Tag Archives: fiction

#024: The Rain

The rain was whispering that evening, falling sightlessly and as softly as feathers. I looked up, squinting at the sky. It was that surreal shade of electric blue, of light that lingered just before the smothering dark set in. I wondered whether this fluttering of rain was a warning of more chaotic weather to come, the conditions I felt churning inside me at that moment – leaden sheets of rain screaming down from the tumescent heavens, sharp winds whipping soaked hair across my brow like threaded needles; crashing swells, falling trees, flooding streets.

The rain just didn’t seem right, so soft and unassuming like a lover’s sleeping breath. Especially now, as I walked home alone through the dusk.

But what could I do? You can’t stop the rain from falling; even when it’s fierce, even when you don’t want it to. Especially when you don’t want it to. All I could do is make my peace and raise my umbrella against what was to come.

In the meantime, however, I continued along the path to home – feeling wisps of water caress my cheeks, wondering what the rain was trying to whisper to the world below.

#021: After Ten Years, Part Two

Part One is here.

. . .

“So, you are you then?” Tom said, leaning on the wall next to Portia as he pulled out his own cigarette.

“Portia Mason. We were in the same English class, if that helps.”

“Oh, wait, I think I remember you now!” Tom said, smiling as he stirred up the dregs of memory. “Sat near the back window and never really spoke? Wore those big black boots all the time?”

“Was frequently bullied by your best friends?” Portia nodded, staring ahead at the shadowed wall of overgrown greenery. “That is I.”

Tom’s brow furrowed. “Who? Like, Joe and Richard and Raff? I remember them teasing you every now and then, but never doing anything – ”

“Traumatic?” Portia cut in. “Like, call me dyke and goth and cunt every day, throw shit at me every other day? It could’ve been worse, but it was still pretty awful.” Portia took another deep drag of her cigarette. “I’m over it now. Raff was the worst. Thank Christ he’s not here tonight.”

“That’s because he died a few years ago,” Tom replied casually, lighting his own cigarette. Seeing Portia’s stunned expression, he elaborated: “Yeah, was in this really bad motorcycle accident, ended up a coma. Family had to pull the plug.”

“Jesus,” Portia said softly.

“I know.”

“Annabelle Lee died in 2006. Ovarian cancer.”

Tom sighed, exhaling a plume of smoke. “That sucks. I don’t remember her either.”

“Played the flute in Orchestra. She wasn’t that popular either.”

The statement hung unanswered in the smoky air. The pair stood in silence for several awkward minutes, mulling over their cigarettes.

“So, what have you been up to since high school?” Tom asked. Portia laughed drily, rolling her eyes and stamping out the light of her finished smoke.

“Usual bullshit, I guess. Got an Arts degree from UTS, travelled ’round Europe and South-East Asia for a bit, lived in Melbourne for a while, but ended up back here managing a book store that sells more lit-themed mugs than actual books. You?”

“Not much. Just bought a place in the Shire. Haven’t really travelled. I’m a personal trainer now.”

“And yet you smoke,” Portia remarked with an appraising smile.

“We all have our guilty pleasures,” Tom said, sharing the smile. “And ten years ago this was the cool thing to do. I used to hide here so teachers wouldn’t catch me – now I’m hiding from those once-cool kids, who are now parents, or vegans, or just middle-management assholes. Funny how things can change so much and still stay exactly the same in ten years.”

“Nothing ever changes,” Portia replied. “Except the stuff that does.” Portia opened her cigarette packet. “And that was my last one – think that’s my sign to get the hell outta here. Give me up a leg up?”

As Portia pressed herself up from Tom’s shoulders and he hoisted her up, he said, “Hey, Portia?”

Portia crouched on the top of the brick wall, looking back down at the ten-year progression of Thomas Wright – from popular but overly oblivious jock, to accidentally-philosophising personal trainer.

“It’s nice to meet you, finally.”

A grin flickered across Portia’s face before she dropped out of sight.

“You too, Tom.”

#019: After Ten Years, Part One

“Nothing ever changes,” Portia thought to herself, brushing the dirt off her black denim-clad bottom half. After ten years, the gap between the toilet block wall and the school’s main fence was still unknown to administration – even if she found as she climbed over the wall that she wasn’t as spry as she used to be. The tight space looked exactly the same as it used to – the brick wall blackened with grime, the wire fence overgrown with decaying ivy vines, and the ground littered with generations of discarded cigarette butts. And after ten years, Portia found herself hiding away from her former classmates, sneaking a cigarette in her former secret smoking spot.

Portia had spent only ten minutes here – blazing through her packet of smokes and regretting ever returning to the dump she had so actively, desperately loathed throughout her adolescence – when she heard a sudden scratching on the other side of the wall. She scuttled back just as a muscled man with sandy-coloured hair dropped down effortlessly into the crevasse. He flipped his head up in surprise when he realised he wasn’t alone.

“Goddamn,” Portia sighed, leaning her head back against the dirty brick in relief. “You scared the shit outta me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, standing up. “I didn’t realise anybody else knew about this spot.”

“Me neither,” Portia replied, raising a fresh cigarette to her mouth. Before she could dig into her leather jacket pocket, the man moved close to her with a burning lighter.

“Are you here for the Class of 2003 reunion?” the man asked politely as he lit Portia’s cigarette. Portia narrowed her eyes and a dry laugh escaped her lips.

“Why else would either of us be back in this hellhole, Tom?”

“Oh, you remember me?” Tom said, still wearing a vague but polite expression. Portia realised that despite a few lines around his eyes, this boy had not changed at all.

“School captain, sports captain, teachers’ favourite, popular girls’ favourite. Who could forget the great Thomas Wright?”

Tom switched off his lighter and stepped back. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I just don’t remember you.”

“You wouldn’t,” Portia replied, taking a long drag of her cigarette. “You were popular and I…” She exhaled, starting at him through the trapped cloud of smoke. “Was not.”

Tom gave an uncomfortable grin. “Still, it was a pretty big graduating class. Coming back here and talking to all these strangers… seems like even the people I do remember, aren’t the people I remember them to be. Y’know?”

Portia lowered her cigarette, caught in her thoughts. “Ten years is a long time,” she finally said, musing that maybe some things change.

. . .

Continued here!

#015: Epiphany In The Moshpit

It was in the middle of DJ Rama’s set that the three ciders, two wines, and that half of Becca’s joint finally hit Kayla. She began to sway slowly, not at all in time to the beat, stretching her long arms into the air. She stroked the air above her, as if trying to touch the music throbbing over the crowd.

“Kay, you ‘right?” a voice called out, seeming to Kayla to be miles behind her. But she only had to turn slightly her left to see Andrew, standing next to her in the crush of the moshpit.

“Andy!” she slurred, wrapping her arms around his upper half and slumping her whole weight against him. Andrew put his hand on her waist to help prop her upright. “I love you, Andy,” she mumbled, suddenly tearful, into his plaid shirt.

“Um,” Andrew said, smiling despite himself. “Me too, babe.” He freed one of his arms to tenderly pet Kayla’s head. They stayed in this position for another two songs, swaying awkwardly to the bass.

“Y’know what I love?! I love how fucking close we are,” Kayla suddenly yelled out, oblivious to the fact that the current song playing was a quiet, mournful one. A short girl standing in the front of them, dressed in a vintage mini-dress and Hunter gumboots, shot Kayla a dirty look over her shoulder.

“There’s, like, no sexual tension between us. We can just be ourselves around each other,” she said. “Like, you can call me babe and I can spend three whole songs hugging you in my denim cutoffs, and we’re good. Like… affectionate. We never have to be worried about it being weird between us.”

“Yeah,” Andrew replied, involuntarily glancing down at her aforementioned tiny shorts and shifting his weight. “How about we get out of the mosh and like, chat away from all these people? I think Bec and the others are having a smoke near the back – ”

But the DJ started playing the opening hook of his most popular hit, and all around Kayla and Andrew the moshpit roared its approval. “NO!” she screamed over the rumbling, releasing her friend to wave her arms in the air again. “After this song! I fuckin’ love this song!”

She sang along to the chorus without abandon: “Don’t go, don’t go-oh-oh, don’t you know, I love you so-oh-oh-ohhh…”

“Fuck yes! Everything’s okay in life as long as this music is playing,” she cried out. She stared at Andrew, who smiled in agreement as he enthusiastically pumped his fist in the air to the beat.

“Like, why can’t life always be like this – just partying with the people you love?” Kayla continued. “Why does shit always have to be so complicated and stressful? Why can’t we, as like, a civilisation, go fuck it – all throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care? Don’t you think life would be so much better if that’s what everybody did?” Andrew couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “What, dickhead?! You don’t think I’m like, a secret shaman or some shit?”

“Maybe,” he replied, “But I also think you’re really, really drunk.”

Kayla looked over at him with a glassy grin. “Yeah,” she mumbled, giggling. “I am pretty fuckin’ drunk.”

She then doubled over and sprayed a great deal of vomit onto the short girl’s gumboots.

#013: A Haiku Set About Summer Rain

Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge this week.

The first rain of the
season began to fall, so
she hitched up her hood

The wind blew it off
But her date didn’t notice,
Just scowled at the sky

It was still summer
Technically, but she had
Never felt so cold.

#010: Must Love Time Travel

Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge of the halycon days of July 2012.

I was finding it increasingly difficult to make conversation, and we were only a half-hour into the date. Rod hadn’t responded to any of my prompts about work, family, favourite books and movies, current affairs, or the weather. And he was lukewarm when I tried to fill in the growing chasms of silence with information about myself.

Plus, he insisted we skip entrees and kept eating all the complimentary breadsticks.

“I have to admit, I’ve never been on a blind date before,” I finally blurted out.

“Really?” Rod said in a murmur, his eyes on his fifth breadstick in his grip.

“Yep,” I replied, relieved that if I sounded like an idiot, at least he wouldn’t notice. “Actually, Monica has been harassing me for weeks until I agreed to tonight. She said you were perfect for me.” I peeked over the table hopefully, waiting for this douchebag’s perfection to finally break through and enrich me with true love.

“I think I’ve been on thousands,” Rod smirked. “Never done any online dating though. That’s just for losers.”

“Really?” I said, amused at the irony of him saying that. “I’ve never tried online dating either, but I think it’s brave to put yourself out there; in, like, an ad for yourself.” I paused, struck by an idea, then asked: “Like, if you were to write an online ad for yourself, how would it go?”

Finally, I had grabbed his attention. Rod leant back in his chair, hemming as he thought, a stub of breadstick hanging from his mouth like a cigar. Eventually he leant forward across the table, depositing the stub of breadstick back into the basket.

“It would say: Rakishly good-looking entrepreneur seeks young companion with robust sense of humour and original hair colour,” His eyes flicked upwards with a critical glint to my bright red locks. “Must be honest, humble, giving, well-read, and able to construct a sentence without involving a swear word. Looks not overly important, but absolutely must love time travel.” He grinned at me, apparently pleased with his answer, and reached for yet another breadstick.

“I’m sorry, what was that last one?” I said, trying my best to make my tone conversational. “Must love…?”

“Time travel,” Rod stated with a mouthful of breadstick, totally serious. “Absolutely.”

“You mean, like, have more than just a passing interest in the scientific theory of time travel? Or just like, have an ongoing obsession with, like, time travel fiction?”

“Overuse of the word ‘like’ would also be on my list, I think,” Rod mused, not paying attention to my confusion.

“Well, I’m afraid I’ve never read any books about time travel,” I said, mentally calculating how long until it was polite to leave. “I’m more of an Austen and Bronte girl myself.”

“I don’t mean time travel fiction,” Rod replied, lowering his gnawed breadstick. There was an edge of impatience to his voice, as if he was speaking to a small child. “I mean, actual, factual, real-life time travel.”

There was an extended awkward pause as Rod stared me, now seemingly absorbed in making me understand. In the end, I could only splutter:

“But – time travel doesn’t exist.”

Rod rolled his eyes. “And here I’d assumed you were an educated girl. Of course time travel exists – what kind of an entrepreneur do you think I am?”

“Are you telling me,” I said, alarm bells suddenly screeching in my head, “that you invented time travel?”

“Oh no!” Rod guffawed. “D’you think I’d have to go on blind dates or scrounge around for investors if I was the inventor of time travel?” I breathed a too-soon sigh of relief. “Oh no, I’m just a time travel conductor.”

“A conductor,” I parroted back at him. The alarm bells were getting louder.

“Yeah, you know. Like how a train conductor drives trains. I conduct time travel journeys.”

“Right.” The alarm bells were now joined by flashing red lights and policemen telling me to evacuate the building.

But now I couldn’t get Rod to shut up, and I couldn’t escape his gaze to sent an emergency text to Monica. “Yeah, for those who can afford it, which is not many at all in this country. I’m not one of those by-the-book government drones running time trips for NASA or ASIO. I’m a private operator. Independent and very proud, thank you.”

“So you have a time travel… machine?” I asked.

“Sort of. There’s a whole set up, with a platform and shields and the teleportation matter remote… well, it’s incredibly complicated technology that’s probably too difficult to explain to a layman,” Rod held up his wine glass at me, before taking a swig. “But I can take up to five people with me at a time. No pun intended!”

I forced out what I hoped sounded like several seconds of genuine laughter. “So you can just… travel through all of time and space?”

“Not space, just time,” he corrected me. “I can move back and forth throughout time, but the landing zone is always the same. We’re hoping the next OS upgrade can expand that though.”

“So you couldn’t go back to the 1930s and like, kill Hitler or something,” I said. “Unless you caught a steam boat from Australia to Germany.”

Rod rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’ve had to give so many refunds to customers who wanted to do that. Why is killing Hitler the thing everybody wants to do when they find out about time travel?”

I couldn’t believe I had to seriously answer this. “Because Hitler was a mass-murdering psychopath who caused a World War.”

“You can’t alter the timeline! That’s the number one rule of time travel!” Rod half-shouted at me, causing nearby tables to stop chatting and stare. He looked about at the shocked faces surrounding him, and leant back in his seat with his wine glass, regaining his composure. I had the sudden overwhelming need for wine as well, and downed my glass.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “You’ll understand one day.”

“Oh, will I now?” I replied, my voice soaking in sav blanc and sarcasm. “Are you going to take me on a ‘journey’ on our next date?”

“No, not until our fourth date,” he said with the eerily serious tone of a true believer. “I offer to take you during the date before, you think going ‘home’ with me after the third date is too much of a cliché.”

“We make as far as four dates?” I laughed meanly, but Rod merely stared at me with a faraway look in his eye.

“Oh pumpkin,” he smiled. “We make it much longer than that. You even become my assistant after we get married.”

For some reason, the baby name “pumpkin” is the final straw – I can’t play along anymore. I stand up, clutching my handbag, and throw two twentys on the table.

“That’s for dinner. I am totally and completely outta here,” I announce. “Never contact me again.”

“See you in fifteen days at that tapas place on William,” Rod nonchalantly called over his shoulder as I stormed out of the restaurant.

I was still fuming as I walked back to my car. I was never going to speak to Monica again! How could she possibly believe that that madman was “perfect for me”?

Seriously. Time travel – real? And he of all people was one of the special few selected to control it? Ha!

Next thing he’d be telling me aliens don’t exist, and aren’t stealing my newspaper every morning in a cunning attempt to up brush on international current affairs before infiltrating Earth as the next candidate for President of Russia!

What a moron, right?

#001: Apt. 12

The woman downstairs is crying again.

Well, perhaps crying is too passive a word. The sounds I hear emanating through the floor are aggressive sobs, staccato and loud like a cleaver being swung; wails that first choke the throat for an endless minute, before releasing themselves in an anguished, inhuman howl.

The cries were softer and shorter at first, as if the woman was trying to stifle them – perhaps she was trying to play normal and keep the peace, for both her own sanity and that of the adjoining apartments in our building. But eventually, she forgot about any neighbourly propriety and she gave into the grief unravelling out of her, spilling out with more noisy fervour each time.

Occasionally, the cries are in conversation with an equally loud male voice. The visitor’s shouts are muffled, and he speaks in another language – maybe Vietnamese; definitely Asian – but his hot-blooded hostility quickly seeps through the cheap plaster walls. Occasionally, I hear heavy thumps that immediately echo uneasily in the pit of my stomach.

I cradle my mobile phone in my hand, debating whether I should call the local police station this time, when I hear the downstairs door slam and the woman’s weeps settle into whimpers. So I put my phone away.

. . .

As I cross the road onto the corner where our sun-stained apartment building stands, I usually try to catch a glimpse of the woman living directly below me, but her curtains remain shut across her window.

Just once was there a sliver of an opening: I spotted her, leaning back into the dim light of the apartment, face shrouded by her long black hair. Hanging limply outside of the window frame was a slender, tanned hand, holding a burning cigarette. Ash fell fast but silent onto the awning below.

. . .

Finally, a month after I have the idea, I make the decision to introduce myself to the woman. God knows it’s hard to meet people in such a big building, let alone the city. I figure it can’t hurt if I casually let her know that I’m close by should she ever need… a neighbour, I guess.

I walk downstairs to her floor, balling my meagre courage into fists. I stop outside apartment 12 and raise my arm to knock.

But another neighbour has beaten me in making first contact.

A torn page of lined paper is taped to the woman’s door. Scrawled on it in a thick black texta, punctuated crabbily with several crooked underlines, was the following:

Occupant of Apt. 12,

Your loud crying and screaming is becoming more frequent. This is very disturbing! Please stop!!!

I will call the police next time!!! I’m a shift worker and your noise keeps waking me up.

– Your very upset neighbour

As I stare at the note, a new sound stirs from behind the door – footsteps suddenly shuffling nearer.

I don’t even hesitate. I dash down the hall and back up the stairs, back into my own apartment, back into my own bubble. It’s probably best if I just forget the woman downstairs; pretend I don’t hear her crying. Play normal. Keep the peace.