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  • Writer's pictureThe English Translator

Summer in the city

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

The doors of the tram opened and Fay headed straight for the back. Tucking herself behind a guy with a guitar and an old lady laden with shopping, she positioned her headphones on her head and pulled up her favourite track. The beat soothed her jangled nerves and she relaxed listening to the pulsating rhythm. The sun streamed through the dirty windows and lit up the faces of the passengers. As the tram picked up speed, the faces flickered in the juxtapositioning of light and shadow, seeming to jump and recede. It made Fay’s eyes hurt. Closing them to focus more intently on the words of the song, Fay entered her own private world. A world in which she was the sole performer. She imagined how it would feel to be stood on a stage. The exhilaration as the spotlight sought her out. She could almost feel the cold steel of the microphone in front of her. Smiling, she let her head fall back and was jerked out of her reverie by loud shouting. Her earphones were ripped from her head and she was pushed roughly to the side. Her eyes flew open and were greeted by the angry face of a man. His face was red, his mouth filled with expletives and it all seemed to be directed at her. Through the shrill screaming, she was able to pick out one or two words. The woman. It seemed to be about the woman. Gesticulating wildly, the man pointed a finger straight into her face. Turning her head, she suddenly noticed the old lady slumped in her seat. Oranges spilled from her bag, dancing and spinning across the floor in rhythm with the tram’s movements. The old lady looked at the ceiling. Confused, Fay peered upwards to see what was there. Nothing. The man shouted again and Fay returned to the present, coming back from her jaunt into a glittering future with more than a bump. She turned to look at the woman again. This time, she noticed the thin red line down the front of the woman’s blouse. She followed it upwards and noticed how a tiny circle on her neck seemed to form the starting point. An acrid scent assailed her nostrils. Mystified, she puzzled where it could have come from. The woman’s eyes were a piercing blue, her eyelids a peculiar shade of green. One hand had fallen to the floor, the handle of her bag lay across its palm. In her other, she held a medal, its ribbon striped red, green and blue. Fay knew that medal; she’d seen it somewhere before. But where? Her mind was a blank. The noise in her earphones stopped, replaced by a faint buzzing sound.

Fay felt dizzy. A circling blackness filled her vision and she could feel it pulling her down. Succumbing to its power, she entered a sunlight world. Now, she was six years old and looking up into the canopy of a forest. The tops of the trees were shaking. She felt the cool breeze against her skin; it brushed her cheek like the kiss of a butterfly. She felt happy. She watched as white puffy clouds raced across the sky, one minute there, then they were gone. The sun shone brightly and its warm rays caressed her skin. Here, she was safe. Here, she was protected. Here was where she could escape. Her head lay heavy on the ground. An ant mistaking her for a log crawled over her leg. Brushing it away, she suddenly became aware of the dampness of the earth, its scent reassuringly real, helping the worries flow from her mind and easing her body. Fay had loved being six. Six is when the world is a perfect place: no hardship, no troubles, no problems. Six was a good age to be. A shadow crossed her face. Looking up, Fay realised she wasn’t six. She was 36 and lying on the ground in the middle of a forest. Her sense of calm extinguished like the flame of a candle. Her throat tightened and her blood pulsed in her ears. The sound was growing louder with every motion. Digging her nails into her hands, she gathered her strength and opened her mouth. “How did you find me?” she asked. The figure walked out of her line of sight. Fay jumped to her feet and turned around. A shapeless voice sighed. “Fay, Fay, Fay, why did you ever think we would never find you? We always know where you are. We always know how to find you. Don’t think you can escape us, Fay.” Fay’s shoulders dropped; she now realised that entering the forest had been a bad idea. No one would happen by. She was alone. She was reminded of the old conundrum, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall? The hairs on the back of her neck rose in fear. A faint humming noise sounded in the distance. A low, persistent, never-ending noise gradually became louder and louder until Fay had to cover her ears with her hands. She shook her head violently, trying to clear the noise from her brain. Now, she was back in the tram listening to the screeching of the brakes as it came to a juddering stop.

The lady still lay in her spot on the bus. The man still shouted into her face, but Fay suddenly realised she needn’t listen to him. She stood abruptly; startled, the man took a step back. One red-nail-varnished hand shoved him in the chest, sending him scooting up the aisle where he came to land next to the driver’s seat. He shook his head dazed. The driver looked in his mirror and watched in horror as Fay appeared to grow. Her body twisting and transforming, becoming larger and more powerful. Her clothes – jeans and a T-shirt – lay in tatters on the ground; the scarlet lining of her cloak complemented Fay’s pale complexion. Her demeanour was no longer passive and acquiescent; now, she owned her place in the world. Her hair broke free of her cap and auburn curls cascaded down her back. She was a powerful force to be reckoned with. Exhilaration coursed through her veins, making her feel invincible. The moonlight reflected in the mirror, creating the appearance of a spotlight. Stepping forward into the light, it bathed her in a silvery glow. Her eyes gleamed with a wisdom passed down over the centuries and she knew a tram was no place for her. Pulling open the doors, she stepped into the cool night air, noticing with a shiver of apprehension the pale glow on the distant horizon. She would have to hurry if she was to make it home in time. Letting out a howl of the most profound pleasure, she rose steadily into the sky until she became the faintest of specks in the tram driver’s eye.

This story came about as the result of three writing prompts given in a writing circle I attend. It's written in a single sitting, so please forgive inaccuracies.

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