by Jasmin Kirkbride

Afterwards, when the shock waves had subsided, there were only a few survivors left. In side-turned, velvet-clad seats. They cried until their breath escaped, and their plaintive, mewling noises made the theatre wish it did not have such sturdy walls, that it had not performed its pain-prolonging half-protection, but had simply let the tiny particles roll in and penetrate the oozing, fleshy bodies completely.

Then, silence. Nobody danced, nobody sang, nobody read a line or waved a prop or sighed or laughed or cried. There was at best a long-held breath, which over the days and decades released itself, seeping out between the hard grasp of rigor mortis. Bit by bit, the bodies bloated, fermented, dried, decayed. Until it could have simply been that the theatre had been left without a cleaner for too long, doused gingerly in inch-thick dust.

In the wake of this subsidence, the theatre became quite alone. It tried to weep but found no tears. It tried to call out but found no returning voices. So it did what it had been taught to do: it danced and played and sang until plaster fell from walls and windows shattered to shards. ‘Til the curtains rent themselves to shreds and the paintwork flaked into carcass. ‘Til its bricks shook and arches tumbled. The theatre wore itself desperately down to dust, blending on those end-of-worldly breezes with the flakes of skin and sinew that had once been its beloved players.

When that cacophony of grief was done there came a true silence. A desolate and absolute silence. The kind that comes after people have stopped grieving because there is no one left to be the mourner. A quiet world, and still, without the clutch of mortality or the wounds of the left-behind.

But without, too, the thing that makes you grieve; that life affirming needness of another person. No heart-rend, but neither was there heart. No ending, but nor could there be a start.

Jasmin Kirkbride is a publisher and writer. Her short fiction has been published in various magazines, including Open Pen, Haverthorn, Hark and The Cadaverine, and her flash fiction has been shortlisted twice for the Kilburn literary Festival Flash Fiction competition and won the TSS Monthly 500 Contest. She Tweets at @jasminkirkbride.