La Niña


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 distance by Elise Tyson.

Elise Tyson is a writer and filmmaker from Naarm, Australia. Her writing has been published in The Guardian and her short film St Bernie won awards at various film festivals worldwide, including Best National Film at Canberra Short Film Festival. She lives in London. Her favourite thing in the world is the colour green.

Elise finds inspiration from observing the world around her and the spaces between people. Her favourite stories challenge social perceptions, breathe authenticity and celebrate the wonderfully messy human condition.

‘La Niña’ follows a woman considering her connection to home after her sister’s death.



I was in the air when she died. Gliding over the Black Sea, too far above the clouds to see the glistening blue breaking up hours of land mass beneath my feet. Struggling to sleep with a deflating neck pillow and a restless mind.

I was three hours into my first leg when she drew her last breath. The air stewards emptied my uneaten meal into the grey bin as her soul emptied her body. I wouldn’t know this until I connected to Wi-Fi in Dubai and my phone started vibrating. A beating heart in lieu of the one growing cold in her chest. I realised before I opened the messages.

Dad answered on the first ring. I knew he’d been drinking by the way he slurred my name. He was raspy as if he’d already screamed his voice away. Said she asked for me in her delirium before she went. I wished he hadn’t told me that. I couldn’t help but picture how strange my name must’ve sounded between death’s rattle. It was two in the morning there. I realise now that he’d waited up to tell me.

When I opened Instagram, her face rushed out at me from my screen. Mostly the same photo, and I wondered why that one. She hated the way her hair looked that day. I felt a sting of jealousy. All these people knew she died before I did and had time to go over the idea in their heads. Had extra hours to get used to a world without her in it, to feel the weight of her loss and put it into words online, to ‘care’ react everyone else doing the same.

Now, I see it as a kindness that the rest of the world knew about the worst moment of my life before I did. I was able to spend an extra few hours with her alive, because I knew no better. Those hours had been the worst of my life. The torture of not knowing. Until the moment I did know and immediately yearned to run back, capture them in a tiny jar, live in them forever.’

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