Thursday, 22 September 2016

Move With Ease

Move With Ease.
Move, like it's the only thing you could ever possibly do,
with the full and total weight of your body in motion.

Move, with the diameter of gravity,
that picks me up and carries me along.
One foot in front of the other.
One arm before one shoulder.
One knee jostling the next,
toes tapping- hips swaying.

Move, feeling that tired, tired flesh, whole-fucking heartedly,
let it guide you in a perceptive rhythm.

Move, with a total awareness of where you are,
how you feel, what you need.

Move with total joy.
Move with the pain that grips your heart.
Move with shame, move with guilt,
move with giggles.
Move with love.

Move to greet a partner, friend, lover.
Move mindfully.
Move playfully.
Move to hear your muscles sing, and your heart beat faster.
Move, in the only way that you can.
Move to connect with yourself.
Move to love yourself.

Move with chattering thoughts.
Move with peace,
never forgetting yourself, your dreams.

Please, move with ease.

Saturday, 17 September 2016


God, I am so tired.
God, why am I even surprised?
God, my body aches as I worry for approval..
God, my guilt sits in my lower back, I don't want to move at all.

God, I desperately try to make sure everything is 'alright'..
God, does being 'alright' even exist? Is this an aimless fight?
God, I ache to curl up into a tiny ball,
God, but when I do so I feel the need to move, to speak, to express my heart's whole.

God, I am finding life so tiring, hard, does this feeling last?
God, I reach out, reach in, back, behind, mmm, move, hold, grasp.
God, I feel such a weight within me,
God, I want to lift and carry but I do not have that kind of energy.

God, give me strength, give me grace, give me love..
God, please help me to accept, with confidence, other people's helping heart.
God, help me to allow myself to let go,
God, I can't raise myself up any more, it's beginning to show.

God, I listen as the rain drifts down outside..
God, I feel the struggle of life, of death, of acceptance.. to surmise.
God, keep me safe in this place, whole,
God, I love you, I hold myself, let me fall.

Sunday, 4 September 2016


Body shakin.. teeth gnash. Gash. Fake, I fill your mind with a second slate, no mistake. Fuck you up. Big take, take, taken. Bash them down.. crushed into tiny tiny smithereens. Sleet rush, meat heard. Gruff. Love. I want to bite your throat and rip it open, blood spilling down your body. I want to feel your saliva, sticking.. I know you are hungry. Follow my momentum. Feel my body, sex. Rotating, retching, rogue. My God, the twigs snap as I approach. Icy wind, chills. Hot skin, sweat. Juicy. Break free, I can see you. Smash em up, ripped feet. Head falls, lips open.. into U. Gush. Wow. Take your boat, oars repeating over and over and over again. Do you want to jump in? Where is he taking you? Wet claws, snout . Bleeding, weeeping. Again, again, again. I can feel my nails digging under your skin, I want to hurt you, pull you out. I want to destroy your shield. Fuck me. Water, cascades. Fillament, gargle. Fiddle. Just so. You. Don't. Know.. Suck it, no.. I fall over my feet looking for you, head over heels, over feet, over mind.. I reach out, I lose.. but it's not about me. My wilderness knows no bounds, shivering forests echoing with the sound of a raven. Your undergrowth has been growing a long, long time; spiralling down, out. I can feel the prick of your thorns, briar, tangle. It's tearing you apart, one piece at a time. Give in to yourself, give in to the music. It's where you can live.. Fuck. Sound. My. These dreams I carry fall around you, fall around me. Who is to say… nothing.. who is to say.. everything.

Monday, 30 May 2016



Last night I had a dream, I had many in fact.

I dreamt that I was a man and was staying in this beautiful house. There was a blonde man and his wife. I was very attracted to the man and he to me. He had a tattoo on the back of his neck that showed the 5 stages of the moon throughout the month. At some point, on a trip, I pulled down my trousers. An erection was rising. I pulled down my pants and it was just wood. I was actually a girl all along.

I was staying in another house, with a family of people. An old woman had pain in her stomach and on using machinery on her realised she was pregnant! I kept watching films. Maybe it was the same house as before. The mother of the wife had gone into the pub that was conveniently connected to the house. But she kept peeking through the door to see what we were doing. A waiter brought over an anonymous gift- a marmite tree. We knew it was a poo and threw it back.

I feel that these dreams have powerful messages- for myself and for others too possibly. The first extract seems to replicate the duality of a man and his wife. The blonde sun, and the moon. The duality within ourselves. Our world has lost the balance of male and female, and the fragile balance within ourselves has also been upset. We need to re-dicover what it means to be both male and female, for ourselves, to re-create the harmony that exists between both.  To love both sides our ourselves so that we can love others for who they are too.

The second exceprt illustrates the old mother earth, inundated with pain from the chaos that is exploding on her. Within the pain however, is the potential of something new, fresh. Like lobsters who out grow their shell, we need to discard our safety nets and comfort zones if we are to grow alongside the world. I have heard tell that Mother Earth has told Shamans in this world that she is tiring of waiting for us to wake up, and is becoming ready for a new age. We need to regain our awareness so that we can move and flourish alongside our Mother. The films and pub represent the escapism that dominates a world filled with sadness, within these spaces we cannot grow.

Nature is constantly sending us signs, but until we accept them for what they are, we will not be able to wake up. These are things we need to do for ourselves first, and in turn those changes and growth will be replicated in the world around us. Everything is perception, everything is a balance between fear and love. If we accept total love into our perception then we can create a reality that is grounded in love, and heal our world. If we let fear rule us, then we will remain in agony until our Mother decides she has had enough.

Find your own balance, re-discover your love and creativity, heal yourself and the earth. Please listen.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Spider

Tense. Relax. Tense. Relax. I turn my head slightly and feel a corner, a cramped cobweb that doesn't want to be brushed away. A dainty legged spider looks at me- his amalgamated body rolling over the bed spread. There is not fear in my heart, but repulsion. I shudder. A stream of energy rushes down my spine. I shake my shoulders, wanting more, more release… it doesn't come. I breath deeply, I hear multiple clicks from my back. I shake my shoulders again. I look back at the spider, crawling toward me- over floorboards. I stay where I am, wanting to be strong. To stand my ground- spiders are friends, not monsters. A sickened feeling crouches in my stomach as the spider taps closer and closer, I kneel, hunched. The tremor moves to my chest as the engorged spider crawls up my knee, my chest, tickling my neck- onto my face. I feel sick, totally disgusted as it lounges on my head, its legs lecherously stroking my skin. It's body throbbing, pus seeps down me. At that point I can stand it no longer- I sharply swipe the spider off my face, shuddering again. I look down. It lies, dead, squashed, on the ground. I feel remorse, but mostly relief.

Smiles. Smiles that tantalise. Smiles that hurt. Smiles that ache. Smiles that lie. Smiles that coax more and more and more. Smiles that don't reach the eyes. What is my smile hiding? We're taught as children to smile. Smile for Mummy! Hooray! We're taught that smiles will make others happy- will make others like us. We learn to smile to express our happiness, we learn to smile to hide our pain. We learn to laugh as a nervous reflex, crossing our arms and legs to close ourselves off as we contort our mouths into a grimace. To protect in our vulnerability that ironically ends up perpetrating our fear. What am I scared of? Being abandoned. By myself.

I rock, backwards and forwards. Sideways- sideways, finding respite in one direction, fatigue in another. Momentum carries me onwards, providing me with the energy to continue. What happens if I stop? A heavy weight sets in- ghosts dance before my eyes. An itch I cannot scratch but food suppresses… Endless endless computer programs, collecting pieces of writing that frustrate me, frustrate me. I want a hug so much. A proper hug. I hug myself, touching my fingers to the outside of my breasts. I rest my face on my arms and breath, deeply. Smelling the wool of my jumper, the oaty smell of my scarf. Today I learned I have a porridge reflex. I eat porridge so regularly that I now take out a bowl when I put a small pan on the hob without even thinking about it. Yum. Porridge is banging. Literally. Nothing will ever beat the nourishing taste of plain porridge with its assorted goodies packed inside.

Life feels hard, heavy. I meditate which deepens my connection to myself and alleviates the strain but the turbulence is still present- turgid. Like a drippy day, if I hide behind my hood the rain distorts and confuses, provides the face of an enemy. A symptom of my dissonance. A dissonance which dissipates and refreshes itself, perpetually but lessening… There is a warmth in my belly now. I feel, sad. But I love myself for my sadness. My sadness reminds me of my mortality, my connection to the earth. It tells me that I am healing. I must rest, descend… Listen. Life is so intense. I want to sleep forever. I also want to dance. I haven't danced for weeks. I want to roll around in the mud, and scream! Cackle with a gross hilarity and shit in my hair. My eyes feel heavy, heavy. There is tension at the top of my spine, under my jaw, in my chest. Thoughts meet emotion. 3 of cups. The emperor. Death. My thoughts desire structure in this world of grids and angles. A productive use of my time. But is that all there is? Does time exist? I'm in a state of constant flux- skin particles entering the stratosphere. There is more to life than reflection.

I feel out of place, out of mind. Tiny fingers tear out of my chest, clawing at my chin. I hold them, gently, gently. I kiss their tiny finger tips. Softly softly. Wrinkles as I smile at myself. A real smile. I want to cry. I hold my tension, breath in, out. Release. So, so much has happened. An internal rollarcoaster. My ten of swords. My finale.

I cry out- the sound muffled by the constant drone of the city. The resonance lost in this world of flickering lights and hollow dreams. A world where death and destruction are not our friends, but our unwelcome slaves. Where my heart gets lost in other people's pain and I'm constantly building barriers to protect myself, myself, myself. When I want a hug there is no one to ask. The trees grow and ripple in the wind- I can feel their dreams as I breath too. They breath out what I breath in. They take on what I push out. They take my pain, and give me life. And what a life it is. What a life to lose. What a life to lose.

I want to live, I don't want to die any more. I won't compare myself to anyone who actually desires suicide, but in my tired body is a deep desire for the end. As there is in all of us. We want to die. Life is tiring, painful… the only barrier is fear. Guilt. Shame. Take it. We want to lose ourselves, surrender, return to the dust that we came from. But now, I want to live- I have felt the kernels of the fire inside me. A repetitive burst of love- pure energy… My pain pours out, flowing heavy around my body- whipped by a tangible wind. Take it. Fucking take it. TAKE IT. Take my pain and feel my layered, layered, layered HURT. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU ALL. If I could I would hate the world but I feel so totally connected, so intrinsically connected… I walk down the street and I can see the emotion on people's faces- I understand- I want to hold out my hand. Its OK. I feel it too. We all do. We are all here together- no one need be lost in the ether if we could just get it TOGETHER. Welcome to you, stranger.

Straight over, straight over. Lock your face, I'm going to EXPLODE! Eyes on the mind, eyes on your behind… Shifting gear, moving to the beat… Why do I feel so empty? So much time, space, empty, empty… I feel drawn to sleep, for lack of anything to do, to fulfil me. It doesn't feel sad, just empty, empty. Like something's missing, missing inside. Can you tell me what's missing? Missing delight. Missing those sparkling eyes, music over the sunrise… but, I am here. All here. This is how it is. I do feel like I should be here. I am here.

What do I want? I want to be closer to death so I can feel more ALIVE. To be on the precipice and feel the wind in my hair, the adrenaline in my heart, the necessity of living truly because life is so much more precious… But I can't continue with how I was living before- living truly is so much more scary without intoxication… perhaps that is the adrenaline I need! To accept my vulnerability, to FEEL it- to really really feel it… I felt so vulnerable after a friend was here. So stripped down, that is my terror. But if I harness that terror, make that my precipice… the dance with fear… I've met my fear. Faced it- felt its cold hand entangled with mine. Now I am on first name terms, I can pull back on that hand- feel the cold body of fear come closer to mine- hips entwined, feet moving faster than discernible- the stakes are high- the flower of life on one side, the oblivion of abandonment on the other- but I can become aware- totally aware, eyes WIDE open, I can lead FEAR in a dance with ME. We are together, always. In my dreams I speak, in my life I dance. "I'll be happy when I die, if I live with arms open wide. If I let my spirit fly. " (lyric taken and modified from the music below)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

To be or not to be, Woman

Cognitive dissonance- I look in the mirror (or not, as is mostly the case right now) and I wonder who I am as a person compared to the perception of myself that I have been raised upon, and what that means to me. For a long time I've felt pressured to be this conservative version of what a woman could be, “Holly! Look demure!” Long hair, shaven legs and armpits, constricted personality- powerless within myself. I give the power out- lacking the confidence to communicate and assert what I want. A confidence which was severely damaged in many ways- a lack of communication and empathy from my Father, raised in a family where men have the power, and women are expected to look after and be constantly understanding to the men. Where no-one could handle my loud voice and laugh- my forceful energy. Was this a rejection of my energy- or oppression of my energy due to my assigned gender, due to having qualities that weren't appreciated in a 'lady'? 

When I reached adolescence and developed the natural sexual desire that begins in puberty, I fell in love with my friend. Fuck knows why, he wasn't that great. But for such a long time I felt a powerful desire to tell him how I felt- and perhaps also to take our relationship beyond the platonic. Inspired by sentimental movies and stories, I plucked the courage and told him in a moderately melodramatic way. He didn't feel the same way, and although saddened, I assumed that would be the end of it. I had said my part and although my love and desire was not returned, our friendship would be strengthened by the level of honesty. However, my secret was not kept and my magical emotions were subjected to public humiliation- causing my to experience my first panic attack. Because it was funny, to other people. Looking back on it, I'm proud of my 15 year old self- but at the time it was confidance-destroying. It feels like there was this hilarity that a girl could (as it seemed to other people) ask a guy out. Which in itself was ridiculous, but alongside this complete lack of understanding of what I really wanted to express, it was brutally painful. I continued viewing the guy with love and understanding, as I didn't have the self-esteem to see how badly I had been treated. 

I feel like this was also a rejection of my desire as a (young) woman- such an integral part of being a human, and I feel that this rejection has fully stayed with me, due to being constantly affirmed by the people and attitudes that have been around me. I can relate to Germaine Greer when she compares women to eunuchs as I have felt bound for such a long time- so totally powerless. Since then several catastrophic relationships with men (some due to my own inability to work out what I want and have to give, one due to a desperate need for emotional support that plunged me into a dark and destructive interaction that has left its scars) have illustrated my sexual tale of attraction to uncommunicative and emotional distanced partners. This separation, from myself as well, constantly makes me question who I am, as woman and as a person. 

At school I felt ugly, that if I could become beautiful I could finally feel happy and attract the men that I wanted, and gain the respect that I needed so badly, ideas that were fueled by the fire of sexual desire that made this wish to attract vitally important. Yet I didn't realise that is all bollocks. Attraction doesn't necessarily come from beauty, and respect comes from within. Happiness a state of mind, totally unconnected to my physicality (in terms of looks, my health and love and relation to my body are of course a massive part of my whole). I can see the detrimental affect that all these destructive conceptions of myself as a woman, and what a woman is, have had. The barriers they have put in place between me and others, me and myself, and especially me and my concept of 'men', and also the negative affect it has had on the internal dialogue involving my sexual self. A (probably very common) conception of that lust being 'disgusting', as without it I could've continued as an asexual creature, a creature who didn't have to experience this entire world of difficulty and separation, of being bound by the concept of what a woman should do (or not do, mostly). I feel these mental blocks may have disfigured my empathy perhaps. 

Today I spent a long time questioning whether trans-gender can be called women, as (from my point of view at the time) it reinforces this disfiguring gender stereotype that has seemed to have mutilated my life and relationship with myself. Although, perhaps, rather than reinforcing it, the concept is just reminding me of my own cognitive dissonance with myself.

Last night I dreamt of different types of love, (the -I was about to say object of my affection, see how ingrained objectification of humans is into my mentality- aim of my affection being characters I would generally view as men), the first tiny, fluffy innocence. A baby creature, a little boy giving a flower to a little girl. The second, romance. Romeo and Juliet, obsession, perfection. The third, uncontrollable lust. Sexuality to be shared and spread. The forth, something a bit more sustaining, wholesome. The kind of love people need and you can choose to give.

I feel that this dream is beginning my path to heal my relationship with myself, and with the people I want to share myself with. A path that will be sustained by taking up where I left off 7 years ago, before I lost my confidence in my desire. Rather than questioning who I am as a woman, and what that means- and whether others are allowed to be defined as that also,

I want to question who I am as a person, for myself and in relation to others and the world. To accept my desire, my ability to assert what I want or don't want, to know who I am right now.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Lay-Lady

 A large, old house. Melancholy, eternally reminiscent of times past. Although perhaps there were never any times present to stimulate such entangled nostalgia. Perhaps it had always been in a state of perpetual yearning for distant dreams. A grey house, the colour of stone that dominates the Northern landscape. There was a proud front door, elevated by high steps- decorated by ivy and disconsolate branches. However, as is usual, such dramatics weren't often used and round to the right of the front there was a small picnic area (lathered in dripping grey of course) which led to a heavy oak door with a large wrought iron handle- used by everyone to access the house.

Upon opening this door and entering there was instantly discerned a faint smell of damp- and often it took a while to find the light switch in the darkness. Once found, an electric bulb burst out of it's cocoon and dazzled with it's merciless light. It felt completely out of place in this old Victorian house that was much more suited to an oil lamp or flickering candle. On the left were various coats and boots, on the right piles of forgotten magazines and assorted debris arranged on ascending shelves. Further along, a small, white room complete with ceramic toilet. Updated and brought into the modern world by a singing, rubber fish that couldn't help but tell you to always look on the bright side of life. A song that is apparently exceptionally popular at funerals.

Back out into the illuminated corridor and round to the left led into another, bigger hallway. This, in turn, led into a small, cosy kitchen that dwelt side by side with a dining room. The kitchen was always warm- a contrast to it's surrounding habitat. It had a large window that viewed the picnic area and a small lawn adjoining a vegetable garden. A gravel path provided access to cars around the lawn- halted progress by a red, brick wall about 20 metres away. The kitchen was filled with far too many cupboards to count- everlasting storage. It had an orange tile floor, cream walls and a round, wooden table. The adjacent dining room had a blue carpet and a dark wooden table. It's white ceiling was completely covered in stamps. A party trick invented by a forgotten author and continued henceforth. It was achieved by either putting the licked stamp on a coin which was then flicked to the ceiling, or put on the end of a pool cue and stuck onto the ceiling.

From the window in the dining room you could see a much larger lawn which disappeared into a multitude of elegant trees, shiny bushes festooned with plump flowers that had broken forth from the bounds of their society. Leaves carpeted the ground under the trees and easily hid small creatures who wished to pass unseen through the world.

Opposite the dining room was a small study. A 1970s TV in the corner, and many photographs neatly arranged on tables and the walls depicting grimacing family members. There was a fire place surrounded by smooth, comfy chairs and sofas. In one corner a desk with a fold down lid complimented by a carved, red chair- very much used. Again, this room led a life that was not evident in the rest of the house.

Back out and around the staircase led to a much more dominant hall. Most likely would have been used as the main entrance to the house in years long forgotten. There was a large staircase with a winding banister. The walls were papered with a cold yellow, and there were cabinets filled with ceramic animals amongst other things that stood guard over the front door previously mentioned. To the left of this hallway, when facing the door, was a long, green room. It's walls filled with cabinets that hosted endless crockery. Plate decorated in pinks and blues and gold detail- but never used. Doomed to a life of dust due to their supposed beauty. This room would have been the main dining room had the whole house been used and was still filled with a dark, oak table that could have seated 20. However, it had ended up being used as a storeroom and a playroom for children.

Across the hallway was a sitting room- much bigger than the study but much less inhabited. The furniture covered in silk and other pointlessly expensive fabrics. Far too lovely (in certain people's minds at least) to be used on a day to day basis. Except due to this it's cream walls started to look forlorn and it's carpet lonely.

Up the staircase led to more hallway, more cabinets and then along to bedrooms. A blue twin room complete with flowered eiderdowns and a tea making kit. Next door was a magenta 1960's bathroom that echoed any sound made by an inhabitant. Neighbour to this was a small singular room that was filled with a whole bookcase of fairy tales. Grimm brothers, the Knights of the Round table, fairies of all colours of the rainbow- the kind of room a child with a passion for reading and a limitless imagination could easily get lost in.

Alongside this was a very large, white room that could have fitted 5 beds in. It had the biggest window in the whole house from which you could see most of the winding and wild garden. Beside the garden there was a cow-filled field that itself bordered upon a farm.

Sonia didn't know what to make of this house, with it's dusty, cold rooms and big windows- but she did like the cows. Somehow they seemed happy in their field- eating grass and licking each other's ears. Sometimes she went and sat on the mound of grass next to the ditch and barbed wire fence that stopped the cows from investigating the garden. She would remain still for hours and talk to them, while they gathered round to listen to what she had to say. At least, she thought that was the case. They could easily have just been curious as to what this small, hair-less, 2 legged creature was doing. It's difficult to tell with cows. Sonia would tell them endless stories and entertain them with cartwheel practise- not that she was very good at either. Maybe Sonia sounds like a lonely little girl, but I'm not sure if she was. There's a certain line between alone and lonely, ever prevalent and not always crossed. Anyway, cows can often be better companions than humans.

Sonia wasn't really sure how she had ended up in this house. Her Mother had bought her here for company- although whenever she tried to perform this service she got lethargically bored. Her mother was going through file after file from a hoard crammed into a cupboard in the study, creating small mountains with sheets of paper. Sonia didn't know what it was her Mother was looking for. She did ask a few times but always got the same reply,

“Sonia, if you're going to ask so many questions why don't you go and ask the cat. You're distracting me.”

Sonia didn't think the cat really knew what was going on either, but thought it might be more interesting to talk to so she went on an expedition round the house to find it.

She softly crept up the stairs, having had the idea that if she pretended to be a cat it might be easier to find one. She paused to look at her reflection in one of the glass cabinets. A short, pale girl looked back at her. Her white blonde hair hung limply around her face (her Mother having made her cut it short as it never seemed to stay neat and brushed), slightly covered the large mole just below her eye. Sonia thought it was a magic wish spot, but the children she had played with at school had called it ugly. However, witches were often ugly in stories so Sonia concluded she might be a witch. She wasn't sure yet though. Witches were supposed to have magic powers, and Sonia didn't think she had those. Although, sometimes, if she looked out of the corner of her eye she thought she could see slight glimmers and dancing from things that shouldn't be moving. Especially in this house. Sonia shivered a little and continued on.

“Now, if I was a cat (which I am),” she reminded herself, “where would I be?”

She searched through the bedrooms she was allowed into, looking under beds, in cupboards and anywhere that she could think of. She returned back into the landing, when she heard the muffled but distinct sound of paws. A ginger head peeked round the side of a door. It was one of the doors she wasn't allowed through. There was a section of the house that had been where Sonia's grandparents had slept when they were alive- and her Mum had said Sonia wasn't to go in there.

“Kitty! Come here!”

This came out in a whisper but Sonia's foot also managed to stamp in slight impatience.

Kitty, however, didn't seem to hear what she said and instead went back hence it came.

“Kitty!” said Sonia in exasperation, but curiosity getting the better of her, she followed the cat through the door.

Although it was the middle of the day, the room was dimly lit due to the heavy, dark curtains that were drawn almost shut. What light had escaped into the room displayed a large, low, four posted bed covered with layers of thick blankets and pillows. A dressing table with an oval mirror placed upon it as well as some perfume pots and old, horse hair brushes. The light from the window reflected upon the mirror and showed thousands of particles of dust drifting dreamily through the air. The carpet was a deep red, also covered with a layer of dust- though slightly exacerbated by the movement of the cat.

“Kitty.” Again thought Sonia- having been momentarily distracted by her perusing of the room. She looked around, noticing more objects on the walls- paintings in fact. Also, in the corner, a large, intimidating wardrobe.

Having got over her initial negative pre-disposition, Sonia walked more confidently into the room- telling herself she was still looking for the cat but really just wanting to see what the paintings depicted. She stopped in front of the first one. Even though it was covered in a thin film of dust still very visible was a portrait of a mouse aboard a large 18th century ship. The sea was stormy and virulent, and seemed to be vomiting hoards of eels into the boat. Lightening echoed all over the scene, tumultuous and enthralling- Sonia was hypnotised.

“I'd rather be an eel than the mouse.” she decided.

Thinking of mice she remembered the cat, but upon looking around again and being unable to see him she moved along to the next painting.

In this one beams of a house seemed to be bleeding- the thick blood changing from deep red to incandescent silver as it highlighted the characters in the painting. There, cavorting, bird- like demons appeared to be making merry at the expense of a tortured crab lying on the ground- his shell a cup for their liquor. In the dark gloom surrounding these creatures other less discernible forms seemed to leer out, with claws that attempted to try and scratch their way out of the picture. This painting Sonia liked even less- although strangely it did jog something in the back of her mind as if it reminded her of something.

She moved right, this next round painting was a portrait of a very austere looking lady. She was wearing a dark green Victorian style dress with a pale collar. It looked itchy and unflattering. Her brown hair was parted in the middle and pulled tightly back from her face into a bun. In the background Sonia could make out what looked like a dressing table- similar to the one in the room- and a life-size mannequin. The lady's blue eyes watched Sonia as she moved away. She surveyed the room again- more paintings, the wardrobe, no cat.

“Maybe he's in the wardrobe,” said Sonia to herself, and softly walked over. She placed her hand on the handle, it felt ice cold. She opened the door- nothing. Except for a mannequin.

“Odd, it looks just like the one in the painting,” said Sonia.

Actually, it looked more like a lay-figure than a mannequin. Sonia remembered being told they were used by artists to see how fictional figures would look. Lay figures had joints and faces, whereas mannequins modelled clothing. This lay-figure had a painted face with beady eyes, a tiny nose and rosebud lips. It had little, pointy ears and a few lines painted on it's crown to represent hair. It didn't exactly scare Sonia, but when she touched it's porcelain hands a small electric spark shot up her arm, making her jump. Sonia wondered what it would say if it was alive.

“It?” thought Sonia, “would it be a he or a she?”

Sonia thought it was probably a lady.

“You can be my lady friend!” said Sonia.

However, as she looked at her lay-lady it's painted eyes started to seem a bit too real and Sonia felt as though they had eye contact.

“What could you be thinking?”, but the more and more that Sonia wondered what the lay-lady was thinking the more she decided she didn't really want to know. In fact, she began to feel frightened- an alarming cold tingle was gently winding it's way down the back of her neck. She stepped backwards and nearly fell over. The cat that had tripped her up yowled and ran out of the door. Sonia looked back at the lay lady and, although it might have been her imagination, she thought she was slowly moving toward her. Her voice caught in her throat and she managed to scramble up, turn around and run out of the door as quickly as she was able. Without looking to see whether she was actually following her she shut the door and ran down the stairs, almost knocking over her Mother.

“Sonia! What are you doing? You almost made me drop all this paper!”

Sonia wondered if she could tell her Mother what had happened, but decided that her Mother would probably just tell her off.

“Nothing, just chasing the cat. What are you doing with all those papers anyway?” she asked.

“Don't worry about that. Now go and make us some sandwiches for lunch. And look where you're going this time!”

As Sonia wandered to the kitchen she thought about what her Mother could be doing. Why they had come from their lovely house in Kilmorack just so that her Mother could look through a bunch of silly bits of paper. Sonia knew that in the adult world bits of paper were more powerful than magic spells- but she wasn't sure why. In school they'd used paper to write things down upon, and draw pictures on- but she was sure that her magic mole was more powerful than them.

“Maybe if Mother had a magic mole she wouldn't need to look at all that paper!” thought Sonia, “and we could go home!”

Although, in some part of her mind, the house was growing on Sonia. There was far more space for her dreams to play in these big, empty, unloved rooms- and the garden was a magical kingdom filled with wild characters always just out of sight. Then she shivered and thought of the lay-lady in the wardrobe. Maybe dreams shouldn't be allowed to play for too long. Why was it in the painting too? Had the lady felt an especial affinity for her?

Whilst buttering bread for the sandwiches Sonia thought that she should try and find out who the lady was.

“Like Miss Marple in a detective story!”

So after lunch, where her and her Mother slowly ate cheese and pickle sandwiches quietly- each immersed in their own thoughts, Sonia went and sat on the bottom step of the large staircase and thought about where she could discover more about the lady.

“Well, there's quite a lot of books here. I've read all the fairy tales but there's lots more. Maybe if I look in them I'll find a clue!”

The majority of the books were stored in the bigger dining room so Sonia began there. She sat at the table on one of the satin covered chairs, after pulling down a big pile of dusty volumes and placing them in front of herself.

Each one laid bare entirely new worlds to Sonia. She was transfixed as she perused them one by one. The first was an atlas of the world as recorded in the 19th century. The maps were framed with interlacing leaves and flowers, and little pictures of ships were placed sporadically around the page. She day dreamed of riding atop camels walking through the deserts of Niger, of watching crocodiles and snakes fight in the groves of Mango trees, of all the different, colourful people that existed around the world.

“So many people!” she thought, with a slight pang of loneliness. The pang didn't last long though.

Another book was filled with pictures of illuminated letters drawn exquisitely onto goat skin. Sonia had learnt about these in history. She liked how someone had spent so long making the words elegant and pretty.

Book after book filled her head with new ideas, places, fantasies. She thought that she still liked the storybooks best- but these ones were pretty good too. After sifting through about 10 thick volumes Sonia came to a slimmer book. It was covered in red leather and had no words on the outside. Upon opening it Sonia discovered that it was another kind of storybook. The stories didn't seem like any ones she had read before- but that didn't matter. After flicking through a few pages she came to one about a mannequin. When she spied the title Sonia felt a little cold, but without a doubt that it was a clue she began to read.

Once upon a time there was a little boy called Arnold. Arnold had ginger hair, brown eyes and an upturned nose. He was tall for his age and he liked to think he was big and strong. He wasn't a very nice little boy- and took pleasure in bullying the other children at his school- pulling the girls arms and the boys hair. Dropping bricks off the roof and leaving dog poo in corners. His mother loved him very much and it made her very sad that he had become so mean. However, she didn't know how to stop him. She tried to talk to him, to punish him, to bribe him- nothing would work.

One day Arnold was alone at home- bored. He had done everything he could think of doing- he had made a chocolate sandwich, switched the salt for the sugar, played video games and gone through his Mother's desk. Arnold was not a very imaginative little boy. So he decided to explore the house. He tried, and failed, to get in the attic, so next he thought he'd try the basement. It was dark when he went down the steps- he groped around for the light and found a switch. However when he switched it on it just flickered dimly- casting long, dancing shadows everywhere. There wasn't much in the basement. An old trunk his Grandmother had used for transporting things, and some heaps of moth-bitten clothes in-cased in black bin bags. Arnold thought he'd try looking in the trunk for entertainment. There was a lock, but it was weak after having been left so long in the dark and damp, and broke easily. Arnold opened it slowly, but soon realised that all there was was an old mannequin. Although it looked more realistic than the small wooden ones he had seen in shops. It had a ceramic face and hand. Eyes, rosebud lips and small ears had been painted on.

Arnold pulled one of it's hands up (almost as big as his) and shook it, saying gruffly,

Nice to meet you Sir!”

Nice to meet you too.”

He burst into a snorting laugh, this laugh faded quickly though, leaving a tense silence. Arnold could hear someone mowing their lawn two doors down. A dog barking on the other side.

Probably Frank,” thought Arnold.

Suddenly he had a feeling that the mannequin was watching him and could hear his thoughts.

Don't be silly,” said Arnold, growing steadily more scared. “You can't hear me!”

There was another silence, and Arnold was on the brink of running back upstairs when he thought he heard something. Something that sounded suspiciously like syllables. It was very quiet, so quiet that he almost couldn't hear it. He looked frantically around the room, hoping with wild eyes that it was his Mother come home or some other reasonable explanation. He heard the sound, the voice, again. This time he was certain it had come from in front of him. From the mannequin. He looked at it for a while, then slowly rotated, bent down and put his ear near it's painted mouth. This time he heard it clearly.

I can hear your thoughts. I can hear all of you. I can hear the beat of your heart, the throb of your blood, your lungs expanding, the friction between your bones as they softly grind together. I can hear your eyelids blinking, your nostrils flaring. Most of all I can hear your obnoxiously loud, booming thoughts. I make no sound at all, so I can hear everything else so vividly. You wouldn't understand. Maybe you will though.”

Arnold's heart started racing. His palms were clammy. It was freezing down in the basement, yet he could feel beads of sweat begin to form on the back of his neck. What did it mean?

Arnold tried to stand up, to work out what was going on, but he found he was stuck- unable to move. In fact, moving slowly into the mannequin's arms. An electric embrace.

Arnold tried to scream but could only gasp, drool dripping onto his chin. He tried to grab something to pull himself away only found his arms disobeying him and welcoming the grip of the ceramic fingers. The world seemed to slow down, Arnold's mind delirious. He didn't understand what was going on, but he knew that if he touched the mannequin everything would change. Closer and closer he went. Until he fell, and lost all consciousness.

When he came to Arnold could see himself slowly standing up. Stretching his arms, rolling his wrists, his head. The other Arnold caught his eye, and winked. He said in a wonky voice,

Told you I could hear you.”

He walked away, up the stairs. He switched off the light leaving Arnold in complete darkness. Arnold was confused. Scared. What did the other Arnold mean? He tried to move, to switch on the light- but found he was paralysed. The terror started to rise up in him, wave upon wave of piercing ice-cold horror as he tried again and again to move- but to no avail. After remaining in this hell for a long time, the fear slowly returned whence it came, bit by bit. He thought about what could have happened. Soon it dawned on him that he had become the mannequin, and the mannequin had become him.

Who was the mannequin? Who or what was it that was now residing in his body? Arnold was left to ponder these mysteries by himself, in the dark.

Arnold's Mother couldn't understand the change in her son. He no longer looked at her with the eyes she knew so well. Nor did he show her the random bouts of affection that he had done before. But neither did he bully and torment the other children, or mess up the house. So she decided not to question it, and left the explanation to Arnold 'growing up'. Never knowing that her real son was left trapped in the body of a doll, in the basement. Nor did she think, a few years later, when she decided to give the mannequin to a junk shop, that she might be giving away her son.

Sonia finished the story with a racing heart. It had been so vivid, so intense. She had felt the pain of Arnold trapped in the mannequin so clearly. She was no closer to finding any information on the lady- but her fear of the mannequin had certainly be re-kindled. She decided she had had enough of books and the green striped dining room. She decided to go outside, even though it was raining.

She stepped out into the rain, the water cooling the fire in her heart that the book had stoked. She was only wearing a thin dress but Sonia didn't feel that she needed anything else. There was something completely exhilarating to surrender herself to the weather. Most people in this world try to fight against it- huddling inside their coats and hoods, under umbrellas and hats. There is nothing more chilling than waiting for the cold to seep in through cracks and crevices while standing around shivering.

Sonia was learning to face the rain and wind head on. She giggled when the raindrops tickled her skin and kissed her face. She let the wind throw her about- became part of the dance that lifted her hair and her dress. She stood tall and strong and took in the entirety of the sky above her. The terror of the story was still in her- but the elements reminded her of how resilient she was. More than capable to stop fighting as she felt it's power course through her whole being.

“Sonia! Sonia!” her Mother called. The spell was broken. Sonia felt a shiver and ran inside. Her mother was standing there with a towel to wrap her up in.

“What on earth were you doing?” Her face depicted complete confusion with more than a pinch of worry.

Sonia just shrugged. How could she explain?

As they sat silently through a supper of ham, egg, peas and chips Sonia felt the fear creeping back into her. She wrapped her woolly cardigan tighter round her and wondered whether she should tell her Mother everything.

“No, she wouldn't understand and she'd just tell me off.”

Besides her Mother was still totally wrapped up in thinking about the content of the paper.

“Mum, when are we going home?”

“Huh? Oh, soon. I've just got a few more things to look through. I know this has been long. When we get back I'll buy you a new book for being so good. How does that sound?”

Sonia shrugged.

“Mum, do you know who an old lady with tight hair and a mannequin would be?”

“Old lady? Mannequin? No. Why?”

Sonia shrugged again.

That night Sonia felt the fear overwhelming her. Curdling inside from the tip of her toes to the crown of her head. She tried desperately to get to sleep. Now the sound of the wind outside and the rain against the window scared rather than strengthened- but eventually she surrendered to the realms of sleep.

Suddenly her eyes snapped open. She was wide awake. She sat up and looked around. Everything was quiet, the weather had calmed and Sonia could see the moon bathing everything in a menacing light. For no explainable reason Sonia felt the urge to get up, put on a jumper and slippers and walk out the room. At first she wasn't sure where she was going- but soon it became obvious. Her body was taking her to the room. Panic bubbled inside of Sonia, white hot and tempestuous, but there was no stopping herself. She walked up the short flight of steps and turned the handle. She stepped into the room. It too was all stroked by the light of the moon. She walked past the paintings again, looking in the mirror briefly. A pale, frightened girl looked back at her. She paused before the painting of the lady. Sonia wasn't sure but she thought she might've changed position, and the mannequin. The mannequin was closer. Almost touching the lady.

Sonia continued on, her hand reached out to open the door to the wardrobe. The door swung open with a creak that echoed throughout the entire room. Sonia stood and faced the lay-lady. She remained thus for a long while. Both watching the other. The lay-lady's lips smiled mockingly.

Slowly, the lay-lady reached out her hand. Sonia could feel her heart beating so fast it could have exploded out of her body and begun it's own adventure around the world. However, not through any will of her own- Sonia began to reach out her own hand to match the lay-lady's. Not only that but her body was walking toward the lady- as if to embrace each other. All Sonia could think about was the little boy in the story, who became trapped in the mannequin after touching it. She tried with all her might to pull away, to leave the room, but somehow she wasn't able to. She moved closer and closer, the lay- lady's face looming pale above hers. Closer and closer until Sonia's shivering body was wrapped around the lay-lady. Engulfed in her material arms.

With a sharp movement Sonia felt the weight of the lay-lady falling on top of her, knocking her to the ground. Unable to move. She screamed and screamed, twisting and scrabbling- she realised that she was in her own bed, but the lay lady was still on top of her, heavy on her chest. She kept waking up to then realise she was still lost in the unrelenting nightmare- the lay-lady's white ceramic face ever present. Sonia's eyes rolled in absolute terror, her tongue lolling, her arms twitching- until just as quickly as it all had happened, she woke up.

Sweating and panting, Sonia looked around. She was still in her own room. Nothing was on top of her, although her entire bed was drenched and the sheets in complete disarray. She was fine. She could see the moonlight gently drifting in through the window- no longer menacing.

The terror was mostly gone- although Sonia could feel it effervescing in her stomach. She wanted to go back to sleep however she was scared of returning to the dream. Besides, there was something she knew she had to do.

She sat up, for a second time that night, and again pulled on a jumper and slippers. Sonia felt the fear begin to build again as she stepped towards the door- but she had been calmed and empowered by the moonlight- so she managed to keep it under control. She opened the door. Just like in the dream the room was visible by moon light. This time Sonia drank it in, using it to fortify herself. She walked toward the wardrobe. Again, she looked at the paintings, the lady and the mannequin were back to how they had been before. She hesitated when she reached the wardrobe, took a deep breath, then confidently opened the wardrobe door.

The lay-lady looked at her with her rosebud lips still smiling. Sonia looked at the lay-lady. The lay-lady had such magnetism, the terror began to fizz again in Sonia's stomach.

Then Sonia smiled. She reached out and stroked the lay lady's cheek. The lay-lady smiled back at her. A tear dripped down Sonia's cheek.

“You're just lonely, aren't you.”

She stood there for a few minutes, holding the lay-lady's hand. She realised that she hadn't been foolish, she just hadn't understood. All at once the shadows took on another meaning. What had once been dark holes that could hide vindictive creatures became pockets of comfort and calm. Sonia felt peaceful. She listened to the wind outside, finding harmony within it.

“Sonia, what are you doing?”

A bright, electric light switched on and her Mother stood in the room. The look of confusion from earlier amplified to the extreme. Sonia thought for a second, then decided to tell her Mother everything. Her Mother hugged her and stroked her hair as she cried her way through the story.

“I'm sorry, I didn't realise. Anyway, I'm pretty much done now so we can leave tomorrow.”

Sonia cried more than she ever had before- until she had no more tears to shed but her body still shook from the sobs. Finally, she looked around the room with swollen, red eyes. Now everything just looked dusty and neglected. The lay-lady limp and inanimate.

“All the magic has gone too.” thought Sonia.

“You know, I'd completely forgotten about this room. God, look at those paintings- pretty horrible. Though might be able to make some money from them. I see how you were asking about the lady and the mannequin. I think that's your Great Aunt Rebecca. She was an artist which would be why she had the mannequin. No idea why it would be in here though- your Grandmother did like to hoard things.”

“Mum, I think we should give her to someone, or sell her. I think she's lonely.”

Sonia's Mother smiled at his, but shrugged her shoulders.

“Yes, probably a good idea. Now shall we go back to bed?”

They walked out of the room, and switched off the light. Sonia paused for a second to look at the lay-lady. They smiled at each other. Sonia's Mum then closed the door.

The next day they packed their things- ready to go, placing them neatly in the car. A thought occurred to Sonia.

“Mum, what were you looking for in all those bits of paper?”

“Oh, I wasn't. Sometimes you don't need to look for anything. You just need to sort through things, see what's what, who's who. Don't worry, we won't come back again.”

“No, I think I'd like to come back again. It's a beautiful house. I just needed to make friends.”

“Hmm. Well, if you want. There is more stuff to sort through here. You can come with next time.”

Sonia smiled. She looked up at the house. The never ending grey seemed to sparkle now, the ivy elegant rather than confining. The wind gently caressed the grass, the trees and Sonia's hair- Sonia knew she would definitely return. She turned and looked at her Mother.

“Mum, can we go to Loch Bruicheach on the way back?”