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by Steve Campbell

It’s not the same as it used to be and I don’t know why. My sister Em and I were at home one day and somewhere else the next. It was as simple as that. Father came with us but he was incapable of speaking and the same ghost he’d always been. He hovered in the shadows behind our new family as they placed themselves in order of importance. We were slotted in at the bottom.

The house wasn’t big enough for us all so Em and I had to share a single bedroom. I hated it. Not just the room. I hated the house, the ready-made family and how everybody acted like nothing had happened.

Em got the top bunk because she was the oldest and I had to settle for the bottom, but at least I had the canopy of her mattress hanging over me. At night, she would hang over the edge of it and turn her smile upside down so that it was the right way up for me. Having the bottom bunk also meant that I got to use the space between the bed and the floor. My secret space. I kept everything in there — toys, books, shells and pictures. I’d even put my mother in there after smuggling her into the house. I didn’t tell anyone about her, not even Em. One of the many house rules was not to talk about our old mother, especially in front of our new one. It made her jaw muscles flex as she spat out words like ungrateful and selfish, so I only took my mother out whenever I was alone.

I spent hours in the dust under my bed with my mother but never once asked why she wasn’t with us. Instead, I lined up my cars in colour order and talked about things that wouldn’t send her away. Despite this, each time I crawled under the bed she got a little bit smaller and harder to find. Eventually, she disappeared completely. She must have slipped down between a gap in the floorboards.

Steve Campbell has short fiction published in places such as Sick Lit Magazine, formercactus, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Occulum and MoonPark Review, and on his website standondog.com. He somehow finds time to manage EllipsisZine.com. You can follow him on Twitter @standondog.