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 magic by Lynda Clark.
Lynda graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. She has completed a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. In 2015 she won the BBC Award at the WriterSlam, and the Canada and Europe region Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2018.
‘Phoenix’ shows us a man wishing for his wife’s magical rebirth.
Sym stared into the open pit of the hearth. Nothing but ash and dust; a few lumps of kindling turned to carbon. And yet he couldn’t stop staring. A vortex seeking to suck him in.
Four days now he’d sat in that armchair. He’d moved a couple of times, of course. Sipped a few mouthfuls of water from the rain butt outside, retrieved the last hard crust of bread from the cupboard and returned to his seat to gnaw at it like a rat. For the first couple of days he’d stooped over the rain butt to wash and afterwards had run a comb through his hair. A pointless ritual. His eyes flicked to the mantelpiece, as they were wont to do.
He couldn’t look at the urn, wouldn’t. He refused. But his sadist eyes determinedly steered his attention back to the burnished brass handles – representations of long, curled feathers – and the lid, an ornate dome engraved with a flaming heart.
Typical of her to choose something so quaint and ostentatious. Typical of her to choose the thing at all. He’d told her it was morbid, strange, upsetting to him for her to do so. But she had just tilted her chin downwards in that way of hers, like she was trying to hide her amusement. Her eyes were dark and bright, like a deer’s but without a trace of fear.
‘Don’t be silly!’ she’d scolded him. ‘Nothing morbid about it! It’s wonderful.’
Even in his thoughts he spat the word.