She reached down to button buttons that were already done up, her fingers encountering the smooth plastic and communicating the instant knowledge back to her brain that there was no further refuge against the cold. The jacket had a fleece lining, and she was momentarily thankful for that. She crossed her arms and slipped her hands underneath her armpits, shivering.

Her breath was a hanging cloud in the motionless air, and the thought of another cigarette crossed her mind.

Better not, she thought. The last one wasn’t five minutes ago.

But the notion had entered her head, so she took one out and lit up, not even really wanting it, or feeling that it was going to bring her any satisfaction.

The stars were deep and clear. The light scatter from the city was a hundred miles away, and it might as well have been a million. She marveled at the brightness of them; a far cry from the subdued pinpoints of the city sky.  Here, they were myriad and beautiful, the perfect counterpoint to the still silence of the night.

So, where is it? she wondered. Where’s my sign?

The night was unobliging in its quiet. She decided to walk a little, and she ran a light hand over the side of the old wood of the building beside her. She’d been a girl here, learning how to read, how to write, how to run and how to be who she was. She’d hoped that this place had further lessons for her, that it had an answer laying in wait for her.

She coughed then, and wryly considered that maybe it was trying to tell her to quit smoking. And maybe it was time to start running again. She’d put on weight and while it wasn’t much, she knew that it was a sign that her hard-built fitness was disintegrating.

I need more than that, though, she thought. I need an answer to more than that.

Above her, the stars shone on.

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Simon Smithson

Simon Smithson is an Australian writer who dreams of escaping from this prison continent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction, in print and online. He loves the Oxford Comma, or ‘list comma’ as it is sometimes known in less formal circles. He loves it like he loves TV, books, and the internet. He is currently enjoying writing for

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