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The Exit

by Barry Charman


Maisie avoided the bomb because the man standing by the exit looked sketchy.
She was skirting round to the side exit when the club went sideways. Lying on the floor, she saw the neon exit sign flicker into darkness. The man had been pluralised.
Tasmin had left earlier. An argument about Maisie not holding her glass. She'd
said let a guy watch it, and Tasmin had gone off. What if he was a spiker!? Fair point. She was probably on the tube by now. Maybe halfway home. The Northern Line was notoriously shabby though. Might still be waiting. Perhaps she'd go to Malcolm's? Was she still into him? Could be texting him right now. Little gifs. She should be more playful. Slow down. Took everything so serious.
Something was pounding. Her heart? The ceiling? Maybe it was her blood. Dave had gone outside for a fag. Why didn't he quit? He'd be the last smoker on a clean planet. Well, not clean, but... He'd been kissing a girl. Nicotine lips. Eww. New girl? Did she know her? Maisie's face wrinkled. Didn't recognise her, anyway. Pretty. Herhair had been all curly. Probably full of dust now. There would be dust in all the glasses. Glass in all the people.
Would they reopen or close forever?
There was still music. Perhaps that was the pounding? It was bouncing around, echo-y. Discordant. They had brought the DJ in. It was all supposed to be a bit special. £10 at the door. Too much, that.
Monique hadn't made it down, said her little girl had been sick. Probably a bug
going round. Other kids in her class had had something. Why did parents let them go inif they were just going to cough over everyone else? Eugh. Why were there no sirens? There weren't even any screams-
Then Maisie realised she was already screaming. Ah. Shock, maybe? She'd read about that. That explained the wet patch in her side. It hadn't made itself obvious till now. The body did that, shut things down so as not to worry you. Maybe Tasmin would call? Probably she would. First thing she'd think of when she saw it trending (explosions always trended, didn't they). But nobody would answer. Maisie didn't like that. For the first time she tried to move, to do something, but it was too awkward. Everything was slow now. The carpet felt warm against her face. That was nice. The pain was curious, it didn't kick in unless she noticed it, so she let it go. It was nice to just sort of... hover.
What had been the last thing she'd said to anyone? What would mum say when someone called her, would they tell her to sit down first? Maisie wished she'd saved something in her phone, something people could find when they recovered it. A little something for everyone. Loved you all. Something.
It would have been terse, but to the point. That would have been poetic.
Probably. It would have caused her less worry. Now all she could think of was the
things she couldn't say. The full stops she couldn't drop.
She wanted to cry. She wanted to giggle. Her body wasn't listening. When she
told it to let her crawl, let her pull herself forward, there was no response. It wouldn't even let her leave a message.
It was ridiculous. All done in a moment. So brutal. So sudden. She felt so light.
Too light. She tried to claw at the carpet, but her fingers weren't going to let her know if they could do it or not.
Had the explosion been inside or outside? Should she have noticed? There
wasn't time to notice. Christ. Maisie tried not to think of the scene. Was it even a bomb? She guessed it was wrong to assume. What did it matter?
She'd ducked an evening with her sister, because her best friend needed to drown her sorrows. Her night in was ruined because she could never let her phone go without answering. Eve hadn't even stayed long. One call from Jon and she was gone. Taking new spots back to her Leopard.
She'd texted that to Monique. Petty shade. Last thing she'd done.
Those idle interactions, brief exchanges, flooded her now. They were like the
cracks in the wall before her. Splinters. Moments. Decisions. Just another fragment becoming just another fragment...
What was next? Anything?
An ironically chipper ringtone began stabbing into the room. Not her phone. But there were other bodies, of course. She tried to hear if anyone was answering; there was a mumbling, but that could have been the walls conspiring with each other to fall. She couldn't begrudge them. They'd done their job long enough. Her own home came to mind then, her little flat. All those years saving. The two jobs, the university degree that had been worthless. Still, that messy little flat was hers. Maisie thought of her bed, imagined being tucked up all tight and cosy. She felt so warm. Snug.
There was an exit. Though the light had dimmed, the door was still there.
That was a reassuring thought. Wasn't it? Maisie tried to puzzle through this,tried to untangle the thoughts, but they were heavy, and she was drifting above them. Perhaps she could reach her flat like this? Her little bed?
Encouraged, she drifted a little more. There were sirens now, she bet there were flashing lights. So easy to push away and be quiet. The walls were white and far away. The people were red, sitting up and dancing again. She laughed.
The exit was just a fingertip away.

Barry Charman is a writer living in North London. He has been published in various magazines, including Ambit, Griffith Review, The Ghastling and Popshot Quarterly. He has had poems published online and in print, most recently in The Literary Hatchet and The Linnet’s Wings. He has a blog at


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