Next! ( prose sketch)

‘Have faith, Alice, and everything will be alright in the end…’

Alice looked over her left shoulder, squinting into the setting sun as she briefly appraised the figure beside her on the ledge.
She looked back to the right. The train was still some distance off, and would slow as it reached this stop.
Her plan was to jump on top of it, as she has done many times, not in front of it.
But there was no need to tell the Angel that.

‘New, Huh?’, she asked, sliding down and leaning against the low wall.
There was still a few minutes to waste.

‘I am, yes, to your case at least, not to Guardianship.’ The melodic voice paused, then added ‘I have had quite a number of wards.’
Alice nodded, pulling out a toothpick and sucking on the end. She wasn’t sure what that was all about, but it looked badass on TV.
She got peppermint flavoured ones, cos if you’re gonna chew on a bit of wood, you might as well end up with fresh breath.

‘Had’. She said, ‘Where are they all now?’
She knew where they were, there was only one way a Guardian Angel took on a new ward.
‘Well, dead, naturally..’ The Angel started..
Alice laughed. ‘That’s reassuring’

She stood up and climbed back onto the outcrop of broken wall that allowed her access to this otherwise forbidden area overlooking the rails.
She was good at finding these sort of places.

‘What I mean is’, the Angel was fumbling to explain, ‘is that when a previous ward dies, even peacefully of old age, we are assigned a new ward to look after.’
The train was approaching the station, slowing down for its stop, to let passengers on and off.
‘That’s kind of like the deal I have’, Alice replied, turning around to face the Angel, her back to the now darkened sky. ‘I’ve had a few Guardian Angels, but they keep assigning me new ones’.

The hiss and clatter below signified the train was practically at a stand still. It wouldn’t stay that way long.
‘That’s unusual,’ the Angel frowned, ‘what happened to the previous ones?’.
Alice let the toothpick drop from her lip and flicked it deftly out of the air as it fell.
She’d spent forever practicing that move.

‘Some died. Most quit’, she said, touching her hand to her forehead in mock salute.
She stepped backwards, dropping off the ledge into the darkness below.

‘Oh dear’, murmured the Angel.

Checking In. (prose)

‘And how are things with you these days, Alice?’, inquired The Cheshire Cat.

‘Well’, she answered, ‘You know that feeling when everything seems to be working out?
Your chickens have all come home to roost.

There’s a glorious sunrise, and finally, life is good’?

‘No’, replied The Cat, ‘ I can’t say that I do’.

‘Oh’, said Alice, thoughtfully, then after a little while, rather sadly, ‘Me neither’.

all I ever do (prose)

‘You’re doing it again, Alice’.
The Caterpillar exhaled swirling purple smoke as he nodded solemnly.

Hi ‘And YOU’RE doing it again, Absolem’, said Alice, distractedly. Her board game, in which she was playing all four of the players, was coming to a critical stage, and she wasn’t entirely sure what any of the others of herself might do next.
‘Doing what?’, asked The Caterpillar, puzzled.

‘Precisely!’ She exclaimed, not entirely certain what her point had been, but quite confident she had scored on that round.

Absolem just puffed silently on his hookah, staring at her.

Alice concentrated fiercely on her game. However, she was so determined on ignoring him that she did nothing but ignore him, and consequently lost all track of her game.
Eventually the suspense became too great, and she threw down the pieces in exasperation.

‘Fine!’, she snapped , ‘what am I doing, apparently so amazingly well, that I don’t know I’m even doing It!?’

‘There’s much you can offer the world.’
Absolem was frustrated, and beginning to grow angry.
‘You have gifts, Alice, and you’re just….’
He paused, searching for the right words.

‘Fucking things up?’.
Her eyes watered and she rubbed at them angrily.

‘YES!’, snapped Absolem, his temper breaking.

‘Well I thought you would have expected it by now. Because I do that, you know….It’s..’
Alice’s voice finally cracked, and hot tears rolled down her cheek.
‘…It’s all I ever do’.

Letter to the editor..

Dear Alice,

It is with great indifference that I write to inform you of the death of your soul.

You may, by now, have noticed feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, anxiety and similar sensations, to a persistent and overwhelming degree.

Nevermind, it’s not as though you were using it in the first place.

Regards,

Alice.

hypomania (prose)

‘Really Alice?.. Now?’

The Cheshire Cats’ voice was admirably sarcastic, but that was nothing unusual.

‘Piece of cake Chesh’, Alice beamed, holding the defunct headset and giving it a shake, as though the broken wiring might rattle loudly, just for the occasion.

‘All I have to do is take the casing to pieces, strip some wires, resolder the connection, and sure as cupcakes, these headphones will be back on me, mixing beats before it’s time for tea…again.’

She paused, sucking her lip thoughtfully.

‘Is it just me, or does it seem, more than less, on the larger part, that it’s almost always time for tea?’

The Cheshire Cat sighed. ‘ Then I’m sure you’re aware its already well after midnight?’

Alice nodded absently, turning the headset over. ‘There’s no accounting for the unexpected timing of a well brewed pot’.

He rolled his eyes, ‘You know quite well what I mean’.

She gestured in what she imagined to be a reassuring manner.
‘It’s a simple procedure….in theory..’
She eyed the headset suspiciously, as if her statement might suddenly cause it to act otherwise.

He said more firmly, ‘and you haven’t had even the slightest amount of sleep in over two days now, Alice.
Are you sure your judgement is sound?’

She put the headset back on the desk next to the wide array of mostly unnecessary tools.

‘I’m engaged, as is oft’ the case, in a conversation with a talking cat.’ replied Alice.
I’m not sure why you would have reason to suspect ANY of my mental acuity is even remotely sound’.

She picked up a small prybar and leaned over the plastic casing.
‘Just like a lobster at lunch’ she said, reaching out…

‘ALICE!’
Cheshire’s voice was quite stern.
‘You may, perhaps, recall, that’s an expensive headset you’re about to….pry out of it’s shell?’

‘Yes Chesh. I know that.’

‘You may also recall, that your knowledge of electronics is entirely self discovered….
And you should well remember… what happened last time you attempted soldering..’
His tone was loaded with meaning.

She stared at him without expression.
‘I’m not sure I see your point.’ she said flatly.

The fire had been almost entirely an accident.

She pushed down with the prybar.

The headset split open at the seam with a rather satisfying “Crack”.

‘Wow!’
She shone the light into the cavity,
‘Look at those wires…

They’re REALLY THIN!’

Cheshire sighed again , sounding rather resigned.

‘It’s ok Chesh, I saw this once on a TV show….you always cut the blue wire.’
She paused.
‘Or is it green ..?’

Cheshire coughed.
‘It’s a headset Alice, not a bomb’.

She grinned, reaching for a small screwdriver.
‘ Well then, there’s nothing to worry about….’

…. Half an hour later she made a contented noise, and put the reassembled set down onto the desk.

She looked at it warily.

‘Why do you suppose,’ Alice said to the now sleeping cat, ‘that there are always all these parts left over……?’

what goes up.. (prose)

Alice hummed happily, sketching away on her notebook.
She had met nice new people, and was enjoying making art.
She thought it was nice to be happy for a change.

Happy…
The thought paralyzed her.
Ice flooded through her veins, and a shadow loomed above her.
“That’s right Alice, you forgot the rules”, came a voice.

“No”, begged Alice, “I wasn’t, I mean, I was, but just a little bit, and I thought maybe…”

“THERE IS NO HAPPINESS ALLOWED HERE”, the shadow hissed at her .
“THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES”.

“No, please, I don’t want to, not again “..

The infinitely black hands reached down inside her, finding all the small fragments of joy that had begun to form, and casually tore them apart.
Overwhelmed by pain and sadness, Alice barely noticed as she was lifted like a rag doll and cast into The Hole of Shadows.
“WHAT GOES UP, MUST GO DOWN, ALICE”.

She fell forever…

“Never again…”
Falling endlessly downward, Alice didn’t know which of them had whispered the words…

Perfectly Clear (prose)

‘It isn’t so much as what it never was’, said Alice, awkwardly attempting to adopt a stance and tone of voice approximating what she imagined a university professor might assume, ‘but rather, what it wasn’t ever in the first place’.

She paused, trying to follow her own thoughts.

‘For example’, she attempted to clarify.

‘If you break this tea cup..’

She picked up the nearby object and dropped it to the ground, adding a small flourish for effect, but it merely bounced, several times, then rolled to a stop, defiantly intact.
She glared at the offender, then stomped on it furiously until it was only small pieces.
“Like so..”, She announced.

‘You not only destroy the many cups of tea it might have been, but also the many cups of tea it never was.’

‘Aren’t those the same thing?’, asked the Dormouse, who was the only one really paying attention.

Alice frowned, not entirely certain, but unwilling to appear wrong at this point, drew herself up importantly.

‘Decidedly not!’ She declared.

Apples & Fish (prose)

a creative writing exercise..

‘Do you suppose, Chesh, that sometimes fish are people too?’
Alice threw another apple into the pond, gazing absently at the resulting microcosm of radiating waves.
She looked over at the Cheshire Cat, who had been asleep underneath a nearby tree for most of the afternoon.
‘And they say there’s no such thing as a stupid question..’, the cat yawned lazily, before promptly returning to what appeared to be an attempt to sleep soundly through the entire day.

Alice shrugged. It didn’t matter if no one was listening.
Picking up a nearby apple, she nibbled it as she continued her thought.
‘What I mean to say is…’, she said ‘do you wonder if fish sometimes wish to be someone else?’
‘It seems normal, when feeling awfully rotten, to wish you were somewhere else, or rather, some one else. For me anyway.’
She scrunched up her face as the strong memory of doing just such a thing swept over her..
‘But.. If I were somewhere else, I would still be myself, simply in a different place, and well, I don’t think that’s the problem in this case. As they say, wherever you go, there you are.’
She eyed the apple she was holding, inspecting it for rot, before hurling it violently into the pond, where it floated, bobbing about with the others.

‘So if I were to be someone else, I would most likely be somewhere else as well, otherwise there wouldn’t be much room where I am standing.’
She looked down thoughtfully, then took a step to the side, just in case.
‘Two pigeons on the other side of the fence’. She laid a finger alongside her nose knowingly.
‘That being the case, if I were to be someone else, it wouldn’t be very long before that someone was me anyway.’ She counted on her fingers, trying to work out how to calculate ‘instantaneously’.
‘Not veryyyy long, anyhow’. She scratched her nose.
‘And me, myself, as someone else, would, with my luck, be just as unhappy and just as likely to be someone who wishes they were someone else as well!
No, that just won’t do’.

She cast her eye over the fallen fruit, looking for a likely candidate.
‘I suppose, when you look at it contrarywise , it’s more a case of wishing not to be myself, or be anyone really, rather than wanting to be another me.
Is it such a preposterous proposition to ponder that a fish may well wish to be other than its own woeful watery self?’
She gathered a few of the ripest apples on offer.
“To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…’, she quoted absently.
‘What if EVERYONE EVERYWHERE feels this way!?’. She her eyes unfocused, and she felt almost insulted by the notion.
‘What if all this time, not a soul has been happy being themselves, and JUST PRETENDING!’.
She stamped her foot! To imagine! The sheer nerve of them!
Her brow furrowed, she was down to the mystery now.
So…everyone that smiles, and says ‘as you please’, and tells you to behave, and not to rub apricot jam on your baby brother, why they just did it so that…that..so that you’d do the same!
She knew it!
‘It’s all a cabin-ski’ She announced uncertainty.
‘Co-pirate-ski?…Oh, well.’
‘Regardless, if no one wants to be themselves, and it seems I was right about that, and everyone is all full up anyhow, no vacancies, then what am I to do’?

Alice sank to the ground and buried her hands in the cool soil, surrounded by apple trees and the buzzing of industrious bees.
‘I can’t stand it, Chesh’, her voice was barely a whisper. ‘The endless…me’.
Nothing is here that wants to be here. Nothing should be here.
I’m not particularly fond of anything I find, inside or out.
The world is like a washed out water painting, and the only things that bear upon me to take notice, oh, they hurt, Cat, they hurt so much’.
She blinked, then laughed, a bleeding, savage laugh.
‘I can’t even cry. There’s not even that now!’

She got up, two ripening weapons of choice in hand, and walked towards the pond.
‘I’m stuck inside myself, with nothing, not even hate! And surrounded by liars and fakers’.
She screamed.
‘HATE! FAKERS! LIARS!’
Then, ‘SPINACH!’, just for good measure.
She spun furiously, sliding the apple at the water, imagining it to be a rock that would smash into the surface.
‘Splosh’. It somewhat anticlimactically joined the rest.
Alice stood on the edge of the water, and stared at the moving trails of light sliding over the deep water.
She swayed slightly as she recited;
“…Like as the waves make towards the pebb’d shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before..”

‘Can’t be me. Can’t be not-me. Why be anything at all?’, Alice muttered to herself, mezmerized by the water.
”Oh Alice, look what you’ve done!”, they’ll say, and take my things away again…They took that mirror away soon enough, after things got bloody, but I kept telling them, it was HER, not me’.
‘I should just throw myself into the pond!’, she DECLARED,
‘Better to be nothing on purpose than nothing because of some STUPID COSMIC JOKE’, she shrieked!
She stared at the water, watching as it rocked gently back and forth, thinking it seemed calm and deep, somewhere she could sleep.

‘Well, on second thought’, she said, biting into her apple.
‘I’d better not disturb the fish. You never know if fish might be people too’.


Time to come down. (prose)

I smelled her before I heard her.
The smell of ozone, and freshly cut grass.

She stood quietly behind me, watching as I teetered along the edge of the rooftop, eyes squeezed shut, singing as gleefuly and loudly as I was able;

“Singin’ Radiohead at the top of our lungs,
With the boom box blaring as … ”

I stopped, thought for a moment, then spun neatly on one foot to face her.

“Do you suppose”, I pondered aloud, “That p’raps I should be singing Radiohead at the top of my lungs, instead of singing at the top of my lungs about singing Radiohead at the top of my lungs?
It hardly makes much sense to sing about singing about something, when one may just as well sing it to begin with!”.

I nodded, satisfied, as I wobbled slightly on the narrow ledge. It was perfectly marvelous logic.

“Alice”, she said gently “It’s time to come down.”

“It’s alright”, I waved my hand around like a proud performer, “I shan’t fall off, its…at least somewhat partially safe”.

She looked at me reproachfully; “You know what I mean, Alice.”

I pouted. I knew exactly what she meant.
“I’m sure no one would mind if I stayed a little longer…”
Hopeful…

“You’ve been up for over two weeks now”.
It sounded accusatory.

“Yes! Two glorious weeks up!”
I grinned. “It’s been simply wonderous”.

She frowned at me. “Alice. You know how this works.”
Silence.

“Alice..”

“Fine. It was getting boring anyhow”, I lied.
It was never boring.

I stepped down onto the roof as she held out her hands.
Coated in the blackest of black.
Blackness so dark it was more like an absence of light than a physical substance.

She look at me with a strangely sad expression.
“Brace yourself Alice, I’m afraid this one is going to leave a mark.”
She leaned forward and put her hands inside my head…

I screamed.

Across the table, my mother looked up from her dinner plate.
“Did you say something, honey?

Alice?!”.