Somehow, Friday seems like the perfect day for celebrating the art of flash fiction. It’s a celebratory, happy sort of day, and writing flash makes me feel happy, too. It all fits. It’s probably part of the Unified Theory of Everything, or something.
Or maybe it’s just a fun way to while away a Friday morning.
In any case, I set myself three flash challenges today – three short pieces, two under 200 words and one under 300 words, and each of them based around a different set of five prompt words thrown up at me by this random word generator. Easy, right?
Well, you be the judge.
Words for Story 1: Spine, salt, pillar, fur, trap
He laid a trap for me so fine, so gentle, that I placed my head inside the noose like a pet dog nuzzling at its master’s knee. He allowed me to destroy myself through my own pride, but even now, I admire him, as I must.
As a warrior, he is unsurpassed. As a hunter, he is finer still. As a husband, he was better than some, but that was not enough.
The door stands open. The air tingles across my face, drying my tears to frozen salt. The spine of the mountains stretches out before me, white and blinding; I close my eyes against it.
‘Your fur,’ he commands, holding out his hand. I slide out of it. The wind bites, savaging me through the thin linen shift which is all I am permitted to bring. I hand it to him, my fingers steady. I am proud of that.
‘Your blade.’ He stands like a pillar, immovable. Fixed. Holding up the world. My betrayal has cost him nothing; he is eternal. I hand him my knife and sheath, my grip shaking, just a little.
‘Farewell,’ I whisper, stepping barefoot into the snow.
He says nothing, and turns away.
Words for story 2: Prophet, colony, mouse, cup, gutter
It’s not supposed to be like this, Sue whispers. The prophet said –
I know what he said. My eyes fix on the mouse, lying on its side, curling and blackening like overdone toast. Our last test subject. So much for ‘ten generations of prosperity.’ Some prophecy.
If the mice are dying, that means conditions outside have changed.
Yes. I cup my hands and slot my face into their warm hollow. It does.
So what do we do? Sue turns to me like I have the answers. I feel her gaze like a red-hot brand.
We seal the ship. I turn to her. We leave. Now. Today.
Abandon the colony? Sue pales.
We have no choice.
But the people… Sue’s voice trickles away. She is sentimental, but no fool.
This was only ever an experiment. I try not to sound cold. It always had the risk of failure.
We should hurry, then. She clears her throat. Before they realise. Before – A thump brings her to a premature halt, followed by another. Louder. Her eyes glitter as she faces me.
It’s too late, I say, just as the cabin lights gutter out.
Words for story 3: Bib, sugar, address, bill, steering wheel
Wife and Mother
You feel it as soon as you set foot in the kitchen, that crunch under your sole that says Jeremy spilled the sugar again this morning, and again neglected to sweep it up. Before you even flick the light-switch, you know what will greet you. Dirty cereal bowl stacked on top of the dishes he’d promised to do last night while you were feeding Lucy. Fag butt swimming in the sink.
The baby monitor in your hand coughs, crackling. A wail pierces you.
‘Christ almighty,’ you whisper, crushing your fingers around it. Your eyes fall on the fridge, where the phone bill is still pinned beneath the novelty magnet you bought on honeymoon. It smiles at you like it’s apologising for not being paid, for allowing Jeremy to forget it again. Your name – half you, half him – and this strange, leafy new address stare at you.
Is this you? Is this all?
The monitor sobs. A snuffle.
You turn, knocking off the light. You wrap your dressing-gown tight. You chuck the monitor onto the hall table and grab your car keys. Out the door. Down the steps. Across the pavement.
Behind the steering wheel, you sit and shiver. It’s early. Silver sky.
You glance in the mirror and Lucy’s car seat is there, empty. A stray bib, covered in yellow gunk, lies crumpled within it.
Your knuckles whiten on the wheel. Your keyring spins, slowly, hanging from the ignition.
You slam the door so hard when you go back inside that Lucy wakes, her screams like fingernails raking down your face.
You place the keys gently on their hook, concentrating hard.
‘Coming, darling,’ you mutter to the wall. ‘Mummy’s coming.’
I hope you enjoyed these. All feedback (of the good, bad or indifferent variety) is welcome. Schöne Freitag, lieblings.