A bit rushed today. I hope you’re all having a good Boxing Day. Here’s this week’s flash:
By Neil Beynon
It was just before dawn when he woke.
The horizon was turning the colour of hot coals as he cast his gaze out of the window at the world beyond. He’d seen sunrises before but this was different somehow, the colours were so bright against the darkness they burned his eyes. Then he remembered. Careful as to not wake the creature still sleeping in the room, its lithe body swaying gently from the ceiling, Frank gathered his few belongings and made his way down the stairs and out of the house.
The town was quiet as Frank made his way down the street to the old stone bridge. He paused, wondering if the water would try to stop him and then chastised himself for listening to old wives’ tales. He was below the view of the horizon now and everything was in shadow. If he looked up he would have seen the tops of the buildings cast in a tawny glow but he did not look up.
Halfway across the bridge he realised someone was there, standing on the other side of the bridge. She stood in the half-light, her cigarette casting the occasional amber glow in an otherwise dark silhouette.
“Frank,” she said. “Nice to see you in one piece.”
He let out a breath he wasn’t aware of holding and his hand dropped from the blade inside his coat. Her heels clicked on the flagstones of the bridge as she approached him. He could see her expression on her face now he was concentrating, in fact he could make out the details of the pores on her skin now that he was looking. It took all of his willpower to look away, to stop pouring over the detail of her with his new eyes. He tilted his head, realising for the first time that he could hear her heart beating.
“You lived then?” she said.
“Yes, “ he replied.
“But you’re different now,” she continued.
He said nothing, surprised she’d guessed and wondering if his changes were so obvious.
“It changed you,” she repeated.
“I didn’t want it,” he said. “But it would’ve taken you…it was taking you and…”
She put her hand to his mouth.
“Don’t,” she said. “Don’t lie.”
“What do you mean?”
“It wasn’t about me. That was an excuse at best, you wanted this.”
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “I did it to save you.”
“Maybe I didn’t want…or need saving.”
“You wanted it,” she said tracing his altered features with her fingertips. “You ached for it. I see that now.”
“No, it’s you I ache for,” he said. “You I want.”
“Silly boy,” she said. “Be truthful to yourself, even if you can’t be to me.”
He looked away from her, his hands gripping the stonewall of the bridge so tight they sank into it. The silence grew, as did the light from the rising sun. He wanted to say something, anything, but he could not.
“I thought so,” she said, reaching for his shoulder. She rested her hand there for a moment before giving him a gentle squeeze and then she walked away.
Frank didn’t turn to watch her leave, nor did he call after her, he stood and sank his hands deeper into the stone. Her footsteps faded but still he could hear her heart, gently thumping away. He let go of the wall, paying no attention to the handprints he’d left. He blew the dust from his hands and then began to walk back to the room over looking the horizon.
He stopped only once when he walked, finally, into silence. Around him the sunlight felt like it was burning away parts of him but he could see he was, in reality, fine. But he couldn’t hear her heart, not anymore.