The Queen’s Head is a Glasgow-based zine that publishes brilliantly odd and interesting writing. This month they ran a flash fiction competition seeking pieces inspired by illustrator Marh. Here is my winning entry.
There has always, since I can remember, been a black hole in the centre of our bedroom floor.
We do not talk about it. Maybe we did, once, but it was before I can remember. We step around it, she and I, and we do not acknowledge its existence except by the curved trajectory of footprints in the carpet between bed and door. Sometimes, at night, draped in the heaviness of sleep or the lightness of drink, a foot falters and there is a stumble, a teeter, a yawning threat of impending doom. But we always catch ourselves, regain balance, find ourselves back on the old nimble path and back to the warmth of another breathing body. Sometimes the breathing, then, is a little shallower than usual, the chest a little tighter, but we smother it with mouths and hands until it settles back into familiar rhythms.
We do not know how deep it goes. I’ve contemplated dropping something, a stone or a book, but I am afraid I might never hear the thud.
Sometimes it emits faint odours, this black hole, or distant gurgles. Faint enough to provoke a sniff of the air and a wrinkling of the nose and a passing worry that the smell might be some bodily fluid of my own secretion; distant enough that it can be put down to settling pipes. Nevertheless, at these times, we avoid meeting eyes.
I worry, of course, that someday one of us will have an accident. Doesn’t everyone? The tap at the door and the sharp jolt of loss, fodder for a million sad stories. But I worry less about the fall than the other thing. The thing that could, someday, make its way up to the surface and come crawling out.
Read the other winners and runners-up here.