Tuesday, October 31, 2017

FICTION: In My Sedimental Heart

All holidays, all gruelling six weeks of enforced family time, I waited, heart open. 
I’d seen next year’s classroom list, and you were on it. 
This was it.  I’d waited three years, but Year Ten was the prize.  You were going to be in my class.  Finally.  I was going to be able to sit next you, maybe.  Feel your aura.
I’d been quietly in love with you since I first saw you in Year Seven, in your green chequered school uniform (mine, an invisible grey), laughing with other girls about who knows what.  A sparkle in your eyes.  There was a snorting sound you made, that the other girls were afraid to make.  You seemed so unafraid.
And each day, those three long years, you accumulated inside me.  Every time I saw you in the playground, each time I saw the back of your head at assembly, every time one of your pieces of art was up in the glass-fronted display cabinets in the North Wing corridor, my sedimental love for you grew stronger, grain by tiny grain.  Soon enough, I was almost crushed under the weight of all this love.
Unseen, unspeakable.  A silent and heavy love.
I was of course nothing.  I was a hairless, high-voiced nobody.  But I knew, I knew, that, once you got to know the funny, interesting, thoughtful, love-brimming person inside, you’d grow to love me too.  And now, we were getting that chance.
(Breeze’s friend Katrina approached me one day in the corridor, made some giggly announcement that Breeze liked me, did I want to hang out at lunchtime?  I laughed, shook my head: I was already taken.)
Three years of accumulating desire.  Not hormonal lust, I knew it in my heart.  In my fantasies, I had sex with every girl in the school, except you.  You were reserved for something more important.  This was the kind of connection I’d read about – the stuff of destiny.  I had a throne ready for you, in my spirit.
And of course, the first day of Year Ten came, and, of course, you were nowhere to be seen.
Over the holidays, you’d transferred to a different school.
Leaving just a space, your size and shape, in the heavy silent stone of my heart.
Years later.  Hair on my balls, a man’s larynx.  Booze and nihilism.  Sharehouses and unpaid utility bills.  Pizza boxes and bongs and sticky carpet.
I’d slept with a bunch of second bests.  Your throne was covered in a layer of dust, and I barely even felt the silent obelisk in my heart: what the high school kid had found so heavy, this man found easy to lift.  
And then, lining up to take a shot at the rickety old pool table at our local, suddenly I hear your voice, out of nowhere.
“Hey,” you say, sipping a mojito, “haven’t we met?”
And all the dust is blown away, and the weight almost brings me to my knees.
“Hey,” I gulp.

Monday, October 30, 2017

FICTION: How Long Are You Supposed To Wait?

She wasn’t lost.  But she might as well be.
She pulled her top around her shoulders: night was setting in, and with the darkness came the cold.  And she was going to spend the night here, and who knows how much longer.  Because her right leg was completely trapped from the knee down beneath a pile of collapsed stone.
The rocks were impossible to move.  She didn’t think it was just the angle she was at that made moving them impossible: they were just really, really heavy.
(Hiking alone.  One apple, half a bottle of water.  What was she thinking?)
Her phone had been smashed in the fall.  As the sun set, and she was immersed in the blackest blackness she had ever seen, she repeated to herself a new mantra:
“There’s no predators in Australia.”
But the mosquitos bit her all over.
After the second night, despair really set in.
It was bad enough to have this constant pain.  It was bad enough to be so very hungry.  It was bad enough to be stuck in some part of the “Aussie bush” no-one ever visits.  But what topped it all off was trying to go number twos hygienically while trapped beneath a boulder.  The banal logistics like that pushed it from completely awful into a whole other realm of living hell.  No-one ever talks about that, she thought, no-one mentions the difficulties in defecating while crushed beneath fallen rocks.  She would mention it, she thought, when she wrote her memoirs.
After the third night, though, when the hunger and stink and pain were all one, and after she had cried out for help until her throat could no longer take it, and after she had sobbed and dried up and sobbed again, she knew there was only one way she was getting out of here.  There was only one way she was going to live to write those fucking memoirs.  There was only one way she was getting back home to London.  And it was a way she could barely face.
In her hand was a pocket knife.
The kneecap, it turned out, was a hard place to dig into.  So much bone and gristle.  The stick she was biting down on snapped under the pressure, and she was sure she had splinters in her tongue.  But she pushed on.
Her blood, so bright in the Australian mid-morning sun.  Her meat attracting the flies.  The bone, there, so hard to separate from the sinew.  The veins, so daunting to sever.  But she pushed on.
And finally, finally, it was done.  She tourniqueted her stump with strips cut from her top.  She was slick with blood and sweat, but it was done.
Teeth clenched, she pulled herself up.  Her hand, bloody, slipped on the rock, but she managed to stand.
She would survive.
Suddenly: voices.
Around the corner strode five strong Norwegian backpackers.
They moved the rocks, recovered her leg.
“Looks fine,” they said.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

FICTION: The Importance of Lines

Bodies, and parts of bodies, litter the ground as far as the eye can see.  Some have been burnt, but most haven’t.  Blood and mud and ash mix, marbling in currents and puddles created by the incessant rain.  The smell is intoxicating – ripeness that has burst, sweet sickly clotting.  The sound of flies, and rain.
She can barely smell it anymore.  She limps, heavily, one knee shattered and self-splinted with twigs and rope.  She still carries her gun, even though she knows it is empty: her hand needs that heavy shape in its grasp, just to feel normal.
Her name was Bec, once.  But there’s no-one to say it any more.
She’s the last one.
A fire is still burning, even in the rain, and she finds her feet slowly, painfully, making her way there.
“Halt!” says a voice, sudden, stern but weak.
It’s a shape, huddled near the fire.  She can tell immediately that it’s the Enemy: it’s easy enough to tell.
“You halt,” she says.  That gun pointing at her must be empty too, because otherwise she’d already be dead.
“We’re the only two people left alive,” says the Enemy, “so you’d better do what I say.”
“Put that thing away.  It’s over.” She finds a place near the fire, feels the warmth start to warm her aching body.
The Enemy looks at her warily, but lowers the gun onto its lap.
“Huh,” says the Enemy.
Just the sounds of the fire and the rain, and the buzzing of flies.
“At least,” says the Enemy, “get back on your side.”
Bec looks at the dirt.
“I’m pretty sure this side is our side.”
The Enemy shakes its head.
“Nope.  No way.  The border is from between that stump, down past that pile of bodies, right to over there, near the tank.  You’re totally on our side.”
Bec points.
“Nah.  The border is from there-” she points out a blackened creek bloated with dead, “-to the tank.  That makes this our side.”
“You’re crazy!”
“That’s just the facts.”
“You serious?  I might be half dead and traumatised by war, but I remember where the borderline is, that’s one thing I definitely have right.  Unbelievable.”
“Believe it.”
“I distinctly remember the border running right through there, from there, to there.  Clear as day.”
“I’m not moving.”
“Well, I’m certainly not moving.”
“Well I guess we’re both staying here then.”
The crackling of the fire.  The buzzing of flies.
She can feel a tumbling clenching in her gut.  She hasn’t eaten in days.
(Maybe the border was from the stump to the tank, actually.  It’s honestly a little hazy now.)
“Anyway,” says the Enemy, sighing, “so who won, do you think?”
Bec shrugs.
“There’s one of us, and there’s one of you,” she says.  “I guess that means we call it a draw.”
The Enemy pokes the fire with the toe of its boot.
“Feels a little, I don’t know, unsatisfactory.”
The rain.  And the buzzing of the flies.