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Reflex Fiction Posts

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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The Smell of Ginger

The memory. Slices of ginger grow back onto the root. The yellow segments right themselves on the chopping board and join the rest of the lemon, making it whole. I put down the knife. The bread bounces out of the toaster. It’s fresh and soft. The boiling kettle cools down. I take it to the kitchen tap and it sucks up the water from it.

I walk backwards up the stairs to my bedroom, take off the dressing gown and lie down. The sun sets in the East.

You push the door open behind you. You walk backwards to the chest of drawers in the hallway. The crimpled up note flies out of the bin and into your hand. You unfold it and lay it down, flat and smooth. As your pen moves right to left over the faint lines, the words disappear:

I’m so sorry, but I can’t see you ever again. Please don’t contact me. I’ve made a mistake. I can’t do this.

You put the blank piece of paper into the top drawer and walk to the bedroom where I lay tangled up in bed sheets.

You take off your wedding ring and put it on my nightstand next to the wilted tulips. You watch me smile in my sleep. You undress and get into bed with me.

It’s the evening before. I’d thought that this would never happen. My heart beats out of synch. My smile hurts my face. I clutch the freshly cut bouquet to my chest with one hand. With the other I hold your wedding ring as you prise open my fingers. You put it on. You say: It’s done. Your smile fades. You talk and talk and talk and I can’t understand what about. You wipe the sweat from your forehead.

You hand the barman the change and he gives you your note. I blow Moscow Mule into the cocktail glass through the straw as fast as I can. The smell of ginger overpowers me. I think to the morning when I’ll regret meeting you tonight. I’ll wish that I could turn back time.


Flash Fiction by Anna Nazarova-Evans
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The Elephant Isn’t Dancing

The huge tusker’s loose wrinkled hide chaffed against his gaudy illuminated carapace. Once he had been magnificent in the wild. Now, well trained, chastened, he was diminished. His chained feet plod-danced as he led the dazzling procession. Ahead of him a hundred virtually naked boys cartwheeled and gleefully cracked long whips announcing the mighty beast with his symbolic relic cargo. Constant firecrackers assaulted the crowd’s ears and torched kerosene rags burst from king coconut shells, emitting foul smoke and licking flames. So many other fettered elephants, acrobats, jugglers, drummers, dancers and masked mimers followed on.

Villagers, some with families, had travelled long distances to the lakeshore. Many had threaded their way down through the hills of tea. Now, the pilgrims pushed and jostled to get a better view of the ornate casket perched on an elaborate howdah on the tusker’s back. Darting eyes were bright with firelight and possible animal danger. Feral smells heightened the sense of excitement.

Suddenly the lumbering tusker stopped. A rogue flaming coconut shell rolled across the road and caught his foot. The foot began to burn. The elephant stamped his chains from side to side and bellowed. A mahout cruelly prodded and cursed. The tusker’s flesh began to sizzle, acrid and charred. Desperate with pain he grew fierce with a primal instinct to survive.

Who heard the gun shots above the cacophony of the ceremony? The mighty elephant crumpled, his blood seeping out across his magnificent awning.

The mesmeric dancing procession continued deep into the warm tropical night. It eventually reached the temple to be welcomed by saffron robed monks. Did anyone register the missing tusker? Did anyone notice the bulked heap of death by the roadside and the soaked cloth of temple glory?

A few days later, back at a village school, a young boy was asked to draw a picture of the exotic pageant that he’d been so privileged to witness. Did the elephants dance? With the stump of a wax crayon he tentatively drew a small red smudge at a bottom corner of his piece of paper.


Flash Fiction by Penny Monro
Picture: Elephant by aotaro under CC BY 2.0
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