Here are the 429 words that won the PowWow Writers’ flash fiction competition. It is to be included in their festival anthology, alongside works commissioned from Alison Moore, Kit de Waal, Clare Morrall, David Gaffney and Nicholas Royle.
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The Christians stole it. Like everything else. Maybe I’ll reclaim a bit of paganism, if I can lure that PVC witch away from this party. Investigate the fishnet borderland between her shiny plastic thigh-boots and her shiny plastic mini-skirt. I love a cliché. All Hallows Eve. The dead are in charge. All Souls today. All Saints tomorrow. All better by morning. You wish.
Midnight on the last day of the Celtic year. Samhain and the year dies, as the world begins its plunge into winter. Wonder if I’ll get to take a plunge into the PVC witch when the vodka shots kick in.
Tonight’s special. Dangerous. The witching hour on the witching night. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not this year. Not next year. This is where they slip in. The witches. The evil. The urges. Slipping through the crack where today and tomorrow touch – the seam between this year and next year.
PVC witch was early. She’s been dancing since ten.
The thing about paganism is the symbols. Symbols and sacrifices and knowing which buttons to press. You bribe the gods. Buy their good will with treasure, or more. Pay your dues. Get them on your side and obsession and revenge become moral choices. Cosy up with the powers that be and they’ll let you pluck one at random. One to take the place of the one that did the damage. Behave with due deference. Massage their egos, like anyone else with power over your life. Massage an ego, give the right gift. Watch the blind eye turn. Watch the malice fall on those who forget to flatter – forget to buy favour. Doesn’t have to be just one. Pay the price. Make the sacrifice – and it can be one each time the anger boils.
Now for eye-contact. Ice-blue to my dark. A hood and a hallowe’en mask. Desire and anonymity. Perfect. She’s seen my eyes. I’ll show her a smile. I have a good smile – full lips and decent teeth. Enough to give her hope. So, I’ll play to my strengths.
We’re talking now. I buy her another shot. And another. Heads are tilting. Gaps are closing. Dances are slowing.
“No. Just orange juice.” I tell her my car is near. She’s unsteady, as I wrap an arm around her shoulders and feel patches of damp from the rain in the valleys of her PVC.
In the car, she sits in the place of the one I could never face. Beneath my seat it’s waiting. I begin to drive.
And I know the way to the trees.