‘Seeing in the Dark’ in Hysteria 5

Since 2011, the Hysterectomy Association has been publishing the Hysteria series – an anthology of poetry, flash fiction and short stories to raise funds and awareness for this important women’s charity. In Hysteria 5, my story ‘Seeing in the Dark’ appears alongside ‘When Jesus Came To Tea’ by Olga Wojtas, another Scottish Book Trust New Writer. The anthologies are available in paperback and a selection of electronic formats from the Association’s website.


She catches scraps of radio chat, the chorus of songs, registers motorway signs but not the distances, because the biggest part of her is thinking about him. There is a depth to these silences that reminds her of being underwater. She tries to surface, but to do so requires effort, and all she can manage is to watch the speedometer while his face bobs in her mind.

Once she’s through Inverness she adjusts the angle of her foot on the pedal. Now the silence laps about as she starts to take in more of her surroundings. Darkness swaddles the moor at Crask where the RSPB has yet to fell the old spruce plantation. The wind has torn up the trees to the north and their slanting trunks are weathered the same grey as the sky. She sees how these pale strands matt the green swathe as the dead are held up by the living, and wonders at how their bearing down doesn’t rip new roots from the earth.

She checks her rear-view as she brakes coming off the strath, forgetting, as she has these whole eleven hours, that her duvet is jammed into the back window. No matter. Now Sarah is on the home straight, the same road she travelled every day on the bus from school. She drives the last seven miles with one hand on the wheel.

When she thinks of this place, a bare strip of coast with nothing beyond but the blue shadow of Orkney, she always pictures it as it is in winter. Pale sand, rusted bracken, and down where the land runs out, that old ruin pointing into the mist. But now, in summer, it’s different. Whin bursts from the ditches, tattered bog cotton flows down to the sea – the owld ruin just a scar on the headland. And now is thinking of Malcolm again. She imagines him into the space next to her – how his knees would fall open, how his face would look as he turned from the window. But he was never a passenger in her car. Crazy to think they were that young. With something between torture and awe, she counts back the years.

They used to go up by the crag late at night. Sit there, looking out to sea. Smoke one of Malcolm’s mam’s cigarettes or share a bottle of Sweetheart stout left over from the New Year. Far below, there was always a creel boat listing on the dusky sand, floats strung up on the gunwale, seaweed dripping from the painter. Malcolm would talk about the horsepower, the pot-hauler on its stern. She’d point to a tanker on the horizon, snatch the fag from his mouth […]