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Friday Flash Fiction: The Cloud

Ok. Fumbled this one. Guess that’s what happens if you leave it to the last minute. There are actually two stories here, if you look hard enough. Feedback as ever is welcome.

The Cloud
By Neil Beynon

The funeral was today.

I was compelled to go although I didn’t want to. Dreadful affairs. Communal displays of emotion make me feel dirty: dreary black clothing on even drearier grey stone and all that leaking. Yuk. I was told I was going; Steph unjacked me without even asking.

I could have died.

They brought Gramps in a wooden box. I don’t understand why? You’re not allowed to bury in the ground anymore, the fire awaits one and all, you’d think they’d come up with a more efficient holdall for corpses. But no: its tradition.

There were a surprising number of people there. And not all bartenders either. I was a bit taken aback, the family were out in force – I thought he’d alienated them all. Perhaps they came along just to make sure he was really gone, not just in another stupor.

Stranger things have happened.

I asked him once why he did it. Why he drank. He just looked at me with his red rimmed, luggage laden eyes before lifting his glass and drinking down the scotch in one gulp. Then he poured me another and slid it over to me.

I was nine.

They say hangovers get worse the older you get. Bollocks. I repainted my parent’s dining room in violent shades of orange, beige and green. Just to make sure it matched I did the landing and hall on route to the bathroom. My parents returned to discover me dry retching in the bathroom whilst Gramps, sat in a puddle of vomit, finished the bottle.

He was not invited to stay again.

I still didn’t understand. I never drank again. Even today I’m tee-total and proud of it. I see them occasionally, sprawled in the streets, bottle in hand – a faint odour of spew (or piss or shit or sometimes all three) spinning its tendrils around my nostrils.

At least he wasn’t a Narc.

That’s what they said at the funeral. I don’t really see the distinction. Sure they’re a bit thinner, on occasion a bit more wired but they still wind up on the street, in my face and up my nose. Dead already and too dumb to notice.

When I voiced that opinion people went quiet, some sniggered.

I don’t really get them. People. And so I resolved to keep quiet the rest of the time making Steph’s kick somewhat redundant. She did it anyway. The service was really long, Steph made a scene – cried, blew her nose loudly, and squeezed my hand to tight: sweated all over me.

I just wanted to go back.

We had to go to the wake. Put in an appearance; press the flesh and say goodbye to the ghosts. I had nothing to say. Steph was cross with me again, compared me to a pig; perhaps it was a mistake to point out that genetically we are all quite similar.

Orwell would have laughed.

Now I’m back at home, Steph’s gone out. I’m alone. Not for long. The leather back of my chair is cold on the narrow expanse of skin between my t-shirt and the back of my jeans. I lean back – it’ll warm up soon enough. The room is stuffy. Light from the street is filtering through where the curtain has come off the hook capturing the dust dancing across the path I just walked across the room.

I hold the jack letting the light glint off its gold plated surface.

The thick black cable the jack is attached to is heavy as I flip it over my shoulder. There is that delicious moment where I can feel the jack inside my skull, a cold alien thing whose metallic probing kiss tongues my mind, washing away the world in a kaleidoscopic calligraphy.

Gramps stares back at me from the mantel piece as I left for The Cloud.

The Cloud envelopes me in its dry electronic embrace, puts its binary arms around me, whispers wavelengths in my ear. This is where you can dance with ideas, play with knowledge, and frolic with form. No sniggering or awkward silences. No fetid odours that leave you unclean. The Cloud is bliss. The Cloud is home. The Cloud is….

The world explodes in sharp, harsh lines inside my skull. There is a vacant gaping hole where the jack has been ripped from my skull by Steph who is standing over me, eyes burning.

“You promised,” she hissed. “No more today.” Then the jack is hurled through the window. I chase, flying, falling, all is a rushing slate grey. Then pain bursts like novae, the sky is full of copper rain encasing me in sticky wetness, all is grinding dark. The Cloud is gone.

And I don’t understand.


Addendum: This week the Friday Flash Fictioneers are joined by a new comer: Greg O’Byrne with Half-Man.

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