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Reflex Fiction Posts

Benny

She had watched him dying for more than a year. The distended belly, the yellow toxic delirium of liver cirrhosis. She watched as ambulance after ambulance took him, tearing at his poisoned skin, haemorrhaging black tar blood. Yet, she succumbed first.

He sat at a table in the dining room. They had shared a double room on the floor above. Dressed in a black Crombie overcoat and a dark suit, his pale face reflected in his white shirt. Sober since her death, out of respect, he returned from the funeral before her children and relatives began the ritual, drinking a path through grief. His sobriety was a condition imposed by her children to allow his attendance at her funeral.

He had met her when she was already lost to alcohol and walking the streets. They needed each other. She, tough and direct, but a woman moving in a vicious world. He a man, fit and strong, but a gentle soul filled with regret and remorse. Together they survived, drifting through their mutual oblivion. Now, he was alone.

We sat across the table from him, the dining room doors locked to give him a sanctuary in the chaotic hostel. My colleague held his hand as we congratulated him on his strength. “You did right by her,” we said, as he stared at a rapidly cooling mug of coffee. We encouraged him, suggesting ways of maintaining his sobriety. We would create havens for him to escape the other residents, he could come here to us at any time, to talk. We would have him eating healthily, taking exercise. His long-estranged brother had made contact, reached out to him. His family were waiting for him the brother had said. He agreed to all of this, enthusiastic about the new start gifted to him through tragedy. We smiled for him, but we knew what would happen.

He let go of my colleague’s hand and went to his room, their room. His cold coffee left untouched on the table.


Flash Fiction by Stephen McGuinness
Picture: Whisky by Phil Long under CC BY 2.0
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The Palace

My tummy rumbles as I sling Hillary’s blue knitted boohoo blanket and my violet unicorn sheet over the high chair and wobbly kitchen table. The sheet slides off into the overflowing kitty box. I solve the problem with an anchor—a half bottle of Da’s whiskey. He’s busy praying to the porcelain god, while Ma rages.

Her heels stomp down the stairs.

“Morning, princess,” she says through jumbo pink lips.

I marvel her rainbow eyelids.

She tells me we’re not going to church.

With pearly nails, she clicks on the television. It’s the Preacher Ted show. Ma tells me the miracle man can sink all hail glory into foreheads using blessed water.

She swims out the door dressed like a mermaid—all sparkly and red. Slam.

From my palace, Preacher Ted shows me the way. I will heal crippled NooNoo, my plastic giraffe, and President Quack, my one-eyed stuffy. I fill a pot with tap water and baptize NooNoo. My giraffe loses its spots. Coloured water greets Mr President. He emerges blind and orange.

Miracles don’t happen.

The fridge will remain empty.


Flash Fiction by Claire Lawrence
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Journey

I lived here once.

I stand at the bottom of the starlit garden gazing at the lopsided black and white cottage wondering if the new tenants will still be here at the month’s end. Usually they leave suddenly—complaining of strange smells, ghostly footsteps and a chill indoors that no amount of heating will overcome.

I creep closer and peer inside. The small kitchen window is framed by fragrant pink roses and curtained with ivy. A white candle burns, the golden flame casting shadows on the primrose yellow walls.

I push open the kitchen door. There’s a smell of vegetable stew and a feeling of welcome. I think of the people that visited me at night—the furtive tap on the door, the whispered secrets.

The last time I was here, the moon was full. The starlit fields echoed with the hooting of owls and the shouts of men.

I was ‘Hannah the Wise Woman’. I brought people into this world and sent them peacefully into the next. I healed wounds and created love potions. Then a child died—no fault of mine—and the rumours started. Before you could say ‘Beelzebub’ I was ‘Hannah the Witch’ and everybody wanted me tried and hanged.

I was so lost in my memories I didn’t hear the young woman’s footsteps. Her hair and eyes were dark as elderberries like mine used to be. She was carrying a blue vase of dried lavender, the scent of it carrying a memory of bees droning on a hot summer day.

“Go in peace, Hannah,” she said. “My name is Eve and your work will live on here with me.”

Her face was kind, full of understanding. I looked towards the wooden table and noticed the crystal pendulum and the black mirror that showed the secrets of the heart to those who wished to see.

There’s a scattering of stars above me like quartz crystals on black velvet as I step outside.

I lived here once. Now it’s time for me to begin a new journey.


Flash Fiction by Sue Johnson
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An Elegy for Airplanes

I often had a dream when I was a kid about what I can only describe as an airplane graveyard. It was an empty field of concrete and dust, stretching infinitely onward in all directions, and scattered around were the broken corpses of airplanes, all rusted and dead. Some were mostly intact, others were merely bits and pieces arranged, so delicately, into piles of rubble. And every once in a while, an airplane would peek its head out from the cloudy sky and then shoot itself towards the ground, ending with a violent crash—another death, another tombstone.

I told my father about that dream once, when I was ten. He simply smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, son.”

He was a pilot. I think he believed I was worried about him.

Six days before my father disappeared, we drove out to Arizona. He wanted to get away from the stench of LAX for a while, and he took me along with him. We went all the way out to Tucson, just driving and absorbing the sights.

That was the day I saw The Boneyard.

He pulled over on the side of the road and asked me to come out of the car. I opened the door and looked up over the roof of the car. There were thousands of airplanes there, abandoned and forgotten, slowly fading away into obscurity.

“See those planes, son?” my father said. “They’re dead, just like in your dream.”

I wanted to tell him: no. Those planes aren’t dead. They’re just waiting.

One morning, my father left his favorite pilot hat beside my bed. He was flying out to Boston that morning, and he had barely any time to say goodbye. He wouldn’t be coming back.

I couldn’t sleep that night. All I could think about was the graveyard. I saw myself there, wandering around the wreckage, shouting at the fog. I was looking for him. Airplanes were falling all around me.

His words echoed in my brain. “They’re dead, just like in your dream.”


Flash Fiction by Daniel C Hein
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Sauna

Director Törneroos warned me that Olga haunts these grounds. I enter a spa-sized sweatbox. A blonde camped on the top bench smiles down, teeth white as a birch trunk. I shut the cedar door behind me. The chrome temp gauge says it’s only sixty-nine degrees but the joint’s heating up quick. Hot wood sure gives off a sexy aroma. I ladle water from a bucket over the stones and they hiss back. Steam cloaks me. I sprawl out on the middle bench and spread legs wrapped in a towel.

Despite seeing that woman up there, I really know I’m all alone. Nobody for miles on this granite coast. I’ve got the only key to this annex, being the last resident for 2016 at a Customs House built in 1828. It was me who clicked on timers for heat and light. That blonde must be a demon. Sweet Jesus. I’m naked except for this towel. Bet she was a fox in her time because she’s not bad looking after death. I swivel my head. “Olga?” I ask. “Ja,” she answers. “Vad heter du?”

Damn. Wish I knew Swedish. Just my luck I’d get a Nordic spirit who didn’t speak English. I watch as she slips off her towel and stretches her long legs. She waves for me to join her. The temperature gauge says eighty-five.

I disrobe and join her. She scooches close until our thighs touch. She flips her hair over her shoulders. Her gray lips turn rouge. The tips of our tongues meet mid-air and twirl in circles. Her tongue’s icy cold. Then I remember that gauge was registering Celsius, not Fahrenheit. I try standing but wobble back down. The heat turns me groggy, like I overdid it on the stout. She hugs me hard. “Jag älskar dig,” she coos, stroking my thigh. The light clicks off. Olga giggles.


Flash Fiction by Kirby Wright
Picture: el sauna by Serg C under CC BY 2.0
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445 Days

Day 444. His message simply read, “I’m leaving with the morning tide”.

A lifetime before, it was his freedom of spirit that had called to her soul. Those deep impenetrable eyes that would always seem to hide his darkest secrets, sparkling then, as he told her of his plans to sail the world, of being brave enough to dream impossible dreams.

So how it would end, was written from the start. A cautious heart with any sense of self-preservation would have wished him well and moved on. Hers was neither, and in that moment, she fell under his spell, and the pendulum set in motion, quietly marking their days.

It had nowhere to go of course if she could not grow to love the other lady in his life. She’d stood proud and tall on the edge of the marina, patiently waiting to be introduced, and later, as the three of them glided out into the heady blue, the wind caught the mainsail, and their spirits soared as one. They anchored under the stars, and time, it seemed, stood still.

The months passed. She waited and watched in awe, while he poured over tidal maps, large swathes of blue surrounding tiny dots of paradise, and lavished his every waking hour on resolutely fettling his dream into a reality. She breathed his salty air as it seeped into her very core, and, for all the voices that told her she was crazy to give up everything she knew for his dream, she believed him when he said, “Meet me on the other side”.

The last day. He silently slipped the ropes, a morning fog wrapping its icy fingers around the bow, stealing her heart and the promise of their tomorrows. She held her breath as the pendulum caught the final whisper of the prevailing breeze, its heartbeat faltered, and stopped.

She never heard his voice again. It turned out that what they say about sailors . . . is true, and all she had left of their 445 days was to wonder how many of them were hers.


Flash Fiction by Julie Dubery
Picture: the prow by waferboard under CC BY 2.0
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The Return

Finally, I am going back. In the time I’ve been gone, my granddaughter—the first English child to be born in the Americas—will have turned from a squalling baby into a toddler with words and a personality. Three years is far too long a distance.

I wonder if the colonists believe I have forgotten them.

Despairing of Sir Walter Raleigh ever mounting a successful relief fleet, I have bought myself passage on a privateering expedition. This time, there’s no capture by Spanish ships, no war, no unseemly weather to get in my way. We anchor at Roanoke on Virginia’s third birthday, a happenstance which makes me smile even as it saddens me.

I bring only the basics ashore. Food—a sample of the long-ago-promised cargo now awaiting unloading—is packed in a sack I carry on my back. In one hand I grasp a small cloth doll. I want my arms empty, so they can be filled with my granddaughter. She will only know me as a stranger, but I hope to win her over with the gift.

Doll held proudly aloft, I emerge into the colony I left three years ago.

It is not there.

It is impossible to think I am in the wrong place. Before my halted feet is the fence which ran the perimeter of the settlement. A fence I helped erect. Beyond, though . . . nothing. Not a single building remains. There is no man-made ditch, no paths of dirt worn by the travel of feet, no livestock turning heads at my arrival.

It is an empty expanse of grass. I walk forward, almost expecting my footsteps to echo, the land is so empty. My throat is thick with some emotion I can’t describe. Virginia’s doll drops from fingers gone numb. She lands on the mossy earth, cotton dress spreading around her. The only member inhabiting the colony. A population of one.

I left one hundred and seven men and women here. Ten children. And my baby Virginia. I feared they would be angered by my failure to return. I never thought that when I did, there would be nothing to return to.


Flash Fiction by Kerri Turner
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