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The Rue Morgue Murders and two more short fictions.


The Rue Morgue murders

HOLMES HAD A number of scientific journals spread out around him, and several travel books about Borneo. There was a gleam in his eye which suggested he had made a startling discovery. ‘You’ll remember, Watson, that Dupin concluded that the murders in the Rue Morgue were perpetrated by an escaped orang-utan belonging to a sailor lately arrived from Indonesia. Dupin was, I’m afraid, in spite of his undoubted analytical abilities, ill-informed about the behaviour of primates. The orang-utan is, by all accounts, an extremely gentle beast, and roused to displays of aggression only when physically threatened. There are no known cases of the creatures attacking humans. So it is hard to believe that an orang-utan entering the room of the two women would have felt sufficiently endangered that it was motivated to kill them, let alone stuff one of them up the chimney. There’s only one species capable of this type of senseless violence, and that is Homo sapiens. The murders in my view must have been the work of the sailor, a man of psychopathic tendencies I suspect, and a skilful dissembler, who was capable of taking in Dupin and as a result escaped justice. One can only guess what further atrocities the man went on to commit.’

Other lives (II)

AFTER PARKING THE Land Cruiser, Nene took the stairs from the underground car park to the office. He’d just returned to Nairobi from up country, a four-hour drive. The stairwell looked unfamiliar, and at first he thought it must have been redecorated, but as he climbed he realised he was in a building he did not recognise. He could hear voices coming from above and he climbed higher. It sounded like a party. On the second-floor landing he pushed open a door and stepped into a large ballroom full of white people in expensive clothes, drinking and talking. Along one side of the room was a table laden with food, and at the far end a large banner said: ‘2020 Artfest: Other Worlds, Other Lives’. A woman in a blue cocktail dress detached herself from the crowd of guests and came over to him. ‘You must be one of the performers,’ she said. ‘Let’s find you something to eat.’

The wedding

DAN AND JULIA had decided to get married in a large bouncy castle. They thought it would be fun to have the family members wobbling about while a humanist celebrant conducted the ceremony. Guests would be asked to wear appropriate costumes, like characters out of a fairy tale. Julia thought Dan had said ‘humourist’ celebrant when he first suggested the idea, and she’d been a little upset that he wasn’t taking this seriously enough. But the confusion was soon cleared up, and they started making an invitation list. Thirty-two people came, including half a dozen children under the age of ten. One of the highlights was Julia’s mother falling over in the middle of the exchange of vows. Dan laughed at this scene a great deal whenever they watched the video.

Simon Collings lives in Oxford and has published poems, stories and critical essays in a range of journals including StrideJournal of Poetics ResearchCafé Irreal, Tears in the FenceInk Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse and PN ReviewOut West, his first chapbook, was published by Albion Beatnik in 2017, and a second chapbook, Stella Unframed, was released by The Red Ceilings Press in 2018. Why Are You Here? Very Short Fictions was published by Odd Volumes, our imprint, in 2020. The three stories here are excerpts from the book. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. An archive of his work is here.

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