‘Payment to the Universe’ by Annabel Banks

This story is a potent mixture of the mundane with music and the unseen and horrific. The childish internal bargains we make, the twisted ways in which we navigate moral ambiguities are mercilessly explored, and the accusatory second-person “you” is employed to great effect. 

Up some stairs, down some stairs. Blue, blue, in your ears, and you’re not allowed inside this room at all, but that’s why you come here. An accident of opportunity gave you pass, and you’re not about to give it up with any fake attempt at decency, of notions of “the right thing” so carefully primed in your childhood.

First published in matchbook, 2015. Collected in Banks’ short story collection Exercises in Control, Influx Press, 2020. Available on matchbook