This story is by A R Kelly and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
I’ve been gone so long that all those who knew me have turned to dust. This body feels awkward, a fragile bag of flesh, bones and blood which fits oddly around my skin. The desperate urges which accompany it do nothing but slow me down. A hunger gnawing at my insides, this persistent need for sleep, and the haze of malodour that seeps out of my pores, creating a barrier which repels even the other vagrants.
The ground beneath my blackened heels is smooth and even as dirt tracks have given way to clean white rows of smooth pavement.The industrious masters of this age have moulded their world into a ceaseless blur of light, sound and motion. Their bodies, having spent millennia evolving to communicate with one another now stream blindly past, each oblivious to the other.
I cut through a small plot of green as I make my way towards the house with the blue door. The sky is fading from blue to a yellow-grey as the last puffs of storm clouds scuttle eastwards. The scent of rain lingers in the air. I pull a breath deep into my lungs to remember the feel of warm the earth in which I lay before I was brought back here. Across the other side of the park, at the start of the street which leads to my destination is a tiny flower shop. A woman is stooped over the front kerb, collecting her thick bundles of flowers and dragging them back inside. She senses my stare and looks up for an instant, before dropping her smile and going back to her task when she realises that I am not a paying customer.
The whisper slips out of me. She snapped her head back up. ‘What did you say?”
“Your heart is broken”. I’m close to see the puffy eyes, the unkempt hair pulled up carelessly behind her shoulders. The woman’s feelings swirl around her in a cloud of yellow and black tinges with green. Heartbreak and envy.
She crushes the flowers against her dress as she shoves past, and running back into the shop.
“Your heart is broken, but it will heal if you learn to accept it.” I whisper half to myself as I watch her staring at me through the shop window, her hands still gripping the broken flower stems.
The pounding in my head is getting louder as my destination draws near, and I can feel the hairs on my skin tingle as comes into view.
The white terrace house looks no different to the other five in the row to which it is attached. But it looks different. There’s an aura around it, binding all but those who mean it no harm from approaching it. The tiny tree lined street in front is littered with rubbish, and patches of dried vomit, but here at the front of the house there is nothing but pristine calm.
A warm yellow light spills flows through the open front door, bringing with it the scent of lilies from within.
I stand in the dark and watch the one who has awoken me for a moment. Her dark hair is pulled up over her head, and she hold a half drunk glass of wine in her hand. She looks up as the breeze catches a small bell by the door.
She knew I was here.
The bell tinkles again as she pulls open the screen door and stands before me.
“Come in.” My stench follows me into the narrow carpeted hallway, bare except for a plain wooden table on which sits a small vase of pink lilies. She walks ahead, and leads me through the back of the house, to the small courtyard. Her emotions reveal themselves as pink, blue black. She wants love and knowledge, and the power that comes from it.
“Do you want some water?” My hand trembles as I grip the small, cold glass.
The sweet, clean taste of the water reminds me of the filth that I’ve lived off for the past two weeks.
“I didn’t think it worked.” I stare at her.
“Calling you, I mean.” She took a sip of her wine. “Didn’t think it worked.” She shook her head and gave a little laugh. “But here you are..not quite what I expected, but you are real, aren’t you?” She ran her eyes up and down, and I didn’t need to read her mind to know what she was thinking.
“So what happens now?”
I unpeel my tongue off the roof of my mouth and slowly voice the words I have said so many times before. “The ceremony. Is incomplete”.
But she is barely listening. “There’s so much that I need to ask you… I don’t know where to begin” she starts. “Will you stay here with me? Teach me?”
I step closer, close enough that she can see into my eyes, and take her face into my hands. “The ceremony isn’t complete until the transfer is complete.” I say the words again, a glimmer of strength returning to my voice. “Will you help me? I can help you, if you help me.” She nods into my hands.
“Then take my hands and close your eyes.”
Her glass slips onto the floor as she grips my hands. I can feel her youth pouring into me almost immediately. A small tingle to start, growing to a warm throb of energy as she began to spill into me. She didn’t know what was happening until it was too late. But once she took my hands, it was too late.
The blue door shuts quietly behind me as I step into the night. My crown of black curls spilling over a low cut black dress. My chin up to look the world in the eye. A man walks past, his arms linked into another’s, his eyes on me. I give him a small smile as I stride into the world, born anew.