fiction short story Trace

What Remains

Let the intimate and strange nature of Jess Glaiser's atmospheric short story envelope you.

by Jess Glaiser

We are connected, you and I, by the tip of my finger.

I map the lines around your eyes; the wisdom there has faded. My finger – just the very tip – moves over the contours of your face, taking in your nose, your chin, your ears. Always learning things to do with your face – flare your nostrils, wriggle your ears, tie your tongue in knots impossible. I don’t touch your tongue.

Your skin is soft and electric, shuddering beneath my touch ever so slightly. I move to the outside edge of your face – draw around the circle like a child copying a cartoon picture. If I could I would place paper over you and rub until your face belongs to me, a mask I can keep, frame on my wall to echo you.

Your neck is next, the hollows there hiding shadows of past loves, past lives lived before I touched you. Your collarbone still bears the scar I gave you, the perfect arrow tip pointing towards your heart. The leaves beneath my feet rustle as I shift my weight to copy the rest of you into the memory of a fingertip.

One hand I can pick up, move around and touch to mine – mine are smaller. Dainty, you once said. Rough, I replied.

Chest, stomach, pelvis, legs. I have to get up and re-settle to reach your feet, briefly breaking our connection, crouching back down on my haunches quick as I can. Your toenails are long and yellowed, jagged edges catching on the hem of my skirt. The purple fabric clashes with your yellow, looks like a bruise turning. I pass the same finger over the flesh in your arches, and know it won’t tickle. I separate each toe out and touch between them. There’s warmth there; you’re exothermic, giving me heat. I want to feel the sensation on my lips but resist.

“Your neck is next, the hollows there hiding shadows of past loves, past lives lived before I touched you.”

The floor around you is growing damp, and small creatures crawl across the moss. There’s so much green around that it’s hard to believe it’s winter, except for the chill that’s creeping up my skin. My hands, and the fingertip that joins us, are turning pale, becoming swollen with cold. My gloves are lying on a log a few feet away; my hand needs to be free for this. I can’t feel your energy through wool.

The light has been changing as I’ve been ministering to you. When I arrived in the woods, the sun was slanting in through the trees from the top of the hill down to your place. Now it’s just a glow in the sky, I can barely see your eyes through the growing gloom.

The pine trees all around can’t tell it’s winter; their spines stretch out like morning yawns, green as the spring. Not so the oaks, whose fallen petals make your bed soft, and the birch, its skin peeling back and flaking, makes you an apt companion.

I must go, before I, too, am lost in these woods. A blanket of brown tarpaulin, a spread of leaves over the top to keep you safe and warm. One last touch, the end of your nose, before I cover it over, careful not to press into your flesh and leave a mark.

The cold has helped to keep the stink away, but not the flies who are determined to breed on your leftovers. It’s been a week since I accidentally touched a maggot instead of you. I won’t make that mistake again.

A few weeks more, assuming this frost thaws, and there will be less of you to trace.


Jess Glaiser | @jglaisher

Jess is a writer, performer and lighting designer living in London. She is a queer feminist and activist, whose writing focusses on LGBTQ+ character representation, mental health visibility, and the lives of women. Her story ‘Destiny’ appears in For Books’ Sake’s anthology ‘(Re)Sisters’. Her work has also appeared in Novelty Magazine and on Dear Damsels. She is currently working on a novel, Dear Lina, a speculative piece on the subject of inheritance. She writes alongside an incredible, inspiring creative collective of women who met through the Write Like a Grrrl course. She regularly performs her poetry and prose at spoken word nights in London. She is often to be found procrastinating with cake.

imaginationadded.blogspot.co.uk | jgrenaissencewoman.com 

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