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The Tape by Alice Rose

I put the tape in the machine. The buttons and functions seem foreign. I push, poke,

smack the side. Finally the screen roars on. Static fuzz judders for a few seconds before

colour appears.

It opens with clouds, bright white puffs on a blue backdrop. The camera pans

down, to a man lying on the grass. His small body engulfed in the blades, the fields

around him seem to never stop.

The image shakes and then... there they both are. They smile. We see the

cinematographer, his wide jaw and dark brown eyes. His small black afro perfectly

sculpted.

Then he uses the zoom, gently moving in to focus on his partner's face. His

cheeks flush beneath vanilla pod freckles and he shakes his head. He picks daisies from

the earth, one in each hand he raises them up over his eyes and twirls them between two

fingers.

It cuts, we sit further away from the man, but finally unnoticed, the cameraman

gets what he wants. The screen is a pair of eyes, bright blue under delicate lashes, they

dart and squint in the sun.

Blackness, just for a few seconds, then it continues. Lights flash on, we see a

room filled with balloons and banners. The blue-eyed man steps through a door and party

poppers are let loose, causing him to jump back. Laughing, he searches around the room,

then he spots him, behind the camera. He shakes his head but his smile creeps through.

People begin to hug him.

Cutting from person to person, we see drinking, eating cake, waving at the

camera, dancing. Finally, there they are again. One head rests on the other’s shoulder as

he holds the camera to face themselves. Heavy eyed they pull faces into the lens. They

kiss slow and softly.

Through fuzzy lines and faded colours they jump on a naked mattress. There are

epic shots of cliffs. They dance on a beach at sunset. Snuggles with their pet cat. Another

party with friends. Christmas tree. Fireworks.

Blue eyes and blushing always caught between.

Yet as the tape goes on, he begins to change. His clothes look baggier, his smile

becomes tight.

More footage of travelling. Posing outside Buckingham Palace. Picnicking in

Green Park. The picture shudders from the motion of a tube carriage. Blue eyes wide, he

laughs then his legs buckle. The image is a blur, then black.

A blue room, the focus sits in a hospital bed, his usually flushed face, pale. They

remain there. Footage of them playing board games under fluorescent lights. Visitors that

bring balloons. They sit admiring old photographs. When they leave, their smiles linger,

unsure.

One day, it’s just them. The camera in front of him, he shakes his head, he grows

impatient, he reaches out to pull the device away. It cuts.

We angle up from the end of the bed. The bedside clock reads 02:04. The

cameraman’s long fingers move in front of the screen. He holds still, focusing just on the

face of his partner. In sleep he looks happy. The shadows that sweep over him avert from

his skeleton physique. In the dark, he could be a different man. at home, resting in his

bed. As the image shakes, the cameraman presses a gentle kiss on his head.

In the next clip, the cameraman isn’t filming. Instead, he poses in a black suit,

smart and beaming. His once perfect afro is shorter now, greying. Holding up both

thumbs, he says something into the camera. Before it cuts, we see his red rimmed eyes.

Then he’s back again. He sits to the side of his partner's wheelchair. They’re in a

bedroom. Familiar faces gather around. Instead of his usual blue and white gown the

patient wears a white shirt and grey joggers. A minister stands before them. We watch as

they share words, rings, kisses. There is crying then cake and laughter.

We are outside again. A small patch of grass beside a car park. Wrapped up in

blankets you can barely see the man in the wheelchair. The beige and red of his garments

blend with the orange and brown of the trees behind them.

The camera is still. They watch their own breath gather in the air. He smiles, his

face blushing, almost like it used to.

He coughs and the screen goes black.

It stays like that. Just black and white fuzz. I take the tape out but there’s no

more.




Alice Rose (she/her) is an emerging writer from the UK. Shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award (Feb 2017), Rose has also been published at Crêpe & Penn, CafeAphra, ReflexFiction and others. Rose writes from her small, St Albans flat, feeding other people’s cats and attempting to keep her plants alive. You can find her at alicerwrites.wordpress.com or on Twitter @a1ice_r0se

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