Ballista speculative short fiction journal was published twice a year from 2006-2009. It presented deliciously inventive and chilling tales considering the supernatural, psychological, macabre, SF or just the downright bizarre.
Visiting Hour, Ballista Issue 1 (Flapjack Press, 2006)
Ben only went once, the first Sunday afternoon. She'd been admitted the Monday before. Marian glared at him, thinned her lips over the frame they had fixed across the bed, to stop the sheet touching their mother's body. If that's how she looked at him when he did visit, he might as well not bother.
The old woman was beached under the starched sheet, regarding him and his sister with bloated indifference. The heat was stifling, the smell appalling.
'Can't we open the window?' he whined.
'She's cold. Stop fussing. We were lucky to get this side room.'
Luck had little to do with it, he thought.
She was no longer his mother. She no longer recognised him, whatever Marian tried to make out; and he no longer recognised her. This woman had a slack face, a scalp pocked with surprisingly pink bald patches and a stench that billowed out from under the tent over her bed. Her breathing was half-way to being a snore, reminding him of the noise she used to make, drowsing in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon. Afternoons like this.
Two nurses entered the room, pulling on thin stretchy gloves. Their noses twitched.
'Let's have the window open for a little minute, shall we?' said one, the words popping out of her mouth on a bright rush of air.