Category Archives: Short Stories

Family Ties

Blue bullet point pen and pages upon pages of lists. She wrote structure into life in the leaves of an ordinary A5 notebook. Lists of bills to be paid and each of their amounts. Book lists. Shopping lists. Arrows shooting off grocery items connecting to an adjacent meal plan. She said it calmed the chaos inside her mind.

He explored his chaos freely. Finding guidance in the bottom of a bottle—down by the lake where the other men congregated and drank until the ache inside them began to numb. There was only one rule: no talkin’ about the missus. The only rule he abided by.

She finished her lists, closed the notebook, got up, made a cup of tea. When she sat back down, cup in hand, she stared at his food growing cold on the kitchen table. Her nightly ritual, waiting for him to come home, kiss her on the mouth and take her to bed. She sipped the hot tea, but it did nothing to comfort her.

The other men began to scatter soon after the sun went down. When the last of them had left, he moved from the lake to the pub up the street, alone. He sat at a table near the bar, enjoyed the way other women flirted with him, imagined the disappointed look on her face when it reached nine o’clock and he still wasn’t home.

The smell of his dinner still lingered in the air. She took another sip of tea. Tried to ignore the smells. She still had a few kilograms of baby weight left to lose. Maybe then he would eat dinner with his family.

His family. He thought about them as he took another swig of beer. He thought about her holding their daughter in her arms. Thought about his baby girl and wondered if she was old enough to notice his absence. The images made him want to stay away longer.

She yawned and looked at the time. A quarter to eleven. The baby would be up in a few hours for a feed. She dumped her cup and his plate in the kitchen sink and went to bed.

He left at midnight when the pub closed. Staggered home, his feet becoming heavier with each step. Clumsily, he unlocked and opened the front door. He fell into the house and let his feet lead him where he needed to go.

She was half asleep when she heard his key turn in the lock and the door open. She waited. Wondered if he would come straight to bed. A tear slid down her cheek when she heard him walk into the kitchen and open the fridge.

The crack of a beer bottle. A moment of silence. A satisfied sigh. He sat on the couch and closed his eyes.

 

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Just breathe

Words scratch the back of my throat, carving syllables with bits of broken-off tooth. The iron-scented taste of blood fills my lungs. I feel like I cannot breathe—but all anyone ever seems to tell me is, ‘Just breathe.’

So, I stop. I take a break. I try again. This time, bits of word get stuck on the roof of my mouth, thick as peanut butter. My tongue curls back on itself, trying to c-c-coax the words out. Once more, I hear, ‘Just breathe.’

In my mind, the words are perfect—but when they leave my mouth, they are crooked. Changed for words easier to say. For words that don’t suffocate or tear my oesophagus to shreds. Words that don’t leave behind pieces of flesh for people to pick up and say, ‘Just breathe.’

Raelee Lancaster

The Waiting Game

She lay at the bottom of the giant container, stiff and horizontal, unsure of whether she was rocking back and forth from fear or shaking violently from the cold.

She had felt guilty at first, having hid beneath her siblings as their captor picked them off one-by-one in hope that she would find some way to escape. But now they were no longer here to protect her. She was alone. All she could do was wait. And it was that anticipation that terrified her most. Never knowing when she was going to be chosen, or where she would go once she left this place.

The darkness shrouded her, wrapping her in its cool embrace. Darkness was good. Darkness meant the container was not open and her captor would leave her be, if only for a little while longer. Each noise outside the container caused her anxiety to increase. Several times a day, her captor would open the container and extract the other prisoners in the rows above her. Their cries would grow softer as the container closed and they were carried away. She was, at least in part, thankful that it was them and not her.

The cold air rushed out of the container as the door was forced open. This was the eighth time today, only this time there was no warning.

Not me, she prayed. Please not me.

A blinding light opened up as a grotesque being came into view. It was monstrously large and completely hairless, apart for the grey mop atop its prunish head: it was her captor. The being stretched out one arm and reached to the top shelf of the container. It shifted a few things around before retracting its limbs, bringing with it a slab of rotting remains. The captor’s hand lowered, bringing the contents of the slab into view as they reached into the container once again.

She held back a gasp. They’re dead. Chunks of dead meat lay haphazardly on the slab, like dead soldiers on a battlefield.

She recovered from the shock quickly as the other hand pulled out another slab. This one had a curved edge, making it impossible to see into, but their cries of help told her that they weren’t dead. At least, not yet. She could only imagine the torture this second lot would face at the hands of their captor.

The container closed, and all went dark.

She rolled, so she was laying on her back looking up at row above her. Through the gaps in the floor, all she could see was the bottom of her neighbour’s bed. It had a small, round base that curved up and around. She often heard incoherent mumbling come from up there. The number of voices indicated that quite a few of them were sharing the one bed. They had arrived the day before, replacing a foul smelling fiend who shouted curse words whenever the container opened. Maybe that was why he had only lasted a few hours.

Outside of the container, a voice came. “Howard, can you get me a carrot from the fridge?”

The container opened and a hand reached in. The pink flesh curled around her body and she was wrenched from her confines. The container closed with a soft bang. She heard the screams of the potatoes in the pot as they slowly boiled to death. That was her fate. It was her turn to die.

Raelee Lancaster

In the Orange Trees

Footsteps hittin’ gravel hard. Dirt an’ rocks crunchin’ under mud-soaked Nikes. Red ants runnin’ long the red and rusty ground, clamberin’ beneath scuffed feet.

An’ there I was: crouched behind an orange tree – target locked in sight, fingers wound tight round too-ripened fruit. Deep breath in, an’…

Splat!

Fuck!

Sticky orange ran down the side of me face. Me ears grew red. There was a laughter.

I picked up a rotting orange and turned toward them.

The chase began again.

Raelee Lancaster

The first signs of springtime

The slightest chill still hangs in the air, the only reminder of the season now gone. Ducklings, fluffy and hopeful, waddle from the stream across the park to the shade of the overhanging tree. A bird flies in sharp, precise movements against the backdrop of a halcyon sky, and a yellow flower begins to bloom in a terracotta pot on my window sill. Leaves dance delicately, flourishing in the branches of an old oak, casting a mixture of shadow and light across blades of rolling grass that grow more vibrant as the days whirl by.

Raelee Lancaster