Space and Tme by Adam Lock

Space and Time

Adam Lock

Saying something will go against me, so I don’t say anything. A lightning strike draws the outline of clouds. I’ll wait for as long as it takes for the thunder to reach us.

In the city at night, even when the sky is clear, it’s never black. Charcoal maybe, or grey, or dark blue.

The speed of light moves at 386 thousand miles per second. Photons make her eyes green.

The speed of sound moves at 0.2 miles per second. Her sigh travels at the speed of sound.

Her coat, dark blue, is wrapped tight about her. Her hair, brown, rests on one shoulder making it kink at the end. I want to push it away so it falls evenly over each shoulder. She’s staring at my chest. I imagine she sees me as a machine, grime between the cogs and gears, mechanical microbes in the gut, in the mouth, on the skin — all dirt, all virused — diseased like the mind at a drunken three in the morning when she’d asked me to do it like we’d never done it before. Doing it. It. She’d let me in on a secret she’d shared once with another man; I didn’t mind.

She lifts her eyes to mine. ‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘Need space. Time to think.’

I want to explain how the Earth is spinning at 1000 miles per hour because that seems important now. I’m sure she has no idea. Why would she? Maybe there’s someone who really understands, who feels it, who’s screaming at everyone to hold on to something. And that’s nothing compared with the 67 thousand miles the Earth travels every hour through its loop around the Sun.

‘I don’t know,’ she says again, like maybe I’d not heard her the first time.

I imagine telling her, we live in the age of stars — we’re children of the stars. Five billion years from now, the universe will be half as bright. Eventually, the universe will have expanded and stretched so thin, galaxies and stars will no longer form. You wait, I’d explain, you wait for the age of stars to come to an end. I’d tell her how, the fabric of Spacetime itself is accelerating faster than the speed of light. But she doesn’t like me talking about the death of the universe — no one does. So I don’t say anything. Instead I hold her hand and tell her it’s going to be ok.

‘Can you give me some time to think?’ she asks, like it’s mine to give. ‘Some space?’

I see the two of us, holding hands, stood on this spinning planet, hurtling about a star, moving headfirst towards another galaxy, ripped apart by Space and Time. The darkness coming. She has no idea. The sky rumbles with thunder.

 

About the author: Adam Lock’s stories have been published in STORGY, Fictive Dream, Fiction Pool, Flash Fiction Magazine, Vending Machine Press and others. You can read more of his work on his website: http://adamlock.net/ 

Black is the Purest Sound by Rebecca Williams

Black is the Purest Sound

Rebecca Williams

“You wear too much black, love.”

Dad doesn’t get it though, black isn’t a colour, it’s a sound; it’s Amy Winehouse’s voice coming through my speakers. I listen to her every day before school.

This morning mum has already laid my clothes out, a shadow girl on my bed. I hoick my pants up, fingers brushing against feathery scars. Bra clipped on, tissue stuffed in, tights stretched around my waist. “More to love,” dad always says, when I pinch and pull at myself.

I tug my dress over my hair. It catches on my arms, scabby from skirmishes with brambles last weekend; bonding time with mum. Bloody drips spattered our hands as we brought home tubs overflowing with fruit.

Amy is telling me how she’s no good. But I disagree and layer on beige war paint. Tectonic plates tremble and shift inside me. But Amy steadies my hand until my eyelids are heavy with inky flicks like hers.

The doorbell interrupts. The car’s here, the coffin – it’s too soon. Like Amy I am resolute, I won’t go. I draw back the curtain, there’s quite a gathering out there. White lilies spell out `Daddy`, just as Mum promised.

Tears trail down my chin but I leave the shadow girl on my bed. Instead I’m wearing a rainbow –indigo tights, emerald dress, red boots. I switch Amy off as I leave, back to black tomorrow.

 

About the author: Rebecca Williams has always wanted to be a writer and after taking part in a Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course she completed the first draft of her novel – about bored housewives on a vigilante crime spree – in August 2017. She is killing time before facing up to second draft edits by dabbling in flash and shorter fiction. Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman and Bret Easton Ellis.

The Tree of Forty Fruits by Celia Daniels


Begin beneath a plum tree. Balance a knife in your hand and press the blade against one of the younger branches. Reveal the plum vascular. Bring out your tape and introduce the sugar sap to a cut of peach, just as young, just as pretty, just as weeping. Bind the cuts. Step away. Don’t watch; this act is intimate.

If the bind succeeds, then your plum tree is no longer a plum tree. Binding creates unity: it will be pits against pits when summer comes.

Dance your knife through an orchard of fingers. Cut through cherry. Bind again.

Repeat this process and watch the bark of your plum tree stripe itself tart, sweet breaths refuting singularity. Blood melds with blood and runs green with chlorophyll; family based in genus becomes family in proximity.

Wait for spring. Watch dormant buds wake, form whorls of purple, white, pink. Clear petals away from the rootstock; leave your knife folded up in a pocket of your jeans. Sweat as the flowers swell. Pick the cherries first, when they form, nipple-red and gleaming. Follow with the plums. End when the summer offers you peaches.

Repeat this process. Pull your knife away from an open wound and recognize the sweet xylem that pools between your fingers. Bind again. And again. Build for yourself an unwieldy heritage;a tree of foreign branches that stem from the same root. Mark the colors as they change: pink, green, red, brown, until it all turns green again.

Settle yourself beneath the plum tree. Let it clothe you in Joseph’s coat. Is it possible that trees can be so yielding? Remind yourself: “yielding” is “compromise” disguised as “giving.”

 

About the author: Celia Daniels received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Indiana University Bloomington in May 2017. Her work has been or will be publishing in Road Maps and Life Rafts, Entropy, Magic Jar, Claudius Speaks, Timeless Tales, and 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy. 

 

Green! Means! Go! by Christopher Stanley

Green means go,” chirps Daniel from his baby seat. This is my life. Every car journey,every in-car telephone conversation I have with my ex, is rapidly dominated by my twin boys and their newly discovered love of traffic lights. 

“Red means stop,” says Sam. I tell myself it’s a phase. They’re learning. They’ve already tackled numbers and letters, and now they’re onto colours and actions. I should be happy but I’m not. Raising twins is too hard. Mostly I wish red could mean “stop speaking”. If only green could mean “go away”. Friends think I’m a wonderful mother. They’d feel differently if they could see inside my head. 

Today we’re having a picnic, just me and the boys and two hundred acres of forest. They bounce with excitement, their little knees poking out beneath their shorts,their rucksacks swinging from their backs. We find a clearing and I spread the blanket across the soft grass. The boys scout the area, juice bottles pressed to their lips like some kind of essential breathing apparatus. I unpack the food and we eat. 

“Who wants an apple? I ask, rummaging through the hamper. Too late, I realise my mistake.

“Green means go!” says Daniel, holding up his Granny Smith.

Before I can say anything, he’s on his feet and running, his little legs flying like some crazed string puppet as he races towards the treeline. Beyond the trees is darkness. Shadows speckled with golden leaves. I chase after him, ordering him to stop, but his little feet are already tiptoeing between raggedy old roots, his fingers stroking coarse bark.

I’m halfway to the treeline when I remember Sam. I turn around and tell him to come with me but he won’t move. He just stands there, waving his apple and giggling. I rush back and scoop him up but he kicks me, his little fingers gouging my eyes and clawing my neck. 

“Red means stop!” he says, hitting me on the nose with his Red Delicious.

I collapse to my knees. I can’t do this. I’ve been beaten by a couple of three-year-old boys with apples. But then I see the opportunity. Raising one child would be so much easier than two. Sam and I could let Daniel go. We could lose him in the forest. Or I could chase after Daniel and abandon Sam.

Which of my boys do I love the most?

Then I have an idea. I rummage through my rucksack, feeling my way past yoghurt pots and cake bars, until I find what I’m looking for. Kneeling down in front of Sam I say, “How would you like to swap?”

The smile springs back onto his face. “Green means go!” he says, handing me his Red Delicious in return for my Granny Smith.

Shall we fetch your brother now?”

“This way,” he says, pointing toward the treeline.

And together we run, hand in hand, both of us calling Daniel’s name. 

 

About the author: Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren’t triplets. His stories have won prizes and been published by Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, The Short Story, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being included in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings

Summer 1976 by Joanna Campbell


Dinner time on the thirsty school-field. We flop on our backs like caught fish, concertina-folding our blouse hems for the sun to pound our dough-white bellies. Maxine’s is flatter thana slice of Nimble bread, Simone’s is a shallow dish in which the bread could lie. Mine is two,maybe three, compressed cottage-loaves, only a little less kneadable when horizontal.

A bubble of conversation blisters through the baking silence. Maxine and Simone know all their lines, the vital pauses, the essential inflections. I was not given a role, nor invited to rehearsals. I am their singular, bloated audience.

As I listen, a leaf-green ant struggles through wilting towers of clover, weaves through crisping blades of grass, bearing his burden of leaf fragments. When a mutant daisy on a trunk-like stalk blocks his path, he heads another way, skirting and circling until his mission is accomplished.

Beneath the crumbly soil-mound beside Simone’s head, ants have created a colony of interconnecting chambers. Deep inside the cool earth, only human intervention can break the harmony: spiteful rakes, angry brooms, slow-drip poison. People fear swellings, bumps and hillocks. Lawn distortions are interruptions of perfection.

Maxine insists most girls should wear midnight-blue to the summer ball. Sombre tones peel off pounds. Dark colours inject confidence, like an instant remedy.

Remedy? I didn’t know a cure was needed, let alone obligatory.

Simone pinches the resistant skin stretched taut over her rib-cage, fingernails notching pink crescent-moons. “Look at this excess,” she squeals. “I’ll choose the darkest dress on the rack to hide it.”

It seems even a bean-pole mulls over the magic of indigo taffeta.

In the sweltering silence, they let their deep-blue words sink in, drop by medicinal drop. I can hear their glances: the swish of pony-tails, the creak of belt buckles, metal zips tinkling.Perspiration tries to trickle, but surrenders, sealed tight inside my flesh-folds.

Their performance over, they nibble their Nimble sandwiches. Unsure if I’m allowed to eat, I watch the ants shouldering Simone’s lissom crumbs.

Yes, we’ll definitely wear something dark too,” is the final line of their script.

On the night, Maxine is sheathed in tangerine silk, Simone in oyster satin. I go to the Ladies and rustle out of my navy gown. It drops to the floor, inside-out. I pull it straight back up.

They said nothing about keeping options open. They failed to mention interior material, the intimate information kept under wraps and which is rapidly reversible.

I walk back to the ball, beneath the flash of disco-light balloons, wading through puffy handbag clusters, swishing past the pastel wallflowers. Heads tilting, they blink fast at my livid, leaf-green inner lining, how it catches every light and throws it back: emerald, avocado and dazzling jade.

 

About the author: Joanna Campbell is a full-time writer of flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her story collection, ‘When Planets Slip Their Tracks’, was published last year by Ink Tears and is currently on the long list for The Edge Hill Story Prize. Her novel, ‘Tying Down The Lion’, was released in 2015 by Brick Lane Publishing and is about divided Berlin in the nineteen-sixties. Joanna is currently writing a novel based on her story, ‘Upshots’, which won the 2015 London Short Story Prize.

 

To Be the Beach by Amanda Huggins

At the end of the track a row of caravans came into view; four bleak hulks crouched in the grass-covered dunes. The one they stopped in front of was the dirtiest of them all: dented and rusty, coated with the salty skin of the seaside. A dead rabbit lay outside the door, flattened and bloodied, staring up at them through a single glassy eye. Lydia walked to the edge of the low cliff, where a few stunted trees still clung to the eroded bank. The sand below was littered with thick ropes of seaweed, broken shells and dead starfish that had been caught out by the tide. The sea was grey and silent; far out at low ebb. Without waiting for Dean she scrambled down the cliff path to the water’s edge and stared out towards the horizon and the distant fishing boats.

Lydia wanted to be the beach; her wrinkles smoothed by the sea, her slate wiped clean, her rubbish swept away. The beach presented herself anew each morning, as though nothing had ever happened there before. As though no dog had ever raced headlong after a ball, leaving untidy paw prints in a skittering arc. As if lovers had never walked arm in arm along the shoreline, stooping to pick up shells.

She must leave Dean; she knew that. She must wipe clean the marks of his knuckles and his words. On the drive over she had almost believed this break would do them good; that he really meant what he said this time. When she looked down at the bruises on her wrists he had stroked her hand, switching on his familiar, lazy smile. But the damp caravan and the scowling sea made everything unbearable again. When she saw Dean kick the rabbit away with a vicious flick, Lydia knew it wasn’t safe to stay.

A lone gull wheeled overhead, the bird’s eerie cry mingling with Dean’s voice as he shouted down to her from the cliff top. She turned with a start, automatically lifting her hand to wave. As she looked up she saw a red helium balloon. It jerked and dived and soared, pulling free, higher and higher, carrying a handwritten message to the world on its fluttering label. Perhaps a child was watching its steady climb from further along the cliff top, waiting for the moment it disappeared into the sullen clouds: hope swallowed whole.

Dean called her name again, but she couldn’t hear him any more, she could only see his lips move. For a moment she allowed herself to imagine him slipping off the cliff edge and dashing his head against the jutting rocks.

Further along the beach a dog was barking, and Lydia turned towards the sound. A collie raced in circles, waiting for his owner to throw a ball. The man’s anorak was a splash of scarlet against the pale sand. He was her own bright, beckoning speck of hope.

Lydia set off slowly, then broke into a run.


About the author: Amanda lives in Yorkshire and works in engineering. Her travel writing and short fiction has appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines.

She has won numerous writing competitions and been shortlisted and placed in many others, including those run by Bare Fiction, Fish, Ink Tears, Cinnamon Press, English Pen, The Telegraph, and Bradt Travel Guides. She won the BGTW New Travel Writer Award in 2014, and was the runner-up in last year’s Henley Literary Festival Short Story Competition.