Short Fiction ~ Brindley Hallam Dennis
(Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 6)
I never got used to telling stories in type, which is odd, I suppose, that being how I write this journal. There’s something about voice, though; not a recording, I don’t mean, but a real-time, live, face-to-face voice.
You’ve got no pace with a keypad, no intonation, no variation of volume, none of what my old piano teacher used to call expression. I hate emojis. You’ve got no grip either, on your audience I mean. They’re too far away, disconnected by the communication technology.
I was telling Jimi, little Jimi, about the last time we got snowed in. That’s so long ago now; more than a decade. If I were telling you this face-to-face you wouldn’t notice how many semi-colons I’m using.
I typed, Jimi, I’d been down to the Post Office. Jimi knew what a Post Office was; from other stories. I typed, and I was walking back up the hill when I happened to glance to my right; that’s to the north. I was just passing a farm gate, set into the hedge, where you could see through across the fields to the far distant hills of Scotland. That would be maybe twenty miles of countryside all across the Solway lowlands between. It wasn’t like seeing from a drone perspective. It was seeing from your own eyes; from where you were standing.
You could see, beyond the field next to the road, the houses and the hedgerows and the little patches of woodland and roads with cars moving along them and even a railway line and a train if you were lucky and then beyond that to the hills rising again to a false horizon against the sky.
And I sent all that in one go, and waited for Jimi to message me back, in case there was a question, because a lot of that would be under water these days. Then I typed some more.
Jimi, I keyed, there was something odd about that horizon on that day. Instead of the usual shapes of the hilltops, which I knew like the back of my hand because I saw them every day, it looked as if somebody had built a great white wall all the way across from east to west and reaching up into the clouds.
I wrote, I couldn’t understand it and went across the road and leaned over the gate, as if that few yards would make a difference to what I could see. And it did, I typed, because then I realised I was looking at a snow storm. It was coming towards me in a big, long, solid line, eating up all the landscape as it came. It wasn’t a wall reaching up to the clouds. It was a curtain falling from them, and I could see all the fields and houses and woods vanishing beneath it as it came.
And I sent that, and was going to go on and finish the story with what happened next, but Jimi messaged back.
Gotta go Gramps. We just got our licence to get into one of the old fashioned face-to-face shops with display units and check-outs and real serving staff, instead of the normal ones. Isn’t that cool?
And I remember thinking, normal didn’t mean the same to Jimi as it did to me; and that cool sounded so out of date.
Brindley Hallam Dennis lives on the edge of England where he writes short stories. Writing as Mike Smith he has published poetry, plays and essays on the short story form. He blogs at www.Bhdandme.wordpress.com