Short Story: Standing at the Sky’s Edge


Posted by in December's Magazine

I mind once me and Charlie, years ago now, skipped college and got the bus into town. It was before St Andrews Square had been opened up as a place everyone could enjoy. It had been a locked garden in the centre of town since I could remember. .  

Maybe someone in the council realised how messed up it was as a symbol of inaccessibility in a divided town like Edinburgh. Turning it into a public space was probably just for the tourists though. 

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Me and Charlie were obsessed with all the locked places around town, it seemed mental to us that where we lived was just wide open space for anyone to do what they wanted to. 

Leave the kid’s park derelict, board up the youth centre, stop the buses from running all the way down there. 

Then we discovered these gardens that you had to have a postcode to get a key to enter. Just sat there, taunting us in plain sight. Places of beauty that weren’t for us at all. 

But that day we went to the Bank of Scotland across from St Andrews Square, stoned out of our boxes. Charlie needed to try and withdraw the last few quid from his account. We walked into the dome shaped building. I’d never seen it before and as we wandered through the foyer into the main banking hall my jaw just sort of dropped. The polished ground seemed to fall away as my mind was lifted up towards the ceiling.

It showed a huge painted sky with star shaped windows and pockets of light to let the real sky in. Charlie turned to see what I was doing, “mate…what you looking at?” I just pointed up and Charlie looked up and it was like he’d been seeing it all his life, this ceiling, but never properly clocked it. 

The two of us stood in our blue overalls and boots looking up at this universe that was just a bank, while people milled around us looking sideways as we turned slowly letting the dome of the ceiling rotate around our heads.  

Of course we got asked to leave by security for looking like space cadets. I thought how mad it was that they built this beautiful thing to house money, to be a church to wealth. We stood on the outside again skinning up and I  wondered what the dome and its artificial sky meant. 

Charlie looked up and it was like he’d been seeing it all his life, this ceiling, but never properly clocked it

I tried to imagine what the people that built it might have been like, would they have been men like me and Charlie, would they have got to stand under it when it was finished, looking up, like we did? 

We walked about for a bit not really talking then headed to the Foot of the Walk to mull our thoughts over, drinking cheap pints. 

Later when my card was declined at the cash machine and we walked a slow drunken walk home, I felt the imposed limits of my life. 

Charlie rolled us a single skinner to share before we parted ways. Near to a whitey, I was just glad to get through the front door of my Mum’s place, my feet felt so heavy, I couldn’t wait to lie down. I closed my eyes in my bed and the room started spinning. 

All I could see was the fake sky of the bank, deceptively more beautiful than the real one, which was limitless, like us. 

But always out of reach.

Katy Nixon

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