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All That Glitters

-1-

I do not see

I'm alive. I'm drowning. Is this the end for me? There is a heaviness inside my skull, it blankets me. It's so heavy, it is crushing. Is this what death tastes like? My insides burn with salt, it stings every pore, every little piece of me is raw. I'm slipping. My arms are now down below, far, far below. And my head, too. I'm above it all, it's dropping downwards, silently dropping. I'm floating… it feels so… it feels so easy. Am I smiling? I'm laughing now, yes I'm definitely laughing. I remember another time like this. I was weightless, and before me there was an unreachable floor, I was trapped beneath the waves. And then a hand grabbed hold of me, and brought me back to myself. I remember thinking quietly, dying isn't so bad.

I can breathe. I'm choking, but there is air again, I can feel it hit the back of my throat. I am chilled to the core, but there is a warm light that pricks my face, it dances about my eyelids. Freezing. I am freezing, I need to swim. My arms are so tired, everything is heavy, am I being dragged back down? There is a weight about me, but it is my own body, why is it so heavy? Would my own body conspire against me, even now? It is a cage that traps me, and would see me sink and return to nothing.

No, I must relent. There's still a place for me. There's still a place on this earth that I call my own, that's where she will be waiting. I'm crying and I'm thrashing, I can't give up trying. Every time I've given up she has been there to tell me, do your best! And what of all the other people? They'd sit quietly looking into their crossed hands, and they'd frown as the memories begin to fade, one by one. Would they remember my face? Would they remember my voice? Everything fades eventually, life is just a collection of memories that slip from our grasp one by one, but not yet, I'm not ready to let that happen. I need to feel her touch; the softness of her lips, that milky rose embrace, the swell of her breasts, the nape of her neck – I need to run my fingers along her porcelain skin one last time before I am gone.

My head recoils off of something. My neck twists and I can taste copper. It's blood, I am bleeding. I can taste it, I can feel it in my ears. They're ringing. There's a high pitch ringing from inside, the sort you hear when there is nothing else, and you're lay there in an empty room, it's the ringing that reminds you that you're alive. I press down on the object, it is land. I bore my fingers into the surface, I seem to melt into its body. Sand? Yes, it is, it's familiar, I remember this. I am on land! On land! I remember this sensation: you can see only darkness before you, but you can smell the salty sea air, and then there's the sound of the seagulls singing high above, and the smell of fresh fish and children's laughter all about your knees. It is beauty. Even as a man with no sight, I could capture it with paint, and sit, enthralled by the canvas which stands inches from my face, the smell of oils lingering about my nostrils. I can smell something now. Smoke. Fire. I sit up, there is water lapping at my hands, I can hear the ocean waves. The ocean… the sound that is there at the end of everything.

I don't know how long it's been. I can't seem to keep a hold of anything in my mind, it tries to connect but then it falls away and I'm left with nothing but static, and the ringing in my ears. I'm stumbling about, my foot slips and I fall to the sand. It's dry now, I'm away from the ocean, but the sound still follows - whispering in my ears the futility of it all. I feel a creeping on my neck, I scratch at it but there's nothing there. I am soaked and yet dry, I need water. I move closer to the smell of burning, there is warmth, and the emptiness in front of my eyes grows lighter. I can hear the lashing of flames against wood, the collapsing of branches and the shrieking of birds. I am trapped inside a prison inside a prison. I clutch at my left hand, at the ring, and I hope.

I can hear her voice. She is crying, her muted sobs float beneath the ringing in my ears.

'Hello?' It's getting louder. It's coming from the right. 'Is someone there?' My voice sounds different, it sticks in my throat and comes out hoarse. There's the crying again. It's the sort of cry that comes from the soul, I can hear her body tense and shudder beneath waves of anguish. 'Can you hear me?'

'Don't come too close.' It's her. It's choked, and desperate, but I'm certain it's her. All at once I am overwhelmed. My eyes fill with hot tears that trickle down my cheeks. I fall to my knees and the sand cuts my skin to ribbons.

'Is it really you?' I hear her sobbing, I face her direction. 'Are you okay?'

'No.' She can't finish that word, it coils up in her throat and falls out.

'You'll be okay, we're going to be okay.' I stumble towards her, I want to touch her, I want to feel her skin, that touch that I'd so nearly lost.

'Stay back. I'm trapped.'

'What?'

'I'm stuck.'

'Let me help you.'

'It's… not good.'

'Not good?'

'I don't have long.'

I sit by her. My senses have dulled, my body is beginning to wind down. My chest expands and collapses with each breath. The ringing is getting louder, it seems to permeate my veins and seep from my fingertips into the sand. We're talking a little, about old times. Our words seem to slip from the world, as though down through a crack between our bodies, and when they return, they're changed. She doesn't say much, I don't ask it of her, I know she's suffering now.

'Who'd have thought we'd end up like this?' I laugh but no noise comes out.

'We're not… alone.' I smile.

'You know, I always thought we'd grow old together. Have children, grandchildren. I thought when death came to us we'd be holding hands and baring our teeth, wide eyed, wrinkles and all.'

'Life is funny.' Her voice is strained, the words come out one by one; life-is-funny, but they seem to twist and fold in on themselves.

'I'm glad I had you.' I turn towards her. In my mind I see the most extraordinary thing; it is her face with glazed eyes, her naked body, her curves and her silky long hair falling about her breasts. She is looking upwards into the sky, her limbs are broken and loose, there are strings at her fingers, which are coiled on the sand and trail off into an infinitely expanding distance. She is a doll, a broken marionette without a hand to hold her.

It's raining now. The spray soothes my burning skin, I open my mouth and begin to laugh. I drink the rain, what blessed amrita it is! I know though, that the plant has already died at the root, the leaves have fallen to the ground and only time is left before it turns to dust.

'I think…' Her voice brings me out of my soaking reverie.

'Darling?'

'I think it's time for me to go now.' I weep, and clutch hold of her hand. It is small and limp.

'It won't hurt for much longer.' She is crying. And then there is silence. 'I love you.'

I run. I run as fast as my trembling legs will take me. The rain pushes me backwards, it steals my breath, but I relent. This is how it ends. I retrace my steps, I can hear the ocean roaring in front of me, calling my name. There's that smell again, the smell of the past. I'm coming to join you. I stumble. Wherever we are in the next moment, I am myself if I have you by my side. The sand is wet now, my feet sink into it. Do you remember? Do you remember that day we first met. I was walking home, and somehow I had lost my way. The waves brush against my toes. I was so scared, I simply stood alone, I had not a single sense that could have lead me back home. The ocean smashes against my body and pulls me under. And then, I felt your hand, the fingers slipped through my own, and you said only,

'Are you lost?'

I hear the rumbling of the ocean, and then a voice.

'Do your best!'


-2-

I only see

I'm in pain. It shoots downwards through my body. I've never felt something like this before, how can I cope with such a feeling? I'm crying but I can't move my arms, or my legs. It hurts to even open my eyes. I'm trying to, I'm really trying but my body is quivering under waves of pressure. I can see something. I'm on a beach. The sand looks like a road of vanilla, the sky is a dirty grey. It's going to rain soon. Why am I here? I have a searing pain behind my eyes, have I hit my head? My throat is dry, my lips are cracked. I can taste sand, it's in my hair and my ears. My clothes are torn, I'm bleeding. Oh god. My chest. There's so much blood. I can't even look at it. I can't breathe, please won't somebody help me?

I remember now. It's coming back to me, bit by bit. We were in the air, it was the first time I've ever flown alone. I was pretty nervous at first, when the plane took off there was that rush in the pit of my stomach and my heart seemed to want to leap out of my body. After a while I was feeling alright though, even dared to go to the bathroom. I remember reading some of my book, and biting my nails. I fell asleep to the sound of a man talking in the seat behind me, I remember smiling to myself because the way he spoke seemed to lull me to sleep.

My vision is clearer. I'm impaled on a blade of metal. It's buried in the sand, and has sliced my abdomen. There's a large piece of something behind me, it's pushing up against my back, I am completely trapped, dangling like a crucified mermaid. I'm sobbing but I don't know why, I'm not in pain anymore, I don't feel a thing. I think I'm crying for my family, and for my friends. They'll never see me again. When they waved me off in the departure lounge, how would they feel knowing that was the last time? Would they have done anything different? Mum, Dad, it'll be okay.

I can't move my neck, but I can see across to the ocean. It seems so far away from here. And then even further away is my home, it doesn't seem real to me anymore, am I even awake? The sky is bleeding into the sea, I can't tell where one ends and the other begins, it's like a watercolour – the two halves have run into each other and now nothing is in its place. I keep falling asleep, and then sobbing, and then drifting off again. This is a lonely existence.

There's a man! A survivor! He fell from the ocean, he's walking this way. He's bloodied and disorientated. I recognise him! It's the blind man from the plane, the man who sat behind me with the voice that I liked. Just seeing him, I'm filled with hope, and I start to cry, but I'm smiling.

He comes close, so I tell him not to. If this metal is knocked I will be severed in half. He's wearing a wedding ring, a shining gold band on crimson stained fingers. He asks if I'm okay, I can't lie to him. Somehow, admitting this tears me up inside, is this really how it all ends? Every moment I've ever lived, every little thing I've seen, everything I've felt, ends on the edge of a blade?

I was gone then, but now I'm back. The man is still by my side, he sits with his legs crossed and his head in his hands. He thinks I'm his wife.

'Do you remember that game we used to play?' He smiles to himself. 'We'd be in the kitchen, and then you'd sneak away somewhere in the house and leave things lying around for me to find.' He's picking up handfuls of sand and letting them blow away in the breeze. 'I always remember the time you vanished up the stairs, I could hear your footsteps running up them, those footsteps were so excited, I knew you were up to something.' He flattens his legs in front of him and drops his hands on his knees. 'Then the footsteps came back down, but it was different, there were more! And you came flying into the room with Dil behind you. I'll be honest, I was scared for a minute, and then this big mass of fur bounded onto me and started licking at my face.' His smile breaks my heart. 'You know, I was always reluctant about getting a guide dog, I've always had my own way and it's gotten me into some trouble in the past, I've played with fire, I'll admit. But you wouldn't have any of my stubbornness, we were having the dog and that was that.' It makes me happy that this man would open his heart to me, is it wrong that I didn't tell him I was not his wife? He's smiling, isn't that enough? I don't feel so alone now.

'Life is funny.' Two strangers, dying together on a beach. I'm laughing on the inside.

The rain comes down, the blood from my wound drenches the blade and soaks into the sand. The man sits below me, my insides are unfurling onto his body. He laughs, and drinks the blood and I know this is the end for us.

'I think…' He looks up.

'Darling?'

'I think it's time for me to go now.' He grabs my hand, but I feel nothing.

'It won't hurt for much longer.' Everything begins to glow. All that glitters about me seems to fall away. The metallic shine of the wreckage, the smouldering embers of the flames, the crystalline white sands – it all falls away.

The colour is gone, the strokes have faded, the gloss has worn, there is only the faint etchings of the pencil. The hand draws but it seems to be too slow, or is it going backwards? Is time collapsing in on itself? It draws a man, he wears a wedding ring, he is slowly disappearing beneath ocean waves. Are these thoughts my own? Nothing makes sense. Now there is a ship. It comes to shore, its length cuts across the horizon. The hand sketches men and women dripping from the ship, they scatter across the sands carrying objects, they're here to help. Every single person has wings.


A/N: This piece is written for the Labyrinth writing contest, the prompt is as follows; The story begins on a deserted beach shore. It involves only two characters, who washed up on the shore from some type of accident. One of them is blind, one injured, and neither know each other. At some point in the story one has to have some kind of emotional attack. The story comes to a close with them stumbling upon some sort of civilization. For this story I've used specifically abstract language to reflect a heightened level of emotion. Any feedback is welcome.