Saturday, 6 September 2014

Lung Monsters

'Suspicious'. It was an ominous word, a word that; once it had slithered its way out of Dr. Turner's thin lips, had latched onto my chest and used it as a feeding source.
       Papa was worse today, perhaps the serpentine word was also devouring the remains of his consciousness. His hollowing cheek bones stood to attention when he faltered from sleep that dusky midday, somehow over night his skin had sallow-ed more;  his features now were pasted with the jaundiced hue of an old bruise.

"Has he phoned?" Papa spluttered, his voice spilling over with fatigue and a pinch of fear. I wearily shook my head. His eyes held such comfort, childhood laughs coloured his pupils; weekend picnics tinted his irises. A tangle of seemingly unimportant hours and bedtime stories that now I ached for.

Then the noise came.

The piercing shrill penetrated both of us and we shared a glance of unspoken bewilderment.

"Hello..." I muttered into the receiver reluctantly. The words that returned were heavy, they clumsily tripped over one another as I processed the facts. It's odd how specific words paint your day. That day was painted dim grey pastel by a battle ground of 'CAT scan', 'inoperable' and 'metastasised'. They tasted of dust when I regurgitated them to Papa's walking ghost.

So there we were, a zombie-man, a monster in his lungs and a frozen young son. We let the chilling minutes tick past as we pondered on the next weighted steps that were to come.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Through Children's Eyes

Was she breathing?

I couldn't be sure... Her chest was moving, I took that as a good thing. My fingers ached from prodding at her, they burned like acid was slowly ascending up my palms. Mama had told me that number, that number to phone when bad things happened... but what was it? My brain throbbed just trying to recall that fact. 



The searing in my eyes was now controlling me, transforming into a ravenous hysteria that spurted warm tears from deep within my unformed body. 

"Mama?... Wake up mama... please... what about the cinema tomorrow? We were going to see Lion King redigit...redigit...something...Oh mama wake up and tell me what that word was..." 

The words were exploding, crashing together and forming muddles. I sniffled and spluttered, still battling with myself about how to react. The searing that was controlling me felt the need to shut me down, put me on automatic. There was no response in me. No faith. No nothing. I was empty. 


Such a familiar word. But now said with such rattling desperation, it was meaningless. With no answers left, no more pleas; I reached to the phone and dialled anything. Any three numbers. My first five attempts were futile, the emotionless answer of the recording sent me shivering. Until finally - somewhere deep in the crevasses of my six-year old subconscious - came a dancing set of numbers. Three happy nines in a line, holding hope on a silver-plated tray. As I dialled I felt that, hope, that I wasn't crawling towards oblivion that I was climbing back up to the clouds. 

"999, what's your emergency?" A soft voice answered. My words suddenly fell from me with a clunk, they landed on the floor with iron weights dressing them. 
"I...uh... Mama...She fell." I choked on them, they weren't real. They were letters I couldn't gather up.
"Okay, I need you to calm down sweetheart and tell me if your mummy is still breathing?" The feather voice answered.
"I think so. Her chest moves." 
"You're being very brave darling, what's your name?" 
"I'm going to send an ambulance right away okay? But I want you to keep talking to me for a while would that be okay Cassie?" The voice was so soft it stroked me as it sang on, I went to kneel beside mama again; keeping the phone clenched in my moist hand. 


The first words mama spoke after she woke up were the most perfect formations of letters that had ever caressed my ears. Her voice was as gentle as always, her eyes are alert and full of love. That's what the doctors said happened, her love made her heart go funny. I sometimes think that maybe it was all the love she has for me coiled up in there... But now she keeps her love in a safer part of her heart, it won't make her fall asleep like that again.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Acrylics And Warmth

Acrylic. That’s what the sky was. Acrylic. The clouds danced in and out of one another in rivulets of thick sunset tones. He imagined what the clouds would taste like at this moment. Marshmallows. Fruit salad. As he inhaled gradually, savouring the aroma of the forest, he felt the caress of pine scents and damp soil. It felt of nature.

He was tugged violently from his vivid ponderings as the girl said something. It was muffled, indistinct; he could hear it no more than he could be bothered to try to. As she tried desperately to tear the gag with her words, he looked down upon her. God-like. He was God, God to her at this moment anyway. He had the power over her breathing, her blood flow. Everything was his. He delicately brushed away pieces of bark stuck to her cheek, grazing her warm flesh with the tip of his finger; leisurely tracing a line down to the screaming pulse in her neck. In the years to come of his life, people would wonder how rapidly his composure snapped and morphed into pure, sharp malice. Only she, Lia, would have been able to tell you that it was like the attack of a snake. Quick, unexplainable, vicious. That calm trailing of her neck mutated into two fierce hands gripping her throat, his muscular thighs straddling her torso; claiming complete authority over her final seconds. He felt his chest rise and fall as hers slowed and her face reddened. Her last specks of life blew from her chapped lips and he felt something he had never experienced, a penetrating and searing feeling. Something with no word, no emotion to pin it to. It was just a warmth.

That was the first time he killed.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain.

Oh Captain, My Captain. You've gone to make the angels laugh,
You lit up the world with your vigour, being so fiery and daft.
Oh Captain, My Captain. You were a father figure to so many,
Just your shadow on a screen touched lives, oh Peter whisk us to a tranquil place; any.
Oh Captain, My Captain. The demons you hid so well, they hid in your laughs; under your bed.
But you drew from their poison, you turned it into smiles; no one knew there were no smiles in your head.
Oh Captain, My Captain. Just to hear that hello or that distinct good morning made us grin,
If only you could view the love and grief flowing down the streets, maybe you'd begin...
To see the childlike hope you painted on everyone,
From Peter to Genie, you were always a presence.
Your genius and soul will be stamped upon time,
Everlasting with your acrylic laugh that I hold dear as mine.
I grew up with you, my unknown friend;
I feel like i've known you and you've helped me to mend.
I hope now my prince that you find peace at last,
Such brilliance, such tears of laughter that will never slip into the past.

RIP to a man of utter brilliance, Robin Williams. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Because Dorset Is Home

This is the prologue to a possible novel i'm planning, so any comments/ideas would be appreciated.

Summer seems out of place in the city. There’s a bizarre corruption in the July humidity, the gigantic grey shadows of the tower blocks are penetrating the sunbeams and stealing the innocence that the light brings; replacing the freedom with the defeating reminder of reality. It’s this exactly that instils such joy in me about returning to the country. London can be placed on pause for a while. The eager bustle of the urban life, the underground serpent, the caffeine-driven energy of it all; everything can be pushed aside for the summer. Replaced by the subtleness, the contented ease of the West-country. Even the smell of the salt-tainted air and the incessant cries of the gulls instantly lulls me into a sense of calm. At long last the sleepy security of Dorset has reclaimed it’s estranged child, albeit for far too short a time.

“Cup of tea.” Mum chimed, scuttling around the Aga. Nothing had changed, nothing does here; as if everything is caught in a comfortable time lock.
“Where’s Dad?” I asked, a bite of my digestive dissolving into a cascade of crumbs.

“He’s picking up Jack. And a crate of wine probably.” The used tea-bags seemed almost despondent in the china bowl. My family was relatively ordinary I suppose. As ordinary as a slightly-self-sufficient-ex-hippie couple with two bowler-hat-wearing offspring can be. Firstly, there’s mum. Lynn. A sentimental, spherical woman. Who’s existence was driven by cheesecakes and T. S. Elliot. She was eternally available for a leisurely chat or a rant about the ‘1984-esc society’ of the 21st century. Then of course there’s Dad. Phil. A lecturer who’s retirement has been spent filing receipts and losing at chess. My parents were two opposites. Opposites who seemed to fit together, tight and secure in their different worlds. Then, leaving out the chickens and Ebony the Labrador, there’s Jack. My sister. A, how can I describe her? This bizarre-foreign creature who, in a household of sensibility and initiatives exists in French films and a near-dyspraxic clumsiness. She has been and always will be, about the most beautiful human in the world to me. And finally, there’s me. Elcy. Too short. Too plump. Too, well… ‘me’. The youngest of the Hampton clan. My existence is predominantly controlled by Supertramp vinyls and ukuleles. After leaving at eighteen for a gap year in which I pottered around parts of Mexico and blogged about the poverty of LED countries, university life engulfed me. The craze of London and the instant reality check of how little I can afford whilst still contemplating paying back my student loan hit me. My life in London is the usual pointless day-to-day mull, with far too much time spent hidden in a bowl of supernoodles whilst puzzling over Morse. A usual family, a usual life and a usual girl.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Centenary

Biting, nipping. The wind was ice, solid and thick with the vibrating terror and unspoken desperation that encircled me. I clutched at my rifle and held, until my knuckles developed patches of snow on the bones, in an attempt to slow my breathing. The only word that could resonate the emotions of every man and boy around me was this: Lost. Staring into an unseen oblivion, facing other shaking boys who had not long since been children. Through the piercing sounds, I could hear the machine gun beside me being loaded; Tommy Garner was shakily threading a chain of bullets through the machinery. Through his mask of grime and mud, distinct lines of misery were trailing down his cheeks. He was fifteen. He lied to be brave, to prove to his family and country that he was not a waste of a human. He could make a difference. He couldn’t. We were expendable pawns, we were merely a wall of people. A crumbling wall.

Any second now, the order would be declared. An order that, for most of us, would be the last words that caressed our ears. The last speech that entered our minds would be our death sentences. If I shut my frail eyes I could imagine that the noises were not cracking my ear drums, that the smell wasn’t of gun powder and earth; of entrails and decomposing flesh. The scent is that of chicken. The smell of a fire place and comfort, the odour of home. Lisa would call us for supper. The three of us would talk about inane things, beautiful things. About our day, how she had burnt the potatoes. But that would be the finest tasting burnt potatoes your tongue would ever hold. Now all Lisa would do would be to wait for the telegram, the same words coughed up to hundreds of thousands of wives who would never touch their husband’s skin; never know their presence again. Words that would be choked on, that would sear holes into lives. Because of what? Why? The last question I would ask is why? Albert would be sat down, gazing into his mother’s eyes with that innocence that she would have to snap in half. He would be told that his father would not be returning. The seconds before I arose from the trench, I was planning my own afterlife. What would follow my death, what the waves of my death would collide with. I could already feel myself ebbing away.
The hail continued, minute bullets pecking away at us. Taster bullets. A sample of what was approaching too fast. The pellets were bitter, unforgiving; brimming with every tear that every surrounding man was gagging on.

The order came.

In a haze of petrified disorientation we rose up, lambs to the slaughter. The real hail came, a torrential shower of metal. Maroon was all I could see through the murkiness, my throat closed; my chest felt tangled. A fluttering within me, as if a bird were caught in my rib cage. Desperate to escape. To dive back to the trench and beg to awaken. My gun was tight against my throbbing torso, my finger firing every few seconds. I had no clue whether I had hit anything, I couldn’t see through the dusk. Screams, explosions. The noises came in groups, biting and gorging themselves on your sanity. The last scraps that were left.

            My ears suddenly dimmed, my sight was blurred. I felt as if I were floating. Was this death? My paper-lids re-opened and I inhaled that reality was still very much in the inferno of this wasteland. A gnawing ringing was engulfing my mind. A bomb. I had been thrown by the sheer power of being close to it. With my senses numbed, I attempted to climb back to my iced feet. I reached for my gun… but there was already something cradled in my palm. My stomach heaved. My breathing was cut. I was holding insides… intestines… entire uniform was coated in human. And it wasn’t my own. The stench was unbearable. My gag reflex triggered and acid returned to my mouth. I swallowed. I was not going to be defeated by my gut. As long as it was still inside me. I looked across the field and saw Tommy… or rather, what was left of his boyish life. His body had been hole-punched, he was no more than another name now. Another telegram. With Lisa and Albert deep in my chest I faltered to my knees.

That’s when more hail came. 

Friday, 1 August 2014


89. That was all I saw. All I felt as I timidly brushed the dense skin. I instantly withdrew my touch, mortified by having any contact with the repugnant object. The walls seemed denser now, more intimidating; with just one touch. In a panic I rocked my legs faster, sporadically bouncing them. I glanced down at the trembling fat upon my calves, I only shook faster; as if at any moment the fat would detach from the bones. The adipose tissue dancing in mid-air. I wish.
“Hazel, just eat one piece. You used to like bananas.” My mum muttered calmly. 89. I used to like myself too, things change. I merely continued to rock and stroke the curved object upon my lap. As I tugged a clump of my thin, black bob behind my ear; I could sense the terror boiling within me, terror not just at the numbers coiled within the textured flesh but at the knowledge that if I swallowed a morsel I would not be able to prevent myself from having another bite. Until just the empty husk lay despondent within my palms.
“I can’t.” I muttered, my forearms flexing and casting the fruit on to the navy carpet. 89, 52, 42; the numbers that control my thoughts. The tense atmosphere suddenly evaporated as both mum and Zoey breathed a frustrated sigh. The sigh initiated a fury within me, a blistering rage ascending. They have no right to hold a spec of frustration in their polluted air. They’re the ones forcing me to ram platefuls of thick, coagulated, repulsive calories down my searing throat. The anger pierced the edges of my flesh until my fingertips burnt, the navy seat irritating the skin it found. They have no idea how much I yearn for proper food, food without self-loathing. Life is grey without it. Bleak and dull.  Colourless.
“Maybe we’ll try next time then. But I want you to eat when you get home. Do you promise me?” Zoey asked, adjusting her position and brushing her ginger/grey curls back from her portly shoulders. I merely nodded.
“Right, let’s go weigh you then.”
Mum gave an encouraging smile as I stood, a faintness washing over me; I welcomed the well-known delirium as it tingled down to my numb finger tips. With a light sigh, I followed my gargantuan eating disorder consultant through the equally large door and into the seemingly infinite hallway. This building always disturbs me with its oddly sized rooms and walls, as if they want you to feel even more disconcerted.
            We entered room 7 and I was greeted with the familiar scene, the clinical bed on my left; the various units and cupboards coated in a collage of puerile drawings and demeaning diagrams, seeming to mock me. Odd pictures placed on each wall, certain words prominent within the frames. Hope. Freedom. Happiness. Finally my eyes wandered to the height chart, the tall mirror and of course the focal point of the room. The scales. The little machine that seems so pompous and pious. I felt guilty just glancing at it.
“Jumper off then, and slip your shoes off.”
I reluctantly fiddled with the hem of my oversized, green jumper and tugged it over my shoulders before chucking it aside. The cold instantly hit me. Assaulting my frame and winding me. Before slipping my pumps off I glared at the figure in the reflection. She was disappointing and belittling. Vile. Disgusting and repulsive just to view. The mini dress seemed as dull as her. The pale pink clashing with her pale complexion. Her hip bones barely visible. Her collar bones not prominent enough. Thighs too close together. Unsatisfactory. I gave up trying to dissociate myself from the image and looked at Zoey, she was scrawling something illegibly onto her clipboard. Of course.
“Anything in your pockets?” I shook my head. I wouldn’t need to hide anything or water load with how much weight I’ll have put on over the past week. With that terrifying musing I stepped upon the black plate. The thick digits rapidly zoomed from 0.00 up and up, rising and rising with my trepidation. Up and up. Bang.
“Okay that’s great.” She mumbled. I stepped off. My brain frozen. My surrounding reality swirling before me, caving in until it gradually, and yet at the same time instantly, drowned me. 48.3kg. 7 stone 6 lbs. I’d stayed the same. Static. Level. I couldn’t quite tell whether the prevailing emotion was contentedness or devastation. Contentedness that I hadn’t put on any weight. Devastation at the fact that I still have 27lbs to lose before I’m happy. 20 at the least. Would I feel happy then? Would she be happy? The thin Hazel imprisoned within this shell, caked in flesh. I am not this person. I am a thin girl engulfed by these layers.

“She’s remained static. So it’s all positive.” Zoey chimed, satisfaction reverberating in her tone. She sounded so proud. Mum’s eyes glistened with relief. As if all the underlying issues in my chaotic mind were instantaneously fixed, mended. A proverbial bandage has been placed over the cracks in my thoughts and the scar tissue is slowly and peacefully binding together. As if.

Mum’s electronic cigarette lit up orange like a miniature traffic light, wisps of the vapour rose to the roof of the car as if I could smudge it across the sky like oil paint.
“I think that was positive. You haven’t lost. That’s good… that’s good…” She repeated the words as if placing a plaster over the invisible wounds between us. I could feel the emotions bubbling up within me, I wanted to beg her; to ask her to help. But I knew that if I reached out, there would be no more concealing of chicken pieces no more hiding within my safety bubble of antacids and zero cokes. I was alone within this self-inflicted coma, this one on one battle. But the thing that I feared the most was that I may never be able to be free of the shrapnel. And the truth was, I was out of ammo. I am merely a rag doll, a shell of a real girl; battered and bruised by the gusts of winds, hitting every rock on the way.
            Before I could control it, all the unsaid words and searing thoughts rose up like a bile within my chest and rolled down my cheeks like acid. My chest heaved, my breath caught on the tears and spluttered out. Mum didn’t say anything, she simply wrapped me in the safe enclosure of her arms, I lay my weary head upon her shoulder and allowed the terror to burst out in sporadic sobs.
“I’m scared…” I muttered through the tremors.

“I know love, but I’m here.” 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Planet In The Sky

Escape from here, the morose planet, the sonorous ball in the galaxy, the evocative land you can neither love nor control,
Escape to me where your imaginings are not merely a stream of childish thoughts to paint to others the depths of your soul,
Leave that place where happiness once danced, where life and spring sprang from dew,
Run to me where you can be soothed, we welcome you with glistening streams of new,
Be freed,  be you, be rid of the fear, conditions and labels have gone to the past,
You can lay here with the company amongst the stars, be free at last.
The effusion of rivers, of bird song in night, the midnight dreams of wonder and power engulf all possible fright,
Visions of creatures that dwell in the buds with wings that sparkle in light,
Your sight will graze their perfect forms and tears will flutter with the night,
Forget the thoughts of the world that’s of old, allow the boulders of fear to dissolve,
Forget the tint of shame that immersed your cells, leave it succinctly in the cold.
Because sleep here, sleep at peace. Summer in the star that gleams with a breeze,
Here in the sky, the florid world where at last you can be freed.

Sit On Your Feelings And Swallow Your Secrets

People are colours.
If I had to describe dad, he would be camouflage green. He would wear the scent of tea-tree and transform spontaneously into Kermit the frog. It's fragments of people that cement the foundations of a life that we lay, the people that guide us step by step up the ladder rungs of childhood.
     It was whilst climbing such a ladder rung that I swallowed the perplexion of something i'd never had to stomach before. Secrets. A word that grins a cardboard smile and taints the relationships we build. I hadn't realised of course, but I was seconds away from being eaten alive by this concept. Devoured by ideals and adult morals that had never hit me until that Monday. It was a frozen day, the air was skulking up my eight-year old flesh and burrowing into my unformed bones. I was standing beside a doughnut stand with a school friend, my auburn curls in ironically-innocent pigtails; my torso so bulked in layers I could barely inhale. I was kicking sludgy-snow with my heel whilst deciding whether to punt for a custard or chocolate filling for my carbohydrate-disc of childlike wonderment. After asking in my best polite voice for a custard centre, I turned from the man who smelt of stale cigarettes and carried disappointment on his breath; anticipating the virginal nibble from my treat I glanced across the snow engulfed street, as if gazing through a snow-globe. My eyes caught a glimpse... but surely not?... he was at a work conference in Swindon... my father, buttoning his beige jacket, puffing wisps of billowing cigar smoke that ascended to the sky as if they were painted with oil paints. I was about to call out, to run across the tarmac and return to the safety of his grasp when a woman walked, no practically swayed, up to him. They exchanged words I couldn't decipher, he held a look in his eyes. A warm immersing glow that I had only seen him exude when staring down at me. In trepidation, I kept watching; awe-struck, unable to turn my mind to something of a different nature. To dismiss the simmering emotions and boiling concern that was rising and stamp it with a perfectly reasonable explanation. But there was no explanation, not reasonable anyway, his rosy head lowered and their lips intertwined. My stomach flipped, my breath became cluttered, I was frost-stricken.


"Mum..." I began cautiously, my fingers picking anxiously at the quick of my nails.
"Did you know that they're building a tattoo parlour next door? I said to Maureen, I did, I said they'll turn us all into reckless Neanderthals if  they force all these drugs and ink-splattered bodies into our streets." She began, pacing up and down the kitchen; returning crockery to their snug wooden homes.
"Mum!" I barked, taking both her and myself off-guard.
"What?" She turned to me and levelled her serpentine pupils straight at me, they were so sharp and hot they seared you when you engaged in eye-contact.
"I saw daddy today..."
"Where? Of course you didn't silly, he's in Swindon. You monkey that's over a hundred miles away..." Her voice was so sure, so unstirred that it made me feel like the executioner.
"He was in town mum. With a lady...."
"Stop these disturbing lies young lady or you're grounded...."
"HE KISSED HER! On the lips... Like Leonardo and Kate...." My puerile knowledge of kissing, spat out at her like venom.
"In this family we do not tell lies, now you go sit up in that bedroom; you sit that bottom of yours on whatever you're feeling and you gulp down whatever lies you feel like telling next; you hear?" Her voice was a siren, piercing and shrilling until it sent me scurrying upwards.


It makes you wonder, how far some families will go to keep up appearances. Whether she hid from reality to protect my eight-year old queries or simply because she couldn't face the truth in the ring and fight. All I could tell in the haze of frozen clouds, was the brown-shirted man and the red-lipped woman were certainly happy with the truth; it was just a different version than mum and me had been a party to.