Night From Within

Dusk was settling in; no escape.

In the distance, a wrangle echoed.

Her propinquity with night suddenly ignited.

Like the blackness of pupils fixated forward,

The night called out her name.

An opal moon peered down devotedly.

Transfixed, she glared back at it.

A snake-like sensation crawled through her.

The night; it felt so divine.

Frightening; tantalizing; misinterpreted – a warning unheeded.

Provoked by its charm, she transformed.

With morality shadowed; monstrosity shined through.

The darkness was always so inviting.

Edacity came from within, of course.

The night was not at fault.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

 

A Penchant for Madness

I’m not quite right. Never have been.

Sometimes, I feel only partially human, as though I might be an Android from a distant world.

Sometimes, I feel only partially present, as though I might be a shadow of a fuller me.

If either of these things were true, I’d be less accountable.

I haven’t quite decided if that’s what I want yet.

And what I want, well, it changes day to day.

If I wasn’t made to be broken, I wasn’t made for anything at all.

Come the day’s end, I just know –

I’m not quite right. Never will be.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Throbbing Penitence

It is just passed the witching hour, and I make the regrettable decision to put out the fire. As the vibrant embers asphyxiate under the weight of the tepid well-water, they get their revenge by transmogrifying into a vengeful smoke that happily chokes me.

Immediately, I seek an escape from the caliginous prison that the room has become. Of course, there is none.

Outside, beasts howl at the moon, aching to taste my flesh and bones, and to swallow me up under the veil of darkness. I shudder at the thought and resign to sleeping away my nerves. By candlelight, I creep reluctantly through the empty house, romanticizing the security of my bed. But before I reach it, the ritual thudding begins.

From below my feet there comes a wretched pounding, the throb of a monster that is my own penitence. For below my feet I’ve laid a body and a soul which refuses to rest until I am by its side – as I should be. Suddenly, the beasts outside seem more inviting than the beastliness inside of my home; inside of that casket; inside of me. My own soul rots by the day, guilt crushing it from the inside. It won’t be long now until that soul gets its final wish.

Outside, the night knows my secret, and watches me in the form of a crow perched at the windowsill above my bed. As I sink below it, it takes flight into the unforgiving sky, the way a damned soul will not.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Haunted

There was no way to undo it. That’s the thing about surviving. The medley of blood, hair, and fingernails just kept swirling about in Jordan’s mind, imprinted behind his ocular nerve. Tugging and pulling so that the recalled sight of it was accompanied by physical pain. It was all he could manage to spread his eyelids every now and again; check if the world was really still there – wondering if he had really made it out, wondering if Jess and the others really hadn’t.

The melody of the epidecium hummed deep in Jordan’s ear drums, rattling them back and forth no matter how unpleasant. This was what it was to be haunted. The ghosts were only inside of his head, but they were real. They were persistent. They were his friends; all of them dead, along with the biggest part of him.

“Jordan Marks?”

Jordan looked up, surprised he had recognized a sound outside of himself. The secretary was trying to smile as she held the door open for him. “Dr. Casey will see you now.”

The doctor was gentle, but rushed. There were a lot of patients in the waiting room, so it came as no shock to Jordan that getting the prescription had been so easy. Anti-depressant experiment number 4. Maybe this one wouldn’t make him tear at his skin, drool on his sheets, or mix-up his words. Maybe.

The first few hours were good. Relief came like a tidal wave, throwing him off balance then gracefully carrying him away. He didn’t think about Jess; about the blood, the hair, or the fingernails. Instead, he thought about the beach on a sunny day. But once the high dulled, so did the sunshine, and Jordan was back in his dark, damp, room. No – he was back in the dark, damp, cave. And there was the medley of gore he just couldn’t escape. He thrashed in the swamp of sewage and bodily fluids. He clawed at the rocky walls, and screamed so loud he hoped he might break, and somehow blind himself from the horrors before him.

Jordan’s mother crashed through his bedroom door and eyed her son helplessly as he scrambled violently in his bed. She cried out his name through a tear-soaked tongue, trying to remember a time when he was just a normal teenager, vibrant and brave and full of life, seeking an adventure. A time before the monsters came.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

The Day the Reaper Came

Discounting the mortal hiss in the air, it had been a rather ordinary Thursday. Jonah was tired, as usual, but forced himself to take his afternoon walk nevertheless. He fumbled with the buttons of his knee-length, thick polyester, coat for longer than he had the day before. He sighed at that realization, then pushed it to the back corner of his mind reserved for disappointments. He covered his balding head with a black bowl hat and reached clumsily for his cane.

Outside the air was crisp and refreshing. Autumn had always been Jonah’s favourite season. When he was a boy, he used to rake all the lawns on his street, and when no one was watching, he’d jump in the piles and pretend to be swimming on some opposite planet. His joints ached at the thought of doing that now, but he still quite enjoyed leaf-gazing. Actually, he had very few pleasures in life anymore, but Autumn walks were on the top of the list.

In the park he hesitantly watched the children play cops and robbers. They cackled and roared gleefully, and Jonah found the scene carnivalesque and difficult to watch. In his eighty-four years, and especially in the way he had chosen to live them, he had seen enough casual brutality. Children today; he had not been able to attain that level of desensitization until his sixth kill.

“That’s not true, Jonah. You always had a cavalier approach to right and wrong, didn’t you?”

Jonah looked beside him. The park bench he had been sitting on alone suddenly occupied a second body. The man seemed more a shadow, cloaked in a black hooded garb that left his face to the imagination.

“I suppose you’re right,” Jonah whispered, regrettably. He did not need to ask the shadow who it was, or what it wanted.

The man and the shadow watched the children play their grotesque game in silence for a little longer, while pigeons squawked uninvited at their feet.

“Are you afraid?” the shadow finally asked.

“No. Just tired.” Jonah reflected on his reply, and then spoke again, still not turning to face his visitor. “What’s on the other side for me?”

“That part, Jonah, is up to you.”

Now they faced each other, and Jonah saw what was hidden beneath the hood. Empty eye sockets, like an abyss with a magnetic draw. Worms wriggled about the holes, apparently unable to decide if they would rather be inside or outside. The skull was spotted with rotting flesh, but was more bone than skin. The sight of the bits of flesh dripping and dissolving did not disturb Jonah in the least. Mostly, he was contented by the cognizance that there was no associated foul scent. On the contrary, all he smelled was Autumn.

“I must confess, then?” Jonah asked with a hint of disinterest in his tone. He pulled his attention away from the rotting flesh and un-eyes, disgusted more by the idea of confession than anything else.

“No.” At this, Jonah turned to face him again, startled. “It is I who has a confession” he finished.

Jonah stared blankly until the voice resumed. It was low and steady; apathetic, much like that of Jonah’s own father’s had been.

“Jonah, it is not your time. But it can be.”

Jonah felt a numbness overtake him. His hands, though shaking on the ball of his cane, felt disconnected from himself; as did the rest of his limbs. It was his time – he could feel it in his bones, in his lungs, in his heart.

“Jonah, focus.” The voice was even softer now, and Jonah was wondering if he had altogether lost his grip on reality.

“You’ve taken many a life,” he continued. “Today, you will be asked to give one.”

The pigeons took flight in unison, the flap of their wings sending a chill straight through Jonah’s thinning body.

“I don’t understand,” he whispered, his voice quivering enough to give way to odd cracks.

“His name is Eric. He’s fourteen, the grandson of a Mr. Garret Lyon.”

Garret Lyon, he had been Jonah’s last kill.

“He’s been quite ill. Right about now, his fever is blistering. He’s home in bed, just across the street there.” The visiting man did not point, but Jonah instinctively knew where to look.

“He’s dying.”

“Not if you’re willing to make a trade.”

“I have a choice?” Jonah’s tone lightened.

“We always have a choice.”

Yes, choice. That was something Jonah had always believed to be true. But for the first time in his life, having to make a choice was not a burden, but a blessing. Jonah’s heart quickened and he began to perspire under his hat. Somewhere in the background, he heard the man say: “Give yourself to me, Jonah, and your soul’s debt will be paid.”

His heart continued to beat harder and harder against his chest and the sweat became profuse. Without so much as a word, he had made up his mind.

This was the end.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Speechless

Eve’s eyes spring open. She has had the dream again; the one in which she falls endlessly down a tunnel of bright lights, always expecting her back to hit hard against a ground it never reaches.

The heavy pull of gravity is almost more than she can take, so she opens her mouth to scream for help – and she does. In its own rebellion, her voice lifts out of her and shoots upright against the gravity that retains its grip on her body. But as she dispels the sound of her struggle, the fear fades away behind it. The sound is bigger than the gravity, and her ability to produce it magnifies her own power. It’s not just something she can hear; it’s something she can feel and something she can see.

The scream vibrates against her diaphragm, compressing the air inside of her. Her rib cage squeezes inwards, her chest tightens, her spine stiffens. The sound crawls through every nook of her bodily tissue, escaping from depths of her she had never before known to exist. The oxygen she relies upon expels through the gaping orifice she barely recognizes as her own mouth, and even though she knows she’ll run out soon, it feels good. The violence of the gravity she’s been fighting suddenly feels less like its pulling her, and more like its carrying her back to Earth; back home. Not that any of that matters anymore: she is now infatuated with the sensation of the scream exploding inside of her. And when it does, its incoherently beautiful.

The scream corrugates the air around her, and fills the tunnel. What was once a space of absence – white, cold, and infinite – becomes a storm of dancing colors. Reds wind themselves around yellows, which wind themselves around greens, until all the colors coexist. Even the white bodysuit that covers every inch of her own body absorbs the scream until its bursting with vibrancy. The falling suddenly becomes floating as the scream wraps itself around her, swaddling her like a mother’s hug. She reaches out an uncertain hand, hoping to steal a piece of the liveliness and keep it with her forever. But instead, for the first time, the insidious impact that she forgets to brace for comes.

Her lungs and heart thud against her chest expecting to break free and a final gush of air releases. This time, though, there is no sound because Eve is back in her sleep dome, wide-eyed. Ripped back to reality, the floating has returned – because in her reality, there is no gravity, no measurable oxygen, and no beautiful sound. Residual memories, she supposes.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Antic

He stood in front of the oblong mirror. It was just tall enough to reveal more of himself than he cared to see. That’s how the meticulous process always began.

With wet, eager hands, he pushed the few inches of hair he had off of his forehead. The curls recoiled at his stubby-fingered touch. His nicotine-stained nails scraped the strands, determined to keep them flat. Once he was pleased with their placement, he submerged his hands in green slime with which to suffocate the follicles atop his head. Gingerly, he stroked and stroked, until not a visible hair remained brown.

Then came his favourite part: the whiting. He splattered the powder over his face and neck, excitedly. Absence became him. Absence of light; absence of colour; absence of life. The blood that coursed beneath his cheeks on the hottest of summer days simply disappeared behind the mask.

Next he buried his fingers in the mud he would use to blacken his eyes. He smeared the substance over his eye lids, up to his brow and down to his cheekbones. The silt felt heavy; to shift his sight was now an effort that matched his usual galumph. As he blinked, his top eye lashes ripped apart from their bottom counterparts, revealing the slit that would expose his irises. The sound tore through his ears like the swift extraction of a triage stitch; the holding together of bits of damaged skin with glue.

He was shaking now. His chest heaved as his heavy breath rapidly filled and emptied the cavity. It was time to redden his lips. He plunged two fingers into the crimson mucilage and smudged the thickness of it across his lips and spread it every which way. It was thicker and brighter than the blood that had flowed from his nose earlier. His lips stuck together now; cemented. Just the way he liked them.

The transformation was complete.

He stood in front of the oblong mirror. It was just clean enough to expose more of himself than he cared to share. That’s how the meticulous process always began.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©