"Baby cages" used to ensure children got enough oxygen and sunlight whilst living in apartment blocks. London, 1937.
After realizing a woman was running the Boston Marathon, marathon organizer Jock Semple went after Kathrine Switzer. Other runners blocked him and she went on to finish the race. 1968.
A Native American looks down at a newly completed section of the transcontinental railroad. Nevada, 1868
Proud of this one.
(1.1k words, disturbing content)
I sat in my grandfather’s rocking chair in the corner of the room. Sunlight spread conically with each mismatched, broken, or rotten wooden plank on the roof, illuminating strips of lingering dust particles. I leant over the table in front of me. Everything in the old shed had been made out of wood, and so, over time, had rotten to near-collapse. Where the light hit the table, moss grew in infectious patches. A single ant shifted through the moss, submerging itself within and reappearing every now and then. The shed had been left unattended for years, by now a secret garden, a forest, for the insects that must be hidden within.
The shed created a thick, stagnant smell that filled your nose and lungs, which lay heavily on your skin, sticking to it. The first time I had come in here, I gagged and recoiled, retching from the foul place, taking deep breaths from the air outside, as if to cleanse myself. Since I had come prepared, a handkerchief to cover my nose, and now, I have become used to it. Memory loves smell, and I had come to associate the rancidity with pleasant emotion.
I took a deep inhale, absorbing the fetid atmosphere with nostalgic appreciation. I stared across the shed I had spent most of my time inside for the past few weeks, a small, melancholic smile on my face, my heart aching, for I knew this was to be the last night here, with her.
Four weeks ago, I sat in my favourite lonely bar. In it were perhaps three other people: one a lodger, whom I had seen occasionally over the past few days, and two regulars playing pool in the next room. I love bars like this – a gentle clink of glasses, soft murmurings of voices, and enough room to think clearly. The barman, John, glanced over and noticed my lager almost empty.
“Another?” he asked through his bearded mouth.
As John poured my drink, the familiar screech of the door opening and closing disrupted my calm. She walked into the bar.
My heart palpitated and spluttered into life, my eyes widened, and my head distantly groaned and rolled its eyes at me. She sat at the bar across from where I sat and I admired her lovely features – she was young, twenty-three or four, and wore carefree tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. Her hair, blonde and long, fell behind her in a ponytail. And her eyes – brown, bushbaby eyes. When they looked up and caught mine, I jolted my head away like a nervous teenager in love. I could feel myself shaking and my lips turning up at the corners, hot sweat sticking to my jeans, breathing audible and irregular, foot tapping nervously on the floor.
John brought me out of my reverie, cooing my name. He raised an eyebrow at me when I finally caught his attention, and, embarrassed, I took the drink he handed me and looked down, fiddling with a beer mat, burning hot at the cheeks.
My eyes betrayed me, and I couldn’t stop myself from stealing glances at her. She drank her beer and ordered another, her colloquial accent making her even more of an enigma to me. I was overcome with a desire to fill every sense with her, to touch her face, smell her hair, to have her as my own. As my head became lighter from the alcohol, gates opened for darker thoughts, and I began to anger myself when I came to realize this woman could not love me back – she had probably already noticed my nervous twitch, my stammer, my weight. A rush of sadness washed love out of me. This time, she caught my glance, and, keeping eye contact, she forced her lips into a thin smile and mockingly imitated a wave. I buried my chin into my chest, red hot with humiliated anger.
I drank three more beers. Eventually, she paid her bill and left the bar. Shortly after, I paid John and left myself, walked into the cold dark, my drunken mind vaguely remembering it being day when I had first gone into the pub. To my left, a dark figure walked away in the distance, silhouetted under the orange streetlamp, condensed breath rising and fading into the air like smoke. I began the long journey home, walking alongside the river, hands tucked into my pockets and teeth chattering.
Absent-mindedly, I found myself catching up to the woman. Alcohol had voided my mind of any self-doubt, now. I took my time, taking care as to not be caught in the streetlights, and kept my eyes locked to her body as she passed through the occasional light. I imagined her face lit by moonlight, cold from the crisp air, and developed a furious craving to see her one last time. I told myself that I would not let this one slip.
“Hi there,” I called out, perhaps ten meters away from her.
She jolted and turned, hand over her ribcage. “You scared the life out of me,” she said.
“Sorry, I was j-just walking this way.” I scorned myself for stammering.
“That’s okay. You were the guy from the bar, right?” Her voice was dulcet and soft, her common accent now barely noticeable. I looked down at her and my self confidence evaporated. I began to breath heavily again, and my heart pounded against my ribcage. She was beautiful.
She told me about how much she enjoyed the night as we walked. It may have been romantic, if it were not for my stammering and stuttering. I shrank away from her, becoming increasingly nervous, anger with myself pumping through my blood. I dug my nails into the palms of my hand. I became aware that my breathing was becoming erratic and loud.
“I live in Netherfield. Where do you live?”
I did not reply. We came to an underpass of a large, concrete bridge, cars and lorries above drowning out any sound, echoing off the large structure. I stopped dead. She turned in apprehension.
It was her turn to stammer. ‘W-What’s wrong?’
I took my opportunity. Stepping forward, I gripped her ponytail and yanked it down, then crushed her small neck with my oversized right hand. She flailed, kicked and punched me to no avail, her petite frame easy to manipulate under my hands. Her voice escaped my hold and she screamed out, but the constant drone of vehicles above drowned the noise. I clenched her neck with both hands and lifted her off the ground to my head height. She thrashed and struggled, tiny hands buried under mine, desperately scratching and pulling them away. I looked into her eyes. They bulged to twice their size, bloodshot and lifeless, though they managed to shift to meet mine. As I stared back into them, her body reduced to twitching, her breathing softly died, and she went limp in my hands.
With a sigh, I stood from the rocking chair. My weight left it rocking on the floorboards, a rhythmic creak echoing through the shed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as I pushed open the door to the second room. The only window in the shed, dirtied and small, had caught the sunlight. The window illuminated the mattress with grey, patched light. She lay on the mattress like she always did. I stared at her and smiled, crouching down. I touched her face with my hand, and tilted it to mine. The skin on the right side had begun to rot, and her skull had become visible under the eyelid. I stroked her hair out of her eyes. Though rotten in places, I admired her naked body. I flicked a maggot off her belly.
“I’m going to miss you,” I said, crawling onto the mattress, wrapping my arms around her.
Six hundred goddamn AD
Six hundred. Goddamn AD.
AN ACTUAL THING THAT I LIKE