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Reflex Fiction Posts

Alien Skin

My hair is a plume over your chest, you twirl it around your fingers. “I am freedom,” I say, feeling a little high and totally poetic.

Your fingers still and I’m officially bored. I stretch into the child’s pose I’d seen on TV, my naked back, hard and long beside you. And you, you have to touch everything as if you own it. “You don’t have to do that you know,” you say, like you know anything. Your fingers trace the spine of this body I wear, stopping on the pink scar about half way down. “You don’t have to pretend you don’t need me.” You linger on the line of raised skin that itches when I swim in your pool.

I thought about drowning you the other day, watch you struggle and slap at me with your silly hands and then, in the last, showing my real self just like you want. But that would be a waste of skin. And there was more tequila in the bottle—I don’t like to drink alone.

Today, I shimmy from the sheets and put on the boots you bought me and nothing else. The soft leather fitting me better than this skin I wear. I’ve stopped looking at you and think, maybe today, after lunch. After you make a pitcher of margaritas to go with our sushi. Maybe then. While I drink, you’ll sink to the bottom of the pool, animated with waves made by the breeze. Or, I’ll wait for the sunset to put itself to bed over the city, watch the lights ignite one by one. That’s when I’ll tell my kind to come—offer up your body to one of them.

In the morning, I’ll trace the fresh scar on your back. “We match,” I’ll say, feeling your skin knitting together under my touch. You’ll make blueberry pancakes while we wait for your wife to come home. Yes, we will wait for her, then feed her some pancakes before offering her so much more.


Flash Fiction by Carmen Kern
Picture: her backbone by del mich under CC BY 2.0
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Clean Cursed

My parents were entertaining guests when I stumbled into the room covered head-to-diaper in white powder. The guests laughed at such a thing—a child getting into the baby powder! Then they saw the Ajax.

I had found the cylinder of bleaching agent in the bathroom. I held it up to shake any Pringles out. I was blind by the time I reached the hall. My face was filled with a drumroll made of fire.

After dropping me onto my arm in the bathtub and holding my head under a faucet, my stepfather stood me in front of the guests to apologize. I had to guess as to the direction of my sorry. I saw only quivering kaleidoscopes of wet color. “Stay away from that stuff,” a guest said. “It’ll clean your insides out.” That kind of clean sounded pretty good to me.

Stepfather was gone by Easter. Our grave could not hold him and he went looking for a new heaven to beat the shit out of. I stood in the drugstore cleaning aisle—where everything smells like snowdrifts and warm oranges—looking for something strong enough to cut through grease in the burial chambers of a human heart.


Flash Fiction by David Drury
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Drinks With Sheila and John (Deceased)

The radio boasted of gridlock so we took the lesser known route. We were making good progress until Mary slammed her hand on the dash and said, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“What bad thing ever happened to you?” I said.

“Not me. Sheila. She was so happy, before.”

Sheila met us at the door with kisses and questions and we told her how well she looked. Inside, she steered us into the living room then went to the kitchen to make drinks. We sat on the sofa, knees facing out, the embers of our argument glowing in the car to be gently blown back to life on the journey home. There was John’s chair: salmon pages of the Financial Times folded to the stock pages; television remote wedged between the cushions; coffee cup on the arm.

“It’s not right,” I said.

“It’s a process,” Mary said. She stood and swept all of John’s things onto the floor and sat down in his chair, nestling her small bottom into the larger grooves left by John.

“Are you mad?” I said. “Get up before she comes back.”

Sheila came in from the kitchen with a try of scratchy nibbles and two tinkling glasses.

“You’ve forget my drink,” I said.

Sheila smiled and shook her head and set the tray on the table.

“That chair brought John so much pleasure,” she said.

She draped one arm over Mary’s shoulders and curled up in her lap like a cat.

I looked at them for a moment, at my wife and John’s wife, and said, “You really shouldn’t be sitting in John’s chair.”


Flash Fiction by R Coupland
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Eleven Eleven

My Mother was the first to plant the numbers thing. She kept telling me how she would wake up at 02:02 or arrive at the train station at 16:16 or how her shopping at Sainsbury’s would total 11 pounds and 11 pence.

So I started recording the occurrences. It was a joke. But it didn’t stay a joke. And it didn’t stop. I saw matching numbers everywhere. Patterns emerged and numbers multiplied.

Dropped books landed on matching pages as often as buttered toast and I turned the Bible into a crossword puzzle.

It was full of hidden meanings and codes and anagrams. J-E-S-U-S can be found running diagonally on page 16, 61 and 116 and it is spelt backwards on page 240, 120 and 60. I found S-A-T-A-N on page 222, 22 and 2. And the first letters of the first word on the pages 1, 11, 111 and 1111 spelt the word L-U-K-E.

When I read that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only 11,111 people are admitted through the gates of Heaven I knew the numbers had led me where they wanted me to go.

I attended meetings, handed out leaflets, smiled toothy smiles, wore formal suits and knocked on doors with matching numbers only.

I checked my phone and saw the time was 12:12 p.m. And in the rainbow crescent cul-de-sac I thought I would visit one more house before lunch.

At door 66, a two-haired man invites me in. I tell him all about my journey and of the patterns. I show him my Book of Time and Bible full of markings and observations.

And he shows me his medals from the war. And he tells me of his shell shock and the constant ringing in his head and his growing madness.

He tells me how much he hates people ringing his bell and what he’s been doing to all the others and what he’s going to do to me.

He starts strangling me and I can’t breathe and before my own time comes I see the clock on the mantelpiece and you’ll never guess what the time was. 12:30.


Flash Fiction by Luke Carter
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Paths

I drive slowly past the gas station and cafe, the church and school. All the buildings have broken no one.

There is a backwards window and rust covered signs. I hear the tires crunching on the battered asphalt of the two-lane road. I glance in the rear-view mirror, half expecting to see someone standing in the road. But there’s a path that leads from where we are now to where we’ve been. It might be winding and often broken with side roads taken and untaken. But it is still a path. I see the past. I see the present moment.

How often have I wondered what might have been if I hadn’t said I was joking? By the time we spoke, I was over my malaise. If he’d called an hour before, I might not have been. The idea was crazy. I shared it with him anyway.

“I was thinking we should both just say, ‘Fuck it’. We can move to San Diego where everything’s always perfect.”

The line remained silent for a moment and then he said, “Actually, I wouldn’t mind taking you up on it. I couldn’t contribute much financially, but it sounds pretty good to me.” He might have been joking. There was perhaps a tinge of desperation in his voice. But I didn’t ask and we changed the subject to his meds.

Five days later I got the call. “Your brother killed himself.” Maybe I wasn’t surprised by the news, but I certainly wasn’t ready for it. What was it about that morning that made him know it was time to go away?

My mind wanders down the path of that rejected future. I see an apartment with lots of light. We’re servers at the same beach cafe. We ride our bikes to work. Maybe that life would have ended in tragedy too because that’s who he was, always building his ships to sink.

Death is its own kind of escape. The ultimate solution to a problem that your mind can no longer offer an answer to.

Now I travel the path between past and future alone, looking for peace.


Flash Fiction by Angie Kenny
Picture: RGB by Dirk Duckhorn under CC BY-SA 2.0
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The Event

It was summer and bored of the sun and the long holiday Tom and I had gone over to Elliott’s to watch a horror film as we did most afternoons. We walked up the garden path and past the pristine lawn and manicured rose bushes his father was so proud of. Tom rang the bell and Elliott’s face appeared at the living room window, a moment later the door opened. Elliott‘s living room didn’t look out over a road, it looked out over a footpath, a strip of grass and high hedges that led through the estate to the old railway.

Inside we pulled the curtains to keep out the sun and sat down with Coke and crisps to watch Entities.

When it finished, Tom suggested driving down to see Dan. We stood up stretching, checking watches, and Elliott pulled the curtains. Outside was devastation. His front garden had been obliterated, the lawn a mass of churned mud, the grass by the path the same. All that remained of the roses were stumps.

“What the fuck!?”

We went outside. The destruction continued on either side, gardens laid waste along the whole strip. Elliott’s neighbour, an elderly gentleman, was standing with hands on his hips, surveying the mess with despair.

“What happened?” asked Elliott.

“Just got back?” the man asked.

Elliott shook his head.

“No, we’ve been inside watching a film.”

The man sighed and shook his head.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear me shouting,” he said. “I’m surprised you didn’t hear them. They were outside your window eating your dad’s roses, about fifty of the buggers. They’ve gone down there,” he said, gesturing, “towards Crossways. I heard sirens so hopefully someone gathers them in before they do more damage. Or get themselves killed. Or someone.”

“Who? What?” asked Elliott.

“Cows,” said the man as though to an idiot. “Cows. A bloody great herd wandered through. They were ten minutes going past. How did you not hear them?”

We were silent for a moment.

“It must have been the screaming,” said Tom in a quiet voice.


Flash Fiction by Matthew Roy Davey
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Baby Steps

The first time they help him up out of bed, his head spins and he is sure he will fall. How long has it been? Weeks, maybe months horizontal.

His knees buckle and he feels two arms grab him, hears the rustle of a starched uniform and the soft fall of non-marking soles.

“Take it slowly, mate. It’s been a while.”

How long? he wants to ask, but it will take breath, and his feels thin and in short supply.

The androgynously named occupational therapist (Alex? Jordan? His memory is as shaky as his legs) helps him into a wheelchair. They cruise through the corridors and service lifts to a room that looks a bit like a dance studio. One wall is mirrored and a waist-high handrail runs the length of it. The other walls are dotted with motivational posters. He crinkles his nose at a nauseating quote and she smiles.

“Maybe don’t reach for the stars just yet,” she says as she helps him stand. Again he wobbles, and she grabs him under the arms with expert timing. He’s taller than her, or would be if he could stand up straight. His limbs are spindly now, stomach hollow, collarbones sharp. He avoids his reflection in the mirror, wonders whether his girlfriend was telling the truth in that text message. Was she really not allowed to see him on the ward?

The therapist wants him to visualise, focus, breathe, and other things he can’t do. They don’t even get to the walking bit before he is slumped back in the wheelchair, fists balled in frustration.

“What do you want to do? Maybe try again tomorrow?”

He doesn’t want to try again tomorrow. He wants to try again all those weeks or months ago. He wants to stop that flash of light, the crunch of metal on metal and bone on bone. He wants to hand the keys to a friend and sit in the passenger seat. He wants to have six less drinks. He wants to listen to someone who told him it probably wasn’t a good idea to go out that night.

“Tomorrow . . . yeah, maybe.”


Flash Fiction by Alicia Bakewell
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