Second Tuesday

By Morgaine Merch Lleuad

The ritual takes place on the second Tuesday of every month. She appears when the white sun is highest in the lilac sky, dressed in the same trousers and tunic, so shabby and old their colour has faded to no particular colour at all. They could be brown, they could be brownish-grey, they could once have been black. She carries the same bag each time, an old, sack-like shapeless thing, as unmemorable as her clothes, but with one difference: each time, there are three different ribbons tied to the handles. Red, green and black; orange, black and yellow; purple, green, white. They are the only things about her that stand out against the dull rust of the trees.

The bag is huge and heavy, although she is careful not to let it drag over the uneven ground, or bump it on the sharply metallic and stony bones, all that remains of the city. When she reaches the trees, she finds the softest spot, where the cushion of leaves has not yet begun to dissolve, and lays the bag gently on the ground. She opens it.

She takes out a bundle of twigs, tied loosely at one end to form a brush. She places it down. As slowly as a dancer, she peels the bag down as far it will go, and takes out one, two, three cats, each in a harness which hobbles their paws and keep them from escape; unties the ribbons, one at a time, and attaches one to a harness; three ribbons, three harnesses. She pauses, examining each ribbon critically. Sometimes, she changes them, swapping one for another, or rarely, all three are moved between the still, silent animals.
She positions the cats along whatever ley line only she can sense, arranging them precisely, moving one head a quarter of a thumb, one tail, half a hand. They are never all facing the same way. The sun moves across a swathe of lilac by the time she is satisfied.

She takes up the twigbrush, breathes in and out, three times, closes her eyes and bows. Then, standing beside one cat, she stoops and switches it on the back, lightly, three times, before moving onto the next, and the last, the same three switches on each. She stands, bows again, returns the twigs to the ground, each motionless cat to the bag and finally, the twigs, rolling up the sides. She does not remove the ribbons. Slowly, she picks up the bag, careful not to let it drag over the uneven ground, or bump it on the sharply metallic and stony bones, all that remains of the city, and she walks back the way she came.

The cats don’t mind. They know there will be a rat for supper later, or even two. They know why she does this, every second Tuesday of every month (although they are the only living souls who do). They know there will only be three switches, which do not hurt.

There is never a fourth.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

The Painter

Morgaine Merch Lleuad

He isn’t sure about the colours: they are in the far reaches of the palette he uses on a day-to-day basis, and rarely in that combination. But if he can’t dictate the sky, who can? He reaches for his brush.

He takes the gold from a statue of Amun-Ra in the British Museum, careful not to scrape too deeply, not to reveal the silver beneath. Age has dulled its glister – a good choice: it won’t dominate with shine. For the green, he picks one sage leaf from a jar on the shelf of a sleeping herbalist. But it is silvery and dust, so he replaces it gently and tiptoes away, to Sark, where an ormer shell gives up a fragment of its iridescence. And he sweeps it carefully above the gold.

The smoke from a bonfire of memories wafts grey across with a gesture of his hand, both pale and dark, a suggestion of stars in its specks of winter days. And in a witch’s box of dyes, he takes logwood for its purple. (She looks up as he opens the box: she is the only one to sense him). He drops the purple on, where it drifts down into the smoke.

It is almost complete.

He still isn’t sure about the colours. But the tree bends obligingly, in its own Tai Chi, turning the sky into stained glass.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Morgaine Merch Lleuad 2016

The Man Who Didn't Care Enough

by Morgaine Merch Lleuad

He said he’d wait for her in the oldest trees, away from his phones and his family and his busy-ness and his barn conversion with the red door. She didn’t know he’d bring the chair – cold chrome, black leather, squeaking-new – and wondered why he’d carried it all that way, positioned it so he could sit and see his fence posts, still damp with sap from murdered wood; territorial, encroaching. He waited for so long, in the silence of everything hiding: they all waited, she masked in her coat of bark and leaf litter, watching him not seeing, never thinking of the oldest trees and those who lived there, while she waited for much longer, until the chair was empty.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Morgaine Merch Lleuad 2016

Morgaine has been (among other things) a medical virologist, a stand-up comedian, a therapist/counsellor, an actor, a musician, a behaviour specialist, and a teacher. She is now a lecturer in Creative Writing, fiction writer and poet.  She has various degrees in Biology, an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, and Asperger’s Syndrome, which may explain a lot.  Morgaine’s poetry has been published in many magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, Antiphon, Bare Fiction, Iota and Ink Sweat & Tears.