Terminal / New Flash Fiction



When the Dr told me it was terminal, the sound of my breath became distant. It felt as though my internal organs had dissolved, and my bones had somehow sneaked out.


It’s been a week now, since I went into the ‘blue room’ with the specialist. I knew the news was bad when I saw tissues on the table, a vase of flowers at the window. I could tell by the smell of the room. The way he pulled his chair closer to me. I had nobody there to take my hands afterwards. There was nobody there to cry with. Mum was so convinced everything was going to be fine, that she worked her shift at Tesco like normal.


I went in with the news tucked into my throat. I let it out like a startled bird. She was feeding a box of eggs through the scanner and dropped them. The whites leaked out quickly and quietly, slipping over the till edge and into her lap. The yolks followed slowly. She left the her customer with an open mouth, stilettos and not enough time.


I’m supposed to be starting university in six weeks. I have hundreds of photos I know I’ll never edit. My friends stopped texting. My phone hangs limp in my coat pocket and has been there for three days. Quiet and still. I guess they don’t know what to say. But it’s alright. I wouldn’t know either.


I’ve started touching everything in the house. I don’t know why. I touch the door I’ve slammed a hundred thousand times. I touch the gouge I made in the wood with my Dr Martin boot, when I was thirteen and grounded for smoking.


It’s weird. I’ll die never having owned my own set of cutlery. I was saving the uni shopping marathon for the week before. I was excited about it. It would mean the run up to my new life had really started.


Dad hasn’t cried yet. He’s approaching all of this with the unyielding strength of a Yorkshire man. He folds a piece of bread around a slice of black pudding every morning before work and we eat together. I haven’t felt hungry since the news, but I’ve always liked the bizarre concoction of blood and oatmeal. I like to imagine it can keep me here. That the pig’s blood will do something magical to mine.


Dad wanted to take a holiday before I started to fall to pieces properly. He wanted to re-do the one we had when me and the other two were still reed slim and blue eyed. He wanted the all inclusive deal. The three meals a day and unlimited drinks. He wanted us all to have breakfast, lunch and dinner together. He wanted us all in a line by the pool, baking under the sun. But the doctor said we’d be pushing it. Dad was fuming but didn’t say anything. He cracked his knuckles instead and picked at his fingernails.


There’s a woman who comes round. Her voice is cotton ball soft and she smells of coconut. Dad notices it because it smells like the sun cream we used on holiday. I didn’t think I’d want to talk, but every time she comes round I find my head opening like a box from the loft. She hugged Dad once. He didn’t know what to do with his arms. She hugged Mum too. Mum held on like she was a life raft.


I spend too much time on Tumblr and not enough time reading. Starting one of the books on the ‘to read before I die’ pile would mean the race had begun. And I’m too scared to start. Tumblr takes the hours as smoothly as a whisper. When I’m on there I don’t hear the pills rattle in my chest. I don’t have to look at what I cough up into the tissue. I can do it without taking my eyes off the screen. I don’t have to look at the faces of my family, as the days shuffle past and my body shuts down, too many organs at a time.