Don’t forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.
O Rose! who dares to name thee?
No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;
But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,—-
Kept seven years in a drawer—-thy titles shame thee.
The breeze that used to blow thee
Between the hedgerow thorns, and take away
An odour up the lane to last all day,—-
If breathing now,—-unsweetened would forego thee.
The sun that used to smite thee,
And mix his glory in thy gorgeous urn,
Till beam appeared to bloom, and flower to burn,—-
If shining now,—-with not a hue would light thee.
The dew that used to wet thee,
And, white first, grow incarnadined, because
It lay upon thee where the crimson was,—-
If dropping now,—-would darken where it met thee.
The fly that lit upon thee,
To stretch the tendrils of its tiny feet,
Along thy leaf’s pure edges, after heat,—-
If lighting now,—-would coldly overrun thee.
The bee that once did suck thee,
And build thy perfumed ambers up his hive,
And swoon in thee for joy, till scarce alive,—-
If passing now,—-would blindly overlook thee.
The heart doth recognise thee,
Alone, alone! The heart doth smell thee sweet,
Doth view thee fair, doth judge thee most complete,—-
Though seeing now those changes that disguise thee.
Yes, and the heart doth owe thee
More love, dead rose! than to such roses bold
As Julia wears at dances, smiling cold!—-
Lie still upon this heart—-which breaks below thee!
What a pretty tale you told me
Once upon a time
—Said you found it somewhere (scold me!)
Was it prose or was it rhyme,
Greek or Latin? Greek, you said,
While your shoulder propped my head.
Anyhow there’s no forgetting
This much if no more,
That a poet (pray, no petting!)
Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore,
Went where suchlike used to go,
Singing for a prize, you know.
Well, he had to sing, nor merely
Sing but play the lyre;
Playing was important clearly
Quite as singing: I desire,
Sir, you keep the fact in mind
For a purpose that’s behind.
There stood he, while deep attention
Held the judges round,
—Judges able, I should mention,
To detect the slightest sound
Sung or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!
None the less he sang out boldly,
Played in time and tune,
Till the judges, weighing coldly
Each note’s worth, seemed, late or soon,
Sure to smile ‘In vain one tries
Picking faults out: take the prize!’
When, a mischief! Were they seven
Strings the lyre possessed?
Oh, and afterwards eleven,
Thank you! Well, sir,—who had guessed
Such ill luck in store?—it happed
One of those same seven strings snapped.
All was lost, then! No! a cricket
(What ‘cicada’? Pooh!)
—Some mad thing that left its thicket
For mere love of music—flew
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre.
So that when (Ah joy!) our singer
For his truant string
Feels with disconcerted finger,
What does cricket else but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?
Ay and, ever to the ending,
Cricket chirps at need,
Executes the hand’s intending,
Saves the singer from defeat
With her chirrup low and sweet.
Till, at ending, all the judges
Cry with one assent
‘Take the prize—a prize who grudges
Such a voice and instrument?
Why, we took your lyre for harp,
So it shrilled us forth F sharp!’
Did the conqueror spurn the creature
Once its service done?
That’s no such uncommon feature
In the case when Music’s son
Finds his Lotte’s power too spent
For aiding soul development.
No! This other, on returning
Homeward, prize in hand,
Satisfied his bosom’s yearning:
(Sir, I hope you understand!)
—Said ‘Some record there must be
Of this cricket’s help to me!’
So, he made himself a statue:
Marble stood, life size;
On the lyre, he pointed at you,
Perched his partner in the prize;
Never more apart you found
Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.
That’s the tale: its application?
Somebody I know
Hopes one day for reputation
Thro’ his poetry that’s—Oh,
All so learned and so wise
And deserving of a prize!
If he gains one, will some ticket
When his statue’s built,
Tell the gazer ”Twas a cricket
Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness’ place i’ the scale, she chirped?
'For as victory was nighest,
While I sang and played,—
With my lyre at lowest, highest,
Right alike,—one string that made
‘Love’ sound soft was snapt in twain
Never to be heard again,—
'Had not a kind cricket fluttered,
Perched upon the place
Vacant left, and duly uttered
‘Love, Love, Love,’ whene’er the bass
Asked the treble to atone
For its somewhat sombre drone.’
But you don’t know music! Wherefore
Keep on casting pearls
To a—poet? All I care for
Is—to tell him that a girl’s
‘Love’ comes aptly in when gruff
Grows his singing, (There, enough!)
Mix to listen to when you’re blue.
fuck my brains out: they don’t do me any good
bump uglies: the only ugliness we bumped was inside us
the beast with two backs: makes back-stabbing twice as likely
an old flame: the only way to self-immolate
hook up: how many hook ups til we’re hooked?
ball and chain: distinctly different from ‘balls in chains’
slut: a mythical creature invented by sexist arseholes
I couldn’t fully comprehend it, that I was in Serena’s murderer’s living room. But my body knew. My muscles tensed, my hands shook. He didn’t seem to notice, just went into the kitchen without excusing himself, rattling through tupperware. I didn’t have much in my pockets. Phone. Keys. Not enough to do any real damage. He was too big for me to tackle. He’d snap my neck in a heartbeat. A heartbeat. My heart - the pneumatic drill, striking hard and fast against my ribcage. Beatbeatbeatbeatbeatbeatbeat. The microwave beeped.
“Baby soup” he announced, strutting back into the living room, blowing on a bowl cupped in beige oven gloves.
“Soup, like, à la baby. You know, made of infants. It’s good for you. And good for fucking,” he paused to wipe his nose on a kitchen towel, grinned, then elaborated: “I might fuck after I kill you. I won’t fuck your body or anything though, mate. Probably.”
He slurped. Fantasies of slamming a chair across his head ran through my mind over and over on fast-forward. I needed a plan. Anything. Anything. I did want to die, but there was no way in hell he’d get the satisfaction of doing it. I tried to reason with some imaginary higher power. Please, just let me get through this. Please. I tried to stall him.
“So that CT-493 thing… Do many people use that?” I asked.
His smile fell, his brow furrowed. “I didn’t say it was called CT-493.”
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
“I, um, I have a doctor friend who told me about it, that it didn’t make it through the trials or something,” I said, trying to control my breathing, “I just find it interesting, that’s all.”
He thought for a moment.
“Cunny funt. And no, nobody uses it. That’s why I’m making it my signature. But the first time I ever try it, it goes wrong. After I spike her I find out her boyfriend’s about to show up any moment. I thought she was alone, I should’ve made sure. It was too sloppy. I had to run, never even got to see her die. I’ll do it again, properly, but my guy doesn’t get any in until tomorrow.” He changed the subject quickly, as though he were embarrassed it hadn’t gone his way. “Have you done your best work?”
“Your best work. It said on your profile you were a writer. Do you think you’ve written the best piece of writing you possibly could?” he asked. “If I was a writer I wouldn’t want to die unless I’d met my potential.”
“Um, I… I don’t know.” The answer was no, of course. I was a lazy piece of shit, and I’d never write another poem, not before he sliced off my scalp and drank the blood. Unless… “Have you met your potential?”
“You’re on a tighter deadline than me. Besides, my work goes from strength to strength,” he blurted, defensive, “my killings are high art. They’re design. They’re architecture.”
“Why not only kill the people on easydeath.com?”
“Suicide is a man’s sport. Statistics-wise, anyway, men kill themselves a lot more. That website’s almost all men. And I don’t fuck men. Much.” I nearly judged him for viewing sex and death as intertwined, before I realised the irony. “Why are you so interested anyway?” he asked.
“Well… You know… I was just thinking that, we should both be able to make our masterpieces. So, if I went home for the night…”
"I already told you," he said, standing up, "once you’re in here, you’re mine. You don’t get to leave.”
“I know, I know… But, just for the night. And then I could try to write some poetry, you could get the CT-493 you need to kill me the way you envision it - artistically. Everybody wins.”
“You’d be willing to live through centuries and centuries of torment just for one last chance at being a great writer?” he replied, puzzled.
I nodded. He thought for a moment, and then, reluctantly, as if he knew he’d live to regret it: “Okay.” He held out his hand for me to shake, bicep bulging. “From one artist to another.”
I threw up a little in my mouth, swallowed it, shook his hand, and left without looking back. I couldn’t believe I’d gotten away with it, that I’d escaped, that I’d never have to see him again. The moment I was free of the building, I burst into tears and sprinted home. For reasons I may never understand, that night I dreamt of bending him over and fucking his arse hard.
Two days later, and I was back to my sickening self, using my housemates’ absence as an opportunity to watch porn with the volume on full. Trying to toss off my toska. Then the doorbell rang. I clicked pause, tucked my hard cock into my waistband, and waddled down the stairs. As soon as I opened the door Ronan shunted me out of the way. I howled in agony as my back hit the edge of the stairs. He closed the door behind him.
‘Wh-h-wh-how did you find my address?’
‘It’s called the internet, you fucking moron’ he scathed, kicking me in the stomach. ‘You really thought I wouldn’t find you?’
Here it came, I thought. The big death. No. Fight. I scrambled up to my feet, and ran, winded, adrenalised, to the basement. I leapt down the stairs and lurched towards the freezer. I had an idea. I got in. I could hear him, coming down after me, step by step. I shivered. I could see my own breath. I covered my mouth. Tried not to make a sound. He reached the bottom of the stairs. There was no way this would work. The freezer would be the first place he’d look. How could I be such a fucking idiot? I listened out, but I couldn’t hear much. The sound of the pipes rattling. His feet shuffling faintly. Come on, come on, take the bait, I thought. Then, suddenly, I heard a loud thump-thump-thump as he dragged my Surrogate up the stairs. I waited until I couldn’t hear him, then waited some more. Even sucked on ice to keep hydrated. After two hours I reemerged, finally deciding it was safe. Neither him nor the Surrogate were anywhere to be seen.
I did it. I won.
A girl I hadn’t seen for three years messaged me for a chit-chat, and to mention she wished she’d never lost her virginity to me. Because I used her and left her feeling worthless. Because she loved me and I didn’t care. Because the complexes I gave her had ruined all of her relationships since. Because I drove her to the verge of mental illness. It left me a little stunned.
I thought so little of myself that I underestimated my ability to hurt people. But now that I knew, I didn’t stop. I only got worse. I doubled my demographic and started using guys too. I had them suck my cock and balls in bar toilets, libraries, up against gravestones… I didn’t give a fuck about any of them. The guys or the girls. They were just vaginas and cocks to me. Vaginas and cocks were easier to relate to than whole people, and certainly more sensitive.
Ronan wasn’t much worse than me. Neither of us cared about people. We both only saw them as bodies. It was possible to sleep around and still treat people compassionately – it was just too much effort for me.
Actually, no, I thought. He couldn’t get away with what he did. Besides, if he figured it out, if he realised the body he took home didn’t have a brain, he could come back for me. And now he knew where I lived. Fuck it, I thought. I wanted the bastard dead. But I was too afraid. I needed someone else, an assassin, and as it turned out, I got two. Persephone and Makiya.
I belonged on Mars, where they kept the crazies. I’d been reading an article about Mars that day. Apparently it wasn’t always the intention to make it the planetary mental institution that it was. Just a colony. They wanted to send people over there, start afresh. Maybe we wouldn’t lynch and nuke each other over there. Maybe we wouldn’t pollute ourselves into a desolate smog. Things could be different. They made a big thing of it, turned it into a reality show, so you could watch the new frontier or whatever. Of course it was a one-way trip, so whoever volunteered must’ve been a little unhinged to begin with. Add that to the isolation, the confinement, the constant surveillance… Not much of a surprise they lost their minds. That’d turn anyone insane, I thought, alone, in my room, under the ever-watchful eye of the tweetosphere. After every soul they sent there broke down, it made sense to just start sending the already broken. So they bordered up the red planet with white padded walls and turned Mars into the logical extension of Earth’s legacy - a planetary loony bin. The crazies who were allowed to stay here, however, were very successful, particularly the CEOs, the policemen, the politicians, the clergymen, and those who made a living on websites like easydeath.com.
Easydeath.com was a website that matched suicidal people with available violent psychopaths in their local area. It was a win-win, really. They’d get to get to act on their horrific urges, and I’d get to stop feeling so sorry for myself, by being butchered into little bits. It didn’t cost much to use the site. Fuck it, I thought. I accepted the terms and conditions and had a look for someone nearby. There was even a cannibal option, in case you wanted to be eaten. I decided against it, tapped enter, and an unexpectedly handsome guy called Ronan popped up. The chiseled stubbled jaw line, the biceps, the bright green eyes… It was a shame, if he didn’t get such a kick out of skinning people he’d be the perfect guy. I could feel my hands shaking as I tried to type. I wondered if I was making the right call. I wondered if anyone would miss me. I tried to imagine what they would say at my funeral. They would say that all I wanted to do was reach out to people. To write something beautiful. To connect. And they’d be right. But it was never enough. Nothing was ever enough. I tapped “Yes” to Ronan. It sort of made sense that a guy so handsome would do me in. Survival of the fittest and all.
It told me where to meet him, Phoenix Road, just a couple roads away from the bar. I got all dressed up, put on my best cologne, which didn’t make much sense in retrospect, but my death felt like somewhat of a special occasion, and I wanted to treat it accordingly. When I arrived I realised the flat in question was on the very top floor, and I had to climb a winding staircase to find it. It was a long walk. Every step brought me closer to the end.
Finally, I reached the door. I wasn’t sure what he’d say or what would happen. For all I’d know he’d kill me right then and there, slit my throat on the doorstep. I took what I thought might be my last breath and knocked. The door flung open and he greeted me with outstretched arms.
“Come have a cup of tea, mate.” He was even more attractive in real life. Annoyingly attractive. He wore a black vest and dirty blue jeans and his words were almost always punctuated with a puff of smoke. He gestured for me to follow him, and I entered into a room coated with plastic sheets, presumably to keep the blood off the furnishings. This was probably for the best. I’d hate for my one lasting impact on this world to be a carpet stain where my spleen used to be. He locked us in, then vanished into the kitchen. The plastic-covered sofa squeaked when I sat down.
“I wasn’t expecting you to be so… hospitable.” I told him.
“Even murderers on death row get a nice final meal,” he called back from the kitchen, “this is only a cup of tea, man. But hey, most people get hospital food, so it could be worse. Not that it really matters at this point, but, any second thoughts?”
“I’m pretty sure I want this… I’ve… I’ve thought about killing myself since I was ten years old.”
“Well I’ve been killing things for a lot longer, so don’t worry, you’re in safe hands,” he said, carrying in the mug of tea and placing it on the table in front of me. “Well, knife-wielding hands, but you know what I mean.”
I took a sip from the tea too soon and burned my tongue. “You don’t really seem like… I mean… What do you get out of this?”
“You never killed anything?” he asked nonchalantly, pulling up a chair, practically straddling it.
“Well, I mean, I mess up my Surrogate pretty bad. But it’s not like it’s alive. Maybe you’re as bound to punishing others as I am to punishing myself.”
“That’s not it. It’s power, you understand?” He spoke slowly and deliberately, folding his hands behind his head, arms like tree trunks. “You come in here… And you don’t get to leave. I own you now. You’re mine. I can do whatever the fuck I want to you because you’re my property.”
I felt a lump in my throat. It was starting to dawn on me that if I wanted to go in the most painless way possible, getting hacked up might not be the ideal route.
“Wh-what’s the cruelest way you’ve ever done it?” I asked, my voice cracking.
“Well, there was this one time, in this bar.” He leaned forward and looked me in the eye. “One time I spiked this girl’s drink with this thing. It makes time go all slow on you. Minutes seem like hours, that kind of shit.” He laughed. “She would’ve been in total agony.”