Incubus by Michelle Hemstedt

The boys on the football team call each other foul names and compete to impress the cool girls, who gaze on them with pious faces. I am not a cool girl, so I laugh and shove and answer back, but all the time I am worshipping Peter Brennan, mud-streaked and handsome, with my eyes.


The summer I am seventeen, he borrows his cousin’s car and drives us out to the beach. We eat chips and drink cider on the back seat. I imagine us forty and married, with three children and a house on this coast; nine-to-five jobs and Mass on Sundays because that’s what you do. Nothing much changes around here except that people grow older.


He lies shirtless on the rough ground until I ask what in hell he is doing.

Considering the universe.

I laugh at him unkindly.

Time and a place, Brennan.

I make him come in the shelter of the dunes and he drives me home.


When he enters the seminary, his mother weeps for a month. I tell her he’s seeking attention. I tell her, it may not last, Moira, but it does.


He invites me to his ordination. I tear the white envelope into shreds of confetti and bury them in the shapeless, shifting sands.


He kisses me and tells me he will always love me, yet he is happier now than he ever thought possible. But I have seen his eyes turned heavenward in ecstasy before. I reserve judgement, because judgement is the only power I have.


Michelle Hemstedt is a sales and marketing director in London. She is studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and has been writing flash fiction since 2018, when her first flash story was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. She has also been published by Flashback Fiction and is currently working on her first novel. Twitter: @MichHemstedt.