Empty by Blake Curran
Blake Curran is currently studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and a Bachelor of Arts (English Literatures) at the Univeristy of Wollongong. He is in his third year. He lives somewhere around Campbelltown, and finds inspiration for his stories in the suburban and natural world around him. He hopes to one day be a published novelist, but also enjoys writing shorter pieces very much.
The uniform houses lie like squares in a patchwork quilt, flung over the undulations of the earth as far as she can see. She sits on a hard, wooden bench on the front verandah, cigarette warm in her hand. She knocks it against a small ceramic dish before it ashes. It is evening. It’s always evening, by the time she gets a chance to come out here and have a quiet smoke by herself, churn things over, cast a meandering glance over the observable world.
Last night, the air was warm and it felt like a summery dusk from her childhood: you could stretch in its luxuriance, and the world went on forever in perfect golden tones. But tonight, the air is sharp and everything looks monochrome. Crickets chirp, and grass glistens like glass darkly caught in the shine of the moon. She hurries to finish her smoke so she can go back inside.
It is a new suburb. Many of the houses have only just been built; some are not even finished. She is lucky, in a way, to be able to live in one so soon. Her previous house, which she had been renting by herself for years, had been demolished at the landlord’s bequest, forcing her to pack her few things and leave. It pays to have a cousin in contracting. What was it her father used to say? It’s not what you know, but who. And blood is thicker than water. Apparently.
How can she believe that when everyone she’s ever loved has left her, one way or another. At the occasion of death, blood turns to water. At least here she doesn’t have to think about it. She can pretend not to, anyway.
She has forgotten about the cigarette, and it has gone out a couple of centimetres from her fingertips, a small heap of ash beneath. What a waste. She considers lighting another, but does not bother. The once-lit cylinder hangs limp from her calloused fingers. There is no point in lighting another. It is cool outside and she can feel the threat of rain close by. She could go inside right now and run herself a hot bath, pour a glass of heady red wine and relax into one more early night, ready for another day of work tomorrow. But she does not move. She remains motionless, except for her eyes. They rove over what used to be rippling bushland, seeing none of it. She is thinking about how she is the only one living on this street, on the whole block, and how this grey light makes her ache in some unexplainable, non-physical way. Not even a car has passed by all evening, and now it is night, and she has not seen another person since she got home. She has been sitting here since the streetlights clicked on down the road, but this block belongs to another transformer, and has not been wired up properly yet. So she sits in dim moonshine, alone on the outskirts of artificial light.
She lets the cigarette drop into her ashtray on the arm of the wooden bench, picking up the carton from the empty space beside her. Inside rattles her last cigarette and a cheap, silver lighter. She holds the cigarette between her lips and flicks it alight between cupped hands. The sky begins to drip. She inhales a hollow breath and thinks empty thoughts that loop endlessly.