Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about aspirations by IJ Fenn.
IJ Fenn writes stories for fun and has been published three times since 2006 (a true crime, two volumes of miscellany – stories, poetry and essays). Fenn is currently finalising a miserable novel befitting our current COVID times, has a volume of short stories under consideration with a publisher in the UK, and is mapping out two further novel outlines.
On a personal level, Fenn has no life worth talking about, drinks tea to excess, is neither vegan nor lactose intolerant, and eats gluten-filled breads and biscuits to Olympic standard.
‘A Wild-Eyed Ride to the End of the Night’ follows a girl through her bizarre dream.
I have this recurring dream, maybe twice a week. Or, maybe because it has recurred for so many months, it’s only once a week but it seems like twice a week. Whatever. The dream arrives like the slow-motion appearance of a wild-eyed merry-go-round horse emerging from the swirling fog of sleep, and it seems to be saying to me, ‘Okay, girl, let’s ride.’ Of course, it’s a dream so I have no choice: I have to ride with it wherever it takes me, although, like the wild-eyed merry-go-round horse that it resembles, it always brings me back to the same place, to the place where I started, which is in my own room, in bed.
The content of the dream is always the same, even though some of the details vary from time to time. It’s always mid-November and I’m always standing on the banks of the Russell River staring out over the pitted surface of the river in the rain. It’s always raining and the rain dances on the river and it plays jazz rhythms on the leaves of the trees overhead like the jazz rhythms of famous drummers from my grandparents’ era, famous names I don’t know in the same way as I don’t know the names of the trees the rhythms are being played on. The jazz rhythms are wet but warm and they provide a kind of counterpoint to the bass beating of my blood, which is also wet and warm, as I stare out over the water. I’m dressed for the city in the ripped jeans uniform of my inner-city tribe and a tee shirt the colour of sorrow and my feet are coffined in trainers inappropriate for where I am and for what I’m doing. But I have on a sort of ankle-length poncho, camouflage-coloured with a matching hat, so I’m dry despite the weather. In my hand I’m carrying a rifle that weighs as much as all the combined regret of my fifteen years and, somehow, I know that I know how to use it.