Wednesday, September 21, 2016

About a Girl

You and I were walking
Down by Wandering Street
When I heard you talking
About a song quite bleak:

It was about a girl-
As it most often was,
Made weary by a world
That marched without a cause.

Where grey often met red
And left mothers screaming
Over ashen sons in beds;
Who dreamt and stayed dreaming.

It was about this girl
Who looked in the mirror
And felt her stomach curl;
Haunted by old pictures.

From the weight of her shoes
To the scars on her back:
She spent nights with the Blues
Down a bottle of Jack.

You told me this and cried.
As tears streamed down your cheeks,
“My dear darling,” you sighed:
“Am I just someone weak?“

Never have I held you
So close to me that night:
Like cool, conjoining dews
By the feet of street-lights.

Feeling like December,
Where Winter still lingers,
Yet, this heart remembers,
The warmth of your fingers.

Honey,

I may not see whether
There are stars in the sky.
But the one that matters
Walks with me by-and-by.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Freedom

For those in pursuit of dreams
Racing to see the road’s end
Ever-seeking gold through schemes
Etched high upon passion’s scends.
Don’t fret on what ills you see
On the path stretching for miles;
Made of hearts meant to be free.

Run Away

The alarm clock rang.

An arm groggily emerged from the comforter. Putting the alarm to rest, Alan peeled himself out of bed. His eyes were still heavy and an urge grew to lie back down.
He grabbed the pack of Mall Reds as he stood up.

You know you shouldn’t be smoking first thing in the morning.

“Ugh…” another voice groaned.

Looking back at the bed, Megan sat up from the sheets.

“Do you have to smoke so early in the morning?” She croaked, coughing as she shot a disapproving look from across the room.

“Sorry, it’s a habit,” Alan said, flicking some ash out the window he opened. Glancing over, he wasn’t surprised to see her checking her phone first thing upon waking.

“The same nightmare?” She asked, lowering her phone.

 He nodded weakly, face sunken.

Megan rose from the bed as well. Naked, she made her away over to Alan. Giving him a peck on the cheek, she gestured over to the cigarette for a puff.

“Tell me about it later,” she said through the slit of her simper. “I need to go and look pretty.”   

Alan watched as her voluptuous figure walked out the door. Biting his lip, he recalled the events of the night before with a numbed sense of glee. Eventually, he heard the shower running not too long after that.



At the living room, Alan munched on his breakfast; an instant pancake he now brought to his mouth. An inkling of a glare was set on his face. His eyes were fixed to the blank, empty glass of the television before him. But, what he saw wasn’t his own reflection.

He lit up another cigarette and blew the figure in the screen away. It wasn’t long after that the shower stopped running. 

Megan appeared from the small corridor at the side leading to the bedrooms. Briskly, she walked to the kitchen counters.

“You look nice,” Alan remarked as she passed, her summer dress fluttered as she sauntered on. It didn’t flow with her body as much as it accentuated it.

“Part of the job,” she responded from the kitchen, “… but thanks.”

Megan sat herself down adjacent to Alan. She made herself comfy on the armchair. In one hand, she had her phone. In the other, her breakfast: A lonely granola bar.

“Who’s the guy?” Alan asked wittingly.

“New customer,” Megan replied, “booked me for the whole day and then some.”

“That’s one way to spend a holiday,”

Megan narrowed her eyebrows.

“I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed but you’re not Mr. Brightside either,” she snidely remarked.

Alan shrugged, pushing the pack of cigarettes across the table.

“It’s a living,” Megan initially said, fishing a stick out from the pack. “Some people see company as something worth paying for.”

“Headline: Companionship Becomes a Commodity,” Alan said, gesticulating unenthusiastically. “Here’s Alan with the angle.”

He put out his cigarette.

“Do you ever hate your customers?” He then asked, propping his arms above his head.

“Some assholes, sure,” she replied. “But, hate is a strong word; the lot of my customers are really either bored, boring- or like yourself, lonely.”

“Humour me,” Alan said, raising an eyebrow. “I know I’ve had quite a shit past but I think I’ve moved on pretty well.”

Megan snickered.

“No offence, Al. You still look like shit to me,” she said. “Which reminds me, there is something you were supposed to tell me about.”

“The nightmare?”

She nodded.

“I don’t feel like talking about it,” Alan said, hunching forward. He buried his face in his palm, trying to wake up still.

“Trust me, I’m doing you a favour and this one’s for free.” Megan cajoled, taking a quick glimpse at her phone.

 “It’s just so… weird,” Alan sighed, sitting back up. “It starts out like any other dream. But, I always end up in this room. The walls are all mirrors and I’m always trapped with no way out- Meg,”

“Yeah, I’m listening,” Megan said, eyes glued to her phone. “Go on, Lovecraft,” she gesticulated further.

“There’s always this person standing in front of me. But, it’s not a person, it- it’s more like a monster. He’s crying but his eyes oozes this black stuff and his arms are bleeding. It’s all just really messed up,” Alan explained.

“Wow,” Megan exclaimed, genuinely intrigued. “So, it’s like a threesome of Hellraiser, The Cube and Sandman?”

Alan shook his head, bemused at Megan’s references.

She put out the cigarette tucked between her fingers.

“Whatever,” dismissing her statement, “you do realise it’s a dream by the end of the night, right?”

“Yeah, I do,” Alan grimaced, “but some dreams can feel just a little too real, you know?”

“Definitely. Reminds me of this one nightmare I had where I was chased by a bunch of winged honey-pot vampires. Like the ones in Winnie the Pooh but… with wings.” She said, illustrating the length of the wings with her arms.

Checking the time on her phone, Megan stood up.

“Time to go,” she informed.

“Alright,” Alan replied, fishing out his wallet. “Let me pay you.”

Megan interjected, dismissing Alan’s offer with a wave of her hand.

“Last night’s on me,” she said, slipping on her heels. “Unless you’d like to take it as rent payment.”

“Okay,” Alan resigned, keeping his wallet back.

“That’s the funny thing about you, Alan.”

“Huh?”

“You’re a good guy. You’ve never taken advantage of who I am or what I do. You don’t even judge me for it,” Megan stated, slinging her handbag onto her shoulder. “It’s just weird that you can’t treat yourself the same way.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s great that you stopped cutting yourself, it really is,” she said. “But, it doesn’t mean I don’t catch you beating yourself up from time to time.”

“I don’t know, Meg,” Alan retorted, “I don’t feel like my heart beats the way it used to.”

“Ugh,” Megan rolled her eyes. Looking at her phone, she jumped.

“Okay, I’ve really got to go,” she quickly said, turning the knob and cracking the door open. “I’ll see you in a couple of days. Good luck.”

With that, Megan left the apartment.

Alan slumped further into his couch. He heard the tapping of Megan’s heels gradually fading away. Slovenly, he thought about a future with her. Having known her for two years now, he lamented on the weird relationship he’d gotten into with her; somewhere between an acquaintance, a friend and a customer all at once.

She could mean so much more to you.

Silence ensued once again. Alan was staring back at the television screen. Rather than seeing himself, he saw the monster from his nightmares staring back at him.

“What do you want from me?”  



Alan slipped into the bathroom. An aroma of Megan’s lavender wash still lingered in the air. His eyes were bloodshot and yellow as he stared in the mirror.

That’s four in an hour.

“I know,” Alan replied. He brought the toothbrush up to his teeth.

What else do you know?

“Look, I’m gonna stop eventually. Maybe when the cigarette prices hike again,” he reasoned, spitting toothpaste into the basin.

You’re killing yourself.

“Maybe that ain’t so bad.”

Alan washed his face. Peering back up into the mirror, he was greeted by a different face. Alan jumped back.

MAYBE THAT AIN’T SO BAD AFTER ALL,” the nightmare spoke, its voice echoing yet strangely hollowed.

 “Why is this happening to me?” Alan cried, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Why do I even put up with this?”

Infuriated, Alan fished out another cigarette along with his phone right after.

Maybe it’s trying to tell you something.

Alan fled the bathroom, enraged.





Six sticks later, Alan walked into the grocer a couple of blocks down the road. Rhythms and beats ebbing through his earphones, he was oblivious to the world and the strangers who took offense to his excessive vice along the way.

“Hey, Alan,” Tim greeted from behind the cashier. A familiar face to Alan, likewise was Alan to Tim.

“Hey, how you doing?” Alan piqued, resting his weight on the wooden counter as he unplugged the contraptions from his ears. There was a quaint smell about the store which slipped into Alan’s sense of smell; it was reminiscent to opening an old book.

“I’m good, you here to get the usual?”

“Yeah,” he replied, scanning the small grocery store to make sure he wasn’t holding up any other potential customers. There were tiny aisles which held everything one would need to go about their day; food, drinks, stationaries and all. Seeing nobody around, he turned his attention back to Tim and asked: “How’s your daughter? Is she alright with the changes I made to the manuscript?”

Tim blinked, unsure of what Alan was referring to; his face then lighting up as soon as the memory flashed across his mind.

“Oh, yes, yes!” He started, “Sorry, you know how my daughter is basically living in her own world,” he then laughed.

Alan chucked along as well, managing a soft smile even.

“Yes, I’m no writer like her. But, she really loved it,” Tim said, nodding as though to convince himself further.

“I’m glad.”

“Yeah, she’s really grateful for your help, Al, says she owes you big even. It makes me think you had a hand at writing once upon a time.”

“Maybe in my past life, Tim. Anyway, I’m going to go get the usual stuff.”

“Alright.”

Alan proceeded to make his way to the back of the store, where the drinks were kept. He made a face as he caught sight of the glass door’s reflection. That thing followed him everywhere now. Opening the freezers, Alan grabbed a six-pack and proceeded onto a bottle of Johnny Walker Red.

There was only one item on his list now as he sauntered over to the counter.

“Is that all?” Tim asked.

“Nope, there’s one more thing.”

“Ah, of course, I got it,” the store’s owner exclaimed, turning around to grab Alan’s pack of cigarette from the shelves.

At the same time, Alan seized the moment to fish out his wallet, peering down into the bank notes remaining in it.

 “MORE CIGARETTES?”

He then heard a familiar haunting echo throughout the store, coming from the man he thought he knew as Tim.

Alan jumped as he stared at Tim, normal as ever, now holding a pack of cigarettes.

“What?” The cashier blinked, confused. “You okay? You’re all pale on me all of a sudden.”

Alan snatched the pack of cigarettes, paid, and stormed out of the store.






Anxiety built up in Alan as he crossed the street. Each pedestrian he passed seemed to glance knowingly at him, as if they knew. Even with earphones on, he still could hear the voices of what he figured were their thoughts.

“You ruined someone’s life,” Alan heard a passer-by’s thoughts.

“Some people are just not made for writing,” And another.

Block them out, Al. You know it’s not true.

 “She had a life,”

Don’t do this to yourself.

 “You should just kill yourself,”

Don’t listen to it, it’s all in your head.

Withdrawing into the park, Alan rested at a bench. There were five cigarettes left in his old pack and gears were turning in his mind over what he wanted to do with them.

“I need help,” Alan murmured through a shaky breath. He stuck a cigarette to his lip and reached into the paper bag. Unscrewing the cap of the whiskey bottle inside it, he drank it straight down.

You do, you really do.

His eyes grew lachrymose as he fished out his phone. Scrolling through his photo album, he found myriad screenshots which archived his past life.

NEW PICTURES OF JOHN JOHNSON AND MARTHA SCARLET – A. Harrows

WHO WAS MARILYN JENSEN WITH LAST NIGHT? – A. Harrows

WILD KNOX JOINS NEW LABEL, DRAMA ENSUES – A. Harrows

Alan smirked at the sight of these articles, remembering better days. Eventually, he would come to one such screenshot that he would pause to.

AN APOLOGY TO RITA FANNING – A. Harrows

 A week ago, Celebrity Magazine did a cover on Rita and Casey Page. We were one of the first to cover the divorce. But admittedly, we were the first magazine frame Casey Page as the victim and not Rita. I was responsible for that.
This set in motion a bandwagon of other magazines doing the same.
It is only recently that it was known to us all the kind of person Casey is and the actions that he has done. Unfortunately, it is also clear to us the damage we have done to Ms. Fanning’s reputation.

As the writer who wrote the article and on behalf of the editorial team, we would like to extend our sincerest apology to Rita Fanning.

Alan Harrows

Alan sighed, this was the start of his downfall. In a world revolving around fabricating people’s actual lives, confessing to doing wrong was career suicide. That was what happened to Alan. As he swiped to the next screenshot, a tear rolled down his cheek.

RITA FANNING MURDERED – Mike Jones

After all the death threats she received prior to the apology, it shocked the world when someone followed through on his word. In an attempt to lay low for the moment, Rita retreated to her mother’s home. She did not realise there was a stalker following her; a crazed, young fan of Casey Page. On one autumn evening, he drew a gun on her as she crossed a crowded intersection. Every witness saw the same truth; a young man who took the life of Rita Fanning before taking his own.

Alan drew a deep breath. As he read on, the article detailed the life of Rita Fanning; her dreams of being a superstar, the relationship she had with Casey Page, and even the state of her son. Further down the article, he felt a pang in his heart. The article in Celebrity Magazine now detailed Alan’s possible involvement in the tragedy, listing him as the suspect responsible for the article triggering the celebrity witch hunt.
Downing a little bit more of the whiskey, images of the initial death threats started to burn in his mind. He remembered the fear and paranoia, drawing parallel visions of Rita’s death and his own. More and more, the masses grouped, dishing out what they branded social justice by demonizing Alan.

“It’s my fault, all of it.” Alan murmured, running his forearm through his teary eyes.

This is how it started.

As Alan kept his phone in his pocket, regret blanketed his thoughts.

“It was the right thing to do,” he rationalised, talking to himself.

It was.

But, as much as he justified his actions, there was a lingering feeling he could not escape from. As it manifested into a nightmare, every so often he would be reminded of what he did. In some ways, in what he was:

“MURDERER.”

Alan wept, silently. Oblivious to the people passing by as they were to him.

I just want my life back.

As his shadow stretched further, Alan figured it was time to head home. Tomorrow would be another day at his current day job. Drunk and forlorn, he stumbled onto the park’s path and made his way. Numb to the world, he exited the park. He remembered hearing bits and pieces of conversation as he made his way to the intersection.

“So, I was telling Jessy about…”

“Does that mean we’re having dinner Friday night?”

“You gotta play this game, man!!”

“Excuse me,”

“Hey, the light is still red!”

“Stop!”

Suddenly, a loud horn rang. Barely coming to his senses, Alan found himself caught in the middle of an intersection; the grill of a truck in the centre of his vision. A second later, there was a loud thud, a sharp pain, and a blurring vision of blood oozing onto black tar. Slowly, everything started to fade until there was nothing left but a strange, soothing dark.





Alan felt a sting in his eyes as he came too. Wherever he was, it was too bright. His sight focused into view, seeing nothing but mirrors as walls. He started to shake; Alan knew where he was.

“No, this can’t be right,” he murmured in fear; “am I dead?”

Patting himself down, Alan found that his clothes were still bloodied from the accident. Growing more and more paranoid, he knew what was to come. Kicking the glass, Alan even threw himself to the mirrors to no avail, not even able to leave a scratch. He slumped down with his back to one.

“Oh God, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” He sighed under his breath, now sobbing.

“Is this another nightmare?”

“Hello?” Alan rose to his feet, frantically scanning the room.

Maybe this is hell.”

“Who’s there?” Alan quipped again, his eyes darted around. Backing away from the mirror, he turned around to see his own reflection.

Who are you talking to?”

Alan’s jaw dropped, he stayed that way for a moment before slowly backing away from the glass.

“Who are you?” He croaked under a shaky breath.

It was a simple question but one of the most difficult to answer, especially with what’s happened. But, it didn’t change the fact Alan waited for an answer from the man in the mirror.

 “I am Alan Harrows,” I stated, staring into the eyes of the person who got me killed.

I drew a breath. Nervous, this was the first time I would be talking to someone after a year. It was fitting how the first person I’d talk to would be myself.





“How’s that even possible?” Alan cried, backing away further from the mirror.

“We’re dead or dying, is there a point to know?” I retorted, scratching the side of my head; “all I know is I’ve been stuck in the back of my own head all this time while you ruin my life.”

“You’re not me.”

“Headline: Former Gossip Writer Haunted by Dead Celebrity,” I started, knowing my style all too well; “Here’s an angle: Insert stated day, the troubled writer is either found dead or admitted into hospital after a head-on collision with a truck. Buddy, I’m every bit of you and more.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” he said, distraught.

“Well, I’m going to make a smart money bet and say this is either a dream or we’re in purgatory,” I told him, “in both scenarios, there’s not enough to go on in the sense department.”

It was an odd sensation, talking to myself.

“What’s your angle, what’s your story?” Alan asked, grasping to understand.

“So, I’m crying all alone one night. I’m not sure if you’d know but Megan was away on call. She deserves better.” I said, clearing my throat; “but, I digress. With the death threats, being thrown under the bus, Rita, and fearing the possibility of ending up like Rita…”

I stole a glimpse at Imposter Alan to make sure he was still listening before I went on.

“I remember wishing for it all to end. There was a blackout- I must have went to sleep, then… when I came to on my bed next morning, I woke up in the backseat of my own self.” I finished recollecting, mindlessly scanning about the room. I fixed my eyes back on the imposter, “I don’t know who you are. But, I know who you’re pretending to be.”

“Alan,” he snapped, “let’s be straight, I’m Alan Harrows.”

“Do you have a second source to back that up?” I asked, snidely.

Alan felt silent for a moment.

“You’re taking this rather nicely. How do I know you’re not behind all of this?” He asked.

“You’re being unreasonable, Imposter Al. If I was behind this, I would definitely like it to stop. Also, do you really have to ask how I’m taking this so nicely?”

“Yes, yes I do,” he hissed. “I think you’re the one behind all of this. All of this. You’re the one tormenting me aren’t you?”

I smiled wryly. He just wanted someone to blame and who could blame him?

“What do you want from me?”

“I want my life back,” I said without hesitation; “ever since I woke up as the voice at the back of my own head, it’s been the only thing I ever wanted.”

“Well that’s not going to happen. You screwed me over.” He glared, coughing.

“You screwed us both.” I mirrored his expression.

 Imposter Al toppled over and started to wheeze.

“What−”

Gripping at his throat, he spat out something black.

It blotched onto the floor. If I had known any better, I could have sworn it was tar.

I froze in my spot, “it was you all along.”

Alan writhed in pain, the scars from his cutting days started to peel open thinly. But, instead of blood, more of that twisted substance dripping from the slits.

“What’s…HAPPENING… TO ME?” Alan cried, hunched over. With a hand on the mirror, he mustered the strength to look at me.

By doing so, I saw it. At last, now more vivid than ever, I saw the nightmare which haunted me all this while.

I backed away from it, a shiver running down my spine.

I only saw a faint ring of the pupils in his eyes. The rest of it was filled with black. It streamed down his eyes like tears, down the nostrils of his nose, and the side of his darkened lips. Slowly, he tried to tear himself into my world. His hand protruded through the mirror. As he did so, he let out a warped cry of agony that shook me even more.

I fled to the opposite side, putting myself as far away as I could from him.

He sobbed as he limped over; his limbs appeared maimed and crippled from the accident.

“Get away from me!” I cried, running.

The more I ran, the more frustrated he became. Eventually, his legs gave way and he tumbled. At that point, there was a look on his face that was beyond anguish.
I panted, cold sweats running down the side of my face.

“What do you want from me?” I said, back against the wall.

“YOU’RE KILLING YOURSELF,” he echoed, a flash of an earlier memory.

“You made sure of that!” 

“YOU GAVE UP ON EVERYTHING,” the nightmare slammed his fist vehemently.

“I had to,” I cried. “It ate at me every day. I… I had to do it.”

“MURDERER,”

“Shut up! Just shut up! I made my peace with her and you know that.”

Rage started to boil within me.

“Every day I watched you wither away, one stick at a time. These cuts? I felt them. You took everything away from me. You deserve this.”

The nightmare, a ghastly figure of my former self, lay on the floor. His cries were guttural but unlike any creature I knew of. Indeed like tar, I watched in horror as the substance solidified. It stuck what was once Imposter Alan in place.

Whatever the outcome, I was grateful at the justice dealt.  

My throat felt a little irritant as I let out a cough. Covering my mouth, I felt something thick coughed out to my palm.

I looked down.

  No- no- no,” I cried, staring at tar in my palm. It burnt, more in the way that ice does than fire.

Gripping my throat, I felt I was burning from the inside. Sharp pain shot through the back of my eyes and caused my vision to blur.

I was going to end up like the man in front of me.

But, what did I do wrong?

Was he doing this to me?

“Why are you doing this to me?” I cried, my voice close to being completely robbed from me.

Mustering the last of his strength, the nightmare remained. His face betrayed an agony I couldn’t begin to describe.

But, there was nothing but silence.

“Say something!” I pleaded.

“STOP…” he mouthed, no longer able to speak.

 I strained my eyes to see, knowing what’d come next of my own sight.

“… RUNNING.” Alan trailed, his entire figure now engulfed in flames. 

It was just like that, it hit me. As I froze in my spot, I often pondered on moments like this. It was a moment of truth which came through the miracles of epiphanies.

“I get it now,” I howled, now blind; “I’m sorry.”

I think I heard a cry coming from myself. Not at the pain fuelled by my own hatred but the guilt of never forgiving myself, never fully moving on. A strange calmness came over. Whether I lived or died, I didn’t want to run away anymore.

“Thank you,” I murmured my last words before losing the ability to speak. I had lost all of my senses, but I now accepted whatever would come to me.  





Hearing machines beeping was the first thing I was aware of before anything else. It was familiar but alien. My whole body felt wrapped in a dull ache, albeit not as painful as the punishment I was subjected to moment ago.

My eyes opened.

Sunbeams slipped through the windows, it stung my eyes as they adjusted to my surroundings. Peering down, I saw the mess that was my body. But, I also saw a familiar face sitting calmly across me. She was, unsurprisingly, glued to the phone.

I let out a waking groan.

“You’re awake,” Megan said, slightly startled.

“I’m alive…” I trailed.

“Nope, ol’ St. Pete is busy right now so he sent me to check you out,” she said.

Was she joking? Was she serious?

I couldn’t tell.

“Alan, I’m joking,” she laughed, reading my puzzled expression. Making her away to me, “yes, you’re alive.”

There were tears forming in the corners of her eyes.

I tried to move myself up slightly. A pain started to shoot up my back and forced me back down.

“Don’t move so much, you idiot,” Megan admonished, chuckling; “Did you know you got hit by a truck?”

Settling herself beside me, she ran a hand through my hair, “you idiot, you,” she choked.  

I stole a glance at the window. The glare from the sun flashed my reflection off the glass. Relieved, a small tear streamed down the side of my cheeks, I saw myself at last. 

Megan wiped off the tear with her thumb. She smiled, one of the rare warm and caring smiles that I’ve ever seen across her lips.  

“You look better.”  

 “Really?” I asked, peering down at the casts wrapped around my limbs.

“Sorry,” she winced. “But, you get what I mean.”

“Meg?”

“Hmm?” She raised a brow, reassuring me that I had her attention.

I paused for a moment before laughing softly. My stomach was fluttering as I pushed myself to utter the next few words. Yet, these simple moments were humbling and relieving, part and parcel of feeling alive.

“Headline: Man survives road accident, proceeds to confess his love to his tenant.” I uttered; “Quite a curveball, I know.”

Megan’s eyes rolled up in thought. Gazing back at me, she smiled, “I thought you’d ask eventually.”

She shrugged, “alright.”

“Really, just like that?” I felt my brows narrowed, “I don’t wanna come off as that guy, but we’re going to need to talk about your current job.”

“Worry about that later, sparky,” she waved off my concerns, “there are more things you need to have on your mind rather than my life choices.”

Lowering herself, she pecked my forehead, a quick kiss with her lips.

“I had a dream,” I told her, changing the subject.

“The same one?”

“Yeah, but it was different this time.”

“Oh?” She raised an eyebrow, “tell me about it.”

“I moved on.”


There was a short silence between us then. Megan sat herself beside me on the edge of the bed, running her hand up and down the cast on my leg. I’m not sure whether I could ever tell anyone about this bizarre experience. But, I was sure that this time things were going to be different.