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Feb 20, 2021

This month's patron-funded story is "My Heart Beats Backwards" by Neil James Hudson, narrated by Nobilis Reed.

I still hadn’t mastered walking backwards. It looked simple, but after a short while became exhausting. Nonetheless, it was an essential skill if I were to pass as normal.

I could manage speech. It had been difficult at first, but with the help of a radio and tape recorder I’d been able to work out which sounds were which when reversed--it wasn’t always obvious. Once I’d worked out how to listen backwards and understand what was being said, I found that I could pronounce the syllables in reverse myself, and be understood--although I preferred to keep conversations short, as I could never predict what had just been said.

I looked around me. It still looked strange: an entire city in reverse, walking backwards while looking forwards but somehow never colliding. It was difficult to remember that I was the odd one out: that everyone else lived normally, but I had gone into reverse gear.

I sighed, and set off again, slower than everyone else. I tried to avoid them, but I simply wasn’t fluent. I would hear tuts and grunts, warnings that I was about to bump into someone.

Behind me I heard sobbing. I would have liked to stop and help, but it was impossible when you lived as I did. I heard a woman’s voice: it was difficult to translate it through the tears, but I realised she was saying, “you don’t even know you’re leaving!”

I ignored her. She seemed to be walking backwards in the same direction as me, so we were unlikely to collide.

“You don’t even know you’re leaving!” she shouted again. And then the single word, “no!”

And then I felt her grab my arm, and realised that I was in trouble. I turned to face her.

“You don’t even know who I am!” she said.