Let’s say you’re wandering along a tree-lined road in South Kensington, feeling the warm, afternoon sun on your face and thinking about your date with whats-his-name that evening. Say your mum calls and you say, ‘what, what, I can’t hear you?,’ move away from the traffic and duck into a pretty little mews with gleaming Porsches and immaculate, rose-filled flower beds. Say your mum mumbles, ‘it’s bad news, I’m afraid. He has a four centimetre growth at the end of his oesophagus.’ And let’s say you make what you guess is four centimetres with two fingers and move them up to your neck and then she adds, ‘darling, his body is riddled with it,’ and you look up the word, ‘riddled’ even though you know what it means, but see that it means, to fill or permeate (someone or something), especially with something unpleasant or undesirable, and realise then there is no hope. Say you stumble into Waterstone’s and look for a book, any old book that might provide some comfort. Say you come across, ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying‘ – the only copy left, and think this must be fate. Say you buy the book, and stay up all night reading it, underlining lines that you’ll end up remembering ten years later. Say you call work the next day and say, ‘sorry, I can’t come in. My father has..’ but stop before you can say the word. Say you head over to work anyway, but when you reach the lift, realise you can’t get in so you call Ali, your sweet friend, Ali, who works on the desk opposite and she says quietly, ‘wait there, I’ll come out. We can get a coffee or something.’ Say you wander across to Starbucks and wait for her there, stirring your latte and thinking about how much you usually like lattes. Let’s say you see her running across the road, her thick brown hair all bouncy and alive and she sits down beside you, takes your hand and says nothing. Say you try to speak but can think of nothing to say either so instead you start to cry and she says, ‘it’s okay, I’m here. It’s okay.’ Say you feel a little better then and think maybe you can cope with this after all, and you have a sudden whoosh of optimism so when you get home you go for a run. A fast five mile run, but just as you’re rounding the corner, you fall heavily on one knee and your knee is bleeding and you can’t walk properly and people are rushing up to you and saying, ‘are you all right? That looks nasty,’ and you’re saying, ‘yes, yes I’m fine’ as you’re not feeling a damn thing. And say your flatmate drags you along to A and E and you sit there for three hours in the waiting room, until finally you’re in the surgery lying on the couch and staring up at the ceiling on which there is a huge glossy photo of a rainbow. A stunning photo of a rainbow. And the colours are so bold, so bright, so insanely uplifting that for a moment you forget everything. Absolutely everything.
Mary Thompson lives in London, where she works as a freelance English teacher. Her work has recently featured in journals and competitions including Flash 500, Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Atticus Review, Spelk, Ghost Parachute, Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, LISP, Literary Orphans, Bangor Literary Journal, Fictive Dream, New Flash Fiction Review and Pidgeonholes, and is forthcoming at Riggwelter. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal.