Issue #12


I wondered whether the radio, flicking between stations, was anything supernatural. Thousands of dead, floating about the ether, debating which radio station would be most apt. I could remember the ragged old beggar woman outside the pound shop, rambling on about the reality of the silhouette men that watch the sleeping and make them writhe. The city would get dark and a small, shifting vortex would take its shade and pick a corner. It would cloak it in dense shadow, and slather it with the aura of all the sick anxieties that hurt a wandering stomach. The old woman was sitting in torn clothes beside the street whilst keeping soft features and long winding jowls that met at a mouth not overturned, nor jocund. She stared with a look normally instilled with yearning or some earthly wantonness, whirring the mind of whoever looked on into deep sadness. That evening, however, she sat with the same look of austere vacancy that hurts the onlooker with quick turns of the heart, but no sickness jumped to me. Instead, the vortex: some spectre covered her, to the sense that my own fleshly condition took a leap within, stood in front of her, and warned against the demon of thought that could haunt me if I were to look on it any longer. As I continued to walk under the plum sky, it seemed too late, as I was somehow infected with sincere and nauseating remorse, till the sky took on a thinness that sat precariously on the horizon, waiting to snap.
The rest of the town remained tainted with the suspicious frost of serenity. My conscience began to settle as I looked onwards to the small conversations men had in warm pubs. I arrived later on, having forgotten any absurd apprehensions that could have caused conflict in my mind, though my stomach seemed to retain a shade of carbonation that continued to fuzz in the absence of my previous mental unrest. Some part settled after the cockles of my heart took a simmering from a whiskey, and I continued walking the evening into the comfort of my home. Midnight drew and I switched the radio off, dragged my nightcap back and clambered around the house. A far-in part of my abdomen drew a sharp line between the threshold of my bed and I. The faint contours of the vortex covered the bedroom with translucent obscurity. Naturally, the mind plays the most valiant combatant when facing the gut, and forces the faculty of reason into the arm like a shield of adamantium. I spat on all that my stomach could up-force and took the obscure infection as a seltzer.
I awoke not long after. Looking about me, I saw the room seething with sickness as the vortexes gathered, sliding into one another and congealing around the ceiling and floors and walls. I looked briefly around and turned back to the ceiling and door, focusing elsewhere and moaning. I grunted heavily and repeatedly clenched my fist, rocking back and forth and groaning more and more, soaking in, minute by minute, all the sickness of the vortexes that had gathered and followed since seeing the ragged old woman. I closed my eyes and continued to shift my balance and breathe softly. I didn’t want the darkness to recognise the fear that had covered me, and continued to rock back and forth, breathing softly. The softer I would breathe, the heavier the vortexes became, and the denser the coagulation. Come ten or so breaths, the spectres swirled with such viscosity and anger, all that was sickness and bleak in the world fell from the vortexes and spilt into my throat. I glanced quickly at the door as my suffocation grew more compact. I quickly noticed a silhouette, sat in the dusky light of the hallway, hands above its head as if begging for food. I screamed and clawed for its hand as my neck and belly bloated with all I was swallowing. I continued to swell and swell, until it finally looked up, and all ceased.
My drowned and swollen carcass laid pale on the wetted bed sheets. The silhouette reached out, and in shock, I took its hand without any thought. It proceeded to lift me up, take me from the vortexes, and show me, with a deep and slow melancholy, to the kitchen. Slowly, and with shaking hands, it placed my fingers upon the radio that stood there, and gestured towards the dial. I flicked through the stations, between reports of war and hunger, until I came to a calm voice reporting the abnormal survival of a ragged old woman outside a pound shop, battling frostbite and malnutrition. The resurgence of her life had come alongside the final rattle of death, as she was discovered in the throes of a fit by a close passer by. Puzzled, I looked at the silhouette. It was now glowing with a strange benevolence and seemed to strike the vortex from all the walls and doors, and drew a sharp line between myself and my bed. I thought better than to battle it, and succumbed to the silhouette’s calming gesticulations towards the bedroom. I followed it, climbed into bed, sank into the sheets, and drifted into cold obscurity. The silhouette proceeded to slip outside of the room, into the blinding light of the dusky hallway, and shut the door. I could feel a familiar sickness take me as I saw a small, shifting vortex pick me out and begin to cloak my feet in dense shadow. I watched as it twined up and around my thigh, congealed with its myriad vines around my stomach, and covered me finally in pitch. I let my eyes close with grim comfort, knowing that I could never wake again.

Liam Atterbury