The Shortest, The Coldest

Flecks of red had graduated into whole mouthfuls of scarlet saliva, brought up with each fresh eruption, the power of a hundred symphony orchestras. The instinctive part of his brain – the survivalist – told him he had to give the junk a rest, get himself in a hostel. But the other voice – the one he listened to – told him his life, his clothes, his desires were neither good nor bad. They simply were.

Couples were now stepping over his numb body, offended by his unseemly spasms. One or two glanced back, feigning concern. Someone else would call 999. Any other night, they might have been willing to expend time and mental energy but this night was different. It was a time to celebrate the greatest gift of all.

Cold strips of tungsten slipped over his head. He was gliding through nothingness, an astronaut with a space mask clamped to his face. The rasping sound was his own shrivelled lungs fighting against the atmosphere. Each pull of his chest created a watery echo, a handful of gravel landing in water. When he was a kid, Roy had told him that he had a way with words, that he could be a writer or be on the telly. But it now seemed so long since Ged had spoken. Had he protested when the ambulancemen put him on the trolley? The drugs had been purchased wordlessly, the dirty, crumpled note providing its own introduction. From the edge of his table, beyond the doctors and their excited machinery, he saw her pale face. The ocean roared in his ears. Wide pale eyes were smiling at him. February, she was beautiful.

Craig Melville is a phone operator who plies his trade on the plastic pavements of Spinningfield. This is his first experiment with written down fiction.

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3 Responses to “The Shortest, The Coldest”

  1. February 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm, A Manchester Valentine’s Day post » Mancubist: Life is good in Manchester said:

    […] at Rainy City Stories we’ve picked a winner for our love story contest! It’s called The Shortest, The Coldest and it’s written by first-time writer Craig Melville. There were five finalists in total – […]

  2. February 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm, emily josephine mcphillips said:

    i just wanted to say that i think this is such a strong story & a very worthy winner.

  3. September 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm, Emma said:

    “each pull of his chest created a watery echo a handful of gravel landing in water”- very evocative use of words.


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