Such tidy pavement. No cracks and no litter. The gardens here are neat. Too neat, there’s none of the chaos you see in a real garden. There’s something clinical here, something rehearsed. In gardens like these nothing ever gets planted ‘just because.’ The people that own these lawns and these bushes are not the people that tend to them. Also, whoever saw street signs so very black and white? Is there someone for that too, some guy who gets paid for going street to street, buffing up signs? This is a million miles from home. This is all a painting, an American suburb like those in the movies. Nothing is moving. It’s calm and quiet and totally disorienting. Is there anything alive here?
Miranda. You’re alive here.
It’s been so long since we spoke. Will you recognise me? Surely you will. The world stopped caring about me, about the things I’ve done. Too many other monsters, I’m old news. They stopped showing pictures of me a while back, will that matter?
Thirty or forty seconds and a passing car breaks my stare. So things can move here. Onwards then. The way forward burns the inside of my eyelids, no need to look at the map, just blink. I looked her up the last time I had chance to use a computer, my scalp and bowels both tightened when her name popped up next to a posh address outside London. Not far now. Three useless junctions then hers. These roads are so long.
All those years, all the changes. The haircuts and weight loss, you get it all in one go. It’s been twelve years since you visited but I know you’ll remember. You should, you stared at my face long enough. So many hours spent watching my lips and eyes, listening to my voice, hanging on my every word. If nothing else, will you remember my voice?
Two more roads then it’s her road, her home. My fingers glide over the twisted iron rods that make a lattice in a gateway. The metal is cool under the dying sun, the surface smooth and flawless. This gate is the height of my waist, with the pattern woven into the metal it’s welcoming. Nothing like the twelve foot chain-link gates that I’m used to. There’s no barbed wire. Some of these houses have garages bigger than my parent’s old home.
You didn’t live like this back then did you? You complained about sharing a flat, about your cheap car. You’ve climbed a ladder babe. It suits you, it’s easy to picture you coming home to a house like these, relaxing your feet in a spa and drinking expensive wine. You said you only liked red. Once, when we talked about drugs, about my using, you admitted you sometimes smoked pot. You said that was the only vice from your student days you still had time for. How about now? Do you smoke weed in your giant house? Get blasted and walk from room to massive room, enjoying the views? Does your husband know? I get the feeling you quit but I hope not.
It’s all corridors baby, remember that? Every little step.
Some of these flowers stink. The next driveway has bushes either side of the gate, huge bushes, each covered with fat yellow blossoms and it reeks. It smells sweaty, like how skin smells when you first take off the bandage, like under the sticky plaster. I pluck a blossom and push it to my nose. Vile. I let it fall to the pavement then grind it with a boot heel, leaving a grinning smear in the centre of a perfect paving stone. Why do people grow those?
Do you ever think about me?
Do these people keep pets? There are no cats on the fences, no sign that threatens prosecution for people that let their dogs shit in the street. Are there any dogs? No kids either, nobody playing in the street. Probably the kids have better things to do at home, people here must spend a fortune making sure their children never get bored. It’s alien to me, it feels dead without the street football and Staffordshire terriers.
Miranda. It’s been such a long time.
One tangent left. The road goes downhill now. Nothing but rooftops the whole way to the horizon. One of them is hers.
You’ve worked so hard, all those other books you wrote. I read them all. The last one I read was the one about the rave kids and the pills. Turbo. That was it. Turbo by Sally Pallmont. I didn’t like it, it made no sense. Those kids sounded like posers and nancy boys and frankly, I wonder why you wasted your time on that stuff. You said you were the last great journalist, that the day you became boring was the day you quit. Well sorry Miranda, that book was…
Not Miranda… Your name is Sally. Damn it, put a stitch in my tongue. How many times will I forget?
Sally that book was boring. I’ll allow it because the films you made afterwards were good. Like that one where you lived with the Catholics. Those endtimers. It was funny how you teased them, right to their faces, and they didn’t even know. Hilarious. Hardly objective journalism, but definitely not boring.
I cross the last skeletal junction and the next turn off is hers. There’s the corner up ahead. Nerves start to hum for real now, everything before this moment was just a prelude to this moment. My stomach constricts, adrenaline changes my metabolism. My senses sharpen with the hormone rush. I’m not missing a thing, it feels like I’m about to go on stage.
This will sound vain Sally, but you’ll never top writing about me. I put your foot on that ladder. I heard it stirred up quite a fuss when it came out, I forget, did you win an award? Tell the truth Miranda, did selling my story buy you a giant house? Introduce your husband? Pay for nice things for our daughter? I’ll bet it did.
This corner she takes every day on her way to the studio or a shoot, or just to shop. Is there a ghost of her movement? Maybe I smell her perfume but of course I don’t. She was twenty five then, what are the chances she still wears the same scent? All I really smell are the flowers. At least no one else has skin bushes. The current selection could almost pass for pleasant.
They get nicer closer to you. I bet your garden smells lovely. There’s a roiling pith through my body, it twists in my throat and presses on my bladder. I miss talking to you. I want to see our daughter. What did you call her? Is it Coral? Or maybe Coralline, is it either of those? In my dreams I only ever hear part of her name. It starts Cor… What does she look like? If she takes after you then she must be pretty, but does she look any like me? I read the interview you gave the newspaper, what you wrote about her. You said she likes Harry Potter. I’ll get her a present, a toy Harry Potter wand. Why didn’t you say what her name was? That interview, it was as if you were talking just for me, filling me in. You forgot to tell me her name though.
Past numbers two, four, and six. This garden has a sprinkler that sprays droplets into the air, they catch the lazy light and shimmer. The water settles on the lawn as mist, adding an oily sheen to the vivid green of the closely cropped grass.
Past number ten. Number twelve.
You were the first to hear the truth. Do you remember all those things about Miranda? The first Miranda I mean, my Miranda, the one before you. Remember what happened? What I did to her? I told you the words she took with her and the words she gave back. You put them in your book and everybody read them. I think she’d have liked that. You didn’t tell them everything though did you? You filled four notebooks during your visits, what about the corridors? Why didn’t you tell them about that?
Twenty. Twenty two. I’m a little dizzy, everything is backlit. Colours and shapes fight for my attention, the world looks computer generated like the illusions of Hollywood. Fine beads of sweat tumble over my ribcage, which tickles. I could strike a match on my tongue right now.
Each time you left me there, each time you called it a night and left to drive home, each of those times you left a veil that clung to me. You made it easy to sleep.
There was death and doom in there Miranda. Think what might have happened if they’d never shown me your picture. I would have never agreed to speak to you without that picture. One glance at your face told me who you were though.
You were her.
Can you to do it again? Help me to sleep? You did it before. You listened and your eyes said it was ok. Remember the last time you left? I said I’d see you again. You smiled at me all wrong. Did you think I was just trying to get you to stay?
Twelve years ago I told you I’d see you again. Twelve years and I’m free to make good on my promise.
Thirty four. There’s a snail. On the fence. A single snail that beside me is the only living thing in sight. Here’s an animal that would understand me, that knows the pain of spending an age to get what it needs. My open palm crushes it’s shell, then my hand runs with the fence, leaving behind a slick jelly trail of snail guts.
You have to listen again. Help me sleep again. For crying out loud Miranda, it’s been twelve years since I’ve been able to truly sleep.
Miranda, Miranda, Miranda.
Sally, Sally, Sally.
Miranda. You were Miranda the first time and you’re Miranda this time too. Who cares what they call you? Sally Pallmont. What a horrible name and a terrible lie. You’re forgiven if you never told her about me. You said in your interview she was seven. That must have been a year back so how old now, nearly nine? It’s time for me to be in her life Miranda, and in your life too.
Corridors baby, remember?
Sometimes I think they lead to God. Other times I think it might be very much the opposite.
I want out of myself. I want love and a family. Please Miranda, please be the end of this.
Forty four Fountain street. This is it.
This is her gate and her driveway. There’s her garage. It’s locked. Is there a sports car in there? Those are her fences, those her flowers, that coiled up there by the side of the garage is her hosepipe.
It does smell good here.
Those are her windows. Her front door. Nobody in sight.
No lights downstairs and just the one lit up top.
There’s her neighbour’s house, nobody in sight.
There’s the path that leads around the back.
Martin Garrity hails from Mansfield, England. He is an author and avid fan of dark fiction and a heavy metal disciple. He is a co-editor of Solarcide.com and various associated anthology projects. He writes flash fiction and short stories, and has been published in fine company at places such as Thunderdome Magazine, Revolt Daily, and Cease, Cows. His debut collection, Corridors, will be released in 2014 by Solarcide.