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Gary Couzens is a British writer whose work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, The Third Alternative, Peeping Tom, Psychotrope and Urges, and in the anthology Bizarre Sex and Other Crimes of Passion (Richard Kasak Books). This story previously appeared in Substance #4.


Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@indiana.edu.

All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).

Migraine

by Gary Couzens

(Go back to Part Five)

Part Six

     Penny sits at the breakfast table, reading Richard's newspaper. Michelle is eating toast. Penny sends out a thought:
     - Can you hear me?
     No answer. She shrugs. Normally he's only too keen to converse. It gives Penny pause, to be the subject of such obsessive curiosity. She remembers the night before: she'd let him inside her head, fully inside, for a minute. She'd felt his fascination at being inside a woman's body at long last. Different to what he'd been used to.
     I suppose it might be, she thinks. I'm built differently. Shorter, for one. I've got breasts; he hasn't. My body fat is stored in different places to him. My weight would be distributed differently. I was lying in bed: just let him try and walk.
     But if he's done it once, he'll want to do it again...
     - Morning, she hears inside her head.
     - I tried to call you a minute ago. Where were you? Ignoring me?
     - No, I didn't hear you. I've just come downstairs.
     - I've been here all the time.
     - I wonder if that's it. Hang on, I'd like to try something.
     - You're not getting into my head again, are you?
     - No, nothing like that. Stay right where you are. I'll just break contact.

     She feels him go. She tries to read the newspaper but can't concentrate. A minute passes. Then she hears:
     - It's me again.
     - Where did you go?
     - I just walked round the room. I tried to get back into contact with you but I couldn't. It's only when I sat down. Same seat as you're sitting in.
     - What are you driving at?
     - I can only get in contact with you, Penny, if we're in the same place at the same time. That's why we've never spoken before this week. We lead different lives. We live in different places. It's only because we're down at Richard's place, because of Mum being ill, that we've got into contact.
     - But you went with me down the hallway...
     - We were in contact at the time. We didn't break contact then. This is fascinating stuff.
     - I'm sure.
She sniffs. I'm still not convinced I'm not going mad.
     - You're not. Unless you're a figment of my overactive imagination.
     - Oh, I'm real all right.
She chuckles, aloud.
     Michelle looks up.
     "Sorry," Penny mutters.
     Michelle returns to her toast.
     - I heard that, says Peter.
     - I couldn't give a shit if you did. 'Bye for now.
     Penny breaks contact.


     Michelle took the phone call. Richard was out with a client. She picked up the receiver. "Hello...? No, he's not here. Can I help, or take a message? Oh, I see..."
     I stopped listening at that point, and only recovered my attention when I heard her put the receiver down. The heavy slap of her slippers on the wooden hallway floor.
     "Peter...?"
     I looked up. She was bending over, the lines framing her mouth deeper than before.
     "It's your Mum," she said. "That was the hospital. She died during the night."
     I'd known it would happen. It had been inevitable, and I'd had six months to prepare for it. But there was still a lump in my throat that I couldn't swallow.
     Michelle put a hand on my shoulder. "You may want to be alone. I've got to let Richard know."
     I nodded.
     As she rang Richard's mobile phone, I tiptoed past her up to my room. I was trying to make contact with Penny, but couldn't. Was she somewhere else, or was I unable to do it any more? I wanted to speak to her. She would be hearing the same news as me. We could comfort each other -- we were the same person. But she wasn't there.
     I shut the door behind myself and lay face down on the bed. I wanted to cry, but tears wouldn't come.


Go On To Part Seven