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"Vertical Video" by Mathew Gostelow

I wince at the alien sound of my own voice. We’re bickering playfully in the clip. I’m awkward, pedantic. She’s adorably careless, as ever. Her laughter is like birdsong. We’re grinning care-free on Perranporth beach under cloudless sapphire skies – sea-tousled hair and skin sparkling with salt and sandy grains.

“You’re doing it again. It’s a crime against nature. Every time you record a vertical video, an angel dies – you know that, don’t you?”

“Why? What’s wrong with vertical video?”

She glints with a gleeful mischief, knowing we’ve had this conversation a dozen times, knowing that a sliver of genuine annoyance hides beneath my jokes.

She wheels the camera in selfie mode, turning the world around our fixed point in a joyful looping blur of cool seas, rugged cliffs, and golden sands. I stop the whirling with an arm around her waist. We are about to kiss, but the video ends abruptly before our lips meet.

Sitting alone in the strangely quiet house, I stare at this final image, frozen on the widescreen TV we chose together. The vivid picture of us lives in a thin strip, sandwiched between blocks of empty black.

Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a fledgling writer, in Birmingham, UK. His strange tales have been published by Lucent Dreaming, Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow, and others. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2022 and has won prizes from Bag of Bones, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. @MatGost


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