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We are only humans . . .

Walking, my feet firm on the pavement, absorbing the suck of gravity, my watch tapping out time on my wrist. There is nothing outside the words, those distorting breathed words. Is my looking at the other pedestrians an act of theft? Flowers flare in small beds. Broad houses, stucco over the grubby voices, the small foot steps from room to room, steps smothered by drab slippers, the battlefield smell of cooking flesh, the scrape of a chair pushed sharp from a table. I am sick of words and their tyranny. It repeats, like a loop, people go by, over and over, legs, legs, arms and head. Bound by breath; fractals of an abandoned idol. As I walk I turn the palms of my hands inwards to hide my lies. The sun scorns behind a cloud, I am descended from a long line of liars, some of them compulsive, most of them elaborate, all just fiction. They were fat, with the bloat of the drowned. A day with its remote movement, the circles, I forget, but look at the man passing me by, his paper tucked under his arm, a carrier bag flush with supper to be warmed, his black shoes pressing into the indifferent earth. I want him to turn and reach for me Milk warm, this mammalian press to be held tight, his breath soil rich, hands that lie flat on skin, like a silk sail on a windless day. The perfect dark of a human kiss.

I am reflected everywhere, in the shabby puddles, the miniature video screen behind the counter relaying my purchase of a bounty bar, the silvered windows of the car showroom. I am aware of myself – what a sight.

I found a dead bird, at the foot of a tree, the roots concreted into the path. Snatched from the air by death, an immaculate treasure. It had eluded the scavenging night. A blue tit, perfect unlike human cadavers with their flung limbs and slack mouths, the frank stare of blinded eyes. Its beak firm shut, eyes closed, its weightless body a tidy oval, egg like, its wings carefully folded. I carry him in my pocket, stroking the feathers; the lacework once readied for flight. He is marvellous, this alien creature subject to different laws, defiant of the bondage of gravity, giving it the slip, till now. I touch him, the spindle of his beak, the contracted claws hooked around air; I slip my finger into the ring, a marriage vow, a contract of claw and bone, small flesh. Manacled as I am to this obdurate planet, its grip. Possessive and unbending in its silly rules, there is music, a bird song, time made manifest. Light binds, with its strict geometry. The dark disarms us. My bird husband and his human wife. I think only of pale blue eyes.

Heidi James.

Heidi James's novella The Mesmerist's Daughter (published by Apis Books) was launched in July 2007 (‘Ingenious’ – Dazed and Confused), her novel Carbon (published by Blatt) will be out in Spring 09 and published in Spanish by El Tercer Nombre. Her essays and short stories have appeared in various publications including Dazed and Confused, Next Level, Flux, Brand, The Independent, 3:AM London, New York, Paris, Dreams That Money Can Buy, Full Moon Empty Sports Bag, Pulp,net. She is publisher and owner of Social Disease Books.


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