flash fiction 1

    ‘The gods sigh at midnight’ (c) 2012 daniel hunter

    Terry sat in the train carriage. People chattered, babies cried and everyone else attempted to avoid eye contact. He scratched his fluffy side burns and tried to forget about his day spent persuading and selling. The train began to slow then stop at one of those wilderness stations where no one gets on, only this time a man boarded the train. He wore jeans that were worn at the knees and a t shirt that was a pale mouldy shade of yellow. As he stuttered on to the train fellow passengers glanced at him with something close to contempt.

    The man sat down opposite. He emitted a low hum that could have been a mixed up jumble of words. His short grey hair was matted and clearly had not been combed or styled and a rash of stubbly growth covered his jaw line. He was accompanied by the unmistakable smell of stale urine.

    A throaty shriek pierced the tranquillity of the carriage. “THE CONTENTS OF HELL ARE CONTAINED WITHIN A PEN!” He spat. Most of the passengers were shocked. Some stared curiously. Terry began wondering what he could possibly mean.

    The man stared back at Terry. His face did not look right, his forehead creased in consternation and his eyes shone brightly. Too brightly. They projected a kind of fear and terror. He continued to stare and resumed his muttering. “SMILE AS YOU KILL, SMILE AS YOU KILL.” The man shouted. Terry began to warm towards him and his wisdom. Thousands of years ago he might have been revered as some kind of saint or sage. Terry began to muse. He thought about his phoney friendship with Alan from accounts and alliance with Tommy from HR. A wave of familiar gloom filled him.

    The man turned his head and looked strait at Terry. Seconds passed. He began laughing first quietly to himself and then built up to a crescendo of manic shrieks. Fellow passengers glanced at him this time with an air of puzzled amusement.

    The mans gaze still held Terry‘s. He leant forward, smiled serenely and whispered, “Trade this in and go back? You got to be nuts kid – the truth is I would probably do it in pieces.”
    Terry smiled, why should you, man, why should you?

    The man got steadily to his feet and stopped muttering. Hands hanging by his sides. Totally rigid, like a zombie. His face softened as if he was finding peace. Though his eyes betrayed him, spasmodically darting around the carriage. Seconds past. And then minutes.

    “You awight, man?” Terry finally asked.

    The mans eyes flickered, he began speaking very slowly in hushed tones, “I can see it. It makes sense. Everything. … the … the gods sigh at midnight … .” With this the man trailed into knowing silence. He remained this way both at peace and terrified. Forever.

    ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’ (c) 2012 daniel hunter

    I yearn for life. For danger. Yet I retreat inside myself. The more I yearn the more I retreat. I have no courage. I have chosen a safe life. Safe job. Safe wife.

    I only feel emptiness. Though it’s less than that. I’m a spectator. I often tell my family I love them when in fact I resent them. They provide me with stress and strain. Its no better at work where I follow my bosses commands like a frightened child, feeling the humiliation welling up inside me every time.

    What happened to me?
    I am well liked. Considerate. Neighbours and friends respect me.
    Why? Respect me for what? playing along? Grinding it out?

    My children bluster into the kitchen. Eager bundles of energy. They help themselves to breakfast and stare at me like they can sense my misery and despair. I stand up and kiss each child’s forehead. Each of them wriggle’s as their brows crease. And for a fleeting second I breathe in their energetic youthfulness. Like they are breathing life itself into me. I’m not miraculously renewed. Though I have received enough affection to get me through the day.

    I get in my sparkling car and begin the long journey to work. For no reason at all I make a left at the roundabout instead of a right. I am shocked. Why did I do that? I drive now with a sense of rebellious fearlessness. I feel free. Eventually I stop beside the sea. Gaze as the waves rhythmically hit the rocks.

    I turn the key, drive towards the precipice and then stop. Tires scream. I leave the engine running and dig into my pockets for my wallet. Open it and fish out a small dog eared photo. It is of my wife. She is smiling. Almost as if she is smiling at me. I sigh and return the smile.

    I put the car in reverse, feeling a rising sense of shame. I mentally rehearse excuses for my uncharacteristic lateness and battle through the day. I feel a monumental relief when the clock reaches six o’clock.

    My car pulls into the drive. I am home. I know my children will be waiting for me with keen excited faces. And they are! I pick them up and hug them with the warmth and affection they deserve. I hear my wife rattling pots and pans and shout in her direction, “Hi honey. Quit my job today.”
    There is deafening silence. She’s now standing in front of me. I can’t read her face. Is she upset? Her face brakes out in a smile, “what are you like, whatever for?”

    I am about to answer when she puts a finger to my lips.

    “Just do whatever makes you happy. Anything. We‘ll manage.”

    And I realise that I’m not trapped at all, I’m just tasting a different type of freedom. A fuller more meaningful one. My wife hugs me and I remember why I married her.


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