“Some friend you turned out to be,” she murmured as the cameras rolled. So many; did there have to be so many cameras? The din of the film spooling through them all was overwhelming. She couldn’t think; maybe that was the idea.
Oh isn’t this nice?” said Mole, tickling round the last nested table with a duster. “All clean for Spring.”
“It’s snowing,” observed Weasel. He sipped at his tea. “It’s been snow, hail, thunder, rain… Call this Spring?”
“Yes,” said Mole, firmly. “Spring is a season of surprises. Imagine a Spring that was just one type of weather all the way through! Heavens, we’d be bored of sunshine.” Mole thought about Summer, so bright it was impossible to look out of his molehill without heavy sunglasses.
“Well, I could get used to it,” Weasel picked up a biscuit. “I enjoy sunshine. Keeps my fur dry and sleek.” Mole sighed. Weasel would never agree with him, not once. He disagreed just to be disagreeable.
“Was there are reason for your visit, Weasel?” In irritation, Mole found a pile of teatowels that he started unfolding in order to refold. “Was it just to drink tea and discuss the weather?”
“I have business in this part of the wood,” Weasel’s drawling voice was setting Mole’s teeth on edge. “It may concern you, you know. It may interest you to know that…” A noise interrupted the conversation at this point. A huge thump shook dirt from the ceiling.
“I JUST CLEANED THAT!” screamed Mole.
“Ah,” said Weasel. “I think it may have begun. Surprise!”
Yes. He sat back and looked around at the house. Neat and tidy. Clean. Swept top to bottom and left to right. Nothing… he jumped, and peered at a lamp. No, not done.
He sprang from the chair and flew to the table on which there stood a small desk lamp. Clicking the power off, he reached in and unscrewed the bulb. Few years ago, he thought, I’d have burnt my fingers.
He held the bulb up to the window and turned it over. What was he lookiing for? Hard to tell these days, but he knew he woud know it when he saw it. He swiped at the bulb with a duster, then ran a finger round the socket. It came back dusty but otherwise there was nothing to see.
Can’t be too careful, he thought, screwing the bulb back in. Never know who’s listening and to what. Don’t give them a chance to hear, Still, a clean sweep for devices meant no-one was trying to listen to him. But… Wait.
“He find the device?” asked the man in the truck parked just around the corner.
“Nothing,” his female partner looked pleased with herself.
“Dammit, he’s got to find SOMETHING, he’s expecting us to be watching everyone. He’s a mole, he’s going to be EXTRA paranoid,” He thought about it. “With reason. No dummy?”
“There’s a dummy! He just hasn’t found it. I think,” she added quietly. “He’s not as good at cleaning up after himself as he thinks.”
I’d never intended to become a butcher. Frankly, the smell of raw meat repulsed me. I was a delicate child, and the thought of handling animal carcasses all day filled me with a kind of visceral horror. But the inertia of reality prevailed and when the time came I inherited my father’s spotless white apron, and the name “Webber and Sons” ceased to have real meaning.
Everything is broken. I don’t even know how we got here. Last I knew, we were zipping together down the dirty-yellow plastic flume at the local leisure centre. Now we’re here, adrift in clear shallow water at the foot of a cloud-smocked peak in god knows what part of South America.
I’m not complaining, per se. I am wondering how we return. Did we move through time or space? Have I forgotten our journey here, or did we never make one? After the leisure centre, my mind is a blur, a scramble. A mundane last memory, but one that melds perfectly with our situation. Did we tumble from the slide into this dream?
Another day I might remember. Give me another day here, and I might forget more. I sweep my arms above my head, sending swirls of ripples across the lake. They fan out and, from high on the mountain, perhaps someone can see an angel in the water.
“You’re drawing me again,” she said. A simple, flat statement of fact which remained unacknowledged. She continued to stare out of the window and his pencil continued to drift across the paper, settling down to create borders around the soft off-white, shaping her face.
Continue reading A Blank
They came overnight, and we did not notice. Not at first, no, because their brothers and sisters were already here, a discreet phalanx of unobtrusive invaders. An expeditionary force, embedded deep cover in our towns and cities. Our villages. Everywhere. Waiting for the signal.
“Mate,” he said, not looking at me. “Mate, come on. It’s just up here. In this pond.” Pond, I thought. Maybe that’s a local name because it looks like a lake to me. But then again, I’m no fisherman. If I was, I probably wouldn’t be here. I’d be somewhere safe, a long way away.
The lights burn holes in your eyes if you stay out too long in front of the curtain. They say you can tell the long-time performers by the glimmer of darkness nestled in their gaze; the spots have punched their lights out. It’s not a sad place to be, not when you’re up there. The wash lights warm your skin and melt the greasepaint into your mouth. The performance becomes you, if you want. There is no mask but your face, a painting with those terrible black holes in the centre.
As manager, it doesn’t touch him. He closes his eyes and feels the performance thunder through the boards. The crowd roars, heckles, squeals with delight. It kicks up dust and sunlight as the day starts to vanish and the evening shows begin, the crowd changing timbre as the dark closes around them. The edgy, half-contained violence of a mob is always part of the spirit at the Fair and it gets harder to push back into the bottle as the drink flows.
Everyone knows not to mess with the manager, though. He sits at the front, just outside the idiot stare of the lights, and listens. The sway of the throng creates the breeze that plucks restlessly at his flat-combed hair, he tastes it like a snake. His face is unreadable, but after all these years he is tired and he is sad. He has seen and felt too much. He opens his eyes and stares at the light.
Takes a lot to get me to notice things. I’m hoovering the rug one morning and it didn’t even occur to me that there was no table on it. What had happened to the coffee table? Then I started thinking maybe we’d never had a coffee table but no, there were the dents in the pile although they were fading and filled with dust.
Continue reading Settled Dust