I have no soul.

There is nothing in my future, past or present that predisposes me to believe that I am anything but now. The pale fist of a defiant rosebud outside my window beats against the winter wind, as my fortieth year approaches like the blackest swarm, swallowing up the sun, blinding the sky and bringing darkness – so that I can rightly name my nightmares.

I cannot comprehend death, yet its promise terrifies me in an incomparable conundrum. Imagine endless sleep. Nothing between me and my destiny but a handful of dust and a shovel of worms. No. Better to burn me. Tamp the vestige of my now into a skyrocket and on the warmest night and under the clearest sky – let me fly.

An embarrassed puff of white slinks across an ether stage, miscued against a backdrop of bluish purple, as the light turns cold, corpse yellow. Wrong place, wrong time and forgotten, in an instant.

You won’t miss me. I’ll be a wisp on the horizon of your now before the year fizzles to damp nothing. Your eyes may melt when I come to mind and the sugared scent of me may pervade your thoughts for an instant, once in a while – but you will not be able to picture my face or hear my voice and I will seem as vague as the morning shadow of a dream.

As I look up at the ceiling of my tiny room, sherbet crackles of fatigue thrill my eyes with a private planetarium. Fragments of glittering, bursting light expand into the blackness above me and shimmer there in panoramic delirium, as I gaze further into the deepness of the oblivion that envelops me. I try to catch the void in my hand, contemplating the invisible distance that perfumes my perception, trying to make substance – something of the nothing that clogs the air … like rich, temple incense, suffocating me between each sweet, heavy inhalation.

Every one of my dreams has had the life sucked from it, its husk stuffed with sawdust and its numb, humdrum skin sewn cadaver-taut over its frame. Each ghastly autopsy, retired to a showcase on an unreachable shelf, high in my mind – and I cannot touch them; I only distort in their glassy eyes as they observe me. Taxidermy dreams in domed universes, the microcosms of my macrocosm; magnificent, poison candy, aligned to remind me that I stifled them before they could be.

The weight of my own breath presses me deeper into my soft sarcophagus. I imagine myself encased in gold and turquoise, my resting eyes sealed black and the weave of my fingers keeping my floating hands crossed safely across my chest. My body aches for a sleep that never comes, accusing me with a shrill whine that echoes from ear to ear like bad stereo, slicing through my dull head until its toxic flower folds a million nematocysts around my skin.

I jerk down from the fortieth floor, spread startled like a starfish, my spine inverted and my stomach lurching to meet it. My tongue thumps like an angry drummer against the vault of my mouth as my head snaps backwards and I reach for an invisible support.

© Mel Lampro / Previously published: Route 57, University of Sheffield Online Arts Magazine [2006].