The Best British Short Stories 2014 by Nicholas Royle

The Best British Short Stories 2014 by Nicholas Royle

Author:Nicholas Royle
Language: ara, eng, eng, hin
Format: epub
Publisher: Salt Publishing Limited
Published: 2014-06-10T08:48:07+00:00

I could pick the time he betrayed me, which would make the story a Gothic drama. It was autumn. The smell of rot was in the air and berries outside the window dripped like darkening blood. I wanted to lock him out for his betrayal, though his footstep on the path was like the footstep of the vampire to whom no door could be barred . . .

But I’m distracted from our story. Other stories are crowding me, the ones I was thinking of then by the sea, stories misty with legend and others concrete and linear with the building stones of history. My eye – then, and now in my memory – is drawn to the island across the water, black against the sky, plump with trees and the tales of the people who regarded them as sacred and there on that shore fought the Romans with hair and robes flying and torches flailing and blood-curdling cries. And nearer, drawn on the tide of that growing river, are the stories of the other invaders and travellers, the Celtic monks pulling onto the once-wooded shore where we stand, the Norman king who cut the trees down and built the castle looming behind us, setting the contours of Constantinople in the blue-green light of this north-western land.

Our figures, mine and his, are becoming indistinct to me in the dark.

And I’m thinking now, as I was thinking then, of the time in my childhood when I lived nearby, an English-speaking invader myself: my own story, which ended long before I met him, featuring custard made from powder and canings at school, and which can be a jovial realist tale or a misery memoir, depending on my mood.

It leads me on – stream-of-consciousness – to remember now that earlier that day we’d been shopping. He whizzed around with the trolley and I went straggling behind, sidetracked by the fact that the supermarket assistants spoke mostly in North-West English accents, not Welsh. Later on we made an inquiry in a shop that hadn’t yet opened for business and was still being stocked with huge ugly soft toys by three Asian-looking guys. They were from our own town in England, I commented, but, surprised, they said no, they were locals, and when I asked them where they got their accents they said they had no idea.

And I stood in the pedestrianized High Street while he went to the bank machine, and watched a giant-seeming seagull drop onto a toy-town-seeming chimney, while a young mother, like my own mother here once, struggled by with a pushchair and kids, and I couldn’t decide if it was a bad end to a story – a culture and a language swamped, in spite of the educational and heritage initiatives, by the Englishness sweeping down the new roads and the TV channels – or actually a good one, riddance of the differences that created old enmities.

Or maybe – more like – there’s just no end to the story.

He came from


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