Winter Jasminium

The morning arrives cold, grey and drizzling. I walked downstairs for breakfast to be greeted by Evan.

"We don't want the likes of you here, there will be no whoring under this roof."

I roll my eyes. He hates on me because I know that he’s just jealous, you see, I don’t come quietly.

I pile everything back into Chloe. The radio issues an amber weather warning for heavy snow. I long for London, where the pollution melts the snow before it lands. We head off and meander around the streets until we come across a sad old library.

The library has six shelves of actual books, but luckily I’m not here for the literature, I’m here because they also keep records of the local newspapers. I absolutely love reading the local scandal. It turns out that Dylan’s tale has an overarching truth. I also discovered that the locals colluded to get Gareth arrested for first-degree murder, proposing that his weapon was, I love this, "spontaneous human combustion". Ha. That’s nice! Time to meet the Balrog.

As I leave, the drizzle turns to snow. The pulp fiction, I found in the library plays back in my mind, setting fire to a pregnant woman? Who is then taken to hospital and dies later? That doesn’t sound like an effective way to murder anyone. It doesn’t add up. What actually happened to Gwen? The country road snakes into foothill forests, and a muddy road ends with "PRIVATE PROPERTY. TRESPASSERS WILL BE EXE(PROSE)CUTED!" I laugh at the wit of the vandal.

The driveway and front yard are littered with junk, I knock at the front door. There’s no reply, so I walk around the modest cottage toward the back. My ears are tricking me because I can hear a bagpipe. The high pitched squeal on the wind, like a proud kite. No. It’s not a bagpipe at all, it’s a clarinet, tethered to the earth by softly struck snare drums. Halfway along the west wall, I can hear more clearly, with less pollution from the wind’s frenzy. It’s a symphony. It’s Bolero, and at the point where the clarinet fences with the oboe.

I turn the corner and walk into a crowd of lifeless corpses.

I stop dead in my tracks and look around. I’m at the rear of the crowd, and their backs are turned to me. The snowfall is getting heavier. My toes are freezing, my nose is ready to run, but none of that matters because I am astonished.

My eyes dart from one petrified person to the next. They are recycled human forms, reborn in wood and iron and concrete. Each one unique. The closest is a man sprinting, snatched in mid-stride and balanced on a flexed toe. He has glass marble eyes with drilled holes for pupils, and he's wrapped in scales, layered like sequins, salvaged from bottle tops, flattened and stitched together with coloured wire, the kind you would find littered beside a telephone junction box.

The yard opens out and extends off to the fringe of woodlands. My eyes follow the bramble seam along to a stone barn whose open belly flickers with orange. Bolero is coming from there. I see someone inside. He’s tall and dressed in heavy gloves, a long black apron, and he has no face. It's just a smooth black barrel, with a slot where eyes naturally belong. He's focused on a furnace. Bursts of blinding white light strobe across a corner wall, followed by arcs of fire. The balrog wielding a whip and sword? He stops for a moment and folds his face up. Then he folds it back and continues welding.

The yard is packed with statues that all stem from the same recycled race and share the same maker. All of them stare into the distance, transfixed by the same mark.

Little by little, they are being dressed by snow, and soon it will look like a sect gathering. I move through the crowd like a pickpocket. Stopping to evaluate the distracted disciples. Thieves have truly mastered the art of looking, to them, I suppose, we're the naked model of a life drawing class.

It’s eerie. Where are they all looking? What mecca is this? I move on to the next figure.

This statue is me, I know it's me, moulded by a chicken wire mesh. Inside the scaffold is winter Jasminium, a wild climbing vine, anchored in the earth under my feet. The creeper has been trained to grow inside me, and leafy tentacles fill my torso, knit my head and branch off into my arms and along into another smaller mesh, that is saddled on my hip. A little girl. My little girl. My very own Jasmine. I imagine that soon they will blossom together, bees and butterflies will buzz between them and an ambitious spider will tickle them into hysterical laughter. Like the other statues, they both have glass eyes. The little girl is looking off into the distance, as all the others do, but mine does not. My glassy eyes watch the little girl, watching the world. Tucked into her bushy hedge of hair are two sets of ceramic cherries. They are lopsided because that’s how she did them.

The bass drum, of the symphony, arrives, like a hammer, beating slow sure and regular. It strikes with progressive and mounting force. The beauty of the statue before me is a pointed chisel. The momentum of each strike is aimed at cracking me apart. Panic germinates in my stomach. The drum is accompanied by trumpets to herald my obliteration. The band marches mercilessly, the hammer and the chisel have seen my sorrow and they smashing me to pieces.

The fucking Prozac. Where is the Prozac? Anxiously I take the orange bottle from my pocket and fight with the lid until it pops open and flicks the three remaining pills into the snow. The fucking snow! I drop to my knees to rake through the bleached mud. Oh please God don’t let this happen now. The pills are nowhere. The panic is everywhere, spreading up to strangle me. It's replacing me. I raise my eyes up, to curse the statue, like a condemned criminal begging an executioner’s gun for mercy.

My jaw quivers and the statue blurs with tears, and all I can say is: "I am so, so sorry."

Suddenly it looks vulgar. A headstone at the grave of everything that was once good. This murderous motherfucker has no goddamn right to parade that like this! It's mine.

I leap up and beat the statue, punching it and try to tear the child from its mother. I will destroy this thing, and I scream, and the Balrog sees me.

"Hey, you! BITCH! NOSY FUCKER! THUNDERCAT! What are you doing?!"

And the Balrog walks toward me carrying a disembodied iron arm.

Panic swallows me and my embalmed emotions resurrect. All the sorrow and happiness of my pathetic life comes to visit me. Everyone I fucked, everyone I forgot and everyone I loved, all arrive together to say hi. The Balrog also arrives and stands still for a moment. He watches me with a thief's eyes. Then studies the statue. He nods to the girl. The wind whips into syllables, the language of the sky. He nods again, as if he’s in communion, then gasps in shock and spits “BLISTER”.

Then the murderer, the arsonist, the sadist starts to cry.

The more he cries, the more my sorrow is whittled away, he takes it all and laments for me, and weeps for them, and in the wake of my sadness compassion overwhelms me.

He turns slowly and twitches and erupts "GOMORRAH, BITCH, WHORE, I know who you are", and steps forward, and wraps his three arms around me, and as they close he returns my sorrow. All of it.

I cry for seven years, four months and nine days. He just holds me. The third arm, from the furnace, keeps us warm. When my crying subsides he sneezes: "FIREFLY, CUNT! Would you like a cup of tea? CRYBABY!" So I punch him in the face and run.

I run to Chloe, who’s under a light shawl of snow, leap in and bang the door. Her engine coughs and chokes. On the third attempt, she starts. I rev hard and smash into gear. Reverse. Forward. I punched my foot down, too far, and the wheels whirr uselessly in the snow and then bite, jumping the car forward.

The windscreen is misted, so I clear a viewport with my sleeve, as I approached the last downhill curve before the gate and turn the wheel, but Chloe just carries on straight, skating toward a ditch. I yank the wheel, the car spins and time stops. Deja vu. The car pitches into the ditch and the stretched continuum of time snaps as the steering wheel cracks into my face, and suddenly I’m gone.