Authors: Nicola McDonagh
and other stories
The stories contained in this collection are works of fiction. Names, characters, places and events portrayed are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any character resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely co-incidental.
Copyright © 2013 Nicola McDonagh
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without written permission from the author.
Cover design by Daphne deMuir
Original photograph by Nicola McDonagh
All rights reserved.
What people are saying about Glimmer and other stories:
“Glimmer and other stories is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories....they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever.”
Review by Lesley Hayes
“I loved these short stories. Thought provoking, clever. Her writing is filled with suspense, creepy and fast moving. Believe me, you won't skip a page for fear of missing something vital - and it's not what she says, it's what she doesn't say, that's brilliant. Not once was I bored. I wanted more. As a writer myself, I looked for mistakes - there weren't any. This lady blew me away.”
Review by P.A. Lewis-Brown
“…These snapshots of writing are lovely from start to finish. There is something in here for everyone. The only thing I would like to add is that the author should definitely write more short stories. There are some types of talent that are natural and others which are learned. Her use of language in this work is a testament that she is in fact a natural in the writing world.”
Review by No Labels
“Ms. McDonagh has created a world that is like an out-of-body experience almost. The stories took me out of my confined world and took me into science fiction, a little horror, drama, and wonder.”
Review by Oscar William Case
To Martin for his help and support with the making of this book.
Much love to him as always.
Other books by Nicola McDonagh
The Song of Forgetfulness
The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour. A stillness that demands quiet.
This is what I need if I am to receive their call.
Though my eyes are closed and my breath is short and shallow, I see and hear everything. Sometimes it’s too much and I have to take a break and let my mind wander down a quieter path. But I get lost and end up back in the place of noise and trouble. They must sift through all this debris and find me out.
Before I stick to the sheets.
Things used to be different. I’d get messages roughly once a month. When I was younger. Seemed to coincide with the full moon, or a new one. I forget which. Anyway, all I’m saying is that I didn’t have to do anything special. They just came. I expect it was because my mind was less cluttered.
I remember how I was.
A fervent articulate being. Full of fear. Full of rage. Full of crap, really. I used to stop total strangers and tell them the things I heard. I would sit next to the oldies on the bus and explain the mysteries of life, death, and world religion. As told to me by the thrumming of the universe. I wouldn’t let them get off until I’d finished. Then one day the police got on and took me down to the station. They wanted to charge me with unruly behaviour and disrupting the peace, but it wouldn’t hold up in court. All I got was a really good telling off.
Well, I was only twelve.
So I stopped for a while and concentrated on winning chess tournaments. May as well have written ‘Nerd’ on my forehead. Of course, I was bullied. I gave as good as I got, though. With a little help from my friends in space. No, not aliens. Gamma rays from Venus that went straight into my brain. They gave me a superhuman power in the form of a near fatal sneer. All I had to do was to give someone my Medusa look and - Bang! They backed away, scared as anything. By the time I left school I was practically a freak.
My parents were worried about me.
I say ‘parents’ but they weren’t my real ones. I’m adopted, naturally. I was found in a plastic bag inside a dustbin. Dried blood and faeces stuck to my newborn flesh. Dumped by some teenage girl, too scared to say that she had given birth to a premature baby. Or so the story goes. It’s a pack of lies of course. I fell from the sky. A shooting star that transmogrified when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere. The parents looked at me in a sad way when I told them this and took me to see one of many doctors, who gave me stuff to stop the voices I heard.
The facts they said weren’t true.
The tablets worked and everyone was happy, except for me. I missed them. Their words gave me a purpose. I enjoyed listening to the things they said, no matter how absurd they seemed. So I stopped taking the pills and started writing. Home-made leaflets that I would distribute in the street. When that didn’t work, I used the wonders of the Internet. I got over two thousands hits on the first day. After a week they shut me down and I spent a month in some white painted room drugged up to the eyeballs. Propped up in a chair next to some other poor dribbling sod.
I resisted their rehabilitation.
I did not want their hands upon me. Their stink was vile. It smelled of insincerity and smugness all rolled into one. A truly unpleasant odour that left a nasty taste in my mouth. I vomited each time they touched me. Which made it worse, since more of them came along and stripped and hosed me down. I liked the water, though. It washed away the stench. It cleansed and stung at the same time. I tingled all over and that felt good. If only they could have left me to dry in my own time. I wasn’t going to catch my death of cold, or come down with something nasty.
I just wanted to be left alone to let the noise filter in.
When I was by myself, information came to me in dribs and drabs, like coded data. It was hard to decipher on occasions, so in order to understand I had to become at one with the atoms. You know, the nuclei of matter. Not easy I can tell you. It helped when I removed all of my clothing. That really pissed off the doctors and nurses.
Not as much as when I wrote that other essay.
Oh, I wasn’t stupid enough to put pen to paper. No, I was subtler, more creative in getting my message across. I didn’t wait for them to get in touch. This time, I just let my writing flow. From my fingers, from my toes, from my urine on occasions. They washed it all away. Even the stuff I smeared on the walls and that was really good shit, too. They put a nappy on me after that. And once or twice strapped my arms down at night.
That was when I decided to play them at their own game.
It didn’t take much. I just gave them the answers they wanted to hear. Promised faithfully to take my medication and to stop writing about the truth. Or, ‘Those scare-mongering articles about the end of the world’ as they put it.
‘Whatever,’ I said and took a vow of silence. When I got back to my room, I flushed all the pills away.
That was the best day of my life.
Went sort of downhill after that.
They’d managed to mess with my head and the damage was done. I could no longer hear my friends speak to me. I became prone to periods of gloom and frustration. It was only a matter of time before I got hurt. Not my fault. Totally an accident, I swear. I was only trying to get closer. To reach out to the light, to the gentle noise that promised so much. I thought I could get back home. To the place I descended from, not the dustbin. I didn’t do it again.
The room I am in now is too bright. The walls are painted a sickly green they say is soothing. It is not. I tried to tell them. I also tried to tell them that I shouldn’t live amongst humans anymore.
I overheard them say that I wasn’t one.
They keep me still by attaching various tubes into my veins and down my throat. Probably up my arse as well. They talk to me, but the young one, the one about my own age with the golden ring in her nose; stays silent. She sits with me and holds my hand. One day she turned my bed to face the window and opened the blinds. I felt the sun on my cheeks and heard its heat melt away her frown. She hummed a tune that made me think of the sea.
I shed a tear and she smiled.
Sometimes I want to tell her the truth. When I feel her skin on mine, but then I realise it would do no good. What will be will be. I am merely the messenger. A shame they will not listen. Or perhaps they do but pretend not to understand. Yes, that’s it. They are afraid of me so make out that I am an incomprehensible, babbling brain dead imbecile. I’ll show them.
I don’t even blink anymore.
I have shut down all communications. I do not want to hear their boring chatter. Their noise just gets in the way. I need my hearing to be tuned into the faint pulses of the ancient stars. I must wait for a message. A secret they are going to tell me. I tried to touch them once, but I fell from an open window onto the bonnet of a car.
At last, they have switched off the light.
Now I can come into my own.
Now I can see the stars, cock my ear to the blue-black sky, and take in a breath of infinity.
The Reclaimed Merman
The surf swirled around the man’s legs. He looked down and watched the hem of his trousers turn a darker shade of beige as the water seeped into the fabric. Foam hit his head and spread across his face like spittle. He wiped it off, looked up at the sky and fell back spread-eagled into the water.
Pulled by the ebb and flow, he allowed the sea to play with his limp body and toss it this way and that. His limbs became heavy and he felt gravity tug at his arms and legs. Ready to sink down into the dark quiet of the ocean floor, and resigned to his fate, the man opened his mouth to let the water in. But the sea became turbulent, as though angry at his acquiescence. Before he could inhale the salt and wet, a wave higher than a church hurled his sodden body onto the beach.
He lay face down and coughed up grit and bile. His eyelids, ears, and lips were encrusted in sand. He did not have the energy to wipe it off. Instead, he slowly rolled onto his back and sighed.
‘My, what a piece of flotsam we have here.’
The man squinted into the sunlight and saw a woman stand over him. She wore a yellow towel around her head, turban style, and a long cotton dress tied loosely at the waist. The wind caught at her flimsy clothes causing the fabric to billow out around her thickset body like the wings of a seagull trying to take off.
‘There now,’ she said, unwrapped the headdress and held it out. He took it and rubbed his hair. When he had finished, she reached out and snatched the towel from him. The woman paused for a moment, looked over her shoulder, then dug a hole with the heel of her shoe, and threw it in.
‘I’m guessing that you don’t want anyone to know where you've been?’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘May I ask why?’
‘I’d prefer it if you didn’t.’
He lowered his head, saw that she hadn’t done a very good job of hiding the towel, and began to scoop sand over it.
‘Don’t worry about that. The sea will take it and none will be the wiser.’
The man bit his lip to stop it trembling. He tried to pull away from her intent stare, but couldn’t. It was as if her eyes could see beyond his flesh, beyond his expressionless face, and into his deepest, darkest thoughts. He snorted in a waft sulphur and jerked his head away from her gaze.