"Shattered Sky" by Max Mitenkov.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
by Xanthi Barker
On the morning that I pulled the mirror down on my head and should have been knocked unconscious but instead remained awake to witness a thousand shattering shards of myself begin to eat into the naked skin of my stomach and legs, I thought, you know what, maybe it’s time I was leaving.
I’d screamed, of course, and he’d come running, but in the sliver-hop of his lazy nudity I’d read reluctance and finally jerked awake (and not from a dream but from the shock-numb of it), to feel at once the pain that was not nothing but immense.
Hot bursting rockets through the crest of my skull. Flesh tinges where the goose-bump skin was ripped. He said,
like it mattered now. Anyway, I said,
“It fell,” and he didn’t react so I said,
“No, OK, I pulled it.”
And he called out something to the Lord that he doesn’t believe in and then edged forward and pulled the undone frame from where it had fallen and was leaning between its own right-angled elbow and my newly-bruised side.
“Stay there,” he said.
I looked at my feet. Blood trickled into the carpet. You’d think this was the kind of thing people fainted about. The slit skin. The gaping. My blood didn’t blur. I thought, it’ll taste so nice.
He returned with a dust-pan and swept me clear and I tiptoed free, shaking my hips and legs to be free of the shards. Then outside seagulls screamed instead of me as I slumped upstairs to dab at the lacerations with crumpled tissues and press a cold flannel to my bump-risen head and get dressed and pack enough for a week or so and return to where he was sweeping unsuccessfully at the spiky carpet and say,
“I’m going, Ezra.”
“What?” he said.
“I’m leaving. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And he said, “Oh,” like it was nothing at all, though his face fell and he looked up and some swept shards slipped down, off the dustpan, back to the carpet by his shod foot and the white sock of his right ankle that I realised then I would never again have to pair to the newly washed left.
“OK,” he said.
And that was it.
I put on my shoes and left and drag ged my bag to the cafe around the corner where croissants are a pound and everyone is a smiling Australian and I ordered a coffee and thought,
Well, that was easy.
And then I wondered why it’d taken me three years and more than just that mirror smashed to do it. But after that I thought, well I guess not everything dies when it might.
Xanthi Barker’s short stories have been published in Cadaverine, Open Pen and Notes from the Underground, as well as the Arts Council funded anthology, Things That Have Happened. Currently she is studying Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London and working on her first novel.