One of this year’s festival events was a short story slam. Entrants were invited to submit a short story on the festival theme of “Light” of no more than 750 words in length. Shortlisted entries were read at the event, and the winner was chosen by the audience… and here it is!

The Eclipse
by Martin Wakefield

The office was as usual but she felt restless and decided to return home from the city early. It was the time of the evening when the lights from within the houses were beginning to outshine the daylight, before curtains had been pulled or blinds closed, as supper was being prepared and homework argued over. She heard the scrape of her heel on the step, and suddenly something very old, a sick black nostalgia, came into her mind and she froze with her hand holding out the key to her front door.

She turned and retreated to the back bar of The Eclipse, knowing that there she would be back in the interim, the liminal zone between work and home where she had to be neither boss nor staff nor wife nor mother. Her fellow drinkers illuminated their faces with their phones, and she watched as the foul white light shone on them as if they were holy. And the gods whispered “Our True Intent is All for Your Delight” and candles were lit and made it dark outside.

She thought back to Greece and the forty or eighty alpine swifts she had seen, not yet on their way south, swirling and squeaking in the mosquitoed air, their wings catching silver in the setting sun, and far above, the glint of a high-flying jet. And then she thought of the faintness of her ambition and wondered how people could be so sure of who they were and what they wanted to do.

In the bathroom she looked in the mirror and caught herself flinching and then she saw her father staring hopelessly back and mouthing the rhyme he used to tease her with when she was a girl, “Yesterday, upon the stair / I met a girl who wasn’t there / She wasn’t there again today / Oh how I wish she’d go away.”

She returned to another gin and thought she too must go south, where the fools are, where there was no pity, where there was no love, where she’d let the sun bleach her mind. But then the door to the night opened and the noise of the street and the headlights of the traffic flooded in and her husband and daughters entered smiling and joined her at her table and she held their cool hands and they talked together.

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Congratulations Martin!