For the future.
by Gemma Weekes
Listen, it was as if even the dawn was cancelled.
No sun waiting to poke from beneath the horizon.
All the birds dead, dying or in drunken stupors. Forgotten how to sing.
Fresh milk curdled in the fridge and your cereal suiciding itself into ash.
This was a darkness you had never seen, the kind that was not on speaking terms with light, and had never met the light, even in passing. Who? The kind of darkness that buried light deeper than the level of myth.
Ironically, however, this kind of black is of that viscous quality that can only come after the lights’ sudden and vicious disappearance; when those cameras in your face are wide open and liquid and snapping a million frames a second. Then – shick! – all black.
(And in the dark She stirred – )
The Pentecostal church was black; the liquor store and the five-and-dime; even the thirsty ocean. You had more dancing to do, but now you’d lost your rhythm. Words stuck half in your throat. Babies stuck halfway out of the womb. Shick!
This was the risk a city takes when it gets all it’s energy from a Kid in bikini briefs and knee high boots. Funk power. Chi energy. Spins, grins and the splits. The kind of luminosity that comes from a sweet pair of bow lips flooding all the purpose-built panels with an electricity so fierce you had hot water and lights all day long and light-bulbs gone rainbow with joy.
We don’t know what happened to him.
In the dark we became reflective. Hearing only each other’s voices and without the benefit of body language, we forgot we loved each other.
We remembered all his talk about the Spooky Electric.
Some of us thought The Kid was irresponsible and that the Spooky Electric was a train he’d jumped on in the middle of the night, taking him off to some traitorous adventure elsewhere. He’d not read section 3, passage 33 of the Town Rules that stipulated he choose a successor before quitting city limits.
Or he just didn’t care.
Some of us thought it was a disease that killed all the light in him, and that he was lost in the dark with us, silenced by pain.
A growing percentage theorised that The Spooky Electric was a thing. It wanted his light. It wanted to stop his light from spreading, so The Kid was kidnapped, or scrubbed free of glitter and buried under a thousand layers of darkness.
Within that percentage were those who called for war and those who shrugged, gave up, and called darkness the new state of the world. Shick.
His old lady was watching her stories when the lights went off, cooling down from a fight. It was hard loving a loving man. A pretty man. Getting all that love when you don’t know where to put it, just makes you fat. Getting all that love she didn’t understand, felt like an insult to her intelligence. And he was too pretty. And all that prettiness, too, was an insult to herself. She thought he was still soaking in the bath, pants and all. It was only when the TV flicked silent and dissolved into the surrounding darkness that she realised he was gone.
(And in the dark, She stirred!)
In horror and grief she went instantly out and buried her red beret in the backyard by the light of her own teeth, weeping sharp as knives down into the soil where their silent babies slept.
The last thing she had told him was that it was his fault they’d chosen not to grow into full-grown people. He told her it was because of how she and the clouds mixed.
Across town, Ms Parker picked at a fruit cocktail, strange in the dark, brooding on what was the point of all those tips and where to spend them in a land with no electric. She listened quiet and deep for stray bars of Joni Mitchell. Help me.
(The sound she was hearing was the dawn pondering her own immortality -)
You’d never believe this was the same place you grew up in, Erotic City: an embarrassment of red corvettes, sweet little men and virile ladies in leather and lace. All had been erased by a viscous dark that wasn’t on speaking terms with light and hadn’t even met her in passing –
until it did. The darkness had an idea suddenly –
The darkness had a daydream –
A strange pair of eyes rolled around in their beds and then flicked open, diluting the dark with their gaze, just a little bit.
It was still too dark to see, but if you were there you would have felt it wherever you sat in that town – whether you were a shrugger or a fighter.
The darkness had thinned out enough so that you could breathe deep again without it sticking in your throat or becoming lodged between your teeth –
The darkness was dancing –
it had become kind enough so that in the soil a single shoot got ready to emerge, to become leaves, to become a full and God’s-honest-truth red beret tree –
And the eyeballs grew eyelids and long, long lashes and high forehead and up – and down into cheeky cheeks and snaky neck and a whole body stirring, brand new and ancient; fragrant and curved; big and wide and tall and a velvet voice ripening in the chest –
She will come to us all and introduce herself, spreading a warm light wherever she steps those frisky feet –
We’ll ask her where The Kid has gone and her face will light up with privacy –
She will introduce herself –
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Gemma Weekes has produced work in a variety of media. Author of critically-acclaimed novel Love Me (Chatto & Windus), she is also a screenwriter, musicmaker, published poet, performance artist and singer/songwriter who has devised pieces and performed all over the UK and beyond at venues including The Royal Festival Hall, the Jazz Café, The Drum, MC Theatre (Netherlands), New Jersey Performing Arts Centre and at Bestival and with BBC Radio 3. An Inscribe contracted writer, she is currently working on several projects including a stage piece with an accompanying chapbook, a TV series, and her second novel.
The Morning Papers is a collection of pieces about Prince. In April, Music lost a singer and musician, but we writers also lost a poet. Whether it was his characters, or his line by line precision and intimacy; Prince was every bit the alchemist of words as well as music. In this space writers were invited to talk about the artist, in whatever context they desired. Curated by Sharmila Chauhan.