Hello everyone! I have another extract from my short story collection to share. Growth is a dark comedy based around a couple who discover a mould with certain interesting properties growing in their apartment.
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It was Jason that found the mould. After another condensed, half-hour argument with Maria, complete with tears and door-slamming, she had left with a half-empty travel bag and a rushed call to her sister. Jason, meanwhile, had retired to the bedroom. He was intent on being as melodramatic as possible, keeping the lights off and relying on his knowledge of the flat’s layout and the warm, yellow glow of the street lamps that peeked maternally through the gaps in the curtains. Unfortunately, Jason had entirely forgotten about his own suitcase: a relic of another argument that resulted in him spending a few, blissful days with a friend in New Cross. He clipped the suitcase with his left foot, and was sent tumbling to the floor.
His hand landed in something damp, a thin layer of moisture that lay snug on the wall. Ignoring the throbbing in his left knee, which had collided with a (now-broken) set of hair straighteners, Jason instead moved attention to his hand. Even in the dark, he could just make out a slight discolouration across his palm. He stood, finally feeling the pain in his knee, and hobbled to the IKEA floor lamp, the wonderfully-named Holmö. Turning it on with a stomp, he took one look at his hand and uttered an expletive that would have caused another ‘debate’, had Maria still been there instead of halfway to Hammersmith. His palm was stained a distinctive mustard yellow.
Shuffling across the room, back to where he had taken a tumble, Jason peeked, curiously, around the corner of the bed. There was a triangle of mould slowly engulfing the corner of the room, the off-white paint barely visible under patches of yellow slime. Jason offered a variation on his previous curse and sighed. Thankfully, the fungus was happily staying on Maria’s side of the bed, so Jason was quite content to leave it. After vigorously scrubbing his hand in the bathroom, replacing the yellow with a much more fetching sore red, he turned off Holmö and went to bed, sleeping surprisingly soundly for a man who, not two hours earlier, had been called a “pitiful excuse for a man” by the love of his life.
The following afternoon, when Jason finally awoke, two things had happened. First, the mould had expanded a little, and was now touching the top of the skirting board. Second, Jason had received a text message from Maria. He had always appreciated her blunt, to-the-point nature, but even he felt that a message entirely consisting of the work “PRICK” was pushing it a little. Even though she had a point, it still irked him a little.
Thankfully, Jason had ways of managing his anger. They were, however, somewhat radical. He had tried keeping a diary, but his own chicken-scratch handwriting had caused him to break pens and rip notebooks. The primal scream method had worked, for a while, but had to stop after complaints from the surrounding flats about anti-social levels of noise at 2 AM. In spite of these setbacks, Jason had found ways to calm down. Generally, it consisted of stealthily committing terrible acts against those that wronged him.
Most of these acts were against Maria. He had started with simple plots of revenge; after an argument over the time he ‘flirted’ with a waitress, he had soaked her toothbrush in the toilet. After he tracked mud through the flat, he had, in an act of sabotage, spat in her contact lense solution. He opened her phone and deleted several contacts. He put ladders in her tights. He replaced her shampoo with washing up liquid. Jason liked to think that these minor acts of vandalism were what kept the relationship together.
This time, Jason had devised the perfect way to calm himself down and bring about the vengeance he so desired. He picked up the landline phone, careful to avoid the side that he had paid a homeless man to lick, and called Maria. Unsurprisingly, she did not answer. He left an apologetic voicemail, pleading for her to return and admitting to every fault he had been accused of the night before. Finally, he said that he would cook her dinner. It was going to the best meal she had ever had. Ten minutes later, a text received: “SEE YOU AT SIX”.
Jason left for ingredients. It was important for the meal to the perfect, and for the components to be flawless. He went to a trusted butcher for chicken breast and some merguez sausages, and to a greengrocer for sweet potatoes, peppers and a courgette. The most important ingredient, though, was already in the flat.
Finished with the necessary items, Jason returned home, and placed them in the refrigerator. He made sure that the meat was on a higher shelf, keeping its temperature marginally cooler. Dinner itself would take little time to prepare. Jason may not have seemed it, but he was an excellent cook. He had learnt many years ago that the ability to create satisfying dishes could get someone out of nearly any situation. All you needed was the right mixture of herbs and spices to ultimately achieve reconciliation. Jason had one particular spice in mind. He grabbed a bowl and a butter knife, and went into the bedroom.
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That’s all, for now. I’ll be back with more fiction at some point, but for now, feel free to join me for NaNoWriMo. I’m writing The Last Playlist, a post-apocalyptic novel about a man who discovers what may be the last working CD player. Add me as a buddy, and we can awkwardly spur each other on for the whole of the month!