The Ash, The Embers by Doc O’Donnell

My heart must have replaced my brain for all that fills my head is a dull thump. It swells in and out, rattling inside my skull. I string threads of minute details together. They unravel, leaving me with nothing but a ribbon of memory dancing through blackness and the scent of ash.

With my face smacked against the floor, I try to scream, but nothing comes, not even a whisper. The message festers on the edge of my brain. I sling-shot it through my voice box but it falls apart in my throat, disintegrating into oblivion.

Hair is stuck to my face, wet. Tickling my nose. My hands can’t find my face to move it.

It’s clear. My body doesn’t belong to me anymore.

My eyes hang heavy. Vision is an abstract painting, a swirls of colours. A watercolour nightmare.

Red toenails sticking out of the end of a pair of matching stilettos. They stand in a puddle close to my face. A tattoo: ‘Forever’ scrolled up the side of her foot. Muffled noises swing in and out of my head between the thumping.

I concentrate on the heartbeats and count.

The numbers don’t come. They flash past my mind’s eye, too fast to catch. The message is perpetually scrambled, lost in the wasteland.

Time passes like a dry week. It could be minutes, it could be hours. It just lingers.

She walks away. Her long, slender legs are endless. She walks into the darkness, disappearing. The colour leaves with her and I’m swallowed by the darkness.

I close my eyes and wait.

She’s going for help. She has to be. Maybe this will work itself out. Maybe I’m dreaming.

I watch the lone ribbon of memory, in my mind, dancing, flicking its tail, playing in the ash and embers. The ribbon is slow-burning like a forgotten cigarette. Every whip and flick aids the fire until there is nothing. Nothing but the crippling smell of my life’s memories burnt to ash.

All I can do is watch as it fades into the ether.


Her eyes boil. Bubbling and spitting. She dances around me. Her hands move over me like oil over water. Her warmth sends a chill over my skin and I want her. I need her warmth coursing through me, telling me how to live. But it sits on my skin, teasing me, taunting me.

But, I don’t.

I don’t want her. I’m done. I’ve been through this in my head, over and over. I want my own warmth, my own touch. I think about walking away, but it’s a thought, nothing more.

She breathes in my ear, and I’m trapped. I’m hers. When she sucks air back, she takes my oxygen. My lungs shrivel. She grabs my wrist, compressing like a vise, tightening, twist by twist. I can’t think of anything but making it stop.

Make it fucking stop.

I stare into the smooth, clear liquid of her eyes, the void.

She lets me go and I want her touch on me again. Even when it’s firm, it’s lovely. She is warmth, she is energy, and I need her. I fucking need her.


I hit the floor, face down, in bliss. I’m in the dark and she’s gone. But it’s okay. She always leaves.

I stare at the particles of dust suspended in the lone strip of light she left behind. It’s enough for me to know she’s here, but never enough for me to have her company. She’ll be back. She always comes back.


In this moment, I’m not a name, I’m not a number, not even an empty shell. I’m waiting, just waiting.

Doc O’Donnell is a rock ‘n’ roll dropout that writes, what he likes to call, Dirty Noir. To pay for the bills and booze he looks after the elderly, soaking up their stories. He’s pursuing a BA, majoring in English Literature and Creative Writing, at The University of Newcastle, Australia. His work has been, or is set to be, published, both online and in print, by Crime Factory, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Thunderdome, and Outsider Writers Collective.

4 thoughts on “The Ash, The Embers by Doc O’Donnell”

  1. Thank you so much, Paul and Jodi. So kind. As you both know, it’s always amazing to hear that you’re doing something that someone out their digs.

    Thanks for making my day.

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