Some said I was a strange child back then. Those were the words the headmaster muttered to my parents while I waited in the next room; spoken with a certain exasperation that even my small brain could comprehend.
I told everyone in the class I wasn’t human. I was often more exasperated with them than they were with me. For not understanding.
I never slept well at night.
In my dreams, I sensed the vast unknowable thing at the edge of space.
I could see inside it. See its never-ending deserted cities: its airless transport routes. Hear its distant rumbling noise in my ears as I slumbered, its engines still operational. Out there inbetween systems where only darkness lived, it moved. Inexorably; terribly. For years I supposed it was just some deep-seated Freudian nightmare. And deep in its icy, labyrinthine heart, the coffins. The infinite dead.
When I was eight, I went guising. Everyone else called it trick-or-treating but Granny called it guising. This word made more sense when I thought about it, cos you were wearing a disguise.
Granny took me round the doors. I wore an oversized long brown coat and the mask of a monster with one eye. That evening I caught my own reflection in a mirror and was momentarily terrified of that one, all-seeing eye.
When I was thirteen, I saw the school bully picking on another girl. A girl who was much less popular than me. I decided it was only right that I redress the balance. A day or so later, I found the bully in the playground.
I’d never meant to hurt her badly. She lost an eye. Years later other kids would call her Cyclops and trip her up in the corridor. I was never blamed. Children can be cruel.
I was probably four when I first saw the moonlit people. It’s hard to remember; the memory is sketchy around that age. They would arrive gaily by night and silently dance around, while showing me the bedroom cinema - pictures of the past and future flickering on my wall at 3am like old projected cinefilm.
They showed me final times. The ends of the earth. I felt the planet’s death throes. Witnessed plains burning - the slaughter of dissidents: their bloodied corpses heaped in market squares. All this, as the moonlit people danced for me. Those twilit hours - years compressed into sleeping decades gone - were my education. My destiny.
The last time came when I was 18. Mum had been in one of her moods and I hadn’t been much better. I don’t blame her for that. You are who you are. You can’t change.
I went up the hillside, away from the village. I did used to love it up there. Especially when it was cold. I used to like it when the wind ripped through your clothes: an elemental force. I’d go up there in silence.
Stumbling over rocks, I saw one. In the flesh. It danced for me. Lithe and beautiful, with its wings, supple thighs and pale, smooth shoulders.
It reminded me of a girlfriend I had known. Her innocence and beauty presented a contradiction to the world. It had been necessary to end her. Her nose red after a few beers. I punched her hard until it was so very red. Her twisted face looked as if it might never smile again; behind all the blood. I never saw her again after that night. Somehow, I took satisfaction from this. I had accomplished something small and awful; but important. Permanent.
Now, years on, I found this thing’s dance upsetting. And I was so full of the anger. My mummy saying through the wall, ‘you’ll never amount to nothing’ so many times. I saw the same in that dirty little beast.
I had to be tough. I reached for the rock.
I can’t apologize. I felt ecstatic relief as I smashed it down. If I saw daddy long legs, I did the same thing. Uglies.
I buried it in the hillside. I made it a cardboard coffin. Then I forgot. Forgetting is the worst thing you can do.
This was the final part of the equation. The hatespell carried out. The trap they had set for me all those years ago.
I forgot my mother’s screams as daddy hit her. As a little kid I had rationalized it - thought it was because mummy was stressed out and she had to be upset at night to feel better in the morning. The empty bottles, the ashtrays. Always better and smiling. I would open the windows but she wouldn’t like that. Always too drafty. Too cold. Don’t let the chill in, she’d say.
I never minded the draft. Never felt cold.
When daddy died the social workers had said it was the drugs but they never wanted to talk about how he lost the eye on that final night. Nobody seemed to know.
My life is ashes now. My heritage, the void of space I’ll return to when it’s over.
I close my eyes and I see the skeletons. See them dissolving from their tombs: in stellar transit, growing flesh. On this night when the moon’s light lies on the hillside, the secret door opens. The lunar door. And they are free to return.
Now they will be entering the houses. Taking the youngest with their charred talons: burning the houses with their touch. Bringing the tranquility of annihilation. All because I let them. Because I gave them what they needed. A channeling.
I realize it was not my face staring back, on that long-disguised night. That was the face of the truly marked. Chosen, to be erased, by the secrets I collected for them.
Touched by a dark urge; resurrected then buried in time. My endless death and recycling.
Lost; in the obsidian mirror of the machine.