Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

Posts Tagged ‘flash fiction

Savage Writing: 100 words

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This week’s topic was to write two pieces, one of 100 words and one of 500 words. I gave up on the 500 word one, so here is my 100 word piece.


Floating in Space

Weightlessness soothes me. I am suspended in the deepest, blackest ocean, and soon I will forget to breathe as my suit exhausts its oxygen. I don’t think I’ll have the crushing panic that I imagine comes with a watery grave. Just bobbing along, in endless dark, just existing in this frigid womb of space. I wish I could see stars in the endless night about me.

But below turns the earth, white-blue scarred marble, home. Everything that has ever been. It’s a shame. I wish someone could hear me describe how beautiful it looked today, afterwards.


Written by G.J.

15/11/2015 at 4:11 pm


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Katie’s husband shot himself in the head. He locked himself in the bathroom. Katie sat outside, screaming at the door, begging him not to do it.

She sent an e-mail round to her close friends and family afterwards. That’s how they know what happened. She sent it to my sister Anna, and Anna told me the night after I was introduced to Katie, and that’s how I know what happened.

She heard him pull the trigger.

He knew you all loved him, she wrote in the e-mail, apparently. I told him how much everyone loved him.

I try to imagine yelling past a wooden door. It’s so faceless, unyielding, lacks any passion or emotion. Imagine only facing that, knowing that the person you love most is going to turn their brains to goo.

Worse, I try to imagine when the door was opened afterwards. I think the police did it. She didn’t have time to call emergency services between him grabbing his gun and the deed. I mean, in that case you’d assume that you can convince them better yourselves, right? Of course you’d assume that your husband would listen to your pleas more than a policeman’s.

But imagine: shot. Loud. Then absolute silence. She calls for him again. She sobs down the phone – or talks down the phone, quiet monotone, numb and unable to process. Waits. Then they come and talk through the wood block door, stern solid words to coax him out, nothing in response. They kick down the door.

Did she shrink back? Did she peer in, despite knowing what she would see?

And what did she see?

I can’t imagine what a person looks like with their head shot through. I mean, I’ve seen it in films, but you never know how realistic they are, do you? And it’s a world of difference, I suppose, between seeing some unknown actor playing an expendable mook get his skull blown through, and seeing the man you’ve slept with for ten years with a head like a smashed egg.

God. I just can’t imagine it.

What that would do to a person. To your mind. To your perception of the world.

The first time I met Katie, she was normal. A little quiet. It happened last year, you see. I don’t know how long it takes these things to process, but I feel a year is a little too short. She mentioned she works in IT support, we joked about the kind of people you have to deal with and the nonsense you constantly put up with. She’s small. Pretty. Brown hair. Thin. Looks young for her age. Not the sort of person you’d think would have seen gore first-hand.

When I met her again, because I knew, I wanted her to look different. I tried to find signs that she was traumatised in some way, but came up with nothing concrete. I mean, everyone gets tired and down sometimes, no matter how good your life is – and she wasn’t even depressed-looking that day. She looked a normal level of tired. I wondered how she looked the days following her husband’s death. When Anna made a joke and we laughed, I wondered how long it took her after Neil’s death before she smiled again.

‘Does she ever talk about what happened?’

‘She misses him a lot,’ Anna replied, like the question glanced off of her.

‘No, I mean, has she ever told you what it was like?’

‘God no,’ she said, giving me the look that all siblings have perfected – the “what the fuck is wrong with you, you inferior being” look. ‘I wouldn’t do that. I don’t want to bring it up again.’

I wonder if it makes Katie felt better or worse, that no-one will bring it up.

‘I’m doing a half-marathon,’ she said, the third time we met.

‘Good for you.’

‘It’s for a mental health charity.’

I hesitated.

‘Oh, that’s good.’

‘I’m doing it in Neil’s memory,’ she said, eyes on the floor, no other sign of distress.

Was that a cry for help? A sign that she wanted to open up? Or was it nothing at all? What was I to make of that? Words hovered over my lips, but in the end the easy, cowardly, gentle way won out.

‘Yeah…good for you. I mean, that’s good. I’m sure you’ll do well. How much are you asking for sponsorship?’

Not what I wanted to say.

What I want to say, and what I’ve always wanted to do, is corner her one evening, get her alone, and ask her what it’s like to face mortality up close. To hear the man you love die. To see his blood. To know he chose his broken mind over your wellbeing (and wouldn’t that make you doubt how much he loved you?). I’m not sure she could answer this, but I wonder how the grief compares to other, less dramatic, more normal grief. Like, on a scale of grandma-dies-in-sleep to child-is-murdered, how fucking awful is it? I imagine it’s one of the most awful things in the world. And yet she looks normal. I don’t get it. How can you look normal, after that?

I’ll never ask her about it, of course. It’s not done, and Anna would kill me besides. Might trigger some grief relapse or something. It’s one of those things you just don’t do.

But I wonder. Every time I see Katie, I wonder. And I imagine.

Written by G.J.

22/02/2015 at 1:23 pm

Savage Writing: Fourteen

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Theme for this week is Fourteen. Am uploading this early so I can read it from here during the meet. 

Fourteen minutes past four a.m. Fourteen eyebrow hairs standing vertically as he lay asleep on the bed. An akward number, fourteen, like how it was an awkward age to be – the age where everyone had greasy hair and spots and both loved and hated the opposite sex. Fourteen, not decimal, barely divisible, only splitting into two sevens. Like when a chauvinist goes to a bar and sees two women he considers unacceptably normal-looking, and says to his friend ‘But put ’em together and you get a fourteen!’ as if he could easily convince two women that they are so unacceptable that only being together for his benefit would counteract their deficiencies.

Ten. I had decided to go out to the party. A drunken flat gathering where everyone met friends of everyone else. Ten-fifteen, I had finished two drinks and had therefore drunk enough that I could get everyone else off my back about drinking. I drank coke the rest of the night and acted loud and stupid and watched everyone else disintegrate, laughing inside, knowing that I was having fun and wouldn’t pay for it tomorrow.

Eleven. I saw him talking to a group of guys I know and dislike, and decided that he fit among them and so I shouldn’t bother to talk to him. Eleven-fifteen, we bumped into each other and he offered me a tea towel from the kitchen to wipe it up, laughing since I only managed to smear day-old pasta sauce from the towel over the coke on my t-shirt. We started complaining about messy kitchens, and kept talking about how much we hated dirt, even as he put his hand in the grease on the hob. He didn’t move it, as if he didn’t want to interrupt us, but I could tell he was shuddering inside, so I gave him the tea-towel back and we laughed about that too.

Twelve. A bunch of the crowd decided it was time to hit the clubs, and I expected him to go. We had barely moved from the kitchen the whole time. He said he was going to go with them, and I was disappointed but said okay, knowing that a man’s friends are more important than anything and that their whining always trumps a girl’s. Twelve-fifteen, I was talking to a friend when he reappeared at my side, saying he had changed his mind, that they had changed which place they were going to go to and he didn’t like that kind of club so he thought he’d stay. We talked about music for the next while.

One. People were playing drinking games, and spilling secrets. I let out that I wasn’t drinking, and no-one believed me. Thank God, he said beside me. One-fifteen, he admitted that he was glad I wasn’t talking to him just because I was drunk. A girl like me, he said, never normally talks to a guy like him. I said no but he was right.

Two. Everyone was winding down. I’d held my friend’s hair back as she puked, and put her in her bed, and since it was her party, that signalled the end. Taxis were called. “I’m going to walk home,” he said, “since I’ve no money for a taxi.” This is it, I knew. “You can share one with me,” I said. “Okay,” he said, with no indication of where he lived and whether it would be going in the right direction or not. Two-fifteen he got in the taxi with me.

Three. We lay about naked, talking about life, and people, and the kind of stereotypes you can make based on appearances, and how they’re wrong but you stick to them anyway because they seem right the majority of the time. Three-fifteen we decided we were hungry so we got up and made french toast in the kitchen, him wearing my bathrobe, still talking. We got egg everywhere and laughed about being hypocrites.

Four. He fell asleep.

Fourteen is an awkward number. I watched him sleep, and I counted every freckle he had and every mole and every stray hair in his eyebrows, until the bedside clock clicked past fourteen, and onto fifteen. Then I lay down next to him, and at four-fifteen I fell asleep in his arms.

Written by G.J.

06/02/2013 at 7:00 pm

Savage Writing: Sun-kissed.

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Wednesday updates may be a little spotty for the next few weeks while I write up my dissertation. Riverboats will continue as normal.

This was the 250 word challenge for the Leeds Savage book that we’ll be publishing soon. (The other pieces I submitted for the book were this, this and this). I decided to do something a little different from normal, and realised it’d be good to put here now considering my past 7 updates have all been in first person perspective and this is skewing my image. I’m really a traditional third-person past kind of writer, but I think third person present and second person are underrated for their immediacy and impact.


You’ve never understood the term ‘sun-kissed.’ For you, the sun has two settings: ‘on’ and ‘off.’ ‘Off’ is the natural state: entire weeks smothered under a dome of cloud, whether there’s rain or none. ‘On,’ however, is far worse. ‘On’ is burning. ‘On’ is sweat and smell and discomfort, and the reminder that you will never be a story-book person who is immune to these things, but are doomed to your sticky, mortal unattractiveness. ‘On’ is exposure, being forced to strip to baser layers and show your white-and-purple pimpled flesh. ‘On’ is mass exhibitionism and mass judgement, hating every beautiful girl and non-beautiful girl and every topless and non-topless man, and sure you’re hated in turn. ‘On’ is glare on your screen and the nagging feeling that you should go out, because You Should, but you have no reason to, so you sit and struggle with You Should and the glare all day.

But one day, perhaps, you are restless. You have some spare change, and you’re low on milk, and the sun looks ‘On’ but you need milk and need to move and you can’t see your screen anyway.

Then you step outside and it is not ‘On.’ The temperature wraps around you like a baby’s blanket. There is no harshness or unkindness in the air. The rays touch your arms and your face gently, like a mother, and it is as if the world is hugging you, and saying, ‘It’s okay.’

You sigh as you finally understand: sun-kissed.

Written by G.J.

02/08/2012 at 4:01 am