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This Face

3 Sep

When she was born, she arrived in an unblemished envelope. Her skin, unpuckered and unmarked by life, was smooth and comfortable. It covered all of her that needed to be covered with enough give for growth and movement. It was, as far as anything ever is, perfect.

With each day, each passing week, each time she moved and grew, she acquired a new trophy for her pains. While some faded, their memories remained. Other blemishes barely faded at all and left a permanent pattern on her body. A postcard from the past.  

She looks in the mirror and reads the postcards, examining each mark and remembering what it tells her about her life.

The vertical line set equidistant between her eyebrows is new.  A recent injury, invisible to the onlooker but drawn on her forehead, underlines the discomfort of restricted movement and a soreness that extended far beyond the specific spot where her skin has chosen to wear the memory. 

In her right eyebrow, a sparse area of hair reveals a scar she gained in childhood like a clearing in a forest shows the remains of a camp fire. The memory of the injury is one that has been planted in her mind but feels as real as anything else she can remember. When she was no more than 18 months old, a boy in her playgroup threw a wooden building block across the room. Its sharp corner connected with the thin skin covering her orbit and left a gash that bled and bled and bled. Faces do that when damaged. They bleed. The family mythology tells of a doctor for whom English was not a first language, whose panicked response upon hearing of the missile that caused the wound led to a battery of unnecessary tests to check for bleeding behind the eyes as well as the bleeding above it. Without context, a child hit with a building block is a much more serious prospect than one dented with a stray toy. Oh how they laughed.

She pulls her lips taut over her teeth to see a white line of scar tissue protrude from the lower one like an exclamation mark. She remembers this one, first hand rather than by proxy. Summer holidays. Caravan park. Jumping from the top of a set of steps used to access tourist pleasure cruise boats from the shore and landing in the sand. Laughter, freefall through the air, landing on her bottom. Her friend, calling her clumsy, said she should land on her feet and bend her knees. On her first attempt she forcefully introduced her canine tooth to her knee via her lip. Blood. Thick red drops of blood that fell from her mouth and landed in the sand, congealing into red-brown counters dotted up the beach as she ran back to her parents for comfort and first aid. By the following day, the blood counters were gone, washed away by the unrelenting tide. More than twenty years later, her lip still exclaimed her injury. 

Below her face, her neck supports  her head as it has from the day she was able to control its muscles and not rely on another’s hand to steady its weight. Creases encircle its pillar at intervals between her chin and her chest. There is no story to those individually, more the tale that a tree tells with its own rings. The tale of time passing, of lives lived and experiences earned.

A triangle of freckles extend from her clavicles, its point towards her sternum, painting a picture in pixels of summers upon summers that kissed the skin and coaxed the pigment to the surface. One day, that patch of flesh will crease and wrinkle more than any other part of her torso for its exposure to the elements. One day. Today, it it simply splotched with random dots like uncharted constellations.

She knows that when people look at her, they see something different. They see a woman, maybe pronounce her to be attractive or not, consider all her features and make a judgement about the person that resides behind the face. If they notice the crease between her brows, they won’t give a thought to the pain that put it there. They don’t see the building block or hear the laughter from a dozen re-tellings of a story she seems somehow to remember with all her senses but cannot not actually recall. Her freefall onto sand and the part of herself she left to be washed out to sea don’t make an impression. A stranger won’t count the rings on her neck or the freckles on her chest and imagine the summer suns that have blessed and burnt and blistered thin, pale skin into something tougher and more resilient. 

This face, like every other,  is a record of a life lived.

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Sandwiches

19 Apr

“Meatball Marinara.”

“What bread would you like?”

“All of it.”

“I’m sorry?”

“All of it.”

The green-and-white clad employee looked confused.

“We have Italian, Herbs and Cheese, Wheat…”

“I said, I want all of it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t understand,” said the employee, shifting uncomfortably. “You need to choose which bread you want what size.”

The customer gave the employee a look that could wilt roses.

“I want the Meatball Marinara on all of the bread you have. To go.”

~*~

At home with his sandwiches, the customer looked disappointed.

“This doesn’t feel like much of a party,” he muttered.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

(post inspired by this piece of spam, which arrived in my junk email today. I mean, who needs $100 worth of sandwiches?!)

Your $100 Subway Gift Card is Ready. Details Inside - zoegoodacre@gmail.com - Gmail (2)

Life-threatening condition

1 Jul

“I’m sorry. There’s no cure.”

Caitlin was shell-shocked. Not unlike other kids, she’d often wished for superpowers. This, though? This was less superpower, more catastrophe waiting to happen.

The government scientist in the secret lab beneath the Science Museum said she was “apocaleptic”. Her seizures could trigger anything from small tremors in the earth to huge earthquakes. Somehow her brainwaves caused tectonic shifts, meaning she could cause a mass-casualty event just by fitting.

Having power meant being in control; she was far from in control.

“Why couldn’t I just have x-ray vision?” she wondered as the sedation pulled her under.

Dry

29 Jun

A very short story for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at terribleminds.com. This week’s challenge was to come up with a story in three sentences. Given it was so short, I decided to turn it into an image instead of just putting the words on the page.

Image

Forever young

8 Jun

This idea’s been kicking around in my head for several years and this is the first time I’ve ever given it space outside my mind. I sometimes worry about the dastardly way my own mind works.

Warnings for sinister content, trickery and violence against women.

~*~

She was the only one who noticed him. His pale, moon-like face seemed to deflect the gaze of others but his large, dark eyes saw everything.

She was the only one who showed him kindness. He knew he had to make it up to her somehow. When he overheard her talking to that girl from Accounts over lunch, his purpose was fixed.

“If I could just be young forever, all my problems would be solved!”

It wasn’t hard to get her to agree to a lift home that Friday night in the pouring rain. When she’d said yes, he’d known he was doing the right thing.

There was only one way to guarantee her perpetual youth. He’d known that from the minute he heard those words.

She’d looked a little confused when he pulled up outside his house but quickly acquiesced. Politely, she accepted the orange-juice-and-phenobarbital cocktail and drank it quickly.

In minutes, her legs went from under her; seconds later he was standing over her with a feather cushion in his hands as her eyelids fluttered.

“Why..?” was her last word, more breath than speech.

“Because it’s what you wanted,” he answered, and pressed the cushion over her face.

Voices

10 May

Sometimes she wondered who was in control of her brain.

She’d be sitting there, minding her own business, then suddenly… BAM! A thought would assail her completely out of the blue.

If only they were helpful thoughts, but they rarely were. Sure, she was sure that whatever part of her was offering up the ideas thought it was doing the right thing, but the constant nagging really wasn’t constructive.

Next time the voice murmured that she should do something ill-advised, she might just do it. Not because she wanted to; more to see if it would make it shut up.

Infinitely more difficult

19 Apr

An early Flashfic Friday post, screeching in to make the deadline for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: “Death Is On The Table”.

Trigger warnings for talk of death, suicide and depression. Read at your own risk. If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story, pop on over to The Befrienders and find some support in your area.

~*~

Making the choice to die was one of the easiest decisions John had ever made. So easy, in fact, that he didn’t even remember making it. It was as though his whole life had been building up to this moment. In reality, of course, it had. What could be more inevitable in life than one’s eventual death? For John, he had decided that he didn’t want to wait for an eventuality. He wanted to take things into his own hands. He was going to make it happen.

John had thought about dying for as long as he could remember. To be honest, he barely thought about anything else. Over the months and years, he’d contemplated just about every way to do it and finally decided what he was going to do. He didn’t want there to be a funeral. Even if there were one, no-one would come. Why would they? It would be better for all concerned, he decided, if he just ceased to exist.

His family was long ago and far away. He hadn’t been in touch with his parents since he was in his early twenties, some 15 or so years ago. They didn’t even know where he lived. His job was shitty and pointless. They’d get someone else in to do it in a heartbeat. No-one would probably even notice he was gone. There wasn’t really anyone else to miss him. John didn’t make friends. The people he’d been close to when he was younger had all drifted away over time and there wasn’t anyone new. Knowing that you weren’t going to be around long enough to get to know someone is a pretty strong disincentive to socialising.

John didn’t expect his death to cause as much as a ripple. He had it all planned out. The rent on his flat, and the combined bill for gas and electric, had been paid until the end of the month. It was a furnished flat, so there was nothing to dispose of. He didn’t have much in the way of personal effects, and certainly nothing that anyone would find valuable. He’d bagged his belongings in black sacks with a note to the landlord to have them collected by the charity shop on the high street that did house clearances. His bank account had a zero balance. He’d never taken out any credit cards because he’d never needed to buy anything that required them. He had no creditors and no debtors.

It was almost as if he if he didn’t exist already.

He wasn’t sure what changed or when. It seemed to be around about the time the woman at the check-out in the mini-supermarket around the corner had smiled at him. He’d gone to get stamps to mail out the letters taking care of the remainder of his personal effects and when he said she could keep the change, she beamed a genuine smile and wished him a lovely day.

Maybe it was the fact that the planning was almost over. John had never really thought of it as ending. He’d been planning for so long that now he was looking his death in the face, it didn’t look as appealing close-up as it had from a distance.

But there was momentum now; a whole lot of things that once done could not be undone. He’d given his notice on his flat. He had no money left in his account and had given what he had away to charities and rough sleepers. There was no-one to miss him, but no-one to be thankful he was still there either.

Making the choice to die was one of the easiest decisions John had ever made. Making the choice to live was infinitely more difficult.