Dead of Winter ~ Third Place
I will wait while the flames still burn. I want to see.
The fabric, the skin, how they are being taken away, all recognisable trace destroyed by the fire.
It doesn’t bother me, which makes me think I must still be drunk. How else could I stand here and watch my dress, my face, my long brown hair crackling as they are eaten away.
I know I was drunk when I left the nightclub. There’s no way otherwise I would have decided to walk home alone when I couldn’t get a taxi, or spoken to the man who offered me a lift just when my heels were really starting to hurt.
I don’t remember the next bit. What happened in the jump between the blast of warmth I felt when I opened the car door and standing here a few moments ago.
I should be in bed, on a Sunday morning with a stinking hangover, looking forward to more fantastic nights-out and more splitting headaches as the run-in to Xmas gathers pace. That’s where my memories should begin again. But no, I’m standing in a wood, looking into a ditch while my body burns.
He’s not watching. He’s got his back to the flames, and me.
I want him to see me, to let him know he’s not going to get away with this, because somehow I’m still here, and I’m going to tell everyone what he’s done.
The filthy pig. He’ll get what’s coming to him, when people find out.
I shout at him, scream. But he ignores me, and now he’s starting to walk away.
No you don’t mister, I think and try and follow.
Try again, but I can’t. Can’t move.
I’m stuck here. Trapped with the smoke and the dying embers as the fire finishes its work.
I look around. Getting scared now. Sobering up, I guess. Though I don’t know how I can sober up, or how I could still have been drunk.
Or how I could have stood and looked down on my own body. Christ! What is happening!
I start to to cry. Sob, “Help me, please.”
“It’s no use”
“It’s no use crying. It’s too late now.”
“Where are you?” I cry out, for there is only another woman’s voice, and darkness still that I can see.
And when my question is not answered, I decide I imagined the voice.
(Because I’ve gone crazy. Of course I have. It’s the only sane explanation for what’s happening. Drunk! What was I thinking.)
And then this answer comes and I don’t even have the comfort of madness to chase away this cold, endless night.
“Where?” I ask.
“I don’t really know, but in the woods somewhere.”
“He likes the woods.” A third woman’s voice joins our conversation.
“He does.” And a fourth.
But I don’t want to listen. I want to go home. I want to be warm and safe.
So what do they do, my only companions. They start to laugh, and say:
“NO!” This is my voice. I scream the word. I will drown them out. Defeat them.
“No,” they say again, with one voice. “We are together now, forever.”
“Why?” I ask. But they do not answer at first.
And then I hear: “Pretty party dress, pretty face, pretty long brown hair.”
All embers now I think, cold and grey and dead, and I understand.
Then there is a new voice, that says: “You are all the same.”
This voice is different. It is distant and harsh. It is his voice, and for a moment I think he is dead, but then I feel the urge to go to the toilet, a painful, living urge, and then I feel the thought: No, wait there’s something else to do first.
And I feel sick as he remembers me, what he did to me, and becomes more and more excited.
“We are all joined,” the voices sing.
No, I think, even though I know this word has no meaning anymore because
We are all joined, they sing. Forever.
My name is… I try and tell them, but I can’t remember my name, and for some reason this does not bother me. All that matters is that I sing.
It is what he wants. What we all want.
“I live in West Yorkshire, England, and work as a press officer at the National Railway Museum in York. My stories and poetry have appeared in a number of small press magazines, including The Third Alternative and Scavengers Newsletter. This year I’ve work due in Dark Horizons, Black Petals and Not One of Us. I’ve also recently made the breakthrough into the professional market, having just sold my second story to the Games Workshops’ Inferno magazine.” E-mail: brian_maycock2[at]yahoo.co.uk.