What We Must, Flash Fiction

Bryce turned his back to the stage and exited stage left. His body dripped with sweat and the stage lights made his scrawny back and shoulders glisten, thereby accentuating his exhaustion. Left in the center of the stage was a bloodied body lying face down. His chest didn’t move; the man wasn’t breathing. The house lights were fof leaving a perfect darkness beyond the stage and as Bryce left, the crowd cheered and begged for more.

“Bryce. What did you do,” asked a scrawny white man. Bryce walked passed the man without answering but the man followed behind. “You knew our rules Bryce, we don’t kill each other. That’s what they want.” The man pointed out towards the stage but Bryce wasn’t reacting to the man’s tirade.

Bryce’s face flushed red, his hands clenched and he turned to the man. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Bryce started reserved but momentum was building against his control. “You weren’t there, you don’t know what he asked of me.” He paused for breath. He smelled the blood on his body and it mixed with his the musk of his sweat. “He begged me to kill him. He told me he wanted to die and he begged like a child.” Bryce felt the heat escaping his body and he was growing furious. “I couldn’t let him go on like this, he was going crazy in here. You know as well as I do that some can’t handle the constant fighting. I had to do what I had to do.”

The stage was cleaned off and two more men rushed to the theater to fight for their audience’s pleasure.

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In Our Time, a Flash Fiction

The entirety of Vince’s life was burdened with chaos and everyday was a compound of the last until Vince was miserable. Work, romance, community all lost meaning as he instead pursued isolation. Vince worked overseas teaching English and after getting fed up with the chaos, he left his job but he did not turn back to the States. There it was worse, politics and social tension were the only thing to be found in there and so, with nothing more than a backpack and substantial savings, Vince roamed Europe but ended up in Turkey.

Istanbul was a dream. The fusion of western and Muslim cultures culminated there and the people, despite their oppressive rule were kind and hospitable.

Vince drank tea with Mustafa, a self-made artist and writer. The walls of Mustafa’s home were adorned with tapestries and various paintings littered the walkways. The air of the home was a haze from the hookah that Mustafa voraciously smoked and together they drank tea from curved glasses and appreciated the twang of the Bağlama saz, a Turkish guitar-like instrument. The radio enchanted with these twangs and for a moment Vince felt his heart at peace. Mustafa said to Vince as Vince finally smiled, “See? Music is very good for the soul.”

The news was playing and though Vince didn’t understand much Turkish but the images of bloodied bodies populated the screen. There was live footage of a plane unleashing destruction onto an unsuspecting city. The reporter was on the ground looking for survivors. Vince asked Mustafa in the little Turkish he knew, “What’s happening?”

“They’re saying it’s a new world war, my friend. That communism and democracy can no longer coexist.”

Vince motioned for the hookah and took a long draw then after returning the pipe to Mustafa, sipped his tea and said, “That’s a shame.”

The Cold to Come, Flash Fiction

The noon sun beat down on the city of rubble and ash and dirt. Color had long vanished from the building from the constant baking from the sun and a perpetual grey conquered the entire city. If it weren’t for the footsteps of the fifteen person caravan the city would have been enveloped in a perfect, human-less silence. Having no regard for the peace nature finally bestowed to the land, the caravan headed into the city.

The caravan itself carried a diverse crowd of people, who were so diverse in fact, that some of them were injured so terribly so as to be maimed or otherwise unable to walk. Those were the people who limped, rolled, or otherwise moved at the back of the caravan. The other ten were healthy but frail. Their ribcages popped through their thin shirts and their eyes sunk into their skulls. The didn’t ride on horses, but rather pushed rickety shopping carts or pulled wagons.

The caravan stopped at the first intact building, an old apartment building. The stairs leading to other floors crumbled to a pile in front of the main entrance and so the fifteen of them piled in for shelter in the four rooms accessible on the first floor. The five of those who were injured shared a room. They would take refuge from the murderous heat until before sundown then they would either set out again or decide based on wind and visibility to stay where they were.

The hours passed in silence. The crew had known each other for so long they had nothing to say to one another. Being in each others presence was enough to bring peace. Jeb, as he was called, was in the room next to the injured with the leaders of the caravan.

“We’ve got to do something,” said the tall brown leader of the caravan.

“There’s nothing we can do,” said another darker man.

Jeb interrupted the leaders, “If we’re so desperate, let me settle the problem.” He showed his crooked yellow teeth as he said this and he played with a rusting metal handgun.

“Has it really become this dire?”

“I think it has,” said the leader of the caravan. He faced Jeb and said, “make it discreet.”

Jeb giggled and shot to his feet. After grabbing his pack and hat, he left the room and knocked on the door of the injured. A man with a major limp opened the door. “Yeah?”

“Boss says we got to go on patrol.”

The man looked shocked as did the others who had overheard what Jeb said. But couldn’t complain, it was orders right from the leader. The crew of six ventured into the waning heat of the desert. One of the injured had to be brought along on a wagon. Jeb took them back the way they came and into the harsh wasteland. When he was sufficiently in the desert Jeb yelled “Take off your clothes and don’t move, or I’ll shoot you.”

The man in the wagon laughed but it ended abruptly as Jeb put a bullet in the man’s head. “Take off your clothes, give me your gear, or I’ll shoot you.”

The leaders were continuing their council. The world was silent again save for them, and then they heard the first gunshot ring out. “Did we make the right decision,” Asked the leader.

“Killing them gives us a few more days to find food. Killing them brings the rest of us a bit of hope. And Jeb won’t even feel bad about it anyway. A win-win situation I’d say.”

After a few moments four more loud concussions permeated the desert and silence was restored. The wind blew ever so slightly causing the wind to howl within the open windows. The sun was setting, lending its space to the bitter cold to come.

Second Life, a Flash Story

The musk of the subway was beyond the homeless who inhabit it, it was like death had been their for years and left to fester. Adam could only notice the smell but despite its strength, he seemed to be the only one who recognized it. The stench could not phase the bustle of the crowd and even if it could, the rush of their lives would neglect something so far away as another’s death.

Adam wanted to follow the smell but was bound by commitment to be timely. It was this small disarray that caused Adam to fall on out onto the train tracks. He tripped over nothing particular, as minor as his own feet, and tumbled onto the rails. The last Adam remembered was feeling the cool rail against his skin and being lulled into a deep sleep by its comfort.

There was a small clamor among the crowd; a few gasps and cries but none moved to action. The roar of the train filled the death-smelling subway as it approached the station. Adam awoke to see the headlights of the train, and he knew that death lay ahead of him. His body tingled and his skin poured sweat. The train started to slow but there was no accompanying sound of brakes. Adam tried to look around himself but he too was moving slower. The audience of the accident screeched until they looked like paused characters on a TV program. Adam froze too.

Adam knew it was a hallucination but he felt somebody grab him off the railroad seconds before the train would run him over. There was a brief cheer from the crowd but they persisted with the lives they had to lead. Adam had to do the same.

Adam’s life was not remarkable but he was a kind man. When his daughter was born he cried in bliss. He cried again when he she said her first word, started walking, started school, graduated high school, and again when she went to college. He’d seen his daughter grow up into an intelligent woman who was truly independent. He and his wife continued with their same routines and though they never argued, there was also no passion left in the marriage.

Adam was fifty-three years old when he died again. A heart attack took him in his sleep, paramedics weren’t able to respond fast enough. As he died in the prolonged dream, he returned to his body on the railroad tracks. He smelled death again and saw people staring from the edge of the platform out of his peripheral. The train was becoming unglued from its spot and along with it the spectators were moving to gestures of astonishment or pulling out their cellphones. The light overhead and the headlights of the subway blinded Adam so he covered his eyes. Then, like a sudden jerk in a rollercoaster time crunched back to its natural speed. And though time had returned to normal it seemed as though it slowed again as it rolled over poor Adam.

Echo One, Flash Fiction

“Echo One to Houston, do you read?”

A man shouted into a receiver as his rescue pod tumbled into Earth’s orbit. The rescue pod was smoking and sparking, and inside the cramped pod where Astronaut Raphael Hernandez folded into, the lights were off.

“Echo One to Houston, do you read,” Raphael repeated into the dead silence. Houston didn’t respond.

“Goddammit Houston you better respond. I’m going to die in here.” More silence. The communications relay was fried but Raphael didn’t know that, he had no working system to check.

The pod heated up. The smell of frying electronics filled the pod and Raphael covered his nose with his shirt. Friction due to air density was increasing the heat. A factor of that heat and friction, Raphael both knew and immediately experienced was a slow degradation of the pod. Panels on the outside of the pod were tearing from the welding making loud metal screeches.

Somewhere on Earth a child was staring into the stars. She looked to the sky and painted pictures using the speckles of light as her guide. The smell of oak wafted up to hear window and she inhaled it deeply. Then she saw a shooting star shooting across the sky but leaving behind no brilliance. She closed her eyes to make a wish. All too soon the shooting star was gone. The girl never knew why but her parents called the falling star Echo One.