Story #4 is a slightly longer story in a series of short story collabs, written in March in honour of International Women’s Month. It began when I wrote the first 100 words of a story and then sent it to two other women, asking them to pass it along after adding onto the beginning. The only rules to this collaborative project were that each entry should not exceed 100 words and that the story had to cross international border after each writer added her part.
This story leapt borders a few more times than others, and each time it did it changed in touch and feel.
You can read the first three stories here, here and here. The next story in the series will follow early next week.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to the women who participated in this project.
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Michelle Elvy – Martha Williams – Claire King – Kate Brown – Peggy Riley – Judith Teitelman – Beth Gignac
Speaking of flying. Dreaming, that is. The dreams are never the same of course: sometimes you float among cold choking clouds, other times it’s oily, hot and thick and you can’t tell if it’s liquid or gas suspending you above-ground. Sometimes you’re wrapped in whipped cream (never with strawberries, which you don’t understand because it’s your dream dammit and you love strawberries). Or you float through a watery world, where owls gurgle a greeting through kelp and tall poplars wave prettily while goldfish glup-glup by.
Awake, you peddle to market on Monday, wheels rattling over the kerb, road, cobbles… across the square through a haze of cinnamon, where grizzly old men clutch espressos at small, round tables and schoolchildren chatter through minty breath as they walk past market daffodils.
This morning, for the first time in months, the grey light is pierced by a hint of gold and the cold fails to bite your fingers. For a few minutes you pause by the church and look to the sky. Then you remember the time and lurch ahead, swaying madly from side to side.
When you arrive, breathless, the door’s already open.
In your scatter for the steps you lose your footing and fall forward. Your basket flies from your hands as they reach out to stop the crack of skull on slabs, but before your palms touch down your feet leave the ground. You spin up in a slow tumble, the contents of your basket meeting you on their way down.
For a moment you do not try to right yourself, but embrace the familiar feeling. You smell tea… and bath salts. That’s new. You hear a voice and open your eyes.
I’ve been waiting for you.
You wonder whether you’ve seen him from upside down before. You must have.
There is grey in his beard that you don’t remember. It’s not as neatly trimmed as he almost certainly thinks it is.
My brother has grey in his beard.
The disarming, lopsided smile doesn’t look as innocent from this angle. This isn’t how you’d expected it, seeing him again after so many years.
He helps you sit up. You lean your back against the corridor wall. He slides down it to join you.
“That bread for me?” he asks you.
He looks you in the eye as the bread floats down to land in his upturned palm. His nails are long and clean.
“Yes,” you tell him. Whatever he wants, you give him. You always have.
He parts his beard to jam the bread roll into his mouth, smacking with satisfaction. His lips are pink as always, which you find odd. You watch him chew and the sharp Adam’s apple bob of his swallow. “What’s it like?” you ask him.
“It’s like bread,” he says.
“No,” you press. “What’s it like, being dead?”
as the one before.
Always the same.
But now different… distinct… definite.
Filled with images…
painted of memory and dust.
at least… until… one’s return.
Then the journey…
commences… once again…
“I have to admit, that sounds very disappointing because I’ve always hoped that death would be more adventurous.” He shrugs his shoulders and seems to waver around the edges which isn’t that odd since he lived his life moving in and out of consciousness. “I don’t know how long we’ll have together,” he says and his grin becomes that dangerous smile that gave you the courage to always choose “dare” on the front porch steps when you were kids. Never a truth. Truth was that you wanted to live, breathe and jump into life. Just like he did. Until.