I see them gathered behind the twisted metal fence I walk past on my way home. Black-eyed and spitting out curses. Kicking at the mesh that holds them back. Leering and screeching like mad men against a high-rise backdrop.
But I must walk along the crazy paving.
The children they still are quake beneath the weight of their shadows. They’re scared. Scared that no one wants their 2 cents. Scared that no one is coming.
“You shouldn’t be out walking on your own, little lady,” one says. “There are very bad men out there who would do very bad things to you. I’m a feminist, myself.”
I pick up my pace, but he matches it.
“Hey, didn’t you hear? I’m a feminist. That means you have to listen to me.”
I don’t listen to anyone who uses the word ‘should’, I think to myself. ‘Should’ assumes shared morality and I know you have no such thing.
“You have to listen to me!” He shouts, swinging from the mesh that contains him. I’m starting to feel afraid and quicken my pace. My eyes are glassy and wide in the cold.
“You came this way on purpose, just to see me, didn’t you?”
I came this way because it’s my only route home.
“I can give you 6 good reasons why you’re taking the wrong route.”
I’ll bet you counted them out on the fingers of your right hand and still didn’t include yourself.
“She’s ignoring us,” he says to the other approaching. “She must be stupid.”
“Stupid and weak, I reckon.”
“Yes! Stupid and weak.”
“Hey, lady! We are feminists.”
The second of them jumps up at the fence, clinging to it and making it sway.
“We are feminissssssssts.”
A floodlight bathes them in turquoise blue. I see them all now, sniffing frantically at the possibility of a catch. They wear business suits and carry accessories. Laptop bags, iPads, bottles of whisky and flaming torches. One of them clocks my portfolio.
“Oh look she’s an artist…”
“I’m an artist!”
“Yeh he’s an artist! He studied it in his GCSEs.”
“And I did some paintings in my gap year. So, yeah. Those are shit.”
Their skin is grey. Their eyes are sunken black plates framed by sore red circles. They haven’t slept. They never sleep. They crave the blue light too much. Fear wanes, anger builds. Why am I on the crazy paving?
But aggression never once came without regret, so I swallow it. Again. It’ll rot inside me like a dead coiled snake. And I’ll paint it tomorrow.
Flash Fiction by C.R. Dudley
C.R. Dudley is the author of metaphysical sci-fi collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap. She is an artist, mind explorer, and founder of Orchid’s Lantern press and blog. You can find many of her reviews, articles and flash fiction pieces on this site, or sign up to her newsletter via www.crdudley.com.
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