Sweet Vengeance

Sweet Vengeance

A short story by Harriet Young

AI generated artwork for Sweet Vengeance

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A crime of passion, that was what they were calling it. A woman scorned. And on the face of it, that was what it seemed to be. All of the evidence pointed to it – the messages to the other woman, the reports of furious rows, the neighbourly gossip about what a nice man he had been, what a difficult woman she had been, who could blame him. This was more than corroborated by the wife herself, who had been deeply unpleasant to everyone who had been unlucky enough to be in contact with her.

But something still didn’t sit right.

Flo eased the key into the lock, glancing left and right down the dark street. There was silence, in the way there can only be at 3am. Inside, darkness. Flo tried the light switch – nothing. They must have cut the electricity. She took her torch from a coat pocket, the thin ray of light illuminating the room.

No one had been inside for months and everything had been cleared out, but the scent hung in the air. A sickly sweet smell of royal icing, sugar roses, vanilla sponge. A memory of the first time she had been in the shop rose unbidden to her mind’s eye. The beautiful display of wedding cakes with their tiers and flowers and golden sashes defaced by the angry blood splatters, Ray Hammond lying face up on the floor with his eyes frozen in horror, his throat a mess of slick crimson. 

Now, the surfaces were clean and empty. There was nothing to suggest it had been a wedding cake shop at all. Nothing apart from that lingering smell.

Flo moved over to the spot where the body had been found. Another flash of a memory hit her; Ray, splayed, the blood. She shook it away. There was nothing to be seen now apart from a very well scrubbed patch of floor.

Flo crouched, knelt back on her heels and took out her phone. She located the file she’d emailed to herself, opened the attachment and began to flick through the photos. There was the evidence, every bit of it pointing at Ray’s wife, Jean. The paring knife usually used for trimming icing but most recently used for slicing a jugular, the fingerprints – everywhere, though that wasn’t surprising in her shop, the sweet daisy earring found just beside Ray’s body. So why was it that Flo had this nagging feeling?

 She zoomed in on the photo of the paring knife, examining every millimetre. As she stared at the incomplete (and unreadable) fingerprint on the tip, her phone began to ring, the sound shocking in the tight silence. She fumbled to answer it.


“Hello? Ma’am? It’s D. C. Wideacre. Sorry to wake you, but there’s been a development in the work permit case.”


“Go on, John.”

“You’ll want to be here for this. We’ve got someone under caution, interviewing in the next half hour. Can I tell the captain you’ll be here?”

The very last thing she needed. Her mind wanted to be here, poring over the crime scene, not in a dingy interview room talking about work permits. She sighed.

“Yes, but I’ll be a little while. Send me everything you’ve got and keep me up to date with the questioning.”

“Sure thing. See you soon.”

Almost immediately, her phone alerted her to a new email. It looked like they had arrested a woman with a false work permit. The electronic work permit itself was attached – she opened it and immediately saw the problem. It had been granted on the basis of her English spouse, and his name was Grant Owen. This must be the twentieth work permit that had turned up in this small town with a spouse named Grant Owen. It was suspicious, sure, but Flo was too distracted by the Ray Hammond case.

She decided to give herself fifteen minutes before heading to the station. She brought up the video of the first interview with Jean and listened to her chillingly calm voice admitting to murder, a heart-shaped smudge of blood still sitting on her left cheekbone. It looked so cut and dry. But why did something feel off?

Flo ran her fingers over the counter where the till once was, pacing back and forth across the room. Nothing new came to her and, reluctantly, she accepted it was time to leave.

Almost as soon as she had begun her drive to the station, her phone – connected to the car’s handsfree system – rang again.

“John? I’m on my way. Is there a development?”

“Yes, ma’am. There is.” He sounded defeated somehow, his energy sapped.

“Go ahead.”

“It’s bigger than we thought. This Grant Owen, or whatever his real name is, he’s a genuine person. He married them somehow. They paid him, the women, and not only that.” He paused.

“What else?” Flo prompted.

“He made sure the marriages were consummated. Even if the women didn’t want to.” He sounded disgusted, and Flo mirrored his feelings. She felt a renewed interest in the case, a drive to catch this man.

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Flo parked up and half ran through the dark station to Interview Room A. Wideacre was waiting outside, looking morose behind his round glasses.

“There you are ma’am. Selina’s in the room. That’s her name. She knows you’re coming. She’s upset, but I think she’ll give us more. Anything to catch this bastard, right?”


Flo gritted her teeth, took a deep breath and walked into the interview room.

“Selina? I’m Flo. Good to meet you.” Flo extended her hand to the woman sitting across the table. A petite, dark-haired woman with a tattoo snaking up the left side of her face. Piercings in her nose, lip and several in her ears. She wore two pairs of hooped earrings and an extra stud in her left auricle. A small stud. Shaped like a daisy. A sweet daisy.


The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

The Ghosts of Christmas Past Short Story by Harriet Young

A short story by Harriet Young

Christmas was always a tricky time of year. His mother knew, she kept her distance, had done since he had first moved away. There might be a phone call on Boxing Day or, more likely, the day after, but Christmas Day was his and his alone – or at least, it was supposed to be.

His wife had crashed into his life just two years ago, and he loved her fiercely. She brought him a joy he hadn’t realised that he could feel. He loved his life with her. Most of the time, he couldn’t imagine being without her. But this Christmas thing was becoming a bit of an issue. The first year, they had just met so it wasn’t odd for them to spend the day apart. Last year was a different story. Their relationship had been a whirlwind and they were married within six months of meeting. They did everything together and she didn’t think it unreasonable for them to spend Christmas Day together too. On the whole, he could see her arguments. But he had to keep this thing to himself.

He couldn’t remember when it had started. He couldn’t remember a Christmas without it. Even the gentle ones furthest away in his memory included a shadow, a dark spot that couldn’t be illuminated by twinkling lights on a Christmas tree. As the years moved on, the darkness had grown edges and become something far more tangible. Last year was the worst yet.

Why had he been chosen? As far as he could tell, he was the only one. No answers were forthcoming and there was no hint of a way out of it. It just was.

They sat next to each other on Christmas Eve, faces glowing in the light of the many candles his wife lit each evening. She was hurt and confused.

‘I don’t understand.’ She kept saying. And how could she, when he didn’t himself? He was helpless.

‘It’s just one day.’ A meaningless and empty phrase. An attempt to placate that would just anger her more.

‘I don’t understand.’

He reached for her hand but she pulled it away. With a sigh, she stood and wiped her eyes. Her weekend bag was in the doorway, along with carrier bags overflowing with brightly wrapped gifts. She struggled to lift them all, swatted away his attempts to help.

‘Wish your family a Merry Christmas from me.’ The words dropped like stones at her feet. She didn’t reply, simply walked through the door and out into the night, taking all of the warmth with her.

He went back into the lounge and blew the candles out one by one, puffs of black smoke hanging in the air. It was early still but heavy with darkness so he headed to bed. Tomorrow it would start.

Despite knowing what would await him in the morning, he always slept well on Christmas Eve. There was an inevitability to his fate that led to a deep, cocooned night of rest. It was dreamless, angst free and gave his mind space for the day ahead. It was his favourite part of the Christmas period.

As with all good things, the end came quickly. As he was dragged back to consciousness, he knew that they were here already. Refusing to open his eyes, his other senses began to heighten and he heard the quickening thump of a heart. The thump became a pound, an incessant, urgent cacophony that throbbed in his skull until he was forced to open his eyes.

The heart stopped. The room was black. Not just dark. Suffocatingly black. He lay still, listening to the silence. There was no sound but his own shallow breaths. He could reach for his lamp, but he knew by now that it would do nothing. This was how they always greeted him.

Slowly, slowly, the blackness began to fragment into shapes. Shifting into their forms, crowding the room. There were even more this year. For the first few years there had been one, a faceless silhouette who grew ever more opalescent. The year that another came – he was ten – was the worst in his memory. From then, each year brought more.

He had theories about what they were, but he could never know for sure. Shadows – that was the best way of describing them. It wasn’t so much the sight of them that was terrifying, it was the sense of oppressive dread they brought with them. Standing there, staring with no eyes, filling the room with icy hopelessness.

He lifted himself from the bed and movement fluttered through them. They always followed.

Every year, he spent Christmas Day sitting. There was nothing else he could do. He couldn’t leave the house taking his audience with him. He couldn’t eat – he had no appetite when they visited anyway. Nothing could distract from them.

When he was a child, his mother had been disappointed and upset by his lack of interest in his gifts and lovingly prepared food, spending his time instead staring off into the middle distance. It had translated as ungratefulness, and had damaged his relationship with his mother who had tried so hard for him. But there was nothing he could do.

He walked slowly into the lounge, not bothering to dress. They followed, crowding him and stealing his breath. He had tried to talk to them in the past. He had begged them to leave in countless occasions, bargaining and pleading, but to no avail. There was no change to show they heard, just the constant, overwhelming presence.

He sat and he sat. They watched and they watched. A never ending day.

There was a sudden shrillness. He went cold, a panic snapping through his already taut nerves. He realised it was his telephone. He looked at it, unsure what to do. They looked at it too. The light from the screen pressed through the darkness so vividly that he snatched it up and answered it to make it stop.

‘Yes?’ He snapped. They were closer than ever.

‘Gerry?’ It felt like an exhale. Her voice floated like a blanket over him, comfort and love. They moved back.

‘Gerry?’ She said again. They moved back further, shrank to the corners of his eyes.

‘Melinda?’ He breathed.

‘I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.’ And with that last word, they and their weight were gone.

If you enjoy my work, you can read about my novel, The Hellion here and preorder online here. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

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The Broken Hearts

A short story by Harriet Young

The broken hearts by Harriet young short story

Blood appears black in the moonlight. Don’t ask me how I know that. There are many things I’ve done and many things I’ve seen that I’d prefer not to tell you. But I suppose, now I’m here, that I should share.

It is freeing, in a way, to be able to tell you anything. To feel like I can tell you anything. I trust you. I haven’t trusted many people in my life, but you – I feel like we have a connection. Don’t you?

So, where to begin? I suppose you want to know everything, don’t you? Perhaps I should start with my childhood. How little there is to tell about that though. I was a loner – I imagine you guessed that already, from how I am now. An only child, distant parents. I can’t pretend that my difficulties, the trials and tribulations I’ve felt during my life, haven’t stemmed from then. In fact, until I found you, I was drifting. I had no anchor, despite my wealth. Oh, how I do now!

No, don’t worry, my parents weren’t cruel. But I can’t say that they showed me love either. They were busy, I felt like an afterthought. I found my own ways to entertain myself. I won’t bore you with them, ordinary childhood things that they were. Games.

I went to University a year early. I always was bright, but numbers come naturally to me. I was confused by how others struggled in those lessons, perhaps that goes some way to explain my lack of friends. I hoped things would be different at Oxford University. Surely there, there would be people like me?

As you know, I was disappointed. They had all of the benefits of a socialised childhood and they gathered in groups that I couldn’t infiltrate. I just didn’t know how – they weren’t like me. Instead, I went from lecture to lecture, head down, books in hand, talking to no one. I was invisible. I kept my eyes on the ground and studied in my room. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me and that was that.

This may sound like I want your pity. I don’t. You know that since then, my life has become an apparent success. I have friends, fans even. My money. Status. But I’ve always wanted more. I’ve always been hungry for more. Now that we’re together, I’m content. You have changed that side of me, at least.

Yes, I know why we are here, having this conversation. Yes, I can tell what that expression on your face means. You want more. Well. I don’t know whether delving any deeper would be helpful. You already seem disappointed in me. What can I do? It is more difficult than it seems, peeling back the layers. As painful as removing a layer of skin. I’ll try. I’m flattered that you want to learn more about me. I feel there is something I’m missing though, something urgent that you want. You are tense. But you feel as though you can’t ask. Ok, that’s fine. I want you to believe in me.

A heart is like an apple, you know. When it’s healthy and happy it is fresh and juicy and red – filled to bursting. Have you ever bitten into an apple and left it on the side? Straight away it starts to wilt, brown, rot. There’s no healing it. That’s my experience, anyway. Give it an hour or two and there’s nothing you can do to save it, you may as well just toss it in the bin.

You could say that’s been my life’s work.

You don’t get the connection? You look confused, but trust me, it is a good metaphor. I can see your micro expressions now, flitting across your face, you are struggling to understand. It will become clear. I want what you want – I want the two of us to be happy and I want you to know me. I know that’s important for us to move forward.

Shall we move on to your reservations about me? I can see that you have them. People have had reservations about since I was a child. Perhaps it’s something about the way I hold myself. I’m so used to being alone that others sense that they are unnecessary around me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you as much as you need me. I’m sorry that I can’t be different.

Perhaps talking about my career will help. You know that I’m successful and – well, you’ve seen my office. You perhaps don’t know quite how hard I had to work to build my company. From the ground up. Starting with nothing – no loans, just a computer in my bedroom. Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to undermine your own career. I know you work hard. But yes, to get to the bottom of what you want to know, I did trample on people on my way up. To be a success, you have to. Kind people don’t get anywhere in this life. Oh, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but you understand – to make millions, to become a someone, you have to stand on top of a pile of bodies. Excuse my crude phrasing. It was harder for me than those Eton boys with their connections readymade. I had to rely on pure talent and guts. You think I’m cold, and I don’t deny it. But you can see why I would be, with a life like mine.

Now I’m confused because you still seem to want more from me. There are no more relevant things that I can share about my life. I said it was freeing to be able to tell you anything and I stand by that, but your reaction is frankly quite disappointing. You have a strange look on your face. What is that look? If you came closer to me, maybe I would be able to decipher it. As it is, I am drawn to your glinting eyes in this gloomy room.

I see what you want. I understand now. You want to know about my past relationships. Are you alright? I noticed a subtle change in you. This is what you were waiting for. Well, I’m afraid there’s really nothing to tell you. I have never been much of a one for long relationships. They don’t tend to work for me.

I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear.


Interview adjourned at 13.49. The accused remains unwilling to disclose the locations of the other bodies.


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40 Days

By Harriet Young

The Tsunami by Pobble365

The rain started in February. I remember well because it was my birthday. We had enjoyed a week of those crisp, bright days with beaming clean sunshine and, with the forecast claiming it was set to continue, I arranged a walk up a mountain with my friends to celebrate. I anticipated snow at the top, but how could anyone have guessed what would really happen?

The day started gloriously, with those snaking rays of dancing light illuminating frost. The ground crunched underfoot- it was cold, oh yes it was cold. The sky was a haze, cushioning its glowing orb. Not a breath of wind. The perfect day for walking.

We set off early in a caravan of cars, parked up and readied ourselves for our stroll. We joked about the smell of egg and cress sandwiches and Maisie discovered that her flask was leaking. After the shortest of delays, we began. My remaining memories of that first part of the walk are the sun glittering on water dripping from the trees, a dog barking, my friends laughing. It was when we got through the initial woods and high enough to see the horizon that our light mood gradually began to change.

The packed ice and snow was clearly visible, despite the distance we still had to go, but that was not the issue. No, what made us on edge was the heavy black cloud coming in from the west. It was many miles away, but something about its density weighed on our minds. We made some jokes, zipped up our coats and carried on, but the cloud was there. I looked at it so often that I could not have said whether it was getting closer or further away, until we had reached the point of no return and the cloud was upon us.

Snow was under our feet now, no one was around and the cloud above blocked out the sun so abruptly it was as though someone had switched off the lights. We all stopped and looked up. There were eight of us, at that point. Of course I am used to it now, but back then I had never seen a cloud like it before. It was – there is no other word for it – evil. We just didn’t know what to do, and there wasn’t enough time to make a decision.

When it began, we stopped being a group and started being individuals. Survival was the only thing that mattered. The thunder was first, the mountain actually shook. I crouched, hands over my head. It was instinct – I didn’t know what I expected. I stayed like that when the thunder ceased and the rain came. Torrential is too weak a word. I was drowning, gasping, clinging to the ground in despair as a newly formed river churned around me.

I had to move, I half-walked half-swam to the left, towards a shadow I hoped was a clump of bushes or rocks. I could barely see, the rain poured into my eyes, mixed with my tears. How I made it, I don’t know, but I was there, hunched behind rocks, protected a little from the deluge.

Gradually, after who knows how long, the rain eased – it didn’t stop, not even close, but the air cleared slightly and I could breathe. Looking around, I could see no one. I shouted to no avail, finally decided that they had descended the mountain without me. With that in mind, and with the rain lighter, I decided to climb down myself.

It was a journey I would rather forget. I have never been more fearful. Had, I should say. I cried when I got back to the car park. What happened next shames me, but I wonder if you would have done the same. You see, my friends’ cars were still there, beginning to flood. I ignored them. Blind to them, as the rain got heavier and I imagined roads blocked with rushing water, I got in my car and backed away.

The crash is how I got here. The rain was so violent that my wipers did nothing, but in my desperation I kept going, unseeingly, down the country roads. It didn’t last long. I blacked out in the crash, woke up in a comfortable bed with two concerned faces peering down at me. I was in a wooden room; it was dark and had a pleasurable musky smell.

‘He’s awake!’ A hand was on my forehead. I looked closely at the two faces. A man and a woman of indeterminate age, both wearing bright raincoats – his red, hers yellow. Their faces were weather worn and friendly.

‘Where am I?’ I raised myself onto my elbows to look around more easily.

They exchanged a glance. I noticed that I was swaying, lay back down and put a hand to my head.

‘You were in a crash. With us.’ The woman said quickly. She glanced at the man. ‘Do you remember the rain?’

I nodded. How could one forget?

‘We were travelling…the thing is…’ the woman trailed off. The man shrugged.

‘What is it? Where am I?’ I was alert now.

The man sighed. ‘Can you stand?’ He offered a hand. I took it, stood, stumbled and noticed a throbbing pain in my head. The man took my arm and led me out of the low-ceilinged, wood-walled room. Through a narrow door and down a dark hallway with many doors to each side and strange noises coming from the rooms behind them. I shivered, swayed again.

At the final door at the end of the corridor, the man stopped and turned to me. His face was serious. ‘Are you ready?’ He asked.

‘For what?’

He didn’t reply. Instead, he grimly eased the door open outwards against howling wind and battering rain. It hadn’t, stopped then. He took hold of a chain from the wall and motioned that I should do the same, then followed the chain outside, hand after hand. Curiosity piqued, I followed him. The storm was just as violent as before and although I struggled to see, it was obvious. We were at sea. We were on an enormous wooden boat on a tempestuous body of water. Why had they brought me here? I turned and fled indoors, the man close on my tail. He shut the door behind him.

‘What are you doing with me?’ I took the man’s shoulders and shook him. He looked afraid. As he should. I was taller, stronger and he couldn’t hurt me.

‘Please, come and sit.’ The woman spoke from behind me. I turned and she gestured to a room to my left which hosted a table and chairs. Seeing no other option, I followed her into the room and sat in one of the rickety chairs.

‘My name is Niamh. This is Neil.’ Neil smiled and held out his hand for me to shake. I ignored it.

‘Tell me why I’m here.’

Neil sighed. ‘We saved you. Just remember that.’ He exchanged a glance with Niamh before he carried on. ‘When we crashed, we were on our way to safety. We had this boat, you see. We own a small petting zoo, and we had to shelter the animals from the rain, so we put them on the boat and we were driving to somewhere safer. In the crash, both of our cars were ruined and you were unconscious. We decided we would get you onto the boat, out of the rain for a while. You were unconscious for a long time…’

‘More than a day!’ Niamh interjected.

‘…and in that time, the boat broke free from the trailer. We didn’t know what was happening at first, it’s so hard to see out there, but eventually we realised. The flooding was so severe that we had begun to float. And you see, the rain hasn’t stopped. We’re still floating. The thing is…’ another of those irritating glances between them.

‘The thing is what?’ I snapped.

‘We haven’t seen dry land since. We’ve floated for miles and…’

I broke him off with a harsh laugh. ‘Are you seriously trying to trick me into thinking that you rescued me from some biblical flood? Do you really expect me to believe that? Listen, I don’t know why you’ve brought me here but you need to dock this boat and let me off, now.’

Neil sighed and shrugged. ‘Listen, we saved you. You don’t have to thank us, but we did. You’re welcome to share our food for as long as it lasts. But we can’t dock this boat. Radios are down, internet, everything. Niamh and I think…we don’t think there are any docks left.’

I was fed up with talking to them, sick of the lies. I didn’t answer, instead strode back to the room I had woken up in. I stayed there for many days. Niamh and Neil did not bother me, but they left me food and water outside the door each morning. It was bland food – porridge and water, and some fruit to start with though this dwindled to nothing. I was in a rage, and the longer we remained at sea the more my rage grew. Where were they taking me? America? And why?

There was a small, circular window high up in my room. I spent hours, days, staring through it at the relentless rain, impossible to separate from the splashes from waves. I ate my pitiful porridge when I was starving and dreamed of fat steaks and juicy chicken.

Oh, I can’t describe the hunger. I pray that you are never in this position. But until, and unless, you are, you cannot judge. What would a person do for survival? What would you do?

The sound of the animals taunted me. I held out for weeks. Four or five or six, who knows. But the hunger got to me in the end. No more tasteless porridge. I stepped out of my room for the first time in so many days and peered around. No sign of Niamh and Neil. I crept down the corridor and tried each door. The first one to open contained chickens. Ah, chickens! I was beside myself. The hunger, you see. When Niamh and Neil arrived, presumably drawn by the squawking of the birds, I expect it did look bad – a blood bath perhaps. But the hunger! You wouldn’t understand it with your privilege.

They stood aghast in the doorway. The chickens were all dead at this point. Their faces were ashen, Niamh even began crying, cradling one of the birds.

‘What have you done?’ Neil asked, the words dropping like stones. He leaned against the doorway, propping himself up. ‘Forty days, we’ve been sailing, and now…now the chickens too…’

‘Too?’ I asked, wiping blood from my lips. Neil frowned at me, as though trying to work something out. My captors looked disgusted.

‘We would prefer it if you went back to your room.’ Niamh said, wiping away her tears.

‘Fine.’ I sighed, and stood. ‘But they’re only chickens. What do you expect me to do? You can’t let me starve.’

‘You said that last time.’ Neil said, that frown still on his face. He must be going quite mad. I let him escort me back to my room, expected to hear a key turn in a lock, but it didn’t happen.

You don’t understand how difficult it is to be aboard a boat with two maniacs. They kidnapped me and took me to sea against my will. We all have a survival instinct. We are animals, deep down. And when you are in a position like this, perhaps you will act the same. But then – and only then – will you be able to judge me.

Later that day, I was staring out of my window when I got quite a shock. Blue! A glimpse of blue, rather than endless grey! I ran from my room, down the corridor and onto the deck. It was true! The rain had stopped! A glimmer of sunshine through the gap in the clouds bathed my face and I shouted in joy. There, what was that? A bird! A dove, carrying a branch. The first time I had seen a bird since this all started. And there – in the distance- was that land? I shouted again, got no response. Of course I didn’t. You have to understand, they were my captors and they had starved me. And that was why I slit their throats.

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The Key

A short story by Harriet Young

Floating Citadel by Pobble365

“We’re just two souls in a fishbowl, bouncing off the side,” he cried, as he leapt and he died.

The silence thrummed, like a drum. A pounding beat, like blood in a skull.


It had been ten days since the key was lost. Then the ground fell away, and our lives took off. It began as nothing, as an inconvenience, a novelty. Then it grew to a beast, something with a mind of its own.

Where to start. With the key, I suppose. I had recurring nightmares that left me thrashing, unable to breathe. Claustrophobia is a terrible thing. They happened night after night, I’d wake in a sweat. I couldn’t comprehend the horror inside. Work fell away – I passed through days in a daze. And night after night, the key came to me.

Keys might mean security, protection or adventure. A key to a safe, to a door, to a new world. But not for me – oh no, not for me. For me they creaked in locks, to trap me in a box. The key in my dream rusted in place, parts fell away and time lurched past. I struggled and screamed and cried, but still in my dark musty box I’d abide. I tried to break free, I did. But the box was strong and the lock was eager, it wouldn’t very well abandon its role. So this was how my nights were spent.

The days were worse. Acrid coffee scorching my tongue, anything to keep the shadows at bay. Eyes bruised with exhaustion and body slumping forwards, I saw my life through a sheen of fog. Everything tasted foul, ash in my mouth, no pleasure in anything. He felt it too – I saw it in his eyes. The key haunted him also, just buried deep inside.

He was gentle and kind, in his way. He covered me in blankets when I gave way to the key. Led me blindly through days and made sure that I ate. He muffled my screams in the dark, late at night. It felt like love, that’s it. It did.

But fog. Fog. Fog is a dangerous thing. It is forceful, in a quiet, disobedient way. It does as it likes, it hides what it likes. And suddenly, or perhaps gradually, you feel less like a normal person anymore. You don’t notice until it has happened, and when it has happened, you’re too far from the shore to row your way back. What is there to do, but float?

So that’s what I was doing. Floating by day, bowing to the key at night. Groundhog Day, they say, don’t they. But that’s not what it was – each day of floating was a little further from land, and each night the key grew, monstrous and grand.


Who can say how much time passed? When you are in the wilderness, time is not your friend. But be it months, or years, or decades – who knows – there was one moment when everything changed. A click, a tap, a crunch, a grind. The sound. I was in my box, in the dark, nowhere to hide. But the key was moving – slowly, so slowly, its grandeur was fading.

Inch by inch, the giant key moved. This was new. What to do? I was statue-still, eyes fixed on the lock. That I could not see, the dark enveloped me. It crunched as it turned. A click and then…ringing clear through the fog, it fell to the ground.

I was desperate and scared so for some time I didn’t move. Then, my courage surged. On all fours I crawled to the door; peered through the keyhole, the key was there no more. Gently, I placed my hand on steel. Held my breath and pushed. Movement, freedom! The fear was enormous, pressing on my lungs. What could be out there? Perhaps, perhaps, the key was my protector after all.

Breathe, breathe. Slow, slow. Breathe, breathe, slow, slow. Breathe. Ok.

I pushed a little harder, froze as the door emitted a skull-splitting creak.


I pushed again. The door was open, I was free. The darkness and fog closed in but, my God, I ran. I ran and I ran, the fresh cold air burning my skin. My bare feet revelled in the sharp stinging pain. My mouth curled into an unfamiliar smile.

That morning, I was brand new. I awoke refreshed to a bright, clear sunrise. The curtains were open, the covers kicked away. He lay beside me, frown flickering. I revelled in a stretch, clawed sleep from my eyes. I showered and smiled. New days. New skies.

So that is how the key was lost. Ah, I look back now and cry. I thought it was the start, the beginning. But what was set free from that box?

He was pleased to see the change, that day. His face relaxed at my wide, easy grin – I kissed him, I twirled, set off on my way. Said no to coffee, laughed through my tasks, filled full with energy, I could do anything at last.

I could dance. I could sing. Have you seen the sky, through the fog? It’s a wonderful thing.

I came home that night, a new spring in my step. But one look at his face and my hope fell away. The key – it had him, deep within, I could tell. His brow was furrowed, the shadows were there. I stared into his eyes, begged the key to leave. Shouted and screamed. I lifted my hands and…

The crash threw us to the floor. The first crash, I should say, for there were many more.

We lurched to the side, I rolled away from a falling mirror. Everything crashed, all we owned.

And as soon as that happened, another crash, we were thrown in the other direction. I screamed and hid my head my hands; a glimpse through my fingers showed me he did the same. We stayed in a foetal position until the ground steadied. Everything around us was gone, thrown asunder. The things we had loved, all crushed and cracked. The carefully positioned belongings damaged, all moved. The sofa’s arm rested through the broken screen of the TV.

We exchanged a glance, arose, like new born lambs. Legs shaking eyes darting we extended our arms – help me, we shouted, help me, I cried.

I leaned from the window, saw what I could see. The earth had quaked, we had risen. Our home was anchorless, blowing away. Ripped from our chains, we left solid ground. The key had gone and we were free, swept up and away into the bright night sky.

First the house swayed gently in the breeze before gaining traction, soaring and spiriting away. We gazed from the windows, helpless as babes. Our town became smaller, streetlights hazing and fading, cars became ants and soon everything was gone. Mist obscured our view – we had reached the clouds – and that’s when the soaring slowed to a floating, steady and gentle, onward and onward.

For days we drifted. We were content to begin with, until we realised. Without the key, there was no fog. Without the fog, there was nowhere to hide.

And with nowhere to hide, our anger grew. We argued about blame, about who it belonged to. We argued about fury, and who should have most. We argued about love, and why it had died.

We were trapped in our gliding prison, two bodies at war. Until, that day, he fell from the side.

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