Helen will be reading at Story Shop 2015, the daily Edinburgh International Book Festival showcase of up-and-coming writers living and working in Edinburgh today.

Her appearance is on Sat 15th August 2015 at 4 pm in the Spiegeltent. Story Shop performances take roughly ten minutes and are free and unticketed.

Helen McClory’s first collection, On the Edges of Vision, will be published by Queen’s Ferry Press in August 2015. Her debut novel, Flesh of the Peach, will be published by CCM press in 2016. She can be found @HelenMcClory and at Schietree

You can hear the author read an extract of the story by clicking the play button on the photo above.
 

 

Encounter with a Small Witch
a short story by Helen McCroy

You’ve arrived late off a red-eye, hoping to catch Iceland at its best. You’ve in mind: the lagoon to wash away all your cares, a glacier walk, a pony ride. And yet, you’re only as good as the last man you killed. You take their power and their face.

You idle at baggage arrivals. There is an elephant circling on the carrousel. It is light grey. An elephant is not your choice of weapon, but it is the one assigned to you for this mission.

You haven’t been sleeping; there is someone else to do that for you—she hasn’t been sleeping either. She is a small girl with light-grey eyes. The elephant is an elephant-shaped, human-sized bag: hers. There she is, sitting alone on a row of light-grey chairs. A light is flashing and it’s flashing like a fish swimming in a fever. The carrousel is rounding, an asphalt road of carnival ooze. There’s the bag and the little girl walking alongside to catch it, clutching a toy dog. The girl is in light grey, with light-grey wavy hair. The dog is a darker shade of light grey. The dog looks limply over at you: you haven’t been sleeping lately; the toy dog never rests. The hour, though empty, is voracious.

You walk towards the girl and reach out your hands, as if you are going to strangle her. You do this about ten metres from her, walking neatly and fast, eyes swimming in circles like panicked fish. Several avenues of intention are closed off to you now. You’re only as good as the pressure your hands contain. You’re only as good as the right way of saying so.
You just want to take a dip in the blue lagoon; you’ve always dreamed of doing that. This is your mission. Light-grey linoleum scuds and squeals as you walk on it. With your arms outstretched you trip and fall, knocking out one light-grey tooth. The girl comes over and pats your head, then places a hood over your face. The ribbons tickle your chin. You shut your eyes. The cloth has no colour. There’s the noise of the elephant-shaped bag being unzipped. You are rolled into it, and the zip done up firmly over your clothes. What a failure! Never mind, friend. You are walking inside the elephant-shaped bag.

Now you are shaped like an elephant, with crinkly neoprene skin, and you are parading around the airport. Every time you take a step the light-grey dog yelps and nips at your elephant heels, and the little girl laughs. You’re not entirely sure if this turn of events is to the good, because you can’t see, and you’re an elephant, an assassin, a casual traveller. You find several avenues of resistance are closed off to you now: this is the power of a small witch. But the sun won’t set at this latitude, at this time of year. The parade continues out into the post-midnight dusk. Circling away over the heathland, you hazard to suppose. The hour, though voracious, is empty. Never mind, friend. The thermal waters have been assigned to wash away all your cares.

    …

This is just a sample of what you can expect on the day.

Event-StoryShop-4pmnoteCome back after 4.30 pm on the afternoon of her Story Shop appearance to read the entire short story.

(c) Helen McClory, 2015