Breaking Through. Short Story.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Yesterday was Pancake Tuesday and, as usual, it was delicious. I made some buttermilk pancakes and streaky rashers. Didn’t have any with lemon and sugar, which I usually do, instead I opted for rashers and maple syrup, then one with Nutella and  some sliced banana. So good. I tried making bacon pancakes but I found them underwhelming, a little bit doughy and not as flavourful as I hoped so I stuck to the traditional pancake making method! What did everyone else have on their pancakes?

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Margaret was in the basement, loading up the dryer. She grabbed a handful of wet clothes from the washing machine and threw them in, her back twinging as she leaned over. She closed the lid and turned on the dryer, the dull roar and clanging filling the basement. She leaned on it for a moment, one hand resting on its cold, metal. She took a slow breath then straightened up and went to the stairs.

Upstairs in the kitchen she went to the cupboard and grabbed a glass, she turned and went around the kitchen island, at the sink she turned on the tap and let it run for a few seconds before filling the glass. She took a sip of the cool water as she turned off the tap, she glanced around the kitchen and cocked her head as if listening, grinning to herself she grabbed out the footstool from the utility room. She placed the footstool in front of the cupboard with the glasses and quickly climbed. She opened the high cupboard and pushed aside a few of the odds and ends she had strategically placed, a few spare foil turkey pans, a box of straws, a half used packet of paper napkins. Behind it all was a bright purple salad spinner, still grinning she pulled it towards herself and took off the lid, gazing at the chocolate inside. This was her secret stash, the true secret stash, not the one at the back of the cutlery drawer that Henry sometimes nibbled at. She pulled out a bar of Milk Chocolate Crunch, her favourite, and put the salad spinner back, carefully moving everything around so it was hidden right at the back. She climbed down from the step stool and put it back in the utility room. No one would be home for another few hours but still, it was a risk. She didn’t like the kids or Henry seeing her eat sweets, it set a bad example for them, they needed to eat healthy and make healthy choices and well if that meant hiding her sweet tooth so be it. It wasn’t like they’d know any other way either, she kept herself trim and in shape, the chocolate bar in front of her meant she’d have to really push herself during her exercise routine. And if that didn’t work there was always the stash of laxatives she kept to hand to shift those few stubborn pounds that never quite seemed to come off. She opened the paper wrapping slowly, almost sensually, like a lover slowly pulling off an item of clothing and revealing what was underneath. She pulled at the foil, feeling the familiar thrill and faint spike of anxiety at the noise. She broke off a square and popped it into her mouth, allowing the chocolate to melt slightly before she began to chew slowly, enjoying the flavour of the chocolate, the crunch of the little biscuit pieces, the sweet, faint tang of caramel. She swallowed the chocolate, then with one swift motion she raised the bar to her mouth and started devouring it intensely, biting and chomping, almost choking herself in her desperation. She sighed when it was gone and licked at her fingers delicately. The salad spinner in the cupboard called to her, whispering promises of sweetness and happiness. She went back into the utility and grabbed the step stool, she placed it in the usual spot and quickly climbed, grabbing the salad spinner, she ripped the top off and flung it to the side, she didn’t hear the loud clatter as it hit the tile floor below. She stepped down backwards off the foot stool and then she was at the island, hands ripping through wrappers unable to stop herself.

When she was done she felt uncomfortably full, the chocolate sat in her stomach like a lead weight. She gathered the wrappers and scrunched them up into a ball, then she carefully dug deep into the bin and buried them there, where no one else would find them. She cleaned her hands and washed off her mouth to get rid of the flecks and smears of chocolate. She climbed the step stool slowly and replaced the now empty salad spinner. She climbed down and replaced the stool, she glanced at the clock, still plenty of time before anyone got home. Margaret climbed the stairs and went into the main bathroom, there opened the cupboard underneath the sink, then she reached up into the short ledge just underneath the sink, she groped blindly for a few seconds before her fingers hit the cardboard box, she pulled the box of laxatives out and popped out a couple from the foil packet. The ground shook slightly, she glanced at the window for a second, it felt like a large truck speeding by, someone on the road must be getting some work done. She’d have to ask Donna about that later, she knew all the local gossip. Margaret popped the pills then turned on the tap, leaning over to gulp straight from the tap. She filled her mouth with cold water then stood up, swallowing the pills. She reached out for the tap and froze, black water was running from the tap, as the thought to make herself throw up occurred Margaret collapsed, landing heavily on the floor. Her body started to shake, her limbs beating a steady rhythm on the floor as she seized. Her body arched up, a strangled gasp, then she fell back again. Blood flecked foam appeared at her lips, her eyes rolling wildly. Inside it felt like her body was one fire, a deep, impossibly bright pain that was searing away everything. Margaret could feel it working its way through her mind, dragging her down, she struggled against it, but she could feel things slipping away. The birth of her children, the marriage to Henry, the way Henry had looked at her when they first started dating and they couldn’t stop screwing. The way she liked her coffee, how to speak, how to move. Margaret, or the shreds of her still left tried to fight with one last dying push and then she was gone in one screaming flash of sizzling agony. Margaret lay on the floor, skin pale, panting. The thing inside her needed a minute to catch its breath, it had been a while since it had possessed anyone. It stretched out, feeling the way the muscles stretched and pulled, getting used to the feel of her, how she moved, how she connected together. After a moment Margaret stood and looked at herself in the mirror. She examined herself slowly, the way she had applied her make up, the wrinkles in the corners of her mouth when she smiled. According to her memories she was fifty, as of a month ago. Something Margaret had not-so-secretly loathed. The thought of getting old, becoming infirm terrified her. If only she knew what had been really waiting for her. The thing that was now Margaret went downstairs and had a look around, sure it had the memories but there was a difference between seeing it yourself and seeing it through someone else’s memories. It was shocking the amount of luxury this woman took for granted, what they all took for granted. After having a look Margaret stopped and went onto autopilot, the thing stepped back. It had all of Margaret’s memories and thoughts, it knew everything about her intimately and as such it could just let the old synapses fire off and do what they were supposed to. Sure her soul wasn’t there any more but no one would be able to tell the difference and if they could they’d just do what humans always did, they’d dismiss it, at worst they’d just think she was just a little under the weather.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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