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by Anthony Watson

“Have you found it yet?”

She’s shouting, and in the background he can hear traffic. Even taking that into account — and the crappy reception that she always seems to get on her mobile — he can sense the frustration and anger in her voice. His stomach churns, the sandwich he’d had for lunch making an unwelcome reappearance at the bottom of his oesophagus. “No, not yet,” he replies, his voice shaking with stress.

He hears her sigh, just knows that she’s stopped walking to deliver whatever spiteful comment is formulating in her mind.

“You’re hopeless!” she says, “a waste of space!”

He winces at the words, simultaneously agreeing with them. Heartburn spreads from his stomach up through his chest. He is at a loss for any kind of reply.

“I’m coming round,” she says, walking again. “I’ll find the bloody thing myself.”

She hangs up and for a while he listens to the emptiness at the other end of the line, finds comfort in it, reflecting as it does the emptiness his own life has become.

***

“So let me just run over this one more time,” the policeman says, perched in the armchair next to the gas fire. “You were in the attic together …”

“Yes, we were looking for a book, she’d promised to lend it to a friend of hers.”

The policeman nods but his annoyance at being interrupted is all too apparent in his eyes. ”When,” he glances down at his notebook, “Ms Swan, how did you put it, took a step backwards and fell through the hatch?”

The hallway is briefly illuminated by a flash of light from the top of the stairs.

“Yes, that’s right. I tried to catch her, grab her hand, but she was gone before I could get to her.”

Another nod, another glance down at the notebook. “And you say she was holding the book in her mouth, between her teeth, when she fell?”

“Yes. She’d put it there so that she had both hands free. It’s a bit cramped up there, lots of junk to manoeuvre around.”

“Mmm …” Another nod. “Made a nasty accident even worse …”

“Yes, I suppose it did.” A tear wells in his eye.

The policeman flips his notebook shut and makes to get up from the chair. “Okay, Mr Clarke, that’s all for now. Commiserations once again for your loss.”

“Thank you, thank you very much. And sorry for getting so emotional, I just can’t get the sound of that scream out of my head, it’s the last sound she made …”

And the policeman pauses, thinks of the book rammed into the woman’s mouth, the broken teeth lying in the pool of blood around her ruined face. Thinks too of another book, the metaphorical one he’s about to throw.


Anthony Watson is co-founder and co-editor of Dark Minds Press (http://www.darkmindspress.com/) alongside Ross Warren. Dark Minds Press have so far published three collections of dark fiction — Dark Minds, Darker Minds and, unsurprisingly, Darkest Minds. As well as this, he runs the Dark Musings horror review blog, found at http://anthony-watson.blogspot.co.uk/.

He also writes and has most recently been published in State of Horror: Louisiana from Charon Coin Press with his story Indigo. He has also been published in Sanitarium magazine, which featured his short story Elder’s End, and has a story, Interstice, scheduled for inclusion in the next Spectral Press annual ghost story anthology. 2015 will see publication of his war/horror novella Winter Storm in a seven author collection.

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