Contest #232 shortlist ⭐️

13 comments

Contemporary Fiction Sad

The taste of mint was stinging my mouth when you phoned me. We’d see them if we were quick, you said.

I bundled layers over the top of my pyjamas and raced to your car. You were waiting with a spark in your eye, drumming your fingers on the wheel. In the darkness we felt forbidden, like children skipping curfew.

I didn’t know where we were. I joked that now would be the perfect time for you to kill me if you wanted to. You laughed; you must really trust me.

Our spot was vacant. Black pooled around us, disappearing into the dense tree line of the country. I’d never seen a sky so clear, being from the city, but you were in your element. You took in the silence like it belonged to you.

You started pointing to patterns in the stars, showing me the big dipper, and Orion’s belt, and I suspected you didn’t really know where they were, but I nodded along anyway, hardly caring. Really, I was staring at your slender wrist, stretching towards the sky, and wondered what it would be like to press my lips to than thin veil of skin, so close to the vein that it would carry me through your bloodstream. I’d get the interior tour of your circulatory system.

Science was in the air, then. Your eyes were fixed on the sky as we huddled on your coat, knees touching, burning through the denim of my jeans and pyjama trousers.

What time are we supposed to see them? I asked, holding my breath.

Any second now, you breathed, not looking at me.

I repeated those three words in my mind.

A dog began to howl somewhere in the distance. It sounded like it was in pain. I asked you if we should try and find it. What if it had escaped from a nearby family and was lost in the dark, forested landscape?

It’ll be fine, you shrugged, yawning and hugging your knees closer to your chest.

It yowled louder, the sound coming from the direction of the wall of trees that paved the opposite side of the road. I frowned.

If you want to go and look for it, you can go by yourself, you said, letting out a breathy laugh, God knows what else is lurking out there. Axe-wielding maniacs and whatnot.

Ah, yes, I said, a smile tugging at my lips, the infamous psycho killer Norfolk woodland – home to many known names, such as Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger–

Hey, I’m being serious. My mum always warned me not to go roaming around the woods at night. She said that’s where all the murderers live.

Where do they go in the daytime? I asked, Off to their day jobs?

You shook your head. Nope. They live in the trees. They’re nocturnal, like bats.

I think you’re thinking of vampires.

Don’t be silly, you said, Vampires live in Transylvania. Not in Norwich.

We fell into a silence, and you started humming Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads, your eyes trailing across the night sky. We both sat there, waiting for something to happen.  

I’d been doing that for a long time, with you. Waiting. Perhaps tonight the right moment would present itself. The sky would begin to shimmer, and you would see me in a different light. Some thread of the cosmos would rain down and jolt you awake like an electric shock, and you’d turn to me and notice the dark freckle underneath my eyebrow, and question why you’d never touched me before.

You looked at the sky as if you could touch it. As if you were hungry for it. I suddenly found myself sick with jealousy.

It was getting colder. I shivered and pulled my knees in.

You can sit in the car if you want, you said, I’ll put the heating on for you.

I don’t want to miss anything, I said. I didn’t want to leave you alone with your sky.

I’ll come and get you if they show up, you say.

No, it’s fine, I shook my head, pulling my coat sleeves over my hands, I’m happy to wait.

A car drove by at that moment, its headlights veiling us in a pool of brightness as it passed. It was the first one we’d seen tonight.

They must think we’re so strange, you said, Sitting at the roadside in the middle of the night. Looks like we’re performing a ritual, or something.

I don’t think that’s what they thought we were doing.

I wondered why my number had been the first one you’d dialled tonight. Maybe, alphabetically, I was at the top of your contact list. But then I remembered a while ago, getting a similar call from you. I had already loaded half of my laundry into the washing machine.

I’m going crazy, you had said, I can’t finish my assignment. I need to get out. I need to get somewhere. Come?

I pulled my dirty laundry back out again, into the hamper.

Okay.

That day we ended up by the sea. You had kept on driving until we reached the end of the country, and all that was ahead of us was the misty horizon, where the grey sea-line bled into the dark clouds above like ink spilled across a page.

Do you ever wish you could become the sea? I had said, sat next you on a damp bench, my face speckled with salt water.

I guess, you had replied, it would be nice to be that immense. That powerful.

That’s not what I had meant. I looked at the sea and pictured it consuming me. Each solid thing in my body melting into sea-foam, dispersing into something connected, filled with life.

I think the real reason you called me was because you knew I would pick up.

An hour passed and the dog was howling again. You let out an impatient sigh.

I really thought we’d see them, tonight. That’s what it said on the news.

We still might, I said, looking over at you. You weren’t looking up at the sky anymore. You were staring off into the dark shadows of the tree line, in the direction of the dog’s noise.

I don’t think so, you shook your head.

You had already made up your mind.

It was only when we were back in the car, driving along the empty road, that I realised you and I had ventured into the night searching for two different things. We had both been let down. The worst part was that you were more likely to have found what you wanted to find out there than I ever was.

Hey, at least I proved I wouldn’t kill you if I had the chance, you laughed from behind the steering wheel.

I laughed but didn’t say anything. I was thinking, perhaps it would be less painful if you had.

January 08, 2024 15:59

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13 comments

Mariana Aguirre
15:21 Mar 11, 2024

Love it 👏👏

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Story Time
05:48 Jan 22, 2024

The negative space within the story was as compelling as the story itself. I loved the "you" format, and I thought the language was exceptional. Well done.

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Eve Colabella
18:59 Jan 22, 2024

That’s so kind! I really appreciate the feedback :)

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Philip Ebuluofor
03:21 Jan 22, 2024

Congrats.

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Eve Colabella
18:58 Jan 22, 2024

Thank you !!

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:51 Jan 23, 2024

Welcome.

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Alexis Araneta
12:11 Jan 20, 2024

Well-deserved place on the shortlist. This was so poignant and amazing. I loved it.

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Eve Colabella
12:13 Jan 20, 2024

Thank you so much !! That really means a lot :)

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Joseph Ellis
08:50 Jan 20, 2024

Really fine first story and a worthy win Eve. Interesting how you intentionally left out a lot of information but things are still so clear. Very spare yet emotionally effective and solid dialogue.

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Eve Colabella
12:13 Jan 20, 2024

Thank you so much ! I really appreciate it :)

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Mary Bendickson
17:56 Jan 19, 2024

Congrats on win on first entry. Nice job. welcome to Reedsy.

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Eve Colabella
12:13 Jan 20, 2024

Thanks so much !! :)

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Mary Bendickson
15:54 Jan 20, 2024

Thanks for following.would do same but can"t get all read I now follow.

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