Half a poem, half a flash fiction piece, mostly a fragment (800 words): The Smog

The Smog

On Wednesday she nuzzled me awake, like a puppy might,

Her nose cold as a kitten’s, in the air-conditioned cell,
I had rented for ourselves.
We checked the time too late on our phone,
Thought the tone of orange that sliced off one of her thighs,
Suggested 6 AM.
The haze outside had fooled us.
So we were both late for work,
On the bus I read, rather than looked outisde the window at the too thick orange haze,
I could not see through,
Disappointing; I had only just downloaded new music to try.

I had a headache till lunch.
Someone said: “It might rain soon.”

Someone else said: “No that’s just pollution.”

A VP came out and told us proudly that our stock price had gone up 12% today, I pumped my fist, hissed ‘yesss’ and counted two more years before I might get options.

I stayed later than the rest as usual. Except for a secretary who read me snippets of headlines from her phone, her tone perpetually quizzical, like she was discovering events that came as a suprise and that I ought to answer her perpetually rhetoricals: “Did you know that / Wow so / Apparentlies and According To BBC – a bomb exploded somewhere, killing some people, a billionaire did something, billions of dollars went somewhere, the progress of wars, less predictable than the sports scores- sometimes in the hundreds, when casualties crested thousands, that became interesting, though only if they were Europeans or something, Americans maybe.

It seemed that it took about 10 000 dead westerners to shock me as much as say, two hundred thousand blacks from some African country.

“Apparently there is a genocide going on.”

“Wow. That’s fucked up.” I said, and left out: “But I really need to finish this spreadsheet before tomorrow.”

Before temorrow I got to wake her up, pin her to the bed with two of my crab hands in hers, we made two fists, then love, rushed, forceful, racing midnight till we both came first.

I was at the airport Saturday morning. The haze hadn’t moved but we prayed for a typhoon on the train, to come and blow away the smog, at the cost of a few lingering villagers that had not yet moved into government flats. Across from us two mainlanders spoke, and she translated for me via text, writing messages on her phone, as quickly as she could, whilst I read over he shoulder and she never pressed send. The mainlanders were mules, sent here by unfathomably rich businessmen to purchase purses worth a years rent, the decadent, stupid fucking backwards assholes, even they were saying it was perfectly insane, how much money it cost to buy what they thought of as perfectly ugly shoes.

They wore nails flecked with glitter, painted a cacophony, they butterflied them in their mandarin patter, clicking against each other sometimes, a pool of gentle mellodic err shi’s and bou jyos, till a guttural bout of cantonese POG KAI’s invaded the car from an open station, quickly silenced as they noticed other people, and thus everyone bowed their heads politely, into their smart phones.

It was my first time flying business. There was no line at check in. I should have worn a suit, but I told myself that’s how casual I found going business. I asked for champagne twice, the second time as hesitant as when I volunteered my opinion at the meeting yesterday. The stewardesses, so much hotter than her, they took care of themselves, their make up perfect, skin so pale, tall as swans I watched their asses and tried to ignore the waste of a window seat- the orange haze reaching all the way up to the next nearest, waiting plane, obscuring half it’s tail.

The rush of taking off mixed with the distant joke of shot down planes, mad muslims, bad luck, bad weather, shit I’d have to leave behind in the event of an emergency god please don’t let me have to buy another Ipad I fucking loved that thing.

I put down my kindle when we we leveled out and suddenly, the orange was gone. A sea of blue dressed like infinity, above a plain of rolling ice tinged orange, like the cream that came with my berries for dessert. It just went on and I felt something new, up there, where I couldn’t go online, couldn’t message anybody, couldn’t leave my seat, had to stare at how blue, blue, clear it was, how far I could see, how I was not bored by the repetition of sky. Then below, distant through the smog, I saw the flecks of concrete towers, the ant like container ships, the steel, glass, and concrete fruits of progress, across a smoggy field.

And I wondered what the news will say tomorrow.

Flash fiction: Anxiety’s a bitch

Anxiety’s a bitch

Tapping me on my brain, crying ‘wake up, wake up.’ She always visits me at night, right before the morning; when dawn is a time bomb. She has wide, furtive, eyes that dance, with madness. Big glass globes that can’t focus on anything, rolling between the door, the window, the shelves, the books, settling only on my own eyes, like an eight ball into a pool table hole, she sinks right into me, hooks onto the rail of my neck, accelerating us both.

“Wake up, wake up, we have to go. We have to go, we have to go. We have to go wake up.”

One of these night’s shes going to grab my arm. Throw aside my sheets. She’s going to take me by the shins and drag me till I concuss myself on the edge of my bed frame. I’ve stopped saying “Go away.” There is no point, she won’t. Sometimes she stops shaking me. Stops cawing for me to run (Where? She never says.) Sometimes she’ll just sit on my bed. She’ll say “Okay. It’s okay. Go to sleep then.” Her skin is so pale, slightly yellow. I used to believe her. My lids would drop, guillotine the protruding nubs of her bony elbows, till, like lightning, she’d grab hold of my ribs.

Her nails bursting right through the heavy duvet, finger tips cold against my shirt, her nails scraping them upwards. Just hard enough to leave red marks, never sharp enough to break the skin but I know, one day, she’ll flay me with those nails of hers, reach inside and grab my kidneys, unfurl my intestines, she’ll reach in to massage the acid she regurgitates into my mouth when she kisses me awake, when she takes my head in her palms and tells me stories like:

“Yesterday, when you were in the lift, there was a woman. Do you remember her? Of course you remember her. I want you to remember her right now. She had lip gloss on and contacts. She had those wide eyes you really like. You stuttered. Really you did. You said “Good evenin'” and dropped your ‘G’ because you thought it sounded cool- yes you did, and she knew you did, she knew you were trying so hard to impress her. When you held the lift door open she was not grateful, your stringy arm got in the way, she was annoyed. She was thankful for her investment hedge doctor barrister sex god hard body that makes her laugh, makes her squeal, that makes her realize you’re a pervert and a creep, do you remember her now? I followed her home that night.”

Her palms are ice compresses on my ears. The warm strand of some dream slides inside my chest, so I bite out the words: “And why, old friend, did you follow her home? Where were you?”

She says she was in the frayed threads of the taxi’s leather seats, scratching her aching legs. In the fading battery of her phone, the empty inbox, the flash light reflection of the rear view mirror that accused her makeup of being too thick. She places her knee into my belly, so tenderly, leans down just enough that I want to throw up and says: “Baby, I was inside her, I saw everything. She went home and she laughed at you. Good and hard. You give her nightmares my love. I saw. I watched it play in black and white on the inside of her skull.”

I tell her to “Fuck off.”

Her eyes are filled with concern.

“You tried to cheat on me with her. Didn’t you? First that uptight bitch on the subway, the one who pretended to be so cute and cuddly, she likes to take mommy’s scalpel, the one she stole from work, she likes to take it and make small x’s on the inside of her thigh, she dreams of someone running their finger along the scabs, she’s sick like that. You wanted to cheat on me with her? I know her. I know you. Baby, we’re together till the end.”

It’s true.

I try to cheat on her all the time.

I rarely flirt, except with my eyes. My standard approach is to fill my face with a strained smile, pour desperation out of my eyes, slump and glance at the wavy haired information desk attendant, the two inches away from my arm high heeled party girl, the sad student with knotted shoulders crossed legs one shoe falling off soul mate, the photograph perfect long gone old best friend that’s engaged, I try to cheat with all of them, have rock solid dreams of lying in their arms, crying. Of shoving my face into their ears. Of watching time drip by on a clear day.

Of making up jokes together and moving away from Her.

“It’s just a matter of time.” One of us says to the other.

Till someone as desperate as me cheats on Her. So we can wake up, one of us before the other, and find her sitting by our bedside, watching us with a smirk, her index finger ticking left and right as she whispers: “I’ll be waiting for you after it ends, baby.”

“Till death do we part.”

Spoken word: Werewolves

Every week I read out some poetry and prose at this open mic place.

Recently I’ve tried to perform some spoken word. Which I think is more memorized than read. I still haven’t quite gotten it down, so this next piece isn’t really a story, or a poem, it’s meant to be read out loud.

There is a video of me doing it but I won’t share that because embarrassment.

I am toying with the idea of uploading a voice recording though.

Anyway:

Werewolves 

In highschool I rarely manifested as a werewolf except inside the toilet and when trying to talk to girls.

My werewolfness actually helped sometimes, boy those bullies ran, when I howled at them, or grew enough white hair that I could bypass the age restrictions on roller coasters.

Still,
If I could get away with I’d get a sicknote from Mom, I’d paw at her with my long claws early in the morning: “HEY MUM I’m a werewolf today, Write me a note..”

“Okay, just could you cut your nails?”

Couldn’t, they were claws.

Couldn’t go out when the moon was full. Kids didn’t didn’t like my long, loping stride, or the way I howled at the moon way past the point when everyone else was passed out. “CALM DOWN!” They’d say. Couldn’t, couldn’t stay as a man or wolf or werewolf it drove the girls crazy. I wanted to hunt them sometimes, wanted to run with them otherwise in a pack as a wolf and as a man was mostly embarrassed.

Never stayed the same shape.

Got on great with ghosts, ghouls, wizards, hated vampires because they always got what they wanted- at a touch, a dominating glance, they always managed to get invited in, practiced routines till it worked whilst I chained myself outside, just in case.

After high school I went to Europe for university because I saw in the corner of a campus brochure the green peaks of a real forest. Figured that would be perfect for me. It got worse and better. There were other shape shifters, trolls (I’d already met those online) and nymphs. Few werefolk though. Couldn’t get close to a nymph without going blind, though at least I could regenerate my eyes when I changed form so they didn’t have to cover up so much around me, thought nymphs were perfect for me, and me for them, and I was, I was the perfect friend. Getting friendzoned usually triggered a change so I tried to stay away from nymphs after that.

I got bitter.

Tried to find the others in London but it turned out the song lied.

No longer leashed, I would roam the cobble streets at all hours, but during lectures it was hard to hold a pen in these shaggy hands. I met a lot of people that had bad teeth, silver fillings, would bite me with their words, drew blood, the blood faded when I changed, invisible except for the memory of the hurt- that remained.

“You’re invincible.” They’d say.

‘So lucky to be a werewolf, most of us can’t change.” And they were right about how it didn’t seem like I was vulnerable.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

After university I was screwed. No werewolf looks good in a suit! I had to get three, one for man, wolf, werewolf and still I could turn on a dime, when someone’s mouth became a crescent moon, the werewolf would come out and ruin another jacket. That got expensive.

They blamed me for it. They always did. Just like the non-ghosts who accused ghosts of being transparent and ephemeral on purpose. That walking through walls and howls, were the same, were just cries for attention. They never blame the moon, or the blood I never chose. Even my family got tired when I’d change mid-dinner, break another plate and sometimes the chair. You can only own so much ikea furniture. “What did we do this time?” They’d ask. Tried to tell them it wasn’t them, it was the moon, I just change.

“Learn to control it!” They’d say.

“We can!”

It was a revelation.

“So wait, you’re all werefolk too?” They’d say they felt like wolves, that they thought of howling at the moon too, and then they’d do a poor impersonation of me. Frankly, it was kind of insulting.

They never grew claws. Never ripped apart objects, never tore apart relationships, get fired, get chained to their beds, how could they say they know what it’s like to be a werewolf? How could they say they knew what it was like to be me? How could they say I’m not strong enough to control it, that they were better than me, how could they claim to even be werewolves when they’ve never transformed into one it made no goddamn sense.

“Well, that’s because we can control ourselves honey. You should too. Cheer up. Go outside more. Get your mind off things. Look on the bright side. Ignore the moods, I mean the moon, ignore the moon, calm down, stop turning into a werewolf, stop it, it’s impolite, it’s awkward, of course she didn’t love you, of course you failed, you turned into a werewolf, just stop. Being. You.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

There aren’t that many of us. Most people only meet a few in their lifetimes. Or an occasional vampire to whom they recommend sun tan lotion. Ghosts who ought to stop talking to and hearing other ghosts because ghosts aren’t real despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that ghosts are real but most people don’t understand ectoplasmic chemistry or have even heard of ectoplasmic chemistry they just see Frankenstein monsters that need to learn to be human and not all the myriad, beautiful, frustrated, terrible creation that look like people.

But are like themselves.

They don’t like them they are scary and distracting and out of fashion. Sure the laws have changed. You can’t burn them at the stakes anymore so they’ll burn themselves burn off their hands their claws tear off their skin try to undo the costume everyone says they wear to find the human inside.

They never blame the moon. They claim to know the silver bullet and they shoot werewolves with it.

It’s a good thing therefore that werewolves don’t exist.

Just gays, obsessive compulsives, schizophrenics, lesbians and the chronically depressed

Flash Fiction: Time Displaced

What’s wrong, she asked, when I went soft as pudding. Now usually I’m kinky enough that all the previous orgasms, guys or girls, adds up. Hum around my head. So it feels like an orgy with ghosts. But there where her head lay I could feel the tears she’d spread. Rising up out of her pillow. I had to go. This is the problem with my condition, being time displaced.
 
I was not born time displaced. And contrary to what Reddit says, it is not contagious either. You cannot get Deja Vous from someone else. What you are feeling is akin to when a depressed person walks into a room, and brings everyone else down with them.
 
Instead I was told it was a bad drug interaction. Between LSD, the antibiotics, and that ginseng extract bullshit Aunty Vie sent me again.
 
Since then I get horny in the weirdest places; library corners, certain alleys. The worst was my parent’s apartment’s balcony. I cannot go clubbing anymore. Or at least before one; I need the place full, I need everyone drunk- or they’ll see me stumble in during the day whilst it’s empty and all the combined sadness, desperation, euphoria and release, drives me crazy. I once had to walk in to use the toilet. By the time I got out my friend accused me of being an alcoholic.
 
The pretentious call it ‘psychic energy’. A measurement of the events that have taken place there. An attuned, temporally displaced observer does not only see the moment in front of them, but all the moments that have been there. So that is why I did not take the house tour. Because bedrooms are rather potent. And now I never go over. Because homes are filled with them. I suspect some artists might have been afflicted, which is why they kept writing about forests and paths. those places are silent, peaceful, even after we’ve sheared them away. They stay, pockets in time, hedges that cushion the present, stretch away like a white margin, pristine. I once hung around a mall being built, pile drivers thundering, curses flung past knocked hard hats. And sighed. It was amazing. So quiet. Between the sweat and the precision there was the past.
 
I have heard that the severity of the emotions, the distance away in time,
the sheer number of experiences; all of these contribute proportionally to the emotional response of the observer. I have heard that ghosts can be explained by this. That when people die they die forever, but their actions ripple, drops falling. Again and again and again.
 
I like window shopping. The dopamine surge of satisfied shoppers. Stadiums are dangerous. Full of hate and rage. And once I went back to France, had a panic attack as we went past an empty field. A desperate fear I only saw again in the eyes of a homeless man.
 
There are certain places on this earth I can never visit. And the thing is, I may not care as much about the tears you cry, I cannot help it. I know it will pass. And I’m telling you that if one of my kind starts to feel rather terrified, Ill or disturbed by a place with no negative history, no heartbreak, then one should be concerned about the future.
 
They say space is silent. The vacuum up there. But none of my kind have become astronauts yet. There is almost no place on this planet I have been that isn’t covered with the sweat of pain. Except on tall hills. Vast, empty fields. Deserts. And certain beaches, and only when I am lying down, staring up.
 
I used to think it were lovers that made beaches so great. But that isn’t what I’ve found with hotels. Except once lying down, I saw a clear, starry night and realized what I’d felt was hope. Some of it on the floor, below, where others had looked up. Most of it like rain. Traveling down from the future. From the sky. Onto us.
 
 

Flashfiction for Scifriday: Alone

What follows is a 100 word piece of flash/micro fiction for SCIFRIDAY! From the following blog:

http://chriswhitewrites.com/2014/03/21/scifriday-1/

I hope more people take a shot at this!

Picture below was inspiration, and then the story follows. I went over a little (112 words), alas. 

tracks_by_sandara-d6ko5hm

Alone

In ancient times it was called a railway, a sort of mass transit system. Now it was a strip of verdant beauty, a green path stretching forward. Luke took off his smart-boots, and for the first time, felt grass between his toes.

“Follow at 3 meters.”

“Okay Luke.” Came the voice, programmed to sound just like Julienne had.

It still caused Luke’s pulse to skip, her voice that followed him across such a gulf of space, and time.

Here, on Terra, alone on this graveyard of a world, Luke would spend the rest of his days. To dwell on loss, of his home in her, and all their homes that once were here.

 

Flash Fiction: After he yells HI!

After he yells HI!

Over the nightclub music He will yell “HI!”

She’ll laugh at his awkwardness and then they’ll talk, dance, exchange numbers. He’ll see her for dinner, where they’ll make in-jokes; finishing off each other off in his apartment. She’ll teach him how to cook and he’ll show her his sketches, and together they’ll rescue a kitten. Till sick of sharing it, all three move in together, watching cartoons till the mornings.

They’ll get married with sand between their bare toes, somewhere far away from this club.

As none of that happened except in his head, so he finished his drink and left.

Flash Fiction: Lost Pens

“Demons aren’t real.” he told his nephew, Tim. “They are just made up, like on the T.V. Someone made the whole story up.” This is what he gets for playing video games whilst Tim has unlimited access to late night T.V. “Look, someone made up the story- it’s not true. Like how I make up my drawings. You know, like Bravewing or Spiderman.

Tim said: “You said you SAW Spiderman.”

This is what he gets.

Tim continued: “And nobody in the movie believed the boy there either. THEY all said it was all made up.”

There are two entities, somewhere in space and time, watching this moment in the video game playing artist’s head, and laughing. The first one is large and powerful and can exist in many places at once. “That was funny little one. Eerie even. But still it is a minor inconvenience, the function you perform.” The smaller of the two laughs, looks at the larger entity and says:

“It must be nice being created by people’s doubts in their own abilities. Such a common, wide-ranging, hell- you could even say ‘universal’ insecurity- and that was a pun.”

“Hah. A pun. yes. I am what I am, and I do what I do, which makes these mortals…do not. Get it? They don’t because I am!” The larger one continued to laugh. The smaller one would have rolled his eyes if he had any.

“Yes you truly are one of the most terrible. But let me show you something.” The smaller so-called immortal brought their view to a series of comic books, paintings, sketches and illustrations. “Bravewing was only the first hero he would have given birth to.”

“Would have?”

“Indeed. These works are only potentials and were part of the previous time stream till I- humble and limited as I am- did MY work.”

And he showed the larger demon of self-doubt his collection- millions of pencils, paintbrushes, and pens.

The little one said: “You might be the demon of self-doubt, but I, limited as I am, can still cause physical rents in their universe, can still take their pens and brushes- they fear me, they fear that their stationary disappears into a black hole! It’s brilliant; do you have any idea how few of us can actually affect the physical world? But because they think it all disappears there is no evidence left that I broke any of their laws! Nothing at all.”

“Yes, very nice little one. But the non-physical world can be very important to sentients, as you can see.”

“Yeah phenomenal, you’re huge. But you know what, you know what I’ve prevented from ever happening?”

And he showed the larger another series of creations that would not be- books on shelves in libraries that never were, music unrecorded- forgotten as musicians searched for their instruments, passing moments not captured by cameras. The larger one regarded his smaller companion: “How?”

“The trick is to be precise. To choose your targets well- the ones who are right on the cusp, right on the edge- the ones who give up after a few minutes of not finding the pen and go back to playing video games. All it takes is a few more minutes and its over. Their will dies, and so does their work, and sometimes if you’re lucky…their ideas too.”

***

I wrote this after losing yet another pen, just as I had to write something down. It seems to happen with alarming frequency- and I suspect I’m not the only one. Placing pens and pencils all over my home and person sometimes helps but once and awhile that little bastard somehow finds a way to disappear those too.

Flash Fiction: The path a song takes.

She only screamed as a little girl, never sang, till they made her once in music class. Everyone went silent in a way she could never provoke with mere tantrums. The way they looked at her was a memory that followed her into puberty, into adulthood, across the ocean to another country- the memory shifted slowly, her constant companion, sometimes a mocking, jeering thing, sometimes the sweetest lover, and on the worst days- hope, the last thing that kept the balcony door of her tiny apartment shut.

She spent blood, wrung out of her by abusive boyfriends, and tears, that dripped slowly onto sodden pages full of what she thought of as pastiche-ridden lyrics, on fighting her way to the top of her mountain- a gig at a hotel, where she spent most of her first paycheck on a dress deemed barely acceptable by the pretentious manager that couldn’t keep the disdain out of his voice.

She kept something else in her own voice. A memory of friends and enemies captivated, taken somewhere far from the now, then.

When she was given notice during budget cuts she cried in the staff bathroom and rushed to re-apply her mascara before her final performance in front of indifferent lounge goers eating overpriced food bearing a poor approximation to the salty, home-spun fish dishes of the country she left behind so long ago.

She asked the entire lounge if they could paint with all the colors of the wind. She muttered “and for once never wonder what it’s worth” into the mic, embarrassed, and too aware of the relevance of the line.

When she finished the only person that applauded was one, lone boy of ten, who stood transfixed.

Later she became a waitress and never again sang to a room of more than fifty.

Before the boy clapped he had been running between adult’s legs, straining against his ridiculous dress shirt- all ten years of him aghast at the pomp and ceremony involving the ludicrous buffet. He pestered waiters and defeated his parents attempts to restrain him as he was deeply dissatisfied with the seriousness around him.

The voice of the saddest lady he had ever met stunned him, as she sang his secret- his favorite song from his favorite movie, stolen from his sister’s bedroom and watched after midnight whilst his parents were at a party. When she finished he clapped as loudly as he could manage, slapping his hands red.

He would not stop singing the song in the car ride home till even the chauffeur began to mutter imprecations. He had to Google most of the words, as he did not know what blue corn was, or how the fenced in trees with the laminated labels could have spirits.

Maths and science and his father’s position as vice president of something held little appeal, and could not sway the boy from the path set for him by a wayward song.

So he disappointed everyone who pretended to care about him as he bucked his inheritance and moved to a third-world country after failing his expensive high school education to sing in a small bar near a resort, where he met a beautiful woman who taught him Tagalog and how to fish.

It was sometime after that that he finally thought he understood the lyrics to his favorite song.

Flash fiction: Two possibilities / One outcome

On Friday he woke early and prepared for, then went to, the job he had chosen at sixteen when he picked subjects in school before he had ever been in love.

Afterwords the friend he was sometimes envious of texted him again, asking him to go out, and he usually didn’t but tonight his internet was inexplicably down.

So he ate dinner and prepared for the night that pricked his stomach-lining with anxious barbs and wondered if he should even bother, wondered it all the way there in the taxi. He met his friend who always smiled and nodded at the names of the other noisy people, and all together they started to converse in bars. Moving on after drinking, and joking, and sometimes he laughed too.

Then they went to the club where the music hurt his ears and the lights confused him, and he stood at the bar between clustered shoulders, whilst his smiling friend and the rest danced, some with girls they had only just met. He had drunk more than usual and felt sincerely sorry that the internet was down, wondering if he had tried hard enough to make it work again.

He heard her first when she ordered a drink- a nonsense word to him, a magic word delivered in a pristine accent that made the back of his neck sweat. Her bare shoulder brushed his forearm and that made him look, dead at her, point-blank range and saw her elfin ears, the way her eyes glittered with a secret he wished he knew. He wanted something, wanted her he supposed, but more than that as well, except for the inevitable worry that clung to his stomach-lining and made him believe the truth:

That, he would say something stupid first, something boring like ‘Hello.’ or something creepy like ‘Wow, you’re beautiful.’ and she would laugh or frown, or ignore him completely. That he would try that one line his smiling friend kept telling him to use, just to begin with, and he would load his mouth with the words, yet stutter or gasp then die like a fish looking up at her beyond his reach. Instead he stared. Because what if she did in fact laugh, and listen to him as her magical drink was prepared, and then he had to think of other things to say, or to answer questions with banalities like ‘I work in I.T.’ or ask questions dull and predictable in the hopes that she will hear, in between the words, all the amazing things he actually thought. She would reject him brutally, within earshot of others, or sneer at even the fact that someone such as he could pretend not to be the sort of person that wishes dearly the internet wasn’t out, tonight. That even if it all went well, so well they went home to the same place, and later had pet names for each other and shared secret jokes, that she would betray him royally, with someone else’s smiling friend, or that she would tire of him quickly, once he stopped pretending to not be boring, and that would be far worse- letting her get so very close before she ripped away. What if she was not what he imagined right now, what if she was less than, and he was more, and not the other way around.

And yet even if everything did go wrong he knew his smiling friend would say it was well that he had at least tried, and learned or felt pain that was not as bad as he thought it would have been.

That instead it might be very different.

He was not like the others here after all, he was just a pretender and that made him special. So when he said to her “HI! Look I know you aren’t exactly pining after an I.T tech with thick black glasses and a fetish for strange online subcultures, but I was hoping you’d at least give me the chance to say something interesting, because like it or not you’re the most stunning person I’ve met tonight and I’d like to challenge you to prove me wrong.” Which was sort of the truth.

And she would say “WHAT?” Because it was way too noisy, though she would not brush him off as he looked so sheepish in an endearing way. Sort of grateful that she didn’t hear him actually, he took that opportunity to yell “IT’S REALLY NOISY AND I WANTED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING IMPORTANT WANT TO GO OVER THERE?” And she hesitated because he looked so incredibly docile and yet was so confident and thus she’ll shrug because she’s far more bored than he would believe, and they’d go to a corner, get a table together, and she asked him what the question was, and he said, “What exactly do they put in your drink? It had a really cool name.” And they somehow moved onto things he knew about, like old cartoon theme songs and math rock. They leaned in closer, allied against the dubstep, talked about how they never really do this at all- talk to strangers in clubs. There is a lull. They parted awkwardly when he made a joke that she doesn’t get and then he gets up saying: “Well, I guess, uh, good bye.” Turned and walks away, got his coat whilst his smiling friends continued to dance. Outside he looked at all the cigarette smokers and wondered if he was missing out and then he hears her voice, cracked from the strain of all the shouting inside and she’s got her number on a bent napkin. He called and she picked up and all his immediate evenings and weekends are filled with her. She introduces him to rock climbing and he inspires her to put her strange videos online. They find a stray kitten one day in an alley and shuttle it between them till a year later all three of them move in together. Spending a whole weekend either in bed or watching reruns of cartoons. Her parents die and he keeps her going. His stomach problem turns out to be cancer but they beat it anyway.

None of those things happened except in his head. He finished his drink in one stinging gulp and left without saying a word.

The weekend passed.

On Monday he woke early and prepared for, then went to, the job he had chosen at sixteen when he picked subjects in school before he had ever been in love.

Flash Fiction: Sewed Shut

Claudia biked with her husband, through the same paths they always took. Past the same trees that wrapped their limbs across the same, too-near fences. This time when they got to the crossing, they kissed with eyes closed, and raced- Hugo started first, got ahead, and Claudia was too focused on his sweat-clinging back. So that when Hugo yelled “LOOK…” and she did, she failed to hear the next thing he said, before the van hit her.

Claudia woke into a room she had never been in before. Everything about her was wrong. She could not move her legs or arms that were tied to a teal wall. She could not speak, or turn her neck. She tried to stay awake, instead she fell into a sleep, where she dreamed of pain and snapped twigs. The man woke her, the scary man who moaned at her, words she did not understand. The man who went about her, he poked and prodded and moaned some more. Made noises abhorrent and incomprehensible. She could not turn her head to look and see what he thought in his eyes. He would go. Leaving her there, trapped. She would wonder, had he always been waiting for her? At that crossing? Was her happiness too much, was she guilty of being too content? She wished Hugo would find her and rescue her, and these were her last thoughts usually, before she slept and dreamt of broken twigs.

The man came back, and she resolved to finally do something, anything at all- even if it was only to scream.

So she tried to open her mouth. She attempted to widen her jaw. But the sewing between her lips, the thick black threads would stretch and cut her and the pain was too much to bear. The stitching was so tight she could not even open a centimeter. She tried to scream and could barely moan. The man however paid attention, to the box beside her head. He stopped and then would make moaning noises near her face. She tried to moan back, but the threads hurt so, and cut against her mouth. So she mumbled instead, and he didn’t seem to hear. He left her to sleep and dream of a cage, the bars of which thrust through her belly, that wrapped around her flesh, piercing her so that any movement would bring the tearing agony.

Then finally, Hugo came, with the man, and other shadows. They moaned at her- she could not moan the way Hugo did. She wished she could, she tried so very hard to. She tried so hard to open her mouth that the stitches began to rip. They ripped apart her lips. “Oh.” is all she wanted to say. The threads began to stretch and then came the blood, pouring into her mouth, that tasted of cold iron. And she screamed and screamed and screamed.

Inside the hospital room. Hugo wiped away his tears and regarded his immobile wife on the teal bed. He said to the doctor that he could have sworn he saw something happen on the monitor attached to her head. He could have sworn he saw inside her open eyes a hint of life. The doctor told him it was only an illusion. The doctor told him it was time to say goodbye. So he did, and they turned her off, and she stopped screaming.