Friday, 28 October 2011

Fifteen Feathers - pt. 5

- Part 1 -
- Part 2 -
- Part 3 -
- Part 4 -
- Part 5 -

Katya cradled her mug of tea. She was sitting up. Still on the sofa, but sitting up. It was a step in the right direction. Well, maybe not an actual step, but a metaphorical step, at least. And it had been several steps to go to the kitchen and make the tea in the first place.

It was Friday afternoon, the post had been, twice. There would be two of the little, neat, black envelopes that were ruining her life. No, that wasn’t right, Larry had ruined her life, somehow. Something about the envelopes, and the black feathers, was twisting her into worse of a tangled mess than her hair had ever been, and that was saying something.

Larry wasn’t the vindictive type, that’s what she didn’t understand. Sure, he had a dark side, an edge that came through in the bedroom, but it was never out of control; he had never really hurt her in all their time together.

And she had done nothing to deserve this, she was sure.

She stared into the sweet depths of her steaming tea, frowning, deriving some comfort from the warmth seeping into her hands. Was there something she should remember? Her tired mind kept drifting. All she could think about were her dreams, the rush of air and the Earth wheeling beneath her.

There was a knock on the door, quiet but firm. She jumped, her heart quickened. No, she wasn’t in. No one was home. Go away.

“Katya?” A woman’s voice, familiar – Selina.

Her best friend, her boss, Selina had seen her at her worst, but she just wanted to be alone; people couldn’t be trusted.

She heard a key in the lock. They each had keys to the other’s place, just in case. And of course Selina wouldn’t stand by if she was worried about her friend. She could trust Selina, Selina had an abundance of empathy and compassion, Selina had always been there for her.

She heard the door open, the drag of mail pushed over carpet.


“In here.” She hated how feeble she sounded.

Selina came in with the mail in her hand. Her long blonde hair was hanging loose about her face and as she looked around the gloomy room her delicate features took on a look of tender concern. She noticed the black envelopes already on the living room table, and the black feathers. Something changed in her eyes, her lips tightened and she looked at the two similar envelopes in her hand. She put the rest of the mail to one side.

“Oh, Kitty Kat. I’m sorry. It was Larry, wasn’t it?”

Katya nodded dumbly as Selina opened the two new envelopes. Selina and Larry had never got on, there had always been a tension between them. Her best friend and her boyfriend, both seemed jealous of the time she gave the other. But they had accepted her desire to spend time with both of them, if only grudgingly.

Two feathers. One feather. Selina held them up and shook her head. Katya’s vision swam just a little as she looked at them, but nothing worse.

“Remember this cruelty, remember that it isn’t in your nature.” Selina said as she went over to the drawn curtains.

Katya watched as her friend took hold of the curtains and flung them wide open. Bright light cascaded through the window. It crashed over Selina like a breaking wave, scattering and splashing brilliant droplets outwards into the room. Selina was limned by the sun’s radiance, ablaze with a luminosity that caught and leapt out from her shoulders, cascading into the room like flexing, effulgent wings.

Then Selina stepped away from the window and the vision was gone.

“You don’t look well, Kitty Kat. I’ll stay here tonight. I’m not working tomorrow, I’ll look after you.”

That was just like Selina. Always looking out for people.

- Part 6 - the grand finale.

Recommended reading:
The Factory Floor by Chris Gladis
Commercialisation and industrialisation come to every industry... spend a day in the Dream Factory.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Fifteen Feathers - pt. 4

- Part 1 -
- Part 2 -
- Part 3 -
- Part 4 -

Katya was on the sofa, again. She liked the sofa, the sofa didn’t betray her, the sofa didn’t confuse her or hurt her. It held her in its deep cushions and didn’t for a moment judge her. The postman had been, a moment ago, so now she was just waiting, fearfully for the second drop.

Yesterday, her birthday, had been a disaster. She kept playing the scene over and over again in her head.

She had wrenched the door open to find her ex, Larry, holding the next black envelope. There had been a stalemate, for just a moment. Then the tableaux had subtly altered, they were stood in the same positions, only she held the envelope. She had reached out and tentatively taken it from him, barely trembling at all. She almost convinced herself the tremor was too much tea and no breakfast.

Something dark slithered about Larry’s feet, like a coiling black mist. She had been seeing things, auras, for the past couple of weeks. She had been worrying it might be a tumour, or a mental break down, or both.

“You should open it.” He said in his gentle growl. She used to call him her friendly tiger.

She felt curiously detached as she opened the envelope. She didn’t really want to, but there was a dark fascination, a sense of inevitability manhandling her through her trepidation, forcing her onwards.

The mist at Larry’s feet shivered excitedly, began crawling up his legs, as if climbing to a better vantage point, anticipating something, whatever was in the envelope.

She already knew. The first envelope had five feathers in it. The next had four. She looked up at Larry, frightened, confused, hoping he would stop this, somehow. He just smiled at her, expectantly. She reached in, no longer able to pretend she wasn’t trembling. And there they were.

Three black feathers.

The darkness rushed triumphantly up Larry, it seemed so real she had to take a step back, gasping, dropping the feathers and the envelope. The dark smoke burst out from his shoulders like plumes of ash. They hung in the air, dusting downwards, as phantom wings.

She stumbled backwards into the house. He was smiling as he closed the door, leaving her alone with his last words.

“Time to wake up, Katya.”

She sobbed into the sofa. She was so confused. Her head ached despite the painkillers, a throbbing, brooding thunder that slowly rolled from the back of her brain to settle behind her eyes.

The letterbox sounded off. The second drop. She didn’t move, just curled up on herself and buried her face in the dark, oblivious crack between seat and backrest.

She knew what would be lying in the hallway. Another black envelope. This one would have two black feathers in it, she knew. And tomorrow it would be one.

What happened when there were no more feathers?

- Part 5 -

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fifteen Feathers - pt. 3

- Part 1 -
- Part 2 -
- Part 3 -

Katya had a plan. Everything felt wrong, but she could ride this out. Today was her birthday, she was thirty three for god’s sake. Thirty hadn’t been this bad. Being dumped had never been this bad. This was the first time she’d been dumped since being thirty, though. Nine years of her and Larry, gone. There was nothing she could do about that, but whatever jerk was putting those envelopes through her door. That she could do something about.

She wondered if they’d been dosed in something, but it didn’t feel like drugs, and it kicked in way too fast. She admitted she was making that judgement as a veteran of the club scene, not through any medical proficiency, but still, she couldn’t believe there was anything that could have such a violently hallucinogenic effect so quickly and so briefly. There had definitely been plenty that left her feeling this crappy the next day.

She was sat in the hallway, her back against the wall, her knees pulled up, waiting by the letterbox. Selina, as much of a friend as a boss, had agreed to give her some short notice holiday to ‘get her head sorted out’. If Selina could see her now, hiding out of sight, ready to pounce and wrench the door open, she would definitely think Katya needed it. What a way to spend her birthday.

She had met Selina the same night she met Larry. And Selina had always been there for her, looked out for her; kept her on the straight and narrow... lot of good that had done, Larry had left her anyway. Maybe she should have had some fun when the opportunities had presented themselves. Uck, she had to stop thinking about him.

She nearly shrieked as the letterbox coughed up two slim, white envelopes. Damn sneaky postman, she hadn’t even heard him come up the path. Must be more vigilant. She flipped the envelopes, bank statement, not even worth looking at, she was depressed enough already, and a water bill, both wadded out with commercial bumph, telling her to spend more and wash less, or vice versa.

She picked up her tea cup, then remembered it was empty. She should have prepared a thermos... Yes... and sat on the floor, in her hallway, with tea cup, thermos, sugar bowl and tiny jug of milk; maybe a small plate of bourbons. Yes, that was what being an adult was about. Crazy picnics in your own hall. Although, she hadn’t found any other occasion to use that little ceramic jug with the floral pattern her mother had bought her as a moving-in present. Were they still called jugs when they were that small? Or were they boats, like gravy.

A milk boat, was that a thing?

She decided that making bad jokes probably meant she was starting to feel better.

Then her heart leapt into her throat as she heard a footstep outside. Her eyes snapped to the steel rectangle of the letterbox, and as soon as she saw a triangle of black begin to push through it she was up and grabbing for the latch.

She yanked the door open. Her head swam from getting up too fast, but that was definitely...


Her tall, dark and handsome. A scratch over six foot, perfect for her to rest her head on his broad chest. Scruffy, coal-black hair – over-styled and amazing, somehow not gunky despite the amount of product he put in it. Deep eyes, hypnotic pupils that were dark to the rim with just the slightest ring of reddish brown; like looking into a well you could fall down forever. That lop-sided smile, more to the left than the right; the trick was making him break into a full smile, not easy, but so rewarding...

She opened her mouth to say more, but couldn’t work out what to say first. She stared at the black envelope in his hand.

His left eyebrow arched in an exquisitely curved circumflex, an accent to the half-smile, a change in nuance.

“Happy birthday, Katkin.”

That voice. Low, untroubled, a purr with just the tiniest curl of a growl. Got her right there, every time.

He proffered the envelope.

“It’s for you.”

- Part 4 -

Friday, 7 October 2011

Fifteen Feathers - pt. 2

- Part 1 -
- Part 2 -

Why is it impossible to call in sick without feeling guilty?

Katya was on the sofa again, having slept there, fitfully, and she really was sick. She wondered if this was what a migraine felt like. Her head throbbed. Closing her eyes was some sweet relief, and she wasn’t feeling as ill as she had the day before. She thought she might manage some toast. And a cup of tea.

The TV was off; the distraction wasn’t a distraction, and trying to watch the screen had just made her feel worse. She was playing a Classic FM CD at low volume, it was helping, after she’d skipped Ride of the Valkyries. The off-white curtains were still drawn, glowing with the sun directly behind them. That hurt to look at too, but she couldn’t exactly turn that off, could she?

She heard someone at the door, rustling, then a short, firm knock. Nope, not moving, definitely not letting anyone see her after a night on the sofa. She smelt funky and her hair would be like a nest of black vipers; she would probably turn them straight to stone if they didn’t just run off, screaming. The letter box creaked, she could hear something squeezing through, barely fitting. Oh well, that was probably something important, crushed now.

She twisted round, trying to make herself more comfortable. She wanted to call Larry, moan, whine, get him to come over and make her tea. Not going to happen. That was the worst thing about break-ups, the person you most wanted to go to for comfort was suddenly the last person on earth you could go to. What an awesome birthday tomorrow was going to be.

That did it.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Kitty Kat.

She was going to have a shower, throw on something clean, make that cup of tea, make herself feel human, make herself better through sheer force of willpower. She swung herself off the sofa and stood up. Then faltered as all the blood drained from her head and her vision blackened. OK, wait a minute, then, slowly, do those things.

The shower was a revelation. The water seemed to sluice away more than just the miasma of overnight sofa; the eucalyptus-scented shampoo and conditioner seemed to untangle far more than just her crazy hair. She didn’t feel great, but she felt better.

She wrapped her hair, and then herself, in fresh, fluffy white towels and wandered down the stairs. Next stop: breakfast.

But halfway down the stairs she froze. Her heart skipped a beat.

On the doormat, by the front door, on top of a crushed, white, puffer bag parcel, was a small black envelope.

It looked exactly like the one that was on the table in the living room. The one with the five black feathers inside, which she had reacted to so badly the day before. And now her heart seemed to be falling over itself trying to catch up.

She warily descended the last few steps and crossed the couple of paces to the door, bent down and picked it up.

It was identical. High quality black paper, completely unmarked.

She opened it and reached in, clenching her jaw, gritting her teeth and steeling herself for... something. She didn’t know what.

Soft to the touch. Feathers, again, black. But four this time.

She clamped down on the rising nausea. No. She was not going to vomit. Dark drops slipped down the walls, leaving lines like black paint drips; glistening sick black streaking down from the corner crack between ceiling and wall. She clenched her fists.

And then. It subsided. She was standing in the hall, still standing, trembling, breathing heavily, panting. So much for feeling better.

-Part 3-

Recommended Reading: Loose Ends by Peter Newman.
Let snoozing demons lie... humorous and strange, just the way I like it. =)