Flash Fiction: Now You’re Gone

 

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[This piece was inspired by two workshop prompts: BREAKDOWN and SHARP]

Now You’re Gone

It starts like this: thrum after thrum, the slick build of a Eurodance tempo that seems to shower serotonin on my brain. I always found it heart-breaking, that cute wee detail: I’ve been waiting here by the phone…

It was our favourite song! We shared it with a fondness reserved for the act of splitting an ecstasy tablet; pirouetting our way across the continent, spilling our limbs over a thousand discos in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin. They were even playing this tune in Prague! Being a cultural city doesn’t preclude a penchant for crappy Swedish ~trance lite~ and holy shit did we milk it. The whole summer, Jenny on my shoulders, fist pumping to that tune. So fucking beautiful. Cut me open and I’ll bleed Jagerbombs.

Last stop: Magaluf. End of the trail. Our livers ached and sleep kept dragging us back into absence. On the train, I dreamt of a dark forest where I could drink from a lake of Lucozade. Electrolytes restoring my sanity. I woke up to Jenny pulling on my arm, trying to steal my mp3 player so she could drown out the chants from a carriage of rowdy Geordies.

I’m coming up again in a strip club where girls in wigs are sliding their oiled-up bodies round poles. All those sensuous serpents. Everywhere you look: another girl, a different coloured wig. Jenny finds it hilarious, throws fivers at them as if our precious euro funds were just Monopoly money.

“Show us your vagina!” she shrieks in broken Spanish.

Just when I reach the high point, the DJ cracks out ‘Now You’re Gone’. Jenny is scrabbling for my shoulders but I push her away; this high is entirely mine. I’m deeper in the crowd now and the bass pounds through me like I’m in the belly of a whale.

That’s when it strikes me. That A minor. I never noticed it before, but now it’s an irretrievable spasm of sadness. Cuts me wide open. I’m spilling my guts up, hurling on the dancefloor. Pot noodles shoot from my throat like I’ve been harbouring a nest of worms. Everyone’s shouting and parting, backing away from me. I’m literally owning the dancefloor, triumphant in my puddle of vomit. Now you’re gone……the way that A minor hits you! Belting it out! All this time I thought there was a sharp in there; by god I was wrong!

My brain was wrong. In that moment, seriously wrong.

Now you’re gone
Now you’re gone
Now you’re gone
I realised———-

What is air? Breathing, breathing, a word that means breathing! Are we hitting the breakdown yet, the transcendent solo where he really wrecks those decks? I gasp and a girl shoves me back, the sick still dripping from my teeth. I’m back in that forest. Jenny, help me?

I’m Basshunter. I’ve literally become Basshunter. The sexy Swedish motherfucker, wow. Look how clean and smooth my face is. The stars shout back how cool I am. The dance poles are now trees, taller than lampposts. They’re everywhere. Yep, a fucking forest. What do I do? I’m a Basshunter. What does one do as Basshunter? I guess I should… hunt bass.

Bass is everywhere. Bass is the timbre of the trees breathing, the earth turning, plates shifting. Bass is the sound of bees laughing at wasps dying in saccharine cesspits of jam. Bass is a fish an old man once held up with a knife stuck clean through it. Saltwater, tongue-bitten tears. My mother spitting in her whisky. Jenny with the stereo cranked up in the car. Bass is an instrument banging against my chest. Bass is anchoring the melody, drumming a gong of oil from my heart. Bass is where we end, we start. Jenny? Jenny…?

I end up in the base. They call it a base, but I know it’s a cell. They have taken me; they have based me. Debased me. Everything pounds and it’s so trashy, ecstatic; one day someone will make a PowerPoint out of my misery. Jenny, come back to me? Just one little text? I’ll go crazy…what’s the next line? Now you’re away, without your face…?

[ [ [ Eat it up man, it’s just the bass ] ] ]

/ M. Sledmere (dj misty)

The Volcano

The Titan is there, sleeping. Well, is sleeping the right word? It is dormant, perhaps, like a volcano, and it is equally able to explode and destroy a town, destroy an entire country.
But maybe it won’t. Maybe, like so many before it, it will simply fade, fade out of memory and out of history and it will be remembered merely in myth, in legend. It will fade into the earth and everyone will forget their fear and if they ever think of it, they will laugh at the legend and mock people who take it too seriously.

But for now, people travel for miles to leave offerings at the base of the mountain, to pray for their health and the health of their families and friends, to pray that their crops will grow and their hurts will be healed and their lives will be happy. They do not know if their prayers will be answered, they do not know whether the Titan hears them or appreciates their paltry gifts, but it is not worth the risk to stop.

So they bring their gifts and they say their prayers and they keep their doubts secret and they hope that the Titan won’t become a volcano to rain horror and devastation on their contented tiny lives.

— mk

(Flash fiction prompts: Titan, recollection)

Exchange

It was the worst punishment his parents could have given him. Spending the best part of the year far away from his beloved city of Cologne, locked up in a small Scottish town to improve his English. Yes, he had always wanted to be an exchange pupil. He knew that English was an important language but didn’t come along well with his teacher and never achieved as high as he would like to. But first of all, why had his parents chosen Scotland? The people here didn’t even speak English! At least it was not the English he was used to from school. And second – and worse – why did they make him go during the second term knowing that he would miss Karneval, the big street party with people dressing up, huge parades with flood that were full of sweets and a lot of music and dancing? What else could it be than a punishment for his stepping over the line last Karneval, when he had more beer (one of the few alcoholic drinks he was allowed to have at his age) than he should have had, ending up in a police station for doing stupid things he didn’t even remember properly?

They could have given him any punishment: take away his mobile phone, lock him up in his room for a month or two or even make him accompany his grandmother to her weekly knitting circle. But they had not done any of these. His father had shouted at him the next day, his mother had told him how disappointed she was and his older sister had looked at him with disdain – nothing new here – but that had been all. Until half a year later when he got accepted for the exchange programme and he had noticed that it would be during the Karneval season. “Well, at least we don’t have to pick you up at the police station” had been all his father had said and he knew that this was the punishment his parents had planned for him.
The last five days had been the worst of his life. All these pictures of his friends on Facebook wearing costumes, celebrating Karneval in school and on the streets and watching the parades in the brightest sunlight. If it only had rained. But no. There was not justice in this world. At least it would be over this day. Once the big straw figure called Nubbel was burned, Karnval would be over and lent would begin.

He got up and put on his school uniform. It still felt unfamiliar, as if he had been wearing a costume for the last two months. He went downstairs and heard his host mother being busy in the kitchen. There was a delicious smell in the hallway. Was it pancakes?
“Pancake Day!” His host brothers, an eleven-year-old pair of twins shouted with joy, running into the kitchen. What?
He followed them and spotted a huge pile of pancakes in the middle of the table. Why did they have pancakes on a – as far as he could thing of – ordinary Tuesday? Usually all he got for breakfast was a wide range of cereals. Nothing to complain about but pancakes were far better.
His host mother must have noticed his confused looks. “It’s Pancake Day today. Don’t you have it in Germany?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“See, the day before Ash Wednesday we eat pancakes because lent is about to start and traditionally you can’t have them then” she explained.
Eating something sweet before you had to fast – that sound a lot like the main idea of Karneval. He grinned and helped himself with some pancakes. Pancake Day would become his second favourite day – after Karneval of course.

Rut Neuschäfer
What were your prompts?: Pancakes, Knitting, Sun

Crusoe’s Ghost

How strange to find myself here at last! Many months I have waited, through my dreams of turquoise shores to the pineapple sands and the shells that cut into your feet. In my sleep I opened myself like a clam to the possibilities. I would be anything – animal, even – to be here. And now I am.

What a wonder to be the only one, to own some place of my own. To have the luxury of knowing I cannot go back.

I do everything by the book. I erect my shelter, sow crops on the inland pastures, throw stones in the ocean and kill all the feral cats. I am never homesick; not for one minute.

Sometimes I find myself whispering, though what I say and to whom it cannot be said.

People do not appreciate the loveliness of loneliness until they have fully experienced it. There is an inexplicable beauty to be able to plot out one’s day, one’s hour, one’s life with absolute sovereignty. To reign free over every thought and feeling, to tread upon soil that can only be your own, with nobody to challenge it, nobody to challenge you at all. To have no worry of intrusion or offence; to have no worry of the soliciting of difference. I climb high for the coconuts and crack their skulls against the sandstone. Their pulpy juice is exquisite.

I have a herd of goats now, and a dog and a parrot, though they are not my companions. I keep them only because I am following the story. I do not speak and so the parrot learns no words, the dog obeys no orders and the goats do nothing but eat and sleep and secrete my milk. The whole island flourishes as the mother of my desires and yet still I owe her nothing but my company.

In the midday sun, I dig my toes into the sand and kill the little slimy things – the ones that crawl towards the shoreline, ugly and green.

I eat fleshy roots and summer berries, and from the tops of palms I watch the watery paradise that surrounds my island. All society has melted into the sweet sweet sea.

A year; two, three perhaps, have passed. I am no longer a name; I am no longer a human nor even an animal. I am the island itself.

This is perfect.

But everything changes one day. I wake from my goatskin sheets for my morning walk, and what do I see? I see a human footprint. A human footprint. And the terror bubbles up inside of me because I know that this footprint cannot belong to cannibals or savages or Spaniards, because that has already happened in the story. I try to erase the footprint with my boot, kicking sand over and over it, but it keeps reforming before me. And so I am no longer the whole; now I am a fractured reality, a host. For I realise this footprint can only be Crusoe’s ghost.

(Prompts: footprints photo, introvert, curiosity)

by Maria Rose Sledmere