For the introduction to the Whisper & The Hurricane Short Stories, please click here.
To listen to The Vaulted Lead Ceiling, click here.
The Vaulted Lead Ceiling
Tuesday morning and Mae was back in work. She’d been off for a long time and she hated her job, but she was happy to be back – at least happier than she would be if she were at home.
She worked as a cleaner in London’s Financial District – it was in her remit to eradicate the stains of the yuppies pissing money up the wall. ‘These kids,’ she thought; she referred to them as kids despite many of them were her age and older, ‘They don’t know they’re born.’
Born. Thinking that one word immediately took her imagination back home to the far more stressful situation in her life. She’d only been paid a pittance while on maternity leave and the whole ordeal had split her and her child’s father apart. He’d simply had no interest in having a child, whereas she desperately wanted kids… or so she fooled herself.
Mae had been unprepared to have a child, she’d held a romanticised idea of having a family. Now she questioned whether she’d allowed herself to become pregnant just to keep her and her partner together. She justified lying to him about being on the pill by saying that he’d come around to the idea of having a kid when they were actually having one.
But it seemed no matter how hard she tried, her life become more shit but no more interesting. If people didn’t want to hear about how her tasteless colourless coffee got her through a day of cleaning in the City, they certainly didn’t want to hear about a tiny human crapping its pants, decorating the walls with mashed up food and the constant screaming.
The screaming. Oh God, the screaming. The comparative silence of the stairwell was deafening. She’d normalised her child’s crying to such an extent that she only noticed it when it wasn’t there. She couldn’t sleep knowing that it would wake up and scream soon. She’d toyed with the idea of leaving it to scream; the anxiety was so bad. However, she grudgingly felt that it wasn’t the baby’s fault, and besides, the last thing she needed was a visit from social services.
The child was at her mother’s today. Mae had another two weeks of maternity pay, but couldn’t take another day alone in the flat with that thing. She realised she’d mopped the same step twice. There was a fog in her head today; she couldn’t concentrate. Too much had gone wrong this year. She felt like she was paying for the sins of all humanity, especially given the success of the rich bastards with their Stepford Wives who made their millions gambling people’s life savings in these buildings.
People were starting to arrive for work now. This made her more anxious, as she had begun to hate people and shunned company. Nobody understood. She was just in object in other people’s lives, even her child’s; it only needed her for food and nappy changes. Their bond was built from grudging necessity. Her ex had been around a few days previously to collect the last of his things from her flat. They’d had sex, but there had been some sort of barrier between them. He simply went through the motions, and the warmth of his skin had made her feel inexplicably sick.
She hid in the janitor’s closet while people filed up and down the stairs, erasing her morning’s work. There was nothing worse than feeling utterly isolated within a crowd. Mae kept making up her mind to quit, but she wouldn’t last out the month on her current finances. Her mind took her to dark places; there were other permanent solutions…
Suddenly an explosion rocked the building. Mae was unconcerned, she was unharmed and couldn’t care less for the wellbeing of anyone else. After a few moments, the noises of an almighty commotion echoed down the stairs. People were running and screaming all around her. There were obvious sounds of terror, but none for the safety of each other. The voices she heard seemed more preoccupied with their livelihoods, how this attack would affect their jobs, income and security. Some were wondering if the attack had been directed at them personally.
Mae smiled. ‘Let them scream,’ she thought. ‘Finally everyone’s screaming. Now they begin to comprehend.’ She moved a few boxes around the cupboard and curled up using a dry mop head for a pillow. Sirens started to sound from a distance and the screams doubled. Sighing happily, Mae fell asleep.