What Went Wrong

Sean Cunningham


What went wrong was that, many years prior to my birth, the planets were situated in such a way that – with hindsight – was perfect for me. As it stands, I was born wrong.

What went wrong was that, when I was younger, I believed too much in everything and too little in myself. I would tell people my name and they would correct me: No, your name is Scooby, or, No, your name is Spud. And it’s true, I was and I am Scooby, I was and I am Spud.

What went wrong was that, when I was younger still, I shared my jam tart – unprompted – with Human Jenny, and the both us began to expect this.

What went wrong was that, at some point, I started reading about how China was like the universe in the way that its borders were always expanding. This was due to large-scale dredging of the seafloor in order to attain material resources for the manufacture of artificial land. By 2045 it will be the largest nation on Earth.

What went wrong was that, long before any of this happened, I dreamt it all up whilst asleep on my cloud, and I have been in a constant battle between remembering and forgetting ever since.

What went wrong was that we began to establish rituals and traditions that we would participate in on certain days of the year for the purpose of celebrating arbitrary milestones and events.

What went wrong was that – if you will, please, turn your attention to exhibit A – as you can see, the instructions were utter nonsense.

[Exhibit A appears to be a nonsense arrangement of cut-up, handwritten words, titled Instructions]

What went wrong was that, after some good, hard thinking, I came to the conclusion that Jenny had been right all along.

What went wrong was that I added too much salt and too much sugar.

What went wrong was that I gave up on you – you never gave up on anyone, anyone at all. All I had to do was pay attention for five fucking minutes – minutes that I need now.

What went wrong was that I overheard things that I should have, about people I will never know.

What went wrong was that – if you will now regard exhibit B – there was never any way in or out. And it could be said that this was the main thing.

[Exhibit B is a seemingly slapdash drawing of a maze. There are entrances and exits, but there are no entrances or exits]

What went wrong was that it all came down to a choice between now and forever, and still I’m not sure it could even be called a choice.

What went wrong was that I said to myself, You can do this, but couldn’t hear a word.

What went wrong was that, as predicted, the ice caps melted. They flooded everything but China’s artificial coast, making it the largest nation on Earth.

What went wrong was that you asked me to be succinct.

What went wrong was that we insisted that everything was happening in slow motion – but we can’t live in slow motion.

What went wrong was that – please ignore exhibit C – we were led to believe our default position was being in the right.

[Exhibit C is a photograph of a photograph of an apparently nuclear family of ‘crash test dummies’]

What went wrong was that I stopped sharing my jam tarts.


Sean Cunningham is a writer of very short prose and poetry, from Liverpool. His work has appeared in publications such as Fugue, Ellipsis Zine, Bending Genres, and Breadcrumbs, among others. He can be found on Twitter (@sssseanjc).