Like Smoke | Mhairi Campbell

I travelled to another dimension and all I got was this Beatles album.


Like Smoke

Mhairi Campbell

Hindsight Isn’t 20/20 Award


The MacDonalds was a soft yellow in the fading light and the chicken drumsticks were a hell of lot better than KFC. The computer was balanced lightly on my knees as I listened to the stolen music. The last of the light danced through the trees like golden glitter and rural France had never looked more beautiful than here, in another dimension. I licked the grease off of my lips and typed in the google search box “The Beatles break up story”.

Hoaxes came up, with big pictures of John Lennon and the rest. But there was no concrete proof, no headlines, and I smiled a big smug smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a massive Beatles fan or anything. I certainly didn’t fall through dimensions just so I could see them at the Hydro in Glasgow. But that album had been pretty good, and I didn’t regret nicking it from the bag of the man who saved me. The clock on my phone said 21:01. Now what?

Now, it was time for my new beginning. I shoved the computer off of my lap in impatience, and just out of a cruel salute to my stalker, I put my earphones in and the sound of Everyday Chemistry poured through my ears. It really was a good album. It had been more fun flashing it in his face as I made his job harder, disappearing from view as he had turned redder than a man drinking whisky. I dropped my tray carelessly onto the pile, with bits of food still sticking to it. The young girl behind the counter glared at me but I just looked past her. I hoped she had fun cleaning my chicken. I strolled out the door, with “Days like these” accompanying me.

Now what? I looked up and spied a woman in a black hoodie. There. Okay then. My next victim was thin and awkward, shuffling along with quick darts across the roads. She had a black bag that was stuffed to the gunnels. I swung my hips as I walked on after her. I made my face dazed, uninteresting. I was no one, nothing. And the music danced along with me, jazzy and fun.

She was heading towards a one track road filled with trees. Not a good idea, chica. A sudden shiver came over me and the song jumped slightly. What was that?

“Three thousand miles, over the ocean…”

I calmed slightly and kept walking. The music crackled on, pulling me after her. I wanted that bag. Then I could go to the Hotel de l’Ecu across the road.

As she walked, jumping nervously, it began to infect me. Who was she so afraid of? Could she feel me, stalking her? But no, even I wasn’t this scary. I began to wonder what sort of crap this parallel universal girl had got into. There was a curl of blonde hair hanging out from her face.

“You’re a fool.” He had said. I had made him look the fool two minutes later, when I disappeared.

“You’ll get caught.” Like hell I would.

His voice followed me even as I followed her.

The trees were like pillars of darkness, and the only light came from the small knife at my side. She had shuffled onto a desolate path through the forest and I had begun to have my doubts.

But no. I wanted that bag. I was getting tired.

The wood twisted into knots above my head and got denser. She was a shivering shadow and I tried to quiet my footsteps in the leaves. Too late to give up now, I thought. You’re a fool. No, no I’m not.

There was a burning smell and smoke like a bonfire. I saw no flames, but it was as if I could feel them running up my body. I turned my phone on, hiding its light. 21:01. What? How could it be 21:01? Was the phone breaking? I checked it again. 21:01.
The girl was still moving ahead, loping now like a wolf. I checked the time again. 21:00. The burning intensified and my body was shivering. Run, a voice said. You need to run. No. I’m not a fool.

The darkness was choking me now, and the Macdonalds was far away. The chicken rolled in my gut. Ugh. I glanced up and stopped, hiding. There she was! Standing stock still.

I moved up behind her, and finally, at the last moment let her hear my footsteps. She didn’t move. I twisted the knife in my hands. No reaction.

I darted forward.

“Give me the bag-“I started to say.

She gasped and turned. I froze.

Dyed blonde hair grazed her chin, and blue eyes looked up into my own. The smell of burning became real and a flash of light engulfed us. I felt the hand on my shoulder.

“I told you, you’re a fool.” He said softly. The phone dropped into his hands. As did the cassette.

“What?-”

She asked him, but she couldn’t say any more.

I tried to speak, to move, but I couldn’t. And I watched her disintegrate like ash as the world ended. My doppelganger, my other self, died as I did. And I watched the world unravel itself as all our lives snuffed out all over the universe, all those girls, innocent, brave, bad, dissolve like-