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Dawn was watching the sunset from her lounge-room window when she heard the ping of incoming email.

“That was a quick response”, she thought, smiling to herself. “He must have spent the last three days waiting at the screen”.

She took a little more time each morning with her makeup and increasingly chose her clothes for what they concealed rather than what they revealed, but Dawn knew she still had it. She had what he was unable to refuse. None of them could.

She strolled to the bar and mixed a leisurely vodka and lime. There was nobody else in the flat but still she didn’t want to appear too eager. It was a bad habit to get into. A few unhurried sips, a couple of measured steps and she slipped into the chair, grasped the mouse and clicked. This was going to be good. Dawn loved apologies. So long as they were to her, not by her.


I read your message and found nothing in it worth responding to, except to say it reeks of the petty game-playing I’ve come to expect from you.

I am only replying because it seems I haven’t made myself sufficiently clear.

I am no longer interested in having you as a lover.
I am no longer interested in having you as a friend.
I am no longer interested in having you as a house-guest.
I am no longer interested in hearing from you at all.

I’m tempted to wish you success in finding someone more like yourself. But frankly I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.


The glass bounced off the table and fell to the carpet, spraying its unheeded contents across her bare legs. That terrible, terrible pain in her guts, like cold, skeletal claws ripping at her fruitless womb. She wanted to scream but her throat had closed as if she was dangling from a noose. She knew she’d lost him. She knew she’d lost something far more important. Something she’d had since high school. Something she’d built her entire existence around.

Her chair joined the glass on the floor as Dawn reeled down the hall and lurched into the bathroom. She started to reach for the light-switch but suddenly threw both hands across her face. It was no use. The slimy bitterness filled her mouth and spurted from her nose. She collapsed across the toilet retching and gasping. She hadn’t raised the lid.

After an eternity of agonies Dawn lifted her sodden head. The last light of the dying day slithered in through frosted glass, revealing the half-clotted muck fouling the floor, her hands, her hair. She turned on the makeup lights and slowly lifted her face to the mirror. Her eyes were red and and empty, the mess of mascara making her a tragic clown. A bloody snail-trail ran from a nostril to her mouth where it combined with lipstick in a smear across her chin. Puke coated rat tails plastered her cheeks. She was ugly, ugly, ugly! And old. So old.

Turn to the cabinet. Her medicine. That would fill the terrifying abyss that had opened inside her. She would need the whole bottle.


This endearing little elegy was assembled from the fragmented memories of a bad dream. I think the dream was inspired partly by recent blogposts from Maria, Moniba and Maggie McNeill, partly by fears I hold for someone who was once very dear to me and mostly by the pills I’ve been taking lately.

From → short fiction

  1. thefeatheredsleep permalink



    • From anyone other than you, Candice, I would have taken that as sarcasm. But I’ve become familiar enough with your writing to know it’s sincere.

      Coincidentally there was probably another unacknowledged inspiration for my bad dream. Just before going to bed I listened to Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson singing a duet. That song always reminds me of my own ‘Candy’. (Actually I suspect Candy isn’t an Iggy Pop composition at all. It’s perhaps the only song I’ve heard by Jim Osterberg).


  2. Woah.. or wow, actually. The descriptions. You know, the ‘few unhurried sips, a couple of measured steps and she slipped into the chair, grasped the mouse and clicked. This was going to be good.’ part was so real. Dawn. Dusk. Loved it.
    Why don’t you write more ‘fiction’? I checked the tag and this is like the only one there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve got a few short stories on file, as well as some older ones in journals and some fragments of unfinished novels, but they’re all too long for blog format. Usually when I write short stories they’re plot driven so need a fair bit of verbiage for development.

      ‘Dusk’ was an attempt to get over a bad dream that had me staring at my bedroom ceiling from midnight until 4:30am when I got up and started to write. I think the pills I’ve been on had something to do with it.

      I don’t like it as a story to be honest. Firstly it’s misogynist. It reads like a revenge fantasy and the email from ‘Stephen’ isn’t from my dream at all but from actual things I’ve said or written to former girlfriends during breakups. Also the use of adjectives and symbolism was much heavier than I’d ever use in ‘planned’ writing. I was trying to let out the emotions from my dream rather than produce good writing. I find it too melodramatic.

      But I decided long ago this blog was more about my feelings, experiences and attitudes than an attempt to produce good literature and ‘Dusk’ was as close as I could get to what I felt at the time.

      And the truth is I am misogynist – though hopefully not as much as I was almost 30 years ago when I broke up with ‘C’ and had the sort of revenge fantasies that probably lay at the root of the dream. The last time I saw ‘C’ – about ten years ago – she’d lost much of her beauty, been abandoned by ‘friends’ and lovers and become bitter and suicidal, which was uncomfortably close to what I’d wished upon her all that time ago. Unfortunately I was then extremely suicidal myself and in no position to try to help. My subsequent attempts to contact her have failed and I fear she may have killed herself. I guess I’ve been feeling both helpless and guilty about it for a while.

      We all have our ‘beloveds’ Maria. If I ever learn how to get over mine I promise to tell you how it’s done.

      (BTW, here’s the song I listened to just before I went to bed. I think you can hear why it got me dreaming about ‘C’. Both Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson were big parts of my life when I was with ‘C’ but this song was much later. Life is crazy alright. If you can’t get Vimeo in Pakistan let me know and I’ll find something else).


      • I see. Though I don’t know what to say. We have Vimeo here, btw. I’ll check this one tonight.
        Also, hey, fragments of unfinished novels? You won’t complete them? ;.; I hope you do. Really


        • I’d be very surprised if I ever complete a novel.

          For one reason, see Why I’ll never be a writer.

          But the main reason is the one that’s kept me from completing a novel since my first attempts in my teens right through to my more recent ones of a decade or so ago.

          One of the advantages of being an untutored, unskilled writer like me is that you can improve pretty quickly with practice. When I came out of my depression almost three years ago I could barely even talk much less write. Sometimes I went a week or more without attempting verbal communication of any kind and when I did try to speak it came out as an inarticulate croak. As I don’t do all that much thinking in words it didn’t take long for my working vocabulary to deteriorate to budgerigar level. But through writing this blog I’ve built my skill back up to at least a semblance of what it was in 2003 when the black curtain descended.

          But the problem with writing something as long as a novel is that by the time I’m a fraction of the way through my style has changed so much I’m completely unsatisfied with what I started writing. Go back and revise and my style changes again and I now dislike the more recent chapters. And so it goes. I hate doing the same thing over and over. I even find breathing an insufferably boring activity, hence my lifelong attraction to hanging and drowning. Anything to relieve the monotony. (I may have been kidding in some of this para).

          So I figure that applying myself diligently to novel writing would be to condemn myself to an eternal cycle of writing, rewriting and starting all over. As if there ain’t already enough samsara in my existence.

          Besides, I’ve never had an idea big enough or good enough to justify using up so many words on it. When I started novels it was because I wanted to be a novelist, not because I had something to say.


        • BTW, if you’ve watched the Vimeo clip I’d appreciate hearing your opinion. I’m always shocked by the revelation that others don’t share my musical taste but I’m even more shocked when they do. And I like to be shocked.


  3. Breathing is an insufferably boring activity. Okay.
    I read that post and I understand why you can’t write a novel. p; Yes, too much work. Too much of so much.

    Also, I don’t like shocking people but let’s say I am not into English music much. Haven’t been listening to any kind lately tbh, though this one I did.


    • I am not into English music much

      Heck, why not?
      I’m way into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aziz Mian and the Sabri brothers. I just played some NFAK this morning after my meditation.

      As it happens you were the second of three people to ask about my unfinished novels in just over a week and I’ve started to reconsider having another shot at my most recent (started in 1997, abandoned in 2001). I wouldn’t be bringing it up to salable standard but it might eventually be good enough to make available as a free download from my blog. I won’t be making a decision on it until I finish my current course of medication in September though – it’s messing with my emotions, memory and concentration too much.

      What I might do is a blog post on the outline and see what sort of feedback I get. If people are interested I’ll dig up the CD with the old drafts on it and polish up a couple of chapters as samples for the blog and if anyone likes them I’ll make the effort to finish the whole thing, upload it as a PDF and link to it from the blog. It’s a comedy though and Australian humour is a bit quirky so I doubt many of my blog readers would like it.


      • I’m way into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aziz Mian and the Sabri brothers.

        You are? *-* Wow. The last one I listened and got kinda addicted to was Na Man Behooda which is Rumi’s poem basically, sung by Nusrat.
        Anyway, I think it’s great that you’re planning to give this another try. This novel writing thing. Those drafts shouldn’t go to waste like that. ;3 All the best!


        • Did you catch this?

          OK, it’s not Qawwali. It’s not from Pakistan. It’s not even primarily music. And it’s narrated in English. But I can’t help thinking someone who likes Nusrat may appreciate it.


        • I downloaded this thing but it didn’t work. 😦 It said something like the player doesn’t support this kind of file or the codec bla bla and then I tried searching for it but what I got was just Sufi music without a narration. Hi.


        • I’ve changed the file type from Flash video to MP4.
          Try it now.


        • Thank you!!
          It’s beautiful. Does something to the soul.


        • Yeah, isn’t it great when you find someone who can convey a little of the sublime beauty of Sufism?
          Someone like Rumi. Someone like Nusrat.


        • Indeed. 🙂


        • The last one I listened and got kinda addicted to was Na Man Behooda which is Rumi’s poem basically, sung by Nusrat.

          I’ve been through my entire Nusrat collection and couldn’t find it. Not speaking Urdu makes it hard for me to remember the names of Qawwali songs. I could sing a word perfect (albeit utterly tuneless) rendition of Dam Mast Qalander though. I’ve even been known to go a bit dervish on it. I just don’t understand it.

          BTW, I hear Ustad Ashiq Hussein (and I do know what Ustad means), writer of Dam Mast Qalander, Lal Meri Pat and many other Qawwali masterpieces, is living in the Bazar-e-Hakiman slum without even enough money for electricity to play the songs he awed the world with. Did I already say life is crazy?

          Oh yeah, I don’t know if you dance but if you do and you’ve got a copy of Nusrat’s Halke Mein Rasoolon, try this. Be alone. Have enough room to really move. Put it on loud enough to drown out background noise. Stand up, close your eyes and just release your movement to the music. As the intensity picks up, feel it in your upper body, shoulders, head and neck. Let the drums, clapping and your body tell you how to move. Something very special might happen about 9-11 mins in. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t think so though. There’s other songs, like Is Karam Ka Karoun that do it too, but they’re too short.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Na man behooda.

          I didn’t know about Ustad Ashiq Hussein. It is…terrible, yes.

          I am going to listen to Halke Mein Rasoolon. I am going to try this and may it try me, too.
          Also, honestly, wow @ knowing Dum Mast Qalendar like that. This info sounds good. ;3


  4. You have such a wonderful talent for words. You really do. Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know Christy, I believe I’m a good speechifier because I’ve seen the effects my written and off-the-cuff speeches have on people. But when I compare my stories, poetry, essays and reportage with the stuff I generally read …

      I may be a rabble-rouser but I ain’t no writer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The stuff you generally read might be just different forms of writing, comrade. The way you elucidate isn’t something that can come naturally to a good speaker. At least in my opinion, you are a writer. And a damn good one.

        Liked by 1 person

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