Silent Skies



SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify link at end), A Day in the Life, The Beatles. California Dreamin’, The Mamas and the Pappas. Ironic, Alanis Morisette. St James Infirmary, Hugh Laurie. New World Coming, Nina Simone.



In the Silent Skies, there is peace; in the solid earth there is joy. That’s how the old song goes isn’t it?


It’s hard to even lift your head from the pillow sometimes. That your head feels so heavy, that to move it but an inch higher is a colossal effort. An achievement. And that’s fine. Today I have work, as most people do in most days. So I move slowly around my small apartment performing the required ablutions. I comb my hair, I drink the coffee, I pull on the appropriate garments. I stare at myself in the mirror as people across the world do every day. I always have this thing – if I was a bit thinner, if may hair grew slightly differently, if I was a bit less this, if I was a bit more that then. Then I would be happy. That my life would be literally perfect. Is that stupid? It kinda is I know. But I can’t shake it off as much as I try.


No. Today, I say to myself, will be a good day – today I will be at my best. The children will like me. My colleagues will not think I am a fraud. Today I will be happy. Because I am happy.


I leave for work. As I exit my apartment building I am gripped by that whoosh of, all I can say is, feeling. It’s feeling. Not particularly one way or the other. Just feeling. As I step out into the open I feel empty again. I long to be in my flat already. I long to be back home from work but I take a deep breath and step into the street. The bus is full. I don’t mind it there amongst the fellow commuters. They have macks and battered briefcases. We are the same here. We are one. Something pricks my ears. There is a lively debate happening down the carriage. They are arguing about the Separation Program. I was against it myself. The twin continents were better together. But who am I to say. One man is gesticulating madly and pointing at the newspaper. The other brushes him off with a wave of his hand. Nearby a woman joins in, I can tell from her accent she is from across the Line-Sea. She speaks clearly and sweetly but firmly disagrees with the man and his pointing finger. I smile at first but then feel sadness. It flourishes as it tinges, washed with a green lilt of jealously. She is confident. She is wonderful. She must have someone who loves her very much. She is happy. And then the man too, with his confident striding opinion, he has someone waiting for him – I’m sure of it. Why can’t I?


I moved to Vanga a couple of years back. I was stuck, I was floundering and I thought I’d try again. So I came here and I didn’t look back. Sometimes I think of all the people I’ve known in my life and feel that they look at my choices. They hear about the things I’m doing, through a friend or a colleague and they laugh. Or not even laugh they smirk. I am person with real choices. I am a person who is just trying to live their life. Why do you have to laugh?


When I arrive at work the children are already there. They are cool and I know it. Imagine being that carefree? Today is a language lesson, and my cross continent grammar is a bit shaky but I’ll get through. I hope to god that the kids don’t notice. They won’t I know but god hell if they do. I’ll look like an idiot. They’re still growing these kids, I mean obviously. But what I mean is there hair is still growing. They must look at us with wonder, at our hair covered faces and wonder why? Why it happens – why don’t they just stay the same? I guess we know a bit nowadays of why it happens. Sort of. The thought of all those strands inside me, the genes, the dna – it makes my skin crawl.


In the staff room the chatter is about the odd weather. Do they talk about anything else? But it has been particularly odd lately. There’s been huge clouds over the city. They congregate in thick grey clumps and move around in circles. I dunno – they say we’re doing things to the planet maybe this is what they meant.

My friend, Freddie walks in. He’s sort of my friend, I guess. We started at the same time. He sits and we exchange a few pleasantries. He has his life – he’s not really interested in mine. God if there was anything to tell. Nothing serious, nothing bad. He asks me how the lesson went this morning. I say fine. My mind races. How did he find out? I did it all right. The lesson was great. But maybe it wasn’t? Maybe I messed it up. It wasn’t good enough. How did he find out? One of the kids must have told him.

I go to the bathroom. In the cubicle I get another wave, a rush of ‘feeling’. Freddie doesn’t like me, I know that. The kids would much rather have him than me. I’m the weak link here. They would be better off without me. I’m going to quit. Try something on my own.

Today, I say, you’re going to happy. Today you’re going to do better.


In Silent Skies, there I’ll be happy; in the solid earth, there I’ll be free. I used to sing that a lot. I loved that song. Now I feel nothing.


At the end of the day there is always a bristle of what next? Some slink off quickly, they say it is to avoid the rush but I know it’s because they’ve got better things to be getting back to. I’ve been out a few times to the bars downtown with them. Freddie, Joanna, a few others, but I always feel like there’s somewhere else they’d rather be. They’d be checking their phones or furtively glancing at their watches. Or worse, the lingering, slow drawn out ‘I best not’ at the offer of another drink. But I don’t have somewhere else to be. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. I’m like this because it’s my fault; it’s how I think. I could be nicer. I should be nicer.


Everyone slinks off and I am left at the front entrance waiting for the rain to stop. There are people passing. Lots of people. This city is too big. It has been for years. And in the rain it smells bleak. Just the sight of the dripping umbrellas makes me sad. I push mine out and join the mass.


I’m sure other people do not review their days to the same extent I do. I mean maybe they do? But I always think that most people go home and accept the day. I can’t even think of doing that. Going home and putting my feet up and accepting the day is over. There is always for me the next. Always what could I do more – what could I do better?


But of course I do actually come home and put my feet up. I get the cushion and hold it tight to me for a moment. I grip it really tight. I want to scream into it but I don’t. I want to cling to it forever until I rip into it but it replaces itself in my hand. I breathe and breathe and breathe.


Silent Skies are calling. Silent be my heart. I sing softly.


Suddenly I stand up. It often happens where suddenly I feel silly. I feel silly for having doubted myself and silly for judging others too hastily. Let them get on with their lives and I’ll get on with mine! What does it matter? But I know it does. Deep down I know it does.

I make myself dinner – I always make sure to cook properly. Chop and dice and fry. It makes me feel productive, proper you know? And then I clean and sort for the next day. And suddenly there’s nothing left to do. The floors are spotless and everything is tidied away. So I make a list. Good. A list. I write down all the things I need to do in the next week so slowly each day I can tick them off and then I’ll be sorted right? It’ll be fine because I know exactly what I need to do and I can be on top of it.


The list is done and I turn on the television. They’re filming the skies again. The clouds are churning as if angry. There is a white furred presenter with a huge umbrella. Behind like a waterfall the rain pours off the edge. They pan across the sky and the clouds are turning black. Oh god I think. What is this? If there is a flood I cannot go to work. Is that good? I mean I guess – but I will be here all day with nothing to do. I can’t do that. I stare at the screen with the plunging of my stomach pulling at my mind. From the clouds a long metal expanse pushes its way through. They cut to it across the city, hundreds and hundreds of what look like spaceships coming from the sky. It’s like something from a film. I rush to the window and there it is for real. I can’t hear the presenter. My eyes start to blur. Then the screen goes blank.


I sit and grip the cushion. I breathe and breathe and breathe.


From my blurred vision I see the screen light up again. It brings me back into the room and I lessen my vice-grip on the cushion a little. On the screen is what looks like a child but older. Not an adult just like a big child. It’s a person with pink skin and a crop of fur on its head. It’s wearing glasses and smiles at the camera. Behind it, as its backdrop, are green fields and a bright blue sky. It starts to speak. For a moment it is in a language I don’t understand. But then there is a glitch in the audio and its flows into understanding in my brain. It says:

‘…we have deemed your planet to be of sufficient sophistication to join the galactic community. This is a time of great joy for your species – membership of the Galactic Empire will bring advancements to you planet beyond your wildest imaginations. We, at Ea1, your new capital, are so pleased to meet you and welcome you to our family. We will begin registration soon; this is a simple categorization process, for our records and information banks. In the meantime we encourage you to continue with your everyday activities. Your own leaders will inform you of the changes the Galactic Empire will bring. Many thanks and Goodnight on behalf of Empress Tabitha Might and the Human Alliance.’


The bottom has fallen out of my stomach. I don’t understand. I look at my list and scrunch into a ball. It has always been there the sky and the space beyond. But that was not my world. That wasn’t anything. And now they are… they were there. They were there all along. The universe floods into my mind. It burns with it. It is almost hurting – the thought that out there are worlds and worlds within reach. And then these…what did they say ‘Humans’ are just there to drop in on our world. It makes my problems seem insignificant just for a moment. But then they rise before me like specters, larger and more powerful than before. I bet Freddie, Joanna, May, Dave. I bet they’re all there slightly afraid but excited. Excited for this. I bet they’re hugging each other and claiming what a turn up – what a thing to happen. And me, stupid me, is here fretting. I’m worrying. I can’t just enjoy it. I swing to the floor and lean against a cupboard. My thighs twitch and I pull at my hair. The thought of those ships, those spaceships whizzing through the sky bringing god knows what here. We’ve been deemed worthy – by who? Who? And I begin to shake. This is my fault. If I had worked harder. If I hadn’t been such a prick I would be here with someone else and we would brave the storm together. But I’m not and it’s my fault. I whelp and gulp and choke on my own failing breath.


The thought of this galaxy that is so big and so populated stops me. It is so big and so populated and I am still alone. I have no place here. I never have.


I go to the kitchen, I grab what I can. I go to the bathroom. I close the door on the galaxy. I close the door on my life.


Silent Skies are calling. Silent be my heart.


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