One of the popular posts we kept this year is our month song fiction. This month’s choice is Albatross by Susan Mckeown. I’ve never heard of this one but you can check out the video below. After to listening to it, I’ll admit I like the music. The lyrics are a bit…different, but the melody is pretty cool. And she has a nice voice. So… here is the resulting story, which is more from the mood of the song than anything else. Though it does play into some of the lines. It’s a bit with the characters from a previous post… Bryony. You can read that one here— this Song Fiction —or just jump right in. It doesn’t require the previous bit.


“See! I knew we could make it, big brother.”

Bryony grinned as she crested the last rocky scramble, reaching the summit just as the downpour ebbed for a moment, giving her a misty view of the rolling hills and pasture land a few thousand feet below. She picked her way to a group of rocks near the edge of a steep drop-off, finally shuffling the heavy pack off her shoulders. Despite the non-stop rain and dangerously slick conditions along the trail, she’d still managed to finish the hike before darkness had completely engulfed the mountain. Though, she’d definitely been cutting it close leaving as late as she had the previous day.

Thunder rumbled overhead, a stark reminder she had limited time before the next round of showers hit. She settled onto the flattest rock she could find, sighing as some of the tension eased from her muscles. She almost hadn’t come. Had thought of a thousand reasons to let the trip go this year. To find another way to cope with the loss. The ever-present emptiness slowly gnawing away at what was left of her sanity. But then she’d heard Aaron’s voice inside her head. Remembered how much he’d loved their annual trek, and she’d packed up a bag and left. Hell, she hadn’t even told the rest of the Watchmen she was leaving. Hadn’t wanted to have to say the words out loud, not that the others wouldn’t remember. Half of them had served with Aaron, so it wasn’t a secret what this weekend signified.

“Shut up! Christ, you’re being a damn drama queen.”

She liked the way her voice echoed around her, reminding her this wasn’t supposed to be about drowning in her own self pity. It was a tribute to her brother. A celebration of all he’d sacrificed without ever expecting anything in return except a cold drink and a warm smile. And that was the least she could give him.

She dragged her bag closer, rummaging through the contents until she found the set of plastic cups. Then she removed the bottle of tequila, holding it up against the waning light. Coloured streaks reflected off the clear liquid, casting lines along the stones. She smiled, then twisted off the top, pouring a healthy amount into both cups. She balanced the bottle against some boulders, then lifted the two cups. A few drops of rain splattered against her skin, sending a round of shivers down her body. Though she wasn’t convinced it was the cold beading her skin with goose bumps.

She sighed, then held her chin high, raising both drinks above her head. “Okay, brother mine. I’m here. Just like I promised I would until you came back. And no, coming back like you did doesn’t count. You know that. So don’t think about bitching at me or telling me to stop. Not a chance in Hell that’s going to happen.”

She swallowed with effort, not sure what to say. Hell, she never knew what to say. “I can’t believe it’s been three years. Three years without you hearing your voice. Having you tease me over just about everything. Beating your ass at poker only to have you whine and call it beginner’s luck. Hate to be the buzzkill, bro, but it can’t be beginner’s luck when I’ve been playing for years.”

She glanced at the horizon, watching the light fade into grey. “I miss you, Aaron. Every day. I still keep expecting you to call or show up on my doorstep. Sometimes I swear I see you standing across the street, or sitting in a car that drives by. I wonder if that’ll ever go away. Or if I’ll be chasing your ghost for the rest of my life. Not that I mind. After all you did, it doesn’t seem like much to ask in return. To be remembered.”

She shook her head, clinking the cups together. “Here’s to you, wherever you are. And if for some reason they were lying. If those pieces I buried weren’t you, and you’re still out there, wondering if you can ever find your way back, I’ll keep the light on. Keep watching. You won’t have to explain. You can just come home. We can pick up where we left off, as if this never happened. As if I didn’t lose the one person who’d always had my back. Who knew me better than I knew myself. And I’ll be back here every year, just in case. Promise.”

Bryony cursed under her breath then downed the liquor, wincing as it burned a path along her throat. She’d always hated tequila, but somehow, this year, it didn’t taste quite as bitter as she remembered. Didn’t sour her stomach like it had before. She poured herself another glass, then slowly emptied Aaron’s onto the rocks, watching as it dripped down the sides and into the ground.

Pain tightened her chest, as the scenery blurred beneath a wash of tears. She’d hoped this year would be different. That time had finally made her accept that he was gone. That no amount of wishful thinking or praying would bring him back. That it was time for her to move on.

She glanced at the empty glass, pouring some of hers into it. Then she shifted onto her knees, digging at a spot on the far side of the rock. A ring of plastic appeared amidst the stone as she removed a few more rocks. One cup for every year she’d ventured here, alone. She stacked the third inside, then covered them up, hoping they’d make it through another winter. Though she always had extras in her bag, if need be.

Bryony regained her seat, then pulled out her phone. She didn’t bother smiling, just held up her drink and snapped a shot. Her way of proving to herself she hadn’t backed out. Not that anyone else would ever see the photos she took every year. But she’d keep them, nonetheless. Who knew, maybe one day she’d be able to look back at them and feel something other than pain. Than the ache she feared would never truly vanish.

An eerie silence settled over the summit as she drank the last of the tequila as the rest of the light dimmed into black. If she’d been smart, she would have used the past few minutes to put up her tent. But she’d wanted to toast Aaron while there had still been something worth seeing visible. Before the night swallowed up any good thoughts she’d managed to bring along. And it wasn’t as if she couldn’t put the damn pop tent up in the dark.

A sudden onslaught of rain had her moving. She got the pad laid down and the tent set up in record time, finally climbing inside the small enclosure and shutting out the storm. Though she had to admit, the weather always seemed to suit her mood. Dark. Angry. Unrelenting.

She kicked off her boots and snuggled into her sleeping bag. She’d have to leave early if she wanted to make it back to the trailhead before dark, especially if the storm worsened the conditions. And there was little hope the deluge would help her situation.

Just as long as she didn’t become one of the many hikers she’d had to rescue over the years. God knows the others would never let her live it down. And seeing as her work was all she had going for her right now, it didn’t seem wise to tempt her last remaining sanctuary.

“Christ, I really am a drama queen.”

She sighed, grabbed a bag of granola and laid back as she listened to the thunder echo across the sky as the rain struck the tent. At least, she had something other than disturbing quiet to keep her mind off of her poor excuse of a life. And lord knows, she’d take any help she could get.


That’s it for me. Go read the other ladies, who I’m sure have pulled much better out of their asses.

Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica Jarman  |  Deelylah Mullin





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