Story #3 in a series of short story collabs, written in March in honour of International Women’s Month. It began when I wrote the first 100 words of a story and then sent it to two other women, asking them to pass it along after adding onto the beginning. The only rules to this collaborative project were that each entry should not exceed 100 words and that the story had to cross international border after each writer added her part.
The story leapt borders a few times, and each time it did it took a new direction.
You can read the first two stories here and here. The next story in the series will follow later this week.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to the women who participated in this project.
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Michelle Elvy – Martha Williams – Claire King – Jane Prinsep
Speaking of flying. Dreaming, that is. The dreams are never the same of course: sometimes you float among cold choking clouds, other times it’s oily, hot and thick and you can’t tell if it’s liquid or gas suspending you above-ground. Sometimes you’re wrapped in whipped cream (never with strawberries, which you don’t understand because it’s your dream dammit and you love strawberries). Or you float through a watery world, where owls gurgle a greeting through kelp and tall poplars wave prettily while goldfish glup-glup by.
Awake, you peddle to market on Monday, wheels rattling over the kerb, road, cobbles… across the square through a haze of cinnamon, where grizzly old men clutch espressos at small, round tables and schoolchildren chatter through minty breath as they walk past market daffodils.
This morning, for the first time in months, the grey light is pierced by a hint of gold and the cold fails to bite your fingers. For a few minutes you pause by the church and look to the sky. Then you remember the time and lurch ahead, swaying madly from side to side.
When you arrive, breathless, the door’s already open.
In your scatter for the steps you lose your footing and fall forward. Your basket flies from your hands as they reach out to stop the crack of skull on slabs, but before your palms touch down your feet leave the ground. You spin up in a slow tumble, the contents of your basket meeting you on their way down.
For a moment you do not try to right yourself, but embrace the familiar feeling. You smell tea… and bath salts. That’s new. You hear a voice and open your eyes.
I’ve been waiting for you.
Your eyes dart from splayed legs exposing rough, discoloured knees from tomboy scrapes of old, incongruous to your flower-print dress and degraded by grease-stains clinging defiantly to the hem.
I bite my lip, chewing away awkwardness that slices through the weak threads of our connection. We reassemble the basket, the kettle sings. I pour. You bask in distaste at my gnarled claws fumbling for the cup edge.
I fail at many things, but I still notice everything you do. Familiar, white-hot anger engulfs me, pummelling breath from ancient lungs. Seemingly, time solves nothing.
And as you have yet to learn… there is so little left.