Horla Flash Fiction (May 2020)

 

TEACHER – LISTEN

by LOUISE WORTHINGTON

 

‘LISTEN!’ Miss says, ‘to the wind tonguing its way around the loose windows in the classroom. It’s got muscle.’

The silence grows skin and me goose-bumps because Miss wants us to write about ourselves, to delve into feelings and spit our hearts out.

‘Conjure a world away from here!’ she waves an arm like a wand, takes a black marker pen. Its nib so thick her words on the board – ‘Creative Writing’ even smells masculine to me. Miss knows nothing about me or the place I call home with my father and brother. Avon Lady has it all. All that honeysuckle perfume, fairy-tale ring on her finger and Snow White eyeshadow.

For inspiration, she reads aloud something written by a dead bloke. Words billow out as smoke, squeezing a throat and clenching a heart until its faintness is terrifying.

I take a biro in my hand like it’s an amulet and am surprised when ink drips black like a magpie’s tail.

Fat Vinny forcefully gets out of his chair as to avoid a fatal collision. He says it’s too hot to concentrate so cracks open the window like he’s slamming on the brakes. I hear a half-sigh of air, muffled. I know it like breathing into a pillow to stifle pain, subdue a scream, a cry for help. The rest of my oxygen is on paper.  ‘It’s like a fucking séance in here!’

Miss pretends not to hear, as if ‘fucking’ is beneath her. She keeps moving slowly around the classroom performing some kind of ritual that’s meant to help us weave spells to build our own palaces.

I conjure a waterfall in slow-motion, turning me to liquid, purifying every cell and tissue in my body.

A reckless gust of wind rattles the window to remind us of its muscle. ‘The wind’s ripped!’ Vinny jokes, ‘like me,’ and wobbles the white blubber on his stomach to raise a laugh.

His belly button is submerged in the riptide. The motion of flesh drags me out of my waterfall onto a cotton sheet stained the colour of cherries, tomatoes and squashed plums. No amount of washing gets them clean.

If only words could slice the rotten, heal wounded flesh and hide what can’t be undone under a permanent layer of snow. Miss will hear my voice soon like the wind trapped between opaque glass.

I title my piece ‘Dad’s stick of dynamite‘ and sit back. Vinny dislikes something about the freeze-frame and throws his chair across the room. Paint chips on the back wall like blood spots. He grabs my story and swallows it whole. Hungry, as I am, to fill the hole inside.

Choking, Vinny tries to cough up my words. The poison of its content clearly doesn’t suit his palette. Miss thumps him on the back with an impressive whack, but still, his airwaves are constricted, and a bloated red face turns to blue. He jerks forwards, trailing his pudgy hands down the whiteboard smudging the words ‘creative writing’ written by Miss less than an hour ago, before I knew my power. He lands heavily on the carpet. 

Perhaps I do have a voice, after all.

 

 

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Louise Worthington’s short fiction has recently appeared in Scribble (Park Publications), Boston Literary Magazine, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Storgy (forthcoming), The Drabble, 101 Words, Fresher Press, Paragraph Planet, A Story in 100 Words and Flash Fiction North. She self-published her debut novel Distorted Days in 2019. She has a degree in Literature from Essex University and works as an English tutor. louiseworthington.co.uk      

Title photo credit. Photo by Mwesigwa Joel on Unsplash

Standard Horla disclaimer: image has no direct connection with the fiction.