My death mother and death father are very different to my life mother and life father. I hope I don’t come to resent them because of this.
They meet me outside the shopping centre and tell me my clothes are inappropriate. They hand me a carrier bag and tell me to change in the public toilet.
It feels odd to have parents again, certainly parents that appear barely old enough to vote. But they seem confident and accomplished and I am happy to relinquish my liberty to them.
They lead me to their car and I get in. The car is small and fun and smells of wet canvas and lawnmower oil. On the seat next to me is a laminated brochure. On its front page, an ink drawing of a large house on a small rock.
As they drive me away, my death mother turns and tells me where we are going. I don’t listen. I look down at the booklet. I recognise the rock. It is shaped like ginger root and calved from cliffs I climbed one summer in Devon. I remember deck chairs at the river’s edge, its banks pocked with burrows stuffed with equations chittering like auks.
I see my life mother and life father smoking and saturated in yellows. They hand me a tomato sprinkled with sea salt and I eat it whole.
I don’t wait for my death mother to stop talking. I pull out my notebook and wave it in her face. I can prove everything I say.
I tell my death mother, I don’t feel well. My death father becomes angry. Everything I need is waiting, he says. I feel better and I wonder how Cooper is and whether his leg is better.
Cooper made anything bearable until one day, whilst chasing rabbits, he was sideswiped by an Austin 7. I found him covered in blood, his leg wound up like a hand crank.
They took him away and told me he’d be fine. He must be by now. I imagine him stretched out over cobbles by the kitchen door.
We arrive and I’m led inside. I meet other death mothers and death fathers. They wear round-necks and faux fur lapels and jump with hellos.
On a table beneath a bay window, I notice a wire cake stand holding three sponges. The bottom one is divided into five unequal portions. Although not hungry, I cram the fifth slice into to my mouth.
As I chew, I scan the cliff edge. I think I see him, running fast, tail high. I shout ‘Cooper’ and shower the glass with cream. The room falls silent.
I am taken away and led up a narrow staircase. Behind me, my death mother and death father argue quietly. I turn and tell them about the sponge cake. My death father bares his teeth and I continue to climb.
My bedroom is small and functional. My death mother and death father sit examining blister packs and breaking chocolate against the bed.
I move to the window. I look past cliffs, to the cornfields east of Winters Point. I see Cooper panting hard, his jaws frowning with rabbit.
I smell four-stroke and hear the door closing quietly behind me.
This is a reprint of work originally published in The Harpoon Review.
GJ Hart currently lives in Brixton, London, and is published or forthcoming in The Legendary, Scrutiny, Yellow Mama, Spelk, Schlock Magazine (UK), The Horror Within Magazine, three minute plastic, Literally Stories, FICTION on the WEB, Shirley Magazine, The HFC, Under The Fable, Unbroken Journal, The Pygmy Giant, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, Squawk Back, Five 2 One Magazine, Visual Verse, FewerThan500 and others.