Your nails dig deep

Your nails dig deep into my hands
We are scared, but trusting, shiver

All is for the best and all will be well
Sirens call the people

The lights of the aurora fade in the sun
and then a sudden darkness

The stone is pushed with silent force
Dirt, torn fingers, scarring

The light again, the screams, the silence
Nobody breathes. No-one says the word.

Face your fears

Face your fears. I’m scared of the dark. Face your fears. I’m terrified of the dark. Face your fears they said so I’ll walk into the darkness. I’m terrified but I’ll walk into the darkness. The ground is cold and wet beneath my feet, I’m so scared but I have to face my fears. It’s all in my head, the cold the wet beneath my feet, the sound of breathing or is it the wind. I don’t know if it’s worse when my eyes are closed. I’m so scared of the dark. I don’t know if my eyes are open. I’m so scared of the dark. I know there’s something there, I can feel it inside me but I have to keep on walking, through the cold and the wet and the sound of the breathing and the sound of the screams in the distance. I have to face my fears. The dark can’t hurt me. Face my fears. The dark can’t hurt me. Face my fears. The dark can’t hurt me.

Flies and the number 58

Life changed the day the people of Pezza discovered that flies were scared of the number 58.

Life changed for the better for calligraphers, for potters and for tile firers. Every family wanted a 58 tile to hang below the crucifix above the bed. Some went further and had a tile, or at least a piece of paper with the number written black on it, in every room or above every door.

For a while life changed for the worse for Piero, who drove around the town in his Ape car, stopping in the shade and selling whisks and swatters, horses’ tails and, lately, plug-in insecticides. But he was only away for a week and then he was back, driving around in the hottest hours, offering tiles and earthenware numbers, the hooks and nails to hang them from and, the biggest novelty, a portable laminating machine for those who could not afford the pottery numbers but were embarrassed by the tattered sheets of paper that flapped above their doorways.

But life changed most, and for the best, for those who lived at number 58. Visitors from the north and from further began to buy up the lucky houses – Zia Maria became the talk of the village when she sold her family house at via Ferramosca 58 to a couple of Norwegian interior designers and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law.

In later years, who knows what happened, to the flies, to Piero and, perhaps most importantly, to Zia Maria, her daughter and her son-in-law. But for now, the people of Pezza were happy.

Face your fears

Face your fears, John repeated to himself. Every time you have one of those dying dreams, you have to stand up to what was scaring you. It was the stairs down from the flat this time. He had dreamed he was dying. Again.

He had to face his fears. He had done everything the counsellor had said – he had even typed up the stories that stayed in his head when he opened his eyes in the morning. She was right; in the light they were ridiculous.

But he could not face the stairs. He pressed the button and, when the doors opened, he stepped in. There was no lift.

Breath whistled

How can I ever know if people see their deaths in me, he asked.
A look at the back of the eye, the crook of an eyebrow, a flattening of ears, the whistle breath of fear. All these are clues, I said.
He sighed. I have seen all of those, he replied.
I heard my own breath whistle and closed my eyes.
No, open them, he said softly. You must see this to the end.

Originally published on Paragraph Planet on Friday 13 June 2014