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Reflex Fiction Posts

An Ordeal

In the sunroom, she reads schools across the country are going to begin teaching deductive reasoning. Begin? She thinks. Was reason previously an elective? Extra credit? The night before she made fondue for her husband. After dinner he said, “Fondue. One of life’s greater disappointments.” She agreed but the comment made her feel as if she’d been struck. Now in the sunroom reading the paper she can’t take her mind off the needless cruelty of her husband, who is in the other room taking his midday nap. She reads the Pillowcase Rapist sentenced to live in Palmdale is being met with outrage from the community. If not Palmdale, where? Mars? Her mind remembers the week before when her husband had told her, “You expect little and pay less.” Why had he said that? How an offhand comment can make you loathe a person.

“Wake up. You’re snoring!” she yells from the sunroom.

Later her husband enters with coffee and suggests they take a drive along the mountains to catch up and take in the view.

“I’ve never believed in a scenic drive,” she says.

Apart for the rest of the day, she reads the Community Diversions section, a monthly calendar of local events. Most of the dates are left blank.

The sunroom is dark now but she remains in her chair, avoiding her husband who will soon come in and ask her when dinner will be ready. She will remain in her chair. She will not cook dinner. She will turn over a new leaf. She will suggest he make his own meal for a change. She will begin to stand up for herself. Both in life and in marriage.

Her husband will come in and notice her heavy with mood. He will ask, “What’s wrong? What’s your ordeal?” and she will roll her eyes and say nothing. Better to be a ghost of her former self than her former self.


Flash Fiction by Nedjelko Spaich
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Spartan Birds

Michael was shy and incessantly boring.

“Jesus, you’re boring, Michael,” I told him.

Nothing inhabited him and his empty, basset hound eyes were no different to those on my 7.04 a.m. to Elephant and Castle.

“Why is it that you are so boring, Michael?”

What made Michael so boring was that he was utterly predictable and was unable to do anything on his own. There was something rather parasitic about him.

“I’m not,” he said.

He was a liar. If left to his own devices he would rot in squalid silence.

“But you never say anything. And when you do it’s never interesting.”

Michael was lexically challenged and whenever a new word was used around him he would repeat it for days on end.

“Yes, it is,” he said.

Like all boring people he never asked any questions, either.

“Why do you never ask anyone anything?”

He was looking out of the window, hiding his face as he so often did when told something he didn’t wish to hear.

“Michael? I’m talking to you.”

“Sorry, what?”

I repeated the question.

“I do, though.”

Another lie.

“But you don’t. You don’t ask me or anyone else.”

He continued to gaze out of the window; although, it was clear that he was listening intently. And so he should, for every word I spoke was truthful and I wanted him to bleed.

“What are you looking at?” I asked.

He chewed his bottom lip uncomfortably and said, “Just the birds.”

I once read somewhere that it is common for garden birds to eject their weak or sickly chicks from the nest in order to concentrate their care on their other young. I liked the idea of these seemingly harmless yet resolute, Spartan birds.

“Have other people called you boring before, Michael?” I asked knowing that they had.

“Yes.”

“Well, maybe you should change then.”

He wouldn’t look at me but I knew that my son was thinking about what I had said.


Flash Fiction by Thomas Simpson
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Evolved

It was, once, thought divine; a giant boulder on the edge whose very precariousness embodied the holy communion between the living and the Creator. Eli’s grandfather had wandered there as a boy with bated breath and guarded steps, afraid the great boulder would fall, forever closing the connection between the two worlds.

And it had. Years ago, it’d tumbled down the cliff top, cracking open with one last holy sigh. There was something tragic, even vulgar, about the way the stony ruins were splayed open in the valley bed, gnawed at by moss. Its porous crannies provided a home for the bugs and plants that’d evolved post-blast. Echoes of creatures past. Eli’s grandpa saw one such mutant crawling over the face of the disgraced boulder: “That looks kinda like a ladybug, but ladybugs were smaller. Beautiful little boogers, your Grandma loved—.” But it had been over a day now and Eli’s hearing was dulled by hunger. So his gummy jaw shook on, wordless.

No one was interested in the ladybugs Grandpa spoke about or that Grandma loved—vain, impractical insects. They weren’t known to be nutritious or medicinal. Eli picked off the insect and let it crawl over her thumb.

“Can we eat them, Grandpa?” she asked, eyeing the frenzied explorer, traversing its new ridged landscape. It might as well have been the boulder for all its novelty. Newness was a constant. Eli’s face was pulled taut, never knowing the well-nourished softness Grandpa had known in his youth.

“No, you’d better not.”

Squish.

Grandpa flinched. Eli wiped the guts on her thigh and started back towards the village, guided by the pit in her stomach. Grandpa paused, his hand on the once great rock and let out a sob.


Flash Fiction by Emily Kim
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Father’s Day

According to his socks, he’s The World’s Greatest Dad. It’s who he’s allowed to be for two days each month. She would disagree with this title, of course. She who left the mark on his forehead with the weight of the No. 1 Dad mug.

He has an I Love My Dad T-shirt but only wears it under sweaters. It makes him feel like a superhero—always there when they call, ready to spring into action. They rarely call. He knows she stops them, imagines her eyebrows raised almost to her hairline as she peers at their phones—the ones he bought them—poised to snatch them away if they attempt contact on an unassigned day. He likes this vision he holds of himself as wanted, needed, a gallant figure. She says it’s nonsense, says they don’t care.

The This Daddy Belongs to Oscar and Millie key-ring digs into his leg if he forgets to take it out of his pocket before he sits down. He often forgets. It’s just another scar. He doesn’t mind scars, so long as they’re not visible. She has a different view of scars, she who caused as many as she received.

He marks another X on the calendar. Today, like most days, they’re with Other Dad. Only eight days to go until he sees them again. Only twenty-four hours until the hearing that could confirm his future visits are unsupervised. She says they’ll see about that.

He bought a Best Dad cap today. The shop owner always offers to gift wrap his purchases. He lets her, playing along with her belief that he’s shopping for his own much-loved elderly father, accepts her praise of him as a wonderful son. In reality, he has little memory of his own almost-always-absent father.

Oscar and Millie are usually pleased with the gifts he buys for them to give him. Sometimes Millie pretends she’s redoing the wrapping and Oscar mimes tying the bows.

But he’ll have to open this one alone so he can wear the cap to court tomorrow, then everyone will see who he really is. He’ll never let them forget.


Flash Fiction by Karen Jones
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Avoiding Pterodactyls

I avoid eye contact with my reflection when shaving in case it winks at me again and puts me in a bad mood for the whole day. If a bad mood catches you outdoors, the pavements crack and monsters crawl through to stop you getting home, like yesterday when the pharmacy courier called a day early before the long weekend. She won’t be back until Tuesday, so for four days I have to stay indoors to avoid monsters outside, while struggling not to yell at the shadow beasts in my flat when the screaming begins in case the neighbours think I’m a nutjob.

I had to skip work so told them my tummy is playing up. It is, because the courier had my cimetidine too, but not enough to keep me off work. Still, I couldn’t say there’s a panopticon of pterodactyls smashing through the ground, trying to sting me with venomous tails.

I rinse my shaver through the tap and place it back in the cup but when I leave me-in-the-mirror stays put. I stop. He sounds like me, but me before this happened. Confident, not desperate to get away. “Don’t ignore me,” he says. Me says. There’s a green, scaly spider in the doorway, its fangs dripping poison to form a hissing puddle around itself. I raise my heel, close my eyes and jump. It squelches beneath me, pincers stabbing through my slipper’s sole. They all scream. I dive under the bed. Three days until Tuesday.


Flash Fiction by Alex Cox
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I Think We’re a Clone Now

You see them all the time in their fluorescent yellow jackets. You might think they’re from the gas company, but Derek knows what’s really going on.

Clones, he says. That’s what they’re up to. The geezers in the hi-vis are replacing people in our street with clones.

You’re kidding, I say. Why would anyone do that?

Think about it, mate, he says. Just think about it.

I do.

They don’t look any different, I say.

Derek sighs. Course not, he says. Clones. Do you expect them to look different?

I see what he’s getting at.

Sort of.

So how do you tell, I say.

Tell what?

Tell they’re clones. Do they smell different?

’Course not, says Derek. They smell exactly the same. Clones, see?

So do they talk different?

No, says Derek, and you can tell he’s getting a bit fed up with me ’cos he sighs a bit when he says this. They don’t talk different. Why would they talk different? They’re clones. C-L-O-

Okay, oaky. I think carefully about what I’m going to say next.

So—?

So what? says Derek.

So what’s the problem? I say.

What’s the problem? says Derek. What’s the problem? Clones, mate. That’s the problem.

I’m still not getting it.

The problem, says Derek, is that they’re clones.

Right.

He looks at me in that pitying sort of way. I hate it when he does that.

Mate, he says, how would you feel if you were a clone?

I think about this.

Much the same, I say. Probably.

Jesus, says Derek. You’re not thinking this through, are you? Mate, you’d be a clone. You might feel you were still you, but you wouldn’t be you, would you? You wouldn’t be you at all. You’d be a clone.

All right, I say, but how can I tell you’re not a clone then? Gotcha, I think.

Me? A clone? No chance, says Derek, laughing. As if I’d let that happen to me!

He’s right. Derek wouldn’t let it happen to him, because he’s clued up, is Derek. He knows what’s what. They’d never manage to clone him. Way too tricky, that’d be. Way too tricky.


Flash Fiction by Jonathan Pinnock
Picture: Mannequin by Seika under CC BY 2.0
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A Moving Story

How?

Her small armchair had moved, to the place by the window from where Alice loved to watch the passers-by. Last night, she had left that chair in front of the television. She was certain.

Some would have been terrified by the strange occurrences. Yesterday she had woken late for work and flown out of the door, having failed to deal with her slept-in bed. On her return, she found it, immaculately presented, as if in a hotel.

Alice felt no fear, only the warmth of a person cared for. This was the sort of thing her mother would usually do for her, on her regular drop-in visits while Alice was at work. She thought it sad that a young girl should live alone, with no one to look after her. Alice had only two sets of keys to her flat: one always in her handbag, with her, and the other with her mother, who had left for a four-week Caribbean cruise one week ago. Jess had felt pathetically abandoned.

Collapsing into her armchair, Alice began her daily chat with her unseen friend. “Thank you for this. It is a lovely evening for a sit . . . and a look. Have you had a busy day? I didn’t wash up this morning. I wonder . . . ” She popped into the kitchen and found . . . Yes, all clean and tidy. “Thank you.” she said again. Alice was not insane; she simply had a poltergeist, with her from her teenage years, popping up now and then to keep her company, or to make her laugh with its mischievous antics—hiding or rattling objects, or simply switching on the radio or television without warning.

Suddenly, a ring on her doorbell stirred Alice from her reverie. Her sister, Jess. “What are you doing here? You should have called!”

“Huh!” her sister replied. “I didn’t want to use the key this time, in case you were home. Mum gave it to me before she went. Said you would need looking after.”

The following morning, Alice overslept, having stayed up too late watching television. In the lounge, she found her armchair by the window.


Flash Fiction by Gilly Gates
Picture: unwind by jenny downing under CC BY 2.0
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