A cruel doctor… An heiress to a fortune begot by pain… An untimely death… Read my latest short story for The Saturday Evening Post, “Daughter Pain,” right here.
Enjoy my work? Why not show your support by buying me a coffee?
The children don’t understand. What they live and scream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It it almost unimaginable, the care.
My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet, and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.
We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted, and nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep. Mr. Cormack charges not too much rent. It is difficult to afford anything, at present.
Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. But also, generous. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.
He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned … there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.
One evening, after the sweeping-up…
I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There had been rumours of a black suit.
I moved forward, though slowly.
He was admiring a painting, this man.
I felt weak, but proceeded.
I was a few feet from him, now.
And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.
I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.
I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.
In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day, to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.
My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, and work and live in this factory…
I do not even want to dream of that.
Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave.
Buy him a coffee.
My latest short story for Transition magazine. Though written years ago, and just published, the subject matter (the emotional fallout of a school shooting) is all too timely. Read “Marcellus” here.
I have a short story in the latest issue of Carte Blanche. Read it here.
I am a nightingale. I am fairly certain. I enjoy singing, and generally sing in the evening.
When I was still a fledgling, I lived in the city. The machines, and the people… I had to sing twice as loud, for anyone to hear. I am not sure they heard me, even then.
It is an improvement, the country. The air is better. The trees. I live in a tree behind Børglum Abbey. A crooked tree.
Monks are peculiar birds. Their song is melancholy. Brother Geestvaas walked over a cliff. Brother Godslee stopped eating. He shrunk down to the size of a child. The brothers carried him outside. They threw him in the sea. I do not think it revived him.
They are not like the city men, always moving, too busy to wonder whether they are in their hearts content or not. They are still, and sad. Like hurt birds.
Brother Heilig is a poet, of sorts. He will sit with his notebook all evening, listening to me, his pencil quivering. I give him my best songs. He writes them out; he signs his name beneath them. And he walks away.
I watch them all summer, the monks. When the nights grow cold, I fly south and west, with other nightingales. The journey is onerous. So many of my kind grow weary, and fall into the sea. It has happened to me, nearly. It is tempting, when one’s wings are aching, to stop moving them. If only for a moment.
The Warm Country is so hot, it is punishment. There is no joy there. I begin to long for the abbey, the cool nights, and the sad men.
If this is the life of a nightingale, I am not sure I enjoy it.
But there is always a chance…
I may not be a nightingale, after all.
I want nothing more than to smell these roses.
My family. I will never see them, again. My crew. Rescue … is improbable. If I’m recovered at all, it will be frozen. My visor furred with frost. Turning and turning.
The Earth is far away. The Sun. There are no stars here. We had reached the black region, at last. The Mysteries. The journey… It took all our lives.
It took all our lives.
The roses. They’re blackened, and fragile. The petals. They’re crumbling away. One by one. They’re floating away.
The roses. Holding them is something. Some comfort. It’s something. But smelling them. If I could do no more, and in them find a last breath of sweetness…
I want nothing more than this.