SHORT STORIES

Coming Home

She opened her eyes again to the same bewildering blackness.
“It’s still so pitch black. Where the hell am I?” she whispered.
Her voice sounded foreign, like someone else was talking.
“Why is it so flipping cold? Hello?” she said to nobody.
There was only black. Her voice reverberated back as if the walls were clad in fluffy carpet. The air was thickly disorientated. She couldn’t fathom whether she was sitting or standing or lying down. Her feet were like ice and her hands were numb, moving them was like wading through dark syrup. It was so cold her breath was hurting her throat.
There was warmth when she turned her head. She tried to get closer.
Her body was too heavy and un-obliging. She figured out that when she turned her head, her body seemed to morph in that direction. Facing more towards the warmth, she seemed to get closer to it.
There was a glow, working its way through the black from the warmth. It pulsed the scent of early summer jasmine, that outlined feelings of bare feet on green grass with sticky watermelon and the brushing of white cotton, billowing at open windows.
“Am I sleeping? Am I blind?”
Confusion mounting as vivid memories of summer disappeared. She turned away. The cold began biting again.
“Hello? Help. I don’t know which way to go.”
She managed to put her hand up to her face and realised she was whimpering. Why was she sad? She couldn’t remember, but the sadness was tangible. It was squished in between her fingers and molding with the sticky black. Her hands displaced it like little Davie’s playdough. David! Where was her Davie?
The light became blinding. Welcoming the warmth, she tried to move faster. Her body would not reciprocate the urge. There was a feeling of unexplained urgency to get to the light – and to find Davie. A Feeling of contentment drew her towards the magnetic Jasmine.
“Mommy!”
A faint cry. She put her hand out to touch it. The realisation knocked her backwards and she hurtled towards the cold, the wind ripping up her hair. Davie was gone. She remembered. She could still feel his little fingers, as they released pressure while he passed his last strangled breath.
The brutal sadness engulfed her. So many pills at once proved more difficult than she had planned. They had scratched her throat, and were threatening to come up again. No – they were going down, like a pipe forcing it’s way into her lungs. The sad cold was unbearable. She gave up and let it take her. It dumped her on the sheets. Her body was limp, aching for the warm scent of jasmine.
“I have a pulse doctor!” shouted a woman.
A cacophony of beeping as hands roughly busied themselves around her face.
“Respirate!” replied a man. “Vitals are stable, transfer to surgery.”
The tear forced it’s way out of it’s crevice and down her temple and evaporated with the warm jasmine scent.

She Didn’t Need It Anyway. By Maeve Kousiakis.

She repeated it again to herself.

“Check in with the nurse at reception. Find a chair against a wall. Take out the documents. Put them under my shirt. Put the gun in my mouth – pointing upwards. Pow.” She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

Vanessa got out of the car in the dark parking lot and made her way to the doors of the emergency room. She could feel the gun, like a comforting weight, grounding her to calmness. Relative to its size, it was ridiculously heavy in her handbag.

“How long to see the doctor?” she asked the receptionist.

“Ten minutes. Kindly fill in the form and take a seat.” replied the receptionist.

It was Friday morning, 9am. The hospital’s emergency waiting room was empty, just as planned. She handed the forms back and found a seat with her back to the wall. She took out Ashleigh’s photo with the note on the back.

“My darling Ash,

It is so wasted on me, this heart. The meds have no effect at all in fending off the darkness inside me these days. It would seem the soul purpose of my place on this planet was to grow you a proper, working heart. A bit of me will be in you forever now, beating life through your veins. May it serve you as well as it has me.

All my love forever, Aunty Van.”

She took out the papers and tucked them under her shirt with the photo. Safe from the impending fluid explosion inside a Ziploc bag, they detailed in heavy legal jargon, her compatible blood group and request for her heart to go to her niece.

Taking out the gun, she positioned it in her mouth, pointed it up, breathed in, and pulled the trigger.

 

Coming Undone by Maeve Kousiakis

“Haggis! Oh my god, do you have to . . . every . . . time. Aarrgg. That is so utterly, despicably horrible.” In her attempt to conserve energy in order not to throw up, Meghan had deserted the toddler’s nappy and focused on the dirty bum first, so the nappy had found itself sneakily ensconced in pug drool on its way to being devoured at a quieter retreat.

Just twenty minutes ago, Meghan was on her back on the couch with little Billy fast asleep on her chest and Haggis the pug, unusually, asleep at her feet. She had heard the Barbet calling from the tree outside the window and the smell of rain wafting through the breezy curtains in a smidgen of short-lived peace.

Billy had stirred, realised that he had lost the battle against keeping his eyes open and broken into a howl. The pug, now recharged, had made an instant beeline for Billy’s bottom, producing an explanation for the smell increasingly asserting itself.

Meghan got up holding the toddler while fending off the persistent pug still tugging at the nappy. Once up, she realisied there was a reason she had been on the couch. Nausea welled up and all the previous nights cocktails were diluted to an insipid cup of tea.

Meghan, putting Billy on his back, prepared for the onslaught of yuk and got lost in her thoughts about how last night’s “Girl’s Night Out” was maybe not that worth it after all, and that hangovers and kids go together like custard and sardines.

A tip that people conveniently left out about having kids. Just like the other little things. Small, nasty details like stomach muscles that separate during pregnancy that give you a lifelong paunch and that you will never jump on a trampoline again without soaking your knickers because the muscles down there no longer take part in bladder control. It’s a long list.

“Get a baby sitter. Go out. It’s good for you.” The advice had fed a nagging urge for a taste of life before kids. Meghan was in love with motherhood, but sorely missed the world of music and movies and fine dining.

Snapping back to the stinky chore at hand, Meghan had caught sight of the escaping pug. She clambered over the floor peppered with toys, catching up with it on its way to the garden for an appetizer of toddler excrement.
Forcing the pug between her legs as she knelt, she grappled sticky gels and teeth, prying open stubborn jaws. The pug, not ready to relinquish it’s find, scrambled and jumped at her hands as she stood up.

Managing to connect a tooth with the nappy, the pug succeeded in presenting the cream carpet directly to the mushy, digested bits of last night’s supper. Stumbling as it returned to the ground from its attack, the pug landed on top of the face-down-mess, introducing the soft goo very much more intimately to the dry carpet fibers.

Gagging, Meghan lifted it up and stumbled back to the drawer and grabbed the box of nappy bags. It was empty. The new box sat staring at her in defiance in making any step through this maize of chaos easier for her. She grabbed it and ripped it open with her teeth, while dangling the rescued nappy between finger and thumb.

The pug, undeterred in its course of action, was frantically licking the carpet. It’s back legs circling the front, head and mouth fixed to the carpet, as it desperately tried to ingest carpet and delicious condiment, while Billy was whining to be picked up.

“Gimme a second Billy-boo. I’ll get you now. Mommy’s got a small, tiny little challenge here.” She dashed out to the kitchen dustbin (which had found a new lookout position on top of the counter to avoid further raiding by the pug) and grabbed cloths and floor cleaner.

The toddler, as toddlers do, did not stay still. He rolled over and down the side of the bed and landed firmly with his bum – more of last night’s digested supper sandwiched between bum and carpet – and toppled onto his back. Wriggling over to his stomach and up to a sitting position, a brand new artwork of contrasting brown smudges on cream canvas appeared.

Meghan got back to multiple wounds to the cream carpet. (Another thing to add to the list of conveniently forgotten details: Don’t have cream carpets. Actually, don’t have carpets at all).

Lifting up the toddler, before he realised that the brown stuff on the carpet could make more streaks with the help of his fingers, Meghan fumbled with the bottle of carpet cleaner. It fell. She expertly swung the toddler – with bum side to jersey – under her arm attempting to catch it. The carpet cleaner bottle bounced and released its contents, which spread over the carpet and neatly missed the scene of destruction it was supposed to have addressed.

Meghan threw her head back and sighed as she realised the state of her jersey.
“Fuck. Could it get any worse.” She said loudly.
What was that crash? Where was that pug? She ignored both worrying sentiments to attend to her and Billy’s imminent hygiene needs.

“Billy-boo, if you squirm around it’s just going to take longer.” Said Meghan, her fingers straining to press the Velcro tag into place while holding the other flapping side of the new nappy, her arms pinning down the chest and flailing limbs of the toddler.

This had all become second nature, but doing it with a hangover in tow was brand new territory. A half a bag of wet wipes later, she was able to strip off her brown smudged jersey, grab Billy and head for the new source of necessary damage control.

At the kitchen door, Meghan gasped. The pug, covered in Neapolitan source, which she had thrown in the dustbin last night, was gorging itself on chicken bones and nappy entrails. Bits of litter and left over food and serviettes were strewn all over the floor, dotted with vegetable skins and crusts of soggy bread. A discarded bottle of juice had come open on its way down from the top of the counter with the dustbin and settled itself in between the rest of the detritus.

A draw had been left open, which the demon pug had clambered up and found a way to the dustbin. In it’s desperation in turning over the dustbin, it had knocked over the kettle, adding a liter of water to the concoction covering the floor. Another casualty of the incident was the minced meat sitting on the counter, defrosting for supper.

Meghan stood defeated. Shoulders drooped and head back, she groaned.

“Fuck.” Said little Billy.
She whipped her head around to look at him, innocence incarnate on her hip.

“Fuck.” He repeated with a big, wide grin, eyes wide with excited pride, searching for approval.

Meghan collapsed on the couch and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket.

“Hi. Matthew? Honey, help. Please can you pick up some supper on your way home? Your wife is currently out of order. Oh, and Billy said his first word!”