A bonus piece of flash, because I have to have a page with a random title to make some gizmo (behind the scenes) work:

By Neil Beynon

It is dawn and light bleeds into the remains of the night as I open my eyes, even through the scum of the window it is beautiful. My mouth is sickly sweet with the taste of stale alcohol, my head feels as if someone has dropped a moon on it and my joints feel swollen with whatever I consumed last night. The room smells of spilt booze musty with sweat and dirty linen and something else.

Someone stirs in the tangled sheets next to me.

The woman lifts her tangled hair, bleary eyed and streaked with make up that she forgot to remove in whatever quirk of fate drove us to bed. She is a pale and fragile creature that I am surprised I didn’t break in the state I was in last night, not my usual fare at all. I am more than usually disgusted with myself.

I swing my legs out of the bed onto the floor and then stop for my brain to catch up with the movement; my arms planted either side of me, ready to help me stand. She reaches out with a warm hand that feels surprisingly good on my knotted forearm; her fingers trace the tattoo. I flinch. I had almost forgotten it was there.

“I hadn’t figured you for the ink type?”

Her voice is far lower than I would have expected from such a slight woman and I am unable to place the accent.

“Just the one,” I reply.

I cannot remember her name. I hope she doesn’t twig. I can’t find the scotch either.

“What does it mean?”

“It’s just ink.”

I rise and begin lifting bits of the detritus that litters my room, searching for the bottle as I go. I find plenty of bottles but not the one I need: these are all empty.

“No one gets ink just for the sake of it,” she says. “Let alone something as incomprehensible as those digits.”

“Leave it alone.”

“Oh, you weren’t in a camp were you?”

I pause. “No. Not a camp. Look: how much do I owe you?”

She stares wide eyed, as if I just slapped her. Shit.

“I’m sorry, it’s just when I’m drunk….I just assumed…”

She is pulling on her clothes now.

“Hey now, don’t take offence. I just…”

“Fuck off Mac.”

I’m behind on the rent, I don’t need a scene, my mind scrambles over its hangover to provide a solution.

“The Sergey Brin,” I spill, the words gone before I can grab them back.

She stops, sat on the bed her trousers halfway up her legs and a grungy T-shirt falling over her hips she’s almost cute. She looks at me with green eyes. My mother always warned me about green-eyed women. I’m not sure why.

“You were on the Sergey Brin?”

“No,” I reply. “I was the escort.”

“Ironic…” she replies.

I sit down next to her, rolling my arm over to show her. She pulls her jeans the rest of the way up, leaning back on the bed, feet wedged on the metal frame, lifting her pelvis to pull the denim over her hips, and buttons them before shifting closer to my arm. I can feel her breath on the smooth skin of the inside of my forearm, as she looks closer. She looks up at me with those sea-green eyes and I feel like I’m drowning.

“It still looks like a serial number?”

“It’s a bulk plate number,” I answer, not able to look away. “It was on a foot of shrapnel they pulled from just next to my cockpit.”

“Sounds like a story.”

She traces the digits with her fingertips, her eyes unfocussed, her mind elsewhere and I feel it in the base of my spine like a tongue of electricity licking me. Gently I remove my arm in spite of a strong desire to melt into her lap. She brushes her fringe out of her face as she moves back, her mind returning to the room and my tale.

“What happened?”

I shrug. “I don’t really remember.”

The lie slides with the grease of over use, my eyes close for a moment as if to check but I can still see it, hanging in the black, bleeding gas into the void. It is a few seconds after it happened, a number of years since I was actually there and mere moments from blessed solitude.

“You’re lying.”

“Why do you care?”

She looks away, surprised at the question and I realise I have scored a hit.

“I had…”

“…family,” I finish. “On board. I should have known. That’s why you…”

“No, I didn’t know,” she replies, her answer as unconvincing as my protestations of amnesia.

“Get out.”

“I know it won’t bring them back. I just need to know.”

“Why? Why would you want to know what it’s like to die out there?”

“Why do you need the tattoo?”


“You clearly have no problem remembering the Sergey Brin and so why wear a tattoo? It’s incomprehensible to anyone else.”

I look down at my arm. The slightly raised lettering where the tattooists’ needle left a raised section flesh where it had passed and the colours that were slightly paler than they had been but were still visible. A self inflicted scar to remind me of an incident in which I had not been hurt but that I felt I should have been. I needed no reminder, I understood but yet I needed the tattoo.

“Tell me please?”

I close my eyes. This time the memory is vivid and bright but also fragile, like glass and I am aware that in the telling I may break this sculpted totem I have borne for so long. The gallons of scotch have rendered it thin and the rain of my falling words could shatter it beyond repair.

I open my eyes and begin to speak.

4 responses

19 04 2009
Sunday Flash Fiction « The other side of the river

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19 04 2009

With a little editing and a brief description of the incident (ie: “Thirty families were killed when the Sergey Brin exploded during re-entry”) this could be a really powerful piece. As an audience, we need to know what the disaster was in order to have sympathy for the protagonist’s pain. I’d like to see the next draft of this.

20 04 2009
Justin Pickard

Ha! Took a while to assemble the pieces in my head, but it definitely works. 🙂

20 04 2009

Thanks guys.

Probably going to flesh it out into a fuller short story as an exercise.

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