June is the worst month. None of the fresh optimism of spring, the frenetic blustery energy of July or the languidly horizontal effortlessness of heavy, lazy August. June doesn’t smell… unlike moist Autumn with her crispy leaves decaying under our feet, the clingy humid soil covering our skin like an overly affectionate friend. June is no Winter, totemic in its association with death; the stillness of an unbroken snowy field and the still finality of a cold coffin lying in state inside a freezing church…
…and yet, even as I think these things I realise that I can hear my heartbeat. I can hear words as well. My voice, slowly fading in, saying these things out loud, as she stares at me with her head cocked onto one shoulder. I look up and meet her patient eyes and we have a moment of utter, ringing silence. She asks me are you quite finished now?
I apologise with a shrug and a half smile, and go back to staring up at the fingernail of a crescent moon. It’s our only light, burning weakly through the clouds and down onto our pale statues; coldly luminous rather than glowingly warm. We sit on the shoulder of a hill overlooking the town, seething and pulsing amber far below us. Nothing else moves, except a rush of cool air occasionally pinning us to the ground. After the third time she smiled and said nature wants to keep us here. We should probably do as we are told. We were both shivering and blue at the time.
Pulling a knife out of her rucksack she hacks lines into the ground between us, sawing away like a maniacal bride through the wedding cake. The blade glints silver between the mud and the grass, flashing across my eyes. She stands, bent over to her toes and grabs the square of turf hacked out and pulls. It releases like a stuck bathplug and suddenly the cool and still green carpet between us has a dark brown square, squirming with earthworms.
She kneels next to me, wipes the knife on the thigh of her jeans and, without flinching, cuts her palm from index to thumb. Then she hands the blade, handle first, over to me expectantly. I ask her why and she faintly smiles, biting the inside of her mouth. Trust me.
So I do. The cut starts cold, then feels almost itchy but soon my nerves alert me as to what I am doing. I cannot close my hand and the warm blood trickles down past my wrist and accelerates towards my elbow. Taking my wrist gently she plunges my hand, with hers, into the uncovered ground between us. With her free hand she grabs the square of turf and places it on top. We both kneel, facing each other, caught in this strange handshake with the soil, as we bleed out into the hill, the worms gently stroking our fingers.
I am struggling. I feel sick and cold. I’m aware that I am swaying without realising. I look at her and she is staring over my shoulder, jaw clenched, grey cheeks flanking her pale lips.
I tell her that this is insane. I tell her I feel faint and I am going to throw up. The pain in my hand is getting worse, travelling up my arm into my shoulders. I ask her for another Dove from the bottle in her rucksack but she shakes her head and stutters. You are obsessed with getting so high…
Give me a pill. Give me a pill. Give it to me. I’m thinking this but, again, she is staring at me and my lips are moving. Underneath the turf I feel one of her fingers gently brushing against mine. We are beyond everything now. All of this… she gestured towards the town and up to the sky… just wants to hurt us. Wants us to be what it wants us to be. But down here… she patted the turf over our hands… here we can be at peace. And so can you. Under the sky we flail… under the lights we burn. But under the duvet we sleep. Under the ground we melt. So stay here. Stay under this.
I nod. Under the grass I grab her hand tight, and I keep holding it until her face dissolves into fog and I fade away.
Photograph: Jimmi Campkin
Jimmi Campkin is a writer, photographer and creator of SANCTUARY; available to buy via his website. He describes himself as a 16bit child and INFP with clinical nostalgia with red wine for blood.