Exorcisms – Jan Kaneen

The demon shifts. It’s getting closer with every chew of cornflakes. Helen watches it out of the corner of her eye as she unstacks the dish washer.

When it erupts, it’s full of something worse than the usual outrage, a mashed-up passion of spite and fury, spitting words into her face like they taste disgusting. It hates her, hates this house, hates this sad little village; hates how there’s never anything to do and all the sad little people that waste their lives doing sad little things.

But most of all, it hates Helen.

She watches the powdery spittle spraying from its mouth, made visible by a lost ray of sunshine, and remembers: the waffle-blanket bundle in the crook of her left arm; the rainbow trike squeaking its way through the park on rainy Tuesdays; those fairy-tale eyes that had loved her to the moon and back.

When the front door slams, Helen clears away the bowl and mug, the one that say keep calm and carry on, takes a damp cloth and wipes the hatred off all the hard surfaces where it’s left a greasy, deep-fat film. When she’s finished, she washes her hands, to get the taint of it off her skin, pumping out the violet-scented soap that Rosie chose in Waitrose on Wednesday because it reminded her of Parma violets and being little again. A pearlescent teardrop falls into the cup of her palm. Helen has demons of her own. She’s held them inside for donkey’s years now, so she really believes in letting everything out, but it’s not that easy – hatred spoils everything it touches, and resentment is dangerously contagious. She scrubs her exposed forearms and between the v’s of her fingers, wringing fists in the velvet bubbles, scratching at the surface, again, and again.


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Jan Kaneen lives in the middle of nowhere in the Cambridgeshire fens. She’s in the second year of an MA in Creative Writing at the Open University and has been short and long-listed for several writing competitions including: The Fish Prize, The Chester Prize for Literature, and Bath Flash Fiction. She’s won competitions at Molotov Cocktail, Ad Hoc Fiction, Retreat West, Zero Flash and Horror Scribes, and was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart and Best on the Net. She’s been published most recently in fab places like Ellipsis ‘One,’ Salome and Flash Festival Anthology. She blogs at https://jankaneen.com/ and tweets as @Jankaneen1


Image: Jacqueline Macou

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