This one was written in relative haste on public transport, and was entered in the Emerging Writers Festival Microfiction challenge last year.
The assessment is almost done, and you wait fidgeting through the vote but it’s just a formality, they’ve held it at 4:00pm for a reason, and the council is stacked with developers and no one advocates for the stunted ugly trees that most of us wince to look at, where birds camp and poor people camp and wouldn’t it be better if the whole thing was neater, smoother somehow? And it’s all leading questions and scripted answers, no one wants to hear new information, and you, the minute-taker, sit mute and record what is pre-known and pre-decided, when all you really want is to flinch with surprise, like that time you bit into a blood orange and the taste stained your chin.
And when it’s done and over you feel emptied out and you pack your satchel and sling it over your shoulder and walk out into the twilight heat and you circulate, pushed by the Friday crowd without ever being touched. They look at phones, the bodies of others, billboards, beggars (furtively, to assess threat), and mostly at the flashing red signals that halt.
And you come to the city square and it’s baked brick under your feet and a wind that hisses grit, and you remember another wind years ago when you hired a catamaran on a beach on the south coast and you took it out alone, wind so cold that you became a living thing, reified, and you don’t understand how such different sensations can be caused by moving air. There are many many people here but it would be wrong to say assembled, there is no organising principle at work, they mill in packs of two three four, or slump on benches, rumpled blouses and slacks damp with sweat.
Somewhere, a creek gossips, a magpie insists. But here, no thing makes a sound.
‘I’m here,’ you say, but there’s too much noise.