Saturday 15 June 2019

'This is Unravel' by Niamh MacCabe

 There is a woman kneeling. There is howling, calling.

The child wants to move.

Why here?

He tries to pull the bright in. Slowly it comes, edges bleeding, as if this twilight world has forgotten about things, as if all is a blurred nothing. Waves glide through him.

I am this.

The crimson hull of a fishing boat rocks in the distance. Its yellow mast juts skyward, conducting lilac-white seabirds. He clings to these colours.

A calling. Something. A name. Close. Somewhere close. He jolts. He wants to grasp this name, drag himself back along its anchor’s chain to its source. Reeling it in like a stretched sigh, the name turns to water, lost.  On the horizon, he can see a tearing begin, a sad, slow rip.

Unravel. This is Unravel.

Darkness rises behind the rend. Glimmering hues of sky and sea blur to grey as the fissure widens. The cleft’s maw is coming to him.


The name is called again, furious, like a blow to the chest.

Go back to her.

There’s a woman  kneeling beside a child, half-out of the water. The tide edges around them. She’s pumping the small chest and calling. He jolts again. He sees her dress billowing, the sand wet. Howling, she cradles her son’s head, rocking on her ankles. She tries to blow life into him. His chest rises in time with her breaths, a mockery of life, sinking back into itself. Her call pierces through the water that holds him, seeking him. He reaches back towards it. He’s right in front of her. He sees her hair hanging like a torn veil over her face, dripping crystals. She calls. He wants to touch her but can’t find his hands, his voice.

I am here.

The words swirl in the water’s binding embrace. He looks down at the boy, wet head lolling on his mother’s lap, blue lips parted. His mother’s voice chokes but still the name rises from her. She kisses his eyelids, wipes away the spittle, pumps again. He lays between the greyed boy and her hands. Sinking into the chill, he draws towards his mother, pushing his lifeless heart into her palms. He sees sand and tide blur, her emerald dress fade. An immense sadness is descending.

Do not leave me at this place.  I am not this place. I am not here.

Sorrow flows from his heart, snaking out towards slack limbs.

I am not this despair.

He pulls towards her.

I am here.

She calls and he leaps into her grip. He becomes the warmth of her hands. Her breath reaches him and his heart rouses. The charged blood follows sorrow’s beaten path down tiny veins. Behind the black of his eyelids, he knows her call. He feels the water swirl within as his mother’s breath seeks to become him. Pain rips through, life sinks anchor. He sucks in her breath. Opening his eyes, he sees the sky behind his mother. She holds him, shouting his name.


A longer version of this piece was first published in Bare Fiction Magazine, 7 April 2016.

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