Wallace swigged at the bottle and then spat and cursed its emptiness. You could see three counties from this ridge on a good day but this wasn’t ever going to be a good day and a haze of droplets hung rain-bowed in the air, cocking a snook at the sunrise. His leather had come away from the upper and the sole flapped peep-toe over the drop as he sat on a boulder contemplating the edge.
“What are you doing here?”
It was the rage in his father’s voice he remembered down the years and he heard his own breathless reply, then saw the panic in his sister’s tear-stained face as she lay in the hay loft. Her eyes begged him. Begged him to do what? Tell? Not tell? Tell?
Later the leather belt raised welts on his skin and his mother’s words burned into his mind.
He’d never felt the need to tell the truth again and to make sure he didn’t have to, he’d never spoken of this to his sister or tested out the truth of how he’d got into that loft. To this day he kept it to himself; never told another living soul — not even his wife.
This damned fog had to burn off sometime and then he’d face the truth. His life wasn’t worth shit. He’d never done anything of any note; communicated nothing, truth or lie. He’d just kept right on following the rules.
His mother was long gone, his sister a stranger, his wife was dead. What good are rules when this is what happens to an honest man? So he left his job, his house, hit the booze and everybody called him a bum, a common vagrant. So what? Maybe nobody would miss him and maybe they would. He still had a secret.
A sudden shaft of sunlight broke through from the eastern side of the peaks and Wallace saw striations of mist, purple, blue-grey, wispy, laid out in the valley, just like safety nets. Maybe he’d dreamt it. Maybe he was dreaming still. The old roundelay played in his head.
Row, row, row, your boat…
Just a few hours ago he’d heard the old refrain that haunted him, “What are you doing here?” His father’s voice. “Did you drive all the way?”
Wallace had looked at the frail man in the bed. This nursing home was far too good for the likes of that. Without a word he took the pillow from under the old man’s head and…
“What are you doing?” His father’s voice, weak and crackly now — confused.
Wallace looked straight into the pleading eyes and pressed the pillow down. The old man was stronger than he looked.
“No, I flew,” said Wallace.
He dropped the pillow on the floor, pocketed some change, strode out of the room and didn’t look back. He took a car, bought the bottle at a store along the way and was sat here now on the edge of nothing, waiting for something — for the moment, for the courage, for the cowardice to act.
The sun rose higher and the green fields were picked out below like jewels. A river snaked and sparkled its way through miniature woods. A bird called from behind him — a hawk, swooping down from the craggy sides, threw itself onto the air. He saw it hover below; a shimmering virtuoso of the currents.
Wallace stood atop his boulder. In an instant of childlike clarity he launched himself from the edge. His momentum grew, then slowed as the layers of mist upheld him. He circled in eddies like a ballet about a leaf.
“Do you hear me, Dad?” he shouted. “Do you hear me you sick old bastard? I FLEW!”
Oonah V Joslin is Managing Editor at Every Day Poets. Credits include 3 Micro Horror prizes, an honorable mention in The binnacles Shorts Poetry comp 2009, Inclusion in several anthologies, A Man of Few Words, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and 2009 and Toe Tags. Read her at Static Movement, The Shine Journal, A View From Here, The Ranfurly Review 10FLASH Quarterly and many other places. Other work including her Novella, A Genie in a Jam, can be found at Bewildering Stories. The list is updated in The Vaults at Parallel Oonahverse and on her Facebook. Oonah’s ambition is to have a book published.