In the aftermath of the party, he wakes covered in the glittering soil of an upset spider plant. Crumbs of gold-flecked dirt slip from his swollen eyelids as daylight intrudes. His fingers curl, clawing at the faded magenta carpet beneath his body, seeking salvation from it all. A toe strokes the plump curve of his earlobe, its nail slick with waxy polish. Kim? Or perhaps Sal. He could turn his head to look but then the malcontent willow tree of physical discomfort currently drooping into the barren river of his consciousness might sway its branches in an effort to find greater sustenance and if that happens, he will surely die.
Minutes pass. The exact number is indeterminable but he guesses somewhere between four and sixteen. The spider plant flopped on his belly has paled from yesterday’s lustrous shade of summer apple to a sorrowful yellowing melon. If either of them is to stand a chance, he must try to move. Glitter tumbles away, falling from the crumpled white linen of his tunic and the pale, sagging tips of his plant. What monster did such a thing to them?
Sleeping bodies litter the floor and the furniture. He steps through them, trying to avoid stepping on the limbs in his way. They are ghostly obstacles. Clutched to his chest, the desecrated plant continues to wilt. He must make it into the outside world. One hand outstretched, he pushes through the door and trips down seven shallow steps, his feet sinking into the garden below. Colour is a thing of the past. His eyes are only capable of monochrome shapes, black spots, white obstacles. He thinks of his books and the lives he has lived through them:
He is Alice.
He is Ahab.
He is Alonso.
Searching and lost. Lost and in search of the miraculous. Seeking other worlds. Other words.
A sound like a tide at full-moon lapping at quivering opal sands has filled his ears. Roots trail from his fist and his stomach howls in desperation for scalded meat rich within the deep red heat of his grandmother’s chili soup. Desparation begins to gnaw at his head and heart.
The planet he has inhabited for thirty-two years is alien. Where is he going? Where has he been? Yesterday he was a man who did not drink. Did not take drugs. So what is he now? A wanderer. A prophet of sorts? Perhaps. He trips and wobbles. His guts reject the remains of whatever was in them. He sags but does not fall.
Azure shingle seeps between his toes as colour returns to his life. Ochre breasted birds with scarlet wings flit between trees and the bark is the same colour as his skin, rich and vital like oyster-sauce. The willow inside his brain stirs and he realises where he is: this place is his mother’s womb. He has wandered through time and space and found himself ready to be reborn. He scoops out a handful of shingle and beds the spider plant beside the skin-tree; then wraps his arms around its trunk and sinks deeply down into himself for another, greater contemplation of the miraculous things he has already discovered.
Hannah Clark is an MA student at Manchester Metropolitan University, studying Creative Writing. She is currently working on her first novel and is a freelance writer for The Quietus. Her fictional work has appeared online and in print with publications such as: Litro, EllipsisZine, Reflex, and Spelk Fiction, and has been shortlisted for various competitions. She is an editor over at LunateFiction. Twitter: Han_Clark_