November 04, 2007


And here's the same story again, second draft. The working title is "Hours"

Kristen pulled the hair out of her face, spat into a kidney-dish, and spat again. Hollow green light sickened her features and pulled her face out, already thin and sad from long, fruitless hours in the little laboratory. She went to the sink and pulled the tap on the boiler. Scalding water screeched out, and she whisked her hands through it. The pain brought her fingers back to life.

With a sigh she collapsed into the little chair at her desk and added another mark to the results notebook– “Negative”. The scrawl joined eight pages of brothers and sisters.

Long laboratory hours made you clammy. Her shirt, under the lab-coat, was stuck to her joints with sweat. Her underwear was rucked up uncomfortably and she smelt raw, thick and vile. There used to be something lively about the smell of piss and sweat – it was the cologne of a day, spent, worn out, ready for washing off and putting on again in the morning. Now she just felt dirty.

The screen-saver on her laptop was a spinning 3D image of the test molecule. It was the one with promise – of all its chemical siblings, this one seemed the most likely to come through the experiment alive and kicking. But every time it died very quietly at the third stage of interaction. It just didn't work.

She cleared her eyes with a handkerchief, a precaution against conjunctivitis, and looked unsteadily at the clock. 4 o’clock. Morning or afternoon?

She sank down very slowly onto her coat-sleeves and fell asleep.

* * *

Kristen woke up in bed. The sun was low in the sky, washing through the tree-line, and she couldn’t tell if it was going up or coming down. The shower was running in the en suite. She rolled over very slowly, feeling the softness of the sheets and the dirt in her hair and skin.

Mark came out of the shower, shining as he dripped water. When he saw that she was awake he gave her a tight smile and sat down on the bed, drying himself. She stumbled out and slipped into the shower cubicle.

The water was deliciously hot and heavy against her skin. She felt her own body up and down, stretching out all the muscles. Some of them were tight and bunched – others were weak. The muscles behind her eyes were sore, holding her gaze dead ahead. There was a little phantom pain in the old scar on her abdomen.

When she came back to the bedroom, Mark was stretched over the bed, still naked, reading a beaten paperback. She collapsed down onto the bed with him, rolling over and holding onto his broad chest, kissing him once, twice.

“I thought you’d gone out.” He said, not looking away from the book.



“I thought I was on to something.”

“Mmhm. You need to get some distance from it. It's not good for you.”


“You don’t have to be sorry.”

She reached up, pulled the book from his hands and kissed him, and he kissed back gratefully. They made love, slowly, enjoying the soft feel of one another’s body, the hard press of the wooden bed-frame, the swallowing warmth of the sheets. Kristen still couldn't tell if the sun was coming up or going down. Afterwards they lay together in hazy warmth.

“Are you going to get some distance from it?” He asked.

“Yes.” She said, softly. “Okay.”

Sooner or later she was going to have to tell him.

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