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Reflex Fiction Posts

Winter Sun

‘It’s more lane than street,’ I’d said when we first moved here.

You said ‘It’s rare to get a ‘Street’ in rural parts. It’s a Roman word, sure sign they were here’.

‘There’s nothing Roman round here,’ I’d said, and you’d gone quiet and started to look around. I could see your eyes following every dip and bump hinted at under the grazing grass. It was a December morning and the low winter sun cast subtle shadows. There was a nuance in the land, a sense of mystery around us.

You spoke distractedly, ‘You think? I’m not so sure.’

We walked down the ‘Street’ to the river, paused at the bridge and watched water cascading through the old mill wheel. I could see you were still thinking about the fields, but you asked me a question about my dogs. They were always ‘My dogs’, even though ‘We’ paid for them. ‘Your prizes, your dogs,’ you used to say.

That evening we sat by an open fire in the local. You drank ale and I drank gin. The place was empty, and you chatted away like a child excited by Christmas.

You never spoke to me like that in the summer.

I always felt alone in the summer, even when you were there. You just seemed to shut down for those months every year.

We would walk together but you were a ghost. There was no distracted look in your eye. No depth in your thoughts. You would tag along behind me, squinting and always strangely hunched away from the sun. My ‘dissident sunflower’ I would joke, but I missed your winter warmth that I could snuggle into.

This is my first summer without you and I’m walking these fields on my own, without your sullen shadow lurking just off my shoulder. The field seems flat and uniform. The long grass clipped, recently cut for hay. There’s no cloud in the sky, no mystery in the land.

You used to haunt me in the summer when you were alive, but you were always so much happier in the winter.

I need you to haunt me in the winter.


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Flash Fiction by Don Rogers
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Soaring Birds

He closes the solid church door and begins his homeward walk, bound up in tumultuous thoughts. The slate sky threatens snow and his breath puffs in the biting air. Such a familiar path is now altered.

It was far more than training, following, or practicing; it was his calling. Now he’s clinging to a precipice. He cannot reconcile to radical ways that are coming; a new prayer book, directly on the orders of King Charles.

Upon the frozen river, skaters are swirling with exhilarating freedom; wild spirits, soaring birds. Their voices ring out high and clear. He pauses to watch them awhile, wishing he were a younger man. Each winter feels colder as his vital years recede.

“Hey, there! Reverend Gibson!” One of the young men calls, waving a gloved hand.

He tips his hat in return. So many people whom he knows from the pews; has known since they were infants, dipped and blessed by him. He delights in his parishioners, and the change which they bring, but the cocoon of his own life has stayed firm.

It is such a wonderful sight that he begins to thread the scene into a sermon. The birds take flight and skim the clouds. Nature and humankind, in harmony; one of his cherished themes. But although he still thinks like a churchman, he can no longer be one. When he closed the door that morning, it was for the last time.

As snowflakes drift down, the merry skaters spin on, etching more and more patterns. Their joy unfurls; endless. A teardrop forms but he brushes it away and continues home, planting footprint after footprint in the fresh snow. The Church, and the world, will move on without him.


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Flash Fiction by Christine Collinson
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You Can Stay on the Line for This Feature or Press One to Return to the Main Menu

The rubbish we’ve so far produced is big enough to cover the whole of Argentina.

Two months ago, the air was so polluted that a ‘red’ toxic smog alert had to be issued.

Last summer, I saw a seagull picking at an abandoned lollipop by the side of the road. I was sick of all the caaa-caaaa-caa and I wished it was gone when the noise came to an end. Тhe gull had happily swallowed the whole thing, stick and glossy plastic wrap included.

Turtles choke on Tesco bags all the time and I fear that we’ll soon have to edit textbooks saying that turtles live longer than a hundred years.

The list of reasons why not to hit an alarming seventy-six before I had you.

Yesterday, I was pushing the buggy and marvelling at your cheeks when I saw that something had caught your attention. Your eyes widened as they always do when you see something for the very first time.

It was a plastic bottle that the wind was playing with. The bottle was tiptoeing around, gently at first. Then, the wind picked up and it burst into a frenzied dance.

You started crying confused by the nonsensical rage of the transparent mass.

Polymers made of carbon and hydrogen, and sometimes oxygen, sulphur or silicon. It sounds like a recipe for fairy dust. It sounds innocent.

You followed its every loop, but also glanced at people as they passed by and carried on having their coffees and wearing their smiles.

I still have a biting list of doubts.

I look at you in your cute blue whale T-shirt. Will there still be any blue whales left for you to see when you grow out of it? I can’t help thinking.

But to tell you the truth, I felt a bit proud that it was you who noticed the presence of an empty Coca-Cola bottle in the alley. I even caught myself smiling as I picked it up and chucked it away in the big mouth of the recycling bin.


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Flash Fiction by Rayna Haralambieva
Picture: Seagull by Pixabay.com under CC0 1.0
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The Lost Week

It was our annual escape. We’d hitch a ride on the trawler, stop off at the skerry and stay, not go back for seven days. Two tents, one for sleeping, one for provisions.

Every day we swam, sunbathed, read. Flynn sketched in charcoal, I collected shells, Kelly birdwatched. Some evenings we made a small fire and sat up chatting till sunrise, other evenings we kipped down pretty much at sunset.

Mostly we ate the tinned beans or packet soups we’d brought, but sometimes we netted crabs or prawns in the rock pools and cooked them with rice on our small gas stove. We knew nothing about proper fishing, but there was that time Flynn caught a fine bass, and we all felt really clever.

Every year for twelve years we went to what we called our desert island. No electricity, no artificial light, no contact with anything beyond, bar the horizon, the true beyond of the night sky, the stars. Jupiter. The Moon. The amber rosy-fingered dawn. We always returned to the world nut brown all over, energized, eager. Our retreat gave shape to our year, a rationale to the other fifty-one manic weeks.

Then one year, it all changed.

“I’m not going back”, Flynn told us, flatly, unrepentant.

How will you live? we pleaded. I’ll manage just fine, he said, as if on the strength of one bass, caught, he could eke out a lifetime’s nutrition.

Kelly, me, we went back with the fishermen when they came for us. Nut brown as usual but downbeat. It was all wrong. The rhythm of our lives had forever changed.

We never had the courage to return.

Boatmen often speak of a long-bearded native, glimpsed between the dunes, or through the turrets of the castle ruins. And, Kelly and I, we fear we may have made the biggest mistake of our now fifty-two-week years.


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Flash Fiction by Susan Carol
Picture: sky silhouette by Snapwire under CC0 1.0
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A Prehensile Tail

Beneath a muslin cloth, she cradles her newborn by the muddy lagoon on Southend beach. A breeze flaps the corners of her towel and sand gathers around the stones she has used to anchor it. She inhales, filling a place, in the bottom corners of her lungs, she hasn’t used for a while. Her toddler, sandy mouthed, says the shells are ouchie. With patience, and her free hand, she wipes sand from his feet. He holds her shoulders, bare tummy close enough to kiss. They negotiate the velcro straps that secure him into his beach shoes and he runs, fishing net waving, to the sea.

At the curiosities shop, she studies the miniature glass dome she holds between her thumb and forefinger. The seahorse bows his head, exquisite in permanent suspension. It’s his deeply arced spine, she thinks, that accentuates his stomach; only males have the pouch, as its accurately named. His prehensile tail hangs, loosely curled, as though he’s floating freely in sheltered water. If the tide were to rise, this tiny colt would be able to protect himself, he would curl his vertebrae tightly around a blade of seagrass. The preservation process shrinks the Long Snouted genus by as much as forty-four percent. Measuring just 6.8 centimeters, she assesses that according to regulation, this specimen was likely too young to have been taken.

The November seawater feels colder, she thinks, than yesterday, or the day before, or all the other days since. The council has updated the sign. It warns: Children Must Be Supervised. Of course she watched her child. She lets her weight displace the sand, allowing it to draw her feet down into the silty clay sludge. It was a matter of seconds; his beach shoes became stuck. His little legs immobilised. He lost his balance, upper body falling forward into the water. She near threw the baby from her breast to the towel. She ran. He was unexpectedly heavier and in her mind his body hangs in permanent suspension.


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Flash Fiction by Marissa Hoffmann
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Regress

The moment is caught in the frame—the running boy air born, the car skewered sideways, the lady in the ankle-length coat with a gloved hand clapped over her mouth, the fat man turning, looking over his shoulder with his brow in a horror-struck V—this is in the fixative bath, under the infra-red lights, in the dark room, before the print sets—before she sees the boy blurring back out of the sky, sucking back upright, taking three steps back up the kerb, the red drop of a juicy-pop spiralling out of the air to plug his mouth shut, and a skitter of paper leaping out of the litter bin into his hand, and the car skewering backwards over the black and white bars of the zebra, under the light of the trees, where the spangles and mottles of shade slide back over the roof, and the things she saw smeared on the ground are raised up and dissolve, and the windshield no longer flashes left to right as its light recedes, but mirrors it, shifting it right to left, and the silver chrome highlights of the radiator shrink out of the picture by degrees, and the woman in the coat drops her hands to her sides, and her shoulders droop under the weight of her bags, and the man with his brow in a V turns away, and backs up the three steps to the Pharmacy door, passing under the luminous green sign of the cross—and there is the boy again, dodging between the parked cars, skipping under the newsagent’s awning with the paper bag snug in his fist and a grin on his lips—and she fixes it there, at that moment of safety, normalcy, with all negative polarities restored, and reaches for the cord and snaps on the overhead lights, and pincers her new image out on the line, where, shiny with fixative, it will dry. Street scene: Autumn Day, Grafton Street. She dates it on the inverse: May 2nd, 2018.


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Flash Fiction by David Rhymes
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Watering

We are testing our grief.

This is what Charlotte tells me when she visits my room before breakfast. It is not just her height that belies her eight years.

It is five days since our mother died.

“Where has this come from?”

She pauses, sensing that already she has lost ownership of something.

“Charlotte, my love, who?”

“Hester said that—”

“Hester said this?”

I should allow her to retreat. There is a body in the chapel that should not be there: a watchful presence. When I visited for the first time yesterday morning, I looked for a sign. Forgiveness. Anything. But my mother’s face was inscrutable, spiritless.

“She is at peace now, Miss Jane,” offered Doctor Fielding. He cannot know how little those words mean, what little they know of truth.

When I returned to the house, I caught sight of my sisters at work with Margaret in the kitchen. I collapsed into my bed and sealed my screams beneath the heavy covers.

“Has she said this to anybody else?”

“No.”

“Where is Hester now?”

Now she meets my eyes and it is a plea.

“I don’t know. She said she was going to help Mrs Kennedy with the…”

She is unsure as to whether she has betrayed her sister.

“With the what?”

“Something about the wax and the rugs.”

Through the half-open drapes, a silvery shaft of light fingers its way across the boards. At this time of year, with winter only just behind us, the sunlight is papery and thin. A creeping dampness edges towards the house: a dark interloper, suddenly sensing welcome. Spring retreats.

“You should prepare for lessons.”

“There are no lessons now, Jane.”

How quickly she adjusts.

“Well, you should be dressed and ready for the day.”

She rubs her hands against her nightdress and considers. She makes as if to speak, appears to reconsider. As she leaves the room, I say: “Did she really use those words, Charlotte?”

In the doorway, she turns and frowns.

I press: “Hester. Is that what she said?”

“She said that we need to think about how sad we actually are. How sad we look.”


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Flash Fiction by Gary Kaill
Picture: backlit curtains by Victor under CC0 1.0
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