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Encyclopedia of Hours

Time passed slowly here, in this quaint prison.

By Carly BushPublished 26 days ago 2 min read
Top Story - April 2024

Time passed slowly here, in this quaint prison. It had once been his grandmother's house. He had lived here as a child, slept on the same rotted mattress. The nicotine stains turned the ivory wallpaper the colour of weak chamomile.

She counted hours by the shades of yellow and blue that dripped like paint upon the clear glass. She saw the dullness of the earth, the bright enflamed home across the field. She read from the only book left in the house: an encyclopedia of flowers.

She no longer startled at the sound of his key in the lock, the steel work boots in the hall.

When he shouted at strangers in the yard, interlopers begging for food or medicine, she lay her head upon her dirty pillow. When she heard the inevitable gunshot, and the weeping brothers and fathers went silent, she rested her eyes and breathed.

When he came inside at dusk with a new bruise, a blackened eye to match his hollow malnourished cheekbones, she did not ask questions. When he poured her an amber concoction into a glittering crystal lowball glass, and she suspected it contained more than whiskey, she accepted it.

She would fall into a deep, dreamless sleep. And she would wake to the golden light through the thin grandmotherly drapes and she would forget, momentarily, where she was, or who he was, or how she had gotten here. It was a bright, cruel, stubborn moment. Each morning her mind betrayed her.

She had once enjoyed sleep because sleep had meant dreams. In her dreams, she had seen flowers blooming brighter than anything, under sunshine that no longer existed. There was no smog in her dreams back then. There was no fire. No one ever needed to die because they happened to knock on the wrong door.

In her dreams, before, she had run through fields of flowers. In her dreams she had touched their satin petals, collected the seeds of their plants in the pockets of her white cotton dress. In her dreams she got her white hands gritty with dirt, beamed toothlessly at her mother, who had been a florist.

And her mother had smiled back with the same pride she showed in her waking hours.


In the moments before sleep, now, she clung to her pillow as though it were his body. She had come to desire his body, lean and dark and frightening. He could kill her easily, she thought. But then, so could any man if he wished to. What was the difference, if she came to love her captor?

At times the sleep was slower to come. She sat up in bed, listening to him cleaning his gun in the living room. She flipped through the pages of the encyclopedia of flowers.

The pencil drawings and all their pastel shades did not seem real in those moments. The dogwood and crocuses and holly berries appeared to bloom upwards from the fraying pages. They grew and grew and grew. And then there was darkness.


About the Creator

Carly Bush

I'm a writer with a passion for highly visual and quietly subversive literature. I contribute to Collective World and you can find my short stories and poetry here.

Connect with me on Instagram and TikTok: @carlyaugustabush

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (12)

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  • Silver Serpent Books19 days ago

    This is one of the best pieces of writing I've read recently. Every description was perfectly placed and painted such a vivid picture of the place, the emotions, and the story. Well done! Congrats on the Top Story!

  • Anna 19 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Ritviz22 days ago

    Great but terrifying!

  • angela hepworth23 days ago

    Super vivid and detailed! Powerful work here.

  • Rachel Deeming23 days ago

    Oh, this is dark. I could feel where she was kept so well and her boredom and acceptance of her situation. Dark.

  • Flamance @ lit.23 days ago

    Awesome story I like it congratulations 🎉🎉

  • Superb, sad and terrifying in a majestical way. Congrats on top story!

  • Christy Munson24 days ago

    Tremendous writing. Visual and gritty. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • D. D. Lee24 days ago

    This is really good! “She counted hours by the shades of yellow and blue that dripped like paint upon the clear glass.” I was hooked at that line. Beautiful crafted. Congrats on Top Story!

  • D.K. Shepard25 days ago

    This is such a gripping piece! Every word felt intentional and this character’s voice was so compelling!

  • So many layers to this, which perfectly matches the narrator’s conflicting emotions. ‘The nicotine stains turned the ivory wallpaper the colour of weak chamomile.’ I loved how vivid this line was. I could really see it.

  • A captivating story, no pun intended. You create a gripping world in so few words. Well done!

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