Paulson flopped a leg lazily over the side of the bed, his large big toe swirling around on the carpet. His female companion had drifted contentedly to sleep, the sex had been exciting, both of them trying too hard. Paulson could hear the sea washing foam against the sand, the heat of the sun against shaved bare legs. The yellow bikini clung to the curve of the hip, painted fingernails reached to smooth sediment of her calf. An ivy tatoo creeping along the back of the ankle. Propping herself up with an elbow, hair falling in front of her eye, she smiled at the nearly finished castle. Father and son bonding with bucket , spade and sand, building a majestic monument to fairy tales on the private hotel beach. A fitness couple, running their daily jog disturbed a layer of sand onto those brown filtered legs.
Paulson jolted. His brain feeling a severe spasm, pounding his heart. Wide Awake. Confused. Had he been through a sex change? The holiday in Rio, the vivid Sugarloaf mountain path with the tremendous view, the scent of Brazilian Passiflora, the sweet Açai on the terrace of St Anthony convent. Experienced as a woman, now remembered as a man. Paulson could not recall the trauma of surgery, the period of recuperation, in fact the idea of a sex change somewhat repulsed him. He had lived those moments in Rio and had done so as a woman.
He left the woman alone with her dreams, taking an elevator to ground level. Standing beneath the stone entrance portico, he lit a cigarette watching the raindrops splash against the wet tarmac. The sky water somewhat soothing in the amber lit dead of night, his lost thoughts eventually burning the tobacco to the filter stub. Raising the collar of his jacket he stepped out into the pouring deluge.
Morning came with the usual burden of depression, a hollow melancholia drenched with cynicism. Paulson could not remember the last time he had awoken happy, perhaps never. Showered and shaved he abandoned toast and coffee determined to catch an early train on the subway. Stepping from the curve at seventh avenue and ninth street Paulson noticed a small huddled crowd had gathered around a body hammered against the floor.
“ Gee….I mean, I ain’t never seen anything like this….the impact would have killed him…what kinda guy blows his brains out on the way down?”
A middle aged lady gasped, distraught at the horrific violence, her glasses attached to a neck cord fell from her nose, resting on her chest. Her carnation pink lips stiffened, while her neck strained to see the fallen man. Clutching a blue alligator skin purse gripped with white knuckle fury, her excitement pushing other spectators aside with ill mannered elbows till stooped dauntingly over the body. Lifting her tortoise shell framed spectacles she viewed the blood splattered area like a crime writer searching for threads of realism. Unmoved she firmly turned, walking away with a huff, disappointed that the man was not famous perhaps or probably recognised as a neighbour she judged poorly. With that she disappeared into the blur of commuting suits.
Paulson watched as the stretcher was lifted into the ambulance, a splintered hand draping down beneath the orange blanket. The doors slammed shut, the driver mopping a creased brow lifted his limbs into the high carriage, proceeding to pull away slowly like a dignified funeral hearse. He noticed the gun at that moment, lying against the curb. He supposed it had been forgotten in all the shocking aftermath. The crowd having rapidly dispersed left Paulson free to bend down scooping the pistol into his jacket while pretending to tie a shoelace.
He continued to his office passing the dozing security guard, rising to his view on the fifty second floor. Placing the gun on the table he reclined to admire his bounty. He felt the weight of the piece, pleased that the barrel still contained four bullets.
His shoes needed a polish but the shoeshine boy at the station had been missing with smallpox. The boy’s brother had fulfilled a special request to obtain a hand pistol. Standing on the ledge Dr Jacob Huntsman contemplated the revolving memory of suicide that played in his mind. He had remembered killing himself a thousand times. A wedge of madness was eating his brain pushing him beyond despair. He figured the memory was the last experience from one of his Alzheimer patients, which he had identified at the morgue. This suicide memory had planted itself in his mind. He thought invasive mutant bacteria attached itself to the human brain, replicating a memory, coding, splicing, to transform once again into an airborne virus. Stepping off the ledge he made sure the gun exploded as the pavement rushed closer. He would kill the disease in his brain, eliminate the possibility of his last act becoming a memory germ.
Paulson placed the loaded gun back on the table. He heard the cry of his mother and the ring of the dinner bell on the porch. The recognised stamping feet of his brothers entering the kitchen, screaming with delight at a cooked chicken lunch. The soft pad of his mother’s slippers creeping up the stairs till the brass door knob to his bedroom swivelled. His mother, tired with cramps placed a food tray over the body of hemorrhagic smallpox.
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.
Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.
These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.
For more information and full terms and conditions click here…
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
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