Sense of Discovery

‘Where am I?’

‘We are in the Labyrinth of Clouds. The beasts that were chasing you cannot enter here. Do not be fooled though, you are far from safe. You must be on your guard at all times’.

‘That’s far from reassuring.’ I muttered.

‘A smart mouth will get you precisely nowhere.’ The raven snapped back. ‘And don’t bother trying to remember the path, for the way will have changed if you ever return.’

‘Remember, don’t remember. I wish you dream folk would make up your minds!’

‘It’s not our minds that are the problem. That attitude of yours is hardly ideal. Now hush your tongue. If we are to make safe passage through here, I can’t do it looking like this’ With a shake of her feathers the white raven became a sky blue owl, her emerald eyes remained as piercing as ever.

‘Well I’m sure that has made all the difference!’

‘Again with the attitude! I don’t have to help you. You’re not my universe.’

I looked around me. The swirling mists confused the landscape. In the distance, dead ends became paths and seemingly obvious passageways became inpenetrable foliage. I knew that if I set out alone I’d be lost in seconds. I looked into her green eyes, ‘I guess I have no choice but to trust you. Can I at least know your name?’

The weight of her stare was uncomfortable but I forced myself to hold her gaze. Fear and fatigue were making me want to scramble for any semblance of control and if scoring petty points satisfied that urge then so be it.

After what seemed like an age she replied, ‘Many names have I had in the past and countless more before my time is through but the most helpful one for you is Queen Mab. Your Majesty will suffice.’

‘Oh well how gracious of you!’ I laughed, but inside my mind was racing. That name had resonated somewhere, I just couldn’t quite place why I recognised it.

‘You have precisely three seconds before I fly off and leave you to find your own way out. So swallow your pride and start walking’.

The curtness in her voice left no room for argument and I sensed that it would be unwise to test her patience any further. With an apprehensive heart and an owl on my shoulder, I began my journey into the Labyrinth of Clouds.

I’m Yours – Part 1

Perhaps he was doing the merciful thing, I told myself. He knew that I hated the arrivals catwalk, where you have precisely half a second to locate your friends before everyone else regards you as a sad loser. Besides, how would I have greeted him if he was there? Run to him like reunited lovers? No. Stand there and wait for him to come running to me? Never going to happen. Walk over casually to him and hug him? Maybe. His absence made all these questions irrelevant. It should have triggered panic, a dawning realisation that I might be spending the next ten days alone but the overwhelming feeling of freedom dismissed any fear of that.

Perhaps he was just running late. I was supposed to arrive two hours later than I actually did. Somehow, I had misread the flight times on my ticket confirmation, even though I had read that email a million times. Im one of those people that checks they have their ticket and passport compulsively on the drive to the airport and because I had booked it online, normally preferring face-to-face, I was particularly nervous about it. I had read and re-read the automated message from Virgin a thousand times, until it was ingrained in my brain. Yet like an idiot, I had still managed to confuse the times.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

I found a bench nearby and had only been sat there for a couple of minutes when I felt him enter the airport. I could feel his energy drawing closer to mine. I tried not to fidget as he approached, resisting the urge to check my appearance one last time as that burning beacon drew closer and closer. Then, a woman dressed entirely in white steeped to the side and there he was, as beautiful and alluring as ever.

My heart skipped a beat as I watched Seth look around for me, those unmistakable eyes blazing blue behind his trendy specs. His silver hair was shorter than I had ever seen it before, normally he wore it longer and spiked with wax, hed probably just had it cut. He was fitter too, his muscles defined under his jeans and t-shirt, and even the unzipped hoodie he was wearing didnt disguise the bulge of his biceps, but he had lost more weight than Id expected. Seth had obviously been training hard.

Noticing something else, I frowned.

When had he begun slouching? This was completely new. Id always thought that he had a confident swagger, shoulders back, at ease with the world. The man before me looked exhausted, as though all his energy had been drained out of him. I knew that Seth worked too hard but I wasnt sure whether his body language was down to his career or coming to meet me.

What if he hadnt really wanted me to fly over and visit him? What if we werent as good friends as I thought we were? Maybe Thor was right and this affinity that I felt was all a figment of my imagination?

The usual paranoid garbage.

I took a deep breath and called out his name.

He turned to me, his face lighting up. “Eden!”

“Hey Seth, how’s it going?” I stood and was enveloped in a massive hug, his scent swept over me, scattering my fears. It felt incredible to be that close to him.

Still holding onto me, his voice muffled by my hair and my tight grip on him, he replied “Really good. Its amazing to have you here. How was your flight? Did you get your gin and tonic?”

“Of course!” I laughed as we finally released each other. “Thanks for picking me up. I wouldn’t have minded waiting, seeing as I was such a fool getting the times mixed up.”

“Like I would have left you waiting here by yourself! Don’t be silly, its my pleasure. I am only sorry that I have to go back to work for a bit, but you’ll be ok in my flat for a couple of hours, right?” He took my suitcase as he said it and looked at me apologetically.

“Seth, I promise I will be fine. We have got so much time together in the next few days that it is probably best if I have a while alone to get my head around it,” I gave him an impish smile “You know, keep pinching myself to try and believe that this is really happening.”

He squeezed my hand as we approached his sleek, black jeep. “Trust me,” he said looking deep into my eyes “This is really happening.”

I felt the colour rise in my cheeks as I climbed into the passenger seat. My heart was beating so hard that I was sure he could hear it.

The Scientist

Our steps are slower as we return to the station. It is as if we are both walking towards something that we don’t want, but neither of us knows how to stop it. There are a few seconds of silence. The air is heavy with words left unsaid and no time to say them. Both of us are contemplating the thoughts inside our heads. Out of nowhere, a voice in mine urges me not to waste the precious few minutes remaining.

“I was thinking that our book should be a trilogy. All the greatest stories are. Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Divine Comedy. Remember I said that I was basing it on Dante’s journey and that Virgil was his guide? Well in Purgatory the reader gets to learn more of Virgil’s story…” I let the words tumble out before i can stop them and wait for you to realise what I am trying to say.

You glance at me with fear in your eyes. “I told you. I can’t write anymore”.

“Can’t or won’t?” Because you should, I feel that so deeply. I know it is the truth. And I think that deep down you do too.”

You are quiet. I don’t want to push you too hard but I feel compelled to tell you this.

Too soon we are stood by the train. There’s still ten minutes before it leaves. The doors are stood open and after the coldness of the night air, it looks warm and inviting.

“Come and sit with me?” I beg, pulling on your arm.

We sit next to each other and I turn towards you trying to catch your eye. You won’t look at me. In deference to your feelings I lower my gaze and focus on your hands. I take them in mine and suddenly everything I have wanted to say comes tumbling out.

“I know that you are scared you will become that person. I know that those memories pain you. But I think that it is hurting you not writing because that is what you are. You are trying to deny your god-given talent, to mask what is underneath, but you should know that you can never find true happiness that way. It took me years to work that out, please believe me. People care about you too much to let you become like that again. I care about you too much…”

Unconsciously I have been stroking the back of your hand with my thumb while I have been talking. It is madness to talk more. I know you don’t want me to. This is not what you want to hear and I don’t want to be the one saying it. I am paining you and that hurts me. But with utter certainty I know that no-one else will say it.

For whatever reason this has fallen at my feet and so I carry on my words regardless.

“Whoever you were back then, I don’t think it was really you. It was just your reaction to a bad situation. You cannot be afraid to love because you have been hurt before. It is not the making of mistakes that is the problem; it is whether we learn from them. Please, at least consider this. Please”

“It might be a little abstract,” you murmur.

I can see my reflection in the tears that glaze your eyes. Tears that you still won’t allow to fall. My heart breaks that I am the one who is forced to cause you this pain. I wish I could take it all back, that I could make you forget that I said it. I want to make it better.

I kiss you.

Without thinking, acting totally on instinct, I kiss your lips. I have waited years for this moment; wanted it so much it hurt. None of that matters now. All I care about is you and trying to fix this wound that I have reopened.

I expect you to push me away, or pull away, as our lips touch but you don’t. For one perfect moment nothing else in the universe exists except us and the love I have for you. It is a love that runs deeper than romance or friendship or anything else in Creation. It is a love that existed before time began and will last until the world fades.

It is a love I try to give you with a kiss.

Our eyes meet as I finally move away from you and I wonder if you felt it too.

“I should go,” you say.

In a flash you are out of the doors and walking through the station. I watch you all the way, longing with every fibre of my being that I could follow you with more than my eyes. You look over at me and raise your hand in goodbye. I smile and wave back and then you are gone.

You are gone.

Girl Comes Incomplete

I dream.

I am running. Trapped in a valley, in the barren winter of my limbo.The disfigured boughs of blackened trees suppress the constellations above, suffocating all light. Beasts chase me and I flee blind. There is no chance of escape. This hunt is familiar and I know how it will end.

I stumble and feel them inch closer, their fiery breath burning hot on my neck.

A star breaks through the branches and hurtles towards me. As it approaches, its shape becomes defined against the darkness. I realise it isn’t a star but a bird. A snow white raven heading straight for me. I have no time to alter course, I know what fate awaits me if I slow my pace for a second. I brace for impact with the bird, but as we collide she alights on my shoulder and croaks directions into my ear. My legs respond of their own accord, her power over me is absolute.

In the distance, I see a patch of milky twilight.

“There,” she caws. “Run. There. Fast”.

My exhausted muscles scream but I dig deep and arrive at a wall of holly. The branches part at my arrival. I step though into a dense fog; the ground feels solid but supple. Pulsing with energy as though alive.

The jagged hedge closes behind me and the beasts cannot follow but still they chase my scent. Their noses sniff the ground, growling and yapping as they track my escape.

I turn to look into the raven’s emerald eyes for the first time. “Who are you?” I ask.

“A friend,” comes the reply.

Supermassive Black Hole

I grinned, “This is turning into a perfect day.”

He turned back to me and took another sip of his wine. His eyes met mine and made me far giddier than all the alcohol I had already consumed that evening. There was a long moment of silence.

I still feel bad I haven’t read the book,” he said finally. “Perhaps we should print it off while you’re here? Maybe you could read it to me on the roadtrip?”.

A rush of adrenaline filled my veins. I didn’t know if i could, some of the things I had said had made me cringe when I was reading them alone, I dreaded to think how embarrassing it would be with him beside me.

“We could but it will cost you a fortune in paper and ink,” I said. “I used a whole ream on my copy”.

“I don’t have a printer, I was thinking that we could break into my office and do it there.”

“Break in? You’re insane.”

“You love it,” he grinned, taking another sip of wine. “So are you game?”

“You know me, you lead and I’ll follow.”