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by Clare O’Brien

She walks slowly downhill, pushing the rusty trolley she found on the verge. One wheel keeps drifting, pulling her into the gutter, too close to the cars which churn the rain and send spray onto her shoes. She calls to them as they pass, but the words in her head stutter and distort before she utters them, no meat between these brittle piecrusts of noise. They flake and fall without substance and she panics, making only sharp staccato sounds like a dog. She barks over and over as each car passes, urgent and guttural, but no-one stops to help. Pedestrians hurry past her, their collars and hoods hiding their faces. They do not stop to listen. Without the vowels, without the formless ooze between the consonants, she cannot make herself understood.

She has often felt invisible. Is she now inaudible as well? Has she been muted like the TV, her mouth working silently behind glass? Or is her speech cracking up like a cellphone with a dodgy signal? She keeps on trying, calling, but the message isn’t getting through. She hiccups and sputters. She is becoming nothing.

She closes her mouth, shutting the broken words inside, and lets the trolley drag her down the hill towards the crossroads. She can find rest there, under the place where the roads briefly meet and greet before speeding off to somewhere else. If she dies here she can be buried here, under the tarmac, let the traffic that would not hear her run over her, pushing her down, further down, into the earth.

She stands and watches the cars at the lights, gunning their engines, waiting to accelerate away. She lets go of her trolley with its tattered baggage, and she stands up straight and calls to the city one last time. Her voice shatters and disperses on the wind and by morning not a syllable of her will remain.


Originally a Londoner, Clare O’Brien has lived for the last twenty years in a crofting township on the northwest coast of Scotland where she grows vegetables and helps run the family tourism business. She’s currently working on her first novel, Light Switch, an unconventional dystopia — think Brave New World meets This Happy Breed. She frequently interrupts herself with poems and short stories, some recently published by Mslexia, The Cabinet of Heed, Hedgehog Poetry Press, Fearless Femme, Rhythm & Bones Press, Riggwelter and The Cauldron Anthology. Follow her on Twitter at @clareobrien or visit her website at clarevobrien.weebly.com/.

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