The leg on the poster is not my leg. I can see it through the grimy windows of the tube carriage, which are still speckled with rain: it starts on the right-hand side of the poster, near the hip, then extends in fishnet tights and ends in a red stiletto that points towards but does not quite reach the left-hand side. I can see it because there is nowhere to sit in the morning rush hour, so I am standing and looking out of the window, and it happens to be there. The other passengers have not noticed the lack of similarity between my leg and the leg on the poster. Perhaps they can’t see the poster from their seats, or they are facing the other way, or are distracted by a book or a fellow passenger. I want to complain to them, to gain their support for my plight. But they will say: “So what? It’s not my leg either.” There is a trainful of people whose leg is not on that poster. Unless, perhaps, its actual owner, the woman whose leg was preferred to mine even after the photographer contracted by the advertising agency to produce the shot for the play’s promotional material had paid me to raise and extend my leg (right) again and again until he had the take, is on the train, but this would be quite the coincidence, and anyway, as only one of the seven hundred passengers it would not change my overall conclusion that my protest would be met with derision. She would also be unlikely to identify herself as the leg’s owner if I began to demonstrate. She would remain quiet until her stop, maybe Moorgate, or even London Bridge, then go about her day. This is, of course, assuming that there is indeed an owner; perhaps my leg has undergone electronic surgery, cropped and shaded, with cursors rather than scalpels. This replacement of my body with pixels and colour codes, done without my knowledge or consent, is an affront. As the train starts up, southbound on the Northern Line, and the poster slides from my view, I reach a decision: I will leave my husband.
Back in June, I was very excited to have been selected as one of The Short Story’s writers for 2016-17. I’m now very excited to say that the story I submitted to them has been published on their website. I’m very proud of this story, and I really hope you enjoy it.
There’s a fantastic range of stories, articles, and interviews all about short stories on their website, so once you’ve finished reading, keep exploring!
This is another personal favourite that I’m very pleased has found a home at The Fiction Pool – it’s a really exciting new(ish) short story site, so please see what else they’ve been up to.
(I promise not all my stories are personal favourites. But I’ve a soft spot for this one.)
Author’s note: I wrote this for Storgy’s Exit Earth competition, and had a lot of fun doing so. It didn’t make the cut, which means that if you enjoy it there are 14 better stories out there – and who doesn’t like better stories? Please consider backing their Kickstarter to get those stories out into the barren, blasted physical world!
3,102 words – approx. 10 minutes
Ever since it was announced that the Earth was drowning, the traffic had been dreadful. Adrian drummed his fingers uselessly on the steering wheel. Cryogenix provided state-of-the-art company cars, but there was only so much that the latest in dynamic flow-management and hazard-evasion technology could do to counteract the rush hour congestion, even without the waves of people responding to the latest rumours about evac points or making what could be their final trips to see family.
At least he could leave the painfully slow progress to the car itself. He sighed and looked out at the clear blue sky, searching for something to occupy him. A change in one of the billboards caught his eye: it now showed a familiar tanned face with an artificial smile that gleamed at the world. This was Richard Kimmler, one of the key financiers of the evacuation. He must have looked at it for several seconds, because a notification appeared on the dashboard: Accept connection?
The wires near the socket by her bed were tangled again. Every few days she would painstakingly untangle them, threading the thin black cords until they separated from each other and she could lay them neatly side by side in coiled nests. But by the time she came home and threw her coat on the bed they were somehow tangled again, and it was several days before she could work up the energy to untangle them.
“Riiight,” said Linda, weighing up her next move.
“Left,” chipped in Barry.
“Stop it, I’m thinking.”
“You can always tell when she’s thinking,” Barry confided to Neil in a stage whisper. “Looks painful, eh?”
It was the third day of the holiday, and Barry had finally convinced the others to play. The rain had them pinned inside the barge like enemy fire, and his decision to bring the game ‘just in case’ had paid off now that they were bored of gin rummy and reading. “It’s a modern classic,” he’d explained to Linda as they packed. “It’s not just chance, it’s strategy and skill as well. And it’s easy enough for you girls to understand!” he added with a bark. Linda said nothing and continued pressing her clothes down into the suitcase. She knew better than to try to talk him out of it, and in any case her mind was on other things, namely long walks in the woods and Neil’s strong hands.
“Can I do that?” she asked. Barry squinted at the tiles and confirmed that she could, in a way that suggested that she really shouldn’t. She ignored him. “Alright,” he said, palms raised in defeat. “Neil, your turn – might want to watch out for that monastery!”
Behind his smile Neil’s teeth were clenched. Tina was confined to her bed, having complained of nausea, leaving Barry as the only obstacle between him and Linda. “Seasick on a barge!” Barry had exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”
Neil placed his tile down, followed by a small blue figurine. Barry looked at it and gave a small patter of applause. “Very nice. Very nice.”
Neil and Linda’s eyes met as Barry scrutinised the tiles. He was surrounded. He sucked his teeth and considered his options as the rain drummed overhead.
I’ve had to keep this under wraps for a couple of weeks, but I can finally reveal that I’m one of The Story Story’s selected writers for this year.
I’m extremely excited, honoured, and overwhelmed to have had my story chosen, particularly given the formidable writing CVs of the others.
My story – called A trip into town – is due online in August, but they’ll start publishing from later this month, so make sure you don’t miss the other winners!