Bit of a scheduling error this week and so this is a little later than planned. Also, constant readers will recall Arches by Gareth L Powell was one of my favourite short stories of last year and GLP has an excerpt up on his site – check it out here.

Here’s my offering:

By Neil Beynon

There are tears in my eyes as we reach the summit and I can barely see.

Your hand slips into mine to pull me up. Your skin is soft and I feel light as air. I wouldn’t know you were holding me if it weren’t for the coldness of your flesh against mine. You do not linger against me. There is something you want to show me as you move across the flat plateau.

You look back at me from the cliff edge. The grey before the dawn makes you look like you walked off the silverscreen of some ancient movie and my heart is contemplating exploding from the ascent. It feels like we’ve climbed to the top of the world although, in reality, it’s only been a thirteen-minute climb; the feeling of height has more to do with the gradient of the hill and the flatness of the plain around us. If it were daylight we would be able to see across to the Crystal ranges where you were born.

“Once a year the stars in this system, the lovers, come close enough to appear over the horizon at almost the same time,” you say, sounding an awful lot like a tour guide. That used to bug the shit out of me, like you viewed holidays as some kind of homework exercise and there was me wandering round like the class dunce, knowing nothing.

“Look: here they come.”

The dawn breaks. The swollen, older star slides into the sky on a crest of fire that soaks the plains in light and then the other – as if dragged by the hand – rolls into view coating the world, coating you, in honey. I should like to hold this moment in my hand, cup it safely against the wind and carry it with me back to the skimmer but I know I can’t.

“Just once a year,” I hear you whisper, your hand reaching for mine.

“Why did you bring me here?”

It is too late. The stars are much higher in the sky now, the honey-glazed world has tarnished to the dull pastels of reality and the wind slaps me in the face with the knowledge that you’re gone.

Lost in the ether like a solar flare, like you were never there.

Like what I do? Sign up for my latest updates and receive occasional free fiction.