Janice is Awake by Audrey Niven

I can hear it.  In the silence of two a.m. it makes itself heard.  Lying here on the bathmat I’m thinking about pulling a towel off the rail to warm me, because I can’t bring myself to move.


If I could muster the will to stretch my arm, I could lever myself up and tighten the tap that’s announcing its importance.


It doesn’t feel important. 

My legs are crooked and stiffening against the battered lino.  At least it’s not as cold as the travertine I pinned on Instagram five years ago for the new bathroom we never got round to. I close my eyes and think of my greasy hair mopping up the dust and pubes down here.  It’s foul, but I can’t care.  I haven’t the will to try to move.  I let myself fall into the cold.  I don’t want to fight.


I imagine each drop forming itself, pregnant with time, counting down to deliver itself from the rusting tap.  I think of the word meniscus and I don’t know if that applies to what you might call the skin of a droplet forming.  I don’t know the science of dripping.  It isn’t important.  I only know the steady constant of it, un-noticed in the busyness and noise.  I count the seconds between the drips in alligators. Like contractions I suppose.  Like the tick of a clock on a wall, waiting. 

In between the lethargy of gravity, thoughts come and go.  The sleeping house, the riots outside, the twin fears: what is, and what will never be. The purple of the bruises like heather on a mountain, beautiful and rugged.  Untamed.  If there were tablets, I would take them.  But we don’t keep things like that in the house.  Just as well. 


The alligators keep coming, like sheep but longer and restless, waiting for me with their vicious smiles.  Not even the dog has roused to save me. And I think of this dripping, the inevitable plunging of each drop, splattering itself into a green stain on the porcelain, and wonder if it’s a metaphor: a sign of decay, a symbol of things needing my attention, like so much else in my life that yells at me to be done.  Give me, take me, fix me, make me, clean me, show me, do for me.  In all of that it’s nothing special, just the need of a washer.  Maybe a spanner.  A YouTube tutorial.  It’s just a drip that’s been dripping I don’t know how long.  And the best I can do for now is to hope I have it within me sometime soon to push myself up to standing. 

Audrey Niven is a Scottish writer, living in London. She sees flash fiction as the literary equivalent of sending up a flare. Her stories have appeared the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2020, NFFD Flash Flood 2020, HISSAC and will be published by Reflex Press and Lunate Fiction in 2021. @NivenAudrey

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