This article is taken from Stand 239, 21(3) October - December 2023.

Joseph Blythe Still Bleeding
A body lying dead on the beach breathes. Shards of salt slice the fleshy inside of the lungs. But it still breathes. In, out. In, out. The chest rises and falls like an empire. Something passes out through those dry, cracked lips. And something crawls in.

‘Stage 4,’ says her friend, staring into her coffee. Its single black eye looks back, empty. The steam rises and fogs her glasses, blinding her. ‘How long do you have?’

‘Till I’m good and ready.’

‘No, seriously.’

‘I am serious. Till I’m good and ready.’

Litter dances on the breeze, pirouetting in the lamplight and settling down with a bow before slipping off stage. It comes to rest by the side of a black bin, overflowing into the dark, damp alleyway. He watches it, for there is nothing else to see, to do. A car passes the end of the alley, throwing lines of light down between the red-bricked buildings and illuminating every imperfection of the place he calls home. As soon as it comes it is gone. The darkness returns with a vengeance, angry it should have been disturbed.

Whistling. Far away. Far enough to not yet be of concern but close enough to be of interest, of intrigue. His ears have grown attuned to the sounds of the street, the noises of the night. It sings, the night. It gallops through the notes, up an octave, and again. It rings out like the clang of ...
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