Tabula Rasa

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    1. The trees shook violently in the wind.
    2. I tried again.
    3. Hundreds of them appeared at once.
    4. The door closed with ease.
    5. The smell of lemons drifted through the house.
    6. Sun poured in through the thick leaves.
    7. It had been dark when we left.
    8. Seven cats sat along the back wall.

    The trees shook violently in the wind.

    tom

    The trees shook violently in the wind.

    Their limbs groaning; straining. Steadfast, he stood between them, unyielding to the storm.

    I watched his silhouette against the fast darkening sky, the rain hammering against the glass. Each day he would wait, a promise fulfilled.

    A man is as good as his word.


    josh

    The trees shook violently in the wind.

    Ominous
    Something on the verge of terrible
    They woke me from my fragile sleep
    Did you hear them too?
    Did they rip you from slumber?

    Calm
    Something focusing on my weakened periphery
    They crystallised and sang softly to me
    Did your voice break through?
    Did it drown out the trees?


    I tried again.

    josh

    I tried again.

    I picked it up by the handle and repositioned my grip. The perspiration that covered my palms made the damn thing so slippery - constant splashes of mud didn’t help.

    I drove the metal end into the ground and finally heard the dull thud I was hoping for.

    My breath stopped.


    tom

    I tried again.

    The sound of the dial tone load and tiny in my ear. 7 rings. Nothing.

    Panic washed up over me like a treacherous sea but I hung to my life raft and breathed, knuckles white around the receiver.

    He smiled across the forecourt, his eyes wary.

    This was a mistake.


    Hundreds of them appeared at once.

    josh

    Hundreds of them appeared at once.

    Tiny, illuminative things that lit up above me in the blink of an eye. Stars. I blinked once more and they were gone, replaced with heavy clouds.

    Blink. Stars.

    Blink. Clouds.

    Years passed every time I closed my eyes.

    I blinked one final time. My eyes opened, everything was dark.


    tom

    Hundreds of them appeared at once.

    Interdimensional beings having travelled thousands of lightyears to deliver an important message to humanity.

    However, due to a slight miscalculation of the effects of quantum tunnelling, they winked into existence at a minuscule fraction of their size and were accidentally hoovered up by Mrs Hurstbridge from number 42.


    The door closed with ease.

    josh

    The door closed with ease.

    It sang a sweet whisper as it sank into its home. A gentle but forceful exhalation of air from the lips, pursed, pulsing.

    What does an exhale sound like?

    What does wood bring to mind?

    It is louder than you might think. It breathes.

    Are doors always made from wood?


    tom

    The door closed with ease.

    Ah, she thought, this is not my house. A simulacrum.

    She had suspected that something was amiss, a ruse to let her guard down. A simulation. They let her go, she goes home, leads them to the hidden cache.

    But her house is old, and the front door sticks.


    The smell of lemons drifted through the house.

    josh

    The smell of lemons drifted through the house.

    It must be Thursday, he thought to himself, as the sharp sweetness hit his nose. Every Thursday since the day they met she had made lemon drizzle cake. He’d never been able to tell her that he despised baked goods, she loved the tradition of it too much.

    He opened the window and got back to work. An hour or so later he went downstairs but couldn’t see her anywhere. The cake sat delicately on the counter next to a note. She was leaving, for good. Apparently she could no longer bear his rigid, weekly demand for baked goods. Ironic.


    tom

    The smell of lemons drifted through the house.

    Real lemon. Not the sickly acrid taste of "lemon flavouring" but the fresh, sweet, acidic tang of actual lemons.

    I dropped my bags in the hall and ran into the kitchen. My wife stood there with a wry smile and a small glass of fresh lemonade.

    My mouth flapped uselessly as I tried to process the scene. "H-how?"

    Her eyes sparkled, revelling in my astonishment. "I saved up and managed to pull a few strings at work. Here." She pressed the glass and kissed my cheek. "Happy birthday."

    I smiled, raised the glass and brightness exploded on my tongue.


    Sun poured in through the thick leaves.

    tom

    Sun poured in through the thick leaves.

    It cascaded across the wooden floor, drenching the room in it's golden light and splashing haphazardly across the white linen sheets of the bed in the center of the room.

    The occupant stirred, the only movement amongst the fleshy vegetation, and fumbled for their glasses balanced on a pile of dusty books by the bed.

    The fecund scene dissolved into focus and they looked around in alarm.

    The room was dense with vegetation. Branches forced their way through the broken windows with thick vines were strung between them. Orchids blossomed in one corner.

    How long had they been asleep?


    josh

    Sun poured in through the thick leaves.

    They were either ficus, or magnolia, but I couldn’t quite work them out. The veins on the underside of each leaf were so distinct, so illustrated, the sun illuminating every flowing river of life.

    I pulled one from its branch, allowing more sunlight to break through, blinding me momentarily before my eyes adjusted. The leaf felt rough in my fingers.

    “Magnolia.” I confirmed to the tree, who agreed with me in a stoic silence. I let the leaf fall to the ground and I watched it effortlessly, weightlessly saunter downwards.

    As it descended, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.


    It had been dark when we left.

    josh

    It had been dark when we left.

    We knew we wanted to head north this time, to find somewhere we’d never even heard of. One more fresh start. We only had enough to fill one suitcase between the two of us - our entire lives in one bag. It was quite pathetic if you really dwelled on it.

    We couldn’t afford a train ticket, so we followed the tracks upward. Soon, we noticed a wet, trickling light edging its way along the metal. It turned black to orange to white, and then it took over our vision entirely.

    In that moment, I thought that maybe we were free.


    tom

    It had been dark when we left.

    It was still dark hours later as we trudged into the endless night. We had to make the most of the coolness before the searing days began again.

    It had been the same since she was born.

    Months spent sheltered underground; the smell of damp earth; the monotonous routines.

    Months spent dragging their lives through the night over the blistered surface of this forsaken terrain; forever heading south.

    Following the needle of father's compass.

    Her compass now.


    Seven cats sat along the back wall.

    josh

    Seven cats sat along the back wall.

    Scrappy, slinky, smelly, svelte, serpentine, silent, sassy, they sat along that wall and watched every step I took.

    Six days later and they were still there, a mass of fur becoming matted and tangled. Still watching me. Sadly I began to lose my mind.

    Something inside of me snapped and I knew I had to destroy them. Shots fired into the abyss of the garden in the direction of the seven cats that sat along the back wall.

    Small bullet holes were scattered over their bodies, but still they sat.

    Seriously, how the fuck do you get rid of strays?


    tom

    Seven cats sat along the back wall.

    As an astute observer, I thought this was odd. Maybe three co-located felines would pass without comment, but seven? This seemed worth investigating.

    They had their backs to me and their tails swept lazily against the rough brickwork as they stared at something on the other side.

    I grasped the top of the wall and hauled myself up, to sit up among the cats. They shuffled along to accomodate their new neighbour.

    We watched a crow struggle to pull a fat worm from the soil. The worm wore a wedding ring.

    As an astute observer, I thought this was odd