Thinking Fast and Sinking Slow

  “Ni shi nar de ren?”
   I know what she said but I can’t breathe. She’s sat up and turned her head to look at me. But that isn’t even half the quick transition we just made into dreamscape. The lapping lake, usually so quick to fall off itself and go to ground, has… stopped. Has thickened to a stillness. She’s left a trough where she had lain. Absently she smears off the blanket of water she’s lifted up with herself. Fat broken hands. The mist sits like a shroud glued in place, patches of fucked up air so much more obvious now. The men have turned to wax. I can’t draw air.
  “You keep trying to breath,” she says. I do see her nod but I don’t see those busted lips move past the swollen tongue. “That better,” she says, nodding away.
   I clutch at my throat, overwhelmed. Do you know that sadness that comes on you under bouts of oppression, where you’ve just fucking had enough and if you could lie down everything would be okay but there isn’t time unless you just give up? I don’t usually get that in front of other people.
  “Don’t breathe,” she says.
   So fuck her, I’m already bent over, I do just let it go, close my eyes, and stop. And I wait like that for a while, wondering when the pressure will start back up, when heat will rise and my face will begin to thunder. I can see corrugations in the water, raised in unmoving ripples.
   I look at her. She’s still too. An awkward doll twisted further than she should be. My mouth moves. I want to.
  “You can,” she says, and I take that breath, a simple and slow intake, chill in my lungs and tickling in my throat. Calm.
   I watch this doll for a while. Long enough I begin to worry when this peace will end. I could skip her question if it did.
  “I’m from… I don’t know.”
  “Okay, “ she says.
   The sky falls in and everyone starts shouting.

Freedom to Live

   We have some time. I have some questions. We keep walking.
  “So you can stop time?” I say.
   She throws up her hands. “No!” she says. “No one can.”
  “Well what the hell then?”
  “Yes, the hell.”
   I bound the gash in my forearm. I’d like to keep my mind off that fact. “Come on, hell? Hell? Seriously?” She doesn’t answer. We trudge on. The grey landscape could be hell. “Was that you?” I say. “Just now. Was that you, stopping time? Talk to me! I can see your ass moving, I can see this damn mist, and this is a whole lot of weeds and shit to be walking through, tell me some damn thing!”
  “Would you know?”she says. Turns her head.
  “Would I know what?”
  “If I did.”
   She stops suddenly. I wind up a little too close before I realise. “If you did what?” She puts her elbow to my chest and shoves me back a step. “If I stopped time,” she says. “And hush now sweetie. There’s people up ahead.”
  “`Hush’ now?” I whisper.

Woman as the Temptress

   She looks right at me and thought she’s on the other side of the room it’s like she speaks into my ear. Hold it right there, she says.
   And I’m like, Nu-uh little sister, aren’t you the fucking whore who was after me before. Look, chastise me later and just help me the fuck out of here.
   I fully realise I am running off at the mouth, but I’m surrounded by people immobile in poses of barely abridged violence. The lights are on too, by the way, and that wasn’t true a minute ago either. AND I JUST DON’T WANT ANY OF THESE PEOPLE TOUCHING ME ANYMORE OKAY?!
   Yeah, I know you, I say, because she’s looking at me stunned. You work for Tommy Cleatus and you tried it on with even me last night!
   I’m not sure of my times any more. I don’t think it was last night. But there weren’t any days in between so what other night could it be. But a sense of dislocation remains. File that away with all the other things I’ll care about when I get outside. I heave at two of the men on top of me.
   No, she shouts. And I mean really shouts. It hurts my ears. No.
   Gun’s not working by the way. I’m aware the spike has travelled a millimeter more out of the barrel. I wave the whole thing before me and curse too. Mostly wriggle. People move like struck and then stuck. It’s bizarre. I toss the banger in frustration. When it leaves my hand it stops right where it hangs in the air.
   I am surely dreaming. And I’d say it out loud but she’s yelled again and I am not to move. I know that intellectually. I recognize her words. But they have no meaning. Not out of that half-dead face with hair floating like she’s underwater. She weaves between arms like an eel and right now, because I can’t lift any of these worthless arseholes off me, I believe my bowels may release.
   Wait, wait, wait, I tell her, hands up.
   And I really wish she would.
   But then she’s right in front of me, hanging over the top of these bodies, peering at me like I am the curious beast, and I really don’t think I have those dead eyes that she has.
   She softens.
   No, no, I say, because really I can’t do anything other than beg.