We Get to Say Goodbye

A death, a departure, an overseas offer – some of the goodbyes said recently. Without the opportunity to say goodbye – what do we do? Pray, and hope they get the chance to hear?Leave the words unsaid? Write it all down, send it in a letter (email)?

Standing on the cold concrete and waving as the vehicle leaves the home base, that’s where the last one happened. Arms raised, mouths tight in the rictus of a smile, but the road moves on, people move on, life moves on – and we say goodbye.

Sometimes, it’s forever, and Granddad won’t be back, even though his voice lingers and his sounds linger and his smell lives on. Open the wardrobe and his clothes are still there, feel through the pockets and you’ll find the little notes for who wants what for Christmas or Birthday, you’ll find marbles that ended up on the roof of the patio (how?) that he kept as a prize, or the eye of the favourite doll that’s too old and delicate to play with, and the little piece of ruby that was lost from the ring/earring – but he found it and knows how to put it back together.

Never going to get done now, because he’s gone. Who gets to be the gramps now? Who gets to the the one with the big lap and the open ears and the wide wink? Who?

At least in the modern era, children are allowed to have their say at the farewell ceremony, they get to close the book with the words they can speak to him one last time. They see and they know and they don’t have to worry that’s he’s alone or cold or afraid.

That was the worst. Then came the departure, where it looks good on the surface, but just below is the rocky reef waiting to tear up the carefully laid nets of constraint. The wheels wait like a chariot as the belongings go in, carefully packed to balance and make the best use of limited space. The dark morning and cold air. The distant touch and words that reek of fear and pain. Goodbye, we say, we feel, we burn.

The wheels turn, the vehicle moves away, and part of the heart splits into little shards that pierce the lungs so sharply that it’s hard to breathe, but you can’t show it, can’t let it out. It has to be civilised.

Turns the corner, the last sight of the dark head that has been so familiar for so many years. ‘Goodbye,’ you whisper, hoping you’re wrong. Praying you’re wrong.

The final piece, the third thing – ‘cos it always happens in threes, right? – and the offer of a job in a country so far away they have lunch when it’s midnight here. The communication that has to wait for hours, that doesn’t have the zing of a conversation, that has a hollow sound over the e-talk. Too good to pass up.

So they go, and leave behind the scars. Some permanent, some fresh and deep, some self-inflicted.

We say goodbye.the rose

 

 

Onward

Would there be a dream today? Rozi didn’t know, but there has to be one. If she looked under this tree, under the leaves fallen into heaps, under the broken log – would she find one? Just one, surely not too much to ask.

One dream a day – the price for her to stay at the School of Natural Magic.

All the other girls in the school were well-dressed, hair neat and tidy, and they all wore shoes. Rozi didn’t have nice clothes, she had to take what she was given by the people who came to her mother for help. And no one could do anything about her hair – at even the sight of a hairbrush it went more berserk than ever and wouldn’t come down for a week! So she’d learned to leave it alone. Mostly. Sometimes, she’d plait it, but when she slept all the little ties broke loose and catapulted around the room, stuck to the walls and lamps and window. Sometimes it was funny.

Not today.

She needed a dream to be able to stay here. With her mother gone and the local villagers no longer willing to support such a strange creature, she needed a home. The caves in the hills and the creatures of the forest turned her away, told her to seek her knowledge in the training of reality.

And that meant she had to be here, in this school, to learn about the nature of true magic. Rozi hummed and whistled as she turned things over, as she shuffled her bare feet in the deep carpet of autumn things, as she called out with her mind for the dream to come to her. Please.

The giggles from the windows of the upper levels of the school were clearly heard, and she’d have to ignore them if she wanted to listen for what she needed, but it annoyed her. All the things she’d need, all the lists of things they gave her to find and do, and all she wanted was to learn.

To laugh at a novitiate was rude, by any standards of magic.

The first sign of the dream drifted to her nose. Food smells, a feast of fairies with the dense, sweet smell of deception. That would do. A dream would be.

Rozi picked up the tendrils of the dream and put a small handful of it in her pocket. She dawdled back to the school and knocked at the huge iron door, and kept knocking with the heavy gauntlet onto the gong until the School Head opened it. She looked down her beaked nose at what Rozi lifted out of her pocket and held up.

The grimace shifted and softened. The skin pinked and flushed. The eyes glazed, the nose twitched, then the body began to shuffle and shake. The dance had begun. The door opened wider as the tiny lights of the fairy castellians forced the arms of the Head to do their bidding. They laughed in the tinkle of mischief they loved so much, and Rozi followed them inside to show them where they could do their best work.

The dream was here, and it went to work.


copyright Cage Dunn 2017 – a work in progress. Maybe.

leaf dancer

Min-Min

A short story, copyright Rose Brimson 2017


“Down; look down – don’ look at the light,” Colly said, as he held Mibba down by the head – it hurt!

“Uncle! Uncle! Leggo – you hurtin’ me!” Mibba scrabbled in the dirt, tried to get purchase. Colly gripped him tighter at the back of his neck; ripped out hair, tore strips of skin with his ragged nails.

“You shut your mouth, boy, an’ keep your head Down.” A thrum in the ground settled in Mibba’s ankles, rattled his bones. “Don’ you let them min-min lights see us.”

“What? Uncle – Colly! Lemme go! You hurtin’ me!” Mibba kicked Colly in the shins – the only thing he could see – and darted forward.

The bright light thrummed through his bones; a skirr of sound spun his ears in the wrong direction; wind with no sense of touch sang words that lifted his heart and burned his soul.

No shadows. Mibba could see no shadows. Only lights – two, no – three lights, that bobbed and danced and held his soul in thrall. Dance. He had to dance. It was what was required. To get inside. To be with the lights. The Min-Min lights. The lights that were the true soul of the Ghost Gums. The souls of all the People who had gone before. For him. They were here for him.

“Come away, boy.” Colly’s voice was a distant star, barely a speck of dust in time.

The lights danced away. Mibba had to go with them, had to follow, had to be one with the spirits.

“Don’ mess with it, boy – is sacred, but not for you. Not this time. Come back, boy – wait a while, make your own song first.”

So slowly, the lights moved on, away – gone.

Mibba opened his eyes. Dirt rubbed at his skin – harsh dry grit. The desert. He was in the desert. Learning. From his uncle. Why? He looked up, pushed himself off the dirt to a sit, then squat. Where was his uncle? Why was he alone? In the desert? He would die.

The lights were gone. The Min-Min lights. A scientist from the other world might call them bits of ball lightning, but Mibba knew better. The lights had touched him, spoken to him, shared their world – for a moment.

“You can’t muck about with country, boy,” his uncle’s voice was close, but Mibba couldn’t see where he was. “It’ll bite ya if you don’ know how to sing back. You gotta learn your own song-story before you mess with Naji.”

Flames flickered in the distance. A fire-pit. Mibba stood. He would walk to the fire. His uncle would be there. Had to be there. No one else was out here, in the middle of dark country; in the middle of traditional dark country.

Had it been only weeks since he had found his blood family? Since he found out he was one of the People? Such a short time; so many things had happened. He was in the middle of the middle of nowhere, and he had a song-line to learn. Or die.

His People, the blood of his People, were the custodians of this place. And its song. The story of the dark country, of the lights of lost souls, of stories and songs to hold the world in a solid piece. He knew none of this before. Did he really want to know? If he learned the stories, would it kill him?

It had killed before. He knew it. Saw it in the lights. The ones who ran from it; ran from shadows of shame and guilt and smoky dreams of honey stolen from children. Mibba could not run. The lights had left him empty of his other life, the life that didn’t have need. Or consequence. Or love. It had stuff that wasn’t real, wasn’t needed, wasn’t necessary to spirit.

Tears burned down his cheeks, touched the slip of leaf held in his lips. Eucalyptus drifted in tiny spirals of pain up his nose, ran out again in more heat, more salt.

The fire-pit loomed up, large flames burst with pops and roars and sizzles. The small stem bits of a grass tree exploded with spirals of colour and life.

“Sit, boy, an’ we’ll talk about it.” His uncle’s voice was hollow; the black skin that glowed in the reflection of flames was striped with white and yellow ochres. The sticks rapped out a rhythm that kept his heart beating. Feet folded under, collapsed Mibba’s legs to the warm ground; his arms flopped. He would die if the sticks stopped. He knew it. Big brown eyes watched him, kept him in this world, but only just – a bare breath of desire, of knowledge, kept him where he was.

Did he desire life? This life, where he had nothing – except the blood family who’d finally found and claimed him? Or the other life? Beyond the lights, part of the lights, part of country. It would take him for Guardian, close his past from him, make of him Other.

Honey mixed with bottlebrush whispered hot fluid onto his tongue, opened his physical body to the surroundings. Huge trees whispered to his ears, asked him to wait, to sing their song back into life. Shrubs that hid ants and crickets and snakes and lizards asked him to speak their story, tell of their lives, bring them back to the world.

Flies and hornets and wasps droned and blitzed, chorused and crackled, asked him to speak the words of life and journey, sing the chants for life and death and significance. Mibba cried for them. He was not what they needed. He was only a boy. A boy without knowledge, without story. He knew nothing of this life, of the words the Naji needed to stay alive. He knew nothing.

“Look into the smoke, boy. See which way the smoke leads you. Watch the trails to see where your story leads. Watch, boy, and learn your words. Learn your country”

Patterns waved in the still air. Smoke curled and drifted and swayed into the night. No moon or stars lit the way, only the smudge of oily smoke showed the path.

Mibba opened his eyes wide, tried to see to the sides of the path. Nothing. Blackness hid everything from him. Darkness was all he saw. Eyes darted back to the smoke, fearful of losing his way without it. Followed it. Found where it led.

The moon opened its face, brought light into the deep hollow in the ground. Water glistened at the bottom, a long way down. Marks in the dirt showed many different tracks.

This was the place of life. This was life. This was the Naji of this place, this moment. The smoke drifted up, coiled into a spring and unwound a new path. Mibba followed, looked up when it went up, looked down when it went down, spun in circles when it spun spirals around him.

The entrance to the cave swallowed the smoke. No light, no smoke. Should he go in? Was this his journey? If it was his journey, was it beginning or end? Did it matter? He would not go in if the spirit of this place didn’t want him to enter. One foot lifted, drifted in the air. Wind swirled and lashed at his head. Mibba turned away, walked back down the path.

Now he knew. This was the end path, the end of story. Life came from water and spirit of country and the lives of the things that came with it, were both from and in country. Death came to all, but the path of life was a circle, and always led to the end.

“Look into the flames, boy, see the whole story.”

Flames lit the deeply lined face on the other side of the fire. An old man; his uncle had become an old man with grey hair and long legs painted with orange and yellow and white stripes of country. Shadows and light danced and swung and moved in the air behind his uncle. Mottles of trunks endured and lived in the spirals of light; spiders and feathers and furs and barks shone for a moment. Their moment.

“Is this my place?” Mibba asked. “My country?”

“Not yet, boy. First, you have to sing it into being. You have to have story of place, story of you, and sing them into you. You sing the words of the sacred place and you become part of country.” Sticks cracked in the fire. “You become People when you sing yourself into the story of people in your country.”

Shadows became long and twisted. Time became short and crippled. Mibba’s eyes became dry and scratchy. His mouth opened. Words came out. Not ordinary words. Words of power, of country, of magic – words of home. He sang; the words became one long word; the place became his place in the world; the story was tomorrow, today, all times before now and all times before time. He sang his whole history as if it were happening now. It was. He became. Whole.

 

Sun shone on the shiffle of grass tree. Kangaroos scratched at dusty fur from the shade of scrubby shrubs. Insects droned and buzzed. Birds called and chattered and sang. Mibba opened his heart to place, opened his eyes to life. His uncle lay asleep on the other side of the cold coals in the fire-pit.

The lights were in him, now. They were part of his journey. If that was not how it was supposed to be, it would not have been. He smiled. It was not the end of his journey. It was not the beginning. It was simply his journey, and he would choose his path with help from the knowledge that came from his song-lines, his story of country. And the Min-Min Spirit-lights that lit up his soul.


tripletrunk

The Down

“It’s a lifestyle thing,” I say, hoping that will be the end of it, but it never is.

“How can it be a lifestyle thing – lifestyle? Think about that word for a ‘sec – lifeSTYLE. This isn’t anything to do with style. What you’re doing is disappearing!”

“Crap. I’m just getting rid of stuff. Stuff – look at it! So much stuff it suffocates. So much stuff I need a huge house and a huge mortgage and a huge garage and a huge credit card and … and …” but I can’t continue. It’s too much. Too much to deal with her, too much to deal with all this stuff, too much.

She stayed for the rest of the day, sighed each time she looked at me, each time I let go of something for a pittance. My friend helped me with the crowds of people who came and paid money for my stuff and took it away to add it to the piles in their own houses.

When the day was over, there were still a few things left, but then the big truck rolled up the driveway.

“Wanna get rid of the rest?” the burly-bearded bloke guffed.

“How much?” was my question as he wandered around and touched everything.

“How about this much?” He passed over a slip of paper with a number on it.

I nodded and exchanged the slip for wads of cash that I slipped into the money-sac around my waist.

After he left, the garage was empty. No stuff. No people. No ties.

It took a while to finish the cleaning, to evict the spiders into the garden and the dust into the compost. Dirty water – no chemicals, my life-long rant at the world – on the lemon tree.

The new owners would be here in a few days. The chain around my soul would become theirs, and I would be gone. It wasn’t a home to me, just a house. I never felt the nest instinct so many other people profess to. A house is a house is a house. That’s how I feel. It’s only what you bring into it that makes those walls any more.

And I don’t mean stuff. Stuff isn’t what matters. Stuff won’t take you beyond the realm of your one chance at life. Stuff doesn’t go with you when you die. Stuff doesn’t swell your heart or …

I had to stop. She was gone. Not buried in a place where I could visit her and pretend that it was her place. No. She was gone, her soul lifted into the sky as ash, to return to the space of dreams.

And I was gone.


Cage Dunn 2017

Something

Wind blew a scatter of leaves across my path. The rattle matched the jangle of my reactions. Each sound caused a hitch in my step, caused my fists to clench, my head to turn – this way and that, check everything for movement, for shadows within shadows. For any black darker than the grey of Autumn. There’s something there, and close.

What does it want? What do I have? How can I get out away?

A dog barks, the hack of it bounds from the shape of the wind. I couldn’t tell which direction it came from. If I could, I’d go that way. A dog would be better company than …

A noisy gust lifts a dancer’s swirl of colour – leaves in browns and yellows and reds  and oranges combine and swing and eddy and twirl into a shape of a tall and elegant woman with auburn hair. It was in my way, and I wanted to reach out and brush it away, or burst through it, but I looked again – It had eyes!

My backside hit the cold, wet grass. The path was to my right. My left arm burned with pain and I lifted it, felt the pain that surged through a living body. Pain meant life. If I was alive, I could get out of here.

The useless left arm I tucked into the gap between two buttons on the long blue coat I’d taken from my mother’s cupboard. The arm held there, but it didn’t ease the agony. Life. Agony. Same.

I tucked my legs under my torso, pushed with my right hand on the ground. It was cold and wet. Where were my gloves? Wasn’t I wearing gloves? Who would be silly enough to go out into this sort of day without gloves? Not me. I always worse gloves, summer or winter, to hide it.

Now it was clear and visible and as bright as snow on the mountain. The red gash. The inch-wide scar of livid and proud flesh, one of the many that defined my life. The reason I was out here.

Push. Lift the body.

It was harder than I thought. One arm held in tight to the body, the other weakened by the lack of solidity. Push. Push. Use the legs, use the thighs. Push. Lean into it. There. Up. Looked around.

I saw the gloves on the gravel path. White gloves with the blue pattern of skeletonised leaves. I’d made them for my mother, but she was gone now, and I needed them.

A roar of wind as my foot lifted to move me forward. My left arm came loose of the coat as I leaned into the wind. Hair blew across my face, blocking my sight of the path. But I hadn’t turned, I hadn’t changed direction, so it was directly in front of me. Keep going.

One step. Another. Lean down and into the wind. Hold that left hand steady. Ignore the pain of the left, ignore the bite of cold on the right. Move to the path. Safety lies on the path. With the gloves. See them, see the glow of something there, on that brown path?

I stepped onto the brown, but it wasn’t a path.

I wasn’t walking in the park.

The parapet on the rooftop of my building looked like this. The ledge. One step would take me … away.leaf dancer


Copyright Cage Dunn 2017 (an idea for a Part 2 scene).

 

That Itch

It was a curse. A gypsy thing – to keep looking beyond the next moment, around the curve, over the next hill. To always be looking beyond where she was now.

Binini had two things: the backpack with all the hooks and catches; and the roll-up doona, otherwise known as a mountain-grade sleeping bag. Oh, and a third thing, the pillow. A bit mangy now, but still the best pillow she’d ever slept on.

They were laid out on the desk, ready to pack. There were very few possessions. Clothes were the easy part – and easily replaced if necessary. And the essential things like water bags and the multi-purpose cooking utensils, the fold-up knife-fork-spoon. A cup that fitted inside the food bowl with a clamp down lid. A place for all these things so she could walk all day and feel balanced and alive. And moving. Going somewhere.

The pictures, though, were like rocks. If she took them, she’d always remember, always feel the tug to come back. Just to see, not to return. Just to look. At what could have been. Just to be sure they were safe.

One hand reached out to pick up the top painting. Stammered to stillness over the bright colours that almost resembled something that might have been an animal with four legs – or maybe it was two people. Her eyes blurred.

What Binini saw was his bright upturned face, the golden eyes glistening with joy as the paints were splattered over more surfaces than paper and wall and floor. His face a multi-hued striation of attempts to dip the end in pots that flipped up every time he got too close with his clumsy appendages.

She saw his tiny little body as the legs tried to keep up with the speed of his need to be here and there and everywhere – all at the same time. A breath hooked in her chest. The fingers clamped shut as the arm pulled the hand back to her body, held it there.

The young girl, older than him, who tried to slow him down, be the mature one. His sister was the one who understood what it was to be left. Alone. Who recognised the signs.

The sadness in her eyes over the last few days were mirrored by the look given by the overlord. No, she shouldn’t call him that. He was their carer. Their foster father. He was trying to be an example. Of stability. Of security. Of … normal. He was trying to not hold Binini back, not force her to do anything she didn’t want to. All he wanted was for Binini to talk. He thought she’d stay if she spoke.

But Binini couldn’t do it. Her dreams drew her further and further each night. The cries that woke her called to her soul. She had to go, had to find out … had to leave.

One picture. She’d take one picture. Her hand leaned in again.

The door banged behind her. She looked around. The young girl with dark brown eyes, the golden edges of pain and loss that glowed in a direct echo of the pain in her heart, closed to evade the answer she saw. She turned away from Binini, closed the door again.

The back pack slid under the bottom bunk. The sleeping bag went on the top bunk to make a smooth cover. The pillow got plumped up and laid against the wall. The picture got blue-tac on the back before she hung it on the wall.

Tonight. Binini would stay tonight. Tomorrow was another day. She’d stay and see what it brought. If the pack stayed out of sight.


Copyright Cage Dunn 2017

Consequences

The bloody thing blew up! Fried like a pea in a vat of boiling oil! And it ponged. The remnants began to make sounds like kids blowing wet raspberries as they unstuck from the ceiling and descended to splatter on the floor with wet plops. Thousands of bits of black and purple and blacker clumps and bits of white ash – how was it even possible?

The wreck of the pressure cooker – where was the lid? – lay scattered throughout the smoke-filled room. Two pieces, the base maybe, and part of one side, lay smoking and sinking into the lino – flame!

Candy tiptoed gingerly over the steaming goo and gunk to the sink, filled a cup with water and splashed it onto the small flames.

Whoosh! Flames now shot to the roof, took in all the floaties and gooies and exploded them, too. She dropped down with her hands wrapped over her head. She had to get out. Now. Flames rippled like curtains up the walls, spread black smoke and choking gas in swirls and lashes that burned her throat and stung her eyes.

Don’t stand up – she remembered that, at least, as she bellied out over the remnants of what was once going to be her first attempt at Greg’s favourite soup. If she got out, if she survived, she’d never try it again. Never cook again. If she got out of here, it’d be take-away. Maybe forever.

First she had to get out. The front door was blocked by the horizontal wind of red and yellow and white and blue flame that roared towards the small gap between the door and the main wall. The one window she always left open to get a cross-breeze, to blow out the kitchen smells. Now it fed the fire.

The back door was locked. It was always locked when she was home on her own. The news was always advising people to lock their doors, even while they were at home. Her hand reached up – skin blistered and fizzed and flames before it got halfway to the small catch. The security frame of the upper part of the door melted and fell, part of it on her hair.

The acrid smell, the choking sensation in her throat, a searing panic that told her to get up, to run, to hide, to get out, out, out – Candy rolled into a ball, tucked the burned hand inside the curl, and rolled all her weight into the door.

Nothing happened. She peeked out. The door was still melting – only one of the three hinges remained. She had one option. One. The only one. The belly crawl was slow, too slow, but she moved away, curled up again, and aimed herself. Burled and hurled and threw her whole weight against the door.

The crash was horrendous. The cold air burned more than the flames. The noise of screeching and screaming – it was her. The roar of the flames deadened all other sound until the roof collapsed.

Candy realised she was still on her belly, still crawling, trying to get away. The house caved in with a whoosh and crash that blew dust and ash and flames into the surrounding trees, into the pool – the pool! – she dragged and slid and pulled her body into the pool. Looked up. At the black smoke against the blue sky. Opened her mouth to breath. Chlorine stung her throat worse than the smoke. Tears poured down her face like acid.

The hand she raised from the water wasn’t red, wasn’t blistered. It was a stump of black that looked just like the ham-hock that blew the lid off the pressure cooker. Her stomach coiled as she recognised it as part of herself. Looked further down her body. The clothes she’d been wearing were gone. Only black soot, raw skin, goo and bloody trickles in the water.

Vomit burst from her throat as the burly arms reached for her, but she couldn’t lift her own, couldn’t lift herself to move towards him. His face was drawn, his eyes puckered, his pity clear and loud. It must be bad if a fire-y can’t stand to look at it.

Her mother always said cooking was a dangerous pastime.


Copyright Cage Dunn 2017

 

The Shocking Toilet

A jolt from the black sky, a zag of lightning that hit the metal tip of the broken weather-vane on the toilet door. Gem’s hand wasn’t quite on the handle. Almost, but not quite. Risa squealed when Gem looked up and tried to move away, as she took her hand off the door. Stepped back.

It didn’t stop the bolt of lightning as it pounded through the ironwork that held the old door together – and blasted out to meet the skin of her rapidly withdrawing hand.

The flash of energetic light from metal to skin felt like … like … Risa didn’t know a word for it, but the sense of power in the air, the smell of singed flesh and ozone, the scream of agony that cut off into the silence of the raging black thunderstorm as Gem disappeared into the darkness in a tumble of chaotic movement.

It was Risa’s fault of course, because she always needed to go to the toilet after dark. The toilet was outside and had monsters and she held on and held on and held on – until she was ready to burst. Like tonight.

Sharing a bed with Gem was better than sharing with the others. At least Gem would wake up when the wriggles started. She’d wait a while to see if the wriggles stopped.

“You’re like a wild mouse,” she’d say when she grabbed the hand and escorted the cross-legged wriggler to the outback, long-drop dunny. And then she’d check to make sure no monsters were hiding, and hang onto the door to keep it open so nothing could sneak up from any direction. Gem kept Risa safe outside, not like the others, the tormentors.

Another flash, followed by the boom. The ground shook. Risa shook on the timber seat, trembling so hard her teeth clattered louder than the hail on the tin roof. She should get up to help Gem, but her hands wouldn’t work; her feet were up around her waist as she sat like a toad on the hard seat.

Lightning didn’t touch wood, did it? She thought she remember someone said it didn’t, but the trees she’d seen blasted to splinters gave the lie to it being safe. She wasn’t safe, and Gem was lying on the ground. Dead.

Was that a groan? Yes! She leapt off the seat, pulled up her pants, leaned her head out into the roar of wind and rain and hail. Looked left and right-

Another crack. Risa ducked back inside. The pound in her chest was so loud she couldn’t tell if the boom came straight after or …

Her left hand reached for the door to pull it closed, to be safe, but she stopped herself just in time. Huddled into the corner behind the door.

Boom. The toilet seat crashed down. Risa jumped forward, stared at the blackness behind the seat – monsters! – and leapt outside. She leaned down and grabbed Gem by the arms and dragged, grunted and dragged and dropped. Wiped her face and hands, gripped the arms – don’t touch the burned one! – gripped harder, pulled backwards – get to the veranda – pulled and dragged and felt the stones as they dug into her feet and Gem’s pyjama bottoms.

They were gonna come off – didn’t matter. Pull, drag, grunt. Again. Dropped the arms to get a breath. Crack. Boom. Crunch. Lift, pull, drag, grunt. One step, one lunge, don’t look, just pull. Pull. Groan. Grunt.

Wait! That wasn’t Risa who groaned. That was Gem. She was alive! Get her out of the rain. Out of the lightning. Get help.

Risa tried to scream, tried to yell, but she didn’t have the breath for it. Nothing could stop her if she wanted to keep Gem alive. She had to, had to, had to get her to the safe place.

Pull, drag, grunt.


Fiction, based on a childhood memory.  Copyright Cage Dunn 2017

A Word or Two

He couldn’t think of a single thing to say – and now the moment was gone. It would have taken one word, maybe two, to get her to turn around and … and …

Aren turned back to the slush of freshly stamped and addled dirt that surrounded the new grave.

His wife of ten years lay at the bottom of that hole. And his only child lay with her. His wife’s family had stood on the far side of the hole, looking down with tears, and up with rage.

One word; if he could have said one word, would it have made a difference? Her mother’s stiff back and rigid facial muscles said far more than he could’ve broken through.

It was his fault, and they knew it.

Aren took a step closer to the mound. One more, but his feet dragged and his hands lay stubbornly by his side. His mouth hung open, absorbing all the moisture in the air.

One foot slipped in the grimy black mud that lay hidden under the mush of pounded grass.

So many people came. All stood on the one side – this side – and he stood alone on the other. Aren was always alone. Until he met Seza. His life and soul were bound up in her, and he became someone simply because he was loved.

A man who came to be a man through the trials of loneliness. Orphanages and foster homes, streets and gangs, crime sprees and forced holidays. Until Seza. Who turned his life around the moment she looked in his eyes.

The family said he didn’t deserve her. That she deserved better, more, anything other than him. The invites to family gatherings didn’t ever have his name on the card. Seza dragged him along to some, but most he stayed away.

His life taught him that enemies that were also family were the most dangerous. And it had proved true again. It had cost him the only thing of value in his life.

Maybe he should give them what they really wanted; what they’d planned for. His left hand reached down into his pocket, through the gap to the leather strap around his leg. Two fingers and thumb slid the handle up into his palm. It warmed in his hand.

One more step and he stood on the side of the grave where her family and friends had stood. Where all the ground was pitted and filled with ice-rimmed puddles. A hard lump stuck in his throat and he tried to swallow it away, but it wouldn’t go. It stayed.

Aren shook his head. This was not his side. This was not the way he’d finish it. He dragged his heavy body around the mound to stand on the uphill side and look down at the goat-tracks of the people who’d gone, the people who said they loved her and would do anything for her, the people who’d killed her when they’d meant to kill him.

The crash was investigated, of course, because the family had connections. The damage was deliberate; he was a mechanic.

Aren didn’t respond to any of it because he knew. When he looked at their faces, he knew. It had been his day to take the vehicle to the airport to pick up the packages for her business. Aren was supposed to be driving when the vehicle reached the top of the Devil’s Elbow descent.

Seza took their daughter, wanted to show her the beauty of the sunrise over the low-lying plain where the airport lay. Wanted to show her a joy of life: a new day.

The knife rose in the air, almost of its own accord, lifted to horizontal, moved closer to his throat. The slit was right to left – he was a cacky-hander, something they’d forgotten when they’d sliced through the line, which was cut left to right.

But vengeance would not be his. Aren didn’t care enough now. This moment was all he had. It was a timely end to his grief. And this way, he wouldn’t be alone, ever again.

Copyright Cage Dunn 2017

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Caged

from Dogs N Cats N Us

One dog came to the front of the cage as he walked past. He’d walked and scanned each occupant for suitability. Only this one came up. One dog. Tiny. A tiny, little dog with deep dark eyes and pointed ears and an upright tail.

Drago flipped up the face of the ticket on the cage. Timid? Not this dog. Not suitable for children. Was she a biter? Breed: Tenterfield Terrier. Terriers were smart, weren’t they? Noisy, yappy, diggers? He didn’t know enough.

Such a tiny little dog. Too small. If he held his hand out flat, it could stand there quite comfortably. It would be – like everyone else – intimidated by him; afraid. He needed a big dog, a man’s dog, a real dog.

Drago continued down each aisle. Dogs of so many different shapes and sizes and colours. They all barked and ran and jumped up at other people, but not for him. None of them came to the front of the cage when he walked up. Not one.

It took a long time, but he walked back down every aisle, looked into every cage on his way through, then turned around and went back. He reached the cage where the tiny dog was. Where he thought she’d been. A young girl was in the cage with a hose and a broom, cleaning. No dog.

He checked the ticket. Right place. The same tag.

The dog was gone. He was too late. Someone else had got it.

Drago fell to his knees. He didn’t realise until the crack of bone on concrete. A big lump stuck in his throat, sank down into to his chest, froze on the way down to his belly to sit like an iceberg.

“You okay, mate?” the young girl stood with the hose in one hand while the other twirled the water off. “Mister?”

Drago looked up. He felt dizzy, drained.

“The dog,” he managed through a mouth that didn’t work properly. “The dog?”

“Yeah, here she is – just scared of hoses and water, so she hides under there.”

The large bundle of blankets at the back of the stall moved, slid down as the pointed nose emerged. Ears erect, bright eyes open as she tilted her head; one second and she ran to the front of the cage and licked at his hand caught in the wire.

“I think she’s yours, mate. She hasn’t come to the front for anyone else. Most people scare the life outta her. She’s had a tough life.”

That meant she was the perfect dog for Drago. Two peas from very different pods, and now pack.

The girl opened the cage gate and Drago leaned over and scooped her up.

“We’ll go home now, shall we, friend?”

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Copyright Shannon Hunter 2017