In those small, empty hours, you find your hand putting the milk bottle in the oven, the cornflakes in the cupboard under the sink.
A cat flashes its eyes at you from the top of the back garden fence and you know, through the window, that it sees. It sees the soul is out of you. There’s nothing inside your skin. It’s the time of the night when you could do anything.
Slumped on the kitchen stool, you look at your fingers like they belong to something else.
The soul has to wash back in, on the shush of the dawn, when the oily sky spreads its pink and blue. Until then the streets run in dark threads from your gate.
Your son sleeps in the room above. His soul is also out to play at this time of night. His head is filled with dreams of dark water; cold sharks sliding past his skin, red and yellow fish. There’s a diver ahead in a thick suit that covers everything but the hands, which are his dad’s.
You can’t dream anymore, because you can’t sleep. Your fingers are too cold to feel, and the cornflakes are left soggy on the counter, as your bare feet move towards the back door.
Later, you will retrace your steps, wash up your bowl, make your son’s breakfast. Until then it’s just your toes on wet grit, ivy growing in chaos down the black alley, the glowing eyes of animals, the unshakeable chill.
Lucy Smith is a flash fiction, prose poem, and short story writer from North West England, currently based in Cardiff, Wales, where she has completed an MA in Creative Writing, two artist residencies, and co-written an audio story. She is the creator of Talking Ink, a podcast in association with Seren Books, showcasing flash fiction writers and poets and featuring music from local artists. Her fiction has been published by Palm-Sized Press and won awards from Legend Press and Lancaster University. Find out more on her website: lucysmithwriter.wordpress.com