Monday 3 August 2015

Microsequel Monday! The Little Match Girl ten years on

Shadow Boy and the Little Match Girl, ten years on
C.A. Hawksmoor

This micro-sequel takes place ten years after the events of “Shadow Boy and the Little Match Girl”, first published in 2013, and was written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of TFF. If you want to see more fiction like this in the future, please support our fundraiser where you can pre-order the celebration anthology.

I come to know eternity in that Other Place. Spend years swimming in my grief as though it were a living thing. An ocean formed from a billion grains of light. My hair tendrils between the riptides where galaxies are formed. Expand. Decay. I taste tears, and drink until I’m laced with them. Until my skin is scoured pink as sunburn by the tails of diving comets—the humpback whales of deep sky, bringing life-giving particles up out of the fathoms. Out of my lowest reaches. Nourishing myself with myself.

I grasp one of their tails, and dive with them. So deep between the molecules that I forget myself. The nucleus of atoms like the nucleus of cells like the nucleus of stars. Each surrounded by the whizz-crack lilt-and-curl of electrons. Of mitochondria. Of planets whipping between one aeon and the next.

The moon draws me to it. Tugging like caught hair. I rise like a solar ship on gravity engines, my head thrown back, hair trailing with falling stars, arms arched behind me like an angel. Like a diver falling into sky. Only while I orbit the breathless whiteness of that moon am I reminded of myself. Tracing the lines of the settlements with one impossibly extended hand—the surface smooth and radiant as the skin of a pearl—the memory of my lost love is one great shard of ice driven through my body. My ribs crack and reform around it, and his letters spill out of the rent in me. Paper fragile as old skin. Ink faded like flowers pressed too long in a book.

And that grief-ocean calls me. A seashell roar imbuing me with gravity. Sinking, then. Sinking back down towards that ocean of myself. It is only when I stop fighting the undertow that I realise what I have to do.

I skim the city like a wisp from a smokestack. Laughing and twisting in the gravity-engine-updraft of the airstrip. Wending around the neon towers puncturing the concrete skin. I almost lose myself again in it, before I remember why I’m here.

I begin in the hollow of the brambles where the Shadow Boy and I once twisted into each other like ivy growing into vetch. The taste of him still clings to the musk of earth, and I follow the labyrinth-thread of it to our body. To the shuddering shock of recoil at how different he looks now. At how different I look, now he has remade us. He is sleeping beside a man that I don’t recognise. Our hand and this stranger’s wended together. Calloused and aching. I reach out cautiously towards the spiralling darkness of his dreams. So unfamiliar now.

How long have I been gone?

The Shadow Boy wakes with a start, and in the sodium-streetlight-quiet I brush my thoughts against his thoughts.

Hello, brother. I tell him. I’m home.

His breath comes hot and liquid-fast.

On table beside the bed, the low stub of a candle gutters, and burns out.

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