By Connor Gray
Photography by J.Beans. Her full profile is available in the Art & Photography section.
The page was rolled out in front of me like a great white welcome mat, but I definitely didn’t feel welcome. In my hands I held the keys, eighty keys. One for every letter, symbol, and function, but I couldn’t unlock the door between my head and my hands. It was an old door, but impenetrable. Thick oak, with peeling paint sapped of its colour, and wood cracked from the contractions of many cold winters and cruel summers. All my attempts at getting past that door failed. Words, sentences, entire paragraphs smashed against it and shattered like eggs, the yolk of their meaning dripping down and pooling in the porch.
I wanted to get past that door, to get to that white page, that white welcome mat. I needed to wipe my feet on it, press my face against it, stain it with black mud and black ink and black thoughts. My goal was to see my footprints, evidence of my passage, on the screen. But I wasn’t going anywhere, and I had no thoughts worth writing down. The space in front of me remained a pure, patronising white, so I stared out the window instead.
I stared at the window, to be more specific. The window itself was open, but the blinds were firmly shut against the harsh judgement of the sun. Still, finger-rays of light clawed their way through and into my eyes. Summer was long gone, but the light and the heat remained, like two relatives too drunk to drive home after a party. They had overstayed their welcome. I was melting into the chair at this stage. My shirt was tossed aside earlier in a hot flash and now leather was sweat-stuck to skin. I hadn’t moved in some time; the plan had been to get up early, sit down and not move until I’d written something. My desk was at the foot of my bed so I didn’t have to travel very far, but sitting there, I felt like I had run a marathon.
I turned my gaze back to the empty space. That white rectangle in front of me was a hungry sort of empty. Yawning, yearning. Begging to be written on, tread on, ruined. Black spots swam in my vision, skipping like stones over the lakes of my eyes. One of them landed on my laptop.
It was a fly. One of the small ones, the midges you could mistake for a speck of dirt or dust on the wind. The type that was so tiny you couldn’t even hear it buzz. It settled in the top right corner of my screen, above the ominous stop-sign red of the ‘close tab’ button. I asked, Are you trying to tell me something? It meandered along the top of my screen. I took in every detail I could; the dull shade of the microphone-mesh eyes, the filmy delicacy of the broken glass wings tucked neatly against its back. It walked slowly across the blue border of the barren document, six legs moving with the precision and cautiousness of a tightrope walker. I tracked its path with my mouse.
The fly must have sensed the movement of the cursor beneath it, because without warning it spun left and skittered into the centre of the screen. A miniscule black dot, full stop, in the middle of the page. The sight filled me with impulsive anger and without thinking I reached forward and pinned the bug against the glass with my thumb. I crushed it to death, only to recoil as a brief torrent of blood burst out of it. Crimson droplets splashed onto my keyboard; my thumb was dyed with the stuff. I realised it must have been my blood. How could there be so much in so small, so quiet a thing?
It was then my laptop powered down, not detecting any input in quite some time, and the opaque white was replaced with reflective black. I saw myself. Wasting away. Gaunt, hollow and small. Wordless, like the tiny fly, not big enough to be heard. Despite the heat, a chill rattled my spine as I thought, any second now, God’s thumb would come spearing through the roof. I’d see the valley-deep grooves, the callouses and the grime under his nail, and then I’d be nothing but a smear on his screen. I realised what I needed to do.
I stroked the touchpad and the mirror vanished. Once again the screen was a brilliant white. I dabbed at the bug guts with the corner of my sleeve until the white was unblemished. I typed, centred it, made it bold, italicised and underlined:
I shut down my laptop and opened up the blinds.
I am currently a student of UCD, taking the English with Creative Writing course. Being in my third year now, I’ve had plenty of time to experiment and decide what I like. I’ve settled well into writing flash fiction and short stories, although I am in the process of writing longer, novel-length stories too. My work mostly revolves around themes of identity, self-identity and esteem, how people see themselves and relate that to the world around them.