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Author: Matthew Roy Davey

Flickerings

After closing time, I sat and smoked while Dan cleaned up behind the bar. We took a beer each to drink in the car. Our breath made clouds in the refrigerated interior until the ancient heater in his rattling Beetle brought the temperature up. We huddled in scarfs, hats and gloves as the lights followed the lines flickering down the middle of the road.

In the services, we flirted with Maureen, the Welsh lady behind the counter. She always gave us bigger portions of chips. Dan was relieved, he thought she might not like him anymore. The week before he’d asked how her husband was and she’d replied that he’d died the week before.

We sat by a window and watched the lonely lights make their way across the Severn Bridge. We didn’t talk much, just sipped our coffee, smoked and stared at the lights.

On the way back down the lanes, we hit patches of fog, the headlights lancing through the opaque swirls. As we came through Elberton it started to snow, white swirls against the black tarmac; beyond, the trees and hedgerows reeled past grey in the sweep of the headlights. The snow came down like a scratched negative on a reel to reel. The road became silver as the snowflakes settled.

“Jesus!”

Dan hit the brakes and we slithered to a halt.

They stood there, side by side and motionless, a mother and child, black eyes wide, sides flecked and smudged with white. Around them fat snowflakes whirled and flickered. The mother blinked in our headlights and turned, unhurrying, leading her child, leaping the hedgerow, gone.

The car chugged and shook. Dan looked across at me and we smiled, eyes alive.


Flash Fiction by Matthew Roy Davey
Picture: headlight by Armin Gruber under CC BY 2.0
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The Event

It was summer and bored of the sun and the long holiday Tom and I had gone over to Elliott’s to watch a horror film as we did most afternoons. We walked up the garden path and past the pristine lawn and manicured rose bushes his father was so proud of. Tom rang the bell and Elliott’s face appeared at the living room window, a moment later the door opened. Elliott‘s living room didn’t look out over a road, it looked out over a footpath, a strip of grass and high hedges that led through the estate to the old railway.

Inside we pulled the curtains to keep out the sun and sat down with Coke and crisps to watch Entities.

When it finished, Tom suggested driving down to see Dan. We stood up stretching, checking watches, and Elliott pulled the curtains. Outside was devastation. His front garden had been obliterated, the lawn a mass of churned mud, the grass by the path the same. All that remained of the roses were stumps.

“What the fuck!?”

We went outside. The destruction continued on either side, gardens laid waste along the whole strip. Elliott’s neighbour, an elderly gentleman, was standing with hands on his hips, surveying the mess with despair.

“What happened?” asked Elliott.

“Just got back?” the man asked.

Elliott shook his head.

“No, we’ve been inside watching a film.”

The man sighed and shook his head.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear me shouting,” he said. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear them. They were outside your window eating your dad’s roses, about fifty of the buggers. They’ve gone down there,” he said, gesturing, “towards Crossways. I heard sirens so hopefully someone gathers them in before they do more damage. Or get themselves killed. Or someone.”

“Who? What?” asked Elliott.

“Cows,” said the man as though to an idiot. “Cows. A bloody great herd wandered through. They were ten minutes going past. How did you not hear them?”

We were silent for a moment.

“It must have been the screaming,” said Tom in a quiet voice.


Flash Fiction by Matthew Roy Davey
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Light from Above

As I slipped from childhood into adolescence I took to prowling the evening streets of my hometown, usually alone. I liked the autumn and winter best, the cloak of existential gloom, the distant stars, the newfound liberty of nocturnal permission. On the deserted streets the phone-boxes glowed like beacons in the darkness, each one a red glassed TARDIS that shone with potential. I’d never needed to use one, never had anything important enough to say; those who did struck me as terribly glamorous. I longed to need to call someone badly enough that it couldn’t wait until I got home.

Sometimes I’d open one of the heavy squealing doors and step inside, my breath white in the enclosed space, inhaling the smell of stale cigarette smoke, the faint whiff of urine. Above the shelf with the tatty directory was the list of international codes. I was most interested in the one for the Soviet Union, amazed that I might call there from here, might speak to someone in that far off land. That we wouldn’t understand one another didn’t matter, just to hear the voice would be enough, like two fingertips almost touching.

One evening I stole some money from my mother’s purse, inserted the coins into the scratched slot and dialled the code. The dial span back slowly each time as I made up the numbers, hearing the clicking in the earpiece, the beating of my heart, waiting for the sound of a phone ringing in a distant room thousands of miles away behind the iron curtain. My breath quickened as I waited for the receiver to be lifted, for the voice to speak in a tongue I couldn’t comprehend, but never once did my numbers connect, not one combination led me to a voice. Every time just the clicking then the sound of the flatline, high and wobbling, as into the change tray my coins rattled, rejected.


Flash Fiction by Matthew Roy Davey
Picture: telephone by Steve Wilson under CC BY 2.0
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