Wishes (Part Six)

[If this doesn’t immediately make sense, you may not have read the previous five parts! That, or you’d like a quick refresh (it has been a while since Part Five) or perhaps you’d like to read my other flash fiction series. In all these cases, click here]

“She plays with an effortless grace doubtless honed by ballet lessons in her formative years,” I read aloud.

Vix sniggered. “They’ll have got that from talking to Mum. She dragged me there every week for a year. I refused to wear pink so I was the only one in the class in blue.”

“That wasn’t a major influence on your playing style then?”

“Well, I still won’t wear pink…”

I laughed and scanned the rest of the article – it moved onto me and so I refrained from reading it. The pressure of our burgeoning reputations was getting to me. We’d trained with the England squad last week, and after an uncharacteristic miss I’d had a panic attack and gone to the physio’s room to calm down. My stats were near perfect and every error had a significant impact. I led Vix in half a dozen categories and trailed her in six others. My soon-to-be international teammate ‒ we were expected to make our international debuts next month, a fact I still couldn’t believe –  Alan was having his hamstring tended to.

“Turned inside out by that girl of yours,” he’d said to me with a wry grin. “You’ll take my place in the next squad I expect.”

I had smiled and offered my condolences, but my heart had skipped a joyous beat with his words.

We were sat in my flat, relaxing the evening before the Championship game, and I was reading the preview online. The article barely mentioned the opposition; instead it was being billed as ‘the pinnacle of a golden year for a golden couple’ – a celebration of Vix and me. Everyone seemed to know we would win, but we had to go out and wow. We couldn’t have put any more work in than we had, yet I wasn’t confident at all.

‘There’s something you’ve forgotten,’ my brain kept whispering to me. ‘Something you’ve forgotten all this time.’

I lay awake that night, the voice whispering to me again and again as a wrinkled face I didn’t know swam through my head. I was just drifting off to sleep when Vix grabbed my arm.

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Wishes (Part Five)

[For the rest of this story, as well as my other flash fiction series, click here]

I have the same dream every single night. I’m playing korfball, and playing well. I fake out defenders, score with most of my shots and collect the rebounds of the few that don’t go in.

The opposition are powerless to stop me. ‘I am taking them apart,’ I think, before I begin to do just that. Defenders slip and their legs snap like dry twigs, shots cannon into heads that roll and clutter the pitch and still the match goes on. The floor becomes a sea of body parts, twitching and crunching beneath my feet as I dazzle the remaining players with my skill.

Eventually it’s down to two-a-side, as me and Vix take on two faceless defenders. The match’s result is beyond doubt but we keep pushing as the commentator says one more goal will make the scorer the best player ever. We work a neat one-two and as soon as Vix shoots I know it’s not going in. I’m quick to react though, and charge towards the korf to gather the rebound. As I thought, the ball bounces back off the rim and arcs away. Vix and her defender are underneath it; ‘I’ve got it,’ she yells but she doesn’t seem to have the upper hand. It’s down to me to save this. I stride forward and leap up, sailing over the ladies at the base of the korf. I catch the ball, land, set myself and place it expertly in the basket as the commentator and the crowd go wild.

Ecstatic, I turn to find Vix, but I can’t see her. Her defender is there, ashen-faced and staring at my feet. What is she staring at? I look down. Vix’s lifeless eyes gaze up from her broken body, crushed beneath me.

I wake up, drenched in sweat. Vix sleeps soundly beside me – I reassure myself her chest is moving slowly with her breathing. I pull on a pair of shorts, socks, trainers, an old top. Head out for a run in the cold October air. Championship game in five weeks.

Wishes (Part Three)

[Part Two here]

August 14th

Dear diary,

It’s been a while… I know I haven’t written for ages, but I’ve been in such a good mood of late that it seemed to make sense to pen a few lines. Life’s great at the moment! Work’s been busy but not overly, so I’ve still been able to get away in good time for my gym sessions three times a week. I know I’ll reread this in a year’s time and think ‘three times a week?!’ but that’s just what’s happening – I’m probably in the best shape of my life with that and korfball training.

Made my first team debut last Sunday and scored three goals in a 20-11 win. Jon bought me a drink afterwards and said it was the best debut he’d seen. He hasn’t played since breaking two of his fingers a few months ago. Attempted comeback last week didn’t go well – even with them strapped up the pain was too much apparently.

Injuries seem really common, which is worrying me a bit. There is a lot of twisting and turning but I didn’t think it was worse than any other sport. We watched an exhibition game after our match between a couple of the region’s top club sides where two guys twisted their knees, and a girl (who had been having a great game) turned her ankle when she slid off the court and almost crashed into me. I put my hands out to stop her but her legs slid from under her and she ended up kicking the wall behind me.

I felt bad but Vix reassured me it wasn’t my fault. We’ve become pretty close of late and went out for a date last Thursday which went really well. It wasn’t awkward, we just chatted about all sorts over dinner. I was a perfect gent and got a goodnight kiss at her door when I might’ve been able to push for an invitation inside. I saw her looking at me as I changed tops at the match and I don’t blame her ’cause I’ve really toned up!

Vix is applying for trials with Birmingham City’s development squad and is trying to get me to do the same. It would be a bit of a trek if I made the squad but something tells me travelling around and playing with as many teams as possible can’t hurt, sonny. << huh, don’t know where that came from! Just sounded like a familiar phrase… I can’t remember. Something off kids TV that decided to surface from my subconscious maybe.

I feel kinda bad about Alastair who keeps reminding me about that hike to North Wales we planned, but I have korfball pretty much every weekend now and it’s going so well I don’t want to lose any momentum. I’ve invited him to come watch a match and maybe even try it out so hopefully then he’ll understand.

Sleep beckons – another early start tomorrow so I can get away to the gym from work before it gets too crowded.

Night diary!

harry

Wishes (Part Two)

[Part One here]

Mist, cold, damp, and a dull ache. I am lying down and can see only grey overcast sky so I sit up. I am in a small dip, woods behind me and hills rolling away ahead. I explore the source of my pain – the back of my head – and my fingertips return with dark, dried blood flaking from them. There is blood on the back of my hand as well, where the skin seems to have been torn off. What the hell is going on?

Slowly, memories drift back to me: packing my bag this morning, driving out to a remote car park, setting my sights on a distant peak and ducking into the woods as the rain began. After that, things grow fuzzy…and colourful. I have a vague recollection of a rainbow – the bright shades searing my memory even now.

I check the time – it is getting late to be carrying on and my clothes are unpleasantly damp from the grass. The hike back to the car takes a good hour and all the time a sense of unease crawls over my skin.

While it doesn’t fade until I drift to sleep that night, the foreboding does not manifest itself the rest of that day and I wake the next morning with the whole episode quite out of my head.

Neither cut seems serious and the head wound quickly heals but the one on my hand, though shallow, remains open and sore. Perhaps it is in too mobile a part of the body to heal well. I figure I will be fine for korfball training on Wednesday and don’t want to miss an opportunity to see Vix, a girl at the club on whom I have a most schoolboy-like crush.

At training we warm up all together which is my favourite part because it is the only time Vix and I are in the same group. I jog alongside her and make small talk and my heart flutters. I don’t tell her about my odd Sunday and how I’ve thought of little besides her face since. We toss a ball around with Jon, an experienced player who likes to think himself an excellent teacher. He spends plenty of time closely helping Vix with her grip before deciding to ‘demo proper passing form’ and bullet a pass at me. The impact makes my cut throb but I focus on imitating his form and return the ball firmly at him. Caught by surprise, the ball slams into the tip of a couple of his fingers and they bend with a sickening crackle and pop. Through the pain, as he is being bandaged by the sports centre staff, he tells me that was the best pass he’s seen me throw.

The whole session goes well – all the drills make perfect sense and I see improvement with each one. When the ‘experienced’ group are a man short for the games at the end, I am asked to move up to take Jon’s place and Vix smiles as I join her team. My first four shots produce goals and, feeling invincible, I shoot from an outrageous distance and the ball bounces back off the rim of the basket.

“If that shot had got in…” Vix says to me after the game.

“Next time,” I reply with a smile, “I’ll make it and you’ll buy me a drink.”

She blushes a little but agrees.

‘Roll on next week!’ I thought to myself that evening.

I had no idea how far this would go.

Wishes (Part One)

It was sunny when I set out, but there’s a flurry of rain so I duck into some nearby woods and carry on heading west towards the distant peak. There’s nothing like escaping the hustle of city life for a Sunday hike through the wild world of North Wales.

I pass out of the trees as the rain is easing and in front of me is the end of the rainbow.  I can’t believe it. Vibrant colours pour out of the sky right into the ground, and lying next to them is a tiny old man. A leprechaun? He looks more like a garden gnome, without the hat or fishing rod, but his eyes, which open lazily at the sound of my footsteps, are a dark, foreboding red.

“Are you a-”

“Don’t start, kid,” he says in a gruff voice. “Just let me explain the rules, OK?”

I nod, suspending disbelief. His eyes burn into me.

“I’ll grant you a wish, but it has to be something already possible, you follow? A series of unlikely events coming together, no problem. Power of flight? Ain’t happening. Kim Kardashian? Sure, if you’re into that, but she’s not going to rock up at your house asking for a bed for the night – head over to the US, enter VIP competitions and things should fall into place. Got it?”

I have a thousand questions, but for some reason can only ask about his last example. “What about Kanye?”

“Oh, you’re that way inclined? Well sure, that can work. That a wish?”

“No, no,” I say. “Just that they’re together, aren’t they, Kim and Kanye so does that…?”

“They are, are they?” asks the man. “Married?” I nod. “Well as long as I know, that’s fine. I can send a few opportunities his way and see what works. Is it Kim then?” I shake my head.

“Well think of something before this thing fades,” he says, gesturing over his shoulder at the rainbow streaming into the earth. I wonder if it’s coming out of the ground at the other end. “Power source, innit. You could be a bestselling author maybe. You still have to write a hundred thousand words, but take a few stylistic risks and they’ll all pay off.”

“OK, I uh…” My mind goes blank. What do I want from life? A face floats into my head: Vix, a particularly attractive girl I met when I started playing korfball a couple months ago. Her smile lights up the sports hall but she always trains with the first team while I’m stuck in the development group.

“I want to be the best korfball player in the UK,” I blurt out. Really? Do I? Sure, why not. A nice, sensible wish. The man frowns.

“Korfball?” he asks. I nod, tentatively at first and then firmly. I’ve committed to my wish now. The man pulls a tablet seemingly out of mid-air and after a few taps on the screen is watching a korfball highlights video. ‘I particularly like the music on that one,’ I think to myself.

After a minute or so he nods. “Yeah, looks achievable.”

“I suppose I should practise a bit every day, go to the gym, that sort of thing?” The man is grinning, his red eyes glowing.

“Can’t hurt, sonny. Sign up to a league, travel around, play as many teams as possible. Should only take a few months – let’s call it Christmas at the latest.”

I consider this. It’s May now. Within eight months I’ll be the best in the country. Vix will definitely want me then.

“Deal,” I say, and offer the small man my hand. He grabs it, sinks his teeth into my skin, and thrusts my bloodied hand into the rainbow. The colours burn as they pass over the wound…

[to be continued]