So … three pieces of flash fiction, all written to first line prompts posted on Twitter by the wonderful @CrackedFlashFC. They’re not my best work, and all of them quite correctly lost out in the weekly competition to better stories, but they were fun to write and so I’m offering them here.
The moon shone red. The end had come.
Not just the moon but the stars, darkening from glittering silver to a flickering crimson, like tiny drops of blood on black velvet. I closed my eyes and tried to will the red away, along with the low hum of frustration that always accompanied the hue in such synaesthetic episodes. When I opened my eyes again, the stars and the moon had regained their silvery gleam, but still … the frustration remained.
Still, the end had come.
Behind me, I heard her whisper. ‘My taxi is here.’
I turned to look at her for the last time, trying to etch as much of her face onto my heart as I could. The way her eyelashes were dark at the roots but grew lighter towards the tips. The little freckle tucked into one corner of her eye. The way her earlobes sloped gently into a soft crease in her neck (and had her fingertips reached up to touch her ear when I mentioned that? Yes, I believe they did.). I wanted to remember, to know that I’d notice them in a way that no-one else ever would.
I nodded, with no words left, and she wheeled her suitcase past me. I closed my eyes again, just for a moment, long enough to breathe in the ghost of her favourite perfume.
The driver got out to load her case into the trunk as she slipped smoothly into the back seat. She didn’t look my way, not even as the taxi drove away.
I sensed the moon bleeding red even before I looked up, before the frustration found its way out of my eyes in too many tears.
I wish I’d told her. Told her that whatever my mood, her eyes had always been green.
“The insurance company warned us about you.” Sterling said. I glanced up from the corpse and saw that he was trying to bring a little gallows humour to the proceedings. His smile looked forced though, sickly in the glare of the lights set up around the murder scene by the forensics team.
I smiled a brief, fake smile of my own and returned to the body, peeling off the latex gloves. The revival would work with or without the barrier between the corpse’s skin and mine, but I’ve always found them a little disrespectful to the dead, as though I was touching a piece of meat instead of the receptacle of someone’s soul.
A soul that, maybe, I might be able to snatch at the last embers of, coax it momentarily back into the body so that we could talk.
There wasn’t much of the girl’s face left, her features eroded by time and the intimacy of flies. Her temples were much too soft when I pressed my fingertips to them, but the connection was instant, as it often is when death has been traumatic. In such cases, the soul lingers around the body, like a fading radio signal desperate to be heard.
Behind me, I could hear Sterling drawing closer, curiosity overcoming his fear.
The girl’s remaining eye widened, her mouth falling open. Her frayed tongue worked like a blind slug.
“Don’t be scared,” I told her softly. “All we need is a name.”
Her eye met mine, and in it I saw the things she’d loved and would never know again. Snowflakes in her palm. Hot coffee. Her girlfriend’s kiss.
“Just a name,” I said again, and I felt the chill of the gun against my scalp a heartbeat before she gave me what I’d asked for.
I woke up with a shovel drenched with blood in my hand, and there was a trail of blood leading up to me. I was on the couch, my face buried in a cushion that stank of my own wine-heavy breath. I rose, slowly, familiar with the tumbling rocks in my skull, following the trail of blood back to the kitchen. I didn’t realise that I still held the shovel until I heard its blade scraping along the tiles.
Bones lay in the middle of the kitchen, one partially severed paw extending towards me, his almost entirely severed head twisted around to face his food bowl, as though he’d wanted one last meal to take with him to doggie Valhalla.
We’d called him Bones, not as was oft-mistaken, a Star Trek reference, but as I reminder of when we picked him up from the shelter, all visible ribs and wary eyes. It was Jack’s idea to let the children name him, and I wasn’t sure, but Jack said I’d get used to it.
Jack said I’d get used to a lot of things. Some of them I did, and some of them I didn’t.
I never got used to being alone when he worked late, or to the children demanding my attention when all I wanted was peace. I remember feeling trapped in some hellish void between the loneliness and the craving for solitude, and for a while it seemed the only way I’d been able to fill that void was to flood it with wine.
My mother had been just the same, though I’d gone a lot further than her, it seemed.
Poor old Bones. I really hadn’t wanted to kill him, but he’d been playing in the garden, too close to where I’d buried Jack and the children.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!