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How to Make a Mistake by Barry Charman

God made the world in six days, on the seventh he made a mistake.

He had made man, and separated the sea from the sky. He had distinguished life from absence, and divided the atoms into paradigms of yearning . He had planted seeds in the Garden, and felt now that he could rest.

And then the shadows stirred.

On the last day God had given shadows to the world, so that all things would have their soul mate. Every beast and plant, every tree and stone. All things were bound.

The world would love itself, for God was tired. He cast no shadow himself, and was weary from wondering why. So he made a world full of things unknown to him. It is easily done to create a thing you do not understand. But if you bring light to where there had only been darkness, you carve shadows out of stillness, and those shadows will not be stable.

There will be delirium, and it will take many forms.

And so it was.

Before the sun fell on that seventh day, the man watched his shadow walk away, and was bereft. The shadow of a snake slithered past, and followed the shadow into the night.

The man made a fire, and then sat in the dark alone. He listened as the shadows danced, and knew their own language, and he wondered, dumbly, at the things they shared.

When the sun rose on the eighth day, it is said it saw that nothing was bound, and doubt lived in the heart of all things.


Adam Collins had proposed the night before, but woke up to a revelation.

He didn’t love her.

Deb was still asleep next to him, her body tight to his. He’d slept with his arm around her, and as he moved, he disturbed her hair, gold curls tumbled in a way that caught his breath. He moved away slightly, and watched her. Her body moved slightly, as breath came and went. He listened to her breathing, and the familiar sound came strangely to him, as if hard to recognize.

Why was it, that now they were closer than ever before, he felt strangely distant?

He lay back and rubbed his face. Morning light was stabbing through the curtains, he could hear birds waking each other up, and the distant lull of the sea.

Everything was perfect. The holiday, the hotel, her. He’d been carrying the ring for nearly three months, waiting and waiting… At first he’d doubted her response, then he’d been afraid of it. When he knew what answer she’d give, the words had walled themselves up in his mouth. Why? He wanted to share it all with her, cradles and graves. She was the one.

It was their differences that had brought them together. And even if it never made sense to their friends, it had made sense to them. Mostly. There was no planning for it, these things just happened. As far back as the first time they’d met, in the ready meal section of a supermarket neither usually used, there’d been that connection, that fascination. They should never have met, let alone fallen into each others lives.

So he’d asked, and she’d answered.

Last night had been a blur of laughter and promises. Their smiles had been infectious, contagious. Everything had happened exactly as he’d wanted.

And yet…

Tired, confused, he got out of bed and went towards the bathroom. He needed a shower, he thought, to rinse whatever dreams were clouding his thoughts. He moved through the still dim room, his hands extending towards the bathroom door, when he suddenly froze.

There was someone else in the room.

The realisation came to him in a wild moment, he turned and looked around the room. His body utterly still and as cold as ice as his head jerked about looking and looking.

There. By the curtain.

A shape was moving. Adam watched, but he didn’t understand. A dark figure was standing by the curtain – no there were two figures. He stared, stunned, how the hell –

The figures were holding each other. Adam didn’t understand, but his body instinctively relaxed, he knew that he was not in danger, that these people could not hurt him. But what did that mean? Who were they?

The figures were shaded, they held each other, one rested its head upon the others shoulder. After a moment they broke apart, and one cradled the others head in its hands. They stared at each other, with such intensity, such longing, that they seemed to see through each other. Then one of them turned and started to walk away. Adam wanted to call out, he wanted an explanation, but before he could make any sound, he watched the moving figure walk through the wall.

He stifled a cry.

The remaining figure slumped, as if dejected, weakened, halved. Then it moved towards Deb and stood over her. Adam couldn’t make him out, despite the growing light, the figure was still dim, still in shade. Adam took a deep breath and cleared his throat.

The figure suddenly seemed to fall, as if it were attacking Deb. Adam flung himself forward, to tackle the figure, to prevent him from hurting her –

But he was gone.

Deb seemed to sense his movement and woke, Adam was now crouched beside her on the bed, looking wildly around the room. They were alone. She reached for the lamp beside the bed and turned it on. She looked startled. “What is it? Adam, what’s wrong?”

He looked around. They were alone. Just them and their shadows.

Except –

Adam’s shadow had its head in its hands.

Adam blinked, and when he looked again, the shadow was, as always, his exact copy. Resting on the wall, it moved with him, as one.


“Nothing. It’s nothing.”

Nothing had changed. Except he didn’t love her anymore, and didn’t know why.

“I think -” he broke off, looking down at her with uncertainty, and regret, “I think we’ve made a mistake…”

Fiction4ADay Barry


4 comments on “How to Make a Mistake by Barry Charman

  1. Ooh…nicely done, Barry!

  2. Pingback: F4AD – How to Make a Mistake by Barry Charman | Postcard Poems and Prose

  3. Barry Charman
    November 27, 2013


  4. Jennifer Courtney
    November 28, 2013

    I really liked this! My favorite part was the beginning – just beautifully done!

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2013 by .
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