balloons, coast, death, family, flash, flash fiction, life, micro fiction, Paul Thompson, picnic, pylons, relationships, short stories, short story, vss
by Paul Thompson
I carry you through the fields of rapeseed, wearing you like a rucksack. Sounds follow in our wake — the flattening of the crop, the distant motorway, the evening birdsong. Neither of us speak, saving our breath for the big reveal. The only communication is you kicking at my sides, encouraging my speed to a canter.
And then we see them, peeking over the curvature of the earth. The three pylons, arms outstretched on the horizon. They are exactly as we remember them, our earliest memory alive and unchanged in the present.
We settle down in the partial shade of the middle pylon. Long shadows link them together, in a constellation across the earth. I attach balloons to the framework and prepare us a picnic, listening to you wasting your breath as you speak.
You tell me how beautiful the framework is. You tell me the pylon type and the history of its design. You tell me how these wires stretch the breadth of the country, all the way to the coast.
You talk nothing of time, or the months that become weeks. You only talk of the pylons, and your delight at how they will book-end your life.
Under the hum of the power lines we eat a lunch of fish and salad, followed by flapjacks from our mother’s recipe. When the time comes to leave, you insist I go back alone, to leave you in the care of the evening fields. You have a new life that waits, beyond dying stars and infinite galaxies.
You tell me of the pylons, beacons beyond our understanding.
I have no instinct to argue, my mandate worthless. To go over old ground is to only waste your energy. Instead, we bag up our litter and burst the balloons, scattering the birds with every explosion.
When the moment comes I count down from ten in my head. Upon reaching three I turn and run, surprising myself to make leaving easier. The walk back through the fields is weightless and efficient, your crutches helping across the uneven ground. Overhead wires crackle in my wake, taking your words out into the grid.
The sun is now low and obscured by winter. From the car, the pylons fade into the landscape. From a certain angle they line up, merging into one, wrapping their tubular arms around you. Content with this thought I head for the motorway, following your voice all the way to the coast.
Paul lives and works in Sheffield. His stories have appeared in Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and The Cabinet of Heed. Find out more at @hombre_hompson.