The More Deceived
She had reduced it all to that one question; her last decision could now be to give in to the gentle pressure of salt water to her lips. Satisfied, she surged up into the gull chorus and added her own gasping melody.
The dark buoy of her head could now be seen again from her suit and heels on the shore. Her footprints in the black sand drew away towards the cliff with its trickling waterfall and up the trail improvised by the adventurous and the desperate to the public footpath, then down to the fishmonger’s at the edge of the village. A winding bus ride away from there was the platform where the 15:32 from Paddington had delivered her.
The glass had sent her. She had long sensed that the mirrored tower that held her to the sky would shatter into a rubble of shards and impale her from endless angles. She had found solace in this future collapse; knowing when to escape was all.
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That morning she had shut her eyes at the sound of her boss’s once longed-for march her way and then greeted him with a pale silence she knew wouldn’t register.
Strictly business now; get this done.
I’d prefer not to, she had said.
The interminable strangeness of the office suddenly lifted, leaving a sterile familiarity. Now only the reflection of herself in the screens and windows was estranged, an unrecognisable intrusion on the cold functionality of the workspace. She tried not to look.
That’s fine, he said. I think we’re approaching the end of your contribution here; you’ve been… he stopped and left. She wasn’t to know. The slamming of the glass door set off a mounting rattle that told her it was time to leave.
Outside, looking up with surprise that the structure remained standing, she felt the earth tilt westwards and let herself be rushed down the incline to the station, knocking into a suit on the way. Jesus, it cried.
As the train pulled out the posters offered different ways to hide in sight. Then the window framed the violent structures piercing the London sky and she looked away. Instead she traced the regular pattern of the seats, allowing it to mesmerise her back to the childhood hideaway of Pentargon cove, her destination. She remembered making up games along the ashen beach by herself all morning while her mother slept, or disappearing among the waterfall and feeling something like a lonely happiness.
She was roused by the carriage bursting into darkness. Sensing the train plunge downwards, as if changing course for the earth’s core, she heard the call for tickets from along the carriage.
The goat-bearded conductor stood over her as she rummaged through her suit pockets among what felt like lily seeds. He studied her ticket, darting his tongue across wet lips. Every movement was lurid. End of the line then, he said. He clenched his teeth as if for anchorage amid the constant rattle of his job, so that the words seemed reluctant to leave him. She imagined herself in those jaws.
As they left the tunnel she was released by his transformation into blotchy normality and turned away to enjoy the smear of countryside, London having been rinsed from her window.
She savoured the run of the sea’s membrane down her body as she emerged from its ebb and stood burning on the cusp of the beach, allowing the water to rise from her.
Then taking a step towards her clothes she struck abrupt flesh. Looking down she saw the grey skin, preserved by the salt, severed in the foam. She flicked it over with her toe, watching it shroud itself in grains, the stump congealed and bloodless.
She stamped on it, digging it down into the sand, until all that remained was a hole that she squatted over to fill with her hands. Then standing over the burial mound she examined her fingers and began removing each grain from the torn cuticles.
When her hands were clean she regarded the black beach and saw it was a mirror, immaculate as death, that reflected only her. The cliffs, now a wall of monoliths, loomed echoless over the shore. The waterfall had frozen into a flume of blown glass, like the limb of a mantelpiece horse. Looking back onto the sea she saw it was merely a block of blank quartz, paralysed beneath the polished granite sky.
A raven sweep, smooth and odourless, had formed a single glass continent. With eyes flickering white, it must’ve followed me here, was her last stable thought.