Eyes was first published in Issue 8 of Firefly Magazine on 1st November 2016.
He shot the duck.
It was an easy target, waddling across the green not far from the pond.
It felt good to have the gun go off in his hand.
He’d never shot anything before.
It’ll make me a man, he thought through the sobs that choked his throat and the pain that closed up his heart, as though he had been the one the pellet hit.
The bang was louder than he thought it would be.
Out, in the nightclub, with the money his dad gave him wadded up in his hand, he looked around at the other faces, wondering about them.
The thing is, he thought, you can’t tell what other people know just by looking at them.
People could say one thing and think another and a person would be none the wiser.
The band was louder than he thought it would be.
If she hadn’t died, she’d have been sitting at home drinking camomile tea.
Across the green, her house sat empty, while her family decided about what to do with it.
No one would even notice a person living there uninvited.
The house was colder than he thought it would be.
After London, the pub seemed smaller than it used to.
The carpet was worn in a semi-circle around the place you were meant to stand for the dart board.
A dart was a fucking stupid weapon to have in a pub, people drinking, fights breaking out and a dart, heavy and ready, in his hand.
He wasn’t built to stay in a village.
Every eye that watched him was an eye he knew.
He could remember all their faces but he never could tell what they were thinking.
If he broke something here, someone would know, and that old feeling of wishing and hating would be back.
Out there, it didn’t matter. They were still eyes, he knew that. He wasn’t daft. But if it wasn’t an eye you knew, it didn’t matter if you shut it.
Looking up at the swirls of the artex on the ceiling, he worried that they all hated him.
It troubled him that no one would understand just how hard it had been watching the duck he shot die.
That was when it all started, he thought. That was the day it all went wrong.
It had been a steady tilt all the way to London and now he was scrabbling against the gravity which pushed him further under than he would have chosen to go.
He didn’t have a suit, so he went as was. It was a mistake, of course. He knew that before he did it.
He had to stand well back, so no one could see him. It was cold and, for a moment, before the tears clouded out his vision, he wondered how they had managed to dig.
His hands were jammed into his jeans but the ice still bit.
The ground was more solid underfoot than he thought it would be.
And then it hadn’t felt so solid. It had felt like he was falling again.
They stood him there all serious. He wanted to snarl, because he could tell they didn’t really care by the way they read through his notes.
He didn’t know what to do with his hands. He looked at them and jammed them into his pockets. He wasn’t cold but he was shaking.
They were bored by him. He was just another job to get through and that had helped him relax. It reminded him of school.
The room was more crowded than he thought it would be.
He didn’t want to think about the eyes.
He still talked to her in his head. Even then, she wouldn’t take any of his rubbish.
“That’s not really true, is it?” she asked and he knew she was talking about the duck.
“I shot it,” he told her, hanging his head, because he didn’t want to see her eyes.
“I know,” she said. “Drink your tea.”
He chanced a look and wished he hadn’t. Her cheeks were white and her lips quivered as she sipped.
“How did you know?” he asked. He didn’t want to hear at all. It was like his mind was making him, even though her answer was what he was most frightened of.
“It’s just the sort of thing you’d do,” she said, looking away. She seemed to watch the clock for a long time before she spoke again. “Where did you get the gun?”
He didn’t answer, but he couldn’t drink his tea either.
He chanced a look and wished he hadn’t. They’d used her full name on the stone, even though she hated it. Maybe they had to, he thought. Maybe it’s the law.
“Where’s the gun?” she asked, her pale blue eyes clouded with white, blinking away the moisture that settled there, even when he didn’t give her cause to cry.
“Safe,” he said, his hands jammed into his pockets, his gaze never straying above her knees.
“Safe gun?” she asked, her lips twisting into a bitter smile.
Her face was colder than he thought it would be.
It was like a steady tilt all the way into the abyss.