A little bit of hope (753 words/14 minutes)

And while he was sitting on his bed letting his fingers feel the strings of his guitar, his thoughts wandered back to her. It irked him that she kept insisting that she was not in love with him. It had been ages since he had allowed a woman to get this close to him and he started to question his feelings for her now too. Was he falling in love? He couldn’t possibly allow that, could he? She was a friend, a confidant. She easily lent a nonjudgmental ear and whenever he hinted at his financial issues, she gave him money. That way, he had paid for many therapy sessions, for meds, and also for some cannabis, without ever asking for an explanation or anything. She complimented his art and encouraged him when he needed it; when he doubted his abilities or his sanity, but at the same time, she never nagged or demanded anything from him; apart from being there. And he had no qualms promising that he would be there; always. Because that was what he intended to do. He wanted to keep her in his life. She was the best that had happened to him in ages. And yet. He was confused and unsure. Somehow he needed her presence to have a good day. Without her, something was missing; someone was missing. He had tried to take a step back, but it was so hard. It agitated him, made him nervous to push her away; to think that he had to exist without her.

What if he lost her while protecting himself? What if she was just like his ex and couldn’t handle his rejection? What if? No. No, she was different. She had integrity. Everything she said proved to be trustworthy. She never said or promised things she couldn’t keep. And her intelligence was a turn on too. She was sexy and beautiful and in recent times, she was the only woman with the ability to get him aroused or turned on. There was no one else. When he woke up at night from a bad dream, she was there. When he couldn’t sleep, she was there. When he craved ice cream but couldn’t afford it, she was there. She was always there for him. Keeping her promise. It scared him. He let her get too close. He couldn’t handle it. Maybe if he pushed her away and maybe if he was not there for her – breaking his own promise; maybe then she would break and show her true face. Perhaps she would show that she was just like all the others, ready to hurt him as soon as he dropped them? But, no. He couldn’t imagine it from her. They had so much chemistry together; something all too real. He was afraid to be a failure or a disappointment in her eyes. He was afraid that she could leave his life. And he was not ready for that.

His fingers kept fiddling the strings of his guitar while he lay on his back in his bed. When had she become the last thought at night and the first thought in the morning? When had she become his every thought during the day? The realisation hit him hard, he could keep pretending that he was not the guy to see a relationship with her in the future, he could keep insisting that he did not daydream of breaking out of his life to leave and start anew with her; but it was all a lie. He wanted her. He needed her. But she had made it clear that she did not want him. She hadn’t said anything, but he was pretty sure it was because he had let down his guards. He had told her everything – almost everything about himself. He had made room in his heart for her. He was needy around her. He was honest and genuine and raw and emotional around her. He hated it, but she made him a better man. The next song he played was for her. She would never know, but it still appeased his mind.

Next to him, his phone lit up. “where are you? The day has been all wrong without you.”

It was her… Yes, the day had felt wrong and incomplete. He grinned, maybe she was pretending too. Maybe there was a chance for them in the future. There was a little bit of hope. It was all he needed for now. Just that little bit of hope.

The taker of the last breath (922 words)

She runs through the night, heavy footsteps are following her. Eating up the space between her and her predator. Her lungs are burning and her legs are slowing down; her muscles are tired and shaking from the unusual exertion. Her breath puffs out between her lips in visible clouds. Panic is all she can feel. And cold.  It is an icy cold, fueled by the terror that spreads inside her bones and infests her entire body. The footsteps behind her come closer. She keeps running. At least she tries to keep running. Panting. Gasping. Fighting for air. She is trying to fill her lungs with oxygen, but she doesn’t succeed. Her breathing is too shallow. Her heart races too fast. It is quiet in the dark. Lonely in this winter’s night. She can only hear his steps. Her own steps. The blood in her ears. Please, please. Please!  she whispers into the gloaming nothingness. She sends silent prayers to every divinity she remembers, asking that someone will stop the demon behind her. But the cold in her heart lets her know that she will not be saved. Her soul is lost. Rotting. Decaying. Turning to dust. She will be forgotten. Erased from this earth. And no one will know that she ever existed. She never left a notable trace. The woman rounds a corner, losing foot on the slippery pavement. She struggles to get her feet under her body again, partly because her limbs are exhausted,  partly because in her haste, she stepped on her scarf that came loose. She turns around, feeling the wet pavement underneath her palms. She tries to crawl away from the creature that has been following her, looking at him. Eyes wide, she finally sees him up close as he takes long strides in her direction. He isn’t running anymore. Like the predator he is, he comes closer. And closer. She makes one last attempt to get up and run away, but her body doesn’t belong to her anymore. It doesn’t follow her orders, and when he kneels in front of her, with his long cold fingers enclosing her throat she looks in his dark eyes for the first and last time. Black like obsidian. A dark abyss. Beautiful. Beguiling. Pleading? As if they were asking for forgiveness and permission, all at the same moment. But then he blinks and the gentleness she thinks she has seen is gone. It made room for something cruel and soulless. The hand around her throat closes and her breathing air becomes less. And less. She tries to gulp in some oxygen, but the hand on her throat prevents it from reaching its destination. Her body spasms. Her hands touch his wrist and her legs are flailing, trying to find enough grip to push away from her murderer.  “Please, don’t let me die like this” are her final thoughts before she feels a strange and uninvited sense of lust. Her eyes keep staring at him but her soul is on its way out of her body. The horror and confusion she felt will be forever painted on her face. In rivulets, blood runs down her throat from where his sharp claws held on to her. The demon lets go of her empty vessel, and pushes angry tears off his face with the back of his blood-stained hand.
I have to do it. I will die if I don’t. He bares his fangs and with gusto, he buries them where his claws left a bloody wound on the woman’s throat.
The heat leaves her body as one last breath, one last puff of air is pushed past her lips. He stills his hunger. His thirst. His need. Until he feels the energy of his young victim setting in his veins. He sighs satisfied, but he wants more. He needs more. He can never get enough. It is the nature of things. He lets go of the limp, pale body and gets up. He looks at her. Grief is painted all over his face. He is desperate for a companion, a mate. But who could ever love what he is? Who he is? She was his first for this night. A good start. Invigorating. Growling, he pulls his fangs in. A tortured sigh escapes his lips as he turns to leave. One last look at his prey and the peaceful way she looks. All dead people have this look. At least the ones who died because of him. If he could only feel some serenity. Not much, just a glimmer of it. If his tormented soul could only find peace. He is not asking for eternal bliss, just a moment of calmness in his mind. His hands turn to fists in his pockets as he pushes the string of weak and romantic thoughts aside. This is his life. There is no choice. No other option. His hunt continues. It has to. It will never stop. Because if it does, he will cease to exist. And with him, the tiny fragments of the souls of the people he has had the privilege to empty of their blood would be gone too. He can’t let that happen. They all are part of him now. Memories of them are in his bloodstream and nurturing his body. Squaring his shoulders, he walks into the dark moonless night. He was always a man of honour and principles. At least he has been before he turned into this… A demon… A walking nightmare… The taker of the last breath.

(Originally written in August 2017, edited today.)

untitled_20211114

Wasn’t she the perfect woman? She knew how to cook and clean, to iron and keep a house tidy. She knew a lot about proper and sane food, was great with finances, and never messed up the washing. The fridge was always filled, as were the closets. The bathrooms were clean, the kitchen too. She knew how to fuck – giving and taking, without too many limits. She knew how to drive a car, was good with kids, was intelligent enough to hold conversations about politics, religions, spirituality, but also about music and movies and books. She liked quiet nights in, but also going out and socializing. She was financially independent because she had a job that paid the bills, knew how to schedule and organise her days that everyone but her was cared for. She had a unique sense of humour but could not tell any jokes. She was clumsy sometimes but hated to give up control. At the same time, she was wishing for someone to take care of her, calm her down, and tell her what to do. She was not the most beautiful woman, and her mind often played tricks on her, but she was passionate and supportive, and loyal. Her hair was untamable, but she laughed it off. She was not the nagging kind but needed lots of time for herself. She was not jealous – or didn’t show it. She sang all the time and her journal was a trusted companion anywhere she went. She was enough of a mystery that she did not share her inner turmoil with her partner. But she had no secrets either. While kneading dough, she thought about all this and it led to another thought: if all this was true; why was she lonely and alone? Wasn’t she marriage material? And why was she getting a divorce? She sighed, pushed every thought aside, and began pushing olives into the focaccia dough, all the while singing along to U2’s with or without you.

Dear Stranger

I thought about this letter for a long time. Does it need to be written? Is it obsolete? The truth is, I think this will be the last letter because you are not a stranger anymore. And I could write so many things to you and about you now, but I won’t. There is no need, and most things just matter for a moment anyway. So much has changed in only a few short months – I know, I mentioned change before, but this time, everything is different.

I thought I understood what you were going through, but I did not. I had no idea about your struggles and how they impact every part of your life. I had not even scratched the surface of your demon-iceberg.

In recent months, you opened up to me in a very honest and fragile way, all while putting me in my place too when I became too needy or too demanding when I asked questions that weren’t mine to ask.

It became clear that there can’t be anything romantic between us. We would be perfect together, but right now, it is impossible. And that is okay. You need to heal first, and I have a lot of work to do too. It became clear when we started to talk about therapy sessions. Months ago, when you were very low and told me we could not be in touch anymore because I was too tempting for you, you insisted that we could not be friends, not with our history, and yet… it seems as if we cannot be without each other. Time and time again, you got in touch again to ask for support. And in the end, without consciously trying to establish it, a bond was formed between us. It’s a bond not many will understand, and they don’t have to. It is very layered and laced with memories and mutual care. We know exactly what we are. At one point, you were concerned about sending mixed signals, but the truth is: I am not confused. Not anymore. I know who I am, and I know who you are. I am one of the very few who know every truth about you. And I did not run. I don’t know why I did not turn my back on you as many did. I just didn’t. I couldn’t.

As I am beginning to question my motives; the why’s and how’s, I wonder if I wanted more of you for myself than I knew. But honestly, I don’t know. I just wasn’t ready to give up on you. And I will never give up on you. I see you, dear Stranger.

You deserve people in your corner who support you unconditionally, who give you room when you need it, and who take care of you when you can’t.

What bothers me though is the reason why you are in my corner right now. For the same reasons I mentioned? Do you feel like you have to? Do you feel trapped or guilty? Are you scared and afraid that I could betray you and share your secrets if you walk away? I gave you money. Lots of money; almost 800euros in 8 weeks. Don’t worry, I will not ask for anything of it back. I know money is tight for you and I know that your financial management is not the best. But I definitely cannot afford to keep giving you that much money every month. Also, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth: do you keep me around because I offered to help out financially? No. I want to believe that there is more. After all, there are goodnight texts and good morning texts too. There are the I can’t sleep texts and the I just meditated ones. All these moments did not exist three months ago. And now they do. No, dear Stranger. You are not a stranger anymore. I don’t need to write any letters to you anymore. Because now we talk. We found our voice and nothing is off-limits. But there are boundaries.

Dear Stranger, I will never stop loving you in my unique way. I promised you many things and I intend to keep every one of those promises.

Goodbye, and hello.

Forever yours,

Sweetie

the rocking chair

He sat naked in a rocking chair in an almost dark room. The door was closed. Three windows were open. The wind blew crisp air into the room and made the thin white curtains flow into the empty space. Outside, the moon played hide and seek with the clouds in the sky. Their play made shadows dance on the bare walls.

The chair creaked on the hardwood floors with every forward motion. Some panels were loose from years of use. It was as if they had a memory of every footstep that had ever touched them. The man kept moving. The same movements, over and over again. The repetition was somewhat meditative. Soothing. And he needed that for himself. Calmness. Stillness. He wanted to close his eyes and escape the earth and all its noise for a while, but he couldn’t. He was scared. Scared that the demons lurking in the shadows were finally there to steal his soul. No, sleep or rest of any kind was not an option. No matter how tired he was or how much his eyes hurt from squinting in the dark, he needed to keep them open and stay alert. Awake. Everwake.

The man’s mind was at once empty and overflowing. His body was in flames from the heat surrounding his heart one moment, and it was freezing cold the next from the gushes of air, raising goosebumps on his exposed skin. Everything was the opposite of how it was supposed to be. But he kept rocking back and forth on his wooden rocking chair.

In the dark, the red cushions weren’t visible. But he knew that they were there, supporting his weight. There was a tear on the back and a couple of stains under his bottom; he knew every blemish by heart. Like the scars or tattoos on his skin, every stain and every tear, every hole had a story. And he remembered them all. Memories. Remembering meant either torment or bliss. Tonight every flash of the past equalled agony.

The moon kept travelling across the sky, closely followed by a thin layer of clouds. An owl was awake in the tree under his window; it called for someone in the dark night.

He needed a drink, and he craved a cigarette, but he couldn’t leave his chair. He was trapped in his own darkness, not only the darkness of the room but the darkness of his mind too.

The partying shadows on the walls and on the ceiling kept mocking him and his life in captivity. If he were strong enough, he would have tried to fight every single demon. But he was weak and afraid of the dark. He was lonely. Alone.

Another flash of the past made him remember the woman he had loved. He had only loved once. Genuine and honest and raw. He had been able to feel love, to give, and to receive it too. Those times were long gone. There was nothing loveable about him anymore, and if someone tried to be affectionate toward him, he had the unique gift to ruin it every time. No one was allowed to see past the image he had decided to show of himself. No one was allowed to see his vulnerabilities and his weaknesses. No, showing those only ever resulted in pain.

As the middle-aged man kept rocking back and forth on his chair, the voices in his head grew louder and more insistent with each creak of the wooden frame. From soothing to aggravating in a matter of moments. He hit the side of his head with his flat hand. Left hand. Left temple. “Stupid,” he muttered. The ghosts had not left, but no one answered him. Behind him, the curtains made a swishing sound. He stopped moving. He was convinced they were here to take him away, to make him vanish into thin air. He held his breath. He reasoned that maybe they couldn’t see him if he stayed still.

The owl was calling him from the shelter of her tree. And from the walls, shadows tried to catch him. He was paralysed with fear. There was no escape. The sheer terror of all his sins was staring into his pale red-rimmed eyes and tried to pull him under. If he had been able to do it, he would have closed his eyes. But he couldn’t. His body did not belong to him anymore; it did not obey his silent pleading orders anymore. The man tried to scream for help, for someone to save him and wake him up from this nightmare, but no sound got out of his mouth. There was no sound but the wind and the owl. The man was lost in this weird dream, knowing full well that he was not asleep. He was trapped in a cage of fear.

He gasped. For a moment, everything became clear. For a moment, he understood that it was all in his head and that his mind was playing tricks on him. Nothing was real.

His face turned into a painful grimace, and then he chuckled. His shoulders moved along with the sound. And he started laughing until he was scratching at the door of insanity. He was rocking in his chair again. Back and forth. Over and over again.

The moon was slowly fading, making room for the sun. The shadows on the walls began to become invisible, and the owl stopped calling for her lover. The wind had let up, too, leaving the curtains to rest after an eventful night.

He tried to exhale deeply, but because he was still laughing, he only made a wheezing sound. The ghost of the night was still lingering in the sweat covering his naked body. The man was drenched in fear. But he kept moving. Back and forth. Back and forth. In his mind, a film was replaying the worst moments of his life. He was convinced that he deserved the punishment the darkness brought upon him every night anew. There was nothing left fighting for. No redemption in sight.

The man finally closed his eyes. A grin was spread on his face. Maybe the next time, he would start to fight the madness residing in his head. Yes. Next time. Or maybe… not.

(1048 words, written during the early hours of August 25th 2021)

a year has passed

One year had passed, and Susana was still feeding off the experience she had shared with Maria and Mark. For a short time, she had been invited into their couple. Everything clicked. It was like once in a lifetime kind of magic. Maria and Mark shared every intimacy, every fantasy, and every wish with Susana, and after some few weeks of dreaming and fantasising, it all culminated in a threesome. The act as such was not what had stayed in Susana’s mind all this time; it was little things. Smells, sounds, words that were said, and one moment in particular.

She was too loud, she knew she was, but she couldn’t keep it in. He was above her, and she tried to hide herself and be quiet. She covered her face with her arm and bit it hard, but he did not allow her to hide. He took her arm away with a little bit of force. Their eyes met, and few things happened at once: she felt exposed, seen, and vulnerable. But there was something else in his eyes, something she couldn’t forget even after twelve months.

A long time had passed since that moment; Susana was not even sure if Mark remembered it the same way (or even at all) and if it held the same magnitude for him. Probably not. There had not been much contact between the three after that very intimate weekend. Susana, however, couldn’t deny that it had changed her. It had changed the way she looked at herself and the way she looked at other people. She noticed that she was less open to strangers but more honest with herself. And whenever she thought of Maria and Mark, she was filled with a sense of gratitude and awe for them.

“We are going to keep her,” Mark had said with a chuckle while Maria made Susana the centre of the universe. 

It hadn’t worked out that way in the end, and yet, in a way, a little part of Susana was still, and would always be, theirs.

###

Sudden fiction/344words/20minutes

familiar nightmare

That dream. Again. She had not had that dream in a long while, and it never failed to leave her unsettled, bothering on anxious. She was breathing heavily, fighting back the tears that were moist on he cheeks. Her eyes were still closed, trying to grab the remnants of the nightmare she had endured and turning them into something else. Something good. But to no avail. The harder she tried, the more her conscious mind took over, until finally, she was awake. Her eyes fluttered open, and she stared into the dark. The sweat was cooling on her skin. She shivered; as much from the vivid memories as from the cold.

She was at work, laughing with her colleagues, when her phone rang. She saw the number and smiled. Usually, she did not pick up when he called, and she was on a shift, but she was in such a good mood, she wanted to hear his voice and tell him that she would get in touch later. He would certainly understand; they hadn’t talked in two weeks, a couple of hours surely were bearable. But it was not his voice that greeted her; it was another man.

“is this Shelly speaking?” The man asked. His voice was slightly familiar, but she couldn’t place it. “Yes,” she replied “who’s this?” She was confused why a stranger was calling from her boyfr…- she didn’t even know how to label him, they weren’t a couple after all.

“it’s Vic, Dave’s brother.” Ah! That was why the voice sounded familiar. Curious, she left the small office to have a moment of quiet and to understand the man on the other line properly. “I’m afraid I have bad news,” he continued. “Dave passed away. He… He killed himself last night.” His voice broke, and her heart was racing too fast. It felt as if someone had put cotton in her head and it blocked a myriad of oncoming questions that washed over her like a tsunami. “What? How? Why? That cannot be.” She refused to believe the words he said. “He left letters for you, an entire box full. He also left a will in which you are mentioned, but we need to have it checked with our lawyers.” Vic sounded so pulled together as he continued to talk without listening to her. It was almost as if he was going through the motions of informing people about his brother’s passing on auto-pilot. “Could you send your address as a text message? I will make sure that you receive everything Dave wanted you to have.”
Shelly felt the colour draining from her face, and the force holding her upright was fading too. “Yeah, no. Will do. I am sorry for your loss”, she said and quickly disconnected the call. A wail left her mouth as she fell to the ground. Uncontrollable sobs shook her entire body, and she heard noises she couldn’t be sure came from her. But they had to; no one was around. She got up from the floor; she was trembling and gasping for air. It was too hot, and too cold. It was too much of everything. She needed to get outside. And she did. Her crying didn’t stop. How could he be gone? How could Dave be gone?

But there were no answers to that question because every time that dream tormented her, this was the moment she woke up. Every time. In reality, she had not talked to Dave in months, and she was pretty sure that no letters or other belongings were waiting for her, and she was most certainly not mentioned in his will either. Shelly pushed the bunched up sheets off her body and decided to distract herself by starting her day. But the bitter aftertaste of that all too familiar dream tinted her mood. She was not ready to let Dave go. And she couldn’t wash the suspicion that something terrible was about to happen to him off in the shower either.

✨✨✨✨

668 words, 20 minutes

Re-birth

And when she woke up from the deep slumber she had vanished to, her soul was shaking, and her body was trembling. Something was different. She was different. One look, one touch had unraveled her stoic self, and now she was a stranger. She did not recognize her reflection in the mirror. She did not understand her thoughts. Her voice was new to her ears. An unusual desire to be alive and present struck her like lightning in the sand. And her iridescent self shone brighter for everyone to see. One touch, one kiss, had turned the key and opened her cage. She was not hidden anymore. The veil that had protected her from curious eyes had been lifted. She took a deep breath and smiled. It had taken a while, but today she was grateful for yesterday’s memories.

❤️💜🤍🖤🤎💙💚💛🧡

(Somewhere in the Netherlands, October 2020)

Everytime it rains.

The thunderstorm made me think of you. I stepped out of my overheated living room and onto the warm patio. I saw the lightning in the distance. It took a moment before I heard the thunder. And I smiled. The first drops of rain hit my head, and I looked up at the sky. I spread my arms out to the sides. I felt every raindrop kiss me. And I smiled. I raised my hands, palms up, and let the rain soak me. If someone watched me, they might have mistaken me for a crazy woman. And maybe they are right. But I was also glowing from within. Burning with a fierce passion for life. And a yearning for the man I carry in my heart.

Showered with sadness

One moment, I was happily dancing in the rain,

The next I was crying, cowering in my shower’s corner.

The manic moments got fewer while the depressive episodes grew longer every time. Rationally, I knew that it was all in my head. I knew that I was allowed to live and to love and to accept affection too. But during the depressive moments, I couldn’t remember those things; I couldn’t hear them. The voices in my head telling me that I am a waste of space or that I don’t matter, they were louder than any reason or sense. And they hurt. So much. Every time a little more. I tried to silence them with music. I tried to mum them with positive thoughts. I even tried to cut them out of my skin and singing them to sleep with alcohol and pills. Nothing worked.

And now I sat here in the shower hiding in the corner, naked and shivering. 

These fragile and frail moments were my secret. But I am not sure how well I hid it.

I read in a book that we need to talk and speak up to remind our minds that we are real and alive. I was thinking about that under the cold shower spray. Sobbing, I bit the skin on my arm. The gesture was not to hurt me, but to feel and root my overwhelmed self. I do that too during sex, but that’s more to avoid making too much noise. That’s a different subject. 

I watched the water run down my legs in rivulets, little rivers of sorrow. It was a mix of the shower spray, my tears, and, let’s face it, snot was in the mix too. But I was too far gone to care.  I tried remembering what had triggered this explosion of emotions, but I couldn’t remember. And it agitated me even more. I forgot so much. Was I too focussed on myself, or not enough? I was just trying to stay alive! The lack of understanding, of meaning, of connection, mixed with insomnia, abject loneliness, and solitude – it was killing me. Or maybe, maybe I was killing myself. Self-loathing, self-destructive, absent from my self.

The water kept caressing the goosebumps all over my body. I hugged myself tighter and bit my skin harder. I looked up to the ceiling. And when I looked down at my knees again, I felt empty. As if this was not me anymore. As if someone had found a switch to turn my emotions off. My sobbing stopped. I got up and turned to water off. Empty. Just going through the motions. As if it was not me. The lights were still on, but no one was at home anymore. I was a robot. A puppet on my mind’s strings. I grew calm but exhausted. Tired. So so tired.

I grabbed my towel and dried off without much care. Heading to my bedroom, I sat down on the mattress, naked as I was; grabbed my pillow – the one I cuddle at night, and rolled myself into a position that made me as small as possible. Fetal position.

I remember thinking that I was not thinking anymore. And then I drifted off.

In the middle of the night, I woke up because I was trembling and felt cold. I covered myself with the sheets and fell into a dreamless slumber. The next time I woke up, it saw the morning light illuminating my bedroom. I felt rested but hungover from the heavy emotions I had felt the night before. I had the image in my head of what a pitiful sight I had been in the shower. Everything else was still a bit foggy.

But as I said, these moments of vulnerability and of my fragile mind being on full display are my secrets. Just mine. No one will ever know the truth.

There was something on my arm; a bruise was forming, the skin was changing colours, reminding me of what I had done.

In sane moments, I wonder why I can’t be normal. Wouldn’t it be easier to be detached from myself more often? Who knows? Who cares? In the end, it doesn’t matter. 

We live. We die. And everything we feel in between is not real for anyone but us.

(718 words/20minutes)