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by Charlie Hill

The man who walked backwards lived in a house for people who had no house to live in. The house was called Ilfracombe House. I don’t know why.

When I moved into Ilfracombe House, I met the man who walked backwards. He was always there, walking backwards through the house. He walked up and down the stairs backwards, in and out of the lounge backwards, through the kitchen backwards. He even walked backwards along the hall.

One day I asked the man why he walked backwards. He said he’d read that our hearts only beat a certain number of times before we die, and if that was the case it made sense that we could only take a certain number of steps too. Each time we took a step forwards then, we were literally moving a step closer to the end of our life. Whereas if we walked backwards we were moving away from it, cheating death a step at a time.

It’s been a while since I saw the man who walked backwards. I don’t live in Ilfracombe House any more. I’ve moved. I live in a house called Barnstaple House. I don’t know why. But I think about him every time I see people walking forwards, moving step by step towards the end.

Charlie Hill is the author of two novels and a small handful of poems. His short stories have featured in a number of anthologies and have been widely published in print and online.