Posts Tagged With: flash fiction

The Shell

One day, a man found a shell on the beach. Neither chip nor scratch marred the gold-and-ivory spiral which shimmered in the sunlight, dazzling his eyes. He knelt as if entranced, gentle fingers embracing this prize of the beach.

Cradling the shell, he turned his back to the ocean, thinking of how he would cherish this picture of unblemished beauty. But as he walked, it slipped from his fingers, seemingly of its own accord. It fell and shattered upon a rock.

The man cried out and fell to his knees. As he looked at the ruined fragments, a form took shape in their midst, sprouting to the size of a woman. The man gasped as she knelt beside him, smiling with downturned eyes. “Hello,” she whispered.

He studied her gray eyes and short hair, frowning. “You came from that shell?”

“Yes.” Her smile broadened. “How glorious and free it is out here!”

“But . . . but now my shell is ruined!”

The smile faded. “Yes, but it was only a shell.”

“It was the most beautiful shell on the beach.”

“Was it?” She turned away. “Very well; by all means, gather up the pieces.” Then she stood and without looking back, strode toward the ocean until she was lost from sight, leaving the man with nothing but the shattered fragments of her shell.

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The Invisible Girl pulled the hood lower. Voices wafted toward her, their sources striding up and down the hallway outside. It was their doing, this cloak she always wore—woven from their refusal to look at her, to speak to her, to see her at all.

Fists clenched, she turned to the mirror before her. She gasped at the emptiness where her reflection should have stood. She could no longer even see herself. Trembling, she lay back the hood, shoved the cloak behind her shoulders.

Her form quavered, a faint echo in the mirror; but it was there. She smiled. I don’t have to wear this.

She let the cloak fall from her back as she walked through the door.

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The Boys

Author’s note: If this post makes you smile and nod in understanding . . . you might be a KC Royals fan. Apologies in advance for waxing melodramatic. 🙂

Hope isn’t hard to come by.

There was always hope—hope for the Farm Boys up north in Omaha. Hope that one day they would arise to meet their Destiny. Hope for next year.

But next year was always the same. There was always a Chosen One or a Chosen Few brought to Kansas City, but none were truly up to the task laid before them. The Blood of Royalty pumped through their veins . . . but they weren’t old enough, or good enough, or anything enough. And even the most skilled among them couldn’t win on their own.

Nothing changed.

Until one day, something did.

When did it happen? Perhaps even they couldn’t have said. All I know, looking back, is that a new sort of hope filled the air. It was something tangible—not the faint glimmer you cling to when every ounce logic you possess tells you all is lost.

It was something real.

The Farm Boys began to grow up. Others joined them in the Quest, leading them at times, bringing out the best in them, fighting with them until, from just across the waterfalls, the Great Competition beckoned.

So onward they traveled, reaching territories no one would have thought possible. Some said they didn’t belong—they were still too young, too green, the opposition too great. Still, onward they fought, working as one, no longer just hoping but believing the possibilities.

And they won, and they won, and they won. With each contest, their skills improved. People began to take notice. Minstrels wrote songs about them. People everywhere crowded around to hear of each new success. The Boys were no longer Farm Boys, or even Kansas City’s Boys—they were America’s Boys.

But alas, in the final round, America’s Boys faced defeat. People wondered if it had all been a fluke—a dream from which they had awoken too soon. We wondered in silence, afraid to voice what we feared must be true. They were still young; this defeat would shatter them. We were still too accustomed to defeat–and yet, reluctant to come down from the thrill of that magical run.

It was magical.

But it wasn’t magic.

The Boys fought back. When time came to take up the Quest anew, they battled back through the ranks, back on to victory. They fought as though no time had passed, picking up where they left off as though they had unfinished business to attend to.

It was obvious now. The dream had never ended.

The Boys had grown up. The Boys had become one. The Boys had earned their Crowns.

Day after day, victory after victory, the dream lived on. It still lives on.

How much longer? The Great Competition has returned. The Boys have arisen to their Destiny. Will Fate at last look down kindly upon them?

It’s a wonderful thing when hope becomes real.

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She let the oar rest across her lap; there was no need to paddle. The river swept her through the forest at a pace that might have frightened her once. Now, she could only watch the trees and water and mud bleed into a single image at the edges of her vision, trying to convince herself she was afraid of nothing.

Every aspect of her life was like this river. Thrashing, chaotic, ready to plunge her over a cliff at any moment. She couldn’t see where she was headed, but Time kept up his never-ending pilgrimage, content with nothing if not to drag her along with him.

Faster and faster, the river tumbled on. She could see up ahead a spot where the trees cleared and a continual mist sprayed up from some unknown depth. Unconsciously, she stuck the paddle back in the river, and tried to angle toward the bank. But sharp rocks stood guard along the shore, and the current carried her as helplessly as though she were an ant upon a leaf.

She fought it. Her arms and chest trembled with the effort. She forgot all else. There was only the river below her, the forest around her, and the driving instinct to flee these deadly rapids. Through weariness onto total exhaustion she paddled. But with every inch gained toward shore, she lost a foot toward the cliff.

At last she reached a point beyond exhaustion, a point where weakness of body overpowers even the strongest of wills to survive. Mere feet from the shore, she let the oar slip into the rapids, and lay back, feeling no fear, only regret for a life wasted.

But as her consciousness slipped toward oblivion, a great jarring shivered the boat, and the unmistakable sense of a rudder driving through soft earth shook her upright. Then all was still.

The boat idled halfway up the bank, wedged between a pair of sharp boulders.

She climbed out and collapsed on the shore. Even as exhaustion took her, life acquired a new and unexpected splendor, and she smiled at the jagged boulders and whatever quirk of the tide had sent her to their saving embrace.

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Empty Space

Funny how we talk about the universe as being something when it’s full of nothing.

It’s like that YouTube video where a teacher fills a jar with golf balls. Like the jar, the universe may seem filled with stars, planets, asteroids, comets, dark matter. Yet, between the golf balls, there’s still so much empty space, and even the balls are composed of atoms, which are composed of neutrons and electrons spinning around a nucleus, and what lies between these sub-microscopic bits of matter if not more space?

That’s why they call the universe “outer space”. Because, between every planet, every star, every body of substance, lie miles and light-years of nothing. Even here, on this planet we call our own. The land the water, solid rock, even us. We are full of empty space.

And yet, we exist. We breathe, we think, we change. We live, in spite of the prevalence of nothing. We are nothing, and yet we are.

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Language of the Heart

The child threw his hands in his lap. All these lines and dots and funny marks—he would never understand them all!

“I know it isn’t easy,” his teacher said. “But think of reading music as learning to read another language.”

“My own language is hard enough.”

The teacher sighed, looking at her hands. “But music is so much more than notes on a page. Music is—well, it’s the language your heart speaks when words aren’t good enough. Listen.”

She traded places with him on the piano bench and opened a folder of music. Her fingers flew across the keys, and the room transformed into the heart of a wordless poet. The child felt goosebumps prickling his arms and tears pricking his eyes. And he understood.

To say the music was beautiful simply wasn’t good enough. It was a rain shower playing the leaves of a forest. It was a herd of horses galloping untamed. It was a summer sunrise. It was a warm, forgiving hug after a fight with his brother. It was Emotion itself, stirring up in him feelings he couldn’t even comprehend.

When the last note rang into oblivion, the child looked at his teacher, then at the sheet music. “That’s what all that says?”

“No. The notes are only someone’s attempt to write down what can’t be written. But once you learn to read them, they’ll help you discover the language of the heart.”

He nodded, not entirely sure he understood, but feeling as if he were on the brink of a most thrilling adventure. “Someday,” he said, “I’m going to play like that.”

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Here, in the Deep Desert, life evaporated long ago.

These lands were good and fertile once; so I have heard—choice above all the lands of fair Ileora. Though I cannot imagine them in such a state. From afar, the dunes appear as hills of gold, glimmering in the sun, but do not let this picture seduce you. This gold will sooner blind a man than make him rich, or strangle the unprotected throat with a layer of golden mud.

An hour past sunrise, the dunes already waver in the heat. Dust blows on the wind. I drop at the base of a dune, pulling scarfs and robes closer to keep the sand out. I have walked all night; now, I must rest in open daylight, sleep if possible, yet not so soundly that the shifting sands entomb me. Even as I lie, it feels as if this dead land draws upon my life, sapping me, draining every will to rise again.

Yet, when evening comes, I must. When at last the sun drains itself into the western horizon, I will rise, and take up my journey anew, for such death does not hold sway upon all lands. Not yet.

I will rise, if only such strength is given me to outlast the fullness of The Withering.

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I climb one of your paths, pine needles crunching beneath me, eyes drifting to the clouds guarding your peak. I will climb until I reach it, even should my leg muscles snap or blood run from the holes in my shoes. Do not tempt me with guilt, for I refuse to believe that I’m running away. No, I’m running forward. Perhaps up there, balanced between heaven and earth, I’ll find the answers I need.

Stand tall then, and take me heavenward; for who but a mountain could reach so near eternity?

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The path disappears a single pace in front of me, swallowed up in a cloud fallen to earth. The mist wraps its damp fingers about my eyes, my waist, my legs; to breathe is to fill my lungs with water.

I cannot stop; I must press on, though stone walls surround me, and blindness envelops me. Who can say where this path will lead, whether safe through the fog or to the edge of a cliff?

If only this mist would part as the Red Sea in ancient times. If I could but see the path lain before me, though all else lay shrouded in mist.

And yet, even were this path made clear, I imagine it would meander and wind like a maze, still finding a way to hide itself from me.

What else can I do? I take one tentative step, another, disappearing into the blindness.

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The Storm

God, make it let up a little, my thoughts cried, my eyes fighting and failing to see past the walls of water whipping the ambulance. Sickly purple flashes tore up the darkness. Dim, faraway glows from street lights trickled through the flying rain, barely reaching me behind the wheel.

A brilliant blue-green fractured the storm; then black night. “There goes the power.” My partner sounded calmer than he looked when the next lightning bolt illuminated his face.

All I could see was water sheeting the windshield. My hands gripped the wheel, as though I could actually keep this truck in place if the river beneath our tires ran too high. The storm was Goliath, and I was the rock in David’s sling. And right now, I wasn’t even sure whose side God was on.

Somehow, we found our way to the patient—a man who’d decided a bruised elbow required an ambulance ride at 2AM in the middle of a Missouri hurricane. But, by the time we left the scene, I realized I could now see the road through the beating windshield wipers. A hint of relief flickered in my heart.

Later, as we left the hospital, blood finally replaced the adrenaline in my veins. Lightning ripped the distant east; leaves, branches, even trees lay strewn across the road. But what was left of the rain sprinkled down like a lullaby.

“Well, that was an adventure,” I told my partner.

“Too much of an adventure for me,” he replied.

I chuckled. God must have decided we weren’t ready to meet him face to face.

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