Ride or Die

By Meg Mulcahy

We had never seen a double coffin before. One stupid October night, emboldened by whiskey and promise, we crept into Dunboyne funeral home to take a proper look. It had been on display in the home window for weeks, the subject of Bridie and Maureen’s nattering propped up by shopping trolley bags. A double coffin. “The Padre Pio Package,” we called it. A double deal, with cheese. We’d spent the night discussing the logistics. How did it work? Did one have to die and be unearthed when the other was ready to join them? Or, did you have to wait, embalmed. Chilling. For as long as it took. True love knows no bounds, after all. We toasted the couples who would have signed the contract, put the deposit down, paid this thing off over their best years, only to resent each other. Those who grew cold long before they were boxed away. We laughed at the Romeo and Juliet of it all. We saw ourselves in it, in a way that everyone mocks people that think they can control what happens next.

The night we broke it, the wind cut oranges. The streets were lashed with glass and electric-lined trainers swung dangerously, kissing other worlds with their toes. We peeled out of our coats, shedding them onto aged burgundy carpet. Incredulous at very much expected vases of faux lillies and stained mahogany. Choking on the stench of furniture polish with already compromised lungs, we bolted towards the display room. Our hands covered each other’s as we fumbled for a groove. We clawed at clasps until Donal’s palms gripped the underside of the lid and heaved it upwards. Awe-struck at luxurious cushioned interiors grander than our own, we ran our hands along the silk long enough to make Donal want to climb in. He patted the velour bed, motioning me inside. I protested a step too far. “We’ve already made it this far. C’mon, we’re more likely to be seen from the road if we’re standing in the window. Hop in.” He made some valid points, though I can’t for the life of me remember what they were. I gingerly put a knee over the coffin and eased myself down into it. “Look, we’re a Twix!” he exclaimed. The ridiculousness was enough to send me over to him, rolling towards his outstretched chest, entranced by the shards of moonlight on his grinning face. Absolutely his, we took comfort in the writhing warm. We were home.

It’s been weeks since that night. We didn’t wake long enough to see who closed the lid, or to scream. We’ve been doing a lot of that ever since. I don’t know how we haven’t been heard; maybe people don’t want to listen. We can’t explain how we haven’t needed to be human, or how we’re sustained by the box. All I know is that we’d better find a way out before this baby comes.

Meg is a writer, poet and general gowl based in Dublin, Ireland. She copywrites for money and runs on iced coffee and hope. Her work lives in her blog The Social Seagull (socialseagull.com) and is featured in Crêpe & Penn, honey & lime, Kissing Dynamite Poetry and GCN. You can find her very much online on Twitter @TheGoldenMej and on Instagram @goldenmej

Halloween Flash Fiction Competition Winner

Pumpkin

By Gary Henderson

“Well you know how we had that packet of pregnancy tests? I was cleaning the toilet and I was going to throw them out because of what we spoke about earlier, and there was only one left in it, and I thought I might as well just use it rather than throw it out, so I just used it, and well, I went and got some more just to be sure, and they were all the same, and eh, it was positive…”

She let the breathless tale dangle in the air for as long as it took me to must up some sort of – any sort of – reply.

I had barely dropped through the front door after the longest day I’d had in a while. Four hours driving from Glasgow to Newcastle on business, and the same in reverse.

The time between was spent wandering the crisp, dark streets of Whitley Bay from one assignment to another. As the evening hours cosied up against me, the streets began to fill with pirates, ghosts and zombies. They ran excitedly from door to door, plastic bags filled with treats bouncing alongside.

My suit was crumpled, my feet were aching and my spirits were damp. I jumped into the hire car with my own treat in hand – a chippy. I sat and read through my messages with one hand while the other grabbed a fistful of chips.

‘I was thinking, maybe we should stop trying for a while? I hate getting my hopes up every few weeks and then being let down.’

I was disappointed, but more for her because I knew she would blame herself.
We had been trying for about 4 months now, ever since returning from a six month round the world ‘finding ourselves’ trip. It was time to settle down, we thought. The wedding was just around the corner, the house was mortgaged and we had just bought a new fridge. It was all very grown up.

But this was the elusive unticked box. As I drove up into Scotland and through the borders, the skies got heavy and the night miserable. I drowsed at the wheel, a marathon waste of a day topped with pretty rubbish news and the drone of the football phone-in.

I trudged into the house expecting her to be asleep and for me to quietly knock over every appliance on the way to bed, welcoming the end of the day.
So, her wonderful, terrifying, beautiful, frightening Halloween treat still hung there as I climbed into bed. The room was dark. My mind was spinning.

“Positive, as in, positive for a baby, as in pregnant?”

“Yeah”

“Oh, wow, that’s good. And that’s definite then?”

“Well, in as much as I’m definitely pregnant”

“Right. That’s good then. Night”

In the true spirit of the evening, I felt myself float above my body, looking down on what life was like before this moment, unable to compute what lay ahead.

Our little pumpkin was on his way.

Gary is a new dad. He doesn’t sleep much anymore. When you’re 30, that’s as scary a sentence as you can read.

Halloween Flash Fiction Competition Winner

Within the Narrative

By Nicholas Starkey

Christ. What is that smell? Oh, yeah.

“Oh well,” I announce, stuttering. I stand up and it hits me – my morning ritual. Or perhaps it’s my mid-day ritual. Oh well. It’s a ritual that I perform every twenty-four hours of living. I wonder when the day will come, where I won’t last the full twenty-four hours of a day – I might only live for two hours of that day. That would be a day that wouldn’t come to an end. I laugh. I’m alone. I look through my bloodshot goggles, around my living space but see nothing. I feel nothing. I lay down once more, back to my previous position. I notice what appears to be a pack of cigarettes laying on the floor next to me. I lunge for them, aching. I feel something – pain. “Bitch,” I whimper. I grab hold of the slightly damp and mouldy package. It’s the package. I could dance. It’s empty. My shoulders descend into a slumping position, my back hunched, and my arms hopelessly fall onto my crotch where they lay limp – without life.

“Hey.” It came from a voice in the corner. I glance over to the corner from which the voice came from, noticing a half-burnt cigarette on the damp floor, in amongst soggy clothes blotched in bloodstains, within reach. I, again leap forward, in agony, grabbing the cigarette. It’s damp. Why is everything wet? Looking for a light, I acknowledge all of the empty cans of lager which I die for. Every single one of them empty –my accomplishment. I check my pockets and find concealed my desire. I take it out, and slowly move the cigarette up to my mouth, placing it between my lips. It tastes of urine. I light it, inhale, exhale. What was I doing again?

“Hey,” the voice whispers again. I remember. I look for the culprit. I place the piss-soaked cigarette in between my lips and rub my eyes. At first, my blurry vision was made worse. I look down, defeated. Seconds later, my vision of the cigarette in my hand is now clear as glass. I look up. It is me. I am dressed in black-battered jeans and a blue-checked shirt, the buttons undone. I can see my chest. It is pale green and sickening. My hair is greasy as if it were made of vile. “Hey,” he slips out once more, as if not to wake a mouse.

“What’s going on?” I answer, my face showing the struggles of attention. “Who are you?”

“Hush, go back to sleep,” he slithers. He moves not an inch. I do as he asks, closing my eyes. I fall into a trance. I am in love with the darkness my eyelids provide. I wonder what the inside of my eyelids look like. Hush… I let my conscious waver and allow him to take over. I drift into a deep sleep. It’s been a long day.


Nicholas Starkey studies English at the University of Strathclyde and enjoys reading and writing poetry. He occasionally writes short stories. He was published in issue three of Quotidian Magazine and has been published in online literary magazines such as The Fiction Pool. Nicholas’s favourite writers and influences include Jack Kerouac, Alasdair Gray and James Joyce.

Halloween Flash Fiction Competition Winner