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Reflex Fiction Posts

Womb

“Open up your heart to the sun.” The yoga teacher chants, her voice like balm on my forehead. I arch my back and hold my palms together high above my head. I close my eyes and see colors. Oranges and yellows and reds. My limbs are all longer than thirty minutes ago, my neck like a swan’s, my spine like a stretching panther’s.

This is where I hear my thoughts. My breath. The sounds of this morning in my kitchen seem far away. His loud voice, his shaking jowls, his belly tumbling out of his too-tight T-shirt and low hanging pajamas. “The coffee is bitter. Johnny can’t find his soccer shoes. Can’t you get anything right?” His left toenail is deep blue. From when he tried to kick me but stubbed his toe on the bed leg instead. Ha. How I laughed inside.

I touch my nose to my knees. I fold, like a paper doll. I graze my lips to my knees and kiss them thank-you. For carrying me through every day. Soon it is time to end. I sigh into child’s pose. If only I could stay like this for longer. We all bow deeply, saluting each other’s souls with Namaste.

In the parking lot, I see I’m late. I have to pick up my son from his game. I imagine his forlorn face as every parent comes and he is left standing. I pull out of the far-too-narrow space I had pulled into, looking over my right shoulder. Then I hear it. The screech of metal digging into metal, metal scraping off metal, metal gashing metal. My car has grown a claw. I keep pulling out, taking the scar to its end.

I look in my handbag for a notepad, a pen to leave my contact information. Can’t find one. I look on the dashboard. None. I look around the parking lot expecting everyone to be looking at me. The owner racing towards me. The parking attendant. I see no one.

I push the gear into drive and race out the exit.


Flash Fiction by Mohini Malhotra
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Tabula Rasa

What Rudy remembered of their last night in Moscow were the gladiators on tables swinging gold-tipped skirts. They had been on vodka and gentle lifts of ecstasy for two days after the boss went back to Milan early, which included the party finale last night. Now they were in the queue at the airport.

Rudy was summarising his thoughts. From the first day he’d felt that he had rejoined a collective of the belly, of the bowels. He’d read the Russians as a youth. You know the feeling when you land in a country and you see them as brethren?

His colleague Leo tapped his arm. “I wonder what happened to the guy we left at the party,” he said. “The guy from the hotel who came in the taxi.”

As he fished for his passport, Rudy’s mind staggered over the opulence of the party last night. There had been dancing girls entwined with the gladiators, lush girls with ponytails and erupting breasts and slashed gold togas. There had been bodies crammed on balconies embedded in the walls, bodies amassed on stages and crumpling in offshoot rooms. He had never seen anything like it. They had loaded up on vodka before the drugs kicked in. Rudy was good-looking but not a single person hit on him all night; there was only a black guy from Mali in the unisex toilets with whom he sat talking on the floor.

Rudy wondered if he would ever come back here with his job. They were always on the move with their product and usually achieved great success. But here in Moscow they sold nothing and people had no regard for them. Rudy knew he had flown into the eye of a civilisation where he neither existed or mattered.


Flash Fiction by Catherine McNamara
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God

God made the world on a Monday morning, ever so quietly, with a crateful of coffee and a hangover. When He was done He lit a cigarette and swore to Himself He’d never drink again.

I see God most days, in strange places around the house, or out in the garden, sometimes. He never speaks to me.

God has bone-pale hair and mismatched teeth that crowd His holy mouth like shrunken crucifixes, waiting for the promise of a prophet. I know people think He doesn’t care, but the truth is he cares all too much, about all the wrong things. Ask Him and He’ll show you His miracles; they litter every surface, flat or vertical, framed and mounted. God is very proud of His miracles.

I watch Him sometimes at his desk in the mornings. He sits with His head in His hands, muttering prayers under His breath, scratching His stubble with half-eaten nails, blue from the ink of His trade. God has blood-soaked eyes and a tannin-coloured tongue, stained with the memory of infinite cups of tea. He keeps His shadow in a jam-jar beside his bed, it screams at Him every day, begging for release.

God only sometimes listens.


Flash Fiction by Philip Webb Gregg
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Disconnected

I ran into them at the park. They were sitting on the bench. I was taking a walk, so I had to stop to say hello.

She was reading her book, but he was playing on her phone. I looked down. My game.

Everyone was playing it. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I wasn’t expecting it.

He knew the app so well. His little hands barely fit around the phone, but he knew every turn, timed every jump, grabbed every coin. Three stars on every level.

“Does he play on the phone a lot?”

“Not as much as other kids, but it keeps him occupied.”

“Isn’t he too young for it?” He must be like four now? Did he turn five? How old did most kids get phones?

She sighed. “You don’t get to ask me that.”

She’s right. She’d said he’s doing alright in preschool. He’s eating fine. He doesn’t get in fights. She’s doing a good job.

“Is the child support coming through okay?”

She nodded. We both knew it was.

The game music cut through the silence as we tried to remember what we used to have in common.

“—He loves Adventure Chase.”

“—I meant to call more.”

We paused, trying not to overlap again.

“I made the character look like him.”

She smiled. “I saw. That was sweet.”

I smiled.

“We should do this more often; he’d like to know you.”

I looked down at him and watched as he moved to the next level. He didn’t look up. At least I gave him something.


Flash Fiction by Paige Lowe
Picture: Tetris by Diego Rivers under CC BY 2.0
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The Wishbone

At the supermarket today, I found a phoenix. It lay there plucked like any other bird. Larger than a chicken, more slender than a goose, it was on sale. I don’t usually buy what I don’t know, but I was curious.

I removed a small bag tucked deep inside it containing its head, claws, heart, liver and kidneys, which I placed in a pot to boil into stock. I added a bay leaf, salt, pepper.

The bird’s body I carefully clipped into four. The breast meat was lean, the thighs plump, the wings slender. I added the stock and some sweet paprika, and let the bird simmer for almost two hours. It was, after all, a fairly old bird.

Some say that the phoenix lives for 1,400 years before it can be reborn. There don’t always have to be ashes. It can just decompose. There’d been no age on the label and no use-by date, which probably accounted for the sale. I wondered how it would taste. Whether I should invite others to share my meal. What if I imploded? Or simply soared? Would there be an outbreak of salmonella? Salmonella in Phoenix? I giggled. The bird was getting to me.

I laid the drumsticks and wings out on a platter surrounding the tender pieces of breast. Did I dare taste? Would it not kill me? Or would it allow me to rise above my anxiety, and let me soar with a paprika kick? I pushed at the breast meat and uncovered a wishbone; it glowed with a come-hither look. Come ride me, it said.

I brought the white bone to my lips and scraped off clinging slivers of flesh with my teeth. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply. Then I took off.


Flash Fiction by Sylvia Petter
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Ladybird

When she stepped into the garden, Vanessa asked inside her head, “Is it time? Is it time? Is it time?”

She often repeated thoughts, or counted breaths and how many stirs she did in her tea.

“Healer-shaman-witch,” she snorted.

Last night it had rained. Her feet damp, Vanessa sniffed the air and felt the ground’s stored heat embrace her.

“Clever earth,” she whispered.

She’d never known blackcurrant bushes had their own smell, or that ladybirds could fly. While on her hands and knees in the soil, she treasured these new facts as if they were diamonds.

In response to this information, or offers of herbs for ailments, her children laughed and said, “Okay Mrs Cray-Cray,” and wiggled their fingers clockwise around their ears.

She looked up and noticed clouds race across the sky as if chased by an old woman with a stiff broom. They were in a hurry. She remembered what that was like. Her life before had known none of this awareness.

Vanessa had no choice in the end but to leave her career, with its fifty-two seasons-a-year merchandising madness and the rush to perform albeit via fingers, thumbs and devices, and anxiety medication popped like lollies, doled out by health professionals with a flick of a pen, saying, “Next please.”

There was no time for anything meaningful, because it was an incessant hush-rush-pressure-want-insomnia-consume-stress-greed, and she gobbled it up like a factory hen.

No space for pause, breath or laughter.

Vanessa looked around the garden, then closed her eyes and listened. The seasons were changing—bird songs quieter now.

Her hand moved to feel the beat of her heart, so perfectly timed. The tiny metal machine in there whirred.

Replete, she lay down beside the blackcurrant bush and smiled.

It wasn’t time yet.


Flash Fiction by Iona Winter
Picture: Ladybird by William Warby under CC BY 2.0
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Time Out

I have to sleep on the hour. If I see the clock any later, even a minute past, I’ll have to wait till the next one.

When I dream I don’t see faces, I just know who they are. Sometimes they’re people I’ve never met but I can still imagine what it would feel like, to be in their presence.

Unless I wake up in the night, I forget my dreams. I just remember the way they make me feel. I’ll get up in the morning and feel anxious, not quite knowing why.

I swim in the mornings; it makes my mind feel clearer. I breathe every three stokes. Every three strokes I change my count: 1, 2, 3 . . . 2, 2, 3 . . . 3, 2, 3 . . . and so on. It helps me forget.

Trauma: a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

I swim front crawl. They say there are two types of people: those that prefer breaststroke and those that prefer freestyle. Despite being the fastest, most regular stroke, crawl is more efficient in energy expenditure.

I cut the water with my fingers, down and back, down and back, down and back. It’s unstoppable, relentless. I see the water turning red, like cordial through a glass. It’s dark, like blood.

17, 2, 3 . . . 18, 2, 3 . . . 19, 2, 3 . . . but it’s still there, deeper, thicker, pulling me back. It was my choice, my fault, my mistake. Like a dream it lingers on the edge of my perception, teasing me, taunting me, tormenting me. Wake up! Wake up! But I know I’m already awake.


Flash Fiction by Francesca Andrews
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