The Corners Fade.

By Jackie Bateman.

“Look closely, now, and you’ll see the real me in here, all knotted up. If only I could unfold, to show you the other parts of me, but I don’t know how.”

the twisted loneliness of a futile existence by Oliver Perry.

The world unfolds, slow as oil, too dense to see through. It expands from the core of me, from the womb, every morning, always taking its time. Here I come. My eyes open, just enough to let the light in, and I hear the swish of a curtain to one side. My mind is unhurried, as if it’s deliberately holding back, to protect. But as the minutes pass, as comprehension fazes in, I remember. There was the sickening crack, the dullness of snow, not cold exactly but enveloping. Then came the unrelenting darkness, and finally, that very first awakening, without pain, but with an alarming sensation of floating in liquid.

At the beginning of each day, I go through the same flashes of memory, until I know.

This could be the rest of my life. Each waking brings disbelief that the last time I was in control is a distant recollection. I’m heavy now, as gravity has pulled me down. The weight of it all has set in.

Here’s a muffled voice, accompanied by a blurred white image, quick moving.

Did you have a nice sleep, Mina? I expect you’re hungry. Let’s get this face wiped. You’ve got something down your chin. There.

I’m a grown woman, I want to say. I have an art studio in my apartment, stretched canvas, and an extensive collection of pastels. Look closely, now, and you’ll see the real me in here, all knotted up. If only I could unfold, to show you the other parts of me, but I don’t know how.

Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we, before your visitors get here.

They’re coming to sit, to be present for me. Please don’t let them in. My sister will be anxious, my mother will attempt to project feelings of optimism, and Dad will sit with a solemn air about him. He keeps quiet, weeping from the inside, which is the worst kind of grief. They won’t let him come. Philippe. He isn’t to blame, but still, they must channel their anger at someone. I try to make the nurse understand, no visitors, but instead I make a deep, guttural noise that reverberates out in waves. I can see the breakers inside my eyelids, orange and circular.

I know, it’s not right, is it. Poor you, being pushed and pulled around. But we’ve got to get these bed sheets changed. We’re nearly done, now.

Here comes the spoon, cold metal, carrying something lukewarm into my mouth. Soup or oatmeal or something else mushed or mashed. There is no taste, the sensation of the hard spoon against the soft of my tongue the only pleasant thing. I can almost see the whole of it, the long handle with a hand holding one end. Not mine, though.

They’re all here, now, to sit. A mesh of colours, no sharp edges. Perhaps the vivid pink is the wool scarf that I once knitted for my mother. It’s full of mistakes, but she always loved it. Her voice wavers.

Hello, Mina. I know you can hear me. It’s your sister’s birthday, darling girl. We all wish you could come with us to dinner. If you could talk, I know you would say happy birthday to her.

Then it must be spring, for Helena’s birthday is March sixteen. It’s the end of the season already, after the spectacular winter of fresh powder. I wish someone would transport me to the mountains right now, so I could feel something powerful.

A sniff, a deep clearing of a throat. Dad. I wish he would speak, but I know he cannot bring himself to. I understand.

My mother compensates.

Why don’t you tell Mina what you got for your birthday, Helena. Tell her all about it.

There is a shuffle, an uncomfortable pause before my sister speaks.

I got hair straighteners. They’re the good ones that the hair stylists use. It sounds silly, to say it out loud. I bet you think I’m vain or pointless or something. I mean, our hair is already straight, but they make it all glossy.

No, of course she doesn’t, dear. She wants to know, what did you get, what you are doing. She’s listening to you.

And we’re going out to dinner later, to the usual.

The Mumbai, Dad’s favourite. He knows all the staff, talks to them. The food is excellent, and we go there, went there, on every occasion. I try to imagine the taste of the mint chutney, or the Peshwari naan, but they don’t come. My tongue is swollen, coated with thick saliva, and it’s difficult to imagine something sweet getting through it all. They stay a while, the three of them, until they must go. Then comes the best part, even though it is the quickest. They all kiss me on the forehead, because it’s the most accessible place for them, not because they’ve thought about where I can sense their love.

Three short pecks are all I get, but they linger, and so I catch them inside, to keep for later, when I am in darkness again, inside myself. They seep into my mind, where I store them in the inner crevices, here and there, to keep warm. They are tiny globes, glowing.


We had been on the mountain only half an hour when the fog came down, or across, we couldn’t tell. Visibility limited, it said on the chalked sign. But we were experienced, invincible. Philippe wanted to get to the bowl before it got tracked out. He’d been talking about it since breakfast, a hurried bagel with coffee to save time.

We jumped off the chairlift, strapping in our back feet as we slid across to the edge of the bowl. A swirl of mist appeared from below, the remnants of a witch’s pot. It might be completely socked in soon, Philippe said. He wasn’t sure about it, now. I waved off his reluctance. We were on the edge of it, and I was never one to turn back. Let’s go. He nodded briefly, leaned forward, and disappeared down.

I hesitated as another thick curl of fog appeared. I turned and saw a group of boarders veering off in the other direction, towards the blue run. But I’d ridden the bowl a million times, and I knew it, the pace and the lines of it, even with my eyes closed. Keep to the right, until the second curve, then straight, picking up speed. A few more seconds and I entered a thick cloud. It wrapped around my goggles, the damp of it on my face. I took a deep breath, and told myself that it didn’t make a difference, although the nausea of blind movement had started. It was the silence that was the most unnerving, without Philippe’s comforting swish in front. I called out, but my own voice was dulled, an alien muffled. Don’t stop. This must be the second curve; I could feel the rise of it under my board, knees wavering on the undulating territory.

I could partially see the ground ahead now, grey and flat, and I was confident I’d got through the worst of it. But along with murkiness and cloud comes a trick of the light, as corners fade and distances merge to a surreal plateau. As the ground disappeared from my feet, as my heart pounded, I realised that for the first time I had plunged over the precipice. I bent my knees to prepare for the landing, the front tip of my board raised, just slightly, waiting for the feel of a surface.

Visibility limited, they said.

I flew for longer than I expected. Any second now, the ground would shudder beneath. I prayed for soft snow, a gentle slope, and not an exposed boulder or hard packed ice. The potential variations popped into my mind, one by one, my arms and torso tensed. Then a shadow came towards me, from one side, a body, so fast. In a split second, the tips of our boards crashed together. The scraping noise, it was wretched, and yet I remember feeling almost comforted, to know that I wasn’t alone. I had been reunited with Philippe, in the most unlikely way. I briefly saw his frightened eyes behind frosted goggles, a flash of his red cheeks, before the impact sent us bouncing back from each other. My board was sent upwards, my head down. There were sparks, I’m sure of it, silver and gold. They could have been inside my mind, fizzing, trying to process. Or they could have come from a reflection of the stars realigning, after an extraordinary flow of energy had been sent down from the universe to settle upon us. Such a mystery, and yet the result was so real that it came forth with enough impact to shatter me. Philippe, however, escaped with only a broken femur and severe bruising.

His board was sent downwards, his head up.


There are unfamiliar footsteps on the lino, with a different set of colours looming, red and blue. It’s someone new, perhaps. I wait for a voice, but they are silent, unmoving. Minutes pass, with some shuffling, and chair scraping. The red and blue come closer, and finally I can smell him, the light wax Philippe rubs into the top of his hair for designer messy. He puts his hands on either side of my face, and presses my temples lightly with his fingers. The relief of touch, it brings me to tears. He keeps his hands there, and his thumbs rub away the wet under my eyes. He still doesn’t say anything. No need.

The Blood Pudding – June 26, 2024

Jackie Bateman is an author and screenwriter living in Vancouver, BC. She has published four dark, gritty novels. Nondescript Rambunctious (Anvil Press) won a national first book contest. It was followed by Savour (Anvil Press), shortlisted for a ReLit Award, and Straight Circles (Anvil Press), which won Gold for European fiction at the IPPY Awards. Beauty and the Freak (Evernight Teen) is her first YA, shortlisted for the International Yeovil Literary Prize and a finalist with Screencraft Cinematic Book.

Artwork: Oliver Perry is a British Postwar & Contemporary painter who was born in 1973. Oliver creates fine art paintings that explore the figure through a contemporary modern bright, colourful cubist surreal sentiment. You can find more about him here.