The story only ever goes one way.
The fragment reads:
“…and I leave you now as you left me, with nothing but wretched words and bleeding ink. I do not understand your letters anymore, Hombre. They may loop from your pen with indubitable grace but I receive them with a senseless mediocrity. I will not accept the blame of you. I will always be behind you, Hombre. I am all over you. It is senseless imprisonment, and I, who have never wronged you, who saw nothing beyond the kindness in your heart, I am the one serving my sentence in your shadow.
I am watching your progress with the control that I have yearned for.
It is in my pain that I will haunt you so. And it is with lustful violence that I shall one day rise up, a malevolent presence over you. As my ink stains the purity of this parchment now, so shall I stain the fabric of your immortality. You will not be able to shake my ghost. You will not be able to claw the words of my testament from…”
You hold the paper in your hand like a butterfly caught. You cannot help but tremble. You’ve read the words a thousand times; you can recite them through your quakes. You position the shallow bowl of the spoon on the tabletop so the fluid slops like the remnants left in a tin bath. But you will not spill a drop. It is precious, and there is not much left.
You slant the fragment and take hold of the drum of the syringe in your other hand. It is hard enough to be precise through the shaking, but your prangs kick up a notch as though you can smell the blood of the part-tale leaching from the page.
You steady yourself for the ritual.
You freeze the brandishing needle.
You close your eyes.
Do it with me now.
Follow my words, do the actions.
And focus your breathing as I do…
Are you feeling sickened?
Are you in control?
You begin to scrape the needle’s point across the long-dried text. You know the exact pressure to apply – just enough for the ink to powder from the scratch and fall away as dust from the surface of the fragment until only an unreadable spectre is left behind.
Scratch it all.
You funnel the powdered words into the fluid on the spoon. The dust catches on the surface of the liquid – bleak blankness, islands made of ash. The fragment is long, too long – the dust is overpowering the pool. You give the concoction an impatient stir with the needle’s tip; it congeals into a mass that you know will require the Bunsen to loosen. You take hold of the spoon’s handle and move the bowl over the flame until the liquid state is triumphant once more.
Do more breathing with me, please…
You dip the needle point and suck the potion into the barrel of the syringe. The solution is thick and weighty but it flows with ease up into the shot. You hold the needle in front of your eye, tapping the end like they do in the medical dramas. You’ve never been sure why. Something to do with air bubbles…
You find a vein in your arm. You bury the needle tip under your skin, feel the casual, usual, citric-acid sting that makes you pucker your lips. You can almost taste it.
You glide the lever through the barrel and push the story out into your stream. Then you withdraw the needle in time to have your arm fall limp by your side. The syringe clatters to the floor, and you sink backwards into the resistance of the chair as the solution of the fragment begins to invade your perception.
You are in the essence of a room.
The walls are half-formed; the boundaries are unfathomable.
The space is enclosing you, but open.
There is a draft – can you feel it?
It is cold and precise – a pair of tweezers attending to the hairs on the back of your neck.
Like someone is blowing delicately…intimately…
You spin around quickly.
You twitch in space.
There is no-one there, of course.
The edges of the room are black and blank.
The edges of the fragment
and you’ve allowed the ghost to flow around your veins
despite the hints of darkness,
You read the pain in those words.
You read the pain in those words before injecting them.
You begin to creep towards what must be the edge of the room.
You know you must see walls, a join, eventually.
A tangible, solid line.
That’s the undeniable logic of rooms.
But there is nothing but the smudge of the periphery.
That’s the part of the tale you have no access to.
There’s that wind again.
Can you feel it?
It’s on the back of your neck, fingers like ice.
And then, the voice comes:
The room spins as you do.
You are glued in place, fighting for
You have to do as I say.
You are going to speak aloud.
You are going to say ‘Where are you?’, okay?
Do it now, say it with me:
“Where are you?”
We already know what the reply will be.
The fragment is still creeping through your veins.
I suggest you go find something warm and faithful to hold.
Until you can exorcise it.
I hope you’re not alone…
You must prepare for symptoms now.
You must prepare to be one with the fragment.
It is a tale you do not know.
So, exhale slowly, now.
Exhale slowly, and hear the reply as it comes back to you, through the air, in your own breath:
David Lawrie is a writer from the north of England who is currently settled in Northern Ireland. He can be found on Twitter: @ConstructGlue
You can find details of how to submit your own flash pieces for the Showcase on our Submissions page.
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