Lola Margaret Delaware was lost. She clutched her stuffed grey bunny and chewed the top of its ear, which was threadbare and stained from the habit, and lifted her gaze to the top of the building she stood before. Stone monkeys with scrunched-up faces jutted from the corners and eyed Lola with disdain. But that didn’t put her off. She was sure her mother was inside.
Pulling bunny tighter she pushed the heavy door and stepped into a glistening white foyer. A man in a black suit and a pale face smiled from behind a counter. ‘Lola, I’m so glad you finally found us.’
The day the brollies appeared in the sky I didn’t think anything of it, except how beautiful they looked. Midnight blue, lime green, cherry red, lit up from the inside by fairy lights. I didn’t question the miracle before me, and instead stood in open-mouthed awe, watching them float by.
When the spell was finally broken, I looked around my new world in horror. There was no sky, just the underside of a space ship. Cased in a sticky cocoon I observed grey alien bodies walking in and out of the shops and bars like they owned the place.
Shrieks pierce my chest. I move quickly and lift you from your crib. We settle in the nursing chair.
The aching weight of you sags my arms. Silence cloaks the witching hour. We’re a raft lost at sea, a flame floating on an ocean of black. You latch on while I sing a lullaby so low it’s barely a whisper. Your head has an earthy heaviness.
Your hot milky smell, as delicate as a moth’s wing, envelopes us. Protects us. My eyes droop, my bones ache, but I hold on, still as the moon, wanting to keep this moment forever.
No one has ever seen the lady who lives in Porta Mare step outside the gates. She isn’t even old, early thirties if that. If you’re lucky you can catch a glimpse of her pruning the roses in a silk skirt and wide-brimmed black hat, or else standing on the third-floor balcony watching the waves. Her skin pale and watery, like skimmed milk.
People say she’s made a deal with the devil. But what kind of deal leaves you trapped in a house with no other soul for company? And such a beautiful house too. It’s wasted on her.
Mary-Jane placed her small bag of belongings in the little rowing boat that rocked on the lapping water at the edge of the jetty. She had brought her favourite things; her fluffball-topped pen, her unicorn notepad, and the jewellery box with the dancing ballerina.
She only had to make it to the island. One and a half miles of water, and the monsters would never catch her again.
She picked up the oar and paddled, firm and smooth, keeping her body low. A black shadow formed below her. A white light beckoned from the island.
It was supposed to be a joke. But the wailing sirens and flashing blue lights told a different story as the ambulance and police car crammed into the tiny cul-de-sac.
Young Teddy Hamilton stood over the lifeless body of Mrs Fenwick, unsure whether to run or try pummelling her chest again.
As the policeman approached, Teddy stepped outside his body and surveyed the scene. The woman lying dead, his fake blood-soaked hospital scrubs, which he had thought were awesome, now seemed childish. He’d aged a few years in the last few seconds.
‘People are gonna want what we have. It’s inevitable. Look at this here water, no one else will have a supply of clean water like this.’
The water looks dirty to me, but Grandpa keeps digging, huffing and puffing.
‘But Johnny Peters whispered the word “prepper” to Maggie Griggs and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.’
‘Little Johnny Peters is a snot-rag, and that good-for-nothing father of his will be the first one banging down our door. They’ll be laughin’ on the other side of their faces when the shit hits the fan. Mark my words.’
There are twelve of us sat around table which dominates the small wood-panelled room. It is covered in a thick red velvet cloth. Heavy curtains block the watery twilight. At the centre, a huge crystal bowl holds our belongings – a watch, a wedding band, a pendant …
Why is it always jewellery?
I clasp the strangers hands next to me. One a huge, sweating palm, the other a thin, liver-spotted claw, like dried out paper.
I concentrate hard on the military medal I have offered, wishing with all my bones that he will speak to me.
I have really missed taking part in the Friday Fictioneers the past few weeks but life got in the way. It’s good to be back.