Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: colours

Before the Light Turns Red

Reposting this old drabble from 2012 because I deleted the old blog it was on in a fit of entropy. Might post more of these if there’s anything salvage-worthy. Anyway. This piece is based on a gorgeous song by Unwoman, called The Heroine:

I urge you to go listen to that. And when you’ve read my piece, to read this excellent post by @earlgreyhot, also inspired by that song:


Cross the street before the light turns red, arrive out of breath at your theatre. You’re playing someone who’s losing her love tonight again. Five hundred sirens blare to dampen the sound of the bombs. The play is in the basement, no-one’s here to take my ticket. Everything goes crimson and I hide in the dark behind a pillar. Fifty thousand pairs of hands grab me when I catch a bombflash in a shard of glass. I get thrown out. Remember me as more than the shadow I will glue to the wall. I hope you believed I would show.

Welcome to the Airport Tattoo Parlour

Hello readers,

I just want to let you know that I also have a newsletter called Airport Tattoo Parlour over here at this link: I write there about as often as I write on this blog, that is once a month. Except the newsletter is better than the blog. Below is one of the letters which sets the tone for what I try to atmospherize with them:


Once, my sister got a chemical burn on her hand. Turned it all bumpy and crimson. It stayed like that for a week until it went away one night, but it flares up every time she’s stressed. She stressed a lot more after the burn, of course. One day she went back to work and stole a bucket of that chemical. She found an airport tattoo parlour and asked one of the artists there to paint something pretty with it. Now her hand goes useless and filigrees blossom up her arm but it happens less often and it’s not ugly.

The Night that Led to Lilac Mist Next Morning

The sun had just set behind a hill but Hafiz knew that if he got on a quick camel, or if he could steal his neighbour’s moped, he could drive out into the desert and watch it set once more. This time of year it would roll gently along the edge of the hill as if it was made for this before plummeting into the depths below and casting the world in darkness. For now, the sky was a watercolour palette in the process of being washed out, blue streaks mixed with pink and red, green over white, everything eddying together. He shook his head and walked toward the sunset. Marya would be home by now, and she had said tonight was the night.


(When you sleep, your dreams escape through your mouth. Sometimes they get caught in your throat, trapped between dimensions, and they get into your blood and escape through your eyes instead. If you open the eyes of a dreaming person they cast colourful images on the nearest wall and it’s the most dangerous thing you can do, because raw dreams are not meant to be recycled like that. Somewhere faraway there is a legend of a man who gets a piece of cheese stuck in his throat, which makes his dreams go awry. The faraway people have got it wrong; likely the piece of cheese would pose no harm at all, because you can’t get cheese in your bloodstream. It’s offensively wrong.)


When Hafiz reached her hosue, he calmed himself down a little. Climbed the vines up to her balcony on the third floor and watched the colour fade from the windows opposite, and then waited. She would notice him soon enough. He could hear her cat meowing from her bed. And when she did, she would put her hands around his throat. He relaxed his muscles one by one, like they did in certain kinds of yoga. Deliberately falling asleep.

Test Tube

Born from a test tube all splayed out like an autopsied rabbit, I have to invent my own reasons for curling into a ball when I’m crying. It is what people do, I have seen them, and I want to be like you. Sometimes my skin hardens and and I think I will stay like this forever, until it all leathers and cracks open, and I eclose with my new skin glowing red. Sometimes, I stay there for hours, rocking like a dropped porcelain doll, trying to associate this all with warmth and the opposite of dread, whatever that is.

Gender Sells

He comes into the room all dressed in almost-blue monochrome and smiles at me while he strips out of the cumbersome suit and tie and and throws it all aside and becomes many-coloured again, true, and the smile turns into a worried frown: “Where is your dress?” Picks up a few red clothes, scrutinizes them.

I look down on my body of oily swirly colour. “Can’t I just go like this?”

Having squeezed into the red dress and stretched white latex gloves over her hands, she touches my chin: “Not when you’re part of the machine,” she says: “Gender sells.”

Gasoline, Lacquer, Matches

The smell of the old lacquer on the door was coming back, as the newer, whiter, paint was peeling off. The smell of gasoline and lacquer was every time he had come home through that door and hung his coat on the rack. All the different trenchcoats that he’d worn through the years, and changed maybe once per decade, flickered before her eyes. The new, red, colour of the house was every time he had fucked, raped, or made love to her. It was mostly good memories, she admitted to herself, but in some cases any memory is too much.


Your death seeps through from that other world. That place where the colours are different and your doppelgänger is dead. Don’t worry, I say, people in alternate realities must die like flies, surely, but your body temperature still falls. Your eyes are less green today.

I try to save me, you ask me why. From the circumstances given, it is not entirely clear which question you are asking, but I answer: “I love you.” I excuse myself to go to the restroom. I lock myself in a stall. Some of my original colours seep through when I cry this much.

All the Stop Signs

All the stop signs in this town are redder, written in a different font, suggesting that the company producing them never had seen normal stop signs before. Sometimes they are placed in an entirely illogical fashion, as if the map was held the wrong way when they were placed there. There are small campaigns from small people who write letters to their town’s representative, hoping that some bored intern reads it and plucks up and talks to the politician about it. Some times kids go missing from the back of cars. The politicians have bigger things to worry about. Obviously.


It is night. The cover of clouds is thick enough that perhaps the sun has given up trying to get through. The air is cool, the seabreeze has lost most of its brine. Manhole covers ooze with steam. Cars are driving, slowly, just following the path of least resistance, and most green lights. Underneath, clockwork ticks and clicks and hums.

Something gets bored. In turn, something else clicks.

It is night, and the buildings are made of cold, dead rocks and brittle clay. There are faces in the windows, but not behind them.

All the lights turn green and shine.

Fairies’ Feet

You have fairies’ feet but you hide them in hideous white sneakers. The concrete seeps into our souls, dulling the red, and every now and then you try to cheer me up with a barefoot little jig. The circles grow green and pink and you get a smile from me, before we hurry away. There is nothing more depressing than watching the grey concrete eat a living thing.

I have to take you to the heart of the city. You must get rid of your shoes, and dance inside the concrete ribcage, where the grey is still soft, wet, vulnerable.