In Memoriam

In Memoriam

All that is left are memories.

Like that time on the shingle beach at Aldeburgh. The ocean grey as slate, crests ruffled like white frosting. The thump of waves and rasp of small stones and, everywhere, the seashell roar like an endless breath. No horizon where the sky meets the sea, only the blur of cloud banks gathering. A tang in the air, of salt and electric tension, of the storm that will hit that afternoon.

We are at the beach, John and I, but it is cold; British summertime and I am wrapped in a woollen overcoat, shivering. I have my chin on my knees and hug them to keep warm. One hand is beside me, caressing the uneven ground. Part of this memory is in my fingertips, the sensation of touching the pebbles, of their roundness, their smoothness, of a kind of perfection that exists only in the feel of things.

John is behind me, pitching stones into the ocean. I cannot see him, but hear with each throw the rumple of his jacket, the distant plop, the scrabbling at his feet for another perfect skimmer. Everything about this irritates me. I do not remember why I am angry, only the crackle of it in my belly and spine.

Later, the storm will break. We will run, drenched, through the dark streets to the bed and breakfast, up to John’s room and the smell of pot pourri and the fish and chips we sneak inside. We will eat on the bed, right out of the newspaper, drink Adnams from the can. Our daughter is conceived to the sound of water hammering against the windowpane, sluicing down the narrow laneway.

This is the first memory I give to Dymphna. The first Dymphna, that is. Dymphna 1.0

Read more in Issue 131 of Aurealis Magazine. Illustration by Nick Stath.

The Face God Gave

The Face God Gave

They were somewhere between LAX and Sydney, way out over the Pacific Ocean, when the plane hit rough air. The boys were both asleep, finally, and Karen lay in a waking doze, drained of all energy yet too wired to submit to sleep.

It was a relief to see them unconscious. They’d been awake so long, passed through so many time zones, that both boys had lost it completely. They had become so feral that even the endless loop of movies and TV no longer subdued them. But now Dylan was curled beside her with his head in her lap, snuggled under the airline blanket, one small, sock-less foot poking out from beneath. Torin lay rigid as a plank, mouth wide, with his head against the window-blind. The arm of Karen’s seat was up and dug painfully into her shoulder with the sudden dip and shudder of the plane.

Karen had never before confessed this to herself, but she was terrified of flying. For the sake of the boys, she had pressed down her true feelings, wore a brave expression she hoped concealed how tightly she gripped the armrest as the plane peeled from the runway, how her belly churned each time, as now, they hit a bad patch of turbulence…

Read more in the anthology Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, edited by Sarah Read. Illustrations by Carrion House.

The Moth Tapes

The Moth Tapes

So here we are, little one. Our new home sweet home.

Not that I’ve fixed up your bedroom yet, but there’s still time. And it’ll be lovely, Noodle, I promise. We’ll go down to the shop tomorrow and look at colours. I’ll paint you a mural, get one of those things that dangles over your bed. When you look out your window, you’ll see the garden and the trees and the mountain behind. When you’re big you can walk out the back gate and spend all day up there, among the shinglebacks and roos and galahs. I’ll blow a whistle when dinner’s ready and you’ll come running back.

I found something out there today, out near the back gate where the veggie patch will go. It was poking out of the dirt and at first I thought it was a loose cable or something. When I looked closer though it wasn’t anything like that.

It took a bit of wiggling to get out of the ground, but I’m glad I made the effort because it’s just so unusual. I’ll put it somewhere safe for when you’re older; you can keep it in a box with all your other treasures. A sort of hollow leather cigar, all plump and shiny and rippled, the end’s torn like something burst out from inside, and I guess that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps it’s some kind of cocoon. But of what, though?
I have no idea…

The Moth Tapes was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story in 2019.

Read more in Aurealis Magazine issue 117.

Or listen to the full story on the Tales To Terrify podcast, read by Josie Babin: