Mobile Tales Despatch 2 – in which our heroine simply listens

By Vita Forest

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Christabel La Mouse awoke in her snug cabin on the Good Ship Possession and listened.  She liked to do this before she opened her eyes, before she really started the day.  She snuggled deeper into her cosy woollen eiderdown and simply listened.

To port there was the occasional sliding swish! from the Deep Distance which must mean rain.  (There were huge creatures called Cars and when their swift feet touched water they made that delicious swish!  So Christabel had learned at school.  She was yet to actually see one).

To starboard was the chatty murmuring gurgle of the Refrigerator in The Room Beyond.  It was a kind of hotel for the food that arrived in The Home, including, and most importantly, cheese.  Christabel lived for those days when, on one of her fishing expeditions, she managed to secure as the catch of the day, a tasty morsel of that supreme delight.

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And directly below the ship, down deep on the rain-pitted surface of The Table, was a busy sort of brushing-kind-of-scratching, that stopped and started in an irregular fashion. It was That Person with the Paper and the Pencil.  Christabel sometimes liked to watch this (when she was not so cosy and tired, of course), for onto a flat white rectangle, tiny scribblings would pour from the end of the tool the Person used.  They were hard to make out, what with the currents passing over them, the distance between Christabel and the pages and the Person’s quite atrocious handwriting.  Her spyglass did not work on such occasions, and the spinning of the ship did not help.

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Still it was a comforting sort of scratching whisper.  Every now and then there was a pause and a Ting! which Christabel knew meant the Person had stopped to take a sip of her milky tea, chiming her pencil against the china as she did so.  Perhaps one day she would find some implement to assist her in discovering what the Person wrote.  But now just now.  Now was the time for a little more sleep wrapped in her eiderdown in her cosy cabin.

One must always prioritize rest.

 

Mobile Tales – A Despatch from The Good Ship Possession

By Vita Forest

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In which we first meet sailor Christabel La Mouse aboard The Good Ship Possession.

Christabel grasped the side of the ship in her soft green leather gloves, took a deep breath and peered over the edge.  It always took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the distance.  Through the gentle eddies that spun the bow softly this way and that, descending deep into the silence of the drop-off, before flattening and nudging out into the dark expanses of the

Tabletop and Tablecloth.

It was dark most days down there, with its rain-splatter circles, the sort you would see on the surface of a still lake if you were sheltering beside it, beneath a pagoda, with a cup of green tea and the time to stop and notice such things.  The dark memories of those raindrops were sprinkled over with animals – horses, does, butterflies, and, Christabel’s particular favourite, the hummingbird.  There it was!  Right below her today.  For the hummingbird had the unsettling habit of moving about.  One day she would look down on the port-side to see the reassuring little creature, only to panic at its apparent disappearance.  A quick scamper to the starboard side of the ship however, revealed that the bird was still in the depths of Tablecloth, merely having hovered over a little.

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Or was it the ship itself that had moved?  But no, the galleon did not change course, though it spun on the axis of its anchor which had curiously been flung from the top of the mast and lay wedged securely into the Ceiling above it.

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Most disturbing of all was the morning Christabel had leaned over the side of the ship in her usual morning ritual and found that the Tablecloth had been completely erased.  No raindrops, no animals, nothing but the bottomless void of white that seemed to have no beginning and no end.  The Tabletop.

She had spent the remainder of that day resting in her cabin below deck, curtains drawn, with a cold compress resting on her forehead.

Luckily the Deep Darkness of Tablecloth returned the next day, complete with its cantering clouds of horses, butterflies and hummingbird.

Christabel straightened her back and pulled out the spyglass from the strap across her chest.  She faced north now and turned the brass cylinder in front of her eye until the flying fish came into focus.  They lived across the expanse, closer to the Distant Doorway and were sometimes battered most ferociously by the breeze that blew into the room on warm days.  When the door was closed, they circled lazily, as they were doing now, always maintaining a respectful and steady distance between the members of the small school of four.

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Christabel lowered her spyglass and smiled.  It would be another calm day on the Ceiling.

Brief Encounter

By Vita Forest

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On a day where the wind roared down the roads, and every sheltered corner contained a whirlpool of flying flotsam, she stepped into the path of the wind.

She had made a commitment and she would go, despite how her ears stung and the way the gusts were pushing her backwards, up, up the hill again.  She slung her arms through the straps of her backpack, slid the toggle of her hat up firmly under her chin and jammed her fists into the pockets of her jacket.  Down the hill she went, leaning forward to make progress, down the path, down the ramp, to the semi-shelter at the ferry wharf.  For the wind still blustered through the perspex-sheeted corridor, irritated perhaps by the thin layer of plastic placed in its way.

She looked out through the perspex to the harbour, so flat and idyllic the day before, but now ridged and rough, with the white foam of breakers cresting the incongruous waves.

Would the ferries still run?

She held up her hands briefly to cover her stinging ears and stood watching the waves and listening to the wind battering against the window.  She was vaguely aware of some people behind her, reading timetables, checking phones, conferring with one another.  She looked down the length of the harbour to the city – were there any ferries?

A figure came and stood beside her.

“Excuse me?”  he interrupted gently, “Is this where you catch a ferry to Circular Quay?”

“Yes,” she answered taking in the tousled curly hair, the leather jacket, the English accent, “Though it’s so rough today, I don’t know whether they’re running.”

Just then she saw a green and yellow vessel, braving the waves.

“It looks like they are.”

They fell easily into conversation.  He, newly arrived in Sydney for work, she a long-term resident.  He, heading into the city, she to Balmain.  Where was a good place to live?  What did he like to do?  Was public transport important?

They stood facing the window, balancing on the wharf’s floor as it heaved up and down beneath their feet.  They spoke of hobbies, interests, life in Sydney (things he should try), life in London (where it turned out they had both lived at one time, he more recently).

The ferry arrived and they edged down to the end of the wharf, she exhilarated, he apprehensive, as the water tossed the large boat up and down, bumping it against the poles holding in the floating platform of the wharf, as the deckhand flung ropes and wheeled out the ramp.

They sat together and continued to talk as she pointed out local landmarks, recommended restaurants, suggested outings.

I could go on such an outing, she thought.  I could become this man’s guide, this man’s friend.  This man whose name I do not know.  I could show him these things that we have been talking about.  We could continue talking in this easy way.  It could go on.  It would be so easy to suggest.

They fell silent as the ferry climbed up and down the rolling waves, slowing as it reached her stop.

“So you’ll recognise Circular Quay?” she asked.

“Just alongside the Opera House right?”

“Right.”

He smiled, and their eyes met, their whole future ahead of them.

Then the moment passed.

And she stood up and shook his hand and they exchanged names but not numbers.  And she put on her backpack, waved goodbye and walked out once more into the wind.

 

Somme Song

By Vita Forest


Was it because of or despite the shattering shells and the mud and the death? Was it despite or because he didn’t know whether he would ever again see that beloved river, those beloved trees?  It could not be examined too deeply, it could not be thought about, but somewhere, inside his head, he was hearing a tune.  A rhythm that came from the river, his river.  The softly-falling stream, the trailing willow branches, the lazy boyhood days fishing and lying back in a rowboat, face full to the sun.

He heard it through the deafening shells, through the screams, through the steady thrum of rain that pounded dully on the sandbags and turned the ground  to a stinking grey slurry.

He heard it when his eyes were closed, when his eyes were open, when he couldn’t sleep, when he couldn’t dare.  It was there despite it all, singing to him of his river.  He set the notes down where he could, in his mind, on the darkness on the back of each eyelid, branded red against the black, like the afterimage of a shell-blast.  He teased out the tune, holding a line in his head, replaying it, adjusting it, perfecting it, then committing it to memory until a piece of a paper and pencil could be had. He crouched in the trench, over the mud-splattered paper and wrote it down, by the light of a stub of candle, flickering in the gloom.

What it came down to – what it all boiled down to – was that beauty was important.  It was everything when there was no room for it, no room to be human, no place to escape but here inside his head.

He peeled it back and back, burrowed deeper, past the mud, the rotten stink, the thudding flashes crashing up the sky, the wounded, the loss!  The loss!  The lack of any good thing except this piece of paper and this pencil and the puttering light of the candle that let him see enough to get it down.  Drawing down, down to the tip of the lead, the real place, the only place that mattered, the only way to get through.

The whole point of being alive.

His song.

Mermaid

By Vita Forest

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Prue walked deliberately down the hallway, her toes shooting needles of pain up her shins every time they made contact with the floor.

“Please wear them,” Owen had begged her, and she had put on the shoes with the ridiculous heels.  Though she would be on her feet all night, though she would be walking back and forth from the kitchen, from the front door, from the deck.  Laden with food, laden with drinks, laden with plates.  The perfect hostess.

“Please.”

His work colleagues were coming.  The whole office.  The whole lot of them.  He had been in a state all day, adjusting the furniture, checking the menu, checking the bulbs in the fairy lights.  How much it took to give this appearance of unstudied elegance.

They had nearly had words.  Prue had come in from the garden with an armful of gardenias to see Owen, hands on hips, pulling selected cushions from the lounge.  Her tapestry cat, the patchwork number their son had made in primary school, the cheery yellow knitted cover she had bought at a craft market.

“Not appropriate?” she had teased, smiling.

He turned to her, preoccupied, his face serious.  Then he scooped up the cushions, walked by her to the bedroom and threw them in.

“I know you don’t think so, but this is important.”

She blinked and felt her eyes smart.

Then the shoes.  As she was dressing, he dug around at the bottom of the closet and produced the box.  She had forgotten them, they were so uncomfortable, so ridiculous, so not her.

“Please.”

So she had put them on and here she was, mincing up and down the hallway.  The interminable hallway, the endless hallway.  Brandishing the tray full of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears.  Prue stopped at the end of the hall, adjusting her eyes to the darkness beyond.  Most of them were down in the garden, there were just a few up on the deck, leaning on the verandah balustrade, drinks in hand.

She paused and then she saw them.  She blinked and looked again.  It was not a trick of the light.  She was not mistaken.

There they were.  Her husband Owen and that Cressida.  That Cressida who he was always mentioning.  Her husband and that Cressida leaning on the verandah looking down at the garden.  Shoulder to shoulder.  Innocent from the garden.  Two colleagues having a chat.  But from behind, from where Prue stood, the light from the hallway caught their hands.  Their two intertwined hands, fingers twisting together out of sight of the party below.

Prue stared.

She backed away, away from the party.  She turned into the dark study and put down the tray on the desk.  She found the chair and lowered herself into it.  And with great tenderness, reached down and removed the shoes.

Nothing, not much

By Vita Forest

Inner turmoil

Inner turmoil

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“What happened today?”

“Nothing, not much.”

But it was not fine and much had happened.  But not so anyone else could tell.  Only inside Sonia’s head was a tempest, a storm, a whirlpool, a tornado of emotions that miraculously stayed contained inside the box of her skull.  She wanted to tell her mother what her friend had done.  She wanted to tell anyone.  Was Mia a friend anymore?  Everyone thought so, even Sonia.  But was that really what friend’s did?

Sonia wished she could go back to when she was five years old when she told her Mum everything.  Every new sound she had learned at school, what other children had told for news, what Mrs Carroll had worn to school that day and if her nails were painted red or pink.

Sonia wished she could go back to when friends were easy to read, when they knew how to say to each other, “Stop it, I don’t like it!” when the other did something wrong, when their feelings were hurt, when they wandered off the “kind” path into “meanness”.  Back then it was OK to like the same thing – the same sport (soccer), the same books (Tashi), the same kind of lollies (Lemon Sherbets).

Perhaps it would still be OK if the “same things” were not boys.  When your best friend didn’t end up with the boy you liked.  And she knew!  How could she not know?  Sonia had kept it secret, she had told no-one, not even Mia.  It had been a strange maelstrom of suppressed emotions that bubbled to the surface whenever he was near, whenever he was mentioned.  For a while Sonia hadn’t even known herself, didn’t link the way her body seemed to react violently for no apparent reason when she thought about him.  The sticky tangle of highs and lows that were all to do with whether she even saw him.  Whether they spoke.

But Mia knew.  Like Sonia knew that Mia liked chocolate ice-cream but not mango sorbet.  Without being told.  Just by watching.  Just by paying attention.

She would have known.

Why had she done it?  Why had she chosen him?

Today at lunch they had suddenly appeared together, hands linked, laughing. In front of everyone.  Mia hadn’t even told Sonia first.  Mia and Ryan.  Ryan and Mia.  The whole group had stopped talking, stared at them.

“You all know Ryan,” Mia had announced in a new voice.  A simpering voice.  A sly voice.  A betraying voice.

“Yeah, we like, all go to the same school!” said Sam in a sarcastic voice as he checked his phone.  “We know Ryan.”

Sonia had been grateful for his response, her lunch turning to cardboard in her mouth.  She concentrated on chewing the bread, on her jaws mechanically opening and closing, her teeth pressing and grinding it into paste.  She had let her hair fall forward over her face so the others wouldn’t see the shame of this announcement, the shock.  How long had it been going on?  She and Mia talked everyday, all the time, yet she hadn’t even thought to mention it, to her best friend, hadn’t confided in her, hadn’t thought her worthy of anything more than this public announcement on the school oval after Maths.

Sonia hadn’t spoken to Mia after that.  She had walked through the rest of the day in a daze and had wondered, how many people out there were like her?  How many people were trying to adjust to major disruptions, catastrophes, while they went through the motions of everyday life.  Write down an answer.  Pack up a bag, Get on a bus.  Walk home.  Looking normal, looking like everything was under control.  When inside they wanted to scream and rage and tear their friend’s hair out.  How many people swallowed it down, kept their voice at a reasonable level, continued on their path that suddenly didn’t mean anything anymore?

How many people said it was nothing, not much?

 

 

The A to Z of my A to Z challenge 2016

By Vita Forest

The changing colours of Skyspace

The changing colours of Skyspace – for the letter S

Well, the April A to Z challenge finished just over a week ago and I am still processing the roller coaster that it was.  I learned a lot and spent the month fairly buzzing with creative juices.  Here are links to all my output.  Some travel, some artistic adventures and lots of flash fiction.

Enjoy!

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A is for… Art

B is for… Bed

C is for… Cinderella

D is for… Doorknob

E is for… Everything

F is for… Flowers

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G is for… Gabriel

H is for… Home

I is for… Ibis

J is for… Joy

K is for… Kiss

L is for… Love

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M is for… Monolith

N is for… Narcissist

O is for… Old-school

P is for… Peak hour

Q is for… Quentin

R is for… Red

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S is for… Skyspace

T is for… Train

U is for… Unconscious

V is for… Venice

W is for… Wedding

X is for… Xanthe

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Y is for… Yearning

Z is for… Zone