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by Matt Hutchinson

11 a.m.

I stand up, then instantly forget why. Something in the moment must have called for it.

I stretch and look out of the window.

A toddler cartwheels off his scooter. Clutching a skinned knee he howls in silent pain beyond the double glazing. I count how long it takes his mother, weighed down by shopping and fatigue, to catch up and comfort him.

Twenty-seven seconds.

The world turns.

The woman who took the boy’s scooter from the assembly line in Guangzhou is asleep. She doesn’t remember his scooter, or the day it was packed and shipped to another country.

She’s never heard of Nunhead.

Her dreams are filled by a relentless succession of identical boxes, coming one after another at precisely calculated intervals, almost too fast to keep up with.

Almost.

She knows they contain something important and longs to open just one and see what’s inside, but as soon as each box arrives it’s gone, replaced by another.

Her final dream, before she wakes, is of something vast and silent, drifting slowly down and away from her.

The world turns.

Two marine biologists in California open another bottle of wine.

“I can’t believe she’s dead,” one says.

“She was the first blue whale I ever studied,” the other sighs. “Back when I worked for Davies.”

“You worked for Davies? You never told me that.”

“First job after grad school.”

“Wow. Was it true, you know, what they said about him?”

She shrugs. “Some of it. Most of it probably.”

As sharks risk increasing depths to feed on her carcass, they drink to the largest blue whale ever recorded and the irascible old man who spent his life documenting hers.

Meanwhile, three larger blue whales, eight hundred feet deep off the Kamchatka Peninsula, hear the echo of her final song and turn their heads into the current.

The world turns.

A cloud drifts across the moon as three teenagers in Ottawa sit on the roof of their college dorm, passing a bottle and waiting for the sun to come up.

Love the questions, one whispers.

Live the questions now, the others whisper back.

One moment they’re the only people in the world, the stars spread across the heavens just so, just for them.

Then they’re nothing; tiny specks in the endless night, clinging to the tiles to stop themselves being swept away.

As the sun comes up they wriggle into bed, giddy with the certainty no future night will ever be so perfect.

And now we rise, they whisper. And we are everywhere.

Plastic bags slowly degrade in landfill.

A letter fails to arrive at its destination.

Bread rises; share prices fall.

The world turns.

Meanwhile, a tiny speck of grit is working its way into young flesh. New skin will grow over it, so the boy will never know he carries a bit of south London pavement inside him wherever he goes.

He howls again. I open my window to listen.

“There, there, Poppet,” his mother murmurs. “I’m here now.”


Matt Hutchinson’s stories have appeared in The Mechanics Institute Review, The Bohemyth, Flash and Boston Literary Magazine. He lives in London but you’ll also find him online at https://matthwrites.wordpress.com/fiction, on Twitter as @matthwrites and, occasionally, hanging around in opera houses while he moonlights as a reviewer for www.arbuturian.com.

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