The Vaguest Hint of Hope

Lavender field

Image: © Christelle-S, Pixabay License. Source

Author: Anonymous

I don’t like the preachers that walk along the city streets, talking about tomorrow. They know as well as I do that it just isn’t going to come, and I really think that should satisfy them. They draw huge crowds of people, flooding the gaps between the tall, bone white buildings, and they sing, and they scream about how tomorrow will come, how there will be dawn and there will be dusk, and all of this will be beautiful and lovely. Well, I don’t need dawn nor dusk, and I can live perfectly contented knowing that when it is dark, I can wander empty streets, contemplating the inky black spaces between the buildings, and when it is light, I can wander crowded streets, wondering when it is going to be night again. This seems to me to be a sufficient existence. 

There is one preacher in particular, one who goes about dressed in great colourful robes that conceal almost their whole figure but the flash of their bare feet and their face, broad cheekbones and golden eyes. I don’t know if they have hair or not, I don’t even know their name, but they talk to me every time I pass them by. They’re here now in fact. I duck my head, avoiding their gaze, but they look straight through me, and put out their hand, blocking my path. I look at them. Their face is inscrutable, but for the vaguest hint of hope in the upturned corners of their eyes. 

“Will you not listen?”
Their voice is smooth and melodious, but there is somehow a sharpness there, something like a rebuke.
“I would rather be home,” I reply.  
“I would rather be heard, but we cannot have everything we want.”
“Have you anything interesting to say? Something other than ‘pray for dusk and it shall come’?”
They smile, their eyes softening, and they come up beside me.
“Well, I have something today, if you would let me walk with you.”
They seem hopeful in a way I don’t quite know how to understand, so I begin walking, gesturing them to follow.

We walk silently through the crowded street, people are moving every direction, seemingly everywhere all at once. I thought I heard them start a sentence, but they are drowned in the noise of the many thousands of people that are gathered together, the pressure of the city on us. I was meant to be going home, but there is such a weight of human bodies here that I pass my door without so much as a glance, and we walk on. Later, although how much later I couldn’t say, the people thin out, and the buildings begin to shrink and spread apart. It is as though there is more air to breathe. I stop moving to sit down, and rest my legs, but the preacher doesn’t stop. I jump to my feet, though they’re still sore, and break into a run to catch up with them. They are easy to see in this emptier place, and although I was not still long, they have gone far ahead, nearly out of my sight. 

I run quickly, almost desperately, to close the distance between us. If they turn down the wrong alley, they will be lost forever. But they don’t turn, they carry on straight as the arrow until I reach them, panting heavily. They regard me for a second, then a second more, then they turn heel, and carry on. They do not speak then, and neither do I. Silence suits them, and I have spent much of my life in it, and it is not uncomfortable. So we walk. 

I cannot tell how long we walked thereafter, only that first it was light, then it was dark, and the dark seemed to stretch out the more we walked in it. The buildings dwindled, as they had been since first we came from out of the crush of the centre of the city, and then they were gone, and the road we had been following was gone, and in their places were wet grasses and briar as far as the eye could see. 

The preacher is picking through this new landscape, with the purpose of a hunter stalking their prey. Their robes, so strange but fitting within the city, are still stranger now, and when they glance back at me, their golden eyes seem to catch lights that I cannot see. The only sounds are our feet crushing the leaves, and the occasional rustle of the heath. It is as though we are walking through a shallow, but endless grassy sea, stretching out to the dark edge of the horizon. And with each footstep, I feel myself come unmoored a little more from time, until all there is, is the present. It does not get light, and for lifetimes untold we walk. 

I assume we’re walking blindly, waiting to reach the horizon, or the end of the earth, but before we come to either, the preacher seems to stumble very suddenly, falling to the ground with a dull thud. When I reach them, they are kneeling. “Are you hurt?” I ask them. They laugh, and gesture at the place they fell. It looks like a simple flat stone at first, but when I lean closer to the preacher and touch it, it isn’t smooth like the stones of the city. There are lines carved into it, forming intricate, interlocking patterns of diamonds and five pointed stars. “How long has this been here?” I wonder. The preacher murmurs something below their breath, and the patterns I felt in the stone light up, a pale blue light trickling from their hands down the length of it, slowly at first but gaining momentum. The light extends well past the place where I thought the stone ends, into the plants beyond. They stand, take my hand and lead me to the centre of the emerging square of light. 

“It’s been here since time ran straight,” they say, “as far as I know. I don’t know if it was made by people, or if some other force made it into being.” Their eyes are shimmering like they were before, but now I can see the light they’re reflecting. It bounces off the planes of their face, and makes them look alive, and real and solid in a way that no one looked real and solid in the city. They are purposeful here, purposeful and powerful, and they can conjure light to them and bring ancient wonders back. I wonder, as I contemplate it, whether I even need to leave here. It is quiet and calm, and the wind that blows carries with it the soft smells of grass and flowers, scents from softer times. It had been so long since I had smelt anything that was the bony dust and sweat of the crush of the city’s crowds. There is such peace here. 

The preacher looks at me, breathes in sharply and asks, “have you ever seen dawn?”. I laugh. “Of course not. Dawn is like dusk, it’s a story your lot made up.” 
“You would think that,” they answer. “You don’t remember a time when there was a sun.”
“Well, was there? Is there one now? Light and dark, yes, and I’ve seen shadows, but have you seen the sun? Have you seen a dawn or a dusk?”
“Would you believe me if I had?”
I pause at this, taken aback. They continue, “You don’t think the world is wrong now, then. You don’t think it’s strange you have a house, but you never spend any time in it? That you don’t sleep, and you spend your whole time wandering, but you never actually go anywhere? Have you ever thought about it? Have you felt anything about it?”
The lights shining around us flicker and dim a little.
“Is it any worse than how you spend your day, talking to people who don’t listen, pretending there’s such a thing as the sun? If you opened your eyes, you would see it doesn’t exist, it could never exist. Things change, but the sun doesn’t rise nor set. Light comes and goes, and we come and go with it. And that is all.”

“I heard of a story, a very old one, about a couple. There were two people who loved each other very dearly, but one of them died. Of a snakebite, I think. A snake was a small creature with sharp teeth and a poisonous bite. But the other couldn’t quite bear their loss, so they went down into the underworld, to get their lover back, and when they got there, they found everyone as shades, mostly bodiless, and all they did was wander, nameless and faceless. When they found their lover, the dead one couldn’t remember their name, or anyone else’s name. So the live one began to sing, and the song was so beautiful that all the shades wept what tears were left in them, and the couple was allowed one attempt to escape from the world of the dead. They had to make the journey back, the living one leading the way and never looking back. But their courage faltered, and they stole a glance back as they reached the world of the living, and the dead one was dragged all the way back to the underworld.”

I don’t answer. 

“When I watch you, or anyone else in the city walking, that’s what I see. A sea of people who aren’t even really alive, who’ve forgotten their names, and worse, don’t even remember that they ever were alive. The sun is gone, the moon and stars are disappeared, and you stopped living, and didn’t notice your soul was being stolen away. You didn’t notice as you dissolved out of being.” They started very calmly, but began speaking with more and more passion until I am on the verge of tears from the weight of the words they’re casting at me. And they aren’t wrong, time is come undone and I don’t think I am alive in any real sense of the word. “Do you think I am dead?” I ask.

“I don’t think that,” they say. They are very pale now, and I can hear their breath shaking. Their eyes are closed, but I can still see the lights glowing beneath them. They turn their back to me, but I can see them trembling, poorly concealing their sobs. “I think the world is.” 
“But then, why bring me here? Why bring me to this place that still seems alive? What is the point ?”
“It’s a good place, is it not?”
“It is. But why here?”
“This is the edge of it. The edge of time. It exists on the other side.”
As they say this, I realise the sky was lighting, from the deep end of the horizon, lighter shades of reddish blue creeping up from the grasses.
“This place, it’s where time turns, it’s where you can find tomorrow.”
Like a dam bursting, the sky illuminates itself in shocking colours, a bright sphere tinting the space above it pinks and oranges, and then it’s there, the sun.
“Dawn,” I whisper, and smile.

 

Venus Flytrap (Second Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Image: © “Venus – JPL Travel Poster” by NASA/JPL, JPL licence. Source.

Author:  William Flores

It has been almost a month since scientists on board Venera III have identified what appears to be a pitch black spot, about 10 meters in diameter of… absolute nothingness in the Venusian sky. Every conceivable instrument has so far failed to show any reading of mass or energy. This excludes the initial hypothesis of a miniature black hole. For now, the United Nations Space Exploration and Observation Agency (UNSEOA) has instructed scientific personnel aboard all five Venera stations to continue monitoring the mysterious spot. That is certainly not too big a task for these miniature, self-contained cities that float in the dense Venusian sky and whose primary mission is to understand the planet’s cloud formation. Wesley Ramirez, an expert on dark matter from the Earth Astrophysics Institute has been sent by the agency to provide assistance to the team of highly trained yet, in this case, helpless team of astrometeorologists.

On March 29, 2297, Wesley finally arrived after a week-long trip aboard the fusion powered Horizon VI. Once in orbit, a small shuttle separated from the vessel and descended into the atmosphere, safely bringing Wesley to Venera III, where he was greeted by Sasha Stone, the station’s captain.
— Doctor Ramirez, welcome to Venus! It’s nice meeting you.
— Thanks! But please, call me Wesley. We’re both too young to call each other “doctor”.
— Can’t argue with that, Wesley!
After a friendly handshake, Sasha showed Wesley his sleeping quarters and its amenities. Although he knew exactly that there would be a telepod, a standard component of all crewed space habitats, the young astrophysicist expressed his relief upon seeing it.
— Got some important business on Earth, Wesley?
— Well… yes. See, last month I met someone at the annual Earth Science Symposium and we were supposed to go on a date. But that was before I was assigned to this mission.
— Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
— It’s alright. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and besides, with the telepod I can still go on my date, more or less.
— I’m happy that you see it that way. Anyway, I’ll let you get some rest. Dinner is at 07:30 in the mess hall down the corridor. You’ll see that our aquaponic system provides us with exquisite produce.
— Great! That’ll be a welcome change after the synthetic food of the Horizon’s molecular assembler.
— I bet! Well, see you later!
And with that, the young astrometeorologist returned to her observation post. Just yesterday, the main computer indicated that the instruments of the Venera III had recorded a faint and ephemeral energy signal coming from the mysterious spot in the sky. Unfortunately, the crew was sleeping at that point, so Sasha hoped that she could make a direct observation soon.

At dinner, she introduced Wesley to the other members of the Venera III. They all studied the cloud formation of the Venusian atmosphere. Their mission was part of the United Nation’s Earth Climate Restoration Programme, often called “Gaia Project”. By studying the cloud formation on Venus, a planet which once experienced an extreme runaway greenhouse effect, the UN hoped that the collected data could help make cloud-seeding and weather modification efforts on Earth more reliable. While the programme, which was initiated in 2099, had already succeeded in removing excess carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere by 80%, the planet was still recovering from the recklessness of the Late Capitalist Period (1980-2089). Global temperatures peaked at 2.3°C above pre-industrial levels in 2103. This set off seven planetary tipping points that were now being reversed. Wesley was no stranger to the “Gaia Project”: both of Wesley’s parents worked for it and so did his date.
— Tell me about your date, Sasha said. “You don’t know how long you’ll be here, so we might as well get to know each other”.
— Fair enough, fair enough. Well, my special someone is called River and…
— River! What a nice name!
— Yes, indeed. They work for the “Gaia Project” as a marine biologist. Their specialty is coral reef restoration.
— That’s really interesting! When are you going on your date? And where?
— Well, we were supposed to see each other tomorrow and take the Underwater Vacuum Train from New York to Paris and just walk around and eat dinner in a cute bistro.
— How romantic!
— Yeah, the city is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination again. Temperatures are really comfortable there now.
— I’ve heard! But I guess that won’t work out for you exactly as planned.
— Yeah no. We have decided that I’ll upload my mind via telepod to my avatar body that I left in New York and take the train to Paris anyway. There we’ll just walk and talk, since eating won’t be an option, at least for me.
— Yeah, it’s sad how avatars are quite limited.
— It’s funny you know, it’s the first time I had an avatar made of me. It was a bit weird to look at that inanimate doll that looked just like me… kinda creepy even.
— Us astronauts are used to it. It’s the only way we can keep contact with our loved ones during missions.
— No doubt!
After dessert, Sasha mentioned the strange energy readings and asked Wesley to look into them in the morning.

Thus, after a good night’s sleep and a light breakfast, the young astrophysicist joined the team of the Venera III on the observation deck. Sasha looked both exhausted and excited.
“Morning, Wesley! LOOK!” she said while pointing at the spot in the sky. “Can you see the thin halo around it?”
— Morning Sasha! Yes, I can see it.
— Do you know what it could be?
— Nope, but I’ll have a look at the instrument readings.
— Apparently there’s been a brief surge in Hawking radiation.
— What? For real?
— Yeah, look at the recordings!
— Oh my god! You’re right!
— Do you think it’s a black hole after all?
— That can’t be! The gravitational pull would have ripped us to pieces!
— That’s what I thought, but what else could it be?
— Could be anything. Maybe a wormhole of some sort. To or from another part of space or… maybe time?
— Time?
— Yes, that would explain these bizarre time readings right here. Apparently, every time the computer observed an energy surge the clock ran…backwards?
— What? That can’t be!
— You’re right, there must be a problem with the instruments.
— We’ve already checked!
— We’ll check again. Because this doesn’t add up.
And so the crews of the Venera III and the other stations ran all conceivable tests to check if all instruments worked as intended. By the end of the morning they found nothing. All instruments on all stations worked perfectly. Exhausted, the scientists took their lunch break.

Meanwhile, Wesley returned to his sleeping quarters and got ready for his date. He undressed, put on his sensory bodysuit and entered the telepod while selecting the “transfer mind” option. A complete scan, on the subatomic level, was made of his brain, before an odorless gas filled the pod and made him unconscious. Thanks to quantum entanglement, the information from the scan was instantly transmitted back to Earth. Lightspeed was no longer an upper limit for the transfer of data.

Meanwhile, the mysterious spot in the Venusian sky continued emitting more and more energy. Sasha only took a short lunch break and was absolutely baffled by what she saw upon returning to her post. The bright halo that used to surround the spot now covered it completely. The spot went from pitch-black to blindingly bright just like that. “What the fuck” was pretty much the only thing Sasha could say to herself in that moment.

After a few seconds of complete unconsciousness, Wesley woke up in his New York apartment. His avatar body felt almost like his actual body. It was good enough, though. After getting used to walking in this body, he went to meet River at Grand Central.
— So, you made it after all!
— Told you so!
After giving each other a hug, they boarded the train and were on their way to Paris. The ride would take about 30 minutes, but after about 15 minutes the avatar body stopped responding. It was lifeless. “Are you still there? Are you okay?” River asked, in vain.

After a minute, Wesley regained consciousness. He was back in the telepod. “What the hell happened?” he told himself. After several failed attempts to reconnect to his avatar, he stepped out of the pod and got dressed. Something felt off. He went to the observation deck and was relieved to see Sasha and the crew. They seemed terrified, however.
— Sasha? What’s going on?
— LOOK!
She pointed towards the sky. The spot was gone.
“So, everything is back to normal?” Wesley asked naively, perhaps sincerely hoping that that would be it.
Holding back her tears, Sasha instructed the astrophysicist to check the date on a computer screen, any screen would do.
Upon doing so, Wesley was mortified.
— Tell me, Wes, what day are we?
— March 30th, 2007.

It’s Been a Day

Author: Furaha Mujynya

[Content Warning: Substance Use]

I wonder if people can feel my excitement just from the way I’m walking. I feel like I’m oozing energy. But I guess there’s no way they could tell. Still, I should probably try to look a bit more relaxed, just in case. Contemplating the possibility of an arrest for a second, Isaiah’s train of thoughts quickly goes back to the object of his desire. It’s the first time I have seen cocaine so pure, so majestic. God am I glad that I gave it a try before buying it! I almost feel like it’s not real. Exhaling deeply, his hands slightly shaking, he thinks – Gosh… I should really hurry home. It doesn’t feel right to walk around with this diamond in my pocket. Forgetting all about his drug-obsession for a minute, Isaiah moves towards a shop window. Oh yeah sencha! That’s the perfect combo. 

Jesus Christ, who does she think she is? Who cares if I was late? I should just dump her and be done with it. Even more annoyed than he was when he slammed the door in Jenny’s face, James gets his phone out. Okay. proteins, kale, bananas and that matcha powder thing. Heading towards the supermarket, he sees a large group entering. I guess that means Asian shop first. Walking up the street, he starts scrolling through dating profiles. This one’s not too ugly. Wait, she loves cats… Ugh and that one is too smiley… As he is about to enter the Japanese grocery shop, he feels something pushing him, causing him to drop his phone to the floor.

***

I hope she’s okay. It’s not like it’s the first time this happened. Maybe I should just stop by, make sure she’s fine. But I don’t want to impose. Nervously pacing through her apartment, Lizzy starts opening all her kitchen cabinets. If I show up with, like, brownies or something it will seem less weird. I could just say I baked too many. Right. Good. Did I really finish all the chocolate? I guess I’ll go buy some… Oh, and some milk, and maybe bananas. Oh, and I don’t have any more ginger confit or kimchi. On the beat of a slow ballad, she starts reciting her list of groceries, whilst strutting towards the supermarket. Bananas, milk, kimchi, ginger, cacao powder, chocolate, peanuts, and rice.

***

Dude, what the hell! Can’t you watch where you’re going? James keeps swearing and picks his phone off the ground, checking that the screen is still intact. You’re lucky it didn’t break, or it would have been your face on the floor! Now get out of my way, you moron. In shock, Isaiah stays still for a minute. What just happened… Of course he went into my tea shop. Dammit, I really wanted that sencha. Well I guess, I’ll just go home. After a big exhale he starts slowly humming – Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, It’s Christmas time…

Okay I think I got all the things on my list. Let’s go to the Korean shop! Moving from ballads to a funky pop tune, she whispers – Up up we go. I hope she likes brownies. I mean, everybody likes brownies, right? I don’t even know if she has allergies. Oh I’m probably overthinking this, as usual. As she is walking, Lizzy spots someone blankly staring into oblivion. Is he high? People nowadays really have no shame. It’s broad daylight and this is supposed to be a family friendly neighborhood. Anyway… ginger here I come! Quickly passing him by, she takes a few more steps to the Korean shop. As she walks back out, she spots something white on the ground near the bus stop.

Hello…? Could I get some help around here? Jesus this really is a shit day, he says just loud enough to be heard. I can’t find that matcha powder thing. The cashier points towards a small green box on the counter. Yeah, sorry I guess I didn’t see it. I’ll take just that thanks, he says with an awkward smile. As James heads out, he decides to sit at the bus stop for a second. I really don’t want to have to deal with her tonight. Maybe I can find some girl who’ll let me crash at her place. But I don’t know if I’ve got the energy to deal with some new chick though. I’ll probably have to buy her tons of drinks too. Ugh, might just be easier to go home. Who knows? Maybe she’ll have calmed down by then.

***

Home sweet home… I hope I have some green tea left somewhere around here. Ooh yeah, found it! Whilst performing what one might call a ‘happy dance’, he starts preparing his tea. God I’m as excited as a child! Maybe that’s not the right comparison, but hey, sugar highs are a big thing with children, so… Laughing at his own joke, he wonders – Maybe I should sleep a bit before though. Give my brain a minute to breathe. Yeah, I can wait 30 minutes. He goes into his room, puts on wave sounds, and starts to doze off.

***

I probably shouldn’t have picked it up. Geez, I panicked because I saw that douche coming out of the Japanese convenience store. I’m an idiot. I don’t even know what this is… I could contract a disease just from touching that thing. I mean, I probably can’t, but who knows?! What was I thinking? Sickened with worry and confusion, she runs up the stairs and within seconds she is home. I mean, what if he had seen me? It’s not like anything would have happened. How can I hope to be of any help to her if I can’t even face this dude without running away. Come on Lizzy. Just breathe. You got it. First, the brownies. We’ll deal with the rest later.

***

He takes his shoes off and goes into the bedroom but not without catching a glimpse of Jenny sitting in a corner, her eyes still red and puffy. Geez, she hasn’t moved an inch since I left. She’s pathetic. I’ll just get my stuff for the gym, prepare my shake and leave. With any luck, she’ll be asleep when I’m back. After mixing the ingredients for his smoothie, he looks at her and says: It’s really pointless, sitting here, crying like a three-year-old when you could have cleaned the apartment or made dinner. But as usual, it’s all about your feelings…You better not be in the same position when I’m back from the fit. He slams the door and leaves.

I think the brownies are almost done. Wait, is it him? Looking through the peephole, she sees James stepping out of the opposite apartment. Okay. He left. I guess it’s now or never. What do I say…? Maybe I should just slip her my number in the plate of brownies. I wish I could just give her a weapon, something, anything to fight him off. What if I… No, I couldn’t. I mean if I’m wrong and this is just some dishwasher powder then … I don’t know. But it could give her a chance to fight back. After a few minutes, she rings the doorbell and says to the bruised young woman – I know we don’t really know each other, but I made too many brownies and thought you might want some. I’m just across the hall if you ever need me. Jenny accepts the plate, with a shy smile, and closes the door.

***

Waking up, feeling disoriented, Isaiah gets up to go to the kitchen. Oh the water’s cold, got to heat it up again. I wonder how long I slept. Looking at his watch, he rubs his eyes. It can’t be. Did it stop working? Turning on the TV, he stares at the date at the top of the screen. It can’t be! I did not just sleep for almost 24 hours. Could it be the coke? Nah… Where did I put it anyway? Oh yeah, my jacket. I think it was in the left pocket… Uhm maybe it fell somewhere on the couch. I should check the bed too. Geez, where did I put it? Suddenly, he remembers yesterday’s altercation. Did he steal it from me? No way! As the weather report finishes, the local news starts:

A 27-year-old was found dead in his apartment yesterday evening at around 10pm. After a sport session at his local fitness center, the young man went home and indulged in some late-night snack, little did he know that this would be the cause of his death. The paramedics first thought that this was a drug OD – many cases have gone through the doors of hospitals since a new and very lethal cocaine has invaded the streets – only to later realize that it was a simple case of peanut allergy. We therefore implore you to be careful of the dangers of both drugs and the ingredients some food may contain.

“Tomorrow”

Author: Lisa Ziegert

[Content Warning: Suicide Attempt]

Tomorrow, that’s all he told me.
Tomorrow, that’s when it will happen.
Tomorrow, that’s when he will do it.
Tomorrow, that’s when I will lose him.

I curse the night. I curse the rest. I curse myself for sleeping so long. All this makes me hate myself because right now, it is tomorrow.

He hasn’t said anything precise about when and where. He just texted me “Tomorrow” and knew I would understand perfectly. I know it is not a joke or a drunk text. It is a promise. Reading these eight letters hurts so bad, and I know he knows it.

We know each other so well. Some would say like brothers, but it would be wrong, and immoral. I don’t like him like a brother at all. I love him with all my heart and soul. I love him like the wind loves the sea.

This love consumes me. It is the reason why his text hurts so badly. I know he fought for so long. I know he tried to find another way. I tried to help him so much, but it was in vain. It is in vain because it’s too late. Tomorrow. Well, today is truer but I cannot accept it, so my very soul perceives it as tomorrow. I cannot accept it because tomorrow is the day he’s going to die, and it breaks me.

It sucks the air out of my body. I feel like I’m moving through a thick fog, like the air around me is solidifying. I struggle to move, to get dressed, to grab my car key, to get out of my place, in my car.

When my butt finally touches my car seat, feelings, emotions, everything comes back to me. I start shivering. I try to calm myself, but my hands won’t stop shaking. I can’t put the car key in the keyhole. I drop them on the floor. It makes me lose it. I start to hit the steering wheel with my palms, shouting in agony, tears streaming down my cheeks. I let my head go back against my seat and just stay here for a minute, drained, crying, weeping.

When I manage to calm myself, I pick up my keys and start my car. I drive in silence. The roads are empty, everybody is away, on holiday. It is way too hot; I am sweating. I should open the window or turn on the AC, but I do neither. I just keep driving further and further to my lover’s place.

I spend the entire drive muttering “Please be home! Please, oh please be home, my dear precious angel”. This sentence turns around and around in my head. His face is imprinted on my eyeballs.

At 4, I see his house. I stop in the middle of his driveway. Get out, run to his door, and bang my fists on it as if my life depended on it.

There is no answer.

I try to open the door, but it is locked. I run around the house to the backdoor and am very relieved to find it open. I burst into his kitchen and start shouting his name. I search all the rooms on this floor but can’t find him. I run up the stairs straight to his bedroom. But still, he’s nowhere to be seen. I get out of his bedroom and scan my surroundings. I rapidly observe that all the doors are open except the one from the bathroom. I rush to it and try to open it. It is locked. I bang on it with all my might shouting.

“Please my dear, please open the door. Let me in! Let me help you! I beg you!”

But there is no answer.

I continue to pour my rage and despair on that poor door.

I end up breaking it at some point and am finally able to enter the room.

It is 4:20. At first, I don’t see anything. There is only a strong metallic smell. The smell of blood. Then I see him. He is curled up on the floor, blood pouring from his arms. He is weakly looking at me. His eyes are full of pain, relief, regrets, and apologies. I run to him. I don’t know what to do, or how to help him. I’m completely lost, helpless. I grab random towels and try to tie them around his deep open wounds. It is not working, but I am no doctor. I do not know how to do the only thing I must do.

At 4:40, the idea of calling an ambulance crosses my mind. I shout to my phone to call it and do my best to explain to the nice lady that the love of my life is losing all his blood in my arms. I am crying, I can’t help it, can’t stop it. But I don’t care. The only thing I want is for him to survive.

When the paramedics arrive, they ask me to move aside so they can take care of him properly. I know I should not protest but I can’t help it. I don’t want to let go of him. I cannot lose him. He is too important, too wonderful, too irreplaceable.

Still, I let go of him, exit the bathroom, and pace up and down the corridor. They patch him, take him in an ambulance and drive straight to the nearest hospital. I jump in my car and follow as well as I can.

When I arrive, the only thing left for me to do is to wait in a big light blue room, filled with dark blue seats and smelling of sanitizer.

A nurse comes to me with a concerned look and asks me if I am hurt. It is only at this moment that I realize, I am covered in blood. I reassure her, telling her the blood is not mine. She smiles faintly and leaves me to wait, alone. I have never felt lonelier. I pace in this room for hours desperately waiting for anyone to give me some news.

At 10, a doctor finally comes to me. He looks exhausted. When he arrives next to me, he puts his arm on my shoulder. It alarms me. I don’t know if his face shows concern or relief. I am not ready to hear him tell me something bad. I am not ready to confront death.

“It was long and took a lot of time. The cuts were nasty, and he lost a ton of blood but he’s going to live. We’re leading him to his room as we speak. You will be able to see him soon. You did the right thing calling us, Sir, a few minutes later would have been too late.”

Relief washes over me. He is going to live. It’s all I needed to know, all I heard. I don’t feel like I saved him. I don’t feel particularly heroic. All I did was save the person I hold the closest to my heart. In a way, it is selfish, I guess, since he tried to kill himself. But no, I cannot let him do that. I love him too much.

I am in his hospital room, bent over his bed, waiting for him to wake up. When he opens his eyes, I take his hand in mine. I look at him with eyes full of love and gratitude.

“I’m so glad you are alive! You scared me so much! Please let me help you more. I’m sure I can try to do something else. Let me help you. I love you; you know?”

He looks at me with tears in his eyes. A faint smile appears on his face. He starts to speak slowly, in a very hushed voice.

“I am sorry. I could not take it anymore. I will try to talk to you and let you help me. I know you love me. So do I, even if what I tried to do would tend to make you think the opposite.”

These words console me. They bring me peace and hope for the future, our future. I lean a bit further and put a gentle kiss on his forehead.

“It’s going to get better. I don’t know when, but it is!”

Things are complicated now but we will get through this battle together. We will make it out alive. We are strong enough and our love is stronger than ever. Nearly losing someone really makes you realize how much you love them.

We are survivors. We will keep fighting against his depression, suicidal thoughts, and any other issues.

We are strong.
We are united.
We will see tomorrow.

Crumbling Memories

Author: Jessi Cardinaux

It’s funny, the crumbs at the corner of your lips.

It reminds me of the biscuits that my mother used to prepare for me every morning before I left to go to the school three villages away from where we lived, behind the forest and the river that only had one bridge and on which we used to go boating with my uncle until he had his accident on that trip when he offered me for the first time to go with him, but I refused because I had met that summer and on that one bridge of the river the person who, I thought, would become the most important person in my life and with whom I had two beautiful children who then became the most important people in my life and whom I raised alone for many years, giving them enough love for two parents and the same biscuits my mother used to prepare for me every time they went to the school three villages away from where we lived, behind the forest and the river that only have one bridge still, but I never crossed again…

It’s strange how we remember things. A life can come back to us in a second, yet we can get lost in the meanderings of our memories for hours. So many memories… that I have accumulated in almost a hundred years of life. So many memories come together, intermingle and rearrange themselves each time a new one enters my mind.

And the more I accumulate, the less I can distinguish between the ones I have been told, the ones I have seen in films and comics, the ones I have read in books and the ones I have written down, and the ones I have experienced. But they all belong to me. Whether I am the author or the actor, the narrator or the listener, all these memories inhabit my mind and constantly spin, shift, change and rearrange themselves into a myriad of stories and legends, all more intertwined than absurd.

And even if I’ll forget it all tomorrow, still, my favourites are the stories your lips tell.

A Cheap Eulogy about Stars (Third Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Author: Salomé Emilie Streiff

   “You should write about the stars,” she said before coughing.
I nodded. I could write about the stars. I started to picture myself lying on top of a hill, with the sky as my limit and countless of lights. They were dancing to the rhythm of the nostalgic symphony nature plays when no one is watching. So far away from one another, they seemed slightly lonely. It was the price to pay to be this beautiful. Suddenly the night felt too heavy, like the pressure of a thousand worlds was resting on my chest.
   “But it should be comforting”, she added, still coughing.
I nodded again. Stars could be comforting. They are, actually. They remained still throughout countless lifetimes as if they were powered by the gods. They watch from above and listen to every wish. I could imagine talking to them and sending all my grief in unanswered prayers to the sky.
   “And anything but depressing.”
I looked at her with a smile in my eyes.
   “It’s a funeral grandma, it must be depressing.”
She coughed again and let out a sigh. With her wrinkled fingers, she drew a heart on my hand. I was sitting on the side of her bed, on which she was neither sitting nor lying. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
   “I guess you’re right, it has to be a bit depressing.”
I took my pen and started to write again.
   “What about comparing you to a star in your living era and saying something about you watching us from above, among the others?”
   “Come on Mackenzie, even for an old lady like me, it sounds cheap.”
The nurse came to feed her, letting me know my presence was no longer welcomed. I closed my notebook and kissed her on the right cheek. She held my hands for a while and pressed them on her lips, as if she was revealing to them her dearest secret. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
   “You’ll come back tomorrow, and we’ll work on that eulogy a bit more.”
She died that night.
The next week at the funeral, I was standing on a wooden stage in front of her family and what she called her “leftover companions”. My aunt, who drove from the south of France, seemed more tired than sad, her two daughters were too young to capture the essence of the moment, and most of my grandmother’s friends were too senile to understand anything. A few died in the year that followed to support this observation. After six nights of staring at my bedroom wall, searching for inspiration between waves of sorrow, I was left with a few sentences about the stars, and the recurring sound of her bad cough. My grandma sought out to dance among the stars and it suited her. For her eulogy, I said a few words about their shiny dance and her coughing poetry with acoustic feedback as only musical support. It was cheap, but everyone shed a tear; sadness tends to transform weak verses into touching art. For years, her last words haunted me, as if the perfect eulogy were lying in the day after. With each night that separated me from her funeral, it was growing a day older, always in advance. I could picture it, in the form of a young woman full of wit, smiling sardonically at me, knowing I would never capture her. I never came close enough to seize the rhymes that would flawlessly capture her spirit. Her eulogy resisted me, and its absence reminded me of the silence spell she whispered before leaving, as if she put in it the secret recipe to catch the perfect tribute. Every now and then, I still try to translate the poetry that she left in my hands. Sometimes it’s cheap, and sometimes there is a taste of tomorrow between the lines.

The Flight of the Seagull (First Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Images: © by Fanny Cheseaux

Author: Fanny Cheseaux

The seagull was croaking contently in the port. It had just stolen a juicy tomato and ham sandwich from a little old lady near Grand Canal and was gulping it down quickly. Standing between the agitated sea and the glass buildings of the Docks, its beak was shining, and its stomach slowly expanding. In its satisfaction, it couldn’t see the pair of eyes that were watching it intently. Blue eyes filled with hunger and a vast darkness that would have scared animals and humans alike.  

The man was looking at it, crouched in his usual spot under an old alleyway that led to the shopping centre. Red marks like wires were barely hidden under his green sweatshirt that didn’t protect him any more against the vicious wet cold. The man was hungry, and it was lunchtime in the City. He could see the businessmen chatting on the phone while distractedly eating their 8 euros Moroccan-spiced chicken wraps. 

He was thinking about how nice it would be to roast the seagull; about how cavemen had discovered fire one day; about the roast lambs on a stake of his youth, and how his foster dad would make him swirl in the air while the smell of slow cooking meat filled them all with joy. 

But that was long ago – he hadn’t seen these people he had once called family for more than ten years now. The smell of meat cooking had been replaced with scents of sweat, tears and the piss of drunks on the cobblestone corners. 

A woman with a long black coat walked briskly in front of him, giving him the usual look of pity and embarrassment. People did not seem to understand that this look wouldn’t feed him. The coins in his little paper cup were looking at him sadly. November was always rough for Bob.

He thought about extending his tired hands and stealing the sandwich from the seagull, but it flew away before Bob could even move more than his shoulder. Brave animal. The seagull was already high in the sky, surveying the city. Far away, the Poolbeg chimneys indicated the direction of the coast.  

The seagull landed on the north bank of the river. On the dirty white fence, two of his congeners were already perched on their legs, looking as if they were discussing the news of the day: “Patrick, I read in the Times this morning that Dublin was the sixth most expensive capital in the world for renters.” “Captivating! Do tell me more, John.”

On the other side of the road stood an old building—the Bachelor’s Inn. Workers walked briskly in front of it. Students sometimes took a stroll along the bank and pictured themselves living there. They imagined the noises the wooden floor would make when they came home at 3 a.m. after drinking obscure pints downstairs. 

Odhran, carrying all their hundred-euro books in a worn-out leather bag, passed the birds on the fence daily. Weird group of gulls, they would think. Whenever they saw the Inn on the way to the university, they would hope they could stay. How easy it would be, how comfortable. They could inhale the smell of decaying wood, which would replace the one of the cold cleanliness of their house. They could escape the sounds of broken minds, broken promises, and broken plates.

Odhran had tried everything: “Mom, Dad, please, I’m trying to study!” 

They would say, with apologies on their face:

—Odhran, I’m sorry it always goes like this. Your dad makes it impossible for me. 

—You know your mom is mental Odhran, right? It’s not my fault. Even her brothers say so.

—He screams at me for the most impossible things, why can’t he get a real job? I have to do everything here, while he goes out and wanders around the Wicklow mountains with his little mates. 

—Don’t listen to her, kiddo. Just promise me you’ll never turn out like her. 

—I know it’s hard for you, sweetheart, but please don’t leave me alone with him. What would I do? 

So, every day at university, during the classes where teachers spoke too low, Odhran would hunt on their computer. Their eyes were glued to the screen, browsing renters’ websites and Facebook groups, such as “Dublin cheap rooms” or the university accommodation section. They would spend hours classifying and saving ads. 

They played this game for hours with friends, criticizing the flaws of the apartments and rooms they found: I could never live there; there’s not enough natural light. This blue tiling is so tacky. Having a flatmate? Could never be me. Only three bathrooms in this flat? It made them laugh while they sipped their overpriced coffee. It made them forget the sad truth: they could never afford it anyway.

So Odhran would look once more, sadly, at the curious and mean seagulls and go on their two-hour commute – two buses and the DART – to go down to the kitchen, where dinner was served, and no one looked at each other in the eyes. 

The girl was there, as usual, on the corner of Grafton Street. Lily. She was an easy target – the seagull prided itself on knowing how to recognize kind people from unkind people. It always came back to the kind ones. She was wrapped in her half-eaten velvet blanket, the face of a little dog poking from it. In her cup, some coins, a few 2 euros, some 5 cents. She had an old piece of bread in her bag.

She always liked the presence of the seagull. She was looking at its little round belly with its perfect white feathers, all tidied up in order – oh so clean and soft-looking – and she would wonder; how would it feel to catch it? To squeeze the little belly? To grab it by one of its dirty yellow legs, to bring it inside her blanket and hug it while it would shriek, trapped? So, every day, she gave it a little bit of her food of the day – and she didn’t always have a lot – and every day, it got a little bit closer to her. It was a job for the long haul.

But today wouldn’t be the day – not yet. She threw the piece of stale bread at it and watched it eat it voraciously. Charming, she thought. When it flew away, she returned to thinking about her plans for the night. She would go back to the shelter, and the walk was tiresome. How long could she afford to stay out before getting too cold? 

Lily needed to find a public bathroom before walking back – or go to a restaurant, but the staff would usually shoot her dirty looks when she came in with her sleeping bag, her dog, and the blanket. But she had to find something to use for the first day of her period. Usually, it was toilet paper from the public bathroom that she would roll over and over again.  

Once, she had found free period products when she infiltrated a fancy restaurant’s bathroom. Did all those women dressed in flowy flower dresses with their marine suit-wearing partners need free tampons and pads? Lily had taken all she could fit in her pocket, but the operation was risky. She had had to leave all her belongings and Barjo on the corner of the street. Everyone could have taken the little dog – but she was tired of bleeding through the toilet paper that was falling apart. The products had lasted her two cycles. 

The cold was starting to pierce through the blanket and Barjo was wincing in pain. On the other side of the street, Lily saw Martha with her big colourful skirts. They waved at each other, in familiarity. She wondered how much the old lady had gotten today, in her usual spot by the Trinity bus stop.

The sun had set entirely behind the brick buildings, and the seagull was far away from the park, its nasty eyes looking for a place to rest. It was never cold, this seagull, it had many homes in the quiet town and it could land on any roofs to make a comfortable nest. Sometimes, it flew away to Bull’s Island beach to join its colony. Gliding through the night, it felt the eyes of all the shivery souls on the streets of Dublin following its flight through the polluted dark sky. 

Tomorrow, it hoped to steal a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich.