Posts Tagged flash fiction
He stood, a weathered, brown sack of bones in front of the blue sea. Soggy white cotton pants hung, dripping seawater. This was his only attire. Hands were clasped behind his back as he watched with ancient eyes over the expanse of white sand–packed with umbrellas, coolers, and tourists–to the boardwalk.
A mother and child moved slowly toward him, picking up tiny shells and tossing them into the clear water.
His gaze turned first on the child, then on the mother. He tapped his wrist and the woman, smiling, offered him the time.
“Ten minutes to noon.”
Bowing slightly, he once again fixed his gaze on the boardwalk.
Rebecca watched this with growing apprehension. She squeezed a glob of sun block from the tube and rubbed it on her two year old’s shoulders, still unable to take her eyes from the man standing still against the motion of waves and people.
Even in the warmth of a noon summer day, a chill rolled through her. The hair on her arms stood up. Glancing around at the other families packed in around her, she tried to make herself relax. No one else was paying attention to this small, harmless looking man.
But then he moved. It was fluid like the wind. One arm waved then he pivoted and began walking into the ocean.
Rebecca swept Jilley up from the sand, a cry of protest erupted from the startled toddler as she unsuccessfully tried to grasp her doll.
Her heart was pounding as she made her way to the edge of the ocean with her daughter. The man was now submerged up to his hips and still moving forward. She moved forward, too. Jilley squeezed her neck with tight little fists and whimpered as tiny, sensitive toes touched water. Rebecca glanced around at the others in the ocean, floating on rafts, throwing balls, splashing and diving under the small waves. Then she spotted a buoy and, submerging them both in the water except for their heads, paddled as fast as she could.
Once in a while, she glanced over at the man, who now swam in strong, even strokes out to sea.
She reached the buoy, breathing hard. It was difficult to stay behind it as it bobbed up and down and she tried to hold on to it with one hand.
“It’s okay, Jilley,” she whispered in her little girl’s ear. Brown strands of Jilley’s damp hair stuck to her mouth as she tried to keep her voice from shaking. “Mommy needs you to be very quiet, no crying…”
The first explosion made her jump and duck behind the buoy. Jilley began to cry but no one would hear her over the screams of thousands of terrified people. Rebecca peered around her cover and reflexively held her daughter tighter as dozens of men rushed toward the crowds, rapid bursts of fire coming from whatever kind of guns they carried. Another explosion off to her left sent a shower of sand and bodies into the air.
Rebecca could feel her legs cramping from treading water, she was hyperventilating and swallowing water as she struggled to keep Jilley’s head up. Turning behind her, she saw a small boat moving toward the dot that the man had become.
She watched this, coughing the salt water from her lungs, singing to Jilley, trying to block out the sound of gunfire and panic coming from the beach, while keeping the buoy between them and the killers.
The boat slowed. The man climbed up into it. A white wake streaming behind it as it sped back out to sea.
Rebecca thought about Jilley’s father in Arkansas. He moved there six months ago for a job. She should have gone with him. Worked things out. He would never forgive her if the terrorists found them. If they took Jilley from him.
There were frantic splashes to her left and right as the people in the water swam in either direction, trying to escape the chaos. More rapid gunfire, some people floated instead of swam. Face down.
“I love you, Princess Pea,” she recited in her crying child’s ear. “I love you in the morning, I love you at noon…”
The thrum of a helicopter. The bleat of incoming sirens. Her legs were lead weights. Her heart pounded like the gunfire.
Please. Please stop.
And then it did.
A gull screamed in the long span of silence. Rebecca became aware of the breeze on her skin, tasted the salt in her mouth. The sun shone bright above them. Nothing had really changed. The world went on, despite the terror, the blood strewn sand, the families who lay dead or dying.
The world always went on. No matter how many malls, schools, airports or restaurants were blown up; no matter how many different ways man thought up to rip apart the lives of their fellow man, the earth kept spinning.
This was the first attack that she knew of on a crowded beach.
Her child lay still on her shoulder, eyes the color of the sea. open wide and staring at a woman in a red swimsuit, bloated and floating nearby.
Rebecca held her breath and turned, peering around the buoy.
Black suited men walked the beach, checked bodies, clutched guns. The helicopter had landed somewhere nearby. More sirens approached.
This week’s attack was over.
Rebecca clutched her little girl and released her hold on the buoy.
Celeste pushed her silver Mercedes through the fog, her lights baring only a light spray of mist and a few feet of red clay road.
They had tried everything, she and William, and now the desperation had pushed her over the edge…all the way to Blunt County, Georgia. Blunt was a speck of a town at the end of a thin dirt road with four sheriff cars, two funeral homes and one dark secret.
Checking her iPhone GPS once more, Celeste mashed the gas pedal up a hill and pulled into Hammish Park. The fog thinned. The sun was retiring. The pine needles on the trees surrounding the lake were on fire with the sunset. Celeste stepped one black heel on the gravel lot and then the other, shut the door and walked to the lake. Water soothed her. She had always preferred the surreal effect of the sky’s reflection in water over the stark real thing.
Suddenly a large black shadow swept over the lake, startling her. She reached for the gold and diamond cross tucked in the soft indent at her throat. Celeste glanced up quickly. Peach hues of emptiness and silence greeted her. Confused, she moved her gaze back to the lake. The shadow swept by again, a black form with a wing span as large as a bus. She fell back as she once again quickly looked up. Nothing. Scrambling to get back to her feet, she couldn’t help but look forward. Now hoards of shadows moved on silent wings, riding on the surface of the lake, circling, crossing paths. Still nothing above to cause such a display.
Celeste threw the car in reverse, kicking up gravel as she backed up and tried to breathe through the panic. There was no way she was waiting for her contact there.
A mile down the road, she hit the town. Charming white houses with peeling paint and sagging porches were planted in neat rows. She parked under a tree and killed the engine. She could find the house herself. As she searched the net, the sidewalks began to come alive. Tiny witches, cats, superheroes, fairies, big and little kids began to appear from the fog with glow stick necklaces and loud, palpable excitement.
She couldn’t help but smile.
Her resolve stiffened and after another few minutes of searching, she found the story and address she needed. Only two blocks away. She decided to walk, the fog was too thick and she didn’t want to take the chance of running over any kids.
By the time she reached 617 Banyan Drive, her feet ached and her heart beat in her ears. She knocked with a shaking fist, stood up straight and stepped back.
Footsteps. A sliver of yellow light escaping as the door creaked open. A hand pushed a basket of candy through the opening.
“Take just one, please.”
“Oh.” Celeste leaned to peer inside. “I’m not trick or treating. I,” she paused as the door opened a bit more and pale eyes peered at her from beneath cottony gray hair. “I came for your help.”
“I see,” the words delivered on a sigh. “Come in, then.”
The sound of distant laughing and taunting ceased as Celeste stepped inside and shut the door.
“Have a seat in the living room. Chester is harmless.” Celeste glanced around the quiet, one room home, lit only by candles flickering on every surface. Didn’t the woman need to know anything about her? “Well, go on. I’ve got some baking to do.”
Shrugging, Celeste removed her heels and left them by the door. She suddenly felt overdressed.
She swept her hands under her gray pencil skirt as she took a seat next to an elderly gentleman reading the paper on the sofa.
He smelled musty and looked at her with large, watery brown eyes. Was that pity she saw?
“Lovely of your wife to help people the way she does.” Her voice sounded too shrill. She cleared her throat. “It’s an amazing gift.” Was she trying to convince herself it was real and not just tabloid fodder?
The doorbell rang and Celeste startled, then laughed at herself. “Trick or treaters. How fun.”
Was that a black shadow sliding across the wall? She blinked hard but that only made it slip into the kitchen. She rubbed her eyes hard. The stress was really getting to her.
* * * *
An hour later, her eyes flew open and she sat up, unable to remember where she was.
“Oh!” She cried, embarrassed as the woman sat patiently in a rocking chair across from her, holding something in her lap. “I fell asleep? I’m so sorry. How rude of me.” She stood and then sat back down, feeling the room spin. “I don’t feel very good, actually.”
“You need to eat something.” The woman pulled a red cotton scarf from the plate in her hand and Celeste stared at the tiny golden pastry.
“It smells delicious.” Indeed it did. Scents of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg. “What is it?”
“Soul cake.” She stood slowly, balancing the plate carefully as she closed the gap and held it in front of Celeste like an offering. Celeste picked it up carefully with a thumb and forefinger and placed it in her palm. It was still so warm. “It is very important you don’t chew it.”
“Don’t chew it?” Celeste felt it swell in the palm of her hand, like a rising breath. “What’s inside?”
“Put it on your tongue and let it melt. Keep your mouth closed.”
Celeste did as she was told. The outer pastry melted like sugar. She was expecting something like pudding or maybe lemon filling, but there was…just heat. Fire that moved down her throat, her stomach, filled her lungs…her womb expanded, fluttered, pulsated with new and unfamiliar warmth.
“I can…feel something,” she whispered, laying her palm against the flatness of her belly. She rose, feeling stronger and full of energy. “It worked? Just like that? I don’t know how to thank you.” She reached up and felt the gold and diamond cross. She slipped it from her neck and tried to give it to the woman.
The woman’s eyes darkened, swirled like oily smoke as she grinned.
“No, you keep it, my dear.” Chester chuckled, opening the door to reveal a toddler in a red devil costume holding out his candy bag. “You’re going to need it.”
Death is inescapable. Or so Bruin Bailey thought.
Heavy breathing, the scent of wild mushrooms, being dragged over roots.
Being buried alive.
These things he remembers.
Or was he alive?
You’d think it was so easy to tell, right? You’re either breathing or you’re not breathing. But, no.
When you hear things like “Shit, you killed him” while someone is stuffing you in a cold dirt hole and you can’t move or scream, but you can hear and feel, well, then the line is a bit blurred.
So, here’s what happened. We smoked a little weed, we rolled a few houses. It was Halloween. We were high off the prospect of being seniors, graduation and all the freedom that comes from not needing to get up at six in the morning and spend every day in the same smelly rooms with worn out teachers that forgot how to smile.
Freedom. In a few months it would be ours.
Oh, another important point. Anise Foster was a witch.
What? I’m not calling names. She was proud of it.
When we’d get bored at lunch, we’d invite her over and pretend to be interested in all the shit she’d spout off about the cycles of the seasons and oh, yeah, especially around Halloween how she’d get all excited about the “veil” between the physical and spiritual world being thin so you could communicate with the dead. She even told us her mother left a place at the table for her dead dad. Ashley snickered too loud at that and Anise got up and left.
I saw her later at the lockers and felt bad. She looked sad.
“Hey,” I said. “You believe all that stuff that you told us, or is that just your mom’s religion?”
She looked at me then. Really looked at me for the first time and I realized how amazing her eyes were. Perfect gray circles in milky skin. I don’t think anyone has ever really looked at me before her because it was so intense I had to look away.
“This is the time things go beneath the ground. They wait to be resurrected. Winter is about death, about dying. It is not about religion.”
“Okay, all right,” I tried to be cool, even though her words had sent a chill from the tip of my tail bone to my hairline. It didn’t help when she added the words, “I’m sorry, Bruin.”
So, getting back to Halloween. Graveyards are seriously not the place to get high on Halloween and try to contact the dead because “the veil is thin”.
The ground was hard, freezing. I was feeling too good to care as I stared up at a fat, glowing moon with one star to keep it company. Lots of clouds around the sky bowl. Noises that I didn’t even care to try and figure out.
The bunch of morons that I hung out with chanting and calling out things like, “Hey, we want to see a ghost tonight.”
Someone pulled out a knife and drew a pentagram on a tree. This is where things went totally wrong.
Not because a demon showed up or anything. Just because I got pissed. Irrationally, drug induced kind of pissed. What did the tree ever do to Evan Martinez?
“Dude, you can’t just cut up a tree. What’s wrong with you? It’s alive.” Upon reflection, I realize this was Anise Foster’s influence on me.
His girlfriend called me some names and everyone laughed.
“You’re an idiot,” were my last words before a wicked, sharp, hot sensation filled my stomach.
Fast forward to: “Dude, you killed him.”
Lots of panic. The morons dragging my body through the woods to softer ground. The moon really was fat.
Dirt flew at me from all directions. It covered me slowly at first, building up until the organic smell became smothering. Until darkness blocked out the moonlight and I realized I wasn’t breathing. But I was something because I could still think.
I heard her words again, “Winter is about death. This is the time things go below ground and wait to be resurrected.” I silently wished she would put a place at her table for me.
And I knew that come spring, I would push up through the dirt like some giant freak crocus and Evan Martinez was going to pay.
What if you don’t stop? What if you just keep going? Crash right in the back of that unsuspecting car?
This was the first incident, the first time Nona realized something else occupied her head. She broke free from the Voice at the last minute and slammed on the brakes, sending out a loud screech and cloud of road dust. Wide eyed fear greeted her from the rear view mirror of her intended victim. Her body trembled. The Voice chuckled softly.
Nona went home and stared at herself in the mirror. Tiny flecks of gold muddled the grey. She pressed in closer to the mirror. The flecks turned red and sparked. Nona jumped back and ran out of the bathroom.
The second time happened in her best friend’s kitchen. Nona stood, pouring olive oil over steaming noodles in the sink. Linda was stirring her famous sauce.
Nona suddenly wheeled around and said, “What do you mean?”
“Didn’t say anything,” Linda answered, her lips just leaving a wooden spoon full of sauce.
Nona stared into that steaming bowl, briefly unhinged, watching a smile materialize in the steam as it rose, the moist warmth touching her face. The large butcher knife on Linda’s cutting board suddenly took on an otherworldly glow, shimmering like moonlight reflected on a lake. Nona blinked, reached out and rested a finger on the blade. Wrapped a palm around the handle.
The Voice whispered one word, ‘flesh’, and in that instant she needed to know what it would feel like to sink the blade deep into flesh. Nona glanced at Linda’s back, partially exposed by her tank top and the hunger grew. If only Linda knew the battle, the violent war Nona raged with the Voice in those moments, Linda would’ve known real fear. Nona won by rushing out of the house, carrying the Voice far from her.
She went home, threw all her kitchen knifes in a shoebox and duct taped it shut.
The Voice began to taunt her with a sweet little sing-song of, “Where ever you go, there I am”. She tried meditation to calm her nerves. She was greeted there, in the solitude, by a humming darkness. It had no form, but it had a presence that was separate from her own mind.
Am I possessed?
You are shared.
What are you?
Sometimes paths cross accidently. Things get stuck.
Nona came out of meditation two hours later holding a paring knife and bleeding from a dozen wounds on her left arm. Meditation was out.
I’ve gone mad, Nona thought, like the dad in The Shining.
Halloween evening, dusk fell and the doorbell started ringing. She could see the little ones peeking in the window as she cowered in the dark, afraid of herself, afraid of what the Voice would try to make her do.
She couldn’t take it, finally screaming, “Why don’t you just get out of my head!”
And It obliged.
A soft swooshing noise tickled her right ear, then all hell broke loose in her house. Plants flew against the wall, the impact spraying dirt everywhere, kitchen chairs fell over, drawers spit out their contents, drapes ripped from the windows. She screamed and screamed until someone began pounding on the door. Shaking, she managed to stumble and get it opened.
“Are you alright, Ma’am?” The father of a tiny witch asked, trying to see behind Nona into the house. “We heard you screaming.”
“Oh, thank heavens,” As she was trying to figure out what kind of help to ask for… the police? An exorcist? The voice whispered in her ear. She could feel heat radiating behind her but didn’t dare turn around.
“Pretty little thing,” It said. Nona looked down at the blue-eyed, blond haired toddler with green face paint and a sagging black hat. “Mmm…bite sized human.”
Nona knew at that moment, the Voice was hers to bear. She couldn’t let it out in the world. She was its prisoner, but she was also its jailer.
“I’m sorry. I must have had my Halloween CD up too loud.” Nona said, her heart sinking. “Here you go. Happy Halloween.” She reached over and grabbed a handful of candy from the full bowl, putting on her best non-crazy woman smile.
“You stay safe tonight.”
The soft, throaty laugh of my new bride, the steady beat of a tropical October rain on our rented beach bungalow walls, the gurgling of champagne being poured in the candle-lit room…these are the things I heard before the noise in the closet.
A muffled thump, like a sack being dropped on the floor, startled us. Both of us held our breath. I could feel her heart flutter against my arm.
“Did you hear that?” Sarah whispered.
“Shh.” I strained to listen. The candle flickered wildly. A musky scent filled the room, like wet fur.
“What’s that smell?” I turned to her just as a flash of lighting illuminated the fear in her dark green eyes.
“Smells like an animal. Do you think the owner of this place has a cat or something?”
Bump. Thump. The noise taunted me.
She was now trembling. I had to act. There was definitely something moving in the closet.
“Where are you going?” She grabbed my arm as I carefully shifted the sheets off my legs. “Let’s just wait until morning to open it.” Her lip quivered, her eyes shone in the candlelight.
She made me want to be brave. Beauty does that. Probably some damn trick of evolution, keeping the child-bearing women out of danger and sending the replaceable males out to face the beast.
But, this was just a closet on a very populated island in a very populated strip of beach houses. No beasts here, right?
“It’s probably just the wind shifting the house. It’s blowing pretty good out there.”
A low growl and loud bang on the door answered me. I jumped back in bed and reached for the cell phone. The candle blew out and we both screamed.
“Sh, sh, it’s okay.” I pressed the buttons, hitting ‘back’ numerous times as my shaking hand refused to cooperate. The deep rumble of thunder and crack of lighting close by made Sarah jump and slide deeper under the sheets.
Relief at finally hearing the landlord’s voice quelled some of my fear, made it almost seem silly.
“Mr. Crawford? Hi, I don’t mean to bother you in the middle of the night, but we’re in Bungalow number six and heard a strange noise in the closet. We’re wondering if someone might have possibly left a cat here? Oh, okay. Yes, that’s probably it, thank you.” I hung up and relit the candle.”He says there are strays around and one could have gotten in. It’s happened before.”
“I did notice the cats hanging around when we first got here,” she said. “But still, in the closet?”
We both stared at the closet. I thought seriously about just leaving the thing in there until morning but what if it was hurt or hungry?
With a sigh, I slid my arm from Sarah’s death grip and picked up one of the shiny black rental shoes that came with the tux. Really, this was just to make me feel braver. I’ve had spiders laugh at me when I swatted them with a shoe, I knew it would be no match for a scared, trapped cat.
I grabbed the door knob and pressed an ear to the door.
I held my breath. Still nothing. Hm. Maybe I could just wait until morning. What would we do with a cat tonight anyway? Put it out in the rain? Better to just let it sleep in the dry closet.
“I think it’s settled in for the night, now,” I said, sliding back into bed.
“Oh, no,” Sarah said, climbing out of bed. “There’s no way I’m falling asleep without knowing what’s in that closet.”
* * * *
Harold Crawford let himself into Bungalow number six.
“Here kitty kitty,” he called, moving into the bedroom. The candle had burned itself out and he stared at the items strewn about the room; a wedding gown thrown over the back of one chair, a tux jacket hanging on another, shoes, open suitcases. He slowly moved to the closet, where a woman’s nightgown lay by the door. Shoving it aside with his foot, he carefully opened the closet door and peered in.
“Ah,” he chuckled, throwing it open wide. The morning light shone on two trembling black cats. The one with green eyes hissed and howled, pushing itself closer to the body of the other one.
“Well, that’s an awful noise, my pet.”
The cats pushed their way passed him and out the opened door.
Harold Crawford watched them go and then began to gather up the abandoned things in the room. “Well,” he sighed, lifting the wedding gown from the chair. “At least you will be keeping your vows. ‘Til death do you part.” This is the one thing he told himself to feel better.
Only four more couples and his debt would be paid.
Shaw Martin sat in his stuffy college Calc 101 class, staring in horror at the inside of his wrist. He traced the spidery, indigo lines that ran up his pasty arm. Why hadn’t he noticed them before? God, they were terrifying. Well, not the veins themselves, but the thought of them. Carrying blood round and round our body, through our heart, pumping it back out. Jesus, what a chore, huh? How does the whole thing not go terribly wrong?
Terribly wrong. Shaw suddenly felt trapped. His sandy curls grew dark with sweat. People began to glance at him as he tried, unsuccessfully, to quietly gather his belongings and make his way to the door.
“Sorry,” he whispered to the gawkers. “So sorry.”
Four days later, he had almost gotten used to ignoring the veins when the bones started making themselves known. He went and got his eyes checked. Something had to be terribly wrong.
* * * *
“You’ve got 20/25 vision.”
“Yeah, but I’m not seeing things right.” Shaw tried to look the doctor in the eye, but kept getting distracted by the sight of his bones.
“No. Too clear.”
Shaw watched, fascinated as the bones gripped a pen and notepad.
He left with a reference to a psychiatrist.
It rained that evening which only made the air thicker. Footsteps followed him as he trudged to Scales & Suds on campus. He could hear shoes squeak on the wet concrete right behind him but he didn’t dare turn around. Slipping inside, he pressed himself against the wall and glanced back out the door. Thankfully, they were gone.
What’s going on? He tried to think but the others were so loud, trying to talk over the music. It beat in rhythm with his pulse. Distraction.
Shaw stood at the bar waiting for his order, feeling the crush and bump of the crowd and beginning to shake. Something had to be terribly wrong. A stiff shoulder pressed up against him. He glanced. Stared. The human body really was fascinating. Humerus. Clavical. Shaw squinted. Hmm.
“How’d you break your collar bone?” Shaw asked, trying to start a conversation.
The guy stared hard at Shaw. “What the fuck, man?” he finally said. “How do you know that?”
Luckily, the waitress came out and handed Shaw his Styrofoam box of greasy fried cod and fries with a smile.
“Freak,” the guy threw at him.
He thanked her and hurried back outside. It was drizzling again.
Two days later, he was still at the park, soaked and sipping cold coffee someone had left beside their car. He had tried to go back to the little cracker box house his parents left him, but the squeaky shoes had followed him. He heard them on the kitchen linoleum and ducked out without locking the door. Why bother? They were already inside.
His gift. To see inside human bodies. Inside was a tree with branches and organs growing on the branches. There were two kidneys, like giant lima beans , two lungs like overgrown fish gills-filling and deflating, filling and deflating, intestines and the heart. Pump pump squish pump pump squish.
“Your heart is beautiful,” he said to a lady pushing her toddler on a swing.
The police came and he finally got to see a doctor that understood him.
“So, you have x-ray vision,” Dr. Mulligan said. She didn’t laugh. In fact, she nodded and looked very serious, a wrinkle forming between her brows, like Shaw’s mother used to do.
“Yes, exactly. I can’t see inside the skull though. Why do you think that is?”
“Shaw, let’s talk about your parents.”
“They died fourteen months ago. Both of them on Highway 65. It was an accident.”
“Yes. I know, Shaw. And that’s a very difficult thing, to lose your parents. You’ve been doing very well, though.” She flipped through her notes. “Attending college. I’m sure they would be very proud of you.”
“They wanted me to be a doctor.”
“And what do you want to do?”
“Well, I do want to help people.” He glanced at her to see if he could trust her with his secret. She nodded, her chin resting on the bones of her hand. “Okay. I want to be a super hero. I’ve wanted to be a super hero since I was nine. I’ve designed a cape and everything.”
“I see,” she said and stared at Shaw for a moment longer. “Okay then. I’m going to write you a prescription, Shaw, for a medicine called Haldol. It is very important that you take it every day.”
“Will it help me to become more of a super hero?”
“Well,” she said, seeming to weigh something and then sighed. “No, Shaw. It will help you to stay in society, to be a part of it and to have a more normal life.”
Did it ever stop raining in this town? Shaw came to a corner, where a homeless guy was sitting under a garbage bag, a brown cardboard mush of a sign clutched in the bones of his hand. The sky groaned and lit up.
“You all right, Kid?”
“I don’t know,” Shaw answered. “I’m not sure. I think something must be terribly wrong.”
“Ha,” he groaned like the sky. “You’re the smartest person I’ve met yet. Have a seat, Kid.”
“All right.” Shaw said, lowering himself onto the wet sidewalk. Water rushed by in the gutter, fell from the sky, cleansed the world.
He reached a wet hand in his jacket and took the first pill.
Now Available on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/21851
So, what is Friday Flash, you ask?
“Friday Flash is a weekly global writing event. Writers worldwide post flash fiction, stories of 1,000 words or less, and announce them via the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. Friday Flash is a true community – a virtual on online writer’s colony. This collection gathers sixty-seven of the very best – from humor to horror, slice-of-life to science fiction – under one cover.”
This explains what Friday Flash is, but not what it means to the hundreds of us that have participated since its inception and the man who started it all, Jon Strother. I’ve personally participated for over a year, not as consistently as I’d like but life does tend to get in the way. Enough, though that it has made me a better writer and helped me find others along the way on the same journey. The writing life has always been an isolated one. Until projects like this come along where you spend a year with other talented, generous writers and get to see the fruits of everyone’s labor all wrapped up in a nice little volume of terrific stories.
You can read my story “Her Migration” in this anthology as well as sixty-six other fantastic stories. Don’t have time to read a novel? Grab these juicy, bite-sized bits of flash and enjoy!
Their world is white. White walls. White halls. White dressings on my damaged head and eyes. My heart still pumps blood because I can’t yet remember who I am and they think I am someone important, someone with information that they need. The foreign bed my body lays in is an enemy I have escaped. Who are they to say I haven’t?
Sometimes I hear the sucking sound of my feet in the muck, metal ripping my flesh. Sometimes I only see the heron glowing, sailing like a ghost against the blackened sky before a storm. I am learning how to make the switch, it just takes practice and I seem to have all the time in this world. It ticks away in slow motion. Tick. Tock. Eternity is my clock.
They slip into my dream with their foreign tongues, their foreign way of turning thoughts. I smell them over the infection, the cardamom on their hot breath as they push into my burned flesh, broken English being thrown at me along with threats that ceased having meaning the day I figured out God.
I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Courtesy of my Sunday school teacher.
I don’t remember my mother, but I do know this. The only way something can be the beginning and the end is if it’s a closed system. A circle. A bubble. God is a closed circle. I have learned how to step outside the circle. Is it hell? You tell me.
Vengeance floats like lethal smoke within the bubble. Blood swirls like lava, spilling and spilling. Life is pumped full of hot metal, gassed, poisoned, thrown in rusty dumpsters, covered with dirt like an accidental spill. Celebrated when taken.
There is a pinch in the soft fold of my arm and I am jolted back into their world. A memory seeps in.
Hey, boy. Come ‘ere. Don’t be afraid. Hungry? That’s it. I am affectionately stroking loose fur on bone while pure hunger gobbles up my dry bread. Through the dust, I see them converge. White robes, black hands.
Muzzle against muzzle. NO! Laughter. Deafening boom. Dust and pain and the sharp stench of blood.
I don’t remember who I am but I have learned how to step outside the circle. Who are you to say I haven’t?
This cool little badge of recognition was bestowed upon me by the fabulous father of #fridayflash himself, Jon Strother. (Also a great writer!) I’m not the most prolific writer in the mass of talent out there, so getting recognized for my flash is like getting smacked in the face with a yummy lemon meringue pie–surprising, sweet, decadent and oh so satisfying!
Now to spread the love. Choosing four of my favorite flash writers is like trying to pick a favorite child, but these are people that I rush to read every week, even if I have to squeeze it in between breaking up toddler fights:
Karen Schindler – Karen’s flash is saturated with humor and sharp wit. And she does it every single week. I am in awe of her power. Do you remember pop-rocks? That’s your brain on her flash. Crackle, sizzle, POP! Just brilliant stuff. Go read her now! Follow her: @karenfrommentor
Mark Kerstetter – Mark is not just a writer, he’s an artist. I have a soft spot for artists who can write. I always push away from the table after finishing Mark’s flash full & happy, like I’ve had a full course meal & fed my brain. He’s excellent at taking a non-fiction piece about an artist or writer and expanding it to create a story. Follow him: @markerstetter
Cathy Olliffe – I admire Cathy for her ability to write real, honest to god characters. She writes with freedom and understanding and possesses this gift for description that makes me feel like I’ve slipped into the story. I can smell the pie and get wet from the tears. She makes me uncomfortable, aware and in love with these people because they are so human. Follow her: @Matthiasville
Marc Nash – Marc is the quintessential genius writer. His insight is sometimes blinding and always rewarding. Yes, most of the time he makes you work really hard for your supper (keep your dictionary handy) but if I had to choose a last meal, I would choose his. Follow him: @ExisleMoll
Okay, now that I’ve made myself hungry, my work here is done. But I hope you will go have a flash fiction feast with these amazing writers!
(Warning: mature subject matter)
It’s not her fault. She wasn’t born with the ability to see things as they are. Her world is small and skewed, complete with a turnstile and ticket price that no one can afford, a glittery fantasy in the background. If only I hadn’t fallen for her, maybe I’d still be alive.
What? You don’t think the dead can talk? You’ll see. The world is nothing like you think. Because you’re looking through the same damn filter as her—life. Her name is Lola.
Lola was given her name by a mother who was fond of whimsy and ignorant of 20th century literature. Lola struggled from whimsy like a butterfly, all wet and sticky with new wings to try out. When she turned eighteen, she did just that. She flew. She changed her name to Ekaterina because she liked the idea of being difficult, a struggle for the tongue and mouth. I refused to call her anything but Lola but I paid for that dearly.
This is how she gained a wide berth in life. Like those hoarders who pile things around themselves; newspapers, canned peaches, fat and feral cats. She piled tragedy of her own making. She was the fire that danced within the paper, burning anyone attracted to her flame.
Where did I meet her you ask? Where do you think a girl named Lola with hips that could charm a snake would hang out? Don’t judge me. I was newly divorced. I just wanted a girl to look at me again with something other than distain. I used my full week’s paycheck that night to keep her in the private room. I don’t know what she saw in me, but she agreed to a real date that night.
Our first date happened on a rainy Wednesday, with one of those sunsets that looks like somebody drizzled hot caramel all over the sky. She was soft and pliable, legs like vices. I remember staring up at that sunset–flesh pressed in wet sand while those hips made perfect warm circles—thinking I could die right then a happy man.
I didn’t know then I would die a very, very unhappy man.
By our fifth date, Lola had another life growing inside that tan belly of hers. She said it was mine and we talked about the nursery. I could smell the lemon yellow paint she picked out for the walls, so boy or girl…our baby would wake every morning to a bright sunshiny world. A world full of light and hope and promise.
She seemed surprised when her belly grew taught over the round life. She stopped eating anything but celery sticks and lemons. Her routines grew more and more dangerous, hanging upside-down and sliding toward the ground like she wanted to crack her own skull open.
On a Saturday night at two in the morning, that’s exactly what she did. The hospital lights were so bright. The doctor’s voices, the machines. So loud. The blood, so red.
Flowers everywhere the next morning. God, the smell was suffocating, all sweet, sticky…like a funeral. Of course, it was a funeral. Our baby was dead. Jarred from Lola’s body from the impact and thrown in some hospital disposal unit. Her tears were real, pooling in the dark crevices under her eyes. I fingered a creamy white petal from a close boquet, not knowing how to express my sadness, feeling like a stranger at my own child’s funeral.
The card was just a card, but to me it was the final blow that shattered my delusion that she would ever be mine. ‘Wishing you a speedy recovery, Katerina. Get back to us soon. Love, Giovonni.’
I plucked it from its plastic stake and tore it into tiny pieces. I stuck my face into hers; the rage, the sorrow, everything piling up and collapsing in that one moment like an avalanche of the soul. “Who are you? I loved you!” I screamed.
My own spit shining on her pale cheeks, she answered, “I never asked to be loved.”
I admit. It was a stupid thing to do. We were ten stories up and the goddamned window would have held if a psycho adrenelin rage wasn’t behind the force thrown against it. For one brief second I was free of her. The silence of pavement against brain was heaven.
Then I was back. Standing in her hospital room, attached to her with some kind of damn emotional bungee cord.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been attached to this beautiful, tragic creature. I lost track of the nights she spent throwing herself into one hell after another, not with abandon, but with the confidence of a martyr.
She’s right. I see that now. She never asked to be loved.