Flash Fiction Friday 060: Doubt by Simon Lavery

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixtieth piece in this series. This week’s is a 345-worder by Simon Lavery.


Steven creeps across the bedroom in the dark, trying not to bruise his thigh again on the cunning sharp corner of the wooden frame at the foot of the bed.  On to the landing.  Still he puts no lights on, to avoid waking any of the guests, sleeping in the other bedrooms.

He enters the bathroom and is obliged to sit to urinate, for to try to do so standing up would result in a mess.  He sits in the cave-dark solitude and closes his eyes – whereupon he perceives a bright spot of light.  It’s like the piercing beam from a lighthouse, as seen from a great distance, or a strong signal-torch flashed on then off on a dark promontory to signal to a ship some miles offshore, as smugglers once did off these coasts.

He opens his eyes, and the light vanishes.  Closes them again – it glows back for a moment, then is gone once more.  He feels a subsidence inside him, and along his skin experiences a cold tautness.  He’d observed his cat pucker up its skin that way, making folds in its fur as it tried to eliminate some kind of irritation it was feeling.

Without flushing – again to avoid disturbing the sleepers just a few feet away behind their bedroom walls – he returns along the landing, finds his own door ajar, skirts the jagged footboard, and pulls back the duvet to re-enter his bed.

As he slides into the nocturnal comfort of the bed and feels the warmth of his sleeping wife’s body next to his own wakefulness, he replays in his mind that blinking signal image; what was its message, what does it signify? he wonders.  Who could be producing such a beam on that invisible black headland, and to whom, for what purpose?  Why would it only appear to him when he closed his eyes?

More disconcerting was the doubt that then came that he was in fact in his own bed, and that the soft, fragrant person breathing somnolently beside him could really be his own wife.


I asked Simon what prompted this piece and he said…

I’d been reading some stories by Borges, and he posits in one – can’t remember off-hand which one it is now – the possibility of parallel existences.  So my piece took shape from there, with a different story arc and conclusion.  I was interested in producing something rather ethereal, maybe a bit more experimental than some of my more conventional narratives: there isn’t really a traditional protagonist or plot – it’s more a philosophical reflection, I suppose.  But all that sounds rather grandiose; it was fun to do.

Not at all, and great that it was fun. Writing should be or the readers wouldn’t enjoy it. Thank you, Simon.

Simon is a semi-retired (ie still working part-time) lecturer in English in a college in Cornwall.  He’s been writing for as long as he can remember, and had his first publication in his school magazine when he was about 16.  He’s just turned 60, but remembers that story vividly.  He’s enjoying the luxury of having two days off work each week, and has been able to become much more creative and productive over the past year or so as a consequence.

After graduating in English from the University of Bristol, Simon then completed a PhD at Cambridge (on medieval English hagiography; not many career options there, he says…) and returned to teaching English for the remainder of his career.

He and his wife recently bought bikes, and have been enjoying cycling round the lanes of their beautiful county (though it’s a bit hilly, he tells me!)

He doesn’t yet have a website or blog, but is aiming to start one, now he has some time to devote to it.  He adds that it seems difficult these days to reach a reading audience without some kind of web presence.

I agree. I started this blog at the end of March 2011 because I’d heard it was a good thing to do. I hadn’t realised how much it would take over my life but then I could post one item a week (the minimum recommended) rather than 3-4 times a day. 🙂 Oh, and I’d heartily recommend WordPress. I design blogs for other writers (and non-writers) and plan to release an inexpensive eBook in the not-too-distant future on how to create them. 🙂


If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with dark fiction author Steven Miscandlon – the five hundred and forty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.