Amarta Project

Amarta Project
Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Disappeared

"You's EVIL out there."

He wasn't sure himself if he was referring to the weather, the hard lashing of rain mozaicing down the coffee shop window, or something altogether more colourless.

He looked directly at her across the table. Her front two teeth peeped out from under her top lip and sat awkwardly on the cushion of her bottom one as she half smiled. He could tell she was trying her best, so softened a little.

"Out there, you know - I don't like it. It's full of them. Look...."  He traced his finger across the glass, mapping trajectories of people as they walked from right to left, towards, away - a cluster of lines streaked in the condensation on the window. A history of journeys, messy, random - urban.

"It takes everything I am to come in here, but the coffee is good. Look at them all. I don't know where they're going - what does it mean do you think? Why do they all look the same, and dress the same? Why do none of them look happy? Why are they all so - disappointing..."

Again her looked at her, and she again half smiled.  Her eyes were big. Really big. A round face framed by a sleek bob that was chestnut - once - and a haunting jawline.

"You don't say much, do you?" He realised that maybe she couldn't.

The door of the coffee shop swung open. A man and a woman walked in, epileptically shaking the rain off their shoulders and laughing. They - were them. The woman slid into a booth and flirted a smile at the man who went to order their coffee, in doing so, making sure her skirt was just that little bit too high up her thigh as she crossed her legs to face him.

It takes everything I am to come in here.

Heads began turning. Starting at the errant end of the coffee shop, whistling through a half turn to the entrance and stalling somewhere in the middle, only to be kickstarted by another chance comment which set the circle in motion again. Somehow within this violent sense of rhythm he knew people were staring. It didn't bother him, or make him perspire, not even when his hands began to tremble or his feet stuttering as he tried to stand up.

"Are you okay? Sir?"

The big eyes of the coffee girl blinked high and wide as she swept a lock of chestnut hair over her ear and peppered him with broken English. No semblance of her face stuck to his memory. Behind her was a mirror. He saw nothing but a blinding white light where his shape should have been. A moment of pure clarity. She was never here when I needed her.

He pulled out a scrunched twenty from his pocket, balancing himself with his other hand on the cold formica table.
"I've just got to get out for a while...get some air...."
He was aware a sliver of blood was trailing from his nose, also aware that the mischevious couple were no longer flirting, only gawping.
"Are you sure Sir?"
Again the broken English. Again the image of her naked and beneath him. It lolled in his head and shifted from side to side like a counter weight. No, no, no.....
"I'll be fine once I get some air. I just"
He hugged himself, his sleeves riding up to reveal slender forearms. Turning without retrieving his jacket from the back of his chair, he ran out of the shop into the rain - a streak on the window, lost in the random.

He recalled the words from the letter as he swallowed miles of the charcoal motorway in front of him. Was it late in the night or early in the morning? He couldn't tell.

What's it like being you?

A small question, an afterthought of a question. Yet one he couldn't answer.

I hope you're happy and healthy, and I promise I won't leave it so long next time!

All my love,


Was it really three years ago? How could it be?

He remembered this place from his childhood, but now it looked so much more ominous. The beach he remembered lay maybe two hundred feet beneath him, strewn across the sea like damp muslin. The beach he remembered as a four year old. The tide had been out that day, and gasping starfish lay half buried in the wash. There had been a small boat too - a fishing vessel perhaps - lodged sideways on in the sand. Funny how it came back to him. It was perhaps the first memory of a time before now, of a time when her hair started to change from satin to steel wire. The night made it somehow more romantic, like a scene from someone else's life.

What's it like being you?

The words seemed to run off the yellowing notepaper to meet him. Substantially more different than it had been eight short hours ago. Lassooed, the arms of the sea before him sparkled under the sick moon, and all seemed to fit in its rightful place. Diseased blood in his thin body rose to the surface as he began to undress, folding them into a neat pile. Placing them on the still warm bonnet of his car, he took five steps forward.

It takes everything I am to come in here.

Closing his eyes, he took another five steps forward, but only managed three as the ground disappeared beneath him.


Gasping starfish. Stars fell.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh - good!! You should write another book of short stories - or try to get the old one published. Ed