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THE CRACK by Bram E. Gieben

Shane muttered wordlessly in his sleep and rolled over, smacking Jenna with his arm and startling her from her dozing state. His sweating body smelled like vinegar, every molecule of processed, chemical crap in his body forcing itself out through his pores to soak the bed sheets in rank, comedown effluent. She gazed at the ceiling, at the crack which had appeared there above her sleeping form in the cold winter months. It was summer now, and the crack had expanded. At points it was an inch thick, a tiny chasm in the ceiling into which she could fall. Shane’s slick body rolled, wiping her down with its’ thin, filmy patina of second-hand drugs and junk food. Jenna wondered what he was dreaming. If dogs chased rabbits, would Shane snort endless lines of cheap coke? Would he queue in surreal burger bars, frowning arc-lights casting weird shadows on his face in the 3am dreamtime light? Or would he down bottomless pints of watery lager, like a drunk’s foaming piss, in impossible bars with chrome taps and supermodel waitresses? He grunted noncommittally, as though feeling the probing fingers of her thoughts as they stretched, ghost-like, into his mind. She returned her attention to the crack. It had grown again, since she last looked – the space between was an inky black, a darkness that seemed full and heavy. Rationally she knew that beyond the crack, it was a simple matter of plaster, insulation, wooden beams, and then the loft space… but her heart leapt into her mouth as she stared at its ever-broadening width. The blackness within seemed to be a well of gravity, pulling her in. She half-closed her eyes, sleep tugging at her, and glanced at Shane. She was sure she could see a thin steam rising from his prone body. It was almost invisible at source: shimmering, like a heat haze, above his sweat-beaded skin. But as her eye travelled upwards, the column of vapour took on form and shape, curling and looping like cigarette smoke, drifting inevitably towards the crack in the ceiling. Somehow, Shane seemed less substantial than he had when they had come to bed. There was something translucent about his skin, as though he were made of gelatine. The steam that rose from his body thickened in the hot night, and the colour began to ebb from his face. The crack widened, and Jenna dreamed, a smile returning to her face as her eyelids began to flicker and close.

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