Runner Up: Laura Riley
The Illusion of You
I was always a little bit in love with you. I know it’s crazy to say. We never exchanged a deliberate word. And until that day I didn’t know your last name.
You were just Simon: head down, earphones in, always on the move, portfolio case banging at your side. Like a shark, forever in motion. That red hat, your crown whatever the weather; the blush of my cheek matching its hue, whenever you rushed by.
I sat behind you in art class, and would often lose half the hour, watching as your hand danced across the page, silently creating beauty I knew my paintbrush could never express. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to speak up; to tell you how great I thought you were; how your talent almost made me cry.
I learned your surname on the first day of our final year. My final year. The Head said you’d passed away over the summer, his face grey and long as he fumbled for the right words. Gasps of ‘drugs’ and ‘suicide’ filled the air as we left the assembly hall; but nobody really knew the answer to why you were gone. Just as we hadn’t really known you when you were here. The illusion of you took precedent over who was really inside. Not a loner, but lonely; not aloof, simply shy.
You were just the boy in the red hat; and how I wish I’d stopped to speak to you, before you went by.
Runner Up: Jose Varghese
Caught on Camera
Omar looked up, as Ron gave instructions to the light boys.
The room is stuffy. He wondered whether Ron was capable of adding even the rancid smell to the frame. He would be excited if that was possible, but all Ron works with now are the various elements of light.
‘Shut all the windows and switch off all the lights except the zero-watt bulb above him. We need to highlight the redness of his cap.’
Omar felt reduced to colours and contours Ron made tangible, with his craft.
‘Omar. What the hell are you waiting for? Switch on the phone and hold it exactly at the middle, below your chest.’
‘Oh, yes. I’ll do that. Is this right… or higher?’
‘No, man, keep the phone closer to your body.’
The phone. The body. Two objects Ron needs for this five-second shot.
What happens to Omar after that low-lit moment is trapped on camera? Ron would spend an hour more on it in the editing room for sure, to get things right in his perfectionism of visual language merging seamlessly with the story.
Omar would have to leave, as they make space for more important things.
He wouldn’t make it to the posters. No one would remember the random man in the bar’s dark corner where the hero has a fight later.
Even the bar is a major character. He’s just a part of the setting.
Do I get some dialogue later? – He swallowed that thought, scared of what cameras capture.
Winner: James Atkinson
Losing sight of you, gaining insight
Your red hat and your height have always helped. I could always pick you out in a crowd, even before my eyes began to fail.
After they told me I began to memorise every part of you, linking sight to touch and smell, learning to feel changes to alter that memory, keep the image up to date. And where I couldn’t, I studied your tattoos, the formations of your unraised moles until they were as familiar as my own.
“I won’t ever forget a single feature.”
As the black curtain began to draw in, I ramped up my efforts to recreate you perfectly when I closed my eyes. I tested myself frequently, described you to yourself while seated in another room, drew pictures, wrote stories. Created an avatar to serve in your stead.
“You won’t ever want another creature.”
“I don’t want to. But what if I do forget?”
And now that I cannot even see your entire face at the same time, my hands and fingers trace your face evermore desperately while you kiss me to reassure me, tell me not to worry.
“I will be here. By touch, by smell, by ear
Memory does not matter once love has beget.
(And when it doesn’t need to make sense.)”
I knew I feared the unknown more than anything, that an avatar was never needed when I had you.
Your worn hat full of your smell will always help. And I’ve always been pleased that I am taller than you.
A mysterious figure in a hat, and you sure did come up with some intense backstories for this one! Congratulations to Laura, Jose and James. And well played to everyone who entered — I will be leaving this office with a deep suspicion of red beanie hat wearers from now on.
Happy weekends all, and I’ll see you next week!
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.