Fractured Identity

Written by R. P. Brown


I’m a man about to crumble. A man unable to stagger forward. A man who thrives on others’ reassurances.

The aroma of failure constantly invades my nostrils, makes me sick to my stomach. I miss what I was with her: confident; free from my own judgement; myself.

These are my reflections.

The other night I had a dream I was on a flight to Northern Athens, that dead city where our future fell into histories that never were. It was time to confront you but I wasn’t ready. The bricks were not set and I knew one breath from those delicate lips would cause everything to tumble and fall.  I read as I normally do. A detective novel, with the tension building towards a disturbing conclusion. As my eyes followed the words, taking meaning from the sentences and absorbing the connotations; I could feel my anxiety rise to a panic.

I was not sure if the emotions I felt were channelled by the book or created by them. Do the words give rise to the feelings or do the feelings latch themselves to familiar words? This is the problem of literature. I can never tell if it’s a healthy pursuit of knowledge, or a self-destructive enlightenment. Everything leads to this singular ending, and when the pages end, I am left there. I continue. Life’s narrative doesn’t have a conclusion; just completely unrelated sequels.

The detective was a man who was driven by his curiosity and, perhaps, all good detectives are. Another man had shaken something within our protagonist and he had to find out what it was. He had become the other man’s shadow. Yet, as he did, his inner self fought against him, warning him not to shirk his identity in order to solve this stranger. The detective had taken on the greatest mystery of all, the nature of being. He could not resist even if he’d wanted to do so.

As I read, in order to give myself some relief, I would glance out of the window and thus step back into my own reality.  Both were equally as stressful, however, and relief was not to be found. The plane was shaking violently as though it were greatly unsettled.  Not far off I could see lightning. From where I was sitting, the red flashing lights on the wing looked as though the plane had caught alight.

The detective had followed his nemesis to the man’s apartment door. He went in beside him, still unnoticed. A great fear rose within the detective and, conversely, in me. We were seated. Our knuckles were white as we held on tightly, the words were shaking as the plane trembled. The object of our mutual turmoil sat in an armchair.

“Who are you?” we screamed.

“You should not ask what you are not ready to face.”

Escape was impossible. The door was locked, we were strapped to our seat and outside the world was battering against the windows.

So we persisted.

“Tell me. I need to know.”

“Look as long as you want but you cannot look me in the eyes. You cannot admit to yourself what you don’t want to know.”

A great strain was felt in our stomach. Our back was drenched in sweat. We both knew who this man was and yet we could not turn back. We needed to ask again, though we both knew that curiosity could kill.

“Who are you?”

There was another jolt. The sense of dread was almost incapacitating.

“I am you. The part you don’t wish to see.”

I managed to sever myself from the character at this moment and willed the plane into the ocean. Give up, plunge, plunge. How I longed for those lights to be all-consuming fires. As I looked to them, there was a flash of lightning. I caught my reflection in the window and with a jump I awakened.

The bed was mine but I felt no ownership of it. It did not hold any safety, just a sense of loneliness.

Her eyes had cheated me. They’d looked upon me with pity and fear, seeing only madness. Anxious, cornered as I was, I lashed out with my tongue. She tried to get in, pushed hard against me without love, just duty. I could not let her in.  She could not stay.

I left it and moved to the bathroom. In the cabinet mirror I saw the haggard face of myself in a dream, the one tortured by memories and reflections of a time gone by. I picked up my razor.

I cannot blame her. Who can love a façade? But I cannot love myself and so I can never let her in.

The blade moved across my beard and the coarse, rough feeling was pleasurable. Each cut was a welcome distraction, but the goatee I’d crafted was not satisfying enough and so I moved to my long, grease-ridden hair. Bit by bit I watched it fall to the floor and drip by drip, dark red rivers ran down the sides of my face. Then I was bald. I studied this new me in the mirror and I did not recognise myself, such a stark change had occurred. This man would not stammer and stutter.  I smiled lovingly and his blood-stained face smiled back.  I ran the razor in front of my lips and wondered if I could mould my soft smile into a sneer, embittered and mean. If I cut myself deeper, would the scars look strong and menacing? I wondered what I could become. Could I knock others to the ground and viciously stamp on their resolve?

No, I reflected. I didn’t have it in me. The weaknesses I loathed were different and could be seen all too clearly through the hole she left.  I’ll have to hide my insecurities, behind this mask I’ve created, the one in the mirror. I’ll hide them away from others and hopefully, in time, from myself again.

For now, I can create a character. But with a little scrutiny, a glance through the magnifying glass, and you’ll see what’s really me.


Taking his inspiration from Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, new contributor R. P. Brown was fascinated by the exploration of one’s identity, penning this short story following a plane trip to Scotland. We love the tension he manages to create in this postmodern work, along with the superbly fluid trio of identities showcased. If you enjoyed R. P. Brown’s Fractured Identity, feel free to leave a “like” or comment below, detailing your thoughts. You can also view his other published work directly on his blog at ryebreadcreative.com

Featured Image CC // Christopher Blackburn

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Procrastination

Written by Lost in a Dream


Tired of walking and eager to escape the stagnant heat of the late afternoon sun, Rose entered the cool interior of the café on the corner. The name was written in twisted gold metal above the large window and was rendered illegible by the vines which snaked around the loops of the text. She tucked herself away on a table in the corner, next to the window.

A waiter in a black shirt, with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, placed a large opened menu on the table. She gazed over the menu for a few minutes. Salads, pittas, seafood and other Greek dishes. Angry with herself, she closed the menu. She already knew what she wanted: coffee, a distraction-free afternoon and perhaps an ashtray. Once again she was procrastinating, like she had been this morning, like she had been all week.

The waiter returned, and Rose gave her order. She placed her heavy black bag on the table and rummaged inside until she felt the familiar touch of a notebook and a scrappy wad of paper. She laid the items out on the table as neatly as she could and salvaged a couple of pens from the abyss that was her bag.

It was a new notebook. Turquoise with an elasticated band in a matching shade, holding the pages shut. There was always something ceremonial about opening a new notebook accompanied by an unrealistic desire to avoid defiling the pages with her scruffy handwriting. Rose wrote the date as best she could. Again, procrastinating. She would never be able to maintain this neat writing for the rest of the notebook and why was she writing the date? What kind of title is that?
A different waiter placed a tray on the table with a black coffee and a carafe of water.

“Do you need anything else?” he asked.

Rose shook her head. She poured a glass of water and stirred a single sugar into her coffee. No, nothing else. No more excuses, no more procrastination. It was time she wrote down what happened. As long as it was in her head, it did not exist. Writing it down would make it real. True, she had a handful of documents and photographs. But they meant nothing without the connections in her head. She promised herself she wouldn’t care for grammar or style for now, she could fine tune it all later. What she needed now was to make a start.

She picked up her pen again, crossed out the neatly written date and wrote a new title in her signature scrawl.


Procrastination was written on behalf of January’s half hour challenge, Beginnings. Lost in a Dream’s short piece perfectly suited March’s Reflection theme, and it’s something we can certainly all relate to when it comes to writing. Too many times have I sat down to write a journal entry, particularly after a difficult day, and not known where to start. Sometimes all we can do is write, and hope for the best. If you enjoyed Lost in a Dream’s work, you can view more of her superb writing with, ‘Star Talk ii’ and ‘Closure’

Featured Image CC // Loren Javier

 

Seasons

Written by Loulou


I watch the window, where the rain has dew drop races.
Out on the street, I see umbrella-sheltered faces.
My mind begins to wander to other rainy days,
You and I, no longer chasing the clouds away.

We’d be bareheaded and dancing in the downpour,
Singing tunelessly to make it rain some more.
Puddles as stepping stones, with squelching toes on lawns.
And later dripping wet, but not at all forlorn.

And then the bright-eyed, breathless removal of damp cotton.
Shivering though not cold, the weather now forgotten.
Wrapped up together listening to the drumming on the tiles,
And sleepily agreeing, that storms are best by miles.

Now, stood at the window and lost in recollection,
I fondly glimpse your face in the reflection.
I picture you there, tongue poised to catch the drops,
Face upturned, eyes screwed shut, puddles splashing into socks.

I ruefully suppress a smile, sigh and shake my head,
Thankful for your quiet company and a cup of tea instead.
But the rain was not enough to keep us both in check,
So now I’ll take the memories, and not the dripping down my neck.


Reflection comes in all forms within new contributor Loulou’s poetry. Windows, rain and thoughts of previous lovers all make for interesting reading in her work. But we’re most interested in how she loops back to her memory of the rainy day, and how the narrative voice would much prefer to drink a cup of tea than catch a cold in the bitter rain. And we certainly don’t blame her. Kissing in the rain may not be for everyone. If you enjoyed Loulou’s work why not leave a like or a comment below? It’s very much appreciated!

Featured Image CC // Daniel Stark

 

Together We Sleep

Written by Rivers of Tarmac


There’s a lot they don’t tell you about sleeping with someone. Not sex (although I’m sure there is plenty they don’t tell you about that, too) and not snuggling – just sleeping. Sleeping next to someone, with their arms wrapped around you and their body pressed against yours. They tell you all the good stuff – how intimate it is, how it feels like you belong there. And how safe and warm it makes you feel. They even tell you some of the bad stuff – the fights for blankets, the lack of bed space. But there’s a lot they don’t tell you.

They don’t tell you about those moments when your head is trapped in the crook of their elbow, which is sweaty, and you feel sticky and warm and a bit uncomfortable. They don’t tell you about elbows pressing into your back, or the rough scratch of stubble on your neck. Or how when they cough, you will feel it – warm and tickling – on your ear.

They don’t tell you how warm and damp and sweaty you will feel, with hot naked flesh pressed up against you and pressure in all the wrong places. They don’t tell you how your hips will ache from lying at an unnatural angle, that every time you shift your weight you will hear them sigh as you disturb them. They don’t tell you about limbs trapped beneath you, hands roaming awkwardly in search of a resting place, or arms that have nowhere to go. They don’t tell you about the vague sense of unease that comes from sharing all of this with another human being.

And yet, as I lay there – blankets awry, joints aching, limbs tangled, warm and uncomfortable, he whispered “I love you” into my ear. And I fell asleep smiling.


Together We Sleep was written as part of a sleepless night for Rivers of Tarmac, whilst lying next to her partner. In a stream-of-consciousness setting, these were the thoughts that ran through her head that night, rather than sheep counting. And we couldn’t agree more with her opinion. A dead arm, a dead shoulder, the sticky sweat. Yet despite all the bad points, the comfort of having that special someone next to you is just worth it. If you enjoyed Rivers of Tarmac’s work, you can view more short stories such as, ‘This is not an Eloquent Post‘ and ‘A Boy Who Fell In Love‘.

Featured Image CC // Art Brom

Remembering War

Written by Rae-Chan


Bodies. There were bodies everywhere. They were strewn about the field like old, unwanted ragdolls. The gunfire was ringing in my ears, blending together with shouts in different languages and the screams filling my head, echoing endlessly.

I couldn’t see anymore, everything was a blur as the adrenaline took over and I ran. I ran as fast as I could. I didn’t feel the pain as a bullet grazed by leg. I didn’t see the bodies falling around me. I just ran.

My clothes were wet and cold as ice, clinging to my skin, caked with mud. I was shaking as I raised my gun. I couldn’t even tell who my enemies were anymore. I just shot at anything that moved. I saw one boy, barely a child, his eyes wide with fear. This wasn’t what war was supposed to be. This wasn’t a life of honour and respect; we were animals tearing at each others throats, and no one back home would give a damn how many of us came back in boxes.

The boy saw me. I watched his eyes grow wider as the bullet ripped through his body. He fell to the floor like all the others before him, not moving at all.

When I returned home, I could still see his face. It was etched into my mind; those terrified eyes, with large pupils, haunted my dreams. The scar from the bullet has long since healed but, even now in my old age, the screams echo in my head.


Remembering War was written on behalf of last summer’s Fiction Frenzy. While it didn’t win the coveted title, Rae-Chan’s haunting piece as fitted perfectly into our reflection theme for this month’s content. It may only be a short piece, but in that time she brings us in to the narrator’s terrifying dreams from PTSD. If you enjoyed Rae-Chan’s work, why not view her other works such as, ‘Ignite‘ and ‘Wings‘.  

Featured Image CC // Paul Gorbould

 

Is It Wrong?

Written by Ashcloud


Is it wrong to be annoyed?
Is it ever justified?
She seems calm, cool, collected.
She is raging inside.

Is it wrong to be upset?
Is it a matter of circumstance?
She weeps over the smallest matter.
She is never seen when in this trance.

Is it wrong to be alone inside?
Is it easy to change this wrong?
She is always trying to let him in.
She has been alone for so long.


A lesson in reflection exudes from Ashcloud’s poem, where raw emotion is questioned through simple vocabulary. There are many small moments in our lives where we question others, but – more so – we question ourselves. It’s a haunting loneliness and, no doubt, we’ve all felt it. If you enjoyed Ashcloud’s work, feel free to view her other poems, including the heartfelt ‘A New Star is Born’ and ‘Sleepless Nights’.

Featured Image CC //  Artūrs Gedvillo

Ending at the Start

Written by Rob


It seems a day like any other but there is something nagging me; something out of reach, out of sight. I’m uneasy but I can’t tell you why. My room is bright and airy; my bed is warm and comfortable. I’m fully awake, though still feeling tired.

That aroma: what’s that? I know I recognise it. Ah yes, it’s the smell of a hospital; mystery solved. I’m starting to nod off again when a thought assaults me: why does my room smell like a hospital? I prop myself up on my elbows and look around. Now I’m confused – this isn’t my room; this is a hospital. I take in the row of beds, the curtains, the tubes and cables, medical paraphernalia, clip-boards and charts. There’s a nurse looking at me, walking my way.

“Ah, you’re awake again Mr Daniels. How are you feeling this afternoon?” In a moment she’s at my side and rearranging my pillows in an authoritative manner. “Just lie back and take it easy.” She finishes with the pillows, picks up a clip-board, plucks a pen from her breast pocket and sits back beside my bed. “Now then Mr Daniels, what can you tell me about our conversation this morning?”

“Who are you?” I regret it as soon as I’ve said it. To be fair, it sounded rather rude. The nurse has a very friendly, if not jolly, face. I think she has confused me with someone else, though obviously she has my name right. Maybe there’s another Mr Daniels in another ward; it’s not an uncommon name after all.

“I’m Carrie Templeton. I am the consultant neurologist on your case. Do you remember speaking with me this morning?” Consultant neurologist is a phrase that jolts. I’m struggling to make sense of what she’s saying. Case? What case? I’m not a case! I was playing golf this morning, or was that yesterday? If it’s afternoon, why am I in bed?

Carrie continues, “Don’t worry. Everything is OK. We had the same conversation this morning, and yesterday, and every day last week. You suffered a small thrombotic stroke but it has caused damage to a region of your brain called the Hippocampus. You have a condition we call severe anterograde amnesia which means you are unable to create new memories. So every time you wake up, your memory carries on from where it was when you suffered the stroke at your golf club.”

“Yes, I remember playing golf. Is that good?” I ask, more in hope than conviction.

“Yes, that’s very good. Your long-term memory is working well. We’re going to try stem cell therapy to prompt repair to your Hippocampus. But in the interim, alas, we will have many conversations like this one. My colleagues or I have to tell you about your stroke three or four times each day. It is always news to you.”

“Is there an end in sight?”

“The prognosis is favourable. We’ve had some remarkable results with stem cells. I can’t make you any promises of course.”

“Oh, I think you could. I wouldn’t remember, would I?”

Carrie smiles. “Yes, very funny Mr. Daniels. That’s the third time you’ve cracked that one! Now try to get some rest and we’ll begin again in a few hours.”


Rob’s Half Hour Challenge was written on behalf of January’s theme, Beginnings, but we feel it fits perfectly in our themed content for March. It’s a little like Memento, without the ink and tattoos, but much more light-hearted with the wisecrack from Mr Daniels. We wouldn’t mind reading it again and again! If you enjoyed Rob’s piece, why not check out some of his other work, including ‘Coach‘ and ‘Last Breath‘.

Featured Image CC // Kiuko