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Short Story - When he met Death

This short story was written for the Creative Writing Anthology Collages of the Complete Creative Writing Course by Maggie Hamand. It may serve as a first chapter for Chroma , but I'm not sure about that yet.

bookcover The walls can't dull the sound of sirens down in the streets, and the half-closed shutters can’t keep away the blue lights, forcing through panel cracks, penetrating his sleep like sharp, hot needles. Something is always happening outside. Yet tonight, the presence of a police commando just down the stairs is especially unsettling. Julian gets that quiet humming of foreboding, clenching and unclenching inside his chest; the notion that tonight, something special must have happened, or is about to happen; something that he, for once, can’t hide from behind locked doors and barred windows.
He is unsure whether it’s the lights or the noise keeping him awake. He should be used to it by now. The cardboard boxes that had littered the apartment in the beginning are long unpacked and stashed away in between a chest of drawers and the moist wall of his bedroom. He shifts from one side of the bed to the other. The thin white covers stick to his sweat-coated skin like a shroud. If he lies still for a moment, he might indeed pass for a corpse, with paper-screen skin and withered- grape eyes.
He’s more asleep during the day, staring at smart-boards and the back of classmates’ heads through lids he can barely keep open; adding a few words to his half-finished homework. He’s wading through an oil spill that clings to his shoulders and nestles in his veins. A few nights ago, he came home late. His dad was watching one of those documentaries. On screen: oil-clotted seagulls that couldn’t even open their beaks to cry any more. ‘Poor things,’ his dad had said and taken another sip of soda. ‘Remember when we went fishing on that barge in Antor, and those bloody bastards tried to nick our catch? They’re persistent little buggers. When they can fly, that is. Even tried to pluck the fish right from David’s hands.’
Julian still keeps the photograph they took that day buried six feet under old newspaper clippings and failed class tests. It shows Julian and David, his older brother, with David’s right arm wrapped around Julian’s shoulders, a giant codfish squeezed beneath his left. Impressive, how depression can be triggered by one event and then develop into something completely independent. Julian probably had the genetic disposition.

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