I have found a flash fiction story that was edited out of my book of short stories ‘Chaos Dreams Part 2’. It’s about English general elections among other things, and it’s called ‘Juxtaposition.’
The general election was in mid-swing, and for Mandy it brought back memories of that campaign long ago, squeezed into the back of a van with scruffy, heavily smoking labour party campaigners and piles of leaflets tied with rubber bands. That lady in the polo-necked jumper, twenty years her senior, who had so impressed her with tales of ‘politically educating’ potential voters on their doorstep. All Mandy had felt able to do was stuff a leaflet through the letterbox and quickly move on to the next one.
Now as she walked up the road there was a slim leaflet sticking out of every letterbox- and then suddenly, on one of the doorposts, she saw the pixie. He was exactly like a pixie from a children’s’ fairy tale: a little green figure balancing on the stone and holding a flute. As she watched he put it up to his lips and began to play, and the music was so completely mesmerising that she forgot where she was and entered a reverie, and after the reverie she could remember nothing of what she had first thought or daydreamed.
Mandy made her way home, hoping that after her intriguing experience the depression wouldn’t hit tonight. For she had an affliction, and it was depression. However well her life was going, however fortunate she was, she would sink into that quagmire of hopelessness, convinced that neither she nor her life had any worth. It ate away at her cheerful times; it was like a mousetrap that she could tread on at any moment.
As she sipped her tea and watched the News, she thought she could tentatively trust that this would be a cheerful evening. Then the pixie was there beside the TV, singing like a jangling cricket and leading her away into a funnelled-out tornado, poised over foggy, brackish moorlands where there were stagnant pools and a single wren bobbing in a bush. She became more and more lost in travelling through this spiral, walking on cloud steps, and she loved the pixie and wanted to follow him forever.
When you’re working at the polling station you have to pretend you live there for the day, because there are no half shifts, only the full one which ends with taking out drawing pins with exhausted fingers under dark windows and electric light, and bagging up many papers to transport away along with heavy metal boxes. On this side of the counter you must stay alert, while those queuing up on the other side relax and slouch, and half surrender responsibility for this change to normal routine.
Mandy was proud of her hard work at those distant elections- it somehow justified her sitting now gazing into a coal fire, or spending several hours watching a film. She didn’t mean to drift away so often but it felt peaceful, like rambling through the countryside. The journey with the pixie was only a new variation of the same; it was simply harder to remember what happened when she followed him. The music had so many layers: although it was one flute there could have been a whole orchestra behind it, and each layer whirled her somewhere new along a path bordered by grey, misty shapes which might have been flower heads leaning upwards above a marshland.
The last time she got depressed she had lain on her bed for four hours, and all she did during that time was pull undone some knitting she had been attempting to learn as a new hobby at a time when traditional household crafts had all but disappeared. Dinner time passed without her bothering to eat anything, because what does it matter when you live alone? You might as well never eat again.
Mandy stood up quickly as she remembered this and did a few tasks to reassure herself that she wasn’t depressed tonight. Work was best for taking her mind off it, yet it often struck in the middle of work as well, and that was devastating as she slowly ran out of energy and motivation and came to a stop. But there would be none of that tonight; she would finish her work and then sit down to follow the pixie again into his musical world where the two of them were united.