Simon James

My eyelids pull themselves apart fully for the first time in… how long? Years it seems.
I’ve been awake every day, but unconscious. Now suddenly I can see: the shadowy clinical bedroom that’s identical to every other room on this corridor. Bromidic brown curtains I would never have chosen myself. On the bedside table: a yellow lily that reeks of sympathy. I’m not meant to be here.
I can feel the power pulling at my bones; the sorcery invested in me by Hecate, once ruler of the earth, seas and skies. It’s crying to be brought back into the world, to prove to them all I’m not a snivelling trout just waiting to die. I can show them who I really am.
I slowly lift myself out of bed and, after noticing the evening rain against the window, wrap my nightgown tightly around me; this body is still weak. That won’t be the case once I have what I need. I take my keys, hidden inside the purple socks in the top drawer, and put them in the pocket of my nightgown.
Out of the room, I’m careful not to walk too quickly. The automatic light goes on at the far end of the corridor and advancing footsteps grow louder from around the corner, here to stop me turning the skies red.
Trying to be fast but subtle, I twist the knob on the door to my left, sneak inside and close it again. The room contains the walrus man who often asks if I want to join him for cards. A pool of drool sits between his chins.
A young girl in a white uniform has followed me in. I know the face but not the name. Her blunt bob is as trite as her place of work.
“Mrs Morgan, what are you doing in here? You shouldn’t be up at this time, and you certainly shouldn’t be going into other residents’ rooms!” The patronising quim puts a radio to her ear. “Angie, will you come to Brian’s room? Mrs Morgan has got out of her bed again.”Next to the walrus’s bed is his stick. I have seen him use it to hobble around the living room, desperately searching for someone who will give him the time of day. It’s thick and heavy, nothing like mine but perfect for now: As she’s walking me to the door I grab the handle, turn around and crack her on the top of the head. A half-cry, a tumble and she’s lying motionless as the walrus snores. One obstacle down; one step closer to restoring my power.
I bend down, ignoring the ache in my lower back, and feel into her pockets until I find her key card. At the end of the corridor I swipe it through the reader as I’ve watched them do every day, and I’m into the main hall. Another corridor down, no one has seen me and I’m at the fire door that leads outside.
The rain is heavy but not worth worrying about – when I’ve restored my strength I won’t be able to feel it. More of a problem are my bare feet, which only occurs to me as I leave the patio and walk onto the gravel. They hurt even more when I have to walk across brambles, clawing through bushes round the back of the ‘home’. If I went past the main entrance they would see me, so every thorn is necessary.

I still clutch the walrus stick. It dealt with the nurse-tart well and swats through the branches like a sword. I will keep it until I have my own back, then I will watch as the roots of the trees twist themselves from the ground at my command. The command of a returned goddess.
Onto the main street, re-joining what they call civilisation: people watch as I begin my walk down the pavement, under the curved spotlights. Many turn and stare as I stumble past them. “Where do you think she’s going?” A car slows down to get a better look.
They don’t know what they’re looking at. They can’t be expected to understand that they’re witnessing the beginning of a beautiful rebirth: a descendant of Morgan le Fay herself, brimming with dark magic. Magic bestowed upon me by Hecate for my undying commitment to Wicca, with permission to use it as I please.
Well, now is the time. The world will soon regret hiding me away in a small room with musky brown curtains. They will cower and worship me once again.
“Hey Ben, look: it’s your nan!”
Youths stood by bins in an alleyway. Their natural habitat.
“My nan’s dead you prick.”
“I know, that’s what I mean. This one looks like she’s crawled out of the grave to come and tell you off for what you did to Shannon.”
“Where you in a hurry to, Deary? Why don’t you let us–”
I squeeze the handle of the stick but don’t need to use it; the snarl is enough. They back away into the darkness, seeing my pulsing potential. I’m getting stronger as I get closer.
I keep pacing down the pavement, fire in my eyes, and eventually I can see it at the other side of the street: the large tower I used to call home, and my flat on the sixth floor with the lights off. It’s in there, waiting for me. I wait for the cars to stop out of respect, but they can’t see who I am yet. There are no crossing points for a while, no time. I need it in my hand right now.
I walk into the road, heading straight for my building. Horns and tires screech. I hold up my hands and the cars stop in their tracks, allowing me to get to the other side. A true demonstration of my power. I’m so close.
I pull the key from my gown, open the door and start the ascension.
My feet are hurting. I think they’re bleeding but I don’t want to look.
Nearly there. I can feel it.
I wish they’d put a lift in here, can’t expect a woman of my age to climb six floors every day. I’ll ask Harry to say something.
It’s calling to me.
Shivering, soaking – why did I think going out in this weather was a good idea?
Where have I even been? I’ve no shopping bags.
Finally, floor 6, flat 21: Keys. Open. Search.
For what? I was definitely supposed to be looking for something.
What have I lost? Where have I just been? It feels really late.

I walk through my flat and try to work out what I’ve forgotten. It feels good to be home but I know something is wrong. I’m sure of it. There’s a red sofa in the living room which is setting off alarm bells. I’ve always hated red furniture.
Wait, where are all my photos?
The shivering comes from inside as I try to think things through… Why does it feel like months since I was here? Where’s Harry?
Everything is blurry. My legs give way and all I can see is the carpet. I’m too cold and scared to move.
I’m turned over. My Rosie. So good to see her, but why is she here?
“What are you doing here?”
I don’t know the answer. And I don’t know how to tell her that.
“What’s wrong? God, you’re freezing… Sam! Sam!”
The boyfriend:
“Oh my god. What’s she doing here?”
“I have no idea.”
“Should we ring the home?”
“Not right now, she’s soaking. God, she’s going to get hypothermia.”
“Should we get her in the bath?”
Rosie nods. Her soft brown curls bounce slightly either side of her face. She’s still got those beautiful dimples on her cheeks that she had when we used to feed the ducks.
They take me into the bathroom and sit me on the closed toilet. They pull a big walking stick from my fingers and lay it next to the running bath… I didn’t even know I had it. Do I walk with a stick?
Oh God, what’s happening to me?
I look around the bathroom to try and calm myself. My shampoo isn’t in its spot.
Everything feels wrong.
“Harry?” Hot and salty tears fall into my mouth as I shout for him. “Harry!?”
“Mum, Dad’s… Me and Sam live here now.”
I squeeze up my eyes, fists, legs together. Got to block everything out. Not real. It’s all a big blurry mess, but he’ll come and fix it if I wait long enough. But he’s de..NOSTOPTHINKINGABOUTIT.
…Warm and comfortable. The scratches on my feet and legs sting at first, but it won’t be forever. The water in the bath provides some clarity. I start to breathe again.
Rosie and Sam sit with me for a while. I thank them but they don’t understand me. They know though, don’t they?
When they can see I’ve calmed down, they go outside, talking. Maybe to each other, maybe calling someone to get me. I don’t care which – they’ll do what’s best. They always have. It’s not their fault that I…
There. In a pot next to the sink.
My staff.
It takes everything I have not to go to it first, but I have to be careful; the first thing I do when I climb out of the bath is close and lock the door.

Ignore her. Threw me in the prison so she could fuck without her mother listening.
“Mum, are you ok?”
My staff draws me to it from across the room. Magnificent. Glimmering with power.
I wrap my fingers round it and feel it instantly start to work. The magic feeds into my forearm, through my entire body and back again until my power is fully reawakened.
Ready to suck on the veins of the earth.
“What’s she doing now?”
Quiet meatsack, your phallus is the only reason you live in my home. Not for long: when the fires have started and even the tides retreat, I will come back, twist your manipulative spine and use it for a throne.
My form rejuvenates from the withering mess that miraculously escaped the prison. Cuts and bruises disappear, bones and muscles strengthen, skin colours and tightens. I watch in the mirror as my breasts rise and my hair turns from grey to brown. I am twenty again. Forever maybe.
“Mum, open the door!”
Ignoring the traitors’ shouting, I pick up the walrus stick to use one last time. Can’t damage my own – it’s part of me now. I smash it through the frosted window. Glass and framing fall onto the bathroom floor and all the way down to the pavement below.
“Mum, what’s going on!? MUM!!”
There’s banging on the door. I have to go now. Have to show them what I’m made of.
I fly.


One comment

  1. Stella Wulf · January 25, 2015

    Oh gosh! I know this is from a long time ago but it’s new to me. You had me gripped from the beginning. I think you really got under the skin of your protagonist, Simon. This is compelling and credible from the opening line to that brilliant and tragic ending.

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