(This story was originally printed in Curiosities Magazine)
So you’re drowning in gambling debt and you have pissed off a girlfriend or three. On your smoke breaks between acts, you’ve been jumped by said girlfriends’ spurned boyfriends one too many times. The only thing left to do is disappear—with a bang, of course. You are, after all, a showwoman.
Taril felt a sneeze coming at the worst possible time.
The target saw him, jumped up and screamed. Bloody mould, he thought, pulling away from the pink-infested wall.
The floating ball of light, which he had been about to swipe from the air near her shoulder, returned to her body and was reabsorbed.
The girl scowled. She was about his own age with a cloud of black hair around her sharp face. Her right hand was still on her inner left forearm, a pinch-mark raging red and hurt.
First off, she wasn’t exactly my grandma. Everyone in town called her that, a term of respect for those fortunate enough to survive to middle age. Though perhaps, given the realities of my youth, the word ‘fortunate’ does little justice to the everyday brutality of our lives. ‘Hardy enough’ is possibly more accurate. We killed what we had to, ate when we could, and survived the vagaries of our environment to the best of our ability. Most folks were ready to die when their time came.
What sounded like the burners firing from a hot air balloon roared overhead. Melia ran out into the yard, hoping to see it up close. She loved the balloons. On pleasant summer days like this one, they gave rides over the river valley to tourists. The balloons hardly ever came in this far, and when they did were so high up as to be dots against the sky. This one, however, sounded low to the ground. She imagined it a kaleidoscope of color, its basket skimming the trees, almost within reach. She needed some joy about now, even if it was fleeting.
Tomorrow you will wake to a new galaxy humming pleasant sounds that make you smile, plush planets orbiting concentric circles around a clicking sun. You will spend your days reaching for them, never catching them, but you will not yet understand the frustrations of failure so you will keep trying; until one day you learn how to make yourself taller, and you will reach into that galaxy, grab that sun, and it will burn, but you will be happy, having made yourself the center of a little universe.
Frothing bubbles of frustration, grief, and rage formed in Stacy Roger’s throat as well-wishers kept approaching her, all wanting to extend their unnecessary condolences. She’d always said she had no interest in attending her dad’s funeral, but now here she was, surrounded by neighbors she’d grown up with, uncomfortable with how familiar it felt to walk amongst them after so long.
We called him the giant, for he gave no name to call him by. And a giant he was--tall as an elm tree, he loomed over us like a cliff face, with his hunched shoulders and black matted hair. We'd never seen him before, nor did we ever dream that such a thing as he was even possible, not until the day he strode into the village and sat himself down by the tavern doors.
I have an avatar.
I am forty-three years old. I am balding and thickening around the middle. I have a mediocre job with a mediocre company which is outwardly ambitious to be in the top ten in their sector in five years’ time, but inwardly, all they wish is to still be in business. My ambitions mirror theirs.
So, naturally, my avatar is in her early twenties, stick thin with enormous breasts, spiky hair and an attitude to match.
She is called Sandro. I’m not sure why. I may have hit some wrong keys.
‘That’s the worst thing about the end of the world,’ Elsie said, staring mournfully into a teacup that had long ago been licked clean of every last drop of Tetleys and soggy crumbs of custard cream. ‘Routines go straight out the window.’
Harry glanced away from the TV, which was showing aerial footage of a tiger chasing pigeons in Trafalgar Square. ‘Really? That’s the worst part? It’s not the deaths of millions and the imminent fall of civilisation, it’s that nobody’s been round with the tea trolley for a couple of hours?’
The rat squeaked in outrage from the confines of its cage, its beady black eyes glaring at Sophie through the bars. She stared back, her brows furrowed. Curse it. How would she fix this?
She hadn’t meant to transform her professor into a rat; she’d been aiming for the quill on her desk for a bit of practice before her exam. But he’d walked in early and blown her concentration, and she’d spelled him instead. She’d been so worried about her exam, but now she had a bigger problem. If she didn’t figure out how to change her professor back into a man, he’d be stuck as a rat forever.