Rooftop Dragon

Aerwin called it yoga.

He could hold a pose for weeks, his gaze fixed, his breath so shallow it couldn’t disturb a feather. Through his toes, he felt hard ridged tiles and soft lead. He was aware of his stomach’s slow digestive churn, his low patient hunger, and his mind, like a diamond: sharp, sparkling, clear. 

A long way below and across the road, tourists queued to enter the Abbey, snaking along cool, hallowed paths out onto the hot, secular pavement. Never had so many people wanted to get into a place of worship at the same time without a national emergency, a royal wedding or a legal obligation. The tourists chatted in a million languages, took a billion selfies and seeped one by one in through oak doors out of Aerwin’s sight.

Some of them looked tastier than others. 

Occasionally one would notice Aerwin and take a photograph. They called him a statue of a dragon. Aerwin called himself a dragon who was expert at keeping still. 

How he missed the fogs and smogs of the past, when he could swoop down, carry someone off under cover of gloom and sit amongst chimneys to crunch them up. Everything had been ruined since they banned coal fires and leaded petrol to clear the skies. Nowadays there was no chance of snatching a meal unseen in daylight.

Aerwin contemplated the tempting line of juicy humans. He only really hungered for bullies and louts and could spot them in seconds. He argued that roosting on the Supreme Court from time to time had imparted a sense of justice but truthfully, to a dragon, the flavour of nastiness is nectar. 

Even so, his stomach ached as he peered at the potential feast. In the old days, people were scrawny. Now they were fat and shiny from constant shovelling of snacks as if preparing for famine. Delicious.

Aerwin let one drop of saliva wet his lips.

His gaze drifted south from the Abbey, over the tourists, over the commuters to the crenellated Parliament building where he normally roosted inconspicuous among the gothic carvings. Unfortunately right now, the roofs and turrets were covered for renovation. Aerwin gave a tiny sigh. Such rich pickings missed: if he wanted to munch on the tastiest bullies and louts Parliament was the place to be.

The drop of saliva fell onto a commuter scurrying along the pavement. She looked up in surprise at the dry old building under a cloudless blue sky then shrugged and rushed away, without appearing to wonder why a stone dragon nestled out of symmetry with carved muses.

With a susurration like stones slithering down slate, the Muse of Justice whispered ‘Aerwin, stop drooling. We’ve told you before: you mustn’t eat people.’

‘Don’t want people,’ muttered Aerwin, ‘want politicians.’

The Muse tutted and rolled her eyes.

Aerwin let his tongue flicker, his tail twitch. Then he and the Muse settled, still as statues again. 

The Muse called it contemplation. 

Aerwin called it waiting for dinner.

dragon

Words copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. Photograph of muse on the Supreme Court copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon and dragon courtesy of Pixabay. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Vigilance

‘There’s a deviant behind me,’ whispered Caitlin, ‘I thought they were all dead.’

She could hear it shuffling as if its feet in the broken shoes were bruised and blistered. But it was getting nearer nonetheless.

’The virus we put in the water supply killed the majority,’ Abbi answered, ‘but a few were immune. They’d die out in time, but we daren’t risk it.’

Caitlin picked up a stone. Turning to throw it, she saw that the deviant was barely alive: rags hanging from its haggard frame, a kind of pleading in its eyes as it reached for her. She dropped the stone and quickened her pace.

‘It looks so weak,’ she murmured to Abbi, ‘are you sure it can harm us? It’s starving to death. What can we do?’

‘Don’t worry. Daniel’s prepared.’

Caitlin squinted to where Abbi was pointing. On the roof opposite, a boy lay, sunshine glinting off his gunsight. A red spot briefly appeared on Caitlin’s shoulder then disappeared to her left. She moved to give Daniel a clear aim. There was a soft crack and then a thump.

Caitlin looked down on the emaciated corpse.

‘He looked nice,’ sighed Caitlin, ‘Like grandfathers in books. Whatever grandfathers were.’

‘Don’t believe their propaganda,’ snapped Abbi, ‘you know perfectly well the world is a better place now that it’s run by children who reproduce by cloning. There’s no place for teenagers and adults anymore. You know the rules.’

Caitlin was silent. She would be thirteen in two years time. She looked up at Daniel and shuddered.

vigilance

Words and photograph copyright 2017 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

At The Gallery

She came out of her reverie as if she had surfaced from the depths of a silent lake. Her ears filled with shrill chatter and her eyes were overwhelmed by the vibrancy of the paintings and sculptures around her, the designer clothes, the make-up; jewellery sparkling.

Someone put a glass of champagne into her hand. She looked into the rising bubbles:
one pop,
two, three pop,
four, five, six pop.

She didn’t drink from it.

“I didn’t realise it was you at first,” said the man who had given it to her, “I didn’t know your married name. Can you believe how long it is since art college? You’ve hardly changed a bit.”

He paused to sip. She smiled at him, trying to focus on his name badge without too obviously staring at his chest.

“Great pieces,” he went on, sloshing champagne as he waved his arm to indicate the paintings behind her, “your style has matured. There’s a kind of… mystery about them. What was your inspiration?”

She turned to look at the huge canvasses, their drowning blues and tangling greens, the hint of silver just out of reach. She yearned for silence and shrugged.

“Sorry, sorry, I should know better than to ask a fellow artist to talk about their work, it makes you cringe doesn’t it?” he hooked his arm into her elbow, “but I’ve got to ask, what do you think of my stuff? I think I’ve grown out of that self-absorbed young man you probably remember. This one is called..”

His voice blurred as she gazed at the sculpture he was drawing her towards. The people in the room moved in a misty stylised dance, their voices becoming incomprehensible as if a radio was picking up a distant foreign language broadcast.

Champagne slopped over the side of her glass.

Who is he? she thought.

Then she thought: for that matter, who am I?

 

abstract

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

Don’t Move

I am so cold and so alone.

It is nearly silent now, this dead hour, this dead dark hour. I can only hear the soft worrying noises of night. I can hear a lone distant car becoming more distant. Free to go – not tethered like me.

Tethered, yes that is me – tied to this room, this house, this life, this never ending wakefulness. Tethered to the shore perhaps but at the same time cast loose to the night – floating on a dark river of exhaustion and uncertainty and fear.

I dare not leave this room. You will hear me move. You will sense me. Awake: you are an endless list of demands and desires.

For now you are asleep at last. I can hear your light breathing. But soon you will reawaken and call for me.

I wish… what do I wish? Do I wish I could pass this servitude to someone else – just for a day, no just for an hour, no just for a few minutes?

No, I wouldn’t.

I want you to demand only me, to want only me, to cry out for only me.

But just let me move, my precious baby, just let me move, just let me for one whole sweet night go back to my own room, to sleep, dreamless, warm in my own bed.

dark with lights

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

Loquacious

My lecture was so dull I bored myself, tailing off down an alley of inconsequence to the dead end of momentary silence until, with rising excitement, I found the side alley of potential controversy and entered it with brief anticipation of provoking interest; the eyes of the older members of the assembled teenagers coming back to life for the few seconds it took for my stress addled brain to note the teachers’ anxious tension as they braced for any risk my words might pose, whereupon I stepped off a metaphorical pavement into the path of an oncoming bus – destination: failure.

pink

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

From a prompt from Thin Spiral Notebook: a story in 100 words in 1 sentence.

Moving Forward

“Laptops?”

“Check.”

“Mobiles?”

“Check”

“Credit Cards?”

“Check”

“Tablets, wifi passwords, address books?”

“Check”

“Sat Nav?”

“Check”

“Have you packed your smart suits and shiny shoes?”

“Yup”

“Right come on, let’s get on board”

Mary, Steve, Rob and Jenny hefted their rucksacks and waited for the commuters to climb onto the train and settle down, juggling their cases and newspapers and styrofoam coffees.

There was no room to sit: all the seats and aisles were packed with people trying to get to work, trying to prepare for work, wishing they’d prepared for work, or loudly discussing work on mobiles so that the rest of world could see how important they were.

Mary, Steve, Rob and Jenny didn’t mind. They stood, balancing between swaying carriages as the wheels rattled over the smooth rails. The refreshments trolley squeezed through and ran over their booted feet. The ticket collector raised his eyebrows at their destinations and scribbled random symbols.

Town by city by town, the commuters got off, leaving room to breathe at last.

Mary, Steve, Rob and Jenny moved into an empty carriage, opening the tiny window to let some air in and blow out the odours of perfume, panic and depression; watching the buildings recede as connurbations gave way to country side.

The train slowed as it started to describe a slow bend on top of a steep embankment. Below was a wide stretch of water, splendid in unvisited isolation.

“Laptop?”

“Check.”

“Mobile?”

“Check”

“Credit Card?”

“Check”

“Tablet, wifi passwords, address books?”

“Check”

“Sat Nav?”

“Check”

“Have you packed your smart suits and shiny shoes?”

“Yup”

“Right come on, shove them all out the window quick while we go round this bend before the ticket inspector comes back – we’re leaving it all behind and starting from scratch.”

 

train travellers

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

Big Sister

Hold my hand, hold it tight.

Don’t walk too fast, just saunter along as if we’re going to the market. Don’t look back, keep looking up at me and smiling. Laugh – pretend I’ve said something funny. That’s a girl.

Don’t worry, keep hold of my hand. Let’s skip for a bit as if I’m playing with you. No we can’t run – people will notice.

You’d think we’d be invisible wouldn’t you? All these crowds, all these twisting alleyways. But there’s always someone watching, always someone who will remember. Don’t worry, here, I’ll put my arm round your shoulder.

Let’s go this way and then we’ll double back a little bit along. Come on.

Don’t look down at the shadows and the dirt, look up at me. Look up at the sky. Can you see how blue it is? Isn’t it lovely?

Here, let’s slip through this way, we’re not so far from the edge of the settlement. Don’t tremble sweetheart, don’t look back. No-one is following now. We just keep walking.

Look! Can you see through that gap? Can you see the mountains? Look at the sun on them, turning them golden. Let’s pretend it’s a friendly dragon waiting to protect us. It’s not so far.

I know your feet are tired lovely, but you can walk a little further. We’ll be safe there, I promise. There’s a place on the mountain side and they’re waiting for us. Hold my hand, we just need to slip out through here and into the shadows again.

I promised I’d save us, little sister, I promised we’d get free. We’re nearly there… hold my hand. Soon your smile won’t be pretend anymore.

dawn

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

Pursuit

Sweat drenched my face and back. My throbbing feet tried to increase the pace, making my heart pound. I inhaled sourness and my mouth was dry. Tearful, I knew I mustn’t stop.

Looking up, I saw in the mirror a red faced woman, running on the treadmill as if Cerberus pursued her. The monitor showed she’d burned five hundred calories and yet she ran faster, every second of the torture worthwhile as she got thinner and fitter.

Too bad I was looking at the reflection of the woman next to me. Me, I’d barely burnt off a packet of crisps.

running

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission