Lost in the wet mist, I met a hermit who led me to his hut. The hut was bare, just two stone benches. He wanted me to lie down and sleep, though I hadnít eaten all day.
"Tomorrow we shall find food," he promised, and held my hand to comfort me.
I dreamt of crows flying, blood dripping like rain from their beaks. When I awoke, there was a hole in my throat, into which I was able to insert a finger.
When Jane joined our company, we all ó man and woman alike ó fell in love with her. Never had we seen someone so beautiful. Yet she kept her distance from the start, and over the months our admiration turned to envy and resentment.
One time a company trip was organised for a hike along the coast. It was a cold and windy day, and there was no else around on the pebbled beach. Jane walked ahead of the rest of us. We began to whisper about how stuck up she was. Our voices grew louder and louder as we walked.
Suddenly she turned towards us:
"You donít care about me. Youíre just obsessed with the way I look. But this face isnít mine. If you knew the truth, you would not want to get so close."
And she reached up to her left temple with the nails of her right hand, and in one quick diagonal movement tore her beautiful face away. Underneath we could see another face hideously scarred and disfigured.
"Yes!" she said, "This is the real me. And now you, all of you, just reach up with your hand as I did and tear the mask away...."
At the Border
At the border there is a problem. I am required to show my passport in order to validate the passports of my wife and baby. The officials disappear with it and return only after several minutes, just as our train is about to leave. When I check to see if my passport has been stamped, I find they have exchanged my photo for one of a man on a bar terrace raising a tankard of beer to his lips. It looks like a holiday snapshot, except the photo is faded like that of someone who has recently died. There is no time now to change it back, and I realise I can still use my passport ó the face is so unclear that no one will know it isnīt me.
Walking by the council houses in the falling snow, I thought I saw someone waving to me from a downstairs window. Yet when I got close enough to press my face against the frosty glass, I realised I had been mistaken; there was only a family watching television. Looking more closely still however, I saw myself walking on the screen. The youngest daughter was crying because the way I dragged my crushed leg behind me reminded her of an insect.
Ian Seed is editor of Shadowtrain poetry magazine. Ian's fiction, poetry, translations and reviews have appreared in dozens of magazines, most recently in Great Works, Green Integer Review, Raunchland, Shearsman and Stride. His work is due to appear the anthology Innovative Poetry in English 2005-2006 (Green Integer Books). His translation of Pierre Reverdy's Le Voleur de Talan will also be published by Green Integer.
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