Short Fiction ~ June Hunter
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 10
Manno watched his wife and young son, wrapped up in each other as they slept, and held the imprint of their peaceful closeness in his mind as he crept down the stairs. His footsteps made no noise, and the front door was quiet as it clicked behind him.
Outside the night was clear, the wind a soft rustle in the trees and a hush along the grass. He left behind the silent coffee shop, the empty grocery store, the sleeping cottages and bungalows.
Later there would be grey, smudged CCTV footage of him as he crossed the forecourt of the service station at 3:20 am. His dark curly fringe emerging from beneath his hoody. His white face stark in the greyness.
As he made his way out of the town his strides were longer and deliberate, and Manno felt an easiness from the back and forth tipping weights, and loudness of his thoughts. An energy after the exhaustion of his never ending despair.
He noticed no one on the road - no person, no car, no animal in the fields. Only shapes of gorse bushes looming on either side, and above him a basin of stars. He could smell the countryside and hear the sea in the close distance, but he perceived all of this as if he was sensing it through a straw.
Later an insomniac runner would recall a man in a hoody, and how his eyes seemed empty and bulging. The runner didn’t think the man had been aware of his passing presence.
Manno took the gravel path off the main road down to the beach, the loose stones crunching beneath his feet. He could hear the pure sound of water trickling down the hillside as it made its way to the sea, and the sigh and whisper of the waves as they rolled onto the sand and faded away again.
He didn’t remove his shoes as he stood at the water’s edge and gazed across the bay. In the distance he could see the flickering lights of the town he had just left and remembered the image of his wife and child, curled into each other as they slept; his wife’s face peaceful as the morning, as she wandered through her dreams.
Later she would tell a reporter that his absence was uncharacteristic, even though he had been dealing with some issues.
Manno couldn’t tell whether the tide was coming in or going out as he walked into the sea, his eyes focussed on the darkness ahead. Nor whether the water was cold or warm as it rose up his body. When it covered his head he turned to float on his back and was calm as he stared at the sky full of stars.
He didn’t struggle when the waves covered his face and all he heard was silence. His only anxiety was that which crushed him for what he could have been. Even as he felt a burning in his chest when he inhaled water into his lungs, he didn’t fight. His vision blurred and faded out. As his body shut itself off, he felt only euphoria.
Later his wife wondered how it was that you could love someone to the moon and back, and it still wasn’t enough to make them stay.
June Hunter lives and writes in Sneem, County Kerry, Ireland. Her work has been featured in Second Chance, Mash, Flash Fiction Magazine, Reflex Fiction, Potato Soup Journal and The Blue Nib. She participates in two writer's groups – Clann na Farraige, Kenmare; and Sneem Writer’s Group.