By the River

by Noah Singh-Harris

Format: Flash Fiction

It often feels like there’s nothing left to say. Let me clarify: there’s nothing peaceful left to say. Nothing that will not provoke the howling in the night and more blue and green bruises on the soft spots of myself. Nothing that will prevent your rage – forever heating up – from boiling over. I tell you I love you, but all you can say is, “Not for real, not in the way I want you to, not even in the way you want to.” There is no life here.

We are dead and you killed us. Yet I’ll confess, just this once, that I helped you bury us. Dug the hole in the grass by the dark blue river, helped you lift and swing the bodies in. Tired from the night’s work, I kicked soil over the corpses until there was no sign the hole had been dug in the first place. So you bruise me and I stain you back with blood, yours and mine alike; there’s no difference now. We may be dead, but we’re still stuck together, baby. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, never shall we be parted. Say amen like you mean it, then I’ll strike you down like it’s something I want to do, like I still have passion left to fuel me.

We want for nothing here. Sorry, we want nothing here, and maybe that’s our gift. Neither of us wants to be here, but who will stand up first? Will they pull the other up with them? Shake off the dirt and help dust them down until we look as whole as we can be? Regardless, don’t think you have the advantage over me for knowing; you may know the end, but I remember how it began. How we crashed into each other, joy circling through us as we caught each other, stopped each other from falling. How strange that seems now, that we once thought, “I should not let her fall.” That we asked, from whoever we ask things for, that the other not end up hurt. Look at us now: skin moulting, hearts slowed to a stop, hands that no longer feel like hands, hands that do not listen to us.

You have the rage and I have the quiet. You can feel the silence taking over you and you rage that much harder, but it’s too late. We’re both here on the grass by the dark blue river, and you’ll sink into the dirt as surely as I will. So there’s nothing peaceful left to say; let it go and sink with me. You won’t stand, and neither will I – because I don’t need you to tell me that. I don’t need your visions or predictions; your rage tells me our fate. There’s no point in fighting nature, darling, and I love the silence in death more than we ever loved each other.

Noah Singh-Harris is a bi, British-Indian writer undergoing his Master’s in Postcolonial Literature at St Andrews. He worked as a director and writer for the play adaptation of The Colour of Madness and wrote a piece for the award-nominated play, Our Culture: A showcase of South Asian Excellence, a piece which was later published in the student newspaper. You can find Noah on Twitter @noahsinghharris and Instagram @singhing.intherain.