Kate Mahony has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. Her short fiction has appeared in Best New Zealand Fiction Volume 6, (Random House), Turbine, Takahe, the International Literary Quarterly, Flash Frontier, Tales for Canterbury (Random Static), Blue Crow Magazine, Microw 8, Blue Fifth Review and Blackmail Press.
One of her short stories, 'A Good Person', was a finalist in the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award in 2008. She teaches short story writing at the Community Education Centre, Wellington.
Into the future
Leila had seen the old woman in the Chelsea pub before, but not as late as this. The woman stumbled as she made her way to the bar. It was supposed to snow tonight. Two days before Christmas, Leila felt unusually do-goodish. She went across to her.
The woman raised her empty glass towards the bartender. A bunch of businessmen with loud braying voices and striped ties obscured her tiny frame from view. It was too late now, anyway. The pub was about to close. Leila could hear her workmates saying goodbye to each other.
‘Would you like me to walk you home?’ Leila offered. ‘The streets will be slippery from the snow.’
The woman peered at the bottom of her glass. She said something in a guttural voice and put it down.
Leila took her arm. She led her to the door, up the two steps and out onto the street. ‘Point me in the direction.’ Leila could hear her own voice being overly cheerful.
The other woman was slow. Leila had to take two steps where she would normally take one.
The woman said something. To Leila it sounded like, ‘Old age is hell.’ Or had she said ‘The future is hell’? It was too late to ask her to repeat the words because now they had stopped outside a tall Victorian house.
‘Down here,’ the woman said.
Leila helped her down the steps.
At the bottom, the woman struggled to find her key in her handbag. She put it in the lock.
‘Thank you.’ She opened the door. ‘I can manage.’
A putrid smell wafted out.
A man’s voice, weak and querulous, greeted them.
Leila saw a trail of brown lumps along the hallway floor.
The old woman closed the door.
Leila headed up the steps. Perhaps the old couple owned a dog. Perhaps.
As she opened the door to her own flat and began to survey with satisfaction the neat, orderly living room, she saw again the scene at the old woman’s house. She moved blindly forward, stumbling on the doormat, unable to rid herself of a growing sense of horror.
By Kate Mahony
‘I come from a long line of mad people,’ Geena announces.
Some of the group look at the woman who is facilitating to see how she reacts. The facilitator stares intently at a space above Geena’s head and nods. Three people nod carefully as well.
The advertisement promised psychodrama, self-revelation, self awareness, re-birthing and personal growth. All in a weekend.
Geena hates the weekends, the empty time on her own. When she got up this morning, her apartment was grey like the sky. It’s on the third floor, facing the wrong side for the sun.
‘A long line,’ Geena repeats.
A woman with unruly black hair takes an impatient breath and rises up on her cushion.
Geena knows she must hold the stage. This is her time. She mustn’t let it get railroaded. She ignores her. ‘My grandmother had visions.’
Now Geena pauses to take a breath herself, letting her gaze fall on the group. The facilitator is peering through her graduated spectacles at something on her lap. A timetable.
‘And my aunt.’
The facilitator leans forward. ‘Remember, Geena, this is about you. Where you are at now. Let’s not get too distracted.’ She looks at each of the group in turn. ‘Everyone has madness in their families, take it from me.’ She says this meaningfully.
Geena shakes her head. ‘Not like mine.’
Some of the group turn towards the facilitator, then back to Geena, like spectators at Wimbledon.
‘You see, in my family−’ Geena pauses, observing the facilitator.
The facilitator, lips tightened, now carefully demonstrates the art of being a good listener. She does not interrupt. She gives Geena her full attention.
A ray from the thin winter sun hits the window pane. It’s going to be a good weekend, with shades of pink, Geena decides.