“You know when you’ve got nothing and they take that too, what’s that called?”
“You’re so boring.”
I punch him in the shoulder and he laughs so I punch him again. He ignores me and pushes between my knees, leaning his chest against mine. His weight presses me against the shower wall and I gasp because the tiles are cold. We made the water extra hot so it stayed warm by the time it reached us on the ground, but I can’t feel it with him in the way. He has to lift his feet up so he can fit laying down on the shower floor and now he looks like a seal.
“You look like a seal.” I say.
“I won’t clap for you.”
I try to push him off me, “A fat seal.”
He frowns but I’m grinning and I refuse to apologise. After some awkward slipping and sliding he moves himself off my body and stands, his back to me. I roll my eyes and he turns the tap off.
“There’s a drought on.”
He opens the shower screen and doesn’t close it, letting all the cold air in. I groan. The water’s still warm on the floor and I let it spin around me as it drains away. My skin has goosebumps.
Without towelling myself off I run naked out of our ensuite and tackle him onto the bed. He’s clothed and manages a quick shout before I wrap my wet arms and legs around his belly and torso. He’s my branch and I’m a bedraggled sloth. He slaps my thigh hard enough to leave a mark.
“You suck so bad.”
I kiss the back of his neck.
“You love me.”
“No I don’t.”
He loosens in my grip. I kiss him again.
“Yeah you do.”
He links his fingers in mine and I bury my nose in his shoulder. It’s soft.
“Yeah. That’s it.”
It’s garbage night. Fuck, did we put the bins out? Mark’s wearing my new sweatshirt and I’m annoyed that it looks better on him than me. I take my frustration out on an innocent wheelie bin with a spinning ninja kick.
Mark doesn’t laugh, “Dick.”
“Did you put the bins out?”
“No, that’s your job.”
I jog to catch up to his side. I loop my arm through his and lean my head against his shoulder. I can feel him stiffen and I pull away.
“It’s 2017, we’re fine.”
“Sorry, it’s just…I don’t know.”
“Don’t be like that. You’re drunk.”
“So are you.”
Mark stops walking and sighs. I force myself to keep moving. A voice says.
Don’t give in.
Now it’s his turn to catch up and he grabs my hand. I don’t look at him.
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to.”
“But I do want to.”
He grips my hand a little tighter. It’s sweaty and I slip my hand away.
“No you don’t.”
We walk the rest of the way in silence. I’m not sure why I’m angry anymore. I wish I remembered the bins.
I refresh the page again. Blue and white stares back at me. No red. Everything sucks. Mark’s asleep at the other end of the couch and his legs are on my lap. I throw a pillow at him but he doesn’t move.
I refresh the page again. I change my cover photo. I delete it. I put it up again then log myself out and shut my laptop. Three minutes later I open my phone and delete it. I grab my coat from the armrest and stand quickly enough to push Mark’s feet to the floor. He snorts then mumbles.
“Where are you going?”
“For a walk.”
“Can I come?”
I tell myself not to slam the door. I do it anyway. There’s broken glass on the pavement and it crunches satisfyingly underneath my shoes. The train tracks are close by and I head towards them. A car drives past and for a moment I see myself step in front of it. In my mind it clips my shoulder and hip, throwing me to the kerb. It’s not a hard enough collision to be fatal but I can still swing some sympathy votes online and a few days off work which is tempting. I just don’t want it to hurt. I faint at the sight of blood but I bruise well.
The car goes past and I walk forward unscathed.
No trains at this hour so I take a seat on one of the slats. It’s uncomfortable and my back hurts but I know I look brooding and mysterious so I sit here anyway. With this in mind I light a cigarette then immediately start coughing. Hope no one saw that. I hold the smoke far enough away from me that I can’t smell it. Gross.
I put my phone on the track next to me and play ‘Leeches’ by Velociraptor. It’s good. I get the lyrics wrong but pretend I don’t. Something crunches through the glass behind me and I twist around. I sigh. There’s palm sized rocks between each of the slats and I pick one up, gripping it hard enough to hurt.
“You’re looking particularly gloomy.”
“I want to be alone.”
“You slammed the door.”
“I want to be alone.”
“Are you mad at me?”
I sigh again.
“What’s going on?”
I don’t answer. I hear Mark walk closer but I don’t look at him. A voice says.
Don’t give in.
I look at the ground.
Don’t give in.
Sitting like this folds my belly in half. I think about my fat rolls and feel the urge to vomit. I throw the cigarette away. That car is sounding more appealing.
“You’re a child.”
I’m acutely aware that there’s only enough room on this slat for one person and I don’t move over. Mark mutters something under his breath.
“I said fuck this.”
Mark groans violently and pulls at his hair before exhaling. I don’t show it but he scares me when he gets angry like this. I keep looking down and scratch the rock in my hand against another on the ground. The noise it makes reminds me of the curb-stomp scene in American History X.
He stumbles back from me and falls over. I look up at him, eyes already rolling.
“You’re such a dickhead.”
But he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at the sky. He’s looking behind me. There’s a glow in his eyes, a growing glow that spreads across his face down his body and then everywhere. It reflects off the rocks, the tracks and the glass behind us. I’m confused and scared and don’t want to turn around so I focus on Mark, who’s face is splitting open as his mouth yawns wider and wider in horror. The glow spreads viciously and from behind me there’s a crackling noise mixed with a whining, like someone screaming has been thrown into a fire. It keeps getting louder and louder and louder and I try to yell something to Mark but even I can’t hear what I’m saying. The light becomes so bright it hurts and I shut my eyes and twist to the tracks in a ball, throwing my head to the ground. Even with my arms over my face and my eyelids screwed shut I can still feel the immense glow burn into my eyeballs. I scream and get thrown into the fire.
There’s impact. Then silence.
When I open my eyes, I can only see white light. It’s burnt into my skull. For a full minute I weep and yell, thinking I’ve lost my sight. Slowly darkness creeps back in. I blink and try to push myself up but I’m only stable on all fours. The ground feels hot and I feel weak. The metal tracks are the first things that come into focus. I breathe out, then in and attempt to stand. I’m shaking.
I can’t hear anything.
I can’t. Hear. Anything.
Something brushes my shoulder and I twist around in panic.
I grab his shoulders and hold him to me, pressing his body hard against mine because if I let go I’d fall back down again. He feels warm and is shaking too. We stay like this for what could have been an hour before he carefully pushes me away. I loop my hand in his and he holds it tight. With the other he points to the other side of the tracks.
Where there was once a crop of bushes and gum trees there was now a hole. And while the darkness of the night had returned, from the hole beamed a floodlight of yellows. At its core a brilliant white.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
My shins feel like splinters but hand in hand, we stepped forward.
“Should we be doing this?”
“I don’t know.”
We shouldn’t have been. I knew we shouldn’t. Logic raged inside me, told me to run. It bashed its head against my brain and screamed danger, screamed escape. But the light was so alluring, so wonderfully spectacular and we are moths, and we are deers. We are frightened animals wandering towards something we don’t understand. It was overwhelming and it drew us in.
We teeter on the edge. The heat from below dries my mouth so I have to roll my tongue around my teeth before repeating.
“What is it?”
“It came from the sky.”
“What is it?”
“I think. I think it’s a star.”
He grips my hand tighter and I grip his back. We are hurting each other because we need to. It’s the only way to stay present without losing our minds. To be able to comprehend the pureness of what we were staring at. There was no discernible shape, just blinding beautiful pain and the most glorious light. My eyes ache and I gasp. I do not look away. I cannot. I will not.
Mark shifts next to me and I feel him wobble, I feel it as he falls to his knees, my hand still fused to his.
“What are you doing?”
He is crying and so am I. The tears barely make it out of my eyes before they evaporate straight off my cheeks. Everything is drying out. I can feel the dead layers of skin on my body cracking. The only sweat is between our palms and we are slipping.
Mark’s grip loosens and when he falls forward he slips from my grasp. I don’t leap to catch him. I don’t move at all. Only watch as his body falls to the light.
I watch as he floats down. Floating. Like the light is carrying him gently downwards. Supporting his body and cradling his spine and neck. He twists so he’s facing up to me, and he’s smiling. And I’m smiling. His mouth opens and he says something I can neither hear or interpret. I sit down on the edge of the hole and watch his body drift ever so softly into the light.
I close my eyes but I can still see. A voice says.
And I fall.
I don’t want to be fooled by you.
I just want to be turned to stone with you.
‘Leeches’ – Velociraptor