Void

Longlisted for Australian Writers’ Centre July 2020 Furious Fiction competition 


 

The girl could recall the exact second she died. She was shocked only by how unremarkable it was. There was no last gasp. No life flashing before her eyes. One moment she could feel the freezing snow under her body. The next, she couldn’t. It was anticlimactic to say the least.

She moved unseen between the clusters of people dressed in black, as they talked in hushed tones and tried not to mention the murder.

She didn’t know why the man had chosen her. Why he decided to end her life on that cold, Wednesday morning. She remembered her surprise when his knife first entered her body. The sound it made as it cut through her flesh. A squelching noise that was almost comical. She wasn’t sure how many times he plunged his blade into her before it was over, but she knew it was a lot.

She supposed she should be angry at the man for stealing her life. Angry that she would never live out her dreams, go to college or travel the world. Angry that she was left in a crumpled, discarded heap as if she meant nothing. But she wasn’t angry. She didn’t feel anything at all, and she wondered if being dead was like this for everyone; empty of not just blood, but of everything that once made her human.

The girl stood at the window watching as the mourners left. Hugging each other before they returned to their unsullied lives. When silence finally enveloped the house, the girl sat on a stool in the corner of the kitchen and watched her mother and brother stack casserole dishes in the fridge. Tomorrow she would watch them eat a reheated lasagne. The next day they would manage a sandwich.

Before long, her mother would return to work. Her brother would go back to college. She would see them drift apart under the strain of their grief. Her mother would grow old and tired, and her broken heart would eventually stop. Then one day there would be another funeral, and more mourners dressed in black.

Her brother would finally pack up her room, keeping only one thing. A photo of his long dead sister on her fifteenth birthday, just days before a mad man killed her and left her body in tatters in a pool of blood by the side of the road.

The girl would watch as the house was sold, and a new family moved in. Another young girl would decorate her room with pictures of a Korean pop band. She would watch that girl grow up and move out to start a new life. Her bedroom would become a home office, then a gym, before the parents decided to sell. Then, another family would move in. Then another. And another.

All the time the girl was there, watching everything and feeling nothing.

She should have been angry.

But she wasn’t.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Anaphylaxis

The dining room was laid out perfectly. The knives and forks evenly spaced, the elegant plates emerald green with a splash of red around the edges, the napkins folded neatly in the glasses. A giant bowl of salad sat in the middle of the table like the star of the show, a small pot of oily dressing beside it. By the window was a vase of bright yellow daisies, their petals turning joyfully towards the sun. Everywhere was colour, echoing the brightness of the day.

When the man arrived, he happily looked around, oblivious to the trap that had been laid. He was sweating of course and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. His thin, black hair plastered around the sides of his puffy face. He smiled and took the chair opposite mine as he thanked me for the kind invitation. I smiled back, making sure he felt welcome. As he sat, I noticed a button was missing from his shirt. I could glimpse his hairy gut oozing through the gap in the thin, cheap material. I could see the stains under his armpits. I shuddered as I remembered his stench.

Outside the sky was clear and the kind of deep blue that accompanies a steamy day. The air was heavy with the scent of jasmine and the promise of the afternoon offered no relief from the oppressive heat of the summer sun. People spoke of the cool change that must be coming, as cicadas chirped merrily – their ever-present drone laying the background to season.

I could hear the family next door laughing, living their normal, happy lives, as the children ran about the lawn, their giggles floating towards me on the warm breeze. How I envied them in that moment. How I envied their innocence.

At first it sounded like he was clearing his throat; a small noise that no-one noticed but me. I calmly placed another fork full of food in my mouth. He reached for his glass as he began to cough violently. He tried to drink, but the water spilled out over his lips, splashing down his shirt and on to his trousers. As he gasped and clawed at his throat, people rushed to his side, loosening his tie, and slapping his back. His face changed colour like a confused chameleon. First white, then pink, then red, now purple. I was waiting for blue.

He was on the floor now, his eyes bulging and bloodshot, his doughy face finally the colour I’d been waiting for. Someone with a phone was shouting, asking if the man had any allergies. I feigned panic, and in a fabricated display of terror worthy of an Oscar, I shook my head “no,” while thinking, peanuts, he’s allergic to peanuts.

The ambulance was coming now, I could hear its siren’s song. But it would be too late.

As I took a sip of my wine and quietly enjoyed the chaos swirling around me, I thought about how peanut oil made such an excellent addition to salad dressing.

© Amy Hutton 2019