they’re all guaranteed to add a great edge to every outfit. My first pair was a simple pair – black leather upper and a white sole – but I’ve literally worn them with a wide range of outfits and each one has earned me a compliment or two. I’d even go as far as saying that if I had to choose a single pair of shoes to wear every day for a year, it would be slip-on trainers.

So without further adieu, here are my 10 favourite’s of the moment.

Superdry Dion Slip on Sneaker

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Vans Snake Off White Leather Slip-on Trainers

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Lacoste Gazon Slip Trainers

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Vans Metallic Gore Classic Slip-on Shoes

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Gold Metallic Textured Slip-on Plimsolls

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Vans Embossed Stingray Classic Slip-on Shoes

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H&M Slip-on Trainers

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Nike Skateboarding  Stefan Janoski Slip-on Trainers

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Steve Madden Emuse Sm Slip-on Fashion Sneak    screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-1-33-54-pm

Vans Classic Slip-on Shoes

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See anything you like? Let me know which one caught your eye, by commenting below.

Until next time…

Signature

War Waves ‘All That We Lack’ Album Review

atwl-album-cover

“War Waves are still strongly influenced by 80’s & 90’s sounds, like The Smiths and The Gaslight Anthem and that shines through in their stripped back songwriting. The album is filled with simple chord progressions, catchy drum beats and an almost lethargic ambience – which, of course, isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it makes for a very pleasing and easy listening experience.”

Read more, by clicking here.