Advice on content: Please note this piece makes reference to sexual violence and coercive relationships.

Our bodies now belonged to one-another. Shared fluids (the saliva scored with clear spirit, the infiltrating semen) were a presence in themselves.

I first came here in search of a writer. Spire. I longed to be his pupil. He said he had done the same as a young man, come out to the coast as a disciple of great author.

“I live in that memory,” he had told me the day we met. I was twenty-three.

He came to me after my first night in Dungeness, waiting for a new neighbour on the desolate beach. The cabin I had rented was formed of Victorian railway carriages, with windows that faced out to the channel, obstructed only by a grey cabin with carved, intertwined stones decorating the lawn. I arrived late afternoon, laying on the shingle with a crate of beer, looking over the salt. France whispered from the clouds, the smear of the nuclear power plant knifing the skyline. Locals with deep eyes heaved past. A father and son played in the water as the sun set over Prospect Cottage. There was one small dinghy, a severe figure obscured by distance. The shadows of clothing gave the man wings. As darkness came, an emerald moth flickered in the light from the cabin.

black and white photo of leaves

That morning I awoke to knocking. Naked, I didn’t remember coming to bed. My phone was gone, yet when I closed my eyes, a recollection of my dream: stood, quivering in a boat in the middle of the Channel, the night, a hand, my right, hurling my belongings out into the black.

“Those are your clothes, out there?” the voice came, the crisp accent boomed. I threw on a towel, catching myself in the mirror, hair darker with sweat, features paler with dehydration. I opened the door. Green-grey eyes and black, ragged locks, moustached, the build of an old boxer. He looked like an ageing actor, Oliver Reed, I thought, playing the part of a dignified self. I looked out to the shore and saw my clothes (white shirt, black shorts, trainers I had stolen) lay down, as if worn by a flat, invisible body, half engulfed with tide. I realised it was late afternoon, that I had slept all day.

“I saw you undress,” Spire said. He pointed to the cabin with the artful stones a few yards away.

“I sleep walk,” I contextualised. He went through the motions, rehearsed pleasantries, all with the edge of a glare on him, probing my answers. I told him I was trying to be a writer.

“What do you write about?”, he asked.

“At the moment, a story about an artist and student. The artist manipulates him..” my voice trailed off.

“The artist believes he is raping the student, not realising that the young man enjoys it; that it’s a performance”, he said.

“How did -?”, I faltered. He looked at me, as if reading a dreadful letter he had expected.

My phone was gone, yet when I closed my eyes, a recollection of my dream: stood, quivering in a boat in the middle of the Channel, the night, a hand, my right, hurling my belongings out into the black.

“I lived it”, he stared, smirking, “I suspected this. I thought maybe I had more time.” He stood up, suddenly a colonel.

“You mean for me to educate you?” he frowned. I nodded.

“You want the glory, as I had”, he sighed. “Twenty-five years ago, I came down to this very place, to follow in the footsteps of a great man. I sought him, only to discover an old drunk. He took me under his wing, becoming his student. He coerced me into sharing his bed, at least I let him believe. I live in that memory. There is no difference between today and twenty-five years ago”.

He looked over at me, into the recesses of youth. I was never more aware of myself as an object, his transposing himself onto me, a soul crossing the room and entering him, all perfume in each other’s nostrils. Sea air began pressing against the cabin, wood creaking, expanding the briny, splintered fabric, making it stretch.

“Come to my cabin” he said.

The layout was the same as mine, space foraged from train carriages, maybe even the exact same locomotive. His walls were lined with rough nudes in sharp graphite. Gladiators breaching Pandemonium, horned, tridents held over volcanic depths. I peered closer at the drawing of a regal character, drawn in his likeness, with young congregants at his feet. Ecdysis had been inscribed in the corner. A green moth fluttered over the iron of a bedside lamp.

black and white, blurry photo of Maxine Peake looking up at the sky

“I call him Jarman,” he mumbled, looking to the moth. He placed a bottle of clear, label-less spirit down and two tumblers. He popped the cork and poured, raising his glass with a glare, draining it. His face burned, acrid with the fluid. Spire walked over to the desk, withdrawing something. He placed a phone in front of me. I lifted it, it was broke, heavy with water. His glass trembled in his hand.

“To him,” his eyes flashed at the portrait of the worshipped man. I could sense the liquid burn before it touched my lips. He could hardly look at me. He poured us more. I mustered the courage to rub my bare foot against his inner thigh.

“I’ve been waiting for this for an age,” he said. He shifted his weight, his head toward the ceiling light, eyes closed yet tears were still breaking through. Spire spoke to the room.

“Not even the beautiful disciples who come in search of you, the ones who tell you about the significance of your work, will give you anything. Praise will begin to sound devilish and insincere. Is this what you want?”.

I had no other future ahead of me.

The cabin flickered with wings over light. I moved over to him as he wept, his lips parting.

His warmth had left me, but I could still taste him. I rose, looking out across the shingle: a young man was lying on the beach, staring out to sea, to the figure on the boat baring its wings.

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