by Emma Burnett
I sit in the draughty school hall and applaud along with everyone else. We pretend our brains are still lodged firmly in place, that our cochleae haven’t cracked under pressure. We don’t say that we regret agreeing to violin, oboe, saxophone lessons. We pretend this is the only place we could possibly want to be. Smiles are glued to our faces. Parents try not to squirm. My cheeks ache.
I glance outside at the sun lighting the daffodils. It’s the first truly nice day of spring, a day that begs you to lay on the grass and pick up an accidental sunburn.
I wince as a young flautist does musical murder.
The man in front of me touches his ear, and I see him turn off a hearing aid. It’s a solid move. I’d kill to have a hearing aid that I could disable. There is a screech from the front of the hall, and the kid on stage starts her piece over. The person next to me shifts uncomfortably. We clap gratefully at the end.
It’s my daughter’s turn.
I smile and wave. She waves back at me, positions her bow, takes a deep breath, and proceeds to burst everyone’s eardrums. Someone nearby moans quietly, covers their ears. It doesn’t help. Blood seeps out from under their palms. I see mucus leak from the noses of those nearby, red-tinged and leaving slimy trails down faces. There is a wet pop, and someone’s eyeball explodes. Brains dribble out of auditory cavities, smearing shoulders and the backs of chairs, splatting onto the ground. The floor becomes slippery with the grey matter of parents who’d survived nearly two hours of an Under Eights school concert, now crushed by my tiny violin-wielding ninja.
As we leave, stumbling around the bodies, I hug her and suggest a celebratory slice of cake. The girl behind the counter in the café looks disgusted. She points at her nose, then at mine, then hands me a napkin. I wipe my face, then fold up the paper, hiding away the greyish-red smear.
Emma Burnett is a researcher and writer. She has had stories in MetaStellar, Elegant Literature, The Stygian Lepus, Roi Fainéant, The Sunlight Press, Fairfield Scribes, Five Minute Lit, Microfiction Monday, and Rejection Letters. You can find her @slashnburnett, @slashnburnett.bsky.social, or emmaburnett.uk.