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Reflex Fiction Posts

When Hope Flows Out

Blood is peculiarly beautiful when it is airborne. Just for a second it is art, hanging suspended where it has no right to be. Then it splatters and reality crashes back in. There is nothing beautiful about blood smeared on walls and faces and fists.

Once she glowed. We were both shiny and new. I was still stiff and freshly laundered. She still made herself nice when he was coming home from work. Her chestnut hair was always freshly washed. She would paint her mouth crimson and position herself under the kitchen light so it picked up the highlights in her hair.

They smelled good together, cinnamon and rosewater and sweat.

She still tidies herself when he is due home from work, but there is no more red lipstick. Now her lips are pale, insipid, her hair is pulled back from her face. She makes sure that I am clean, but I am stained and worn thin. So is she.

Her muscles tense when he walks in, assessing his mood. She always has dinner on the stove. He demands a drink. She watches him from the corner of her eye as she pours it. She is nervous, her hands shake. When he strikes we are both uncertain what she has done.

She rarely cries out anymore. She is reduced to a series of whimpers and small sounds. He has stolen her voice. Like all small creatures, she freezes when she is afraid. His scent hangs in the air, something dank and dense.

This time, she is corkscrewed on the floor, one arm clutching her stomach, protecting her secret. Dark blood seeps from her womb and hope flows out.


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Flash Fiction by Michelle Matheson
Picture: Blood by Mate Marschalko under CC BY 2.0
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Light Smash

And there was a boy. And a bear. And a boat. And the story was about how they were lost at sea but the bear didn’t want to admit this. The actor playing the bear had great facial expressions and the children laughed. He brandished a wooden oar and waved it about to show that the water was stormy. When he did this the oar caught on a light fitting hanging low from the ceiling and the glass lampshade lifted a little then fell to the floor.

He heard the smash from where he was sitting. He couldn’t see it land but from the noise he knew it had missed the children in the front row. He had been in a café earlier and a waitress had dropped a cup. The cup had shattered and the customers in the café had cheered and everyone had laughed.

He imagined what may have happened if the oar had hit the next light fitting along. The staff in the library may have been imagining it too. They were running to the door that said STAFF ONLY. The lady doing the sound effects said ‘there will be a short break’ and the actors walked away. The bear looked a bit sheepish. He imagined how a sheep could look bearish.

The children were giggling, leaning into each other, whispering into ears through cupped hands.

One girl, though, sat very still, staring straight ahead, teeth clenched. He sensed she wasn’t seeing the scenery blocks arranged along the back wall of the library. When he scanned along the rows to the parents seated at the back it wasn’t hard to find her mirror image. The same girl—lengthened and widened, years added; the same expression.

The library staff reappeared. The sound of the glass being swept was like the pull of pebbles on a beach; the whispers of the children—the push of the sea.


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Flash Fiction by Mark Newman
Picture: light bulb heat by Pixabay under CC0 1.0
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Dark Material

The year I enrolled at university the planes flew into the twin towers.

We didn’t need the rewind or the playback button to see the image of smoke, flame and fury again and again. Time stood still, like it was in everybody’s room; on our way to school, to work, to college, we knew people would have to say: I knew where I was. I remember what I was doing on that day.

Then it stayed, like a baby clinging to its mother’s nipple when the milk has run dry; it stayed, like a high church steeple that you will always see whenever you look up. Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, there was something in it for everybody. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Dresden were no longer bomb sites and burial places of the memory, but cities that could be heard and felt in the debris, the smoke and the ash of that new world apocalypse.

Then Gemma, with her pierced tongue, pierced navel, pierced nipples, lithe and petite: ‘I have a schoolgirl figure’, she said on the phone, ‘I look fourteen but I’m twenty-two.’ Then she told me she was thinking about having her clitoris pierced, as she sat on the bed, rubbing the oils and scents into my back; my first encounter with a naked woman. Her perfect apple-domed gluteus dipping and thronging through rhythms of air.

I had dropped out of university and was going back home to live with my parents, I felt as sick as a dog. My salad days were over and I was beginning to think of myself as an insect in a jar. I read crime and punishment again, and Nietzsche, and that Gemma, in her little room of sex smells and scented infusions made me hope that I’d leave home eventually.


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Flash Fiction by Philip Aspen
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ThePhilosophyofLove.EXE

BEGIN

The cursor pulses in synchrony with my twitching eye. The monitor clock shows 02.38. I’ll celebrate with another coffee.

Only a million lines to go.

The new girl comes over. I hadn’t noticed she was still in the office. Human Resources had whisked her round in daylight hours to ‘meet the team.’ Her name sounding Greek.

I love how you break all the rules, she whispers, but without speech marks, I can’t tell if you’re talking to me or thinking to yourself.

‘Sorry,’ I say aloud. ‘Is that better?’

Petite in frame, her breasts are eye-level from my chair. Her scent conjures olive groves and the salt tang of sea spray.

‘The programmer who wrote this code has added a weird comment.’ I jab at the screen.

/*Help me*/

Malcolm had just got up and walked out one night, leaving his workstation running and his mug unwashed. ‘We never saw him again,’ I add.

She leans in. ‘There’s another executable file buried in there. You should run it.’

I skim the lines. ‘No point—it references a sub-routine from a directory that doesn’t exist.’

Her voice is Acacia sweet, cloying, it fogs my soul. ‘Malcolm and Plato were foolish—believing Love is a philosopher and not born of the gods. What do you believe, Tim?’

A WARNING box pops up. The hidden programme has been running perpetually in the background all this time. Malcolm must have executed it before leaving.

He never left—her words italicise inside my head.

I can accept her premise or reject it. I’m guessing Malcolm chose the latter.

‘I believe in you,’ I gush, adding, as an afterthought, an ironic exclamation mark.

She returns a smile, a sun-drenched blessing, then vanishes leaving only the faint aroma of stale goat. At the vending machine, I select black coffee with sugar.

END


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Flash Fiction by Tracy Fells
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Fighting Back

The kids’ school project is our excuse to assault the doors of the hallowed temple and ask about her brother. He died in the Great War. Nothing great about it, she says, coughing and waggling her stick, necromancing a spell of darkness across the table. She’ll only give a name, Ernest. Snaps up shut like a trap after that.

It’s enough to uncover him through the web browser, through the scanned army records, his sweeping cursive diary inked on the LCD. He breathes, day by day alive in the pages, small moments itemised, big themes laid bare.

This dog-eared history builds him again, boots up. His strength, heart, love, dreams. His fears too, inferred between the flowing lines. The kids treat their lost great uncle as if he’s a blogger. They construct facts to fill in the blanks and ship him back from 1916.

He writes of family, his parents, his sisters. Two of them, not three. Not Nan. The kids plough on regardless, uncurious. I watch her in her chair on the other side of the room, sensing she listens hard behind closed eyes. Her hearing aid is ratcheted up to eleven.

When they tell her their findings, she is sad-faced and slumped in her chair until the diary is mentioned. Then she wants every detail. Only I see the hideous change in her. She feeds on his demise, revels in it, uses it to springboard her life above his, and by bed I feel Nan prefers her brother dead and forgotten.

She’s vile in the morning, hawking her guts up, telling us to take the kids home. I confront her with my suspicions in the kitchen and she spills the truth. Says how much she hated Ernest. Says she tortured him as a child, made him run away to war, fake his age, sign up and die. Says how he’s shadowed her life ever since and how lately he’s everywhere.

No surprise now finding Ernest on the news, his dog-tagged bones emerging in a flooded dugout, seven metres under Somme mud. I don’t tell Nan, who lies in hospital, dying, a fighting fury drowning in pneumonic fluids.


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Flash Fiction by Mark Left
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In My Image

On my seventh birthday, I metamorphosed into an aluminum can. After extinguishing flickering light from seven little candles I transmuted into the container my father drank off-brand cola in: a perfect cylinder with brilliant azure skin, a red stripe across the middle and silver stay-tab on top.

Mom worried. She pleaded with Dad to help change me back.

‘But he has so much utility this way,’ Dad countered.

He took me to the gun range where he set me on rocks and wooden cross-beams before firing low caliber rounds at me. Dad loved creating and inspecting bullet holes in my metallic shell. He spun me around, gingerly picking at star-shaped wounds sighing contentedly. Each night Mom visited my room during prayers. She patched the ruptures in secret from her modest aluminum reserve.

One day, my five-year-old brother mutated into an unpolished hoary canister. He laughed as Dad fired at him and treasured his perforations. He told mom not to patch them. When dad left home for six months, as he did every year, my brother crumpled. He stroked his lesions, reliving the glee of Dad’s volleys.

When Dad returned, he restored my brother with smiles and trinkets. Once inflated, Dad shot him. They laughed heartily. Uncontrollably.

Dad turned to me. I hesitated. This angered him. He dragged me roughly out the range and unleashed a rapid bombardment. Bullets slammed into the dirt and tore into me, shredding my aluminum veneer.

The damage delighted my father, who tittered while Mom cried. My brother begged dad to shoot him again, but he set down his rifle and took us home.

Dad’s mirthless blue eyes greeted my dreams. ‘I am making you in my image,’ he said haughtily. The corners of his mouth quivered into a contented smirk

‘No!’ I shouted, ‘I will make myself!’

When I woke, warm flesh covered me, entombing my tattered superstructure. It’s comforting, but buried fragments episodically spawn inscrutable, painful voids that pull my spirit into Dad’s realm. Emotional turmoil notwithstanding, I cannot release the piercing core. If I do, I will have no reserves for my children, when they become cans.


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Flash Fiction by J C McKinley
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(Mother Loved a Bath)

My name is Ella Gray.

  • I eat lemons (piquant);
  • I drink seawater (brackish) and vinegar (pungent);
  • I talk to animals and angels;
  • I always wear red;
  • People call me ‘odd’.

I scattered my mother’s ashes over my porridge. A dessertspoon a day (for 169 days). At first, I left the ghostly hundreds and thousands on top (in tiny pits), but afterwards I stirred them in.

She is part of me. Like I was once part of her.

  • I sleep in Mother’s cardigan (red).

My brother is called Edward Gray. Edward Gray lives in Room 16 at Colswell Residential Home, where a dedicated team get to know residents’ unique personalities, ensuring their care is tailored to meet individual needs. A Banforth Home Care Provider.

Edward does not speak.

I do not visit Edward.

My father is in a place we ‘do not mention’.

I do not visit my father.

My father sends me letters beginning ‘My darling Ella’ and signed ‘Daddy’. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss.

Every Tuesday, I fry liver in Mother’s cast iron pan (not her liver). It was her mother’s.

It has history’.

When Edward was two, he pulled my hair and I hit him over the head with it. That’s when they took my father to the place we ‘do not mention’.

I just cannot cope with you any more, Ella Gray,’ Mother said one evening when I stared at her across the kitchen table. ‘One of us will have to go.’

I looked at the frying pan and pondered which room my mother would have at Colswell Residential Home, where a dedicated team get to know residents’ unique personalities, ensuring their care is tailored to meet individual needs.

No…

When she had her bath, I held her ankles up (for six minutes).

I prefer showers. (That’s not odd).


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Flash Fiction by Helen Laycock
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