Silent Witnesses. Flash fiction by Susan Carey

It was fun when the fashion students came to visit and sketch us for some project they were doing. I discovered my love of being admired. One student had long black hair that reached to her waist. It looked so silky, I had an urge to run my fingers through it. She wore a flowing black dress all covered in cobwebby netting. I would have liked to have sketched her, if only my arms weren’t so stiff. Her eyes were pale as jade and she had applied dark liner which butterflied up at the outer corner of her eyelids. It was done meticulously, not a wobble nor a smudge.
Her drawings of me showed real talent. I was naked of course, then. She said something about using the sketches to make a series of silk-screen prints for her degree show. Perhaps those prints are hanging in a chique gallery where the hoi palloi dare not enter. That thought eases the boredom of my days.Martha stands next to me, her hand poised to brush her hair aside. Passersby do just that, pass by. Our outfits have been in the sun so long they are bleached into unappealing colours. My blouse was neon orange once and now it resembles pale carrot, the colour of bits of vomit.
Each day, around noon, a woman pushing a shopping trolley passes by. Her trolley is filled with every kind of fashion doll you can imagine. A few have remnants of outfits, either their top or bottom half covered, but most are naked and their legs and arms tangle together is if thrown into a mass grave. On top of the dolls, used surgical masks and latex gloves have been arranged like a protective blanket.
The woman’s hair is long and grey. At first we thought she was old, but her skin is unblemished: not one wrinkle. She wears a black bin bag cinched in with a wide gold belt. Beaded moccasins which are far too big, complete her incongruous style.
She must smell bad because people move aside like a shoal of fish negotiating a rock whenever she passes by. Although we can’t smell the world we know what an ugly, unforgiving place it can be. I feel sorry for that woman. Even though they said I had no heart.
Martha and I grow tired of waiting for new clothes and we need shoppers to stir the stagnant air. The number of people in the street grow fewer and fewer each day. Leftover ones wear masks. Perhaps because of the smell of the woman with her trolley.
The street is empty of cars and buses and Martha and I can’t even play our game of spotting red vehicles. The boredom is a long, grey corridor which never ends.
Suddenly, a banshee wail, and an ambulance skids to a halt where one of the masked people has fallen. He lies on the pavement in a crucifix pose. People wearing blue overalls, and perspex shields over their faces take him away.
Today, no people are out at all. Only Trolley Woman. She stops and stares through the glass at me. Attention at last! I recognise her eyes green as jade and the eyeliner that butterflies up at the corner. It’s all messy now, applied with a shaky hand. If I could smile at her I would. But she turns and walks away, I imagine the sound of her moccasins slap, slap, slapping as she goes.



Bio & Link
Susan Carey lives in Amsterdam where she writes stories in between the less demanding jobs of house-sitting, dog-walking and dreaming of worldwide renown. She has had short stories and flash fiction published and performed by amongst others; Mslexia, Liars’ League, Writers Abroad, Reflex Fiction, Flash Flood Journal and Casket of Fictional Delights. Blog:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *