Burning Twilight

Burning Twilight

On the day Jenny decided to take control, the summer evening clouds were infused with orange; final blessings of light from the sun, captured after it dips but before darkness falls. Tomorrow’s sun would rise to find her transformed; and Jenny knew the beauty in front of her would be her last ever burning twilight.

Soon after the moon had taken over, its silver light guided Jenny as she made her way cautiously down to the hidden pool. It was hard going, and she had to concentrate to remember the way through the trees. Although the pool was only a few hundred yards from the track, the forest was dense enough to make sure nobody would find it, unless they were supposed to.

Wearing only a flimsy sundress, and sandals that fell way short of being appropriate for the journey, Jenny winced repeatedly; her exposed ankles cut to bits by the undergrowth. More than once she cried out, tripping over concealed roots, stumbling, never quite falling. Resolution gave way to determination; she'd endured much worse pain than this, and tonight she intended to release herself from all of it.

At last Jenny emerged from the trees and looked down to the pool, small and calm, nestled between rocky walls. In the daytime the sky determined a colour for the water, often deep blue, sometimes green, and at other times displaying no colour at all, revealing instead its incredible depth through pure transparency. Tonight the pool shimmered smooth like a black funeral gown; nocturnal light captured in its silky swells.

Jenny half walked, half slid down the almost sheer walls, coming to a less than graceful halt on the small strip of white sand in front of the water. Sitting down with her arms wrapped around her knees, Jenny waited until the sound of her breath was quieter than the gentle rustling of the breeze through the trees above her head. Slowly she undid the straps of her sandals; placing them beside her, she stood up.

Almost as soon as she was on her feet, the surface of the pool was disturbed, and a deep but gentle bubbling sound filled the air. A translucent mist whiter than the moonlight was gradually rising from the centre of the pool where the water now boiled frantically.

As suddenly as it had begun the water ceased boiling, the air was silent, and the pool's surface was smooth again. The dazzling mist hung in the clear air above the pool, and began to take a recognisable form, it happened as subtly as a cloud can change shape on a still summer's day. Gradually the shape of a beautiful eagle, head bowed, wings spread, eyes closed, was revealed floating in the air above the water.

Jenny gazed on the majesty of the eagle, marvelling at her sheer size and the brilliance of her light; the moon was rendered dull by comparison. As Jenny gazed upwards, the Eagle lifted her head and opened her eyes. When she spoke it was whispered and tender, as though the sound came from a world beyond this one, but still her voice  was imbued with high authority,

‘This time you cannot claim a chance encounter?’

‘No,’ Replied Jenny, ‘I had to be sure.’

‘Of course; your mind overflowed with confusion. Are you ready to set it free?’

‘Oh, yes, yes I am.’ Replied Jenny.  Swiftly. Certainly.

‘And you understand the price you will pay?’

She allowed her gaze to carry past the Eagle to fix on the far floating moon.

‘I understand.’

‘Then you have my blessing, enter when you are ready.’

Seven long years of torment had brought Jenny to this place, but now the time had come to put things right, she was overcome with how completely she was about to transform her life. Although she was sure of her need to enter the pool, Jenny felt tears welling up from deep within, and as the moon and stars begin to swim out of focus, she felt her legs give way and she sank to her knees. Rocking forwards and resting her elbows on the gentle sand, she hid her face in her hands; weeping silently into the night while the great bird looked on.

Several minutes passed, and Jenny wasn’t crying any longer; it was as though every tear she ever held had been squeezed out and absorbed into the sand. Removing her hands from her face, she opened her green eyes and they sparkled with renewed purpose. Gripping the rounded neckline of her sundress, tugging it over her head in one fluid movement she let it drop silently onto the beach. The Eagle folded her wings, and began singing a wordless song so beautiful that humankind could not have heard it. But Jenny had entered a state beyond human limitation, and the song filled her head as she made her way to the water's edge. As she sang, the dazzling white form of the Eagle began to fade. Slowly she sacrificed shape, returning to mist and descending towards the watery depths.

Jenny reached the water's edge and entered the cool black water causing only the slightest ripple to run across its surface. A more beautiful sight nobody could hope to see, but only the moon witnessed Jenny's beauty, bathing her in silver iridescence as her smooth form slipped beneath the silky surface.  The trees waved gently and tried to cast dancing shadows across her back,  but only happy shadows dance, and had the moon shed its light more strongly it would have witnessed more sinister shadows; ugly stamps on flawless flesh, and then the trees would have stopped waving and started weeping.

The water was rising past Jenny's navel, its silky charms drew her deeper and a pleasant tingling sensation, grew inside her tummy and spread slowly through her body. She revelled in the feeling, knowing she would only experience it once. Her hair entered the pool, streaming behind her like the train on a wedding dress. Her breasts touched the surface just as the ground beneath her feet fell steeply away and the smooth water engulfed her silently beneath its surface.

Even though she was underwater, it felt perfectly natural for Jenny to open her eyes, and when she did she felt like she was falling through air. Yet if she tried to breathe she knew her lungs would fill with water. Already the surface of the pool was far above her but deep below was a light, shining with the brilliance of the Eagle. Brighter and brighter it became as Jenny felt herself falling further between the rocky walls of the pool. Jenny suddenly felt her entire body start to pulse with a delicious vibrancy; at the same time she entered a vigorous spin that forced her eyes shut. But even though her eyelids were closed tightly, they couldn't shut out the light surrounding her as she span faster and faster until, just for a moment, every muscle in her body tensed and consciousness left her.

As she began to regain her consciousness Jenny was too terrified to move a muscle, knowing how different she would feel once she did. It wasn't long before she was fully awake and although she could feel no rush of air, she knew without doubt that she was rising upwards into the night sky at great speed. Sure enough, as soon as she had plucked up enough courage Jenny opened one eye to see city lights far below her, growing smaller all the time as she rose. Curled up like a dog before a fireplace, feeling scared, not of the great height but because of the task ahead, she rose carefully to her feet, standing naked on thin air and still rising. Holding her palms before her eyes she wasn't surprised to find them barely visible, their outlines framed with a pale translucence that continued throughout her body, more fragile than the clouds in appearance, yet now in possession of an awesome power. It was easier than she had thought it would be to stop herself rising, she only had to will it and the ground stopped receding.

Closing her eyes, Jenny began to picture a room. Electric fireplace, fake flames, carpet, worn around the sofa, the blue sofa, the television, with wooden trim, stereo, broken volume control, door from the hall, a gap at the top, stairs in the corner, don't put your weight on the banister, it's not screwed in very well...

She was there in a split second, a twinkling of the eye, but she saw every detail of the journey, every car, every home, every person, in every street as they rushed towards her then out of her field of vision. 'I won't be visiting you tonight, nor you, nor you... ' Potential destinations filtered through her subconscious even before she knew it had happened, and then she was there, in the room.

Empty curry carton, on the floor, by the sofa, knotted tie, discarded on the armrest. Walking up the stairs, the stairs of fear, where blows have fallen, where words cut deep. The bedroom, white dresser, bowed drawer bottoms, tall mirror, stained surround, cream table lamp, burning bulb, tall wardrobe, with dusty top, double bed, crumpled duvet, one man, sleeping.

Jenny wasn't walking; she was drifting. She knew she could have been at his side in an instant, and she could see her actions spread out before her, it was like watching a video in slow motion, and she took in every detail as she drifted ever nearer to his side. As she climbed onto the bed, the covers didn't stir. She knelt there, staring down at his shape beneath the duvet. The back of his head, a hand with dirty nails, fingers that curled in anger, nails that left their mark, he liked to mark his things. A foot, twitching, his feet always twitched when he was asleep; it was cute, Jenny smiled.

'Wake up.'  Her mouth moved but no sound came out.

Still, he heard it and it terrified him. The foot stopped twitching, his body tensed, he opened his eyes; darkness, was it a dream?

'Look at me.'

He looked; light filled his eyes; Jenny knelt before him, tall, elegant, naked, transparent, shining. Her head was bowed, hair across her shoulders, hands in her lap.

'Are... are you...'

'No, I'm more alive than I've ever been. Don't speak again, I didn't come here to talk.'

'Then wha...'

Jenny began to raise her head,

'I said don't talk!'

His brain grew hot as she raised her head, and the light she emanated grew steadily brighter. Trying to jump from the bed, he found himself rooted to the spot. Never in his life had he seen anything so terrifying yet so beautiful. The light shone from her face and onto her skin, illuminating her legs, her stomach, her breasts, her arms, her shoulders. Every part of her was glowing silver and smooth, and he could not look away. Finally her whole face was visible to him, pretty, serene, her eyes still fixed on the bed. The light's intensity made his head pound unbearably, he began to weep, yet he still couldn't look away; he couldn't even blink.

'It's cute' Said Jenny, as she lifted her eyes to meet his,  'The way your feet twitch when you're asleep.'

His eyes were wide and watering as she stared into them, his face alight from her internal glowing. Their eyes met but his face contorted with pain. There was nothing silent about his screaming. Jenny didn't move, but he was screwing up every muscle he possessed. She watched as he desperately tried to claw his hands to his face, but his eyes would not be covered; both man and woman cried tears, bitter tears. His tears came in floods as his pain increased, splashing onto the duvet, soaking the space between them. But Jenny's rolled gently down her cheeks, dropping from her chin and vanishing, carried into the ether before they hit her breast.

Suddenly, the connection was gone. His screams stopped abruptly and his stare became vacant. Falling forward, his head passed through Jenny's thighs before hitting the bed, never to rise again. Jenny's light dimmed as her tears became stronger, tears of relief and of release. Falling towards the mattress herself, she was quickly lifted up and out of the room, spinning fast once more.

The tingling sensation began to return; this time the light surrounding her grew steadily dimmer as she span faster and faster. The tingling within her grew even more intense than before, and Jenny clenched her fists tightly as she span until, just when she though she could bear it no longer, every single nerve ending in her body came alive. In one glorious moment her flesh shuddered from head to toe as her body began to return to its solid state, and although Jenny knew this must happen, she wished desperately that she could permanently inhabit this spiritual realm. But no human being, shrouded in darkness by default, can remain for long in such a place of light. Even for the short time Jenny had been allowed to linger there, she knew she would now have to pay the eagle’s price, the sacrifice of sight. Jenny opened her eyes and found she was falling, falling through the night sky, and the moon shone bright above her. All at once Jenny forgot the bitter cold of the wind, because an intense pain exploded suddenly in the back of her head. Opening her mouth in a silent scream of terror, Jenny writhed in the air, still falling. Knowing that it would be the last sight her eyes would ever see, Jenny fixed her tear-filled gaze on the distorted image of the moon. Then it was dimmer, then it was gone. The pain faded, consciousness slipped away.

Jenny knew morning had arrived; she could hear the birds singing. The wind slowly caressed her into consciousness, not the bitter wind of the night, but the warm breeze carrying the scent of cut grass, pine trees, and foxgloves in wooded glades.  Bringing her hand to her chest, Jenny found she was wearing her round-necked sundress, it felt damp.  Her hair was damp as well, and a few abrasive grains of sand clung to her palm when she touched it.  As she listened to the birds, smelt the sweet breeze, and felt the long grass beneath her, Jenny could tell that the sun had risen on a beautiful new day.

Jeff Nottingham

Jeff gained his Masters in Screenwriting and Producing from the University of Westminster. His debut play ran in London, and at Edinburgh Fringe to sold-out audiences, supported by the Arts Council.  Jeff’s screenplay for Lost in Mozart won the inaugural British Urban Film Festival screenwriting competition.

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