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I'll See Myself Out

by Russ

See, the mistake most people have made in the past is doing this in the cities, or even in suburbia. Things get picked up too quickly there, what with the pace of life and the number of people milling around. What I learned was, if you do it in these bucolic little villages, you just have a lot more time to get things right. Plus, nobody really talks to outsiders so it’s really easy to just move on and go again somewhere new afterwards.

Come, look out of the window, see how ideal this place is? Sorry, I’m forgetting, you can’t. I’ll describe it to you. The only thing you can see outside is trees, a hedge, and a lane only just big enough for a car. Not that any have passed. Oh look, a fox! How beautiful.

If you really push your face up against the glass - oo, that’s cold - and you don’t breathe too much, which I’m sure you’d be better at than me, you can just about see the thatched rooves on the old almshouses at the bend.

You’re right, I would have thought it was roofs too. But what do we know, eh?

Oh look at you, you’re dripping all over the oranges. Now where did I put that cotton wool? That’s the problem with all these pockets, remembering what you put where. Ah, there it is. Right, let's get that nostril all bunged up. Stay still.

This used to be a lot messier you know, before I discovered the old knitting needle trick. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss using a knife. So much more... what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, you know, it felt more involved, more tactile maybe. I never was one for words, probably why I work with my hands, you know? Anyway, the day I discovered how clean it was to just slide a needle up the nose, well, it changed things. So neat, so quick, less evidence, less screaming. Like you, you didn’t scream at all. Neither did your wife, which was good because it meant I could still surprise you. Your daughter did try, but, well, I’ve got these big hands inside these gloves you see, it was easy to cover her little mouth quick enough, before the noise got out.

There you go, no more blood. I think I’ll leave the splashes on the fruit though, something about the red on the orange under this table light.

It’s at times like this I dismay a little, you know, that I can’t take a photo. That’s another mistake people make: photos, souvenirs, trinkets, it’s all just evidence. It used to be that you didn’t need to worry so much about evidence in these villages, what with you only having one policeman and them usually being sat at the end of the nearest bar. Everything is too connected these days, it might take the local bobby a few days to find you, but as soon as they do they’ll have a CSI team down from town, dusting everything. I have to be so much more careful now. That’s progress, I guess.

Right, it’s been a pleasure to meet you. I understand you can’t say the same.

I’ll see myself out.

Morning

by Jenny

The first pale pink threads of dawn wove their way across the sky, and the patchwork fields that covered the hillsides shook off their grey coating of sleep and slowly flickered to life in brilliant greens and yellows.

Under his tree Henry began to stir.

It was cold and mist still clung to the grass, but Henry’s coat was a sturdy one, if a little worn. He pulled himself up to sitting, and chafed the cold from his arms. There was still a splash of cold tea in his flask. Henry unscrewed the cap and poured it into the lid and sipped at it as the sun crept across the sky.

His supplies were low. He’d walked a full day yesterday and hadn’t eaten since the night before that. Three shrivelled apples and the heel of bread he’d filched from the last town bakery - he’d need to find the nearest village for supplies.

It wasn’t far, as it turned out. Henry walked along a high ridge over the neat fields and there, nestled in among a cluster of hills, was a small village, the newborn sun glinting orange on their tiled rooves.

Even in a tiny place like this Henry felt wrong. He saw passers by glance at his tattered coat and muddy boots, saw their eyes slide away from him as they hurried on, afraid he would beg food or a coin.

Henry kept his own eyes on the ground.

The village was busy. Outside the greengrocers Henry watched in awe as the shop boy balanced the final orange on top of a teetering pile. He held his breath. It stayed up.

The air was filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and Henry thought, for the first time in a very long while, that perhaps it would be nice to belong somewhere like this. To have a soft bed and warm fire to come home to, regular meals and maybe even someone to wash and darn his socks. His current pair were filthy and riddled with holes.

He moved slowly, turning the handful of coins over in his pocket. He stopped outside the baker’s, arrested by the smell, and peered inside. There were steaming crusty white rolls and thick seeded loaves, a tray of small cakes filled with raisins and soft sponges with jam and cream.

He went to push open the door, when he felt a small tug on his sleeve. A small girl was staring at him, wide-eyed.

“There’s a hole in your boot.”

Henry nodded.

“What’s your name?”

Henry opened his mouth to answer, but before he could crank his rusty voice croak into life, the child was whipped suddenly away. Henry watched in dismay as she was bustled into the apron of a large, sour-faced woman who shot angry looks at Henry without ever quite meeting his gaze.

Henry closed his mouth again slowly. He found the luster of the morning was wearing awaynow, like the shine coming off a new penny.

But as he turned back to the shop he caught sight of a bright face beaming back at him over her mother’s shoulder and suddenly henry’s nostrils filled again with the aroma of freshly baked bread and Henry pushed open the door of the baker’s to buy his breakfast.