In the Buried Mansion Short Fiction by Oz Hardwick

In our grand chambers we carry candles, leather-bound books, charts to calculate the phases of the Moon, and our young who grow more and more with each passing day, or what we assume to be day. 

We carry cloths to clear the dust from the faces of clocks which always read ten to two, and oil to silence hinges as we sweep from room to room. 

In our ballrooms we dance beneath teardrop chandeliers, pressing our bodies to passing strangers with powdered curls, each bearing armfuls of children – some of flesh and some of wax – and reading maps over each other’s shoulders, assaying directions and dreaming of doors. 

But, in our gilded corridors, we lose ourselves in a rabble of advisers – for we’re all advisers – with recommendations for timekeeping, and expert tips for moulding children. Our wigs are singed by dripping candles, but we smile like clocks as we knead strangers’ children into the shape of tiny moons. 

On what we once called Mondays, we gather in the gallery to listen to our heartbeats, to listen to each other reading from those old, old books we always carry, declaiming our gospels of clocks and compasses, of sturdy boots available in all sizes, of quack cures for colic and COVID-19, and of railway timetables and motorway services. 

Younglings laugh and elders weep to hear such speech in the public sphere; for everyone’s here, muttering antiphons of once ordinary phrases in faith or disbelief. 

Fast together in our fine attire, our faces soften into the features of a bright white child, who walks alone and carries nothing from room to room. She knows there are rumours of an outside door, but all she can see are a million windows, each blocked with black earth.

Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, and occasional musician, whose chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) won a 2019 Rubery International Book Award. His most recent publication is Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University (UK)

.

About the contributor

Related Articles

Micah Granada, Short Fiction

Micah Granada is a creative writing student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Institute for Creative Writing.

‘Room 6’ by Fares A. Al-Hammzani, Translated from the Arabic by Essam M. Al-Jassim

Their bodies are worn out, but their hearts are still stronger than iron. Etched upon their wrinkled faces is the pain of an unjust time.

‘Careering Down the Ladder’ short fiction by June Hunter

June Hunter’s short stories appear in Second Chance – an anthology; and online with Mash, Flash Fiction Magazine, Reflex Fiction and Potato Soup Journal.

More Like This

Mittens for Nasma by Tracy Gaughan

Tracy Gaughan presents the popular arts show ‘WestWords’ on Ireland’s Community Radio Network

VALADON: RECLINING NUDE fiction by Mark Blickley

A timely piece on the world view of women in the arts.

Border Post by Charlie Gracie

Charlie Gracie weaves a wonderful tale of a bothy and a border post.

Person of the Year – Fiction by Tobias Radloff

Tobias Radloff was awarded the Daniil Pashkoff Prize for his short story "Nobody loves you like I do".

Come a Morning all Shall be Revealed, contemplative fiction by Maggie Harris

This piece by Maggie Harris takes the reader on a contemplative journey through dreams and memories.