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Reflex Fiction Posts

November 6th, 2016

The baker died last night. The week before it was the mechanic, the month before that, the priest. None had yet three score years to their name. All had died where they fell, clutching their chests and surrendering to their next out-breath.

The new priest strikes the death knell, letting it ebb away before striking it again. Word here travels quicker than the wind, and many already know for whom it tolls. Their hearts crack, they pity his wife and son, they shake their heads in disbelief.

Their anger does not lie with God, but with those who had promised hope, a hope left un-watered, left to wither and die. Now their resistance is muffled, as effective as a whisper.

Alexandros rises from fitful sleep. As every day, he has much to do: olives in need of harvest, a roof to fix before winter, a future to scorn. But first, he goes to repair the old widow’s water pipe that’s haemorrhaging money she doesn’t have.

Do you want coffee, water, maybe a spoon of sweet lemon? She asks.

No thank you. After, he says.

When he’s done, she offers him a crumpled banknote. He refuses it. Her dull eyes sheen. She smiles, reminded there are still good people in the world. She tells him to sit and totters outside. Alexandros sees the pile of unpaid bills on the kitchen table nearly as tall as his own. She returns with three freshly laid hen eggs, he takes them, and thanks her from his heart.

Alexandros’s daughter is young enough to dream, and his wife, loving enough to let her.

Sometimes, his daughter makes him pretend he’s a baying, bucking mule. She hooks her legs round his belly; holds on tight. She screams delight, and in such moments, nothing else matters.

The wind is quiet today, so he makes a start on the olive trees. He beats branches furiously with a bamboo pole; hard fruit falls to the earth like hailstones, like a quickening heartbeat. And then a sudden pain: stabbing deep inside his chest. He crumples to the ground, prays to God that it will pass, and takes a deep in-breath.


Flash Fiction by Lee Hamblin
Picture: Olives by Harry Metcalfe under CC BY 2.0
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The Pylon

Like Romeos they came to her darkened bedroom window. “Come out,” they whispered. And she felt wanted and maverick and wanted. And wanted. And used up. But that came later. After she tiptoed past the sleeping, indistinct mounds of parents and out the back door. Into the starry night with its vaulted sky she went with the boys, laughing, holding hands. It was the most beautiful, accepted feeling. She could run with them forever.

They lead her to a field, to a huge boundary stone marking where one crop ended and another began. Behind the stone a fallen pylon lay in waist-high corn, its rusted steel girders stuck up like limbs gripped in rigor mortis. No matter how towering or how sturdy—a gust of wind can take just about anything down. First, they let go of her hands.

The boys were popular and chiseled and popular and popular. And they wanted to put their hands all over her: sculptors channeling into clay, wedging her lips, hollowing her mouth. Paring where the clay would give, pushing until space was glazed into submission. Two sets of hands could be everywhere. Part of her wanted to block the pioneers. Part wanted to part, the way a red-hot branch caves into the golden ash pile, kicking up a last confetti.

The frontier. One tears like a lion, one pauses at the trespass, one wants badly to throw them both off her. But also, one yearns to be touched. Resolved: I will be loved. The hand-holding would go too. It was a package deal, she understood.

Too many sculpting hands an adz makes. The lines left her were skeletal. After, when the fire died down the hands went back to their homes, past their sleeping parent forms and reposed on linen sheets, slack, sated. She and the pylon lay together. And the black sky seemed within easy reach—closer than her own bed and the window beside it.


Flash Fiction by Kelly Griffiths
Picture: Rusty Pylon by John Hoey under CC BY 2.0
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The City as Mother

The city is my sister. She is green as glass. She can break, too. Packs her own adhesive, though, and can hold her drink if not my hand. Ahora no. She is a mural of chubby-lipped suns, of stars, of peacock feathers. She is a beach at night. She gives me aspirations but she won’t give me beer.

The city is pregnant. Swollen, cursing labour pains. The city is on her back. Bats away the hand that tries to help. Glares, kohl black, red-rimmed. Dispenses sorrow with lashes for miles. And then. Another minute, another mood. The city cackles, heaves herself up, still wearing heels. Draws breath through long, thin cigarettes (French), and bids me exhale. Covers me up in the dark now, in the cool now. Languid mother. The city is a mother—mine? She dries my sickly sweat and whispers, mi amor. Poco a poco.

Going back further now, and the city is death-dry. She is brittle concrete. She is monasteries choking on their own incense. She is black lace, beads, she is leaden pots and brass, she is woollen tights, gaudy Christs, almendras. She believes in eating meat more than she believes in cancer. Clucks her tongue, a stump in a hollow. She is the one to whom I owe my style. On that morning, shrouded in black, green birds singing—she curled her long finger and wound me in that way. Placed a string of pearls in my palm. A coiled vintage. Looked stern. Winked.


Flash Fiction by Charlotte Newman
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Neptune’s Ocean

Rain like thunder on the windshield.

You nudge the tap with your elbow; scalding fluid hisses over your skin and coils down the drain in swift spirals of scum.

A raging fire of fog that burns beyond the headlamps.

Flowers of steam bloom from the basin and rise up on serpentine stalks, strangling the fluorescent lights overhead.

Her smile fractured into a million shards of shattered glass.

A technician stands beside you, tucks a few loose strands into her cap, and smiles. You pump antimicrobial soap into your cupped palm, ignoring the congealed incarnadine clots that drip from your knuckles and ooze between the coarse black hairs of your forearm.

Splayed fingers stretch toward you through an explosion of powdered cornstarch.

You rinse the suds, grab a nail pick, and excavate the subungual crust beneath the curved distal edges of your fingertips. Gritting your teeth, you rasp the hyponychium, harder, faster, until the dermis splits and grinds against bloody bone.

The repeated precordial thump of your fist against her sternum.

You toss the file in the trash, grab a sponge, and punch the timer. Tick, tick. You scour each finger with a clockwork rhythm—front, side, back, side. Again, and again, grating your clenched fist into a blistered pulp of swollen tissue.

The appalling noise of her heartbeat—fluttering, fading, finite, flat.

You soak the sponge, change hands, and falter as the ringed white shadow on your proximal phalange expands and hits you like a shockwave.

Rain, fog, headlights, smile, shatter, powder, thump, tick, thump, tick, thump—

—tick.

The timer stops. The technician calls your name and unrolls a pair of stainless, sterile gloves.

You turn away and scrub, and scrub, and scrub.


Flash Fiction by Christopher M Drew
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After My Father’s Funeral, I Just Drive

The car windscreen frames the nothingness of low cloud. The far-reaching view I want is hidden but I crave peace just as much, so I do nothing, letting my sleeve catch raindrops through the half-open window.

Scrabbling and flapping sounds beside my head and I think it’s a pigeon, until I spot clawed, yellow toes sliding along the curved edge of the roof, and spanned brown and cream tail feathers looking for purchase in the space below. There is a rank smell. Sharp, musty, meaty; the cruel smell of the final seconds of a tiny creature it has just eaten, or of the bird itself? I don’t want to breathe it in; it is vaguely disgusting like a whiff of bacteria. Is this what nature smells like? I have never been so close to a wild predator. Pinned to the seat, responding as one of its prey would, connecting somewhere in my brain with hunted creatures who know when to keep still and when to move, I worry that it will fall into the car, imagining its wings flapping in the void between me and the steering wheel.

Then it’s really happening: feathers flying everywhere and me shutting my eyes, pressing back into the seat, not wanting to hurt it or be hurt myself, stretching my hand to shove open the door hard so it bangs against the car beside mine, keeping my mouth shut in case feathers get in there, not breathing because of the smell.

The hawk finds its way out and dives out of sight into the murk. I register the splat of shit on the dashboard, on my trousers; catch the shocked eye of the guy in the car I had banged. I laugh and he laughs, like my father would have done. I shut the door.


Flash Fiction by Claudie Whitaker
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Two Hundred Years Ago We Would Have Been Dead by Now

Forty years of twisting hands inside her belly, dragging at her guts for five days every month, as regular as a Swiss train.

Three natural births, each round head inherited from their high-browed father, burning as they crowned, leaving their imprints on her cervix and her memory like the sear of a cattle brand.

Five years of crimson flames rising from her breasts to wrap around her throat like a hungry serpent. Five years of the softening of flesh between her hips where she used to be as flat as a carpenter’s bench. Five years pressing her cheek against the cold glass of windowpanes, and grabbing menus from passing waiters to use as fans. Five years peeling herself from sodden bed sheets, and standing naked in front of the open fridge in the middle of the night.

But most of all, it’s the darkness in her head, the illogical anger and inexplicable shame. She spirals down, this feeling that her life is over. He no longer looks at her with hunger in his eyes. Someone needs to catch her in a safety net and persuade her that there is something worth living for.


Flash Fiction by Louise Mangos
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Rabid Dogs

I recalled my father’s voice today, as words lurched out of me, “Twenty bucks please on number four.”

It was impossible not to get in trouble with Dad when we were kids. Socks always poked out of dresser drawers like rabid dogs panting, and it wound him up no end. My legs were too slow when he came at me with his wide hand.

Anytime one of us got sick, noses running green in air thick with Friars’ Balsam, Dad disappeared leaving Mum to cope solo.

“Useless bugger,” she’d curse, after he’d closed the door. A hand forever cupped to her mouth when she spoke—her cave of secrets.

We were meant to hear those words.

Dad topped himself because he couldn’t pay his debts. We all got to choose something, before the rest was bundled up and sent off to the Sallies.

His dressing gown was a heavy wool tartan, with a silken belt that reminded me of Irish dancing. Girls wore those, not boys. But our Dad liked flash things, and the weight felt easy on my shoulders.

I don’t remember Mum having a dressing gown. She was always up by the time we got out of bed. Her hands a constant map of angry red cracks, with a cigarette permanently adhered to her bottom lip.

She had to get an ‘under-the-table-job’ afterwards, and I got a paper run.

Mum didn’t muck around clearing out Dad’s side of the closet.

“No point reminiscing,” she said, through tight lips.

I never saw her cry.

Dad took me with him to the races once, purchased a bag of lollies and left me there to watch the horses. I sat alone until evening draped me in its cloak, and then walked home—freed from something that had no words.


Flash Fiction by Iona Winter
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