The back door was open and Eve slid in unnoticed.  She stood at the doorway to the kitchen and leaned softly against the cool wood, his back to her at the table, pen in hand making fast movements across paper.  She studied him.  His lean silhouette hunched and taught, as if it was arrows and not ink that he fired out from his pen. 

      She often found Alex scribbling, found him alone but for paper and his subconscious task.  He should have been an artist, Eve always said.  But he inherently shrugged it off.  It was a nervous habit, not some kind of genius, he would say.

“It’s just something to do when I’m stressed.”

“Most of the great artists were stressed.”

“Most of the great artists were mad.”

She could see over his shoulder from where she was standing, see the light from the barely pulled curtains as it played shadows over the table.  Over a strange scene.  

Ink swirled and ran to mould the figure of a man, its body bent and curled, as if it cowered from some unseeable force.  She watched Alex’s hand as it scribbled and scratched, watched the figure on the page as its head slowly formed into a serpent, its mouth growing under each stroke, until it finally reached its arm and began eating its own flesh. 

Alex’s pen ran smoothly over the creature, calmly, highlighting slowly the blood forming on its lips.  All the while a face hovered in the corner of the paper, glowering, judging; a face that looked unsettlingly familiar.

Eve read too much into his scribbles she knew, as if the depth of his soul could be glimpsed in doodles.  Yet she couldn’t help but see maternal eyes in that oddly floating head. 

Alex hadn’t talked to his mother in years, even less did he talk about her.  He said he’d put it all away, laid it all to rest, there was nothing left to say.  But Eve knew he still thought about her, knew sometimes in the way he looked at her, as if she herself became his mother for a moment, hidden in some unknown mannerism, lurking in a tone.  Before he would blink and the spectre would be gone.

Alex turned suddenly and looked towards her. 

“Margaret rang,” he said, his eyes like deep brown drops, impassive, staring up at her past squared shoulders.  “She died this morning.”

“Oh.”  Eve didn’t know what to say.  Words so often fall short when years of meaning seek to be spoken.  He wouldn’t be sad that his mother was gone, she thought, the technicality of death.  Hurt runs deeper than the inevitable.  His mother’s death was not the pain Eve saw looking up at her, rather it was the stark light now shining upon the life that lead to it.

“Will you go?”  she asked, moving in from the doorway, reaching a tentative hand to rest on his arm.

He turned from her, his left hand tracing the length of his face, his right absentmindedly tracing over and over the eyes of the floating image, the menacing glare.

“I guess I should,” he said, finally placing the pen on the table, placing his hand on hers. “Lest she haunt me in death as well.”

Claire Loader


Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway, Ireland, where she now lives with her family.  With an obsession for all things old, and a passion for writing and photography, she is the creator of and is currently writing a memoir. Her work has appeared in Dodging The Rain and Massacre Magazine and is forthcoming in Pendora and Crannóg.





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