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 support by Jae Vail.

Jae Vail is an emerging writer and trade unionist based in London. They completed their Ph.D. in music at the University of Manchester in 2021, before working as a researcher at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Jae is now the Head of Communications at the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB). Their debut stage play Empress of Dogs is in development, with a view to a London premiere in the coming months.

Jae began writing and illustrating their own stories as a young child – most of their early stories involved inanimate objects that could talk, or lots of rats. As an adult, they have been writing for a number of years. ‘Quicksand’ is Jae’s first story submitted for publication.

‘Quicksand’ follows a person as they discuss their identity with their grandfather.



You were there long before I took the form of a {man}. Before I began to steal shapes out of my pregnant {mother}, and before adolescence stole back shapes out of me. You, my grandfather, have always been a man. Stoic and sinewy, you emerged from the delivery room five feet and eleven inches tall and you remained that way until the day you buried yourself at the back of the garden, between the two birch trees.

I saw you that day from the window in my {mother}ʼs old room. While you were pruning the hydrangeas that crawled their way up the corner of the house, I was trying on one of her dresses. I shrunk and spun into the fabric, discovering new corners to my {body}. She had not slept in this room for years and it had been turned into a guest bedroom, which made it feel doubly unoccupied, even as more people graced its sheets than ever before. The surfaces were littered with the usual detritus of a childhood. Unlike you, I was privy to the double-life of these objects, the way these hangers-on are cherished by a parent, but to the one fleeing home, they are all the bits left behind.

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