She sat on the porch watching the sun take a sink reminiscing on days gone past. There was something about the sunset that made him beam with smiles. There was something about the ambience that struck their heartstrings. Nature propped up the bridge of their romance. But things gradually began to fall apart. A wall of divide slowly came up between them. Though they shared the same room, they were miles apart. She wondered what had happened. Eric was cold and withdrawn. There was something deep about his silence. She wished she could see through him. Maybe through the veil.
Camping for the Enlightened Mind was an escape, a haven on civilization's outskirts. A crafted campsite emerged, fooling minds into true woodspeople's beliefs. Balsam Firs and Trembling Aspen enhanced the wild illusion. Modern comforts thrived, with water, electricity, and a sound system for enlightenment. Night fell, and the mesmerizing campfire roared with vibrant flames, flickering in reds, yellows, and oranges. Crackling wood merged with crisp air, and the sounds of whales, waterfalls, and avian allies played quietly. The carefully calibrated volume discreetly drowned out the nocturnal insects, immersing campers. Eyes shut, faith unwavering, transcendence was near, harmoniously one with nature.
‘Hello, Edna. What would you like today?’
‘Just the paper and a carton of milk please, Mr Singh.’
‘There you are. Take care now, Edna.’
Edna walked home, threading her way along the crowded pavements, her walking stick keeping her upright. She smiled at people occasionally, but no-one smiled back.
She made a cup of tea and read the paper, then sat back, recalling Mr Singh’s words: ‘Take care now, Edna.’
Several times that day she replayed his words in her head. Perhaps tomorrow someone else would speak to her.
That brand of canned salmon is still sitting high on the rack.
“Ann, can you get that for me?” Grandma didn’t notice I was on the phone.
It’s her favourite, rich and mellow.
“Granny, I gotta go now.”
I left the 70-year-old with a cartful of cans, eggs, fruits, and frozen meat.
One day years later, as I was fetching the same salmon from the same place, she toppled beside me. Stabbing pain in the stomach.
“Have you taken your medication?” I worried.
“You are my best medication.”
The can fades. I wish she could taste the salmon once more.
Tom Cat was walking down the street when he bumped into Bunny Rabbit.
“Ayup,” said Bunny. “And how is my old cat friend today?”
“Just a minute,” said Tom. “I’m not a cat. I’m a dog.”
“Don’t be silly. You look like cat. You purr like a cat. You are a cat.”
“No, no. I’m not. I’m a dog.”
“Not to me you’re not . I knew you when you were born. A lovely little kitten you were.”
“That was then. Now I’m a dog.”
“How did that happen? I’d like to be an elephant.”
“It’s easy. Just self identify. Wuff.”
In her son’s American kitchen, she makes lemon pickles. She slices the unblemished fruits with her wedding knife, crushes chili and methi seeds in her old mortar and pestle. Her eyes fill, and she blames the smoking oil.
When she sets the jarred fruit in a bright window to ripen, her son suggests “Why don’t you just microwave it?” He is so like his father—he never wants to wait for anything, but the woman knows what it is to track the sun from east to west, the path bitter as a reckoning, but curved enough for light to follow.
In an abandoned parking lot, there lies The Shack. A flickering “Key-It Lite” sign cuts through dense fog, facing streetside. On the back, a rusty key-sized hole. The windowless walls are grimy with decades of graffiti.
Headlights. A tween boy scampers from the passenger door to the station to copy the family house key, his newly earned responsibility.
The hut spurs to life, tracing then cutting out the duplicate. Grinding, whirring, screaming. The boy creeps back.
Sudden silence. A soft whine. Then the key. His fingers grasp the notches, picking at a grizzly piece of skin caught between the groves.
Roger wanted to submit a flash fiction story to a controversial new online publisher. His story was slightly too long, had been already published elsewhere, and Roger wanted to remain anonymous.
The submission form on the screen required him to certify that he’d provided his real name and wasn’t concealing his whereabouts. He shrugged, thought "I know I’m lying, but…," ticked the box, and pressed “SEND”.
Fifteen minutes later, air raid sirens sounded and a rocket destroyed Roger’s home. He only just escaped alive.
Editor Putin shrugged. “I know I ticked the box saying I wouldn’t bomb lying authors but…”
Bulbous clouds stream by the scarred window. What happened down there? Did shiny political rhetoric slide down legs or was it something more tangible? How hearts are broken so many damn ways.
You cried out in your sleep again last night, steel toe boots doing dances in your head and reaching out toward me. Please schedule that therapy appointment!
It’s raining now and no one cares. But does it matter anyway after last night?
Palmetto trees stand guard outside. He died last night, actually 7:15am today. Did you hear the gunshot? Loud as hell, echoed. Will you cry? Will you?
The fire crackles as Hilary reclines on the sofa, mobile in hand, a glass of wine within reach. She smiles as she emails the compromising photos of Chief Superintendent Simon Mayfair to her editor.
Hilary refreshes the news app and the headline announces the tragic murder of a tabloid journalist. Puzzled, Hilary reads a report of a brutal stabbing in a remote cottage, the location being familiar.
Moving to the window, Hilary notices the figure outside and recognises Simon’s gait. She flinches as the front door is unlocked, and screams at the sight of the knife.
In high school I dated quiet Gerald, who played the guitar like a pro yet was a victim of irrational bullying. After graduation he left town.
To everyone's surprise, he showed up at our 10th class reunion looking good and carrying his guitar case. He walked up to me, planted a toes-curling smacker on my lips and whispered, "Leave."
Class tough guy with his old gang swaggered over, told Gerald he wasn't welcome and to get the hell out before there was trouble.
"I've come to play," said Gerald with a grin, opening the case and taking out an AR-15.
A successful software engineer, Dave was intensely interested in recent advances in artificial intelligence. Stories regarding AI advances in medicine, robotics, and the arts fascinated him.
So, when Hal, his supervisor, informed him that he would be terminated due to the downsizing of his engineering pod, he was shocked. "I thought we were doing well?"
"The company's doing great, but we're outsourcing engineering to AI code generators, which, unfortunately, means layoffs. On Friday, we'll be locking the pod bay doors.
"So, I'm being replaced by a bot?"
"On the bright side, the AI bot can write great resumes."
Roulette seemed simple to play. Place chips on red or black then cross fingers.
I’d saved diligently for this Vegas holiday, hoping to win enough for a new car. My hand hovered over Red 13, ten $10 chips ready to drop.
Above the kerchink of slot machines I heard the rattle of my failing fridge, saw the grease spattered wall behind the oven, needing new paint. Bedroom could do with new curtains…
“Place your bets,” the croupier invited.
“Congratulations on your win, Madam.” The payout teller beamed a Colgate smile as I cashed in my $100 worth of chips.
‘What’s wrong, Jenny?’
Jenny sighed. ‘It’s my story for Friday Flash Fiction. It started well, and the middle really builds the plot but I can’t seem to think of a good ending to finish it with a bang. I want something everyone will remember.’
‘Reveal the murderer?’
‘No, it’s not a murder story.’
‘No, it’s not a love story.’
‘Finish with a moral lesson?’
‘I know, the main character awakes from a dream?’
‘Definitely not. Too corny. It’s been done before.’
‘Sorry, I’m not much help, Jenny. What are you going to do?’
‘Ah! I know, I’ll…’
I always smelled her before I saw her. Miriam wore her perfume thick as armor. It was this heavy mix of rose, lilac, and sugary sweetness that made me want to gag. It would lurch into a room in front of her, then lingered after she was gone like the last sad drunk after a party. It was eye-watering, nose-closing, chloroform strong. Like a lot of things about her, it made me wish I didn’t love her. When she left, it settled over my apartment like a cloud. It’s still clinging to my sheets. Maybe I’ll never get it out.
Dan took the mattock and the chain saw. He mutilated the roses; Sadie had lavished so much love on them. Then the perennials, destroying the hours of affection she had given them. He chopped everything up and piled the whole lot in the middle of the immaculate lawn before dousing it with paraffin. Whoosh, a single match filled the suburban air with burning fuel and flaming vegetation. His phone buzzed: neighbours complaining, sirens wailing, fire appliances, police, even a helicopter. Someone made him a cup of tea ‘It can’t get worse’. It did when Sadie got home.
We couldn’t stop them from poisoning the planet. We couldn’t stop them from wasting all the resources. They ignored us, blamed us even, while they used everything up, then used the last remaining bits to build a fleet of ships to escape to a clean, bountiful new planet.
A few of us also booked passage, as ship mechanics and cleaners and chefs. We couldn’t stop them from leaving but they couldn’t leave without our help.
And now that we are on our way and all trapped together with nowhere for them to run, we can finally stop them for good.
And the world quietly rejoiced in and of itself. The bindweed leapt the rusty wire fence in the time that it took the infant sparrows to fledge the nest.
Butterflies came and busied themselves among the purple floral trumpets. No bloom was refused or thought unworthy of a visit.
Every day the rusting railway lines expanded under the heat of the sun and contracted beneath the starry sky. Wooden sleepers noiselessly crumbled to dust behind their still oily exteriors.
Ants made homes in the gravel. The vixen concealed herself in the grasses. And all the while the good earth turned.
‘Ah! Victoria sponge, Jen.’
Why does my granddaughter think old ladies like that? I want chocolate cake. To hell with sugar and calories.
‘I’ll cut some for tea, Nan.’
Maybe I should tell her I can still cut cake.
‘That’s kind, dear.’
I always could fib well.
I watch Jen cut the cake.
Jen grinned. ‘Nan, I know you think Victoria sponge is as tasteful as wallpaper paste. I’ve hidden a white chocolate cake inside this. I simply used icing to “glue” part of a sponge to the chocolate middle. This will be more to your taste.’
I was teaching 9th grade English when a student proclaimed, “I went from blowing bubbles to blowing dicks!”
I glanced up; she flushed red.
I smiled softly, hoping to dispel shame, “creative. Part of a story, perhaps?”
“Yeah.” She laughed, “called Growing up Too Fast.”
I wanted to tell her, I, too, yearned to lose my innocence, regretted its loss, but kept losing it all the same. Until, I realized, I’d not only lost it, but its memory as well.
“Slow down,” I suggested.
“Sure,” she lied, as I’d lied to those who’d forgotten youth is meant to be lost.
The instruction from the higher-ups was unambiguous: "Eliminate him before reaching the court. The case will drag on for years. The most expensive legal brains will defend him and get him out."
The police van comes to a screeching halt at a deserted place. Something wrong, I declare loudly.
All come out except for the prisoner and a dozing cop who sat opposite him.
The culprit subdues the cop, removes the key, opens the handcuff, and is about to jump out.
As he turns, I open fire.
"Let's rearrange the scene. It should look like an encounter."
She was weirdest cat in the world.
She liked to lick bare toes, although not mine.
She chirped instead of meowed, just like a bird.
She took six years to accept me.
What did acceptance look like?
Jumping on my lap when I sat on the toilet, allowing me to scratch under her chin.
She’s gone now.
“It’s likely cancer,” the veterinarian said, setting our swaddled Thea on the table.
Hunched and heavy-eyed, a mournful yowl that sounded like yow-ow-ow.
There’s no more toe licking. Or bathroom scritches.
But I hear the birds chirping and think of her.
I’ve changed a lot in the hour before dawn. It’s like I’m finally home and I’ve been gone for so long. In my absence my future decided and the decision was that I didn’t have one.
Apparently, I deserted, in the face of enemy fire; sliding along the trench instead of over it. I have no recollection. But I do remember the other times, walking direct into machine gun fire. Friends like smashed crockery all around me, my brain imploding.
The yellow lichen on the post seems deliberate. Mocking me until I’m blindfolded.
I hear the order: “Ready. Aim……”
Could this trip get any worse? Sharon kept wondering. It was one thing after another. A credit card glitch at a gas station. A mixed-up restaurant order at lunch. Endless roadwork—including a detour from hell. Her four-year-old son’s constant question: “Are we there yet?”
At least, they were now near her mom’s house, their destination. Soon, this trip would be nothing but an unpleasant memory.
She turned onto her mom’s street. Something was wrong! There was an ambulance in front of her mom’s house.
“Why haven’t they called?” she blurted, noticing her husband opening his eyes.
“Why are you interrogating me at 3am?” he grunted.
“I didn’t sleep a wink,” she added. “Now that we’re awake, what’s your take on the matter?”
“Maybe it didn’t happen.”
“They forgot. Left us in the dark.”
“Nonsense. They have lots to do. They’ll call when they’re ready.”
He turned over and instantly fell asleep. Swaying curtains by an opened window lulled her to sleep.
Early morning, the ringing of a phone startled them into sitting up.
“Mom, Dad,” their son chirped. “You’re grandparents to a baby girl.”