Silver Trees

 

Silver leaved trees struggled

In the sea wind which stripped the coastline of sun-kissed colour

and blew across the sky masses of clouds.

Only metallic things shone under this grey light,

Granite boulders, copper flowers, those silver leaves

Flickering on fighting branches; the constant drone

Of the sea wind,

And the cavernous roar of swell.

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The Kimono Dragon: Out For Justice

The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon

Shaolin City

11:20 pm

 

The front door was flung open and, hanging onto the door handle for support, The Kimono Dragon staggered in. His grunt was constricted by the pain in his abdomen, it squeezed itself out from him in a long, thin moan. He swam his way through the dark room like an injured fish. Instinct led him to the kitchen counter. Biiiiitch. He whined as he reached around the section of wall that joined to the counter. His hand found the bottle of sake. He readied himself to lift it but found that he couldn’t, or rather that it was a bit sore to do so, so he tilted it onto the rim of its base and dragged it back slowly towards him.

Holding the bottle in his better hand, he turned from the counter and drifted to a cabinet in the living room. He ran his finger along the plastic, waxy spines of his DVD collection before picking the one at the very end. Aaaahhh, his weakened satisfied exhale sounded to him similar to an elderly woman’s dying orgasm. He pursed his lips stiffly, wincing through the moment of self-consciousness. Prompted by a surge of pain he took the DVD with him and moved towards the blue piloting lights of the DVD player. After inserting the DVD he limped to his old faithful, a plush leather Lazy Boy seated just meters from the TV screen. A combination of pleasure and pain struck his body as he collapsed into the Lazy Boy. A confused consideration of whether or not that qualified as S&M barely articulated itself.

Aauughh fuck. He closed his eyes. He knew what he had to do. Slowly he pushed himself out of his comfy chair. Placing a hand on the low coffee table, he leaned forward and stubbornly, not wanting to overexert himself, stretched across it to grab the remote. A squeal was smothered to death by pain. He looked up at the screen, tilted the remote in its direction and pressed the ON button. The screen remained black but began to wickedly illuminate the space before it. His thoughts and body movements jarred to a halt as he caught a horrifying glimpse of himself in its awakening screen. His posture beneath his grimy kimono appeared crippled and weak, blackened blood caked half of his long snout, above which glared his desperate, tired eyes. Shuddering, he fell back into the Lazy Boy.

Alone in the dark room, his silhouette set against the now pallid blue square of the TV screen, The Kimono Dragon felt blood seep through the bandage on his abdomen. He swigged from the bottle of sake and gritted his teeth. The glorious, crimson lettered menu of Steven Seagal’s Out for Justice, appeared on the screen.

 

 

 

 

Earlier that day

Mushindo Dojo

Outskirts of Shaolin City

06:34 pm

 

They were knelt in a row before their sensei. The Kimono Dragon, like the other students, was silently undergoing his own personal suffering that resulted from sitting on his knees for an extended amount of time. They periodically shifted their weight from one side to the other, back and forth until every inch of their legs from the knees down ached. The sensei was still. His face, like the rest of his body, seemed to be forged into a weapon. He had high, sharp cheekbones, dead black eyes, a muscular jaw and oily black hair tied back into a ponytail. His skin was a peculiar brick red. He would often refer to himself as a demon from a different time.  Nobody had questioned it.

“Budo, the way of the warrior, does not end once you leave this dojo. It is a path, it must be practiced in every moment.” The sensei’s expression darkened into an evil, knowing grin, as he looked at one of the students directly. “Yes, even in your worst nightmares.”

The student laughed nervously in response.

“To become, you must practice. To practice, you must train. To train, you must learn. To learn, you must know nothing.”

The Kimono Dragon had heard countless variations of this speech from his sensei over the years. To become, you must train. To become what though? He thought of the path he walked, a stumbling uphill climb, the vague notion of greatness and the soothing promise of self-worth that sat at its peak, always another day’s journey away. And as the sun set every day and the peak’s foreboding silhouette would pierce the bleeding sky, how he’d relinquish his hopes in favour of a warming bottle of sake. He steeled himself back on the words of his sensei.

“Only then can you receive the supreme ultimate, mastery of yourself, everything you wish to become.”

The sensei placed his palms together and slowly inhaled a powerful breath in preparation to end the class. He suddenly turned to face The Kimono Dragon and said in a softer tone, “And remember to find stillness in yourself.”

But The Kimono Dragon’s mind was elsewhere.

 


 

Upon leaving the dojo, The Kimono Dragon pathed through the dusky streets in a direction that did not lead home. There was no definite destination in mind yet his strides were purposeful. His slightly squinted eyes stared straight ahead. His focus was seemingly unmoved by passers-by as their attentions were drawn to him in perplexed gawks. Every so often The Kimono Dragon would turn his head one side to the other, deliberately taking in the environment.  The streets grew progressively more squalid as he ventured into The Slums of Shaolin. The number of cheap Asian restaurants occupying a given block had tripled since he had last looked around.  Sick neon puddles of oil gleamed at their feet, sitting stagnantly besides the open gutters.  Illegal wiring webbed across the low sky to the ratty buildings that lined the road. A wily dog scampered past, not forgetting to give his own hostile double-take before moving on.

The sounds of muttering rang off the walls of a particularly sinister alley to his left, causing him to stop. He tilted his head in its direction, took a breath, and followed the noise of injustice.

The voices came from behind a dumpster placed against the right wall of the alley. As he approached the dumpster he called out in a strange Brooklyn accent, “Anybody seen Richie?”

Three men stepped into view. From their ostentatiously placed tattoos he could tell that they were local gangsters. One of them, wearing cheap torn jeans and a grey tank top, walked forwards in meandering suspicious steps. His arms were held supposedly politely behind his back.  He leaned his torso forwards and looked The Kimono Dragon up and down as if he was some sort of official inspector before answering. “No, Mister, I have never heard of such a person, but I suggest that you leave this area and never come back. This is a dangerous place.” His words reeked with feigned sincerity.

The Kimono Dragon ignored him and shifted his head to face the other two. He again called out, “Anybody know why Richie did Bobby Lupo?”

The gangster had also turned to face his cronies, his expression was twisted into something between disgust and disbelief.  The Kimono Dragon moved passed the first man and peered around the dumpster. Needles, pipes, and a dark black substance in crinkled tin foil sat on an upside-down bin lid. He looked up at the man who now stood in front of him. A beanie was pulled low over his face, hiding his eyes in shadows. His mouth was harsh and grimy.

“Whatta we got here huh?” The Kimono Dragon remarked.

“You better get the fuck out of here before I put a fucking hole in that fucked up head of yours”

The Kimono Dragon was completely unfazed. He continued in a slack-jawed, Christopher Walken tinged drawl, “I noticed a lot of boxing memorabilia, we got some gloves over here…” He gestured to the bin lid, “pictures everywhere…” He flicked his hand at some graffiti on the opposite wall. “Who’s the boxer?”

The man in the beanie had opened his mouth to say something but it had become momentarily paralysed in confusion. The Kimono Dragon turned to eye the man in the tank top, who was squinting diagonally upwards in search of a coherent train of thought. He heard a foot scrape heavily across the ground. He whipped his head around. The third man, a large, stupid-looking man with an unnecessary moustache and middle parting had begun to waddle forward. His meaty fists were balled tightly.

“You a boxer? Tough guy?” The man nodded slowly. “Really?” He continued nodding. “What could you do?”

The man threw a punch. The Kimono Dragon slipped past his arm, deflecting the blow, and rammed his elbow into the bridge of his nose. The man let out a yelp as he flopped to the ground.

“That was a grave error of judgement.” The voice of the sly man sounded behind him.

The Kimono Dragon adjusted his position in the alley, bringing the two gang members within his limited field of vision. The intensity in his eyes was betrayed by his ludicrous, stiff movements. The gangster moved his hands from behind his back, one of them held a long hunting knife. The man in the beanie had lifted his baggy hoody up from his hip and was reaching for the black butt of a gun.

“Let me show you something.” The Kimono Dragon stared at the man who was reaching for his gun. Holding his own hand in the shape of a gun, he raised it in front of his face and began to rapidly slide his other hand back and forth across its “barrel” as if unloading imaginary bullets. Once again the man in the beanie was dumbstruck.

“Here’s my gun. Fair game now okay” He awkwardly stretched out the “ee” and the end of every “okay”. He then looked at the man with the knife, more for dramatic effect than for confirmation. “And here’s my badge!” He mimed throwing his finger gun to the ground before gripping the lapels of his kimono with both hands and thrusting them forward. “This is your trophy. This is your trophy! Okay.”

He tried to control the heavy breaths that fluttered euphorically in his chest.

The man was aiming his gun at The Kimono Dragon’s snout. “You’re nothing but a delusional lizard wearing a fucking kimono, and now you’re gonna die.”

The vicious words seemed to strike him in his gut. He felt his composure shatter. He couldn’t breathe in. His eyes were gripped in thoughtless anxiety, they stared at the ground yet saw nothing. A nauseating wave of sadness had hit him. No…he’s…wrong? His lowered gaze drifted across to an arm. He followed the arm’s length to its hand. In it was a bloody knife, half of it still in his stomach.

Train to become. The words of his sensei boomed in his trembling mind.

He sucked in a breath. A fresh sensation of fear shook him awake. He trapped the man’s arm with his right hand, keeping the knife in his gut. With his other arm he scooped under the man’s elbow, locking the joint. He then shifted to his right whilst pivoting to his left, popping the man’s elbow and flinging him in the direction of the other gangster. The gun went off. Blood splashed on The Kimono Dragon’s face. The man had let go of the knife and become limp in his hands. The beanie’d man was training his gun onto The Kimono Dragon. Dropping the lifeless body, The Kimono Dragon lunged forward and grabbed the inside of the gun-bearing wrist. The gun fired again, this time the bullet ricocheted along the alley. He then spun around the man’s arm and, controlling his elbow with his other hand, he directed the man’s face into the ground. Bssshhhhkk! The man lay with his arse in the air, his weight was supported by his face and his knees.

“Motherfucker you knocked my teeth out.” came the gurgled murmur.

The Kimono Dragon briefly surveyed the grim scene. He closed his eyes and pulled the knife out of his gut, immediately applying pressure to the wound with his other hand. He began to limp down the alley towards the main street, muttering a few lines to himself.

 

 

 

 

 

The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon

Shaolin City

11:58 pm

 

The Kimono Dragon took another gulp of sake. Sedated, alone, unshakably sad, his tired eyes stared at the screen. Steven Seagal’s character passes in front of a purple neon sign reading “BROADWAY”, his eyes were darting side to side. He looked unsurprisingly composed after having beaten up an entire barful of scumbags. In a horrendous Brooklyn accent that was more than slightly off, he calls out “Anybody seen Richie?” The Kimono Dragon mouths the words along in silent synchronicity. “Huh? I’m gonna keep coming back ‘til someone remembers seeing Richie!”

 

The End

 

Watch The Kimono Dragon’s favourite scene from Steven Seagal’s movie “Out For Justice” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zu1YIukylw

sake finished

The Kimono Dragon: The Battle of the Stoned Fists

 

He was wearing a blue kimono. He shifted forward in purposive, steady strides.  Kicked up dust trailed behind him, broadening and dissipating lazily in the evening air.  His arms moved stiffly back and forth. They were held perhaps a bit too far away from his torso. His face was composed in a strained, serious expression. From the dense green wall of sugarcane that lined the dusty road he heard a rustling. He tilted his lowered head in its direction. His pupils were held uncomfortably in the corners of his eyes.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the KI-MO-NO DRA-GON” The mocking voice over-pronounced every syllable.

The Kimono Dragon didn’t move. Staying in that same visibly uncomfortable position, he raised the ridge where an eyebrow would be. “And who, if I don’t mind asking, which I don’t, uh, who the fuck are you?” His strange drawl seemed to originate from Brooklyn.

“Oh you don’t recognise me? How ‘bout you turn that fucking lizard head of yours around face me. Your neck craned like that with your eye straining, you look so fucking awkward.”

He closed his eyes and let out long breath. He did want to move, but now that this guy had told him to, he couldn’t. He let eyes rest behind their lids. His peripheral vision wasn’t great due to his slit-like pupils. He sighed another breath out of his nostrils and trained his eyes back on the bozo. But the bozo wasn’t there.

“Oh my God! I’m right here you fuckin-“

He gripped the guy’s throat, swept his legs out from under him with his foot and slammed his head into the ground. Finally he took in his features.  Beneath the gurgling and the popping forehead veins, he saw something familiar in his beetroot coloured eyes. He let go of the man’s throat.

“Who are you?”

The man turned onto his stomach, wheezing and coughing as he did so.  He began violently retching.

The Kimono Dragon’s expression fell back into that mildly constipated look. He looked up, squinting at nothing in particular.

“My brother…He sent me to tell you something…If you don’t leave Sendai City tonight, you’re gonna die.”

“Sorry, you’re not ringing any bells here? Who’s your brother?”

“Coco Nut….from the Iron Palm Tree Clan.”

He sighed all the air out through his nostrils. It sounded like icy wind being expelled from an ancient chasm, thinning and thinning until finally there was none…BWWKKK! His hand had split the man’s head in two and had become lodged in his throat.

“Yeah, I got no idea, man.”

 


 

The doors of the Umebachi Dive Bar flew open and he shuffled in. He paused at the entrance and with shifting eyes he assessed the room. The low tables and chairs that occupied the dark wooden floor had been replaced again and the banister to his right had been repaired in sections. Everything was cheap and fragile, accustomed to being smashed into splinters. One dim lamp, a globe of white paper blotted with five red circles, glowed above the bar. The place was mainly uninhabited, save for the owner, an old, worn and saggy woman who had served him his first drink many years ago, and a drunkard with his face pressed deeply into an ashtray.

“You’re in shit again.” The old lady tutted.

“Why’s that” The Kimono Dragon angled his face towards her.

“You don’t come here at this hour unless you are. How deep are you in it this time?”

“I just killed some guy who claimed he was the brother of someone called Coco Nut” He watched her expression droop into a frown. “Sake, please.”

She hoisted a giant bottle onto her hip and tilted its contents into a ceramic flask. She returned the bottle behind the bar with a grunt and placed the flask in the microwave. A few beeps later and the microwave whirred into life. She set two cups on the counter and using a dry cloth as protection, fetched the heated sake. The Kimono Dragon sat opposite her and watched as she poured the steaming liquid into his cup and then into hers.

She looked at him gravely. “You stupid motherfucker.”

“Cheers” he smiled wryly as they both nodded towards one another, raised their cups and sipped.

He breathed out a long, satisfying breath. Sake steam rolled amongst the floating dust.

“So who are they? The Iron Palm Tree Clan?”

“A gang of about a hundred men. Capoeira mixed with iron fist techniques. They train in the petrified palm forest on the east coast. A group of them came here last week. Didn’t have one drink, eyes red as hell, they ordered a bunch of desserts and smoked a lot of weed. I still feel funny from all that smoke.” She giggled.

“Why would they be after me-“ He thought of the man’s face falling apart around his hand. “Initially…”

“How should I know? Did you dick down one of their girlfriends?”

Stifling his wince at her coarseness with another sip, he thought back over the myriad of women he had been with recently. Through the fog of limbs and orgasms a memory bounced into view.

She held his hands into her milk chocolate breasts as she rode him, her dreadlocks danced and twisted. Moaning in a Jamaican accent with what he thought was just poor grammar, “How do you like that coconut! How do you like that COCONUT!”

“I might have.” He said through a smug, post-coital glow.

“Ugh. Well you’re gonna need to get outta here. I don’t need my banisters, chairs and tables smashed to pieces. Thanks.” He topped up her cup before pouring the remaining sake down his gullet.

“Sure.” Steam streamed from his mouth as he spoke. He stood up to leave. “Anything else I should know?”

“Their strikes are deadly, try not to get hit.”

He smiled and began moving towards the doors.

“And Kimono Dragon!” He turned to back to face her, half-expecting a warm goodbye or a touching expression of concern. “Take this asshole out with ya.” She said, glaring at the collapsed figure wheezing clouds of ash onto the bar.

Squinting, he stepped out of the bar into the morning sunlight. Below the wooden steps stood a gang of about 100 men with varying lengths of dreadlocks. The man at the front stared intensely at him.

“Another one of your victims?” He gestured to the passed out man he was holding by the scruff of his neck. “My petulant brother wasn’t enough to quench your thirst for blood.”

The Kimono Dragon dropped the man on the floor.

“Oww.” He groaned. The Kimono Dragon eyed his supposedly sleeping frame suspiciously.

“Come down here! It’s time for you to face the music!”

 


 

A rhythm began to be drummed by one of the Iron Palm Tree Clan. The clan shuffled to surround the Kimono Dragon and Coco Nut. From beneath the shading leaves of a palm tree sat Coco Nut’s wife. Dark lines of tears ran down her cheeks. DumDeDeDumDum DumDeDeDum. Coco Nut began shifting from side to side, from one foot to the other. As he lunged onto his left foot, his right leg would sweep behind him and vice versa. His eyes were bloodshot and fierce. The Kimono Dragon thought that perhaps he had been crying but this thought was soon snuffed out as the members in the circle began lighting and smoking palm leaf blunts. This guy was high as fuck. The air was quickly filled with sweet pungent smoke. Dum DeDeDum Dum Dum. He watched the figure dance, his feet left deep imprints in the earth. Left, Right, Left. Coco Nut suddenly leapt off his left foot. He rotated, bringing his right heel around. The Kimono Dragon shifted backwards to avoid the apparent attack. Coco Nut seemed to float. The right heel was merely for torque. From over the top, axing through the haze came the right leg. He had dodged to the side when the leg made a devastating impact in the ground.

“Woooaaaahh…” came the clan’s inebriated slur.

Coco Nut, not missing a beat, sprung off the ground launching a flurry of strikes. He deflected them and getting to the outside of his arms, he aimed a strike at his exposed elbow. Knnn! The Kimono Dragon stepped back clutching his hand. A smile had spread across Coco Nuts bleary face. He held his fists in tight balls, rippling the muscles along his arms. “Our bodies are of iron and stone.”

“Stone…” The Kimono Dragon repeated the word to himself in a sluggish drawl. He listened as it reverberated inside his head and became lost in the thumping haze surrounding him. Yup, he was definitely high. He turned his head. Dum…Dum…The clan members’ laughter seemed disconnected from their convulsing bodies. An ember flared inside a blunt. Further around the circle he saw the old lady peering at him. His eyes slowly traveled along her arms to the tray of deserts she was holding, and then to the eager, glazed expressions of the section of the circle she was serving. He looked back at the old lady. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged. De…De…Dum…Dum. Damn… He thought, They do look goo-

“AAAH!” He threw his head to the side as a fist grazed across his cheek. Having gone past him, Coco Nut thrust back a heel kick at his floating rib. Sliding forward past the kick and hooking his foot behind his grounded leg, the Kimono Dragon scooped his extended leg up and in a circular motion threw Coco Nut backwards. Coco Nut sprung off his hands an upon land resumed his rhythmic bobbing.

He held out his arm and snapped his fingers. The drumming stopped. The crowd bustled with excited murmurs. A clan member entered into the circle and held out a coconut before Coco Nut. Carvings adorned its shell, a hole had been chiseled into the top of it and out the front sat a small bowl. The clan member placed what appeared to be a greenish rock into the bowl. He then felt at his pockets for a moment before whispering something to Coco Nut. His face trembled with anger.

“Does anyone have a lighter?”  He sternly surveyed the clan who was now silent. His eyes flitted at the Kimono Dragon. He gave his head a little shake. “Well?” he shouted.

“I got one.” A member replied. His head was lowered into his chest as he stuffed his hand into his pocket. Finally he raised his arm triumphantly towards his leader. Coco Nut glared at him. The member’s placid face stared back. The Kimono Dragon felt his face tighten. Another agonizing moment passed.

“Well, bring it to me.”

“Oh…Right.” He clambered to his feet and trotted to Coco Nut.

Coco Nut took the lighter and began to touch the flame onto the rock. “Petrified marijuana bud…Now you’ll feel what it’s like to be stoned to death!” He placed his mouth over the hole and as he inhaled, sparks began to crack over the rock. He closed his eyes and handed the coconut back to the one member who quickly backed away into the crowd. He opened his eyes. Violent crimson shrouded his black pupils. He held his fists before his face and blew the smoke over them. An emerald sheen began to spread across them until they were fully encased in crystal. He looked menacingly at the Kimono Dragon.

“Can I get my lighter back?” The gormless member held out his hand.

Without looking away from the Kimono Dragon, Coco Nut thrust his arm to the side and through the man’s chest. Blood burst out of his back. He slumped limply forward onto Coco Nut’s arm before he was thrown onto the dirt. His body was dragged from the circle.

Coco Nut began advancing towards the Kimono Dragon. He saw that his right arm was pulled back, close to his ribs, cocked for another deadly blow. He closed the distance, one threatening step after another. Silence creaked across the circle. He lowered his gaze and softly exhaled out of his nostrils.  This was not what I bargained for…

“Look out, my Dragon!” Exclaimed a familiar Jamaican accent.

The punch had been launched. Stepping to the side and rotating his torso, he sliced below the crystalized fist with the knife-edge of his palm, drawing it to the ground. The fist cleaved deeply into the earth. The Kimono Dragon, maintaining control of Coco Nut’s wrist, slid his palm to scoop the back of his fist. Turning his whole body and twisting the fist back in on itself, he thrust it back towards Coco Nut, driving it into his jaw. The sound of a boulder splitting cracked through the air. A plume of red and green had shot up from his face and had begun to drift down, engulfing them both. Coco Nut’s jaw hung onto a shred of cartilage, his tongue waggled in blood. He dropped to his knee, and then onto his back.

KD bloody hand RB.png

 

The Kimono Dragon stood still, his body was flecked with blood, his eyes were lowered. A breeze pulled at his kimono. He wasn’t quite sure what to do. The clan had seemingly forgotten about him, and was busy trying to resuscitate their leader with blunt smoke. He took a breath in, quelling any doubts about his next action. Lifting his head, he turned to the woman beneath the palm tree, gave a sheepish smile and with a slight head shake gestured that they get out of here. She stared at him for a while without blinking, before finally smiling back.

 

The End

 

sake finished

 

Interview with The Kimono Dragon: Part I

We’ve finally managed to arrange an interview with you, Kimono Dragon-

“The”

 

Right, apologies. You’ve been labelled everything from an eccentric, a martial artist, a weirdo, a pervert, someone terribly out of touch with reality, a saviour, a “Don” and a sex symbol. Now, bearing in mind that the last three were your own suggestions, what’s your response to these?

No, I think they definitely come close to capturing the essence. Some were refreshingly accurate.

 

You’re a purveyor of Japanese Culture?

Its’s a beautiful culture. I mean you wouldn’t see Steven Seagal listening to j-pop is his house for instance you know, unless he was having a karaoke party and one of his many Japanese guests put it on he’d probably groove along to it, he’s an artist. He probably watches the music videos actually, in his own time, for the aesthetic value.

 

Uh huh…

And the thing about Japanese chicks, they’re always slightly afraid of your penis size, just think about sashimi. Great girls…Respectful and uh their culture’s a different language, an entrancing different language. They can be both strong and weak like ice and water, yin and yang, ramen noodles before and after being cooked. Their resolve is…almost cartoonish sometimes, manga, you know… who’s inspiring who? …And if you’ll forgive me for objectifying them…I’d say they’re beautiful.

 

No, no, I wouldn’t worry about that.

And I respect guys who recognise that beauty, guys like Steven Seagal, culturally informed motherfuckers, Hemingway’s another one, Woody Allen…I’m assuming Matt Preston. They’re all…I’m just to find the perfect word, model… (Raises his hand above his face as if addressing invisible deities)

 

Role models?

Well of course but more universally…model humans…the pinnacle of human development and expertise. And I don’t advocate eugenics or a kind of governmentally driven social manipulation but hypothetically if was advising the scientists and politicians working on such a policy, I would say “There’s the bullseye. Steven Seagal is a master marksman, he can literally hit a bull’s eye. Aim for the bullseye. Follow the recipe, Matt Preston is the successful author of numerous recipe books and they’re brilliant, the recipes themselves unironically easy to digest, peppered with personal anecdotes and witticisms so relatable I literally thought I had written them myself and had somehow  forgotten about it. I remember being unreasonably suspicious of his glorious smiling visage on the cover, and thinking to myself “KD, you are being illogical. In what world would a divine man such as Matt Preston commit intellectual theft, especially against you?” I came to the conclusion that he is just that good. Just follow the recipe.”

 

What was the nicest thing you ate in Japan?

Clams.

 

…Is that a joke?

Next question.

 

 

 

To be continued…

 

sake finished

Pieces of the Forest

Artwork by Jemma Clamp

Her breaths shook in rapid grasps. Trees approached and blurred past her. She jinked one side to the other, hopping over obstacles that littered the forest floor. She threw herself downhill. Air was dragged desperately into her lungs. She was afraid. She was running for her life.

Trees and branches rushed towards her. She suddenly sprang off her right foot and darted to the left. Through the sounds of her breathing, her heartbeat, and the claustrophobic rustles of the forest another set of footsteps could be heard, purposive, giving chase. FUCK! Her eyes flitted across the procession of trees in search of a possible path to take. The forest had grown denser, the branches reached out in hooks. She forced herself through a thicket and felt a hot sweet sensation as something sharp clawed itself down the length of her back. She yelped and gritted her teeth.  Run! Fucking run! She felt blood wetting the back of her leg.

“Look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” a voice cooed through the forest. Her head whipped around in shock before returning forward in time to narrowly avoid a tree. “Come back, you’re so much better off with me.”

“GO AWAY!” she screamed, purging her lungs of air before sucking in the next breath.

She was now using her arms, swiping away braches, pushing her way forward, forgetting self-preservation, driven by the strongest sense of fear that blinded all thoughts except that she had to run.

She felt the presence behind her, its fingers barely touched the nape of her neck. She clenched her eyes shut and ducked forward. Nauseating shivers crept across her body. She grabbed at the ground and flung dirt backwards. Premature screams resided in every exhale. She couldn’t escape this nightmare. Tears streamed backwards from the corners of her eyes into her hair.

She opened her bleary eyes and they immediately trained themselves on a spot of light barely visible through the black web of branches. Her body immediately sharpened in its movements. She lunged and leapt, snapping branches under her steps as she thrust forward.

“NO! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” The voice shrieked.

She burst into the light. Falling to the ground she scrambled blindly, creating distance from the dark forest edge. She stopped. Her head was lowered, she looked at nothing. Her breaths began to steady, the warmer air relaxed her lungs. She was tired. She looked up. Soft beams of light shone through the treetops, cradling the dust that floated in the air. The air was painted in brushstrokes of varying shades of gold. The ground was soft and warm.

She heard rustling behind her and turned to face it. The figure of a girl stood at the edge of the forest. Her arm was held behind the trunk of a tree as if using it for comfort. She seemed unwilling to part from it, caught in a moment of hesitation. Her face was not unlike her own, yet it fluctuated, breaking into fragments, a mosaic that billowed in an internal wind, fluxing and reforming. At first an angry scowl seethed amongst the rippling shards, however gradually a sense of sadness and longing began to appear.

“Please don’t leave me…” Her eyes fluttered on the verge of tears.

A sense of peace seemed to extend the distance between them. She gave the girl a final look of understanding before she turned away and strode amongst the light.

Hiking with a Chocolate Dog

We hiked through Newlands Forest this morning. The path while sometimes bending and twisting up and down was flat for the most part. As it lead into the canopy its surface changed from rocks and dust to a raised wooden footpath. The landscape shrunk to dense greens and browns through which the dogs would swim and clamber. Areo, our chocolate Labrador, was always fascinating to watch. She was both regal and gluttonous, sluggish and supremely agile. Walks were an opportunity for her to display her potential energy that she would happily conceal when lounging around at home. She was the chocolate drop, at home slipping from the couch to the floor to the other couch, always fitting her cumbersome and floppy bulk to her place of rest. On the walk she was a torrent. She poured down steep rocky descents, flowing through our legs and at the bottom she would stir about gently. Her golden eyes watching us and seeming to ask a very pure yet elusive question.

I often wondered how much she knows. She is intelligent and possibly very perceptive. Perhaps when she looks at me she is somewhat aware of subtleties of character, of my inner-turmoil and is trying to console me. She is a beautiful dog and perhaps as we do with all beautiful creatures, we ascribe far more to them than they ask for. She is a hungry dog and would raid the bins every night if the “Please Lock: Areo” bin locks were not fastened. She’s probably just trying to telepathically compel me to give her some food.

We reached the designated picnic point of our walk, a raised wooden construction built around a thin chopped down tree. This was the halfway point of our hike, the horizontal peak, and as such required the ingestion of some snacks. I had brought some chopped up croissants, my mom some grapefruit and apple slices and her friend a flask of coffee and some cups. “It is such a pity women are such light eaters” I thought to myself as I gorged myself on the remaining croissant pieces. I dipped a piece into my coffee (something I was told was ‘the French way’ by a woman I had had a fling with a while ago. I have since been told otherwise and so now not quite sure of the correct procedure, claim to dunk the croissants for sentimental value. The truth is that I just like dunking things in my coffee) before unctuously noshing on it. Creamy, coffee-y, buttery, my mouth’s relationship with this dunked pastry was intimate and all-encompassing. As it flaked and dissolved into the ether of my digestive system the familiar sense of longing and abandonment, the defining symptoms of pastry heartbreak, began to rise within me. My fingers (Note: plural) swept up the residual flakes that lined the Tupperware container. Ah, bless croissants flakiness. I am a clingy lover when it comes to pastries but our affair was well and truly over (for now) and so after eating the remaining, but this time offered fruit slices, we moved on.

It really was an easy hike and I was midway through convincing myself to go on a run later in the day when we came across a fork in the path. The decision was made to go left, turning up an incline instead of going right and continuing to wobble downhill. This was the motivation I needed to not go on a run later, the uphill had settled it. “No need to do two exercise activities.” It said gently. And gentle it was. Within a minute of walking the slope evened out and the path began to lazily undulate amongst the grass in front of us. I thanked the slope for its kindness and continued altruistically at the back of the group, making sure everyone had the chance of a view uninterrupted by a sad, inwardly deteriorating glutton. I cursed myself as I finally took note of the butterfly flapping in and out of my field of vision. I’m on a lovely hike with friends, family and dogs and I’m unable to enjoy it, to be in it. I spent my time gobbling food and forming lazy abstractions for the purpose of distracting myself. If I begin to start distracting myself from eating I’ll have to take direct action, something extreme to jolt this feeling from my being, to shatter this foggy mirror which dullens everything whilst forcing my perceptions back into me.