Archive for June, 2011

The night I met you I took you for a drive in my battered old car. We drove to the harbour and parked up, sat there for half an hour with the radio on, turned down low, watching the snow coming down, slowly, curling in the breeze before softly falling to the ground. It was cold even with the heat right up, with both of us breathing heavily, conscious of every inhalation, the way it is when you’re nervous. The words I was saying were coming out all wonky and strange. My question marks sounded like fade-outs; it was not the effect I was going for. I wasn’t playing with language, I was just getting it wrong.

I had forgotten everything.

We talked about a few things, like where we had been to university and what brought us to Copenhagen, further north than the places either of us were born in. You’d been here for five years, and knew everyone and everything, and I wondered if I’d stay that long. You asked me what I liked most about living here. I like the wide roads, I said, and the cold, and the dogs riding around in bicycle carts. You said you like the feeling of riding your bike in the freezing winter, you said it makes you feel alive, being so cold. And when you get home afterwards your hands tingle and it kind of hurts, but warmth never feels better than after coldness, and then you sleep really well. And you are home

Safe in the car, snow outside, there was an element of danger, but only tiny, and not that dangerous, more exciting than dangerous, standing guard on the windshield, inconspicuous as a snowflake.

On the drive back I felt as though I was made of ice, ice carved into the shape of a person, and now I was slowly melting, not disappearing, but becoming part of something else; becoming part of the sea.

Words: 328

You can read more of Sarah’s work at Autumn-Almost.

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I asked. I was really curious otherwise I wouldn’t’ve. Any question or turn of phrase can set someone off, make them think on their loss, make them sad and then furious. But he seemed safe enough. He’d given me water and half a packet of Rich Tea and it hadn’t cost me much. Bile Beans, he told me, were a popular brand of laxative. Is that how they lived, those coiffed and streamlined broads people used to emulate at burlesque nights? Eat stodge by day, take Bile Beans by night, crap yourself feminine first thing in the morning, repeat?

I’d first seen it walking up the road from Malton, though it hadn’t been the first thing to grab my attention. There was an upturned truck on the road like a carcass. Picked clean, I looked. They’d taken everything except the driver. Other things had gone for him. A while ago. I turned away from that and there it was, a yellowy promise from last century.

I had also walked past one from what was our time, an hour or two beforehand. Just a charred paper palimpsest, the edges and strips of all the posters that the billboard had held, peeking out one on top of the other. A depilated limb, a puppy’s eyes, the sleek screen of something new, old now. Impossibly old, more dim and distant than Bile Beans could ever be. I used to have one of the new thing. I kept it for ages, long after understanding the thing became useless, and remembering it became pointless.

Someone’ll tear the last scraps of those posters down for fuel. They’ll be gone, really and forever. And Bile Beans will still be there, at the rim of a silent city, pitching vitality to the dead.

Words: 297

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Hope is a bright white light. Desire is a deep purple glow. Green is the colour of envy and red the dreams of passion. We all have dreams and she sees them all.

Every night, she sits on her balcony overlooking the city and watches the fireworks catapult across the night’s sky. There are so many.

Each night, thousands of them shriek into the blackness, exploding over the rooftops and showering buildings with countless coloured specks. For twenty years, she has been blessed with this gift; the ability to see hopes and dreams as they are imagined.

During the evening, she notes down the different colours blazing into the sky. On Valentine’s Day, glowing red flames fire up into the clouds, blanketing the heavens with red artillery blasts. Each Sunday, as people iron their morning shirts, a thick layer of yellow smog lingers over the rooftops.

But her gift comes with a price. Trust is hard to earn when sickly green deceit lingers over your head, while a sputtering Catherine Wheel of purple is never acceptable behaviour for a man on a second date.

A multi-coloured chart is clumsily pinned to her living room; tiles of sellotaped A4 paper which snake across every wall of her home. For six years, she has methodically matched each colour to its corresponding emotion and she has not seen a shade she did not recognise for quite some time.

Sitting on her balcony, she frequently thinks of those who light up the sky. Maroon and pink flares make her smile, while she often says a prayer for those who launch grey or brown lights into the night. Dark blue explosions, the worst kind of colour, make her hurry back into the flat and check the locks on the front door.

But recently she has noticed a change. The sky is not as bright as it once was; Caribbean yellows and royal blues are rare these days, having been replaced by taupe and charcoal flames.

The nights, she thinks, are growing darker.

Words: 330

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Black water hungrily licks the silent stones by my feet, as I gaze across the empty lake and remember the night when the clock started ticking.

That night of the gargantuan moon, when crystal shards of reflected light turned her blonde hair into the luminous silver of a wild unicorn, tangled, damp strands of which clutched at her palely glowing face as if terrified of letting go. The icy water made us gasp and catch our breath; in that small suspension of life’s movement, the goosebumps of our skin met, pressed flat, and forced the air from our lungs once more, a soft, warm cloud of our mingled existence drifting over the shuddering water.

That was the night the moon gave you to her, her heart’s desire, her water baby. We laughed when we discovered you were a girl and joked about naming you Selene, the Goddess of the Moon, who would transform the cot we built you into a magical, gilded chariot and fly across star-studded skies every night, pulling the dreams of the world behind you.

Perhaps, even then, we sensed your power. Or perhaps you were listening to our words, mutely learning the script of your tiny destiny, which tiptoed closer with each ticking beat of your mother’s heart.

By the lake I listen again to the sound of no clock ticking. The moon hides in shame, shrouded in the clouds of other peoples’ existence; she cannot meet my eyes.

She must have known all along that her gift was never intended for me. She must have known that a Goddess of her transcendental realm could not survive in the lusty warmth of even a single day on Earth.

I lift burning eyes to the star-studded sky and search for your chariot pulling the dreams of the world behind you, amongst which my own dream cries in anguish as the speed of your departure – and that of your mother – shatters it, like a time bomb, into oblivion.

Words: 330

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Here’s an ebook of all 12 shortlisted stories from the Flash Mob Writing Competition held during Chorlton Arts Festival. They’re all jolly good and well worth a read.

Myebook - CT Flashmob Shortlist - click here to open my ebook

Words: 27

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It wasn’t the first time Ellie had switched off the wind. Some boys were laughing at a friend whose skirt was blowing up. She hadn’t had enough hands to hold it down. Without thinking, Ellie turned a chilly, this-way-and-that wind into a faint breeze. Just like that.

Now they leave the village and walk up onto the moors. They’d seen the turbines from the bus, standing at the highest point, watching the landscape fall away to the far-off sea. Ellie breathes in fresh cool air, enjoying the freedom after months cooped up helping Mum with Frank. She looks up at chaotic clouds charging across the wide blue sky.

Mum clutches the urn in its carrier bag. Ellie offers to carry it, Mum refuses and she’s glad. All these years she’d put up with Frank for Mum. Put up with more than she was aware of. Ellie couldn’t ever tell. It was over. Had been for years. Since she put the lock on her bedroom door at sixteen and stared him out over breakfast.

They climb higher. Ellie can hear the turbines, like water sloshing endlessly and rhythmically. She can’t take her eyes off them. They’re beautiful. Mum stops by a gate.

Ellie, remembering what she did last time, switches the wind off. Within seconds, there’s warmth and silence all around.

Mum starts to cry. Ellie can’t decide whether they should be mourning this man or celebrating their freedom. She feels confused and can’t concentrate. Mum opens the urn and tips it forward. The wind decides to switch itself back on. Grey powder pours out into it. They both have faces full of Frank.

Mum starts laughing. Not proper laughter, just gone-beyond-crying-and-sort-of-hysterical laughter. Ellie grins, spits out what she can of Frank and wipes some from her eyes. It’s raining. Mum is still laughing and crying. Rain, tears and ashes mingle until the bus arrives. Water snakes down the glass as Ellie gets her last glimpse of the watching turbines.

Words: 328

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Another rainy day in another rainy city. It was Manchester, but it could have been anywhere. Walking down Thomas Street into the heart of the bohemian Northern Quarter, all of a sudden I was eaten by the pavement.

You know, sometimes, when walking on a rain-soaked pavement, it looks innocent until you step on it. Then it adopts a fleeting devilish grin as the corner suddenly drops several inches because the sand underneath has washed away. Result: soaking wet legs and slight embarrassment.

Anyway, this was one of those times, except rather than splashing me with mud, the pavement totally collapsed, breaking away like a snapped cheese cracker.

Unable to stop, I fell down the hole, tumbling over and over, as the hole got bigger and bigger…or was I getting smaller and smaller? Hard to tell being in the middle of it all. Didn’t really matter. All much too alarming for trivial observations like that. No passing bookshelves, teapots or rabbits down this hole. Punks, drunks and hobo’s would be more its style.

Down, deeper, faster – until a small amount of light could be seen far off. With the momentum of the fall the light rapidly grew. A matrix of lines revealed. I couldn’t slow down, there was nothing to hold on to, no effective brace. I was going to hit…

Wham!

I crashed through the interlacing light, landing on another pavement, stumbling half into the road, fell to my knees and then collapsed on the ground, dazed.

After a moment, I looked around and saw the light fade around the bricks of a railway arch. I must have come from the inside, out. How truly perplexing. I’d landed on Chapel Street, within sight of Salford Central train station. I’d just travelled half-way across the city, technically into another city entirely. When I looked at the arch, there was no longer a hole, no light, no detritus to evidence my abrupt emergence.

What on earth just happened?

Words: 326

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