Amanda would lie awake at 3am, swept under blankets, watching the darkest bedroom corners twist and snap spines and smile. And then she’d get up, and start the day like nothing happened. Like she didn’t know what it was like to be beckoned, to be wanted.
And when heavy feet drag her back, it’s always to beginning, and she sometimes feels like it’s all a circle, a snake gurgling on its own tail.
So Amanda’ll climb into her bed and turn the lights off. The moon rushes in, impatient and hungry, filling her room with mercury and plunging her into other worlds. Worlds Amanda never believed in. And still, she lies with eyes peeled open, tracing shadows.
And as the days go on, she slips into trains, answers calls, stands in lines, blinks at clocks, waits. Except there’s nothing to wait for, anymore. Her life’s countdown breaks, and soon she’s smiling at everyone rushing out of work just because they’re smiling.
Amanda smiles as she gets on the train, smiles as she walks to her flat, smiles as she turns the keys.
Then the flat stands, and there’s a faint ringing coming from somewhere.
She feels like screaming, sometimes. She feels like peeling her skin off. The voices in the box make her cry, and drinks don’t warm her anymore. And so, she notices. She looks.
When she lies awake at night, she looks paralysed, eyes flickering. The shadows taste like onyx.
There are those that pull faces, and contort their skin and bones in ways no one has ever believed in. Amanda will try to copy them, sometimes, when she’s standing on the platform. Then, there are those that lie flat on the floor, and sometimes, Amanda will act like the dead ones.
There are no songs, but the notes still feed the girl’s mind. They thread her tongue crueler than lips and thumbs do.
So it’s only a matter of time until they start following her. Time slips by, grain by grain, and a city’s strings pull us all tight to the centre.
It’s Tuesday, or Wednesday, and the district line had delays. Amanda stares at the stain on the man’s shoe. There’s someone laughing, obnoxious, except not really, because Amanda wishes she could laugh like that.
And then there’s the grating sound of metal, and Amanda raises her head and feels ready to vomit.
There’s a shadow here, too. Nothing spins, nothing moves, but there’s a slime that’s started to run through her veins.
The shadow isn’t smiling, or dancing, or acting dead. It’s twisting space, and the people around are digging deep inside their minds, they don’t notice how their faces started deforming and contorting to the sound of violent oceans.
But Amanda sees it, feels it, and her heart’s beating so fast that her body seems to be floating away from her, leaving her sinking, leaving her in spaces where sirens ring.
She stumbles out at the next stop but she doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, only that she wants to run, but her muscles are twisting and she’s forgotten how to breathe. And she watches people weave circles around her, wonders how their chests and stomachs move in, out, in, so smoothly. Smoothness the texture of nails, a waterfall of them circling around the commuters’ heads, disappearing deep inside shuddering lungs.
Amanda thinks, what the fuck is going on? And nobody answers, because nobody knows what the fuck is going on, either. But by the time working hours are over, nobody actually cares, either.
And that night, as Amanda lies awake, the shadows all wave until wrists break. There’s a cold grip coming over her again. Something’s waking as she’s trying to sleep. A simultaneous fall and rise. She heard it, somewhere, once, that we’re all wrong about Sin. Sin, Sin is transcendence, it’s the unnatural, that which we wouldn’t be able to create.
She learns how to act normal. How to slip into the crowds around her, unnoticed. She doesn’t always see the shadows following, but with the sick feeling and excitement and beating heart she can taste them there.
She doesn’t know what the taste on her tongue is, not really, but she knows it’s described through that vision she saw once, many years ago. She was young, somewhere around that time where the future seemed to be a lifetime away. Maybe it was a movie, or maybe a show, or maybe a book, but she remembers how something stirred inside her and promised that her life will be waiting for her.
But that something painted stolen faces on themselves, painstakingly, each dot considered from the spectrum. Hours and hours of toil where spines feel like snapping. And the taste creeps in when you’re holding the door open for someone, or taking your coffee, or waving at someone. You ignore it at first, and maybe you won’t even notice. Maybe the blinking lights and friends and electric glows keep you safe.
But it’s the taste that grows, and of course it’s never gone when you think it is. It’s always with you. And there’ll be nights where the city reflects on the tarmac, and you’ll swear you just felt something breathe on the back of your neck.
So, dissolve in with the rest of the grey faces, and pray no one notices.
Wait for trains, wait for workday’s end, wait until you get back home, wait until your life begins.
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