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Author: Sarah Gillett

Cleaning

The old fart in Room 17 is becoming a problem. He does it even when his wife’s on the terrace, sweating, counting her rosaries. Clack-clack. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Ah, Mamma, what would you say if you could see me now? Four stringy children and a fat pig of a husband who belches triumphantly after every meal and snores all night. Clack-clack-clack.

It’s usually as I’m making the beds and she’s looking out to sea. Hospital corners. Pontus’s school project is to learn of other cultures so we fold towels into swans like his teacher says the Japanese do. Except in Room 17 I just do triangles—the swans take too long.

I smell his oiliness behind me and freeze. I am a sparrow, still and trembling. His saggy chicken arms claw at my apron, his toothless mouth waggles its wormy tongue at me. Clack. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.

I dart away, holding the sheets like a shield. His eyes are full of water, tears spilling over the loose red rims, filling the wrinkles in his cheeks, dripping off his chin onto the floor tiles. Salt water, inside and out. Surrounding us. Swimming in it. Clack. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Drowning.

Amen.


Flash Fiction by Sarah Gillett
Picture: rosary by liz west under CC BY 2.0
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Post Discovery Stress Disorder

For decades we have known that technology distorts our body clocks. We have become biological brownfields, processing space for the invertebrate species housed in our brains. As we abandon our habitats, make our bodies contain something like a space station instead of the twentieth-century disparate clocks we inherited along with the black dog that bites at our memories. This body is tuned to work in space, to go somewhere.

We have sounded the functioning of memory so that in future planetary wildlife will not serve merely as the warning heartbeat or punctured lung that alerts us too late to weak survival zones. With their fableplans to mine life on stars, planets and moons, politicians overgeneralised in-space building, choosing between soldiers or technology as the key driver for human colonisation of the galaxy. Our clocks could not keep up.

We need an altered way to adjust to the rhythms of derelict destinations. Anxiety time takes a severe toll on up to seventy-five percent of all who experience exo-terrestrial living. Millions have conditions dangerous to treat in low gravity environments. Although we carefully orchestrate operation schedules to mirror our retrograde circadian routines, organ knell development is slow. Our investigations of the solar animals have yielded some success with self-charging livers and we are hopeful that as clocks fall out of consequence we will be able to take advantage of the fast track processes demonstrated by NASA’s sync species, replacing soft tissue with tensile-strength units.

We have recorded 406 stillbirths in space, one in every three. When movements decrease we know now that the central timepiece has died. The world made sounds in anger as it died too.

We will embrace the conservation benefits of eating and sleeping regularly to combat habitual post-discovery stress disorder. Commercial entities from slimming enterprises to architectural practices, neuro-reality labs to amusement arcades will create more effective treatments for the territories beyond Charon. And with a permanent station in orbit around Earth the civility servants will take responsibility for transmitting our reports to the drones. The anxious power we now hold will only last if we can cure cancer, infections and ageing.

If we can cure death.


Flash Fiction by Sarah Gillett
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