Saturday 24 June 2023

'dreamland' by Chris Drew

The boy emerges from the darkness of the subway into a whiteout. Food truck guy whistles and hands the boy a slice. A drifter sits beside the truck. He holds a cardboard sheet over his face with the message We live as we dream in faded letters. The boy drops the slice in the drifter’s upturned cap. Under the peak of the cap is the word alone. A girl cuts an angel into the snow beneath the Empire State Building and bites into a peach. The boy lies beside the girl and snow covers them. Together, they wait for something extraordinary to happen. Like when Evelyn McHale jumped from the eighty-sixth floor observation deck and crushed a parked limousine. Afterwards, her white scarf soared dove-like through the grey sky. The girl turns to the boy and smiles, peach flesh sweet and bloody between her teeth. She opens her mouth and a snowflake melts into the wetness of her tongue. Vapor leaks from a candy-striped steam pipe and expands between them. When the steam dissolves, all that remains of the girl with the peach is a stone. Water drips from the boy’s hoodie onto the polished floor of Grand Central Station. Tourists crowd the balcony, photographing the four-faced brass clock in the cavernous main terminal. There is a picture of Evelyn McHale after her fall. Ankles crossed, pearls clutched in a white-gloved hand, the black limousine crumpled like a bedsheet around her. When they moved her body all of the pieces fell apart. The boy’s hood slips down and the cameras flash. He reaches into his pocket and the girl touches his hand. They grip the stone between them as the painted constellations sparkle in the domed ceiling overhead. The girl whispers: nothing can grow without first being buried.


First published in the Bath Flash Fiction Award Volume Four: with one eye on the cows (Ad Hoc Fiction), 2019.

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