Another of my short stories has just been published, this time in Anotherealm – the online magazine of speculative fiction. The magazine is well worth exploring. After you have read my story – Pushing – of course.
And here, to whet your appetite, is a taster of the story itself. Described by the magazine as a bit ‘edgier’ than most stories they publish:
By Chris Barnham
The first time I pushed anyone was pretty much an accident.
I was in a nothing job, stacking supermarket shelves four days a week. The pay was poor, so I also worked three nights in the Union pub over in Greenwich. I hated it, always finishing too late for the train home; it was either hang around at the bus stop or a half hour walk.
The other people who worked in the Union were morons, frankly. This guy Jed was the worst, thought he was big with the girls and the way to impress them was to take the piss out of his fellow workers, usually me. A bunch of his mates came in at weekends. You could tell why Jed hung out with them: they were so thick they made him seem like Oscar Wilde. They leaned on the bar cracking their knuckles and Jed needled me between pulling pints. Mostly I just put up with it. One thing I learned growing up was to keep away from trouble. You’re better than them, Mum always said. Don’t give them the satisfaction of making you react.
This night was different. Jed started in on me and I took it for a while but then he said something about never having any girlfriends. Said I needed to get home early to my mother, so she could read my bedtime story. Well, it was nothing to do with him that I still lived with Mum. Why shouldn’t I? I wasn’t so old. He made a rude comment about her, and my face felt hot and tight.
The funny thing was, he was acting such a big man, like he was some kind of stud, but earlier I overheard a couple of the girls talking. This girl Sarah had gone home with Jed after a party last weekend. I was fixing up a new barrel downstairs and I heard her tell another girl how Jed had been too drunk to get it up. They giggled a bit about that. So when Jed got me angry I turned to a couple of his mates standing across the bar: “Maybe when you’re bored of hearing about my failures you should ask one of Jed’s conquests how great he is. I heard Sarah had to play hunt the disappearing cock last week.”
That got a good laugh and shut Jed up, but the tightness of his mouth and the pink flush of his face suggested he wouldn’t leave it there. Sure enough he didn’t.
He caught up with me on my way home. On a lonely midnight street I heard a noise behind me and something hit me hard between the shoulder blades. I fell forward and hit my head on a wall. Before I could move, there was a blow to my face that sent a shower of pain down from my nose through my jaw, putting a taste of copper in my mouth.
I never got beaten up before. Getting into fights is pretty much part of growing up for young boys, certainly where I grew up. But not me; somehow I always skirted the edge of any trouble, avoiding the interest of the bullies. Not now, it took me by surprise and by the time I knew what was happening Jed’s boot was in my face.
I curled up, holding my arms across my face, but my passiveness just made him angrier. He hauled me roughly to a sitting position, shoved me back against a crumbling brick wall beside the path.
“Not so smart now?” The palm of his hand smacked my ear. There was spittle on his chin and his eyes were wild, like something was unmoored inside his head. I was suddenly very scared. Jed reached behind him and picked up a jagged half brick. He held it out at his side. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
“You’re not so clever now, you piece of shit.” In the orange street light Jed’s face shone like fish on a slab.
“See this?” He shook the brick, I could see nothing else. “Do you want this shoved in your fat mouth?”
Now something very strange happened. My fear went away. Or it didn’t exactly go away, it kind of shifted; twisted itself into a new shape inside me. Something that had always been loose clicked into the right place.
“No,” I said, and my voice sounded like it came from someone else. “I don’t. But you do, Jed, don’t you? Why don’t you smash that brick in your own stupid face?”
As I spoke it felt like a membrane parted inside my head, and some muscle I didn’t know I had gave a push I pushed out at Jed with my mind. Jed froze for a fraction of a second. His eyelids fluttered and a blankness crossed his face like a windblown shred of mist. He spoke in a flat voice, like the speaking clock: “Why don’t I smash this brick in my stupid face?”
The hand holding the brick struck like a snake at his face and came away. Jed swayed a little. Blood welled from his half-closed right eye and traced a line down his cheek….
(Read the rest at Anotherealm.)