Here is a taster for my upcoming story, FALLING THROUGH THE RAINBOW, the section entitled ‘Black’. I hope you enjoy!
Night had fallen over the God forsaken city and below, where people searched for the slightest glimmer of hope, chaos existed only to consume their dreams. The poverty here was the worst that had been experienced for many years and crime was rife. Law and justice struggled to control the overwhelming blackness that devoured the hearts of the innocent. In walking the streets below, those rotten, squalid streets, it would be extremely difficult to believe that innocence could even exist here. But it did. In small cracks and pockets, light could be found. In a perverse balance to this and allowing for the depravity that was abundant, there was also a malevolent cancer that ate away at the depths of society. An abhorrent presence that simmered in the despair and self-loathing of mankind. This canker existed in man.
One man in particular sat alone in his own squalor, alone in a dirty little room where the smell of drainage lingered. He closed his eyes momentarily and mouthed a silent mantra before opening them to look down at his hands. In the darkness of this dimly lit room, he sat holding the thin strips of flesh, soggy and bereft of form, between his fingers. He was watching them with great interest. They seemed to move constantly within themselves, rippling like tender waves upon an expansive ocean. They danced as though with a mind of their own. Instinctively, he cupped his hands together around the prize and drew them towards his face. Towards his nose, where he inhaled deeply to savour every possible sensory pleasure. His eyes flashed open, widely, magnetism to all light, pulling in the messengers that would define his surroundings. Moving the skin in circular motions, he felt his arousal building, building to a blissful crescendo. Building upwards, almost to the verge of ecstatic release. He stopped himself and breathed heavily. There could be nothing possibly beyond this moment. Beyond this taste. The man bit his lip hard, bit until he felt warm blood running down his chin. Listening. Listening with intensity for the contact. The crash of the droplets hitting the floor, like a cymbal being struck with a hammer. All senses were heightened. Sight. Sound. Smell. Taste. The taste of his own blood was exquisite.
Getting up from his knees he walked over to the table in the centre of the room, upon which rested an old wooden box, cracked and warped like his mind. He raised the creaking lid slowly and reached in to hold the contents in both hands. In his left a paintbrush and in his right, a knife.
‘Black coffee’ he called to the waitress.
‘I’ll bring it over to you’.
Richard Grain walked over to the grim table with its plastic tablecloth and sat down. As he pulled in his seat, his hand grazed the underside of the table and he could feel some dried chewing gum stuck in the place where one of the previously cultured cliental had obviously sat. He hoped it was chewing gum.
The waitress brought over a large mug of coffee.
‘let me know if you want food or a top up when you are ready’.
‘I will, thanks’. As the waitress walked off he looked out of the window and picked up the laminated menu on the table. It was sticky.
Outside, it was raining heavily. A depressing rain that had been falling constantly for what seemed like days. In places, the storm drains were backing up in their impotence to control the downfall. Sitting here, he could feel the dampness of his clothing. If he did not get ill from this wretched weather, he would not get ill from anything. He took a sip of the bitter black coffee and looked down at his watch. It was almost eleven o’clock. He waited.
The man walked over to the corner of his room and pulled a discoloured dust cover from a pile on the floor. He revealed a large amount of paint cans, some which had been previously opened and had dried streaks down the side, others were new and unopened. Reaching down, he picked up a can and a screwdriver that was lying on the floor and carried them over to the table. By the window there was something else covered by a sheet. Removing this he revealed a stained wooden easel, upon which rested a large canvas. A work in progress. HIS work in progress. He looked out of the window at the rain that pounded against the glass and watched the intricate patterns that ran down the outer pane. He stood in thought, mesmerised by the beauty in the droplets dancing on the glass, then turned his attention back to the canvas.
Moving across to the table he picked up a ceramic saucer that he liked to use to mix his paints upon. He prised open the tin of paint with the screwdriver and stirred the contents, of which he then poured an amount into the saucer. Next, he picked up the knife and examined the sharp blade. Satisfied, he rolled up his sleeve and ran the knife along the side of his arm, watching the blood trickle down his flesh, over his wrist and through his fingers. It dripped from the end of his fingertips and landed in droplets into the paint on the saucer. After a while, the man reached under the table and picked up a dirty bloodstained towel and wrapped it around his arm. He picked up the saucer and paintbrush then went to his easel. With a smile on his face, he dipped the brush into the mixture and began to apply it to the canvas.
Richard had been sitting there for twenty minutes and he looked again at his watch. Doesn’t look like she is coming. He thought to himself.
‘More coffee’? The waitress spoke.
‘Please’. She filled up his mug.
‘No thanks, I’m just waiting for somebody’. He turned back to the window.
The waitress walked off towards the kitchens and he was aware of the clattering of pans and distant voices.
The bell above the café door sounded as the door itself was opened and a woman walked in. She put down her umbrella and gave it a good shake. Unbuttoning her coat, she looked around the café and saw him sitting at a table. He was looking through the window but suddenly became aware of her reflection in the glass as she sat down.
‘Hello Richard, I wasn’t sure if you would still be here’.
The paintbrush moved with silent vigour across the canvas. He was painting from memory and at this moment his eyes were ablaze. All things come from something he thought to himself. Blood had soaked through the towel and dripped a little from his upturned elbow. He finished for a moment and stood back to admire his progression. This work of art was coming alive from life itself. Ironic then that the life that he had used so far was now dead. The forms were all there, his vision was being created as he went along, but he wasn’t quite sure about something. It was a small irk and he could not quite put his finger on what it needed, what he wanted. He walked over to a chair near the table and sat down. Here, he closed his eyes and began to remember, to think about his artistic progression. In this place he could remember the voices, the screams, the smells and the silence of death. Lifeless forms that had become his inspiration, that had given him the materials to produce. He could see the skin on the table and picked it up again.
‘Materials’ he spoke with a smile.
‘I didn’t think you were going to turn up’. Richard spoke.
‘I almost didn’t, the weather is awful and my cab was late’.
‘But you did’. He smiled
‘But I did’. She reached across the table and stroked the back of his hand with a tender finger.
‘I’m sorry, Joanna’ he looked up from the finger on his hand to her face. ‘I wish we hadn’t argued. It’s just…work. I felt so stressed. I have been working non-stop trying to…’
‘I know’ she interrupted him and touched the finger to his lips. ‘Let us not talk about it now’.
‘I miss you’. He closed his eyes.
‘I miss you too’. She gripped his hand in hers.
The waitress walked over.
‘Would you like a drink’?
‘Yes. I’ll have a coffee please’ Joanna said, ‘black’.
‘No thanks’. She smiled at the woman.
After the waitress had poured her coffee and returned to her work behind the counter, Joanna turned to Richard and spoke.
‘I want you to come back home’.
‘What’? He was a little surprised.
‘I need you to come back home’.
‘Are you sure’? he looked into her eyes.
‘Never more so. Like I say, I miss you’. She smiled.
He leant across the table and they kissed. The passion was still there and he had missed the warmth of her lips. He tasted salt.
‘Don’t be sorry’. He smiled.
She looked at him. ‘Can we go’?
‘Sure, I will just pay the bill’. He waved at the waitress and made eye contact before pretending to write in his hand. The universally understood signal for getting your bill. The waitress left the bill on the table and Richard paid up, leaving a small tip.
‘I’m hungry’. She spoke the words.
‘You didn’t want anything’. He looked at her
‘Not for food. For you’. She gripped his hand tightly.
Collecting her umbrella, they left the café together. Although the rain was still falling, Richard had a smile on his face and a warmth in his heart that he had not felt in a while. Tomorrow would be a new day and things were beginning to look up.
As the door closed behind them and the hypnotic tone of the bell rang out into nothingness, Mary Poole walked to the door. There was nobody else in the café and it was closing time. She flicked the bolt on the lock so that nobody could come in and turned the sign to read closed. Reaching downwards to the plug, she turned the switch off and the neon light for the sign went out.
At the counter, she cashed up the till and made sure that the takings for the day were put in in the safe in the office. She put her head inside the kitchen, which had already been cleaned down. They had stopped serving food an hour ago and Bob had already tided up in here. Mary was the only one left on the premises, but this was not unusual.
Back in the dining area, she collected up the menu’s from the tables along with the salt and pepper shakers, which she topped up ready for the next morning. She wiped down the tables and walked back through the kitchen and down the corridor past the office to the changing room where she collected her coat and umbrella from her locker. She then headed to the rear exit of the building and out to the poorly lit car park at the back of the building.
Outside, the rain was still falling heavily and the wind had picked up. She struggled to keep her umbrella upright and covering her head. At the car, she reached down to her handbag and wrestled to find her keys. The water droplets were loud upon the metal roof of her battered Ford but she eventually found them, unfortunately dropping her umbrella as she tried to put it down.
She bent down to pick it up from a puddle in the floor and the wind whistled. She was not aware that she had been watched from the moment she had come out of the building. She had been watched walking across the car park and fumbling for her keys. She had not been aware that this person had walked, unheard through the weather, across the car park and now lingered behind her.
As she stood up she became aware of something, but it was too late. Gloved hands held a chloroformed rag to her mouth and nose. She did not struggle for too long before panic gave way to unconsciousness.
His head was slowly turning from side to side admiring his work. He had left the table quite a while ago and was now staring with a solemn understanding at the canvas. Whilst he had been cutting the skin, he had been struck with an inspiration. In the background of the picture there had been something missing, something that would be beautiful. A rainbow.
In the silence of the room, he looked out of the window and was aware that the rain had stopped. The night was at its richest now. The clouds had gone and the clear sky was pure black.
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