By VIK SHIRLEY.
The Candy Floss
PINK CANDYFLOSS BEGAN forming like mould around the kitchen. I’d wipe it away, treating myself to a mouthful here and there, as it seemed a shame to waste it, but it would only reform again. It was so pointless to try clearing it, I decided to start a stall out front. I’d been out of work a while now, so it was a godsend, really. The candyfloss was of an exceptionally high quality, and there was plenty of it, so it wasn’t long before wholesalers and distributors got in contact and I had several propositions on the table. I hired an agent, as I was feeling a little out of my depth, and tried to avoid speaking to reporters in too much detail, while I was still working it all out. A few months in, life was pretty good, things were up and running and my produce was gaining quite the reputation. Then one morning I woke up and the candyfloss had vanished. For a couple of days I tried to ride it out, kept taking meetings and processing purchase ledger invoices, until it became clear to my clients that I was unable to fulfil a single order. I went back to my previous life the best I could, but if I saw the colour pink I would burst into tears. I had to invent a pair of glasses which eliminated pink from my vision, and it was this very invention that finally brought me the success for which I’d always yearned.
The Swimming Pool
SANDRA HAD BEEN dreaming of this pool ever since she walked out on her husband and daughter, specifically to model herself on Juliette Binoche’s character, Julie, in Three Colours Blue. Julie loses her husband and daughter in a fatal car accident — Sandra thought walking out on her family, rather than recreating the accident, was kinder. Now she would swim like Julie every morning, and wait for her dead/ex husband’s music to startle her profoundly, as she got in and out of the pool. Unfortunately, as her ex wrote copyright-free music for line-dancing classes, when it came, the effect wasn’t as dramatic as Julie’s husband’s classical compositions. So not all aspects of the plan were coming together as she’d hoped. However, she was able to take a loft apartment in Paris like Julie’s, as she had started blackmailing an old school teacher, Mr XXX, for a minor indiscretion. He was from old money, and had a chequered past that he was beginning to get quite edgy about, in the current climate, so things were certainly working out well in that respect.
The Toll Booth
CARS ARE ROCKED by ghouls. Kids in vehicles get possessed. Sometimes cars of entire families disappear. Lightning strikes the booth continually, which means the electronic equipment is unreliable. This can be distracting for the poor sod cashing up at the end of the day, who’s already sure to be out-of-sorts, being terrorised by ghosts walking through the walls of the booth and so forth. Then there’s the stress of demons and the undead taking passive aggressive to a whole new level and the issue of packed lunches turning to black dust on entry. No food can be eaten throughout the day, it’s a nightmare. The staff have taken to stopping at McDonalds on the way to work to stock up on calories, but cholesterol levels are getting worrying. Two toll assistants lost to heart attacks this year already! Well, I say lost, they’re now based at the booth more so than before, but in a different form. Me? I’m more of a foreman here, really, overseeing the project. This has been my land since 1582.
The French Kissers
THE FRENCH KISSERS worked their way around the house party. First the sofa, then the kitchen, then outside the toilet. Party goers were getting tired of this and had a word with the host and got them chucked out. They never stopped throughout the whole process and were out on the drive French kissing for the rest of the party. When people left, some stragglers thought it would be funny to chuck them in the back of Brad’s pick-up truck and dump them somewhere, maybe in the town fountain. Such is the way with these things, it all got out of hand and they ended up dropping them into the quarry. Regretting it the next morning, sober, they went back to get them out. When they arrived, the couple were still French kissing, but, it was too late, they had turned to stone.
IN HIS YOUNGER days, he’ d studied prehistoric man and cave art and rock formations and had written a book on insects that live underground. He’d gone potholing, given tours of underwater caverns and talks on darkness. He was very well versed in darkness. He’d written a collection of poems based on the underworld, was a specialist on the Greek myths and Orpheus and Eurydice and had given a paper on the echo at the Leeds International Echo Conference 2017, which was very well received, and had written his second book of poems, all varying responses to Christina Rossetti’s ‘Echo’, off the back of that. In more recent times, he’d stopped writing and had given up his clothes and possessions, everything other than an authentic animal-skin smock he’d bought at a Prehistoric Man convention in Stroud, back in 1995, and a couple of Neolithic bones. He now spent most of his time drawing on the walls of his London flat, hunting foxes by night, cooking them over small managed fires in his living room, devouring them keenly, without the aid of utensils. He knew his ways were unconventional, sure, but he wouldn’t have minded an invite to the occasional party.
IT HAD ONCE belonged to someone of great importance, the owner of the hotel said, no-one whose name Jackie and Danny recognised. They found this impressive though, and quite splendid how it was mounted on the wall. Although, they didn’t like the way it actively morphed, thus suggesting it was still alive. This was their honeymoon, after all, and it didn’t feel terribly romantic or sexy. They were discussing whether to ask the manager to remove it, or at least move them to a different room, when the brain started crying, begging them to stay, and for them to stay, too. The brain was quite charming in its misery and desperation, so after a lovely evening, just the three of them, Jackie and Danny decided to take it home, possibly with a view to adopt, if the manager agreed, that is. Not as innocent as it sounds though. Jackie and Danny had a highly competitive nature when it came to pub quizzes, and there was a year’s worth of Toby Carvery vouchers up for grabs at the upcoming quiz on Monday.
The Best Friend
WHEN I MET her, I knew my problems were over. No longer would I be hitting the dive bars solo on Mondays, playing kazoo to patrons for attention; consuming several roast chickens alone by moonlight on Tuesdays (lunar phase and weather depending); crying myself to slumber on a Wednesday, after watching the entire Prisoner Cell Block H box set again, alone in my custom-made blue uniform; chewing batteries for kicks on Thursdays; organising my extensive walk-in muumuu, slacks, bumbag, chaps and wax jacket wardrobe on Fridays, and spending whatever weekends I could afford at Butlins Minehead, collecting the autographs of all the hosts and compères that didn’t have restraining orders on me yet. In the past, at home, sometimes I had dined with a blow-up doll at the table in my window, laughing and throwing back my hair, making sure that no-one would know how lonely I was. But now, having a buddy, well, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I keep driving by her house at night, watching and waiting for her to realise that I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to her, too.
Vik Shirley’s chapbook, Corpses, was published by Sublunary Editions in March 2020. Her collection, The Continued Closure of the Blue Door, is forthcoming from HVTN press and a pamphlet of her visual poetry is due later this year from Hesterglock Press. Her work has appeared in such places as Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Stride, Perverse, Litter and 3am Magazine. She is currently studying for a PhD in ‘Dark Humour and the Surreal in Poetry’ in Poetry at the University of Birmingham.