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Reflex Fiction Posts

Immigrant Song

Sometimes when it’s not too cold and it’s also winter I like to climb the stairs of my apartment complex and visit the Borgeleone Family attic.

I get up to the attic by having my feet whisper to me and by keeping my hands covered with splinters.

The room is filled with cobwebs like a small wine valley. The walls are made of wood that tells stories in the knots, like The One About the Haunted Castle and the Bats or The One About the Old Crone and the Little Dog .

The room is empty: even the dust on the floor doesn’t seem to be there. I’m pretty sure I see the spider webs evaporate into smoke.

The Borgeleone Family used to live here. They were immigrants from somewhere not here.

The Borgeleone Family was an ugly family. They had flat brown faces and one long eyebrow that stretched from son to father. The son looked like the mother who looked like the old man who also looked like the daughter who looked like dirty laundry.

They were a quiet Borgeleone Family. No Borgeleone Family member ever seemed to leave the attic except the little Borgeleone Family boy, who would go play on the sidewalk with the Borgeleone Family shadow.

I can still smell the old woman’s dirty laundry on the stove. It smells like fish and work and the Borgeleone Family.

The Borgeleone Family didn’t speak any English. I’m not sure about anything they did.

Sometimes when I visit the attic and it’s not raining I pull the shutters open so I can look at the night sky over the beach.

Usually there’s too much light pollution to see anything but a star which might be a satellite over the sky.

I’ve looked at that star a lot seeing if it still moves and I’ve called it the immigration star after the constellation you, my lost neighbors.

Flash Fiction by Patrick May
Picture: Goldstaub by Marcus Pink under CC BY 2.0
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Crib Champion

That night I heard, “Fuck the popo,” and thought, shit, somebody’s done for.

The day before, “Don’t carve your name or you’ll be back, that’s what I heard in jail; buddy carved his name in and three years later was staring up at it, same cell, I seen it.”

The bench and table of the courtyard smoke pit were covered in names and dates, some carved, some in Sharpie ink. “Denial is not a river” stayed on the board.

The new people seemed to always have the same odd expression, as if they had found themselves in a zoo exhibit. “Don’t worry, you’re in the right place,” somebody’d say, not considering that perhaps this wasn’t consolation.

I looked out the window, waited for gossip of who was done for—nothing—nothing but a tabby cat—feral, I think—reminded me of the Fs—fight, flight, freeze.

One day past into the next, more names, more dates, empty beds briefly then replaced—new chore lists—I went to clean the ashtrays and found my initials underneath and I must have froze because the next I knew the ashtrays were full and the smell of burritos was coming from the kitchen.

One day at a time, as the cliché went, but sometimes the days seemed to all come at once and I knew my Fs by then—so well—even the feral cats would be jealous.

War stories filled the air with cigarette smoke. Visitors shifted around, hugging the walls. I became the next crib champion, cleaned out more ashtrays, but never put my name in.

And still when I hear a loud sound from an unknown location or watch a cat burst out with electrified hair, think—somebody’s done for, somebody’s done for. I couldn’t be crib champion forever.

Flash Fiction by Jill Talbot
Picture: Time to quit… by Tripp under CC BY 2.0
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I am not ready. I am not ready at all.

The director approaches, his face awash with jaded sympathy. He dips his head and utters a phrase that has been repeated a thousand times, like an Edison gramophone needle caught in a ball of dust. I concentrate on his mouth but the emitting sounds are a muted monotone, as are the words I say in response, the handshakes, the household chores, all of it. Grief has put me in a thick glass box, banished me from vibrant physics.

And yet my senses crackle, wanton and desperate. Seventeen years of familiar indulgences replaced with a loop of the shocking finale: scared eyes, a gargling fight for breath, remnants of warmth gently slipping. In our too-quiet home, nostrils tortured by the evaporating scent of her hair, which smelt, oddly, of cocoa powder, I foraged shamelessly for trinkets of life. I have become an addict, craving any small release from the throes of withdrawal.

Soon she will be reduced to cinereal ash and ground bone. An intricate collection of three trillion atoms poured into one pathetic fifteen centimetre container. The sticky taste of nausea rises in my mouth: why did I not absorb every tiny detail? Why did I not stretch each moment into individual eternities? Why did I not bottle her unique compassion, that adorable sing-song voice, the feel of her? Those things would sit far better on my mantelpiece.

I shuffle towards the furnace in my transparent cocoon. It lets nothing in, nothing out. There’s already too much in here. I should be holding a No Vacancies sign. Instead, I clasp a photo of my no more girl. It feels cold and flat.

My fingertips need her. A deep down itch: hot, red and impossible. I look at them. They convulse with missing.

Flash Fiction by Juliet Staveley
Picture: embers by goodmami under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Today I Will Wear the Blue Cotton

I lay the silk dress aside, soft and slippy and pink. A plainer dress today, perhaps. I’ll choose the blue cotton. And flat shoes, and a yellow scarf and my coat.

Just a drink after work. That’s what he said. Threw it out there like it was nothing. “If you like,” he said. “If you’re not doing anything. If you’ve the time.”

“I’d like that,” I said, before he took it back.

I remember a long-ago day up at the lake, with a different boy—a boy called Mark. I stripped off, and Mark stripped off, too, a little shy and a little bold. Mark threw himself into the water, shrieking like it hurt; I was more uncertain. I dipped a toe in, felt the biting chill, sharp as broken glass or knives, and I laughed and dressed again.

Mark, sleek as seal or otter, swam out into the centre of the lake, the water black as ink, broken only where he was. A bird cried out, a shrill warning cry both near and far off. I lay down on the shore, my coat collar turned up, and I slept, the sun on me, and I was smiling.

“A drink, yes, I’d like that.”

There’s been no one since Mark—the wet mermaid-Mark, hair matted like wool when they pulled him dripping from the water, his skin white as graveyard stone and as cold, and his eyes closed as though he only slept. No one since then and it’s been almost five years and maybe that’s time enough for being alone.

And now a lad at work called Col has offered to take me for a drink, if I like, if I’m not doing anything, if I’ve the time. It’s only a drink and maybe that’s all it is, so I will wear the blue cotton today, not the silk, and flat shoes, and a yellow scarf, my coat fastened chin to knee. But I shall pin a trinket on the coat lapel, something shiny just in case he does not notice.

Flash Fiction by D R D Bruton
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The Jump

“Why don’t you take the kite out?” says dad. I look at my brother, who shrugs. Outside, trees bend in the wind. We have been moping around the house all morning. The novelty of the summer holiday has worn off. My brother and I are in the grip of a lethargic funk. In the first week of the holiday we built a Lego city that sprawled across our bedroom floor. It had alien-looking, flanged and twisted skyscrapers that teetered up to shoulder-height. Now we build monoliths and throw marbles at them from the couch. “Do we even have a kite?” says my brother. For a moment my mind is blank, then I remember. “It’s on top of the wardrobe.” After another minute of dumb silence we slide off our chairs and go to the bedroom. A corner of yellow fabric sticks out from on top of the wardrobe. I feel ashamed. How long has the kite been lying up there, watching us build Lego cities? We put on our boots and head outside. The wind tries to knock us off our feet. We tromp through the fields. Every few steps we pirouette to catch a glimpse of our ever-receding house, or kick at the thick thistles that snap with a satisfyingly wet pop and keel over like dead soldiers. Step, step, kick, pirouette. We must look like a pair of lost automatons. Cinched under my arm, the kite flutters happily. We take it to the Edge, a ten-foot drop between one field and the next. Deep hoof marks score the ground where tubby cows have clambered up and down. I hand the kite to my brother. It almost escapes, squirming out of our hands. My brother grabs at it, catches the tail. “Buggering thing,” he says. We take twenty steps back and rush at the Edge, me in the lead with the bobbin and line, my brother behind, holding up the kite like a sacrificial offering to the sky. We jump. For a quiet moment all is air. We tumble through green then blue then green then blue. Something tugs my hand. The line is taut.

Flash Fiction by Tobias Baudry
Picture: Kites by J. Triepke under CC BY 2.0
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Dead and Buried

They’re building a new visitor centre down at the graveyard where people can come and buy postcards of the oldest stones and plastic mocked up memorials of roses and angels and even pencil cases with pictures of graves and there on the bottom shelf is a jigsaw for sale with a painting that the city’s famous artist made before she died and was herself interred in the space that is now renowned for its ancient gorgeous monuments to such an extent that you can take a tour around the place for just ten quid and people come from all around the world to do just that though no one scribbles on the graves the way they do in that place in Paris where Jim Morrison is buried and I’ve never quite understood why he was laid to rest there when he was American and surely you want to end up in the place that you came from so your bones go back to the soil you belong to but maybe I’m wrong and we all belong everywhere and even though there’s no one famous in this graveyard with its sparkling new visitor centre couples still want to get married right here in the big room above the gift shop that opens out to yew trees and cedars and rowans that you always used to find in cemeteries because the berries keep evil spirits away though maybe there’s something practical too like something to do with disguising the smell of the bodies which there’s no need for these days with modern embalmment procedures and now the needles fall on brides like confetti, sprinkling down into their ivory clad cleavages as they walk up this strange aisle towards their husbands and the wrought iron gates so stark so strong and so solid you can see why they’d want their photos taken outside them looking like romantic gothic beauties their youthful smooth skin seemingly tinted with gold as they stand there mocking the dead.

Flash Fiction by Alison Powell

Waiting for Spring

Paper-cloud hopeful she was, drawing in a breath to clear herself a blue sky. But the coughing came again, and I had to clutch at her, and give her some of my hope too, until she stopped. I lowered her onto the damp grass, and we just sat there. I can’t remember when her smile first became that weak; like she’d forgotten the mechanics of it. Now she could only manage the first half, and her big eyes had to check with you if that was okay.

I put a parasol in the garden after that so she could still sit outside. Stay warm and dry under all those sheets of rain. I think she was waiting for spring to come, waiting just to see it, the first daffodils.

I’d told her not to sit out too long. She felt as cold as winter air. Like she’d held that breath in so long it had filled every limb. And her cheeks not even wrinkled.

It was me then that resolved to wait for spring, right there with her little body in my arms, crushing her yellow jacket, and pressing her face to my chest.

But the waiting was done.

Flash Fiction by Sophie Petrie
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