Red Pill by Katy Naylor

Flash Fiction

They say nothing is truly innocent. The clearest raindrop holds the promise of the flood. The rot sits heavy, foreshadowed in the seed.

It blossoms without my even trying. The pain drips and blots behind me with each footstep, leaving great inky puddles in my wake. You’d think it would be a warning but it’s not. It draws you to me: a shark sensing blood in the water.

As soon as you walked in, I could feel the tension. The air crackled with it. The almost-touch across the bar, the words calculated to sting just right. It makes me catch my breath just to remember.

Your eyes were bright with truth, and with a kind of anger. You told me that you’d seen. You weren’t going to fall for the world’s bullshit anymore. And I, I was different. I was too smart to be taken in.

You might have been sharp, but you were shining. The grain of grit that might just make something precious, break the dull row of empty days lined up along the counter. A pearl is just an oyster trying not to choke.

We walked together through the bombed out city. The traffic, the trees, the lonely office worker backlit in the high tower at midnight: all these things were hollow. Peel back the layers, you said, and it would all seem so different. I just had to listen, just had to see. You suffused the world with your light, and my eyes were open.

I don’t remember when it started to wear thin. Maybe when I tired of that fire spilling out into bruises on my wrists and the inside of my thighs. Or maybe when I found a handful of your glittering words in print, written, as it turns out, by someone else.

All I know is that one day I looked at you and saw only grey, where blue light had once sparked and fizzed. But still I couldn’t make the break – I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror without your shadow to sharpen it.

We stagger our pleasures through the hours, now. Broken china at teatime and glass in our dinner. Indulge ourselves too much and it’ll all come tumbling down. We’re experts at drawing out the pain, pulling it taught until it sings.

Of course, you blame me. The femme fatale: I made you who you are. As if it’s the sweat that makes the flies and the meat that makes the maggots. All I had to do was sit here and wait for you to come.

You were only too eager to lift the veil, reach out a hand and push your fingers into the warm dark underneath.

Katy Naylor lives by the sea, in a little town on the south coast of England. She is EIC of interactive arts mag voidspace zine, and has work published in places including Expat Lit, Outcast Press and The Bear Creek Gazette. Her debut chapbook, Postcards from Ragnarok, is out now.