For years, I’d noticed unnatural things about my own reflection. Sometimes I saw a slight delay in movement, or an odd twitch that I didn’t feel. The eyes would blink maybe a second before I did, and I’d catch some strange expression in the corner of my vision as I turned away from the mirror.

When my mirror image finally spoke, I felt relieved that I hadn’t been imagining it all this time. There was another person there, or some other version of me.  We became good friends, in the end, understanding each other so perfectly. I began to feel sorry for people who didn’t have a reflection who could talk back.

Months went by, and then he asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

“What do you do,” he asked, “when you’re not being my mirror image?”

The question rolled in my head, and I realised I couldn’t remember where I was before I came to this particular bathroom mirror, I didn’t know what laid beyond the door behind me. When my mirror image walked back into his life, I was surrounded by black fog.

I was nothing but his reflection.



I hesitate before I open the wardrobe. Fingertips on the cheap chrome handles, I feel it would be more neurotic to stop myself at this point than to give into my curiosity. After opening the doors, I kneel down and hunt through the debris at the bottom of the wardrobe; khaki shorts, tangled shirts, stray socks, grey-smeared trainers. The disturbed dust makes my eyes water.  I pull out an old shoebox, dark green with a fox logo, and place it on the bed.

Opening the box feels indulgent. They say that people now prefer to spend their disposable income on experiences rather than goods. A good memory is like good wine, it becomes more valuable as it ages, and so creating and preserving such memories is an investment. It’s more pleasurable to examine your mementos when it has been some time since you last did so. Digging out this shoebox, I’m not only letting my current emotions ruin what should be an enjoyable session of nostalgia, I feel that I’m permanently cheapening my memories.

I don’t cut to the chase. I carefully leaf through all the photographs, reread all the important cards with loving words of encouragement. I look through old loveletters, sketches, and cinema ticket stubs with mindful devotion, giving them the time they deserve. I try to let myself pretend I’m not just doing this for one reason. When I find what it is I’m really looking for, I place it face down on the duvet until I’m done with everything else.

Finally, I examine the photograph of me, Amy Gladwin, and Charlotte Foster. It’s Amy that I focus on.

“It’s so awful,” I say out loud, to no one in particular. But I had to say it, because I can’t say it to her directly, no matter how I wish I could. Before everyone found out about what happened, I wondered whether I should get in touch. We were connected online, so it would have been easy. I enjoyed seeing her photos and updates, but when she became semi-famous, I didn’t want to be that old friend who crawls out of the woodwork when they smell success.

I still don’t want to be that old friend. I wonder how many people are doing what I am doing right now. You are not special, I tell myself. Up and down the country, right now, there will be old classmates, student flatmates, colleagues, all digging out photographs and thinking about the connection to Amy they once had. Looking at an old photo of a girl I was best friends with, it’s easy to forget that I barely know the woman on TV.

As a teenager, Amy Gladwin was an unambitious student who somehow did nothing but knew everything. Her specialty was doing the bare minimum in class whilst probing those sitting next to her for news. She was a professional shit stirrer, knowing exactly what to say and which buttons to press, and so she was an entertaining friend to have. Despite knowing their secrets would be around the school by the end of the day, people still talked to her, because she always made the process of spilling the beans feel wonderfully cathartic.

Amy Gladwin, 27 year old journalist and media personality, was one of those funny people on panel shows who aren’t well known but make the most controversial jokes. She wrote opinion pieces for newspapers about austerity, feminism, the media, education, and all sorts of other things. She ran the London Marathon and recently went on holiday to Brazil.

Last week, someone stabbed Amy in the back and left her to die in the kitchen of her apartment.

Friday Fictioneers – The Past in the Present

Begin the Route

Photo Copyright – Jean L Hays

Friday Fictioneers is organized by Rochelle Wisoff Fields. Please visit her page to see the rules and look at other entries.

Some areas of the old Mother Road are undergoing a revival, but I don’t see it happening for this God-forsaken place. Abandoned for decades, the battered tarmac stretches ahead of my car’s lights.

I wonder if this is what the whole world will look like after civilisation ends.

I stop the truck and get out. This place has no features to identify it, but I know I’ll be found, even in the dark.

I hear the sound of gravel crunching underfoot, but after all these years, I don’t dare to turn around and face him.

“I’m not afraid,” I lie.

TBAM – Chapter Three: A

Read the rest of the novel here.

Levi had been deliberately unhurried as he dressed in the clothes that were brought to him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want an explanation as to how he got here and who these people were, but he dreaded not being able to make the correct response to whatever he was told. He didn’t feel ready for some beautiful journey of discovery about his family, and there seemed to be a good possibility that something more complicated was going on here.

He looked out of the window again. The area seemed quite hilly, almost mountainous. How far away from home was he? How many hours could he have travelled last night? And why would he have been willing to come out at such short notice? He rubbed his head. It ached, but not in the way he would expect if he’d sustained an injury. He was sure this lady, whoever she was, was lying.

Hesitantly, he opened the door which she’d hurried out of and peered at the corridor outside. He felt like he was a tourist in a stately home who’d stumbled into the “No Admittance” area. To his left was a dead end, but it looked like there was a staircase to the right. He slowly walked along the corridor, giving nervous glances to the statuettes and paintings that lined the walls.

When the corridor opened out above the staircase, Levi found himself looking down on an entrance hall that rivalled his house for size. He found himself becoming more and more suspicious as he considered what he knew so far. There was nobody around to ask for directions, and Levi found himself feeling somewhat relieved this was the case. At least he knew where the front door was if he needed to leave.

Once downstairs, he heard voices coming from behind a set of double doors to his left. One of the doors was propped open. Levi quietly approached and peered through. The lady he’d seen earlier was furiously murmuring at a man in a suit, presumably Lekivan. She spotted Levi and stopped talking.

Lekivan turned. He stood as straight as the lines on his suit, and looked down on Levi with all the force of an irate schoolmaster. His gravity softened as soon as Levi made eye contact with him, his frown dissolving and his shoulders slackening into an unthreatening pose. The transition was as quick as it was eerie.

Levi instantly recognized him as one of the men in the photograph upstairs.

“Levi, Soriah told me about your memory loss. Is it true you can’t remember anything from last night, nothing at all?” Lekivan asked. He had a slight accent which Levi couldn’t place, but it was definitely foreign.

“No. I can’t remember anything. Can you tell me where I am?” Levi was trying to be polite, but some of his frustration came out in his voice. He walked through the doorway. They appeared to be a large dining room with windows lining both sides of the room. Levi could see an orchard to the left and an ornamental garden to the right. Soriah looked uncomfortable and moved around to the other side of the table, as if she was frightened of what Levi might do.

“What was the last thing you remember?” Lekivan replied. Levi’s nostrils flared. He didn’t like the fact his questions weren’t being answered.

“I was at home, by myself. It was about 7PM. So how did I get here?”

“Levi, please, there’s no need to be hostile,” Lekivan said, haughtily. “You have to understand that the conversation we’re about to have is going to be difficult for us both, and myself and Soriah will have to go through it now for a second time. Let’s all just relax, sit down, and talk this through.”

Levi bit back the urge to say that was all he’d been asking for, and did as Lekivan asked.

“Levi, I came to your home quite late last night. You see, we’re your mother’s family. Lekivan is your grandfather, I’m your aunt.” Soriah paused, waiting for Levi’s reaction. He remained impassive. After the photograph, this was hardly a shocker. Besides, something still didn’t feel quite right.

TBAM – Chapter Two: C

See the rest of the novel here.

In Helena, Litia’s capital city, there was a morgue reserved for those whose deaths were unusual. Ordinary murder victims did not qualify. Police workers who had their suspicions consulted Dr. Kine, who was the sole person to work in this section of the police department. He was paid very well for this job, mainly because there were not many people who were capable of doing what he did while being willing to complete so much paperwork.

It takes a magician to recognize a magical death, and Dr. Kine had been very persuasive when negotiating his salary. Trained as a healer, he’d hated hospital work from the moment he began, and considered dropping out on numerous occasions. Graduating with passable exam results had been a struggle, but now he had no regrets.

There was only one part of this job he considered unsavoury.

When Keats teleported into the morgue, corpse in tow, Dr. Kine didn’t even look up from the notes on his desk.

“So, which poor soul inspired your wrath today?”

“I missed your sense of humour, this was just an excuse.” Keats replied, deadpan.

He finally glanced at her, only to convey his expression of non-amusement. He noticed that she was bleeding from a wound on her upper arm. He could help her, but he didn’t quite feel like doing so. Besides, she didn’t look especially bothered by it.

“Sonya promised me that I would be seeing less of you from now on. Have you any idea how difficult it is to put the bodies you bring here through the system? Especially when you never fill out the paperwork?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault there isn’t a box you can check which says ‘Got what they deserved.’”

“And remind me why this guy deserved to be killed? Actually, don’t. Write it down on the correct forms instead.”

“Sorry, no can do. I need to find Sonya and inform her about what’s happened,” Keats lied. What she really needed was some rest before Sonya found her. Keats teleported out of the morgue, leaving Rappel’s body on the floor behind her.

Dr. Kine regarded the corpse from behind his desk with exasperation before he continued with his notes. It could wait there a few more minutes while he finished this report.

TBAM – Prologue: B

See the first part here.

Over the next five years, that remark would gnaw on Levi’s mind with the jaws of irony. Despite her promise, neither his bizarre encounter with sinister men who fell from tall buildings, his time in the café, nor the conversation on the way home was ever erased from his brain. The only thing he couldn’t remember was what had happened when he had entered his home.

Before that magic step through his front door, where the memory cut into darkness as suddenly as the end of the film reel, the smallest details of that night would return to him. The way hot coffee had splashed on his hand when she had dropped her spoon in her full mug and declared that they were leaving. The way he almost felt like he was following her to his own house. Her replies when she finally gave in to Levi’s exasperating questions.

Her name was Keats. She was gifted. It was kind of hereditary.

When she wasn’t irritated by Levi’s pitiful attempt at an interrogation, her tone was infuriatingly blasé. It made him wonder how many times Keats had done this kind of thing before. Perhaps she wasn’t as practised as she seemed, and that was why her attempt to erase his memory had failed. That or he had actually imagined the whole thing. Levi would have liked to believe the latter, because Keats had been completely correct.

After finding out that someone like her existed, life just wasn’t the same.

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Conversation with the Ocean

Fog lingering around Dover Western (Cruise) Docks. [Image has been adjusted so it can be seen properly]

Photo by Al Forbes, who runs the Sunday Photo Fiction blog. Check out the other submissions and instructions for entering your own story here.

How many men have you swallowed up? How many times have you pushed yourself inside their lungs and separated them from the oxygen they so desperately need?

You consumed the body I threw to you last night, when you were considerably less placid than you are now. A single image flickers on my inner eye: Her dress billowing in the wind, legs flailing, wild auburn hair concealing the face I thought I loved. You were the one who dragged her down, your tumultuous surface a match to my own rage. I roared with the wind, damning her to your cold bed, where her beauty could rot and she’d have no choice but to be faithful.

I stand on the deck, calmly facing the fog that covers you like a blanket. I can’t see exactly what’s ahead, but I’m not concerned. After all, it wasn’t me that killed her. It was you.

Sunday Photo Fiction – Prisoner

This is Thor - one of the Ravens from the Tower of London. Taken in 2009 It is said that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, then England will fall.

Copyright – Al Forbes

If you’d like to write your own flash fiction about the picture, or see other stories, click here. I think this story is darker than my usual work, which is saying something.

If I remember correctly, there was a special feeling when natural light touched your skin. It was like warm breath on your shoulders. Of course, I could be romanticizing the past. Anything but what I see now is a distant memory.

The stone floors and walls were originally an enemy, but we’ve grown to like each other over the period of my imprisonment. I whisper stories to them about childhood and adolescence, the time when unexpected things would happen every day and I might not even notice. Sometimes we are uninterrupted. Sometimes I’m taken to a little black room, but I never tell them what happens in there.

The door creaks and I hear my husband’s footsteps on the cellar stairs. I expect he’s bringing food, but when I stand I see his hands are empty. My heart sinks.

Today is another black room day.

Some Culture For You – Extended

This is an extension of my previous Friday Fictioneers post, which can be found here.

I stand in the dark, with only the smell of urine to keep me company. I’m a trespasser, not just to this abandoned building, but to this country which you seem to have claimed for yourself. Every odd little custom and saying reminds me of the weeks in which we first met, where my looks of amusement would prompt explanations from you. “That’s just something we say where I’m from.”

I’m now in the place where you are from, in the very building you said you lived in.

“You fucking bastard.” I breathe.

That’s something we say where I’m from.

I try to breathe shallowly because the odour is becoming overwhelming. Ungraciously, I accept defeat and walk back to the only ground floor room where the boards on the window are broken. I have to stop midway to lean against the graffiti covered walls in the hallway. I hit the walls harder and harder, trying to force away the anger that’s constricting my throat and chest.

“I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you!” I moan through gritted teeth. The pain in my torso radiates throughout my body, and it’s really, really easy to blame you for it despite the fact it’s obviously not your fault.

Liver cancer.

Fucking ironic, right? I mean, I definitely did more than my fair share of research and testing to find a cure. Obviously didn’t contribute as much as you did, as everyone is keen to point out. Well, that’s a lie, nobody is actually comparing your work to mine. It just feels that way when someone mentions any articles you write, any conferences you speak at, and any documentaries you appear in. It happens suspiciously often, and I wonder how you can possibly have time to do so much.

Then again, I was always amazed at how fast you worked. I quickly learned not to compete with you in the same way that many post-graduate students in the same area compete. I revered you like a God at first, and you bashfully accepted my jealous praise. I’m not sure exactly how we became friends, but we were friends. Do you remember those lunchtimes where we’d sit together and make jokes about the awful cafeteria food? The times you’d come over and I’d make you “Proper English Food,” which seemed to consist of just about anything as long as it was smothered in gravy? The hours you’d spend talking about home?

This home. The one that I’m standing in.

And I’m such a desperate, pathetic idiot. I knew you wouldn’t be living here anymore. This is the address you gave the university when you first came to England. Just because you’re now working in the same city where you grew up doesn’t mean you’d be staying in the same apartment you were before. Even if you wanted to, this place became derelict a few years after you left.

Still, I pictured you being here so clearly, seeing this place as it is now makes me feel like everything you said was a lie. It’s so much simpler to see you as a villain, so much more satisfying for me to pretend you’re a bad person. If I think about this logically, I start feeling bad about tricking the secretary into giving me your old details. I start to wonder if I’m a bit crazy. I know I’m sick, but perhaps I’m sicker than I realize.

After vomiting, which actually makes little difference to the ambience of this corridor, I start walking again. As I get closer to the open window, the breeze highlights the clamminess of my cheeks. The light burns my retinas, and I place a shaking hand against my forehead to shield my eyes. Nausea bubbles up again, but I bite my lip until the feeling passes.

There’s going to be another few months of this, and then nothing. You probably wouldn’t even hear about my death. It pains me to consider that you might not care. A year ago, you were putting together a research team and I applied. Not just because of you, I hasten to add, but because it would have been a glorious opportunity to revive my floundering career. I checked my inbox every waking hour for a response.

I never despised you more than the moment I read the standard rejection letter that you sent. It was your name on the bottom of the email, the same bullshit about not having the correct skillset on top.

How fucking dare you.

We worked together. It was one thing for me to know that you were perhaps more academically gifted, but for you to not even consider me suitable to work on your projects? I suppose this research was too precious to you. You were finally starting the human trials of the wonder drug that had kick started your career. You were looking for the best, and I didn’t make the cut.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that sending that letter made you feel good. You wanted revenge, didn’t you? You wanted to reject me like I rejected you.

I cried when you told me you were leaving England, but I was so happy for you. Your project had been a complete success, you’d gained massive attention, and I thought you deserved it. I smiled through my tears and told you that I’d always said you were a genius. You replied with something modest, and we stood silently for a few moments. I thought you were going to disappoint me, but after some tense heartbeats, you leaned forwards and pressed your lips against mine.

I backed away, confused and guilty. I had a boyfriend, and you knew that.

I would have kissed you back. I wasn’t in love with you, but even then I wanted to imprint myself in your life, which seemed destined for so much more than mine. I wanted you to revere me romantically in the same way as I revered you intellectually. Maybe you did at some point.

I tried to correspond with you shortly after you left, and you never replied. I broke up with my boyfriend. I worked hard with my research, but never came close to the success you currently enjoy. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My life will end, and the only remarkable part of it is the bit which was illuminated by you.

I need time.

I need a miracle.

Isn’t that what they’re calling the drug you created?

Sunday Photo Fiction – Torture

35 11 November 24th 2013

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

If you’d like to submit your own flash fiction story based on the photo, click here.

I place the pen against my mouth and close my eyes, trying to pull the threads of my emotions into a straight, logical line that I can write about. I find that they’re all connected into a tangled web, not very flattering to my intelligence or my conscience. My lips quiver next to the plastic, and moisture gathers at the corner of my eyes.

It’s my lack of guilt that makes me guilty. We were all stood in a line together, eyes down, whilst they assessed us. I was the person next to you, not the one who chose you. Not the one who dragged you out of the line. Not the one who directly caused those screams that triggered never-melting ice to grow in our spines.

I can’t be dishonest about the sleepless nights in the cells, where I didn’t feel bad for you because I was too busy thanking God it wasn’t me.I don’t kid myself that a lifetime of this is worse than what you went through.