I remember the first time I learned that people died. The first time that I considered how our skin yielded to the ravages of time, and our eyes popped from our skulls to be devoured by small maggots and all manner of tiny things with many legs. I was sat on the floor, tucked beneath the ironing board, as my mother flattened the creases from clothes in a compassionate act of steam and warmth, placing them eventually, neatly folded, on the white leather sofa. In the years which would follow, the sofa would become brown and the woman conducting the ironing would change, but this had very little to do with death in the literal sense. More to the point and perhaps more disturbingly, I would also became too large to fit underneath the ironing board and would spend most of my time instead sneaking crisps into the pocket of my dressing gown, so that I could eat them in my bedroom without fear of judgement, or indeed fear of human interaction.

I faced the television, underneath the ironing board, surrounding by drapes of white fabric and damp heat. The stifling steam was somehow comforting- I knew that if I were to drop into an infinite sleep that at least it would be warm and comfortable. But death was never quite death at this point, it would be a brief fading of the daylight into the comfort of imaginings. It would hiss and spit warm water, but it would too be acceptable and quietly unobtrusive. I smiled as I thought about my dad telling me about the worms in my eyeballs as I would giggle and he would tuck me in. The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out, your brain comes trickling down your snout. The white of my textile castle around me was much like my bed sheets, and if death would mean spiders dancing in my throat, I would embrace it with open arms.

But the television stood along the long wall of the living room, though in later years it would sit in the far corner and we would twist our necks to look at it. We were watching the News; news with a capital N, because it is new, and news, and on at Six, with a capital S, and important. The kind lady in the red dress was explaining that they had found several skeletons buried in a forest, and as she casually narrated with the mildest unease, suddenly death made a great deal of sense to me. I knew about skeletons, and I could feel the bones which made up my spine pushing against the inside of my skin. In one moment worlds collapsed and hair was torched from skin. Teeth tore at flesh and nails were pulled from their beds in a fit of red and swelling. I sat beneath the ironing board and felt the steam penetrate the back of my throat. My eyes watered at the prospect of maggots gnawing at my retinas, my skull remaining in the mud as my very memory vacated the realms of the earth. My mum switched the iron off at the plug.

Ooo, eee, how happy we shall be.


16 thoughts on “(Un)Familiar

  1. “The worms
    crawl in and the worms crawl
    out, your brain comes trickling
    down your snout. ”

    So when do we see the angels and get the virgins we were promised?


  2. Ladies and jellyspoons, TIA will be taking a break this week while I think of something relatively interesting to write about. Also I will be ordering Grumpy Cat magnets. Ta-ra fer now! Love yah and stuff.


  3. “Mum was does dead mean?”
    “It’s what you’ll be if you don’t shut up and eat your dinner”

    That’s how I learned what death was at a very early age, it’s one of my earliest memories.


    1. My earliest memory is of me pooping behind the sofa. Start as you mean to go on, and all that.

      Thanks for the comment, Pete :D


  4. Mortality didn’t start to bug me until my mom turned 70 a couple years ago…

    I always liked Birthdays too, which many I found don’t, but then they got kind of weird too… Oh well

    After two years of being bummed about losing my mom someday, I think I’ve come to grips with it a bit… But to me, the whole mortality thing is s bit odd, Lol

    But enough of that, this is a brilliant piece… So well written



    1. My morality likes to keep me awake at night, and I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for the comment DJ.


    2. The subject just kind of leads to, what are we doing here to begin with? And if there’s no god (no clue on that one), and if aliens didn’t create us to watch us like an ant farm… Than why, and how are we here? But I also appreciate the fact that part of the reason life means so much to us, is because we know that our time here is limited… Puts an edge on it… A deeper appreciation.

      What’s the trippiest thing to me is our conscious mind… I mean… It’s F$@#’n Amazing… We, as creatures, are Amazing… And I’m not talking about the does and don’ts of life… I’m just talking about the raw conscious mind… I mean, if that’s not alien created, and not god created, than wtf… It’s a miracle in itself, don’t you think?

      The whole thing is f$@#’n Tormenting, and Terrible… But also just Friggen Amazing… At least to me. I guess you can just wrap the whole thing and label it “The Human Condition”… Which it is.

      And I will admit the ‘journey’, so to speak, is indeed the meat and the taters of the deal/ordeal

      But I suppose that’s one of the reasons I so dearly love Shakespeare… He’s like “WHAT THE F$#K!” To BE Or Not To be, and all that rot, Lol

      But it’s not Rot, is it… It’s fricken miraculous, and all I can say is I hope where ever (if anywhere) I go after this life, Shakespeare is there, and up for some bad mitten and punch, Lol

      If so, I’ll save you a spot… I know he’ll dig you, Lol (did I mention the cake? I knows how you loves yer cake, Lol)



  5. It was something on the tv for me too, and I have no memory of what it was, a show or a newscast or what, though I think it was a tv western like Bonanza or Gunsmoke. I sat under an endtable and silently cried a little. Then something, which I can’t remember either, came into my mind and made it all better. I don’t think it was the thought of an afterlife, so what the hell was it? The thought that I would do something great someday to be immortalized by (better hurry, since I’m “getting up there”)? I always thought “Comfortably Numb” was speaking to me: “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye, I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now, the child is grown, the dream is gone….”
    Another great piece.


    1. I cried for a short while too, though I couldn’t find the words to describe how I was dissolving inside. Perhaps I never quite got over that, I don’t know… though I adore that song, and there is something so very comforting about it. So much love.


  6. Ouch! Beautifully painful, Anna! What a great recreation of the childish view from the castle. And I loved this line so much: ” news with a capital N, because it is new, and news, and on at Six, with a capital S, and important.”


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