The Days Before


It was hard growing up and losing my childhood. I was corrupted by the world, corrupted by sin. It sits in my skin – I have lost that pearly perfection; grown coarsened by time. It is in my hands, grown withered and yellowed by the years.

Each night I cried, a baptism of tears, wanting to be born again. I was carried away on a sea of regrets, grown faded in memory, like a ghost in a storm. I tried to shout over the din, but nobody heard me, nobody cared.

But then, an angel appeared, and made me feel new, whole, no longer corrupted. You are my friend. I am striving to live again, but I’m not sure how; I was broken by my fall from grace.

I am healing, slowly, but it could take years, and I still have the flashbacks, the memories.

At least you care.

And in this way I’m better off than I was before – everybody needs a friend.

To hold their hand in the darkness, speak comforting words to them.

Yes, I’m better than I was before, in the days before you came.

I don’t want to go back to being a slave, to something I don’t believe in. I just need this glow inside me, and then I’ll be okay.

The days before you came were so barren, cold and empty. But now I have this hope, this love that lives inside me.

Thank you for being my friend.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise…

A boat beneath a sunny sky, 
Lingering onward dreamily 
In an evening of July — 

Children three that nestle near, 
Eager eye and willing ear, 
Pleased a simple tale to hear — 

Long has paled that sunny sky: 
Echoes fade and memories die: 
Autumn frosts have slain July. 

Still she haunts me, phantomwise, 
Alice moving under skies 
Never seen by waking eyes. 

Children yet, the tale to hear, 
Eager eye and willing ear, 
Lovingly shall nestle near. 

In a Wonderland they lie, 
Dreaming as the days go by, 
Dreaming as the summers die: 

Ever drifting down the stream — 
Lingering in the golden gleam — 
Life, what is it but a dream? 

From Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I long for scenes where man hath never trod …


File:Lone Tree in a Wheat Field Gensley Road Lodi Township Michigan.JPG

I Am!

by John Clare

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

Image via Dwight Burdette

Burnt Out


I am the smoke of a candle whose flame has extinguished.

I am the final, fading glow.

I am a ghost like my Uncle Michael, drifting around town in a grey coat.

Empty after 40 years of alcoholism and being alone.

I am burnt out from the world, I am burnt out from being myself.

Burnt out from chasing dreams that weren’t mine.

Burnt out from vanity and the expectations of others.

Burnt out from being weak and not knowing my own mind.

I kept a journal for years in order to ‘find myself’.

But I could not keep myself.

It is very hard in the roar of the great sea.

I longed to be loved, but I never loved myself.

When others profess their love for me I find myself empty.

I have no love to give.

I am a mote of dust floating about the world.

Waiting to be folded back into the light.

The City of Omalas

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago, when I was 22:

I suppose I should begin my miserable story by telling you how I got here in the first place. A long time ago, or at least it feels like a long time ago, I was taken from a lower plane: a planet called Earth. I remember it well: I was walking along an empty road, gazing up at the thick white clouds that filled the sky that day. As I was gazing an opening formed in the clouds, making a sort of portal, and I was dragged up into the air, unable to resist, towards that opening in the clouds from which bright white light was issuing.

Once through, I found myself in the centre of a large circular room. There were long windows dotted all around, through which the purest light came pouring in and illuminating the walls and floor. Sitting in front of me, in a semi-circle of ornate and richly patterned silver thrones, were seven men and women, all beautiful in appearance, and all wearing long and flowing white robes. Looking down, I saw that I too was wearing a white robe of the same fashion.

The man who sat in the centre of the semi-circle was the most beautiful being I have ever seen. His name, he said, was Lord Vertigo, and he was the leader of the Council of Omalas. He then proceeded to introduce the other members of the Council to me, whose names I cannot remember now.

I wish I could adequately describe to you his beauty, for such I have never seen. He was almost supernaturally beautiful, his features moulded to perfection, with high cheekbones, a firm, squared jaw, and a straight nose. A creature of striking contrast, with ivory skin, long black hair, and piercing blue eyes. If you wonder why I give so vivid a description of him here, it is because I hold his image in my heart always, and I hope that one day I will see him again.

But more of him later. I will move on with my story now. Lord Vertigo, the leader of the Council, said to me:
“We have chosen you to be our Queen, for never before have we seen such physical and intellectual beauty amongst living beings. It would be a shame for you to stay on a such a lesser plane. You are the Chosen One. Come and live with us in Omalas, our beautiful city. You shall be granted the gift of everlasting life, and have a palace of your own, and all the friends and lovers you’ve ever imagined. Come and live with us, and be our Queen.”

The way he spoke was supremely elegant, and his propositions irresistible. Of course I was a little surprised to be spoken so highly of by such a creature as he, but naturally I accepted the offer, on the condition that Lord Vertigo would visit me in my new palace.

I was transported to my new home in a golden chariot drawn by four white horses. The city itself was grand and imposing, with huge white buildings that resembled seashells in their beauty and intricacy. The roads were wide and cobbled with stones that sparkled in the sunlight. Here and there were small market stalls selling everything from succulent marrows to dainty bracelets, exotic fragrances to extravagant flowers. The citizens of Omalas were otherworldly with their colourful robes and radiant faces. Youth and beauty abounded; of age and ugliness there was nothing to be seen.

The grounds of my palace were entered through high golden gates, and then I was taken up a long and winding path that appeared to be made of white marble, snaking its way through a lawn of lush green grass.

My palace was a vast elaborate structure that shone like a pearl in the perfect pristine sunlight. Inside, it was so completely furnished it looked like someone had lived there only moments before. It was exquisite in every detail, from the giant bedroom, presided over by a king-size four-poster bed, to the white marble bathroom, in which the bath had the dimensions of a small swimming pool, to the banqueting hall, filled with a huge oak table laden with all the food and drink you could imagine.

I revelled in my palace and my new-found glory. I twirled around and around in my cavernous ballroom, laughing with glee. All of this was meant for me. I suppose I’d always known, secretly, that I was the Chosen One.

I surrounded myself with servants and courtiers: Lords and Ladies of the highest distinction. Two huge sleek black dogs followed me everywhere; they were my favourite companions of all. By night they’d sleep at the very foot of my bed; by day they’d be forever at my heel, or close behind me, like my own living black train. I carried a looking-glass around with me at all times so I could admire my beauty. This city was fair, and so were the people in it, but I was the fairest of them all, for I was the Queen.

I was glorious, I was decadent; I was truly alive. I threw masked balls and dinner parties. The food was heavenly, the company divine, and the wine was exquisite – such wine I had never tasted before. In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing; one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company. I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.

So one day, I left my palace and made my way down to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot. Once there, I enquired at the door where I might find Lord Vertigo. However the doorman would not give me an adequate answer, and I began to suspect that he was keeping something from me.

At first I grew impetuous: “Do you know who I am?” I asked him, and then I grew angry. I pushed the doorman to one side, threatening to set my dogs upon him if he dared to follow me, and then I went round the inside of the Council building, threatening anyone who dared to get in my way. I searched high and low, but Lord Vertigo was nowhere to be found. Neither did I find any other Council members.

Finally there was just one place left to look: a stairway in the basement of the building that led underground. I began to descend the uneven stone steps, my dogs still close at hand. My only source of light was a small lantern that I had found. As I descended further and further down the subterranean stairway, the air began to grow very cold and dank and foul-smelling. The walls were covered with a damp moss that I could hardly bear to touch. Still I pushed on, holding my nose.

Finally I reached the bottom of the stairway after what felt like years, and walked forward to a heavy oaken door, blackened with age, that looked damp and slimy. I gripped the icy cold handle of the door, and turned it, slowly. I could hear my trembling breath in the dead, flat silence. The door opened with a heavy creaking sound, and a foul stench from the room beyond hit me like a breath exhaled from a gruesome beast. My dogs howled and whimpered and ran back up the stairway, their tails between their legs, so that I was left alone in the dark with only the guttering light of my lantern for company.

I felt fear, but I also felt curiosity, and the curiosity won. I had come this far, after all, so what was the point of going back? With this in mind I entered the room behind the door.

What sight did I behold in that room? Such a gruesome sight I had never seen! Such a pitiful, frightful, disgusting sight. A vast cage filled with beings that were once human, crawling in mud. Some were naked; others were swaddled in filthy rags. Their pale skin appeared to glow faintly in the dark like spectres, or like the strange, tragic-looking fish that exist at the very bottom of the ocean. Skeletal and wasted, they clawed at each other in the throes of madness. Their eyes were huge, glassy and glazed, like miserable moons.

I knew at once what they were: they were the Damned , the rotten foundation upon which this seemingly flawless city was built. They reached out to me between the bars of their cage, moaning.

I turned and ran, all the way back up the stairs, into the basement, up into the hall and out of the Council building, never looking back. I dived into my golden chariot and raced homewards.

On the way back, it seemed that the city had changed. Things were not as they had first seemed. I could see the fakery; I could see the corruption. Omalas was crumbling around me; quite literally breaking into pieces. Buildings disintegrated before my eyes. A foul stench was in the air, and faces leered out at me from windows, laughing at my horror and confusion.

The white marble lane that wound up to my palace now had a crack running up the centre, which seemed to me to be getting wider each time I looked, as if it would open up into a crevasse and swallow me. My lawn of lush green grass now seemed artificial and unnaturally bright, and it was clear on closer inspection that each individual blade of grass was made of plastic.

But inside my palace, nothing seemed to have changed. Was it possible I had been imagining things? Perhaps nothing I had just seen had been real. I surrounded myself with my courtiers, to bring me out of my dark mood, which was the result, I told myself, of a strange delirium brought on by the onset of a fever, and nothing more. A bit of company was what I needed.

But I found my courtiers irksome now, and fake. Their mindless empty laughter grated through me like a violin playing out of tune. When I studied my appearance in my looking-glass, a huge crack snapped up the centre, splitting my reflected visage into two, and I screamed, dropping it to the floor, where it shattered into a million tiny pieces. I screamed again, this time in rage and confusion, and my courtiers screamed too, as if mocking me, and when they did so their faces began to melt like plastic, so that their expressions became huge gaping yawns of misery. As one, we all screamed, and the sound rang through the palace like a death-knell.

I knew then that their beauty had been nothing but masks to hide the truth: that they were the Damned, just as surely as those creatures beneath the city were, and just as surely as I now was, for the Council had surrounded me, and my dogs were not there to defend me. They had come to take me away, for they knew that I knew the truth.

Out of my senses, I fell to the floor at Lord Vertigo’s feet, clutching desperately at the folds of his robe, and implored him not to take me to see the Damned, for I had already seen them, but to come to my chamber instead. He did not respond to my request, but his face was grim.

I was forcefully removed from my palace, and transported back to the Council building in a cage on wheels that was drawn by four huge tigers. On my way I was jeered at by the citizens of Omalas and some threw eggs at me. I wept and implored Lord Vertigo to let me go.

I was taken down to the dungeon where the Damned are kept and here I now lie as I tell you this story, one of many. I am weak, hungry and miserable, but I still have some resolve. I believe that Lord Vertigo loves me, and is secretly on my side, but keeps up a pretence of devotion to the Council through fear for his life. However I am sure he is harbouring a plan to rescue me.

He will rescue me, and then I will become the Queen of Omalas once more, and he shall be my King. The Damned shall be executed, and so shall the rest of the Council, and I will have absolute power and the freedom to exercise my will however I choose. This is my belief, and it keeps me going through the long hours of eternity amongst the Damned.