3 out of 5

Lee Hamblin

THE FIRST is smell. A heightened awareness of something most foul. Noxious fumes itching my nose, prickling my stomach. It won’t go away.

The second is sound. A distant drip, drip, drip. So very faint. Fainter still. And gone.Back to silence; the sound of one hand clapping. What the hell does that mean? I push the thought away; again comes the stench, even stronger than before. Disinfectant, yes. That’s what it’s called. Dis-in-fec-tant.

The third is vision. But not yet. It’s way too soon. Damn it, I’ll try. I must. Eyes peel open, breaking the gummy seal. A violent cascade of light assaults me. They shut tight. Flashes imprint on the inside of my eye covers. Supernova bright. There’s a man inside my head; he’s tall and thin; he wears the clothes of a 1940’s Hollywood actor. His hair is perfectly pasted down, and he’s leaning against a wall, smoking so elegantly. Then there’s an old record cover in black and white, and then a man named Morrisey. His face fades away. They all fade away.
Alone with my breathing now - the air not so fetid.

Again I break the sticky bond. Wait. Allowing time to adjust, blinking away the fog. There’s no colours, just white. The glare of artificial lights bearing down, burning into me like the eyes of a murderer.
Fear.
A memory?
But my head cannot move. I roll my eyes around in their sockets, just like a guru in India once showed me. Rajhastan, 1965 – but that was before I was born.
The people wear masks that cover all but their eyes. One of them notices my optical flickerings. Hands wearing sky blue gloves stop whatever it is they’re doing, relinquishing the glistening implements they’re holding. Stillness. The one watching me closest lowers their mouth covering, and begins to make shapes with their lips.
Speaking.
Spea-king.
I have nothing. Eyes close again.
Trying to remember.
Listen, I implore myself, make a goddamn effort. Come on!
So I try. The distant drip, drip, drip. I can just about hear it. I CAN hear it. My eyes re-open. There are wires and tubes from the sky attaching to me. There’s frantic movement of blue-gloved hands. Drip, drip, drip. The sound again. But it’s not a drip. It’s a pulse - a beep, and even louder now.
Then it becomes one constant tone, pure, and unwavering.

Lee is a short fiction writer. He has had stories published on-line in STORGY, The Red Line, The Londonist, and was shortlisted for the BBC's 2015 Opening Lines competition. Originally from London, he now lives in Greece.

previous reviews & comments:

'I really enjoyed all the focus on senses here - lovely language.'
Julia Molloy, 2017
'This is an excellent read. Thanks'
B. Smale, 2016

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