You Are in the Dark by Rue Baldry

You open your eyes but all you can see is a red line, like light but at a strange angle. It flickers as you blink. You’re not sure whether it’s outside or in your eyeballs. Your head lolls. Pain pierces through it. A rumbling noise. It’s too much. You bury yourself back into sleep. You wake again because your shoulder is jarring against something, try to shift an arm to steady yourself, but it won’t move. Your wrists are together, behind your back. Something cuts into them. You tense your neck to try to keep at least your head still. That faint line of red is definitely outside you, beyond your reach.


You’ve been dreaming of the butcher’s shop of your childhood: high, wooden counter, the man behind it in his white hat and overalls, slicing and chopping and weighing. Sometimes the girl at the till gave you a lollipop from a jar.

Sun shone like stained glass through the colours of that jar, like bottles lined up on a shelf. There was something like that not so long ago, with a scent of hops and cologne and old cigarette smoke held deep in fabric-conditioned fibres. 

How did you get from there to being here in the deep dark? Your legs seem to be twisted, but they’ve gone to sleep so you can’t work out their angles. There was a man with a smile. What was the rest of his face?


There’s a smell like old carpet here, and other smells. You should scream. You try. Your lips are locked together. You’ve hurt your throat trying. It’s dried out.

You should be finishing that Macbeth essay. No: that was decades ago. It’s a report. Marketing strategies for nylon-tipped…

Words slip. The dark and the red line. Another bump. That’s what that feeling was before. You must be in a vehicle. Your shoulder rises and smashes down again. You try to claw your way back to sleep, away from the pain.


Where has your car gone? It was just there, you saw it, feet away under trees in the lot behind the bar, but this now is not how car parks are.

A clunk. Light streams in. You realise the engine noise stopped a few minutes ago. 

There it is, the face you’ve been trying to remember, the man at the bar, only now he’s not smiling. There’s a dark splash on his cheek. 

He’d offered to buy you a drink. You’d said you’d better not, because you were driving, and anyway you were waiting for a friend. But Tara texted to say she couldn’t make it, so you picked up your handbag and pushed through to the back door. Where’s your handbag? Have to cancel the cards.

Moonlight glints, reflected in a movement beyond his shoulder. A whoosh of air. Heaviness smacks your ear. These white flashes are inside you. Then there is a comforting blanket of red, dark nothingness.

Rue Baldry’s previous seventeen short story publications include in Litro, MIR Online, The First Line, Ambit, Postbox, Crossways, Overground Underground, Backstory, Mslexia, The Honest Ulsterman and The Broken City. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds University and has been a The Bridge Awards Emerging Writer and a Jerwood/Arvon mentee. She lives in York, UK. Her novels have been long-listed for the Caledonian, Bridport and First Page prizes, shortlisted for the Flash 500 competition and came second in the 2019 Yeovil Prize.

She is currently seeking a publisher for her short story collection and working on the second draft of her new novel.

Twitter: @R_E_Baldry
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