Flash Showcase: After this period, screaming should be minimal by Leonie Rowland

Cracked, I think, from the moment it starts: one foot on the pavement & one in the canal, saying, I could get used to this. My feet, speaking, conscious; considering you, twisting away, walking with strange inflections. That photo I sent, where I am in a bathroom, and they are almost on their side. The buckles on my shoes touching the floor. Get used to it. Get used to being half here and half there; go for dinner with someone I love (not you (not you)); listen when they say, you are always gone after speaking to her; nod and know that I was gone already, eating somewhere else, fading into vacancy and viciousness, expressed somehow as compassion (towards the distance, which pulls us together and keeps us apart). I am shoulders and shockwaves, limbs I don’t want, texts floating to you across the sea. Cups of water between us, flooding everything, all we talk about: look at the body, watch it yawn and take me whole. My feet shouting synergies, my hands scratching the shore. Fingers holding you. 

oh darling, we haven’t met, but I know you inside. you won’t believe the parts I’ve seen—your spine, your pancreas, which you thought was useless but is useful to me. the backs of your eyes, which are just as round and just as lovely. the top of your teeth, the words they catch, the way they send me rocking. I am thinking of you and your palms, pressing into mine. loving you sweetly x

I have stopped feeding myself, and now I am dying. My hair is turning grey. I found oats and grains in the cupboard, so I had the oats for breakfast and the grains for lunch. This evening, I am sitting on a train, and there is nothing for me to eat, nothing conventionally consumable and no furniture apart from chairs, which are glued to the ground. The sun ((you)) makes the landscape look like a photograph, golden and tinted, and I feel like a photograph too: two-dimensional, already in the past, which is always how you’ve seen me. At least the train is liminal & death will take me quickly; not so many boundaries to cross when I eventually fade, continue fading. And your words, always echoing: I can’t love someone who loves me back.

hi sweetheart, thanks for the spine love. I could pull it out and send you a disk, write something pretty. run me in circles, maybe. I can’t be with you right now, but I want to, oh how I want to. think of me when you breathe tonight. twelve kisses xxxxxxxxxxxx

there is one way to be, & I am at peace with it / there is one way to be, & I am at war with it 

I have so many things to tell you, so many ways to be both. I couldn’t trust you until I could, and by that point it was too late. I couldn’t love you until I could, and by that point it was too late. I have a dream that we are driving to Leeds, and you are trying to crash the car. You turn the wheel with alarming force, and I watch it graciously, wonder if I’ve made this happen. You are laughing, and I am laughing, even though nothing is funny, even though we are trying to scream. I understand, then, how decisions can be world-breaking. How you look pretty tonight can send us both off a cliff. We never make it to Leeds. My body is taken to the morgue. Yours walks away, boards a train to Manchester, and breathes.

hi dearest, I thought you were dead. strange how things work out. one moment you’re in stasis, and the next you’re in bed with a woman you’ve never met, watching her sideways. she hasn’t turned around yet, but her hair is the colour of amber. funny. I always thought it would be you x


Leonie Rowland is Editor-in-Chief of The Hungry Ghost Project and a PhD student with the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her writing has been published widely, and she won Third Prize in the June 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Award. Leonie’s debut chapbook, In Bed with Melon Bread, is available from Dreich. You can find her on Twitter @leonie_rowland.


For details on how to submit your own flash piece to our Showcase, visit our submissions page.

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