One Apart

flash

“Come with us, come on, it’ll be great.”

“I’m fine, honestly.”

“Don’t be boring,” she tugs at his arm.

“I should be getting home.”

“And you will.” She loops hers into his. “Later.”

Mirrors

flash

As a child, my Aunt’s house fascinated me. She owned a vast array of mirrors, all in fanciful frames of differing shapes, sizes and colours. I remember running through the hallways, my distorted reflection following, dancing along as feet thumped against the worn floorboards.

I recall a woman with long coils of dark hair and wrapped in patterned fabrics from places I’d never heard of. Kind, a little eccentric to some; always willing to give her whole heart when it mattered.

She passed not too long ago and I helped my cousin get the house in order. We pulled them down one after the other and wrapped them in old cloth, each one leaving behind a bright reflection on the faded wallpaper.

Thunderstorms

flash

Thunderstorms have filled my thoughts of late. There’s something about that low rumble resonating in my chest; being woken at midnight by shocks of light in the gloom.

My father tells me I was born in the fiercest storm – on the cusp of autumn, when the sea is still warm with the memory of summer sun. He mentions it often, despite the hurt it brings up. He saw it from hours away, on the horizon and over the water, moments after dusk settled.

And as they set off for the hospital, the clouds started rolling in fast and low; Orange, from reflecting off sodium lamps. The air was still, the streets quiet. No sound to be heard. They were inside and safe when the first flashes appeared.

I arrived at two in the morning, at its worst point. Silent when I came out, and at first they were worried, until the crashing stopped and my lungs opened up.
People tell me that’s strange, that I must be getting it the wrong way around, but I’m not: I’ve always found thunder relaxing. There’s no fear. A familiarity perhaps.

Reminds me of home.

Dissolve

flash

He lay facing the window, head buried deep into the passenger seat. Acted like he was sleeping but, in truth: restless.

“You can use the blanket if you want,” she said. “There’s one on the back seat.”

“I’m fine.”

He yawned, twisting around to face forward.

“You okay?” She dialed up the heating; its whisper became a deep purr. “You don’t have to talk, if you need the sleep.”

“I’m awake now,” he said, giving his head a shake. Leaned forward then, arms crossed on the dash, chin on top. He peered out at the dulled trees slipping past, their tops lost in the-

“Hey, what’s the difference between fog and mist?” His head lolled, left ear to the black plastic.

“Sorry?” Her eyes darted over to his. They took her in, watching her slightest movements.

“Take your head off the dashboard.”

“But what’s the difference?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm,” he pondered. Fog or mist, they now drifted through dusk made manifest, the firs nothing more than dark smudges dissolving into the distance, the sky.

Apocalypse

flash

“Where will you be?”

He asks: “When?”

“At the apocalypse.”

He snorts, rolls his head back. Her stare continues, unmoving and deadpan.

He clears his throat.

They dangle their legs over the concrete ledge, close to the lapping canal water. Dead scum floats beneath their feet and it smells faintly of harbour when the tide rolls out. They watch as light dances against the blank underbelly of the bridge carrying traffic. About them, the detritus of shattered industry: a burnt-out car, rusted steel drums, puddles made iridescent with a thin veneer of oil. A halo of fast food packaging flutters in the wind. Few boats wander past. Crickets chatter.

He thinks about her question, how it would feel, to watch the world end. Would it be quick, or drawn out? Could he make a last phone call? He lays out on the hard concrete, tries to picture his last moments. The sun above becomes a searing explosion erasing his body. He’d be dead, then: one permanent shadow amongst many. He notices how her silhouette blots out the sun’s warmth. She’d be one of them. “With my family then, I guess.”

She sighs.

“I don’t think you understand.” She looks down at him. “It’s not about where you want to be, but where you will be.”

He sits up.

“It’s not such an easy question, is it?” She holds her hands out, palms up as though the concept were an object for him to see. Her naked feet form a Newton’s cradle. The sound of skin kissing bounces off the water and concrete. And he is reminded, for a moment, of sitting by the municipal pool as a child, listening to the hollow sounds of water slapping and voices ricocheting.

He draws his eyes down, shuttering them from the sun. “I’d be at home then,” he says: “Sleeping and it would mostly be over by the time I woke up, or I wouldn’t and miss everything because I always do.” He adds, quieter, “Important events, that is.”

“I like that.” She pulls a loose hair from his cheek and blows it away. “Permanent sleep. I wonder if you’d carry on dreaming.”

“Probably not.” He bites his lip.

“There wouldn’t be anyone you’d want to say goodbye to?”

“Like I said – my family.”

“No-one else, I mean: no-one you would need to say one last word to?”

He shakes his head.

“Okay.”

She brushes back one side of her hair, tucking it behind an ear. She cranes her head a little. The chug of a pleasure boat rolls around from a distant meander.

“I think I’ll be in a supermarket,” she says. “And I’ll be the only one smiling. Have you ever noticed that? That people never smile in supermarkets? They all carry expressions of boredom; or else annoyance, or inconvenience. I saw this woman once, in the queue and she was worried, you know? Like something was distressing her. She had the face of a trapped animal.”

“I’ve never noticed anything like that.”

“Well I have. And that’s where I’ll be, with all those people and I don’t think their expressions will be any different.”

“Why do you think that?” He asks.

“Why don’t you?”

“That’s not what I was asking.”
She shakes her head, and lets her gaze drop away from him.

“I want your coke.”

“What?” He frowns.

“I want it. It looks refreshing.”
She knocks into his shoulder, tilts her head and slips her eyestoward his.

He stutters a moment.

Her eyes drop to the cup and then back up. “It’s hot. I’m hot.”

“Alright, take it. I’m not thirsty.”

She leans into him, pressing their chests together, swapping heartbeats. She grabs his drink, without thanking him, and draws on the tall cup, as her eyes lock with his. The swell of her lips glistens in the sunlight. He shifts a little. She licks the last drop before it can roll down her chin, a laugh in her eyes.

“Done?” he asks.

She nods, leaning back. A thin smile of satisfaction on her face. “This is what I think,” she says. “All those people in the supermarket: the reason they won’t change their expressions is because they can’t – they don’t realise what’s happening to them; the idea that they will all die, that no-one will be there to remember them, will be too much to handle. They won’t be able to comprehend it, so they’ll carry on as if nothing is wrong.”

“You’re a pessimist.”

“I’m not deluding myself.” She lifts a finger. “There’s a difference.”

“But what if they did realise?”

“They’d laugh. Really hard.”

“And then?”

“It’d be too late: the apocalypse will have happened.”

End State

flash

“Hey, wait!” K bounded down the steps and into the plaza that was, aside from L, empty. “Don’t go.”

Upon seeing her L, hunkered down in the morning air, stopped in his tracks and peered over one shoulder. The long breath he let out condensed, rose up, and dispersed.

“You could have waited.” K huffed loudly as she bent double. “I’m not that late.”

L made a full turn toward K and pulled himself up straight. “I wasn’t expecting you for another fifteen minutes.”

“Oh,” she frowned. “Then…”

“Thought I’d get us coffee.” He turned back around, hands in pockets and resumed his traipse across the plaza.

K ran to catch up, readjusting her raincoat. “Well, glad I didn’t miss you.”

L nodded.

“You look nice and warm.”

“I suppose.” He shrugged, making a vague head motion to the scarf, hat and heavy parka he wore.

They passed the fountain at the plaza’s centre, which still trickled water from the mouth of a cherub statue. A coat of ice formed around the outer stone rim, jostled by the bubbling pool.

“Sure got cold fast, huh?” K said.

“It certainly did.”

“How have you been?”

“Fine.”

“Did you get my email?”

“Of course,” L said. “It was an interesting idea.” He stopped at the coffee shop and opened the heavy door. The bell tinkled and the hot, earthy aroma of fresh coffee wafted out to meet them. K looked up at him with her wide, pleading eyes.

“So?”

“We should get inside, it’s cold out.” He ushered her in.

“Should I go ahead with it?” She said, her words coming out muffled as she pressed her face against the counter glass and squinted at the pastries.

L held up two fingers and the barista started up the machine.

K leaned in past him. “Make mine with soy please.” She jabbed a finger into L’s side. “So?”

“It’s your thesis.”

Her eyes widened.

He exhaled with another shrug. “I think it has merit.”

She didn’t reply, rather smiled and nodded to herself.

“So I should go ahead with it.”

He remained silent as they waited for their coffees. He lifted the lid and emptied three sachets of sugar into the cup.

“You should avoid having so much sugar,” she said, watching him.

“Don’t worry about me,” L said. He made a movement towards the door, all the while rummaging in a coat pocket.

“Where are you going?”

He held up a pack of cigarettes, a lighter crooked in his thumb.

“But it’s cold out.”

His shoulders dropped.

L approached K, removed his scarf and gently looped it around her head.

“There,” he said.

He stepped outside. The bell gave a short tinkle. A slip of cold air ran across the floor and up K’s spine. She shivered.

“Thank you?”

Silent Skies

flash

“This is wonderful.” She says.

“What is?”

“The silence.” Her body circles mine, naked toes flicking at the long grass.

“I suppose so.”

“You suppose? Well I think it is.” She stops, puts a hand to her brow and searches for contrails. “No planes, no clouds; blue skies. Days like this should last forever.”

Her body droops.

The sun pricks at my body.

She rises and spins, throwing up a patterned parachute about her waist. I almost-.

I feel: enraptured, captivated.

Again she pauses. Her face becomes eclipsed, her expression masked.

“I feel light,” she says. Her body floats above me and she becomes a bird – outstretched fingertips made of feathers. Hollow bones.

She continues: “My feet aren’t fully grounded and it’s like: at any moment if I run fast enough, and leap, I’ll fly.”

“You’ll be the only person in the sky.” I tell her.

“Yes, I will.”