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Writing short, short fiction… merging fairytales and fears about the real world.

BEAUTY, SLEEPING

 

An old woman hides in her bed believing it is the only safe place left in the world. She’s overweight, so can last for a long while without going to her kitchen for food. It is dark, and outside her open window, there are the sounds of helicopters. Someone is screaming.

Perhaps everyone is screaming.

She covers her ears with a bunched-pillow, imagining her bed is inside a fortress, a castle, a lonely boat. Everything has gone wrong with the world. It happened fast, after it happened slowly. People thought there would be more time, but people were wrong. One madman lost control while in charge of a country, and made friends with another country’s madman who had also lost control. Now all the madmen have lost control and become enemies with each other. All of these madmen love only two things: power and death.

So now death is everywhere. Water rises, burying stone and earth. Air chokes with fumes, fighting with fire. Even from the safety of an imagined fortress, or a castle, a lonely boat, or a bed, it is impossible to ignore the smells of gas, pine trees, flesh and roses burning.

Loosening her grip on the pillow, the old woman hears the sound of a man breathing in the gap between her bed and the wall. Death must now feel this close, for everyone. She longs for something powerful that isn’t death. But the man rears up and she glimpses a pale hooded face which is covered in scratches. Regretting the fact that her knives are in the kitchen drawer, she closes her eyes and pretends to already be dead.

Without asking permission, he kisses her and his lips taste of ash.

Biting his mouth, she enters a dream state, dragging him into it with her.

She dreams of being in a crowded bar as she watches him getting his scratched hand stamped by the doorman. He leaves his long coat in the cloakroom, and she stares at his thin thigh bones as he approaches the bar. She buys him a crimson-coloured cocktail, spikes it, and smiles at him sweetly as he drinks. When he’s unstable on his feet, she kisses him. He backs away from her and cowers in the corner, hollow eyes filled with mistrust.

And now she can forget him because he is nothing she wants.

She dreams of one hundred winters in a derelict city. In windowless supermarkets she eats tinned vegetables. She empties seed packets into the gaps between crumbling paving stones, digs water out of broken drainpipes, and climbs skeleton skyscrapers, rescuing earth from office plant pots, pouring it into bleached roof-gardens.

She dreams of one hundred springs. From the top of a church spire she whistles into the empty sky, calling for the birds, the insects, even the flies, to return.

She dreams of licking condensation from basement walls for one hundred summers.

She dreams of one hundred autumns, and gathers knitted blankets from a block of apartments to make a shelter. Sewing the blankets together with the unravelled threads of school shirts, she dreams of age.

She pricks her finger on a rusty needle.

More time passes and the smell of her own infected blood wakes her up.

She wakes in her bedroom, as skinny as a witch. There’s a scythe lying on the floor, between the bed and the wall. She leans on it to lift her aching body from the bed.

Outside the open window, monstrous thorn bushes block the light with a mesh of thick leaves and rosebuds.

There is the sound of one bird cheeping, seeking a mate, or food, or a fight.

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