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Reflex Fiction Posts

Moon’s Blue

Traumatised, Moon drops out of orbit.

Pull yourself together, says Earth, her dad. I’m the one she hurt. You were too young to remember. If I can keep spinning you can, too.

He makes an egg-and-lettuce sandwich, like every other day. Leaves for the office.

Don’t even think about cutting school. The front door slams.

Moon lies face-down on her cumulonimbus doona. She can feel oceans begging her to weave blue-green horses. Winds wail, wanting their cradles rocked. A trillion biological clocks tock, toock, terck.

I can’t, she tells them. Not today.

All those documentaries she devoured when Dad thought she was doing homework. She could swear she saw everything.

It is 4.5 billion years ago, the molasses voice says. Earth is still forming from swirling debris. It is a violent place of super-volcanoes and burning lava fields. Devoid of all life.

When he loses it, it’s not his voice that scares you. Or his rushing big-boned hand. It’s the furnace at his core, hot as the sun.

A Mars-sized body called Theia hurtles towards Earth.

Theia is waltzing, not hurtling. Her ballerina slippers elude gravity. Earth advances. May I have this dance? She zaps him an ultraviolet stare.

The black screen flares white. Yellow. Orange. Red. The spectrum of catastrophe. Earth survives the collision, but Theia is destroyed. The fallout is pulled into orbit, forming our Moon.

Things were great till she got pregnant, Dad told Uncle Mercury one night.

They were sitting on the porch, nursing beers and watching the stars. Moon, supposed to be asleep, eavesdropped from her dormer window.

Then all hell broke loose.

I’m sorry, bro, Uncle Mercury said.

Did he believe that? Does she? She does… not. Nup. Doesn’t.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she sees flames stream from his mouth, blast the photo albums. Polaroids crumple like dying spiders. Every night, in every dream, she scrabbles river beds, parts curtains, rips boxes. She must unearth her mother’s face.

The school will call Dad.

Hello, this is Theia Jones. Moon’s mum. Yes, she has a mother. I’ve been away. Now I’m back. Moon’s a little feverish today. I’ve decided to keep her home.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Faye Brinsmead
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Geoff and Marjorie

The wellie appeared one morning next to his row of newly planted runner beans. It had fallen over, like a huge beetle unable to right itself, lying and waiting for fate to make her decision.

It would make an interesting feature for his allotment. He could grow magnolias in it. Tomatoes even. That would set the cat amongst the pigeons. He’d love to see Marjorie’s face when she inspected his perimeter and saw it standing there, ostentatiously, with the red balls dangling off it, weighed down, brimming with hidden juiciness. She would get her clipboard and turn the pages of The Allotment Tenancy Agreement over the top of it, looking for a sub-section forbidding produce that grew inside the border but hung over it.

He picked up the wellie and took it into his shed.

When a different inspector came a few months later, sweet peas cascaded over the boot and the faded black of the rubber peered through delicate petals, making Geoff’s marrows look out of place. She barely used her clipboard at all and finished her inspection in about two minutes. Shame really. Marjorie would have taken her time to check every by-law and he would have sat in his dad’s old deckchair and watched her, his sense of anticipation growing. She would have had no choice but to let it stand and he would have smiled at her and doffed his cap and then finished his cup of tea and any lingering disagreement about last year’s rhubarb would have been settled once and for all.

But when they found the other wellie in her shed the next day, with Marjorie still wearing it, and the little garden labels and sweet-pea seeds scattered around her, Geoff actually felt very little satisfaction at all.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Charis Wightman
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Drawing Down the Moon

‘But you called it—’

‘Of course we don’t take the whole moon! None would dare be so reckless. The moon gives of her magic freely, and we could not take it from her if we tried. She is vast and ancient and no magician could withstand her should they raise her ire.’ The apprentice opened her mouth to question, as is the way of apprentices, but was silenced with a raised finger. ‘There!’ she whispered, pointing – and there appeared in the air a luminous thread, silver, so fine as to be nearly invisible. The elder witch reached for it, tenderly, and pulled it down to the ground, where a specially prepared mirror was waiting for it.

When the thread touched the mirror’s surface, the mirror seemed to reel it in, and the thread grew taut. She thought, at first, that the thread was still, but it seemed to vibrate, almost as if it were moving. She reached out to feel it—

‘No!’ her teacher hissed, slapping her hand away. ‘There’s nothing sharper on this blasted earth than spinning moonfiber. You’d have lost a finger without even feeling it.’ The apprentice looked down, ashamed – but her teacher had already moved on, the scolding note in her voice gone as soon as it’d come.

The woman produced from somewhere a large pot full of raw vegetables. She laid them out on a cloth, and began using the moonfiber to peel them and slice them into the pot. As she said, the silvery thread cut through seemingly anything with no resistance, dropping the free chunks of carrot into the pot with a gentle plopping sound.

‘Is there anything you’d like to cut?’ The teacher asked her student, who seemed bewildered.

‘To… to cut. Like the carrots.’ Her teacher nodded. ‘I thought we were here to gather moonlight in the mirror?’

‘We are, lovely, we are – look!’ Forming in the mirror was an image of the full moon as it appeared in the sky above. It was incomplete, too small. It turned as the mirror ate more of the fiber, winding and rolling like a ball of yarn unraveling in reverse.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Brigid Winitsky
Picture: moon by Skitterphoto under CC0 1.0
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The Electric Thrill of Waiting

Her father and mother will be home soon. She is equal parts excited and scared by this, for she loves her parents dearly, but knows they will not be pleased to find her awake.

The babysitter put her to bed a full twenty minutes later than allowed in the hope that it would make her sleep, but she is still up when there is the sound of tyres on gravel, the shuffling of feet, the murmured refusal – then acceptance – of extra cash for looking after their baby so well (a ritual both sides go through every time).

She hears their footsteps on the stairs, and the mad desire to leap from her bed and into their arms almost overcomes her. When they reach the landing, she thinks that she will pretend they have woken her up, then ask if they had a good time (they always like it when she does that). But, when they open her bedroom door just a crack – enough to send a blade of light along the floor, across her chair and bookcase, then up the opposite wall – she closes her eyes and feigns deep sleep, though she aches for them to come hold her, kiss her, push her hair behind her ears.

They leave her bedroom door ajar, go back to their room to slip into something more comfortable, and return downstairs for another bottle of wine. The entire time, her nerves are pulled so taut she fears she will snap, and hot tears pool beneath her cheek, unbidden. She feels filled with a longing that she cannot express or satisfy.

Sleep finally takes her after forty minutes of staring at the light-blade on the wall, enough time for her to be able to trace its complex vectors with her eyes closed.

They will all sleep in the next morning, and she will forget the electric thrill of waiting for her parents to come home until the next time they go out, when she will suffer the same exquisite anguish, but still find herself unable to open her eyes when they open her door to briefly watch her pretend to sleep.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Matt Cowan
Picture: sleeping child by snapwire under CC0 1.0
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Do a Bomb

I hate drowning. I hate my mouth filling up with water, my eyes blurry and stinging, my breath ripping away. I hate being saved. I hate the coughing and spluttering, the tummy ache from the gulping and hazy melting sounds in my ear. Drowning was a shit choice and I regret it. It was a bit like choking but fuller, drowning is a full-body experience, you are submerged in death. Drowning in it you could say. Drowning in drowning. Drenched in drowning. Dripping in drowning.

‘Why the fuck did you do that?’

Good question really. It must’ve been a choice, you don’t normally just stop moving, do you? I tried to think of an excuse but I knew I was unconvincing.

My brother shoved me into the car seeming more pissed about my survival than worried about my drowning. I had a towel wrapped around me though I was now quite dry. I looked at him. His black hair so like mine and what I’d been told my fathers was. I had been picked on for my short hair but I always asked for it the same as my brothers, and after a while it just stuck. He had grown up so quickly. We all had.

‘You’re so old now,’ I said looking at him. He didn’t laugh. I was joking but I did mean it. Driving is what adults do and he wasn’t one.

‘Promise me you won’t do that again.’

‘No more drowning for me,’ I agreed. ‘It was no fun anyway.’ That got more of a wince than a laugh but it was something. Almost made it all worth it.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Aaron Georgious
Picture: bubbles by Pixabay under CC0 1.0
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Home Improvement

Hank had got the curtain rod on offer for a fiver. The proud hunter, home with his find. He hadn’t wanted to spend the extra ten quid on the larger rod. Surely not the extra twenty on cast iron with decorative ends. But was it too much to expect a rod that would hold things in place, or endure at least several seasons?

I hang the curtains and stand back, watch them sag in the middle, the weak aluminium buckling under the weight of lace and beige taffeta.

Store-bought not hand-sewn, like his mother offered, with the same tone she used when asking about future grandchildren or how I planned to dress the turkey. Lined in cream not white, as she had prescribed.

I knew the curtains weren’t right when I bought them. I didn’t have the confidence to pull off bright colours, nor the money for bold designer prints. Rather than stunning or elegant, as I’d fancied, I settled on nondescript and simple. Like always, I’d make do.

I tug, gently, to straighten the folds. The rod shifts further under the added strain.

‘What’s the problem?’ Hank asks.

‘Well… it’s bent.’

I suck in the rest, chew on my resentments. We’d been together long enough that I knew to say it once and stop. Breathe. Wait for his brain to catch and start like a dull motor.

He shrugs. ‘Looks fine to me.’

To you. Of course it does.

We stand, not touching, in the curtain-sagging reverie. Watching the rod bend and dip, waiting.

For the snap.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Sara Hills
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Today is Candlemas, and I’m grating fresh turmeric over a plate in the kitchen. The ginger, horseradish, onion, garlic, and juniper berries sit on the table, waiting. I’d taken out the wooden cutting board first, then remembered the inevitable yellow stains.

Tackle the turmeric first, my cousin May told me, long ago. The very first time I made this folk remedy, my Uncle Bertram had been flattened by a cold for five weeks straight. We were so tired of his nose streaming over the breakfast table that May went and wheedled the recipe out of one of the local midwives.

This vinegar tonic can blast the disease right out of a man, May had whispered in my ear.

Or knock him dead, I said after tasting it.

Either way, we get relief, said May.

Still grating turmeric, I look through the window facing the garden. My granddaughter is walking through the bare rose bushes, a blue hood pulled over her long brown hair. Luz pauses and crouches, her face studiously turned away from the house. Sneaking a cigarette.

I open my mouth to call out, just as Luz reaches her hand into a bramble. She pulls out a rosehip. Stop being suspicious, I reprimand myself. Luz promised.

My thumb snags against the grater – in less than a heartbeat I’ve got my bleeding, jagged nail in my mouth. The taste of turmeric and blood takes me back two years. Ed’s lips against mine as I kissed him goodbye.

He was just headed out the door, going to the doctor to ask about the cough that wouldn’t go away, the rusty-colored phlegm. I made him take a swig of tonic. He’d made a face after swallowing, pounded a fist against his chest. Nuclear blast!

Sucking on my thumb and rubbing a palm against my own chest, as if to ease the memory of Ed’s shredded lungs, I see a thin pencil of smoke rising out of the garden. I throw open the door, telling Luz to put out the cigarette and come in and help me chop garlic.

This story just missed the long-list in the Summer 2019 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Flash Fiction by Mary Haidri
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