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
Gravity is such a weak force. Anyone could defy it with the least effort, pulling bodies free with every step. Yes, we sent rockets pummelling out of the atmosphere on columns of concentrated fire, but a child could break the bond with a leap. It’s the smallest thing, and it took almost nothing for it to fail.
Continue reading Losing grip
So early in the morning it was still night, out in the deep grass where the deer have held court since the days of the Tudors. The mist dragged across the world, milky white cataracts. What we were doing was wrong, but there was no option.
Continue reading Dew
What, this came out as poetry? Clearly some sort of mistake.
Continue reading Meet me here.
More quickfic. This is a very silly prompt.
Continue reading The Chamber
There were no fires that year. It was hot, sure, but something in the city conspired to keep the combustion only in the heads of the citizens. Minds burned up and burned out; it was a season of high fever and hi jinx. People danced on the telegraph poles, ran into traffic just to play chicken with motor cars, jumped from windows.
They weren’t trying to kill themselves. They weren’t depressed, they were full of life. Window jumpers would stand on the ledge and call down to the street. Ahoy! After a few incidents, the crowd knew the routine. SUMMON THE FIRE BRIGADE! the cry would go up, carried lustily along the street to the nearest hook-and-ladder station, and the firemen – no women then – would arrive tout suite and unpack the trampoline.
It was lucky there were no fires, we all felt blessed. The window jumpers gave the fire brigade something to do, when they weren’t rescuing cats from trees. The cats could climb down on their own but everyone agreed that the spectacle was the thing and the cats didn’t seem to mind.
It was a hot summer, and we were all touched by madness in the sunshine. Our minds boiled until the steam bloomed from our ears and the flames glowed in our eyeballs. We bounced when we jumped, and we climbed where we didn’t need to climb. When autumn came we lit the bonfires and the smoke of a real fire finally cleared our heads.
When I was young I was happy, not by accident but by design. I smiled, huge and broad, at anyone who passed me in my pram. I was wheeled around the streets by the youngest of the family, the pram old and battered and once their own. Once their parents lay stupefied in its embrace.
Continue reading Pennies
The soft vegetable stink of leaves reached him before his eyes opened. He was in a wood, the back of his head resting uncomfortably against the exposed root system of a fallen tree. Movement brought the unpleasant sensation of pins and needles in his head. That didn’t seem possible, but here he was.
Continue reading A Quiet Place