I met her through a slip of paper, buried in my mass of bills and catalogues. I pried the stack out of my minuscule letterbox in the lobby and trudged up to my apartment, each step laborious. I could imagine parties in this place, back in the day. Opulent rooms full of beautiful people making empty promises, all while a record churns out soft jazz. But now it wasn’t even old in the charming way. The rent’s dirt cheap. If I returned from work one day to find a heap of rubble, I doubt I’d even care.

As I climbed the winding grand stairs, I tried to find my rusty house key. I kept fishing out my new key from work instead. It reminds me of the rectangular ones at hotels. This mass-produced plastic with the company’s logo stamped on the front. It feels more like a collar than a key, relegating me to that sterile office.

I kept seeing my boss’ face in the back of my mind. One of those charmless men that somehow has it all. An ill-fitting suit, a semi-impressive job, a soulless wife and the knowledge that no one will ever have the balls to question him. This afternoon, Madeline’s elbows leaned on his desk during lunch break, his hand over her mouth to muffle the screams. Sweat blotted by button-up shirts and suit pants. The new walls are glass. I saw her staring into the bathroom mirror at the end of the day, red-faced and silent. I said nothing. I knew that words wouldn’t mean anything to her. They can’t change the past. Protect yourself from hungry eyes, it’s that simple. It’s all a stupid game. 

I dropped all the mail on the floor; I’d lost the energy to care. The force made the bleached envelopes explode outwards, leaving a tea-stained scrap at the impact’s center. I snatched it up. It felt brittle, delicate. Not a uniform colour, but many layers of tea stains. So many herbs had all been dried together into a singular earthy smell. 

On the back were a jumble of numbers, a time and a name in immaculate cursive. Tonight, Sunset. 37.8136° S, 144.9631° E. Kora Leland. 

With one foot still in the corridor, I looked outside and grabbed my coat. 

Latitude and longitude
not a ship 
but smooth carpark concrete 

A peach-tinted sunset 
revives a greyscale colossus 
A chill in the air 
False summer. 

Too bright, too open
A call from voiceless veins
Dig deeper, dig deeper. 

Far from their world of
Sunken eyes and
Store-bought miracles. 

I wander down
A cautious ghost
Bathed in fluorescents of the stairwell
My last life did not follow me. 

A dozen women cloaked 
In corporation’s bowels 
No lights from the ceiling
To mock the sun. 

Destruction contained at a circular core
Creating distorted shadows
Interlocked, flickering, grinning. 
Facing me. 
She, the night 
Dark, dangerous, shimmering. 

Kora Leland
An incantation
Bathed in velvet-smooth darkness 
Orange flickers.

Upon ochre arms
A silver snake 
Imitation scales 
Etched in white ink

My eyes follow
Slithering from finger-tip
Down curved elbow
To a metallic noose.  

‘Eve, villainess from the beginning 
Punished for desire 
Colluding with the snake
To find truth’ 

Her voice, fragment of a misplaced memory.
My infantile squeak.

A beat of silence. 

‘We never wrote rules 
We destroy them 
With our flesh we are not permitted to control
Brew rebellion from beneath them’ 

Singular note 
Rounding to a chant
I join the masked
The note unknown 
Encased in a memory
Of fury. 

Now, her hand outstretched
Brown paper flecks 
I offered mine
Her other hand 
Plants united by twine 
Together thrown into the flame. 

Her body
Smooth endlessness
Towering in flickering light 
Only a pendant catching gold and green 

Winding curves 
A mighty serpent 
Curling around perfection. 

In her eyes, eternity lies dormant
Speckles of planets in tresses 
Her lips, infinity
Cinnamon spice 
Small burning brands 
In contact 

Mind flying 
Chaos and whirlwind
Body no longer divorced from self 
All concentrated to one
Nerves, once lonesome starts 
Connect to constellation. 

To be consumed by her 
Until sweetened nothingness 
Plastic buttons and zips 
Redundant remnants 
Smoothed away
Lie on dusky concrete. 

New yet ancient bloomed 
From a place deeper than names
Nerves singing 
Honey flows with blood 
Beauty unseen 
Wonderous flowing creatures 
And I among them 

As I arrive at the rapture
Their temples will burn
Darkness, all darkness. 

The fluorescent lights crackled and hummed above me. I couldn’t even remember how I arrived. Memory had slipped away from my grasp. The phone pierced through the haze, fumbling to get to the receiver in time. They gave us a script to say on the first day, but it’s lost under the mental sludge. ‘Hello! I’m calling from reception downstairs.’ The voice on the other end was too chipper for the morning. But nothing could change the cadence at its core. Kora. 

‘Charlotte.’ Her voice was smoother now, an antidote to the world. ‘I’m so glad that we found you. There will be two invitations in your letterbox. Use them wisely.’ Then she hung up suddenly, leaving me in a sea of crackling white noise. My limp hand cradled the receiver. Nothingness filled my head again. 

My eyes gleaned over to the photocopier, the water cooler. The swathes of grey. Until I settled on Madeline’s empty desk. My second invitation. 

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