The short fiction that appears on this blog is interconnected within the same universe. Follow the tag #TheRift to read everything in one place. This is purely experimental fiction and you will see me playing with differing narratives and ideas throughout.
The television attached to the wall was tuned to static. The white noise bled through her thoughts. She was anxious and fidgeted, unable to control her movements. Her shoe fell to the floor with a clatter, the sound breaking a peace that felt deep and expansive. The other, being much more stubborn required her to bend down and loosen the golden clasp. The muscles in her back were weary and strained. The second shoe, finally removed, was cast aside and she resumed her position, slumped in the armchair. The room was pristine which made her feel out of place. The scuffs on her shoes, the rip on the shoulder of her dress, grazes across her skin; she was the fly in the ointment. The air in the room felt too close. Although her breath came steady, it was stifled, as if she breathed through a surgical mask.
She walked over to the window, pushing it open wide and looked into the night sky. Rain fell in steady sheets and drops splashed up from the sill onto her dress. It had been raining for days now, she’d lost count how many. It didn’t bother her – the rain soothed her when she was rattled and tonight was definitely a time when she needed the hypnotic patter of the water bouncing from the surfaces around her. She kept shifting her weight from foot to foot, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Her hand moved absent-mindedly to the table at her side, grasping nothing but air. “I thought I’d poured a drink” she announced to the shadows of the hotel room, with a shake of her head. Elena stepped over to the bar in the corner. Opening the small fridge, she was momentarily blinded by the light and the room temporarily held a sterile glow. There, stood to attention inside the door, was her favourite gin, William Chase, which she briefly held the against her cheek enjoying the slight burn from the cold.
As she opened the bottle, the smell of citrus and elderflower filled the alcove she crouched within. The scent took her mind back to other days in other cities which caused her to pause and take a steady breath, blinking away tears and images. She decided, to hell with the tonic, but grabbed a handful of ice. She wanted to taste the alcohol entirely, in the hope that it would ease the last twenty-four hours, if not erase them entirely. Pouring a generous measure into a tumbler, a drip ran down the neck of the bottle and onto her hand. As the cold liquid touched her flesh she jolted; her body reacting to a memory, which she pushed back down, where it belonged.
Walking back to the window, running her hand along the back of the sofa to take some of her weight, she flexed her toes because her feet ached and caused her to walk with leaden steps. After a sip of the gin, she placed the glass on the table beneath an art deco lamp, next to the business card that had arrived on Wednesday. The edges of the card, were soft from her constant handling, the corners lightly curled from where she kept it in her jacket pocket. The typeface was bold and read only a name, Leilah Fox, and a phone number.
The rain had begun to fall more heavily in just that short time. A small pool was forming on the inside window sill. Elena traced her finger through the puddle, holding it aloft so the water dripped from her fingertip, causing tiny ripples to work their way outwards. She wished she could make the room darker, but all of the lights were already extinguished. The moon was almost full and painted the city and her room with a silver luminescence. As she glanced at the glass, cradled with both hands, lightly shaking, she could still see traces of the evening under her nails. Emily.
Breathing out into the air, she pushed open the window further, her arm feeling the torrent of the heavens above. It was warm. There was no chill in this summer rain and she kept her hand on the latch of the window a little longer, not caring that her sleeve was becoming heavy with moisture. Below her, in the street, it was still busy, despite the late hour and the weather. Couples dashed for awnings over entrances or the open doors of taxis, men holding them as women dived into the back seats with a giggle. She envied them and their lives. She could imagine that young couple heading home perhaps for another drink, followed by a lingering kiss, followed by falling. She didn’t know whether these people would be falling into bed or in love and beneath her envy was pity. The driver of the taxi shut off the light on the roof, his fare on board, driving off leaving behind his own shower of water.
Only street vendors, drunks and the emotionless TV kept her, and the stars above, company now. Elena fished a cube of ice from her glass and held it in her palm, observing the block slowly beginning to melt. Placing the drink down by her side once more, she extended her arm, palm up into the rain again and watched as the melt became more rapid. When the cube had eroded away to a size no bigger than the eye of a rabbit, she tilted her palm and watched it slide to the pavement below between the miasma of raindrops.
In the time it took for the ice to hit the ground Elena saw her life culminate to this point. All of those days hanging on the phone. All of the letters she had written; places she’d visited, searching for the right spot. Noticing a wetness on her cheek, she idly wiped it away not knowing if it was a tear or a drop of rain. The night was making her nostalgic and a vision of Emily in her blue silk evening dress appeared before her. In her mind she heard the notes of their song played on a grand piano, Emily swaying her shoulders to the gentle melody. Em had deemed it their song because of the title ‘Round Midnight’, a play on the fact that they were always meeting so late and seemingly in secret. Now, Elena knew the wetness was tears. The salt from them stung the gash on her lip.
Grabbing hold of the glass, she knocked back the slug of gin that remained and her shoulders shuddered from the release of emotion. Her breath ragged from the crying or the gin, she couldn’t tell, nor did she care. Before she knew it, Elena threw the glass at the wall beside her. It burst into pieces, catching the glare of the moon, creating a glitter of carnage. She must still have some modicum of sense else the glass would be in the street beneath the wheels of speeding cars. “Now look what you’ve done” she said to nobody, or anybody who might hear her.
Crouching down she tried to pick up the larger pieces of the glass she’d shattered but soon gave up. Scrabbling round in the dark for chunks of glass while she was, she had to admit, a little drunk, was not the best idea. The night had felt so long. She needed to rest but closing her eyes for longer than a blink was not the best idea right now. When she did let them fall closed she saw Emily, a different scene each time she failed to stay alert. At one moment stepping out of a gallery, her hand shielding her eyes from the sun; the next laid beneath her on their bed at home and, of course, slumped in a bathtub in a hotel suite not unlike this across town.
Elena knew she wouldn’t sleep tonight and if she did, it would be agitated and disturbed. It always felt like this, after. This instance carried more weight; more gravitas. They’d gone too deep, the months became years. Moments became memories and pictures up the stairs to the room they shared. There felt like hesitation in her mind, perhaps second guessing. It could just be regret, she couldn’t consider other possible timelines. She decided she would watch the sunrise, hopeful that the view her window afforded would frame it perfectly. Was it too early for breakfast or too late for dinner? Either way, room service would bring her whatever she wanted. She held the telephone between her chin and shoulder, idly picking the blood she had spotted earlier from beneath her thumb nail, it seemed there was blood under most of her nails. Concentrating on speaking she ordered a sandwich to be brought to her room already knowing she wouldn’t eat it and it would sit on the trolley, becoming stale.
A weary voice on the end of the line, clearly tired, probably someone pulling an extra shift, told her it would take thirty minutes for the food to arrive at her door; long enough for a shower and another drink. After pouring out more of the gin, into a fresh glass, adding the tonic water this time, plus more ice; she walked into the en suite bathroom and ran the shower. This was a habit she couldn’t break, the water would be hot right away but she grew up in a house where everything took its time. By the time she returned from collecting a towel and her robe, the bathroom was filling with steam. Before opening the door to the shower she made sure to fetch a stiff nail brush, again glancing at her nails and seeing the detritus of earlier that evening.
Elena stepped beneath the jets of hot water, the heat stinging her skin. Closing her eyes, she began to wash her body. She scrubbed at the nails of each hand ensuring they were clean. The flecks of dried blood fell between her feet and she sighed hard enough to relax her muscles. As she tipped her head under the shower, her eyes opening, a pink stream flowed from her hair. The shampoo foam was tinted to a candy floss colour and pooled around the plughole, strands of hair waving with the movement of her feet. Her eyes shut tightly.
The blood ran thick and covered Elena’s hands and arms. The wire had bitten too deep into the flesh of Emily’s neck and she’d began to gasp as she choked on the blood spouting from her artery. Elena whispered her apologies and both women cried, though it was hard to tell whether Emily was crying because of the incident, because she had hurt Elena or because she was dying. Elena decided it must be a little of each. Always professional and conscientious, even when emotional, Elena stayed behind Emily, pulling the wire taut, avoiding the spray of scarlet that arced through the air and set to stain the glaring white of the bathroom. That didn’t stop Emily reaching backwards, trying to find a hold in her killer’s hair, but as her life ebbed away, her hands rested on Elena’s and squeezed. It was hard to tell which caused the light tapping, as they stood together – the blood or the rain outside.