In memory of Matt Kinnison
I am telling an unnamed, unknown someone, that I dreamt Ed was still alive. But I am telling the unnamed, unknown person this in a dream. Even as I sleep, I know that it’s complicated.
I see Ed twisting in pain on the floor. Thin as a greyhound, he writhes, agony screwed tight onto his pale features. I am glad that he is alive. I know he’s suffering, but I feel relief. I exhale. Then I realise that he is dead, and I am dreaming. I tell the un-named, unknown.
“I dreamt that Ed was alive.”
They do not reply.
I am dreaming that too. It starts over. I don’t know what it means. I wonder if it has to mean anything.
He comes shawling from the earth; brown, mauve, mud and clots. He is like a creature rising in Buffy.
He does not answer.
In my dream I tell myself that I will figure it out when I am awake.
I am awake.
Louise was cold despite her coat and mittens, and the scarf around her mouth. She exhaled into the wool; felt the warmth spread a little across her face, a ripple of heat, dissipating rapidly. Next to her stood three young boys, legs apart, feet planted on the clumping land, braced against the wind’s pull. The littlest one wept and sniffed, wiping snot and tears onto his coat sleeve. A fat woman stood alone, lips clamped.
The mayor wore gold chains over a white shirt that gaped at the buttonholes. Louise’s mouth filled with a metallic tang that she tried to swallow.
The hat he presented to her was tall and slender, something Dr Seuss would have drawn atop a gangly creation. It was palest green, soft felt. Louise placed it on her head and the others performed a brief, sparse clap.
The boys were given long baby-blue hats. The fat woman received a tall white hat, white being the colour for a child.
They held on to their unfamiliar hats as the wind tugged, not wanting to lose them.
I hear it in deep night as I tumble into sleep. I jerk awake, heart banging, adrenaline whooshing.
I sleep in coffin dark, rehearsing, until the creak on the stair, the hum of the earth. I put on the TV, blare it away. You went first. Left me with this. I want it, I don’t. Sometimes I think about not breathing. I hold my breath, count, inhale, exhale despite myself.
I try not to think about the lives feasting on you. I wish I’d eaten you myself.
Sara Crowley‘s novel in progress–Salted–was shortlisted for the Faber/Booktokens Not Yet Published Award and she is the winner of Waterstone’s 2009 Bookseller’s Bursary. Her short stories have been published in many lovely places including Pulp.Net, Litro, Frigg, 3:A.M and Dogmatika. She blogs at A Salted and appreciates you taking the time to read this.