By Stephen O'Connor
A fence post’s weight is the same as a dog's. In recent days, revelations like this pop in and out of
my head, disorientating me, causing my vision to dot with odd little specks of colour that slowly
melded my blue hues into the glassy depths of the canvas.
Mariana looked at my painting again. “This is not what I was expecting.”
“I wonder if he’s in there?” I say. “Perhaps lying down behind the rhododendrons.”
Mariana snorts; “You can be so weird.”
In my mind, I shut the door on her and veer into the painting. Some kilometers beyond the fence
line, the Colyton hills rise behind the rounded forms of the bushes, their greens throbbing in a
scorching heat haze. Then nearer, a golden winding path, dry and savage looking, where purple
glazed hydrangeas throw harsh shadows down over the flowers of high summer. Closer still, the
multiflora flowers dip and part, their colour cutting away to the quiver of a furry tail poking out of
a dark hole.
Brush raised mid-stroke, I bend lower, mouth something to Mariana and slant in to grasp the tail,
but it disappears into the ribbed clench of the darkened cavity. I follow, and go down legs first
into depths of weightlessness. The last remaining light around me is absorbed into the darkness,
like a candle burning brightest before going out.
My ears singe with an intense silence. Suddenly a howl booms and I grip the sides of the hole as
the furious wind of the howl whips me. I know he’s in the painting, but out of sight. Faster, I
press on into the depths of darkness. Up ahead a leash dangles and I glide to it and start hauling
myself up. When I emerge from the hole, I’m almost blinded by the ferocity of light. I squint like
that of the partially sighted. The dog boisterously yelps and through my narrowed eyes, I see him
far away on the horizon, hazy amongst a meadow of light. I begin to run, each blade of grass
parting, as if after a shower of rain shimmering in the drying wind. I can see the dog with its
tongue lapping the air running like a ray of light across the plain. But I’m lagging behind,
faltering. Then suddenly he beams even brighter and then is gone.
Until this fateful day, without a doubt, I’d have fallen backwards into the hole and gotten ripped
to shreds to find my dog, but now I feel like I’ve been turned inside out, flowing in and out of
myself. My physical body has ceased to exist and in its place is a hollow husk of my former
body, throwing what little warmth it has left back into the hole. Looking up and out Mariana
flutters before me.
Her overblown tone reverberates around the outer edges of the canvas that encage me.
“The picture had been your idea. I’d always hated it.”
I realise I’ll have to keep the memory of my intimacy with her and my dog all to myself.
Stephen O'Connor is a short fiction writer currently living in Palmerston North. His short fiction has appeared in Takahe, Ad Hoc, Headland, Flash Frontier among others. He spent a good deal of his time in Japan living in a city well known for its eel delicacies.