The ice caps are melting. The humans knew about it for ages, but, despite all their gadgets and inventions, they’re slow to learn. That used to work in our favour.
Our people weren’t worried when old diseases, long since extinct, started reappearing again. We are small in number, and solitary creatures, so there was still plenty of blood to go around. They breed so quickly, even if a few million were wiped out by plagues, there were still billions more. And it’s not like we can catch their diseases, not even if they live in the blood we drink. It wasn’t our problem.
It has been a while since I joined in with Miranda Kate’s mid-week flash challenge, but this little piece – which I’ve called In The Liminal for now, but I’m not sure about that title-just popped up in my head out of nowhere. It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing it that I realised it was actually set in the universe of the very first novel I tried to write: Standing Room Only On The Soulbus. Maybe one day I will return to that long since abandoned novel, now that I actually know how to write one.
If you want to join in with mid-week flash, the General Guidelines can be found here, and everyone is welcome.
In The Liminal
When you die, there is a light. That part, people have got right. Everything else….Well. It’s a bit tricky to explain to a human, no offense, because your senses are really quite limited. We do our best to make it easy on you, but often we use…let’s just say visual metaphors. Not illusions as such, but stories, to help you come to terms with the incomprehensible.
We labour under the midday sun, stumbling over the cracks in the parched earth. There is never enough water.
They say this was an ocean once – water as far as you can see in any direction. I can’t picture it. All we have here are the bleached skeletons of long dead beasts that roamed this place long ago. And the plastic. Everywhere the plastic.
Dying hadn’t been as painful as Mary expected it to be.
The moments just before she died had hurt, hurt beyond anything she had ever experienced – more than getting Malaria. More than when she got shot even. She didn’t think anything would be more painful than getting shot. Her mother had always told her she was risking her life “running around in warzones” – how banal to have died in a head on collision with lorry just outside Hemel Hempstead.
Mary had never been one for religion – which came as something of a surprise to a lot of people she met – she decided at an early age that what happened after death didn’t matter a jot, it was what you did before death that counted, and she’d not given it much of a thought after that.
What she definitely hadn’t expected was the plain white walled waiting room she found herself in now. One moment she was blinded by lights, spinning out of control, feeling the sickening crunch as her ribs folded in on themselves, puncturing her lungs, the stench of petrol hanging in the air, the next she was stood in her best dress and cardigan, handbag hooked over her arm, in front of a desk where a bored red-haired receptionist sat, idly flicking through a magazine.
After a moment, Mary gave a small, polite cough.
The woman at the desk licked her finger and turned the page of her magazine.
“Welcome to the afterlife,” she said in a bored voice, not bothering to look up. “Please take a seat while your paperwork is processed.”
It’s week 25 of Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Flash challenge, and illness, work and general life chaos has meant I haven’t been able to participate as much as I’d have liked to, but this week’s image really spoke to me. Anyone is welcome to join in, the general guidelines can be found here.
This week’s prompt:
We dreamed of going to the ocean. She had this romantic ideal of walking on a moonlit beach, hand in hand, listening to the roar of the unseen sea. Our dream sustained us through the long, hard years we couldn’t be together, when our relationship was built of dreams and texts and snatched moments. We were going to go to the ocean.
They say life’s a bitch, but she’s got nothing on the twisted sense of humour Fate has. Finally together, finally able to touch instead of talk, to kiss instead of dream. We were finally going to the ocean. Packing up the car together, all excited. She looked like a painting, the light on her face too perfect to be real. I kissed her, then turned away to load the last bag into the boot. When I turned back, she was on the floor, lifeless, hair sprawled in the mud.
Three months later, life is drained of colour. She smiles through the pain and the sickness and the exhaustion, brave little stoic smiles, drained of their warmth. Every time I walk down this disinfectant scented corridor I hear the doctor telling us “I’m very sorry, it is terminal. We can make her comfortable…” and I have to swallow my anger, my pain, my disappointment, push it all down into the pit of my stomach and try to have my smile ready for her. I can’t let her down.
My next offering for Miranda‘s Mid Week Flash challenge. The General Guidelines can be found here.
This week’s prompt was taken in a former, now abandoned, TB sanatorium in Grabowsee, Oranienburg, Germany, which is a little north of Berlin. It was taken by someone over on Flicker called Michael.
In the Mirror
They say I’m mad, but I’m not. That woman in the mirror isn’t me.
Oh she looks like me, no doubt. Whenever someone is looking, she mimics me perfectly. Then when they turn away her blank expression twists into a malicious grin, she gives me a seductive little wink, and my blood runs cold.
I know she’s up to something. I don’t know what. They all think I’m mad, but I’m not. That woman in the mirror is not me.
I thought I had seen every expression your perfect face could make.
I have seen your smile, sudden as spring sunshine, light up your face. I have seen tears of joy running rivulets of silver over your delicate features, seen your face puffed up with heaving racking sobs and every variation in between. I have seen your features contort in the agony of purest ecstasy, toes curling, body shuddering. I have watched your cheeks flush with the prettiest of blushes, seen your brow crease in concentration. I have seen the perfect peace and joy in your features when you held our children for the very first time.
I thought I had seen every expression your face could make. I never thought I would see you like this.
I am scattering content from my old notebook amongst the new so if you followed my last blog you may have read this story before.
This was written for a Goodreads writing contest (in the amazon kindle group), and it didn’t come last (always a positive). The theme was “memories inspired by colour” and the word count limit was 200 words, so I had to cut it a little more than I’d have liked to. Here is the slightly expanded version.
I order a glass of rosé while I wait and regret my choice immediately. The swirling soft pink in my glass takes me back 22 years in a moment. I swallow down the lump in my throat. This is supposed to be a happy day. Continue reading “The Reunion”
You mean I never told you how I found God? What, never? You won’t believe me anyway. I mean, I wouldn’t. Oh you still want to know? Ok, here’s what happened. It was a few years back and I was on on a road trip. Sheila had left me a couple months before and I was looking for something. Not God or religion, or anything like that. I suppose you could say I was looking for myself, although I didn’t know it at the time. I just had the urge to wander. I was just passing through the town, on my way somewhere more interesting. It was that kind of town, if you understand what I mean, just somewhere to pass through, a few houses, a bar, a dilapidated church. A two horse town, if they’d had another horse. Nothing to write home about.My car had broken down a couple of miles back and I had walked into town to see if there was a mechanic, or even a car rentals place anywhere nearby. It was easily ninety degrees in the shade though, my head was pounding and my legs were tired, so I ended up heading straight to the bar instead. I was blinded by the gloom when I first walked in, couldn’t see much of the dingy exterior to start. A bored barmaid gave me a tall glass of water and I chugged down half of it without stopping. Then I ordered a bud and looked around for somewhere to sit, blinking the sunspots out off my vision. The bar was empty except for me and some old guy at the end of the bar, nodding into his whiskey, so I wandered to the other end of the bar, sat heavily and laid my head on the table. Everything from the last few months seemed to catch up with me then – Sheila leaving, losing my job, gambling away all of my money, being stuck in this ghost town that was hotter than hell.“Oh God!” I groaned into the table.