Cumbrian Inn

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

A man stands behind a woman as she stands with a pint in her hand and stares at a wall. It’s an old wall, an ancient wall and he cocks his head as he watches.

Inhaling, the man ponders as he carefully erects his words and he saddens. Will she even care to listen?

“What are you doing?”, he asks and she can feel his eyes as they pick at the hairs on her neck.

Tremors involuntarily leak through her skin and she digs her fingers deep into her pit and surprises herself as she answers.

“Nothing. I remember watching a show years ago about sound. A crazy notion that it could be trapped within the plaster of these old taverns. Layers of phantoms in the walls”, she says, swallowing far too loudly.

“I am a ghost.”

The woman stiffens, again this shyness she so hates, the puff swollen flush of her face.

“There’s nothing in these walls. My body is down there. Out through these panes upon which the rivulets conjoin and thicken, down to that prong where the land narrows and drops to the pounding swell. Down where the harpy tide rolled and suckled at the sponge of my carcass before then thrusting it deep down into that ripping slit in the rocks.”

“You make fun of me. They all make fun of me”, she whispers.

“I don’t mock. It’s hard, I know. Even the slim chance you believe me is tainted with the preconceptions you draw from your fictions. I’m no wisp of a life’s remembered smoke, no angry ghoul to haunt this place of my murder.”

“Then what?”

“I am wet. I am cold and I feel each beat of the waves as they surge and scoop at my bones. It is a cruel reality this thing called death.”

The woman shifts her gaze and looks to the old man who sits in the corner hunched and lost in his brew. And she looks at the stretch of the barman’s back as he grinds and polishes the bar and she begs for them to turn. She wants rid of this crazy and beautiful thing, this caressing tone. This thing she cannot face.

“It’s OK.”

The woman feels his hands as they reach and curl at her waist. She feels his spreading moisture as it soaks down into her clothes. Her eyes roll back into her mind and they plead, yet again, for the barman and the old drunk to turn.

Just turn.

She can smell the brine of his hair and she rocks on the balls of her feet and she gags and she spits out the sea that grips and burns in her throat.

His arms loop up under hers from behind and his fingers lace at her chest. And the fish they gnash, and their heads rip side-to-side and pull her away from her skin.

His lips part and she feels their swell at her neck and her eyes fill with a darkness stabbed through with fingers of light. Fingers that lazily swirl and sweep from edge of the boat that drifts up high and upon the ceiling.

“Calm, trust yourself in me. It’s OK to submit and fold into this rapture, it’s OK if they never turn. Not ever.”

“Why, why did you come?”, she asks.

“Don’t you see, silly? I came here only for you.”

The Very Long Ladder

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

She loves him and he loves her. But here on the stagnant, barely lapping, crust edge of the great acid sea, love is something suppressed. A meaningless and functionless thing to be stuffed away as far as possible from the hearts that ache in their chests.

This an ancient society in which all are expected to provide, to mine deep into the earth for the fingers of god – the morsels they suckle for moisture and fibre, the mash they roll in their mouths.

Her family are miners, exalted providers of food and the special stones with which they build their homes and protect themselves from the sear of the orb, which perpetually burns in the sky.

His father, on the other hand, was a dreamer. A quiet soul who told tales of a great world, another realm that lived and thrived deep beneath their toes. He hated the tight grip of this world, staring deep into the orb, begging for answers as it tore the sight from his head. They found his desiccated body, his face melted away as, in his madness, he’d crawled and drunk from the sea.

She and he both can think of nothing more than to, also, escape from this place. Lost in each other’s arms. He dancing about her and she feigning interest until he falls at her side and nips at her bare neck with his teeth. Laying atop he’d hook her in and together they’d forget about just how acidic and cruel this world of theirs can be.

Today they again ran away over the igneous dunes, farther than they’d ever before dared. And she, again, tastes him as their tongues intertwine and she calls this bitter secretion her love.

They startle, a crackle and a loud sonic snap as beams of brilliantly charged energy jag out like flint spears from their sun.

They run, making for an outcrop that rises out from the peak of the shale surge. Boulders stack atop boulders and they navigate through their maze until there, at its core, a hole.

A hole and the first peeking rungs of a ladder.

Now, you should understand that to them a ladder is a fantastical thing. They’d never seen one, yet they realised at once its function. And, as we all know, there has never been a ladder built that did not lead somewhere. Such enticing things they can be.

Without so much as a thought, they descend and they’re happy as the dim light fades to the blackest of pitch. Down and more down. Stopping only to loop their bodies around each other and through the ladder as they slept. And they dream at once of spinning in space, and they forget what is up and what’s down.

A speck of light appears and, quite suddenly, again they emerge from the hole. A soft rhythmic thump beckons and they take each other’s ripped and blistered hands and they step out into the sun.

But what hangs above them is the most strangest of orbs, its bright surface pitted and grey amid a vast sky, dark as coal and full with glittering flecks. And below it, sweeping out before them, a vast rolling blanket of water and even in this dim light, for they have never known anything but day, they know they are not where they began.

She kisses the smooth scales of his cheek and they step into the lap of the cool, cool sea and they chirp and they click as they stand on the roof of their world.

White Star

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

She slides the ornately embossed door aside and enters the first-class stall. It’s empty but for a man, he barely stirs as he reads aloud from a menu.

“Calvados Glazed Roast Duck with Apple Sauce.”

“William.”

“Miss White.”

The train wheels clatter and shake and the man smiles as he cranes his head up to take in a vast undulating sea of blue-tinged snow. A perfection of ice that scoops up to a high jagged peak, a finger of sheer rock that rises and points to the crisp moon that dominates the tranquil ink pond above.

“You believe you’re not to die here?”, she asks.

“Quite the opposite. I know it with certainty. I know the bullet you primed just moments ago will enter through the corner of my right eye and then expand inside of my head.”

“I will kill you and he will come.”

“Do you know who you work for? They who come to you in the fog. These guardians of the future who feed your dreams and clap as you wolf it all down.”

“Be careful, Mr. Starr.”

“I’ve no need for care. You’re to eliminate me because I pose a severe threat to the time-line, correct?”

“You’re a very dangerous man.”

“Then, shoot me. Why afford me even the barest of opportunity to overpower you or pollute your conviction with my words? You can’t…”, he says taking the gold fob-watch from his pocket, “… not just yet.”

“Go on…”, she goads raising her weapon to his face and pleading with her finger to contract.

“Your visions say I’m responsible for the coming saviour’s death…”

“He was to die. Today but 400 miles south of where you now smirk. A forgotten name aboard a great ship that even you could not find. A colossus hidden in plain sight.”

Mr. Starr flips the menu to face her. The letterhead, a two-pronged red burgee, a white star and in sweeping elegant font beneath: Royal Canadian Pacific Rail Car – Titanic.

“He was to die at 2:27 a.m, April 15th, aboard the RMS Titanic. But times they are a changin’.”

“What did you do?”

The carriage jolts as a massive sheet of ice detaches from the mountain above and unfurls, building in speed and mass as it crashes toward the longest and fastest steam train the world has ever known.

“We’ve lived this life many times over. Sometimes I’m you and sometimes I’m me. But each time it is only I that knows this fate. I’ve tried to end this spiral. The rope snaps at my neck, the knife slips harmlessly at my wrists… remember this, Catherine. It’s too late now but next time. Together we’ll escape from their grip”, he screams into the roar of torquing steel and the searing crack of the gun.

2:15 a.m, April 15th, 1912. HMA Titanic

The world’s largest airship glides like a leaf along the gentle air-stream that rises up the edge of the Mahalangur Himal range and spirals into a brilliantly moonlit sky.

A woman in a thick fur-rimmed jacket approaches a man with sad eyes. He grimaces out through his view-port at just how very close they’re getting to the highest peak on the planet.

She thrusts what appears to be an overstuffed suitcase into his hand.

“Billy. Don’t think. Just put it on… time to leave.”

The Breakdown

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The rain has given up falling in drops and now lambastes the windscreen in heavy punched lumps. The manic whip of the wipers suddenly stops and the engine dies and she eases the car, tempering the brake with her foot until the squeal of tires against curb announces it, too, has rubbed to a stop.

It is late and she toys with the phone in her pocket.

“Who in hell am I going to call and for gods sake why here?”, she laments as she wonders just why a lamp post should be in the business of casting down its pyramid of garish orange light out here on this road only travelled if you happen to live at its very, very long end.

She sucks her finger and hunches into the wrap of her own arms and stares blankly out into the trees.

“So futile their clutch as they snatch and they claw at the wind”, she snorts.

The violence of the storm is lulling and she rocks as it shoulders against the car and she wonders just what she is for.

The light high above does not flicker but the flapping sheets of the night make it seem as if it does. Twisting she leers into the rear-view mirror and is, at once, repulsed by the strobing blink of her image.

“Smile”, she goads of her lips but they deny her and screw to her trademark pout, “God, what a miserable bitch”.

She rests her forehead against the cool sting of the streaking glass and then stiffens as she feels a weight shift at her side. Does she look? Does she dare turn her head as the hairs now itch and spike at her arm?

The thing next to her silently drips and could care less if she offers her gaze. It is not the rain but rather blood riven purulence that now soaks its seat as it grins and it leans and prods at the puff of her shivering cheek.

“Demon”, she’d have cried if only the tendons in her neck had not pulled her mouth tight.

“Demon… Daemon… Dibbuk… Djinn dum-diddy-dum… what are these but names for ourselves, sweet Frances. Like Hell, now, if ever there was a construct made by man… a place, a thing to justify the rotten things that we do.”

The demon looks out into the rain, through the wet needles and into the undulating swirl belly of the trees, and it sighs.

“But then, I guess these words well describe this bowl around whose rim you now find yourself a slithering”

“I hate you. You horrify me. But I will not ever let you win.”

“It’s not me you fear, Frances. It’s you. Am I not familiar? My nose, how the very tip of it dips as I talk and the tobacco smell of my skin it is his, is it not? Remember how these teeth clenched so tight as he beat your tiny body, how you thought they would crack and spill from his mouth as he whispered to you in the night. Blame him, go on blame me for what you did. My eyes, see how the corneas pucker and sag. You know only too well the frosted gaze of the boys you gralloched and left in these woods. You made me… he… made… us both.”

Again, she thinks out into the storm and her finger nails snap back and lift from their beds as she massages the empty seat that creaks and moans at her side.

“You pick such pretty places to break”, he breathes.

Apeth

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Daena Nova stares through the recycled molecules in the air and laments that she hates flying even more than her pores do. But business is business and she has a man to meet.

The schematics held on the flash-drive that’s wedged into the canister that’s tucked between her legs will buy her an island. She has no idea what the plans are but she’s been fucked by all kinds of men and women who deal in such things and so she surmises, albeit briefly, that they’re probably blueprints for something that blows shit up or shoots shit down.

Daena owns a beauty that transcends cultural and individual preference. It matters not your sexual orientation, nor the age of your eyes and not even the blind are exempt from the heat she emits, everybody wants Daena.

Bartering her body to the world’s elite leaves her filthy but rich. This mammoth pay-day but one of many.

She savours the rush, not sexual, that she barely remembers but, instead, the pure unfettered punch of power that pinches at her skin as she makes fools of the weak.

“Power is like time. It depends on your vantage point”, she thinks as she takes stock of her lot and she imagines velvet planks laying out before her upon a network of bloated bodies. A bridge, an ascension that knows no pity. There’s no time, she knows she’s been dying ever since they slit open her mother and she slid like greased grace to the light.

The uncomfortable piece of plastic agitates and, though the cubicle is first-class large, it still makes her feel like she’s pissing in a cupboard. Muscles tighten and simultaneously relax, a tricky manoeuvre to hold tight her charge and, at once, let loose her bladder.

A bump, as if the floor has ever so slightly fallen away. Then…

Floating, waves fold blankets against a shore, dredging back in a rhythm that lulls as it rubs. Smiling, content in the knowledge that neither nature nor war nor whatever the fuck that was can end this most perfect of lives.

Sand. An endless stretch of white that catches the light, flicking it like sparks from a fire.

Daena reads people. She knows what they want. She knows the feel of eyes and she feels that hunger now.

“Like what you see?!”

The night is long and beautiful. Sleep hugs and, for once, her subconscious allows her peace and tomorrow her people will come. Tomorrow.

Two weeks pass, bare feet in the wet sand and she hears a splash. This is no human that now steps from the waves, a large silver fish convulsing in the clench of its teeth.

The monkey shows no fear as she approaches, the heady musk of his fur, dripping and knotted.

“A sea monkey”, she smiles.

His eyes widen as he cocks his head, drinking her in.

“It’s you that watches, furry little pervert bastard.”

Weeks roll and she shifts and changes and she craves for things once had.

Today the monkey is more inquisitive than usual. She’s become used to his casual indifference, but now he approaches and touches her face.

She feels the soft pad of his finger in her mouth. She tastes salt and thinks of the blemish-less skin that lays beneath the shag of her fur. Back home… she’ll shave it away, scrub herself raw and lather her body in oils.

“Nobody will know.”

Breath at her neck, his throat a rasp as he speaks.

“Now, you’re like me. The other world, it was not meant for those as beautiful as we.”