audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Deeper

Creative Café challenge 73.5

Lighthouse at sunset by DaBrick via pixabay
DaBrick via pixabay

listen: 

By knowing the large you know the small; and from the shallow you reach the deep.
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

You think me crazy, driven mad by long solitude, but you are wrong. I have braved storms, rain, and blistering sun. Birds call and wheel in the desolate grey skies of winter, and soar serenely in the blue of summer. Lately, the ring whispers to me, day and night.

Few would live the life of a lighthouse keeper, but I have been more than content to polish the lens, oil the gears, and light the lamp. When storms batter the headland I am unafraid, for this is when I serve my purpose. There could be none nobler than saving lives.

Now, my time is done and you are here to take my place as keeper of the light. I watch the ocean swell and fall back as it has done for ever. The sun moves across the sky and the stars light the night, and on the cycle goes. What is one life, measured against the sweep and grandeur of nature? Everything and nothing.

Once, a long time ago, I took off my shoes and ventured to the shoreline. Light breeze, warm sun, a perfect day. I thought to paddle in the calm waters. One step, another, and the water gripped my ankles, far colder than expected, far stronger than I could bear.

I screamed and ran. That night a silver fish admonished me in dreams. Open your heart. Close your eyes. Release knowledge and grasp truth. I woke and did not know where I was.

Near the beach, a patch of calm water grows in the sea. This is not usual, and you should stay away. The ring itches on my finger but remains bright, even after all this time. I think it washed up on the shore, but I’m not certain any more.

I cannot remove it.

Each night, silvery creatures drift in and out of my dreams. You know, the dolphin says. The endless sea, the tiniest rock pool, the tear in your eye are all the same. You know, the hermit crab says. This house of refuge is only lent, not given. A mermaid flutters cold slender fingers against my cheek, showing me four rings, then a swish of the tail and she is gone, leaving only her voice. Let go.

Humour me. It has been so long since I spoke with another soul.

I have seen great weather systems march across this wide horizon, and plucked shivering half-drowned men from angry seas. I always saw it coming, but I have run from my own storm. So many lives saved, so many more given. Who decides what is a fair exchange between land and sea?

Dreaming and waking are one to me now, full of whispered memories. The sea picked me, and gifted me this ring and a life that should not have been mine. I stand and let the sea caress my skin. When the sun pauses in the solstice sky, when time hangs in the balance, that will be my moment.

I see my slow walk into the calm shallows, the riptide that will pull me under, deeper, back to the start and the end of life, where a silver ring was given and now is forfeit.

The ocean and the raindrop are the same, and shallow waters will lead me to the deep questions. Keep my secret, but do not mourn. My life is a price worth paying to know the answer.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

Consumed

book on fire_StockSnap
StockSnap via pixabay

He tasted her mind and realised he was starving – unknown

listen: 

Dancing girls twirl bright and golden, limbs lustred to slip through the hands in a whisper of scented oils. A brilliant array, spread out to tempt a prince mired in jaded expectation. Perfect sweetmeats, empty glossy promises on the lips.

Bright. Gold. Red. Gone.

She is silent, an insubstantial shadow in the light of her better favoured sisters. Eyes lowered, plain garbed, unremarkable, she vanishes behind another dream confected in jewelled feathers.

He rises, leaves the orgy of consumption behind him, seeks her in the forgotten labyrinth of the palace. His hand stays her flight. Understood.

And so to a perfumed chamber. Purple and maroon, silk and velvet, secrets and lies.

Apparently submissive, her hand slips into a pocket. But when she raises her head, fire blazes defiance from her eyes. He steps back, hand on sword.

I do not refuse my esteemed prince, asking only that I might read to him first.

She opens the small volume, gold letters glowing on its spine.

And the universe cracks open and explodes before him. Questions, answers, songs for eternal ages, ancient wisdom and otherworldly beauty. His desert heart blooms, cool rivers quench parched lips. Her voice swathes him in clouds and galaxies and everything that has not yet come to be. Time sits at her feet and listens.

The prince savours thoughts, feasts on ideas, nourishes his soul, gobbling all. The moon sets; she does not stop reading. He is drunk on limerence, enthralled by wonder.

 

He wakes alone, faint afterglow of her words in his ear. How could this lyrical banquet leave him so hollow with longing? He did not know true hunger till he tasted her mind.

He had not understood.

A lifetime might not be enough. He searches still, for his hidden spirit with the phoenix burning in her eyes and dragon flames dancing on her tongue.

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Accidental soldier

helmet-armour_Baldr80
Baldr80 via pixabay

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

— GK Chesterton

 

It starts with little things. Small things that one hardly notices, a slight curl of the lip, a condescending word, interruptions borne less patiently. The fond smile becomes an irritated grimace, and before you know it a full-blown sneer. It might seem passive but it’s really not, all that hidden aggression smoothed over by an insincere smile. It usually bounces off, but it stings sometimes.

Still, it’s you and me against the world, united front, shared territory.

Next comes a subtle thickening of my skin to ward off those tiny arrows, ticks sinking little sharp mouthparts into my flesh and drinking. Absent kisses, back turned, cold disdain becomes the norm.

One sip of blood at a time adds up. I don’t feel it as much, through my sturdy hide. But I don’t feel the caresses either. Meantime the criticisms latch on, so hard to remove even with help. I don’t have the knack. I did not think to defend against an enemy within the walls.

No time to learn because bombs start to fall. Accusations and lies, silences and screams. I shout at you across a growing divide. We need to talk but here comes another missile, armed with shrapnel made of the insecurities I shared with you. I’m hit, bleeding, a serious wound but not lethal. I stretch out my hand but you’re already gone, back behind your gun emplacement. You fraternise in plain sight, covert texts and open falsehoods a carpet bomb of betrayal.

I retreat into a foxhole, lick my wounds, gasp in pain. When did it begin, this unrelenting conflict? No man’s land stretches between entrenched positions. No white flags here, just an nasty duel to the death. I want to fight for us, not against you. But you keep launching bombs.

I craft my armour and bide my time.

If I am grotesque, maddened by bloated bloodsuckers and ugly in hastily patched tin plates and makeshift helmet, know that you made this monster from a soft-bodied creature, vulnerable and foolish. That creature deserved pain for her weakness.

This soldier will not make that mistake. Our hot and fiery love burns down to cold, hard ashes. When pain forces me to dig deeper, into the molten core of my fury, I find a lava lake of rage to power my assault.

I know where you live, and all your weak spots. What we had is far behind us, forgotten ruins. What lies ahead cannot be seen through the smoke and flames of this battlefield. I care nothing for the future. There is only one mission. I will destroy you because this is war.

I will burn down the world if I must.

*******

A response to Creative Challenge 51.5; first published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 29 November 2017

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

sky/light/deep/dark/blue

Creative Cafe Creative Challenge #48.5

man-blue-destruction_intographics
intographics via pixabay

“Depression is being color blind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”
— Atticus, Love Her Wild

 

This is a good day.

Hardly a cloud to mar a sweep of sky blue, warm winds sigh against my skin and tug at my sails. Hardly a shadow, with the sun near its zenith. Up here in the wide above, birds call and all is bright. The sea glitters blue and silver, reflecting sunbeams. Anything is possible. Viewed through the positivity telescope, the horizon beckons.

 

Another day.

Plenty of steel blue sky, but more grey clouds now, not yet weeping fat raindrops. Time to batten the hatches and haul in my sails against gusting winds and imminent storms. Water shivers in the air, cool against skin goosebumped despite my thin coat of hope. The sun hides. It is still there, I think.

 

Days go by.

I crouch in my frail boat, tossed on angry swell, shipping cold uncaring wet. The sky touches the sea and all is grey, colour washed away. Torn clouds shed raindrops to mingle with tears on my chilly face. And when the giant wave finally snatches me into pitiless ocean, I am not surprised. It was always coming.

 

Time passes.

I drift endlessly. No map or compass, no lifebelt. Helpless to fight the long slow slide, sinking deeper into the blue, I lose the last vestiges of light. Down, and down. Eyes blinded, nothing to see. Marble skin, numb to feeling. I could shout at the void, but there will be no reply. The blue darkens still more. It is the black shadow that has chased me every day of my journey.

 

Swallowed in nothingness, I lie resigned on unyielding ocean floor, a certainty of sorts.

Help isn’t coming.


first published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 8 November 2017

blog

What colour is your balloon?

balloons empty assorted_PublicDomainPictures
PublicDomainPictures via pixabay

 

When I was a girl I wanted a balloon, shiny and blue, bobbing at the end of a string. Other people had them, so why not me?

Someone gave me a box of bright colours and said sure you can, choose one.

I didn’t realise how hard it would be to turn that scrap of latex into a balloon. I huffed and puffed and blew till I almost turned blue. It didn’t work. I was ready to give up.

Someone took pity on me. They showed me another way. I narrowed my focus, took careful aim, and blew.

And blew and blew, and held on tight, so none of that precious breath escaped. And my balloon grew big and round. Carefully I tied the neck tight and added a string.

Here’s my blue balloon. It makes me smile. And it brings challenges.

 

A storm will come, whether tomorrow or another day.

Envious people will come, to persuade you to let go so you will be like them. Malicious people will come, hiding sharp weapons to pierce and destroy.

Anxiety will come, asking whether pink, or yellow, or green aren’t really a better choice.

Devious people will come, coveting your possession.

My answer is no.

No, the wind may not take it. I will wind the string tight in my grasp until the sun returns.

No, I have the right to my balloon and you will not deny me.

No, I will guard my balloon and defend it against attack.

No, I will stand by my choice of balloon. Other colours exist, but this one is mine.

No, I will not give you my balloon by fair means or foul. Go find your own.

 

Maybe your balloon isn’t blue. Maybe it’s not even a balloon. But I say, choose your dream, focus and work hard, hold on tight and defend it from all threats. Starting is hard, but the reward is worth it as long as you just keep going.

It’s the only way to make a dream come true.