I’m delighted to have my short dark fiction ‘Staring at a World Gone By‘ published today at DarkWinter Literary Magazine. A big thank you to editor Suzanne Craig-Whytock for trusting in this melancholy piece about a ghost sat waiting for the one he has lost.
Please do take some time to explore the site and all the many wonderful reads available.
She buried my body deep beneath the winter snow. There, where autumn’s rotting foliage tickled at my face and branches aplenty dug into my naked flesh, I festered. The dead do that, fester. What else is there to do?
There is being cold and being of the cold. The former is remedied by a cardigan or two, an extra pair of socks, or a berth by the fire, whereas the latter, now, this is something altogether more chilling. There is nothing one can do but succumb. I lay immobile as the mycorrhizae tied my body in knots, just waiting to emerge as fungi bearing my deceased features. To think some sweet child might turn over a log to my unyielding, sunken flesh instead of a house for a gnome, disgusted. No, this would not do.
Spring came in a burst of sound and a sudden blast of warmth. Even deep below my now melted mantle, where the light failed to illuminate, it still infused. And I was infused with an unshakable desire to escape. Yet, earth is earth, and dead is dead, and I was going nowhere. For now, anyway.
This particular summer grew so hot it burnt the flowers and scorched the ground. Birds stopped singing to conserve energy. Worms hid, preferring a possible drowning on those rare days the heavens wept to certain incineration. As for mankind? The hum of their air conditioning rattled my crumbling bones.
Winter returned. It was a mild affair, never having quite got over the Saharan months. Green remained long into the white season. Leaves fell only when bored. The soft soil invited excavations. Three badgers and a fox later, I was out.
Release is a dish best served once. To have sampled another would have lessened the effect of the first. I had no desire for diluted freedoms.
I rose from the ground like vapour from a pond, slipping through the woods unnoticed, through the city streets, back home. She was there.
I came upon her suddenly like a sea fret localised to her bed. “Why?” I demanded, my voice rising and falling like the sea I affected.
“George? Is that you?”
She sat up and put her glasses on. Her dentures remained in the bedside glass.
“Why did you kill me, bury me, forsake me? Why?” By now I was closer to a wailing gale. The curtains flapped. The walls shook. A black-and-white photo of our wedding day smashed on the floor.
“Because you were dead.”
“You buried me in a wood beneath the snow like a dog.”
“Not this again!” She almost shook her wig off.
“It’s what you wanted!” she exclaimed.
“But you killed me, you Babylonian whore.”
“Life killed you, George. You were ninety-six. You couldn’t handle it anymore. It had to happen sooner or later.”
What residue of my mind remained dizzied. I felt a vortex tug at my feet, sucking me down, down, down. This, my one chance for revenge, threatened escape, and I redoubled my efforts. “I… must… kill… you…”
“I wish you’d kill me,” said the clean-shaven young man who emerged from under the covers. “She is.”
With that, I vanished back to the cemetery in the woods and the laughter of those who lay there, my grave more turbulent than ever. My festering renewed.
Written for Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge Today’s prompt was Scream.
There were divisions. Some might have termed them fractures. Everyone wanted everything, and no one wanted to pay. The silence of society’s splintering echoed a dire nothingness. I liked the quiet.
The flyers flew with wings for arms. The walkers walked on exaggerated legs. Some swam, like the almost-fish they were. A few even rolled. I glided.
Everyone ignored me, and I ignored them, as they left in their ships of steel and stardust. No one remained. That’s when I realised I was already dead, and even then, hadn’t a clue as to how long. I got the better deal.
“We are all ghosts in the greater scheme of things. We are invisible to all but those who know us there. Is that not the very definition of a ghost?”
The creature nodded to not a rustle, nor even a disturbance of the air. All that marked its presence was a chill down the spine and a momentary blurring of my vision. But I knew what it was, which proved my point. And still, I couldn’t run.
I’m very pleased to have had a short piece of writing published in the fantastic online magazine MasticadoresIndia. A big thanks to Terveen Gill for putting their faith in my work. Please do click either link and have a look around.
The title of my short fiction is ‘Ghosting’ and is a commentary on life and how some people get overlooked. I hope you enjoy the read.
We, by which I mean me, endeavoured to do right by each other. I spoke kind words, and she shoved them down my throat. I held open the door, and she vacated it. And so on, and so forth. This was our way, use and be used.
Time was not kind to us, by which I mean me. The bruises grew larger, her rages ever greater. I grew timid, as she grew robust. And still, I did my best. Still, I tried.
She, by which I mean they, buried me one cold and windy November afternoon. It rained upturned buckets. Another man already held her umbrella.
Now there was no we, no she, just me. For the first time in forever, I was alone. Nothing lasts.
I returned from the darkness like a roosting bat, flittering around our, by which I mean her apartment, every evening after lights out. She was never alone.
Our paths crossed when she went to the toilet shortly after midnight. I held the door for her, or tried.
“Do I know you?” she sneered. “You remind me of someone I once used.”
The fact I was a ghost seemed inconsequential, her attitude unaltered. I shrugged a delicate breeze, for words were beyond me now.
She rolled her eyes and got down to business.
“Well! Don’t just stand there, pass the toilet roll,” she commanded, upon finishing.
I laughed as I flapped and flailed, unable to acquiesce to her wishes. I tried so hard. Yet, this simplest of tasks was beyond me, and so I left and never returned.
We, by which I mostly mean me, often talk of her, and if she sits there still, stinking and swearing, whilst waiting for another to service her.
She sits at the bus stop day after day. I stand at my window, imagining her name. Rain or shine, snow or wind, it makes no difference to the girl in the little lemon dress. She waits there regardless. I watch her the same.
There are buses every fifteen minutes that lead to and from the city, but which city, I no longer recall? I’m as obsessed with her as she is with time. She’s crying today.
I pour out a coffee on this evening to chill souls. Seeing her waiting for a man who’ll never arrive has warped my mind. Today, I shall make a difference. Today, I shall do the right thing.
The door clicks shut in my wake; my eyes are already upon her. She shields her own from the steadily falling snow, invisible against her porcelain features. The coffee steams from the cup.
The distance takes an age to cover, not because of the traffic, as there is none, but from my stuttering footsteps.
“Hello,” I say when almost upon her. “I’ve brought something to warm your soul.”
The cup is offered and dropped, slipping from her fingers like a dream. This saddens me and I leave.
The next day comes, and she is gone. All I can think is, was she ever there? And, was I?
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