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Kim Farleigh

Protecting Dreams

Night Sky by Shyamal

A lake’s reflected hills created illusory depths before a village’s lights, the real hills black before blue under few stars. Only pronged Venus shone hard.

Victor said: “We won’t see many shooting stars.”

“What pessimism,” Mercedes replied.

“It’s too light; and low expectations allow for surprises,” Victor explained.

“I don’t think so,” Mercedes replied.

Prostate people from their internet group dotted the lake’s edge.

“On the Nile,” Victor said, “we saw stars down to the horizon. The water was black. It was like floating in space.”

“Wow,” Begoña said. “When was that?”

Mercedes had contacted Begoña after years of silence.

“1991,” Victor replied. “We could have been stationary or flying at thousands of kilometres an hour. No reference points. No man-made light. Just thousands of stars.”

“Wonderful,” Begoña said.

Mercedes, between Victor and the Perseus Constellation, faced Mars that occupied celestial mother-of-pearl.

“That’s probably Mars,” Victor said.

Mercedes aimed her phone at Mars.

“Yes, it’s Mars,” she said.

That fact didn’t challenge her wishes.

Flash! Smoky trail evaporated.

“Did you see it?” Begoña asked.

“Yes,” Victor replied.

“It’s only eleven o’clock,” Mercedes said. “There’ll be many more after midnight.”

“We can only hope,” Victor replied.

“What pessimism,” Mercedes said.

The next meteor, twenty minutes later, caused another lakeside cheer.

Ten minutes later, after no more fireballs, Victor asked Begoña: “What do you think is the most beautiful place in The Canaries?”

He was bored by few stars.

Mercedes smiled brightly while saying: “What a question!”

Begoña faced Victor and said: “I think Hierro is stunning.”

“That’s the place famous for skindiving, isn’t it?” Victor asked.

“Yes,” Begoña replied. “I’d recommend that.”

Begoña was from The Canaries. Her appreciation of Victor’s curiosity made Mercedes’ brightness evaporate like a meteor.

Mercedes asked: “What place would you recommend for a week?”

What happened to brightness? Victor thought.

“Lanzarote lacks variation,” Begoña replied, facing Victor. “It only needs a few days. I’d recommend Tenerife because of its variation.”

“Thanks,” Victor replied. “That’s great advice.”

Mars’s prongs resembled Medusa’s head. Hence, Victor thought, Augustus made Mars the God of War.

Fifteen minutes later another cheer erupted.

“Three!” Victor said. “Wow! One thirty-three a shooting star!”

The trip cost five Euros.

At midnight, Victor said: “Get ready. Perseus left at midnight to get Medusa’s head.”

Another ten minutes elapsed without fireballs.

“Perseus is late,” Victor said. “But we’re in Augustus and who works in Augustus?”

“Do you like Roman civilisation?” Begoña asked.

“Especially Augustus,” Victor replied. “He put Mars in his place. Or is it her place?”

“And?” Begoña asked.

“Augustus made Mars a star,” Victor said. “Maybe he did it because there were so few stars?”

The next ten minutes yielded nothing. Torches held by people returning to the village exposed white brush beside the chalk track that led back into town. The brush glowed eerily under torch light. The dampness the people had laid upon on towels had become too cold.

“The cold is making people leave,” Mercedes said.

“Cold reality,” Victor replied.

“So pessimistic,” Mercedes snorted.

Fifteen minutes later almost everyone had returned to the village.

“Let’s go,” Begoña said.

“Looks like the pessimistic Englishman was right,” Mercedes admitted.

“The realistic Englishman,” Victor replied.

People, returning to normalcy, passed brush starkness.

A woman said: “I saw three!”

Her mocking of naïve optimism amused Victor.

“One thirty-three a shooting star,” Victor said. “Magnificent value.”

The village’s cobblestones radiated heat.

“It’s so much hotter,” Begoña said, “in such a short distance.”

The locals had stayed in the cafés. No lakeside miracles for them. Electricity had crushed starry hope decades before.

“What’s the coldest day you’ve ever experienced?” Victor asked.

“Minus five,” Begoña replied. “And you?”

“Minus fourteen in London,” Victor said. “And the hottest?

“Forty-five in Seville. And you?”

“Fifty-two in Baghdad.”

“Baghdad! What were you doing there?”

Her shimmering-olive eyes, glittering with curiosity, reminded Victor of the Taj Mahal’s precious stones. A pity, he thought, those olives and her charming personality aren’t in Mercedes’s gorgeous body. Reality is often too eerily bone-stark like the brush for acceptability; hence rejected.

“After collecting clothes in Madrid,” Victor replied, “I contacted an NGO in Iraq. We gave the clothes to orphanages run by the NGO.”

Mercedes returned from the toilet.

“Wow,” Begoña said. “Was that during the war?”

“Yes,” Victor replied.

“Let’s head for the bus stop,” Mercedes said

She got between Victor and Begoña, breaking communication, The starless, black sky above, offering no saviour, didn’t inspire optimism, dreams, hopes, good or evil.

A low wall separated the footpath and the bus stop from the road. Someone called Julia was sitting on the wall, facing the bus stop.

Mercedes and Begoña sat on the wall. Victor sat in the bus stop. A man Victor knew from other meetings was also on the wall. Arriving people queued up on the footpath

Julia said: “What did he do to deserve the money?”

“Six hundred Euros for advertising a meeting and then walking around a lake,” the man scoffed. “And nothing else.”

“He provided no information about the area,” Julia said. “Anyone could have done what he did. He didn’t even introduce people. I doubt he had any insurance if anyone got injured.”

Victor said: “You adore him. You’re just hiding your feelings. You can’t fool me.

Because Julia remained silent, uncertain about Victor’s irony, the man assumed she hadn’t understood because of Victor’s accent; so the man said: “He’s been living here for years, and he still speaks like that.”

Victor ignored him and asked Julia: “Why do you think his name is Ángel Moro?

Julia laughed. The organiser’s name was Ángel Chamorro. Moro means cheek.

Julia said: “I wish I could speak English as well as he speaks Spanish.”

The man’s chin fell towards the footpath.

“I’ve tried learning English,” Julia said, “but I can hardly put a sentence together. I find it muy difícil.”

“And you?” Victor asked the man. “Do you find it difícil?”

“I do,” he mumbled.

“Why not entertain us with some English?” Victor asked, in perfect Spanish.

A streetlight highlighted the man’s worried face that now faced cement. Criticism often comes from rejecting reality.

“So what’s the big secret to make it easier?” Mercedes asked.

Her employers wanted her to improve her English. She had said that earlier.

“You won’t improve,” Victor said, “unless you’re interested.”

“It’s necessity,” she said.

“Desire,” Victor replied. “You’ve got it; or you haven’t.”

“What about people who go to English-speaking countries? They have the necessity to learn,” Mercedes said.

“And the desire to go and do it,” Victor replied.

“Garbage!” Mercedes screamed.

Her trauma had finally crashed through. Resistance to undesirable realities can take people off into strange lands. Victor, still lusting for that terrible distraction, knew how wasteful optimism often was.

“Crap!” she shouted. “It’s necessity and that’s that! And I don’t want to hear any more!”

She faced Julia and said: “I’m sick of these stupid comments!”

Sisterhood demanded Julia’s agreement. But Julia remained silent. She often said: “I’ve never been discriminated against for being a woman.”

She managed one hundred and fifty software specialists. Her perplexity faced Mercedes’s bitterness.

“Blaming everyone and everything else,” Victor told Mercedes, “won’t change reality. But keep blaming everyone else because reality murders you.”

His chilling voice’s calmness came as the bus’s gilded retinas bore into black. Neither pretty surprises nor good or evil nor things shining alluringly coloured that blackness, optimism and pessimism irrelevant against research.

Mercedes and Begoña boarded the bus first.

“Let’s sit here,” Mercedes said.

She dashed to the first seat behind the driver, Begoña’s opinion not required.

Julia sat half-way down the bus.

She can fly out the middle door in Madrid, avoiding sissyhood, Victor thought.

He sat at the back.

Begoña, he thought, now realises what she’s with.


Filigree lights glowed upon night’s black velvet under starless ebony, the bus’s interior dark, artificial light hiding firmaments.

“What rubbish,” Mercedes snapped. “I get that rubbish constantly.”

Venus’s prongs had ripped black velvet, the only heavenly body visible.

“Desire!” Mercedes snapped. “Like there’s nothing else!”

Begoña hadn’t experienced an uncomfortable silence for years. She hadn’t seen Mercedes for years either.

“What an idiot that Victor is,” Mercedes yelped.

“He’s entitled to his opinion,” Begoña said. “And that opinion wasn’t xenophobic, racist, sexist or homophobic. So why get angry?”

Silent Mercedes shook her head and faced the window.


Julia fled through the middle doors in Madrid. Victor left slowly, avoiding Mercedes. She and Begoña were walking ahead, lone Venus, like a gleaming thought in a tyrant’s mind, in a black turning blue.

Respecting reality makes you a “tyrant” for those who glorify propaganda.

Mercedes and Begoña stopped at the bus stop from which Victor had planned to catch a bus. He kept walking.

A digital board at the next bus stop indicated the bus wouldn’t arrive for another fifteen minutes, so he kept walking.

Eventually, the bus stopped beside him at some traffic lights, whose circular, red illumination faced Mercedes.

Mars, Victor thought, under Venus.

He wanted to look, and he didn’t. Curiosity demanded looking. Sensibility demanded ignorance. Curiosity won: He saw Mercedes raising her hands and shaking her head. Begoña looked away and stared out a window.

“They can’t all have been sexist,” Begoña said.

“They were!” Mercedes growled.

“If you say so,” Begoña replied.

“They didn’t know how to ask properly,” Mercedes said.

“And everyone else agreed?” Begoña asked.

Mercedes had had three different jobs in five years. Begoña admired two of Mercedes’s ex-bosses.

“Why do you think he mentioned Mars and Augustus?” she asked.

Victor saw the bus’s red lights plummeting down a hill under a black that offered no reassuring isms.

“Well?” Begoña insisted.

“I don’t care,” Mercedes replied, “what he said.”

“I didn’t ask you if you cared,” Begoña replied. “I asked you what you think.”

Mercedes’s bitterness became shocked surprise.

“Well?” Begoña asked.

She’s still the same, Begoña thought.

“Most people,” Begoña said, “don’t care what the world’s great, privileged, self-ordained tragedies care about.”

Mercedes’s face reddened.

“Mercedes­­, it’s time to grow up.”


About the writer:
Kim Farleigh has worked for NGO’s in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine, and Macedonia. He takes risks to get the experience necessary for writing. He also likes painting, art, bullfighting, photography, and architecture, which might explain why this Australian lives in Madrid. He has received 217 acceptances from over 100 different literary magazines.

Image: Night Sky by Shyamal (contemporary). Photograph. Long exposure using mobile phone camera. Camera model: M2012K11AI by Xiaomi. F: f/1.79. Exposure time: 20/1 second. Focal length: 4.71 mm. ISO speed rating: 890. 2021. By free license.

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