August 2019

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In cellars and attics and cupboards under the stairs, shadows like velvet roll deep into corners. We close our eyes and fear populates the darkest of places, so we look directly into the unknown and find only imagination, seeking gentle company. 

- - - - -

After months at sea, he craved a familiar face. Watching the coast through binoculars, he saw the woman on the rocks by the lighthouse, laughing as huge flippers splashed and reached for her outstretched hand. "Perhaps," he thought, smiling, "familiarity is overrated."

- - - - -

"No human eyes may witness the sacrifice," the priest declared and led the Chosen away. Out of sight, he untied her. "Run. Don't look back."

Later, he bandaged the cut on his leg, hidden by his robe. As long as there was blood on the knife, no-one asked.

- - - - -

Jupiter cracks his knuckles. Lightning splits the clouds and thunder roars prophecy. Finally, rain quenches parched soil and people dance hand in hand with gratitude through the storm.

- - - - -

7 o'clock's breeze melts over my skin as dew annoints my bare feet. The slow-rising sun makes a promise of warmth, but the air still carries night's sweet chill. The day is already alive in my breath as I turn over a card and the Empress smiles back at me.

- - - - -

Fear is wildfire, a blindfold and viral accusation. What can be left but charred stumps of your humanness when all you see in others' suffering is a threat to your profit? And here we are, hurling buckets of steam, trying to push the ocean into a tidal wave.

- - - - -

These streets with their grime and secrets are endlessly stained with emotion. Courage, determination and sometimes even a shadow of hope glitter in the rubbish and rain. Diamonds, sparks, flames becoming, runway lights that lead us home, always home.

- - - - -

I take the stairs to work up a sweat, just to feel it evaporate off my skin while I lie on the roof pretending I climbed a mountain. Hundreds of layers of life merge in the building below and I still feel like maybe it's going to be OK. I must be getting old.

- - - - -

There's no glory in climbing this ladder. The higher you go, the more lists your name ends up on and the more locked doors you need between you and everyone else. Once you're at the top, you're basically invisible. But damn, there's some luxury up here.

- - - - -

The intercity shuttle flies over snow-capped peaks, blue mirror lakes and wild forests, but she keeps the window shade closed. She has no fear of heights, not in this world of cloud-punching buildings, but she needs to not imagine, to not want.

- - - - -

Crimson, vermillion, scarlet, a thousand different ways to say red and all I can think is how beautiful you look when you're bleeding. You whisper please like poetry and there's music in the shiver of your breath. Stay. Make promises. Keep me warm.

- - - - -

He goes to work in his flexible shell of armour. Blade proof, beam proof, bullet proof, blast proof, but someone will always build a better weapon. He leaves his heart in our bed to stay warm. I leave mine in a locked metal box. We all make our sacrifices. 

- - - - -

To the untrained eye, the renegades look the same as the rest, Same uniform, same unbreakable stride. But we've learned how to see them and they always recognise us. It's a half-second look, an unspoken connection, an acknowledgement of mutual advantage.

- - - - -

"Don't be stubborn," he says. "Tell me and I'll let you go."

He won't though. They never do. Remembering my training, I hold silent and break the tie binding my wrists behind the chair.

He takes a step forward.

I take a breath.

I'll let myself go.

- - - - -

There are two ways to do this," she says. "My way and the wrong way."

"OK, but shouldn't we be running?"

She glances at her watch. "No. Walk. And don't turn around to look at the explosion. I expect Grade A nonchalance from my students."

- - - - -

My synapses fire with the symphony of exquisite destruction and this is a science as much as an art. No faith here, no magic, but a dance drenched in alchemy. The crescendo, the crash and the silence. Still standing, victorious, we are once again free.

- - - - -

She'd tried to imagine the new city, but nothing prepared her for the first glimpse of it from the passenger drone. Even under construction, its sheer scale was enough to push fear from in front of her eyes. All she could see now was her future.

- - - - -

Light hardly reaches here, so night and day may as well be the same. Time may as well not exist and that's why this is my favourite place. You might crave the heights, looking down on the clouds, but I'll always want the depths, touching the foundations of the city.

- - - - -

There's a fine line between a safe haven and a prison. They don't punish people for asking, but they load everyone up on enough immediate comfort that the questions never come. And you're crazy if you say you see through it. You're crazy for even looking.

- - - - -

You learn to blindside them, to walk in silence by timing your footsteps with theirs, to slide from corner to shadow to the cold space behind them, close enough to touch. This is the most significant part of your training, when you first become invisible.

- - - - -

The dry winter night weaves our breath into clouds and the city writhes wild around us. These moments are stolen, like every other good thing, but we're long past expecting gifts. Again, I have to leave. Again, you have to let me.

- - - - -

Every lit window, a star. Every life, a constellation in a galaxy. Every breath, a blink in a universe. From street to sky, a towering night. Bright pinpoints of rolling futures, ours to create. Our fingers, scattering magic.

- - - - -

They said this glass couldn't shatter, but they'd never met her tools. The first beam turned the window to frost and the second sent it raining diamonds on the street. No-one saw her leave. Always the professional, she was vapour and silence.

- - - - -

From the top floor, she could see the city skyline in the distance. The view was supposed to be torture for the prisoners, putting home within the reach of their eyes but not their hands. For her though, it was a reminder of freedom to come. It was strength.

- - - - -

No such thing as fragile bones these days, no struggling lungs or anxious minds. There's nothing left that tech can't cure, but you pay with the last of your personal freedom. They own every part of you and no-one seems to mind. No-one even seems to notice.

- - - - -

Maybe a million, maybe more. It doesn't matter. No-one's counting because there's nothing to count. On the first day, their minds are stripped and they stop being people. It's slavery sold as rehabilitation and polite society looks the other way.

- - - - -

I used to count the months until I could be somewhere, anywhere, but there. Then I counted the days, then the minutes. Now I can't stop reaching out in every direction, just to remember that there are no walls here to touch. And I'm lost, but in a good way.

- - - - -

Again, we make promises without really thinking about what they mean. Forever and forever and forever. Again, we meet for the first time that isn't the first time and even with the ache of recognition, there are worse cycles to be trapped in. 

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