Glass is Just Melted Sand

by Anne Howkins

Blown

He smashes the bottle when she tells him. Ignores her leave it, you’ll cut yourself. Doesn’t see the shard, guillotine-angled in the sand. His screech sounds like seagulls keening for chips. A fountain of sweet iron gushes onto her sea salty arms. 

Her scarf a hurried tourniquet round his arm, she shoulders the weeping heft of him to the car. Leaves the picnic and shattered glass for the gulls and the sea. 

Cerulean blue the bottle was – the colour of her eyes, he tells the nurse. Souvenir from their first date.

She leaves early the next morning, before he can shackle her with his bloody arm. 

Stained

He goes to church. To stark whiteness, high on a cliff, glowing like a lighthouse for the damned. Not here for god, songs of praise or confession. His scumbled secrets are tight wrapped. The priest tries, offers a shoulder, an uncritical ear. There are days when he spills self-pity and regret without repentance. Other days when his lips are mussel-shell tight.

But the light.

The windows. 

Glorious, splitting the light into waves warming his flesh. A flock of weightless birds of paradise lifting him away from his misery. He is heavy, opaque until the light waltzes him through the cool damp air, until the taste of her, cool salt, is on his lips. 

Cut

She has a dinner invitation. The man is kind, easy company, tells her she deserves fine things. Takes her to a subdued, expensive restaurant atop a glass building she can’t look at without shivering. They sit on the terrace overlooking the city, a glittering ocean punctuated with sharp edges. He says her eyes shine like sapphires when they clink champagne flutes. 

While they eat, she fingers lead crystal, wonders why the cuts set the glass alight.  Allows her nails to glide into perfectly symmetrical crevices. His eyes widen as she licks a drop of ferrous Shiraz from her lips- he resists the lusty kick in his gut, knows he must take his time. 

Alone in her flat, she practices intricate diamond patterns on her arm with a biro, scrubs them off in the shower before she finds something sharper than a pen.

She thinks this man is too easy, too safe. A man who didn’t keep a souvenir from their first date.

Sea

He dreams of broken bottles and the sea. 

He is tumbling, tumbling, tumbling. 

Ground by rocks and rusted iron carcases of sunken ships, until the sharp edges are gone. Buffed to a milky sheen by the velvet bladderwrack. Washed ashore on sparkling white horses.He haunts the sand, forages in the high tide debris, sifting through the Atlantic’s offerings. Waits for azure pebbles to shine out from the sizzling spume. 

Azure pebbles to thread on a bracelet lure, ready to snag her perfect blue-veined wrist.

***

This story was a runner-up in the GLASS Themed Flash Competition 2020.

About the author: Anne started writing flash fiction in 2019 and relishes the challenge of writing very short stories. Her stories have appeared in print and online, most recently at Retreat West, Flash 500, Reflex Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day, Lunate, Strands International and Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2020.

Future Imperfect

by Lucinda Hart

They both have futures, separately and together.

He’ll be over six feet by the time he’s eighteen. Blond, blue-eyed, wide shouldered. He’ll know he wants to study medicine, because that’s all he’s ever wanted to do. Ever since his first child’s medical kit. Yellow plastic scissors, a scrubby bandage, a syringe that jams.

She’ll be different. Elegant but shorter. Freckled. Copper-chestnut hair, but eyes like his. She’ll miss him when he goes away to study, but she will want to stay near home. She’ll dabble with an arts degree, give it up, smoke too much weed, drink, sleep with unsuitable boys, and even more unsuitable men.

He won’t like it. Because he’ll know. And she’ll know he knows. And she’ll feel sick opening his messages with a hangover headache, but she’ll understand it’s because he loves her. Because he’s bound to her. 

He’ll always be there for her. When she’s bullied at school he’ll hit a couple of creeps for her. A week of detention, but he won’t care. He’ll let her copy his homework. When the teacher asks her to explain a simultaneous equation she will pretend to faint.

Sometimes she knows what he’s thinking. She can finish his sentences. He doesn’t finish hers because he doesn’t want to frame the words, but he knows them.

She will walk out of her degree half-way through, get throw-away jobs in shops and cafés. In the late-night bar that stays open till morning. She’ll drag herself home at dawn, stinking of sweat and stale beer and the hands of drunken men, and she’ll think of him waking clean and bright, straightening his tie, striding onto the wards to a day of life and death. 

She’ll cry and drink and wish he were there to hold her, but he has someone’s blood on his hands, and someone’s tears on his clothes and, for this moment, he is not hers.

Do you remember? she will ask when they talk. Do you remember when we…? And he will, he always will.

His life is threaded with hers.

She will be a mother before he is a father. A red scrawny girl drawn from her body. She’ll peer at her daughter looking for similar features but there are none. A scratch of dark hair that favours the missing father. A tiny mouth rooting for milk.

He will have children too. Two boys and two girls.  But one of the girls is not his. He takes the child to his home because there is nowhere else on this earth she could live when her mother dies. 

A registrar, married, settled. He will watch his niece sleep, and sob, raw and unrestrained, for the years that have gone. 

In the morning his sister’s coffin will slide into the fragrant black earth.

Many years on cancer ravages his own organs.

This is the future.

Today they are two embryos in a glass petri dish.

***

This story was a runner-up in the GLASS Themed Flash Competition 2020.

About the author: Lucinda Hart lives in Cornwall. She has an honours degree in Fine Art and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Creative Writing, both from Bath Spa University.

Glass

by Louise Watts

In Venice I dreamt I was vomiting glass. It came out of me in small cubes, like smashed car windows. It was not sharp. I leaned over and out it came, an opaque pile at my feet, small lumps skimming and scattering over the dream floor and under the dream wardrobe, in the dream room. When I woke, the real room and wardrobe were there, and the real floor was bare, and you were beside me, drunk. I had broken my insides by accident. 

You lay on the bed not only in your clothes, but in your coat. 

My stomach hurt. I needed milk. Anything to dilute the acid, to soften it. I went to the bathroom and ran water into a cup. 
Now, I saw how it was.

I would go back on the train.

But before that, there would be another night and it would be a version of this first night.

We would walk from bar to bar, both of us beneath your greatcoat when it got cold, hip against hip in rough lockstep. We would drink grappa and wine and beer, and you would bring out the wad of soft lire from your pocket until we were down to the coins, and the counting of the coins.

We would not get to see St Mark’s. 

We would of course cross small bridges and descend steps. I would try to stop you falling in the water. We would eat. We might come to a sudden standstill in the middle of walkways and kiss – and with eyes closed imagine our kissing selves through the eyes of others – but we would not do any of the other things: travel by boat across the lagoon, talk about the future, visit museums, learning almost without noticing it something we had not thought to think about before – such as the ingredients added in the making of old mirror glass – traces of gold and bronze to the amalgam of mercury and tin –  which once brought a softness to old mirror light, and made reflections more beautiful than the real.

***

This story won 1st Prize in the Glass Themed Flash Competition in 2020.

About the author: Louise Watts’ novella-in-flash Something Lost was published in November 2020 by Ad Hoc Fiction. Her short fiction and poems have appeared in Ambit, Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine, Raceme, Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual and have been short and long-listed in competitions run by Mslexia, National Poetry Society, The Plough and Fish. She lives in Oxfordshire with her family and dog.

The Youth of Today, by Sherri Turner

Leaky bus shelter. Cold damp bench hard on a pair of under-fleshed buttocks. Used to have a nice arse, I did. And tits, too, that stood up on their own. Bus was late again. Gang of bloody teenagers coming down the road all pierced and whatnot. Ridiculous. Music from somewhere. Loud. Perky, though. Got my feet tapping. Expected a snigger, mocking, the usual. But they just ran over and grabbed my hands, twirled me round a bit. In a nice way, not rough, or mean. Gave me a can of cider and a wave. Felt like I’d been on Strictly.


Author bio: Sherri Turner has had numerous short stories published in magazines and has won prizes for both poetry and short stories in competitions including the Bristol Prize, the Wells Literary Festival and the Bridport Prize. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies. She tweets at @STurner4077.

Aftermath, by Sam Payne

The sedatives are wearing off so I slip on your dressing gown and turn on the TV to see Sky News interviewing survivors. A woman describes her rescuers as heroes, they just walked over and grabbed my arms, lifted me from the rubble.

I stroke your side of the bed and imagine a scenario where confusion caused by concussion explains your absence. The camera cuts to what’s left of the train station. Something catches my eye. I press pause on unmoving escalators covered in shattered glass and plaster. There, half hidden in the debris and dust, a man’s empty shoe. 


Author bio: Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She holds a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. In 2020 she was awarded first place in Flash 500, runner up in the Retreat West music themed quarterly competition and came third in the 15th Bath Flash Fiction Awards. She tweets at: @skpaynewriting

Rain, by Zoe Walker

It would work this time. This god would answer us.

Never had there been such a drought. Even the great trees, whose roots ran deep, wilted under the perpetual punishment. 

Heat smothered the expectant crowd outside an ancient tower dedicated to the false god, Money.  

The front line undulated. Frank shivered. He squeezed his shoulders together and slunk backwards into anonymity. I tried to follow in his wake. 

Too slow.

They just walked over and grabbed my wrists. Swooping down for my ankles, they bore me into the twisted metal temple. 

Where a blade waited and a hungry god slumbered.


Author bio: Zoe J Walker lives between Rome and Edinburgh. She’s currently editing her historical fantasy novel before searching for representation. Find her at www.zoejwalker.com