Flash Fiction- “Another Few Seconds”

When this all first started, they said there would be no waiting.

Cracking my knuckles only kills a few seconds so it’s not long before my mind is back on the never ending line in front of me. At least we are all spread far enough apart that I could stretch my arms so far in front of me and still not touch the man with his bowler hat, or kick out my leg enough to never reach the woman and her daughter arguing at my back.

They said it wouldn’t be as bad as this.

Someone coughs and I can’t help it… but I flinch. I’m not the only one either. Between my rumbling stomach, scrunched shoulders, and painful headache I feel like I made a mistake coming. Maybe I could have gone another night without dinner.

They said that by now this would all be over.

In better times, I would have been knee deep in tips from slinging hot burgers and greasy fries. I would have been spending my mornings running on the beach and my nights banging shoulders with my friends. My anxiety wouldn’t be strung as tight as bow, my bills wouldn’t be weighing down my shoulders, and the news wouldn’t be hammering me hour by hour with the bleakness of it all. (Why didn’t we listen? Why didn’t we realize sooner? Are we all that selfish? Throwing a party at what cost? A few thousand lives…) I shift my weight to my other leg, not because I needed to but just because I needed something, anything, to distract me. If only for another few seconds.

This summer was supposed to be the best one yet. Who would have thought it would have been the saddest? The one to ruin every other summer… in our new reality.

Everything happens for a reason. I’ll tell it to myself over and over. Until I believe it. Another distraction to make the time seem less still. Another few seconds to pass by.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

©2020 Jai Lynn

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Flash Fiction- “Deja Vu”

I saw you first. That was usually the case.

But I thought it would be better if it was the other way around. Maybe then that would change things. I did believe everything happened for a reason. Even if I didn’t understand why.

Your back was to me. Again, as familiar as my own hand. Too tall, too skinny that’s what my mother usually said when she saw us together. But you had always been higher off the ground than me, and always thinner than a reed blowing off the wind from the ocean. At least for as long as I’d known you.

“I had a dream last night.”

You turned around immediately at the sound of my voice, your eyes finding me and following till I was standing right next to you. “Oh, really?” I couldn’t remember the last time we greeted each other properly, maybe it had only been that first time we met years ago.

“Yeah… you were in it.” Walking down the boardwalk everything looked the same. The bumper cars were bashing in the background and the kids were screaming from the mini roller coaster that didn’t tip upside down. How we wished it would tip upside down.

By flinging your hands in your pockets I knew you were going to go along with whatever game I was playing. The joke was there was no game. But I didn’t know how else to say it. It was quiet until you filled in with “Did I do something weird?”

I grabbed your arm and pulled us over to the line for the ice cream stand. You didn’t protest, which I considered a victory. “Not particularly.”

“Then what?” We stepped together as the line moved.

“Well… I guess you did say something weird.”

“What did I say?”

It was our turn next to order. I wished the line had been a little longer, and the previous orders more complicated. But, how complex could it get when there were only four flavors to choose from. They changed everyday but you never knew what you were going to get. “In the dream we were at the boardwalk, and we were getting ice cream just like this.”

You pushed your sunglasses off your face and gave me a good long look. “What did I order?”

“Butterscotch.” I smiled. “And I got mint.” Our turn now.

Pistachio. Mint. Vanilla. Butterscotch. Those were the choices.

I swallowed slowly. “See.”

The girl at the counter smiled. “What can I get you?” She looked very happy, but I felt a little worried.

Then you said it. “Butterscotch.”

“Pistachio. Please.” I said instead. I knew you were confused. Well. I had a reason. “Just go with me. I’ll explain.”

“What did I say to you in this dream?”

“Something awful.”

The girl came back a moment later with our ice cream. I didn’t try to fill the silence. Neither did you. So the counter girl said “$4.44 please.”

You paid, slapping down the money before I could even reach into my pocket. “I got this.” I know you do. Taking a big bite off the top of my cone I turned away. This time you were following my back, and I led you down the slope to the beach. “Don’t you want to eat at our table?” Your voice was out of breath, probably because it was hot and I had just power walked the long stretch to the ocean on adrenaline alone.

“Not today.” If I could change as much as I could then that would help. At least I thought so. My ice cream was already halfway gone. Yours looked pretty much untouched. It was even starting to drip onto the sand. The water was easier to look at. I looked so far the ocean and the sky were one. I knew you were waiting for me to say something.

“In the dream we were sitting at our table and you told me-” but I never finished the sentence. A piercing scream rose from the ocean and there was only enough time for us both to glance at the little blond head that disappeared under the waves. Our boardwalk was so small there was never a regular life guard on Sundays. That didn’t stop people from swimming.

“Darien!” It was my turn to scream, but your ice cream had already fallen to the sand.

“I have to go.” And my heart lurched. No. No. No. “She’ll drown.” No. She won’t.

By the time I moved to go after you, you were already in the waves and no matter how fast I ran I couldn’t catch up. You just got further and further away…

“No!” I yelled. “You will.” But it was useless, and then the water swallowed you whole. This time it had been the waves. They reached you quicker than I could. And then the little girl was next to me.

“He didn’t even say goodbye.” she said. I brought my fist to her face but then, my eyes blinked open. I was awake and the beach was gone. It was my bedroom.

And I was alone.

Every night this happens. Every dream feels real. No matter how I change the scenario you still always go.

It’s just a dream… and I know you’re right next door. The universe though won’t stop showing me how with each and every nightmare it’s like seeing you for the last time.

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

©2020 Jai Lynn

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Flash Fiction – “Swarm 2020”

To say the girl wasn’t fond of bugs would be a profound understatement. “Next time, Alastair, you are going to be the man on the ground.” She swatted aside a dense branch of leaves and tramped on. “And I’m going to be safe and secure in the compound.”

On the other end of her headset a boy laughed. “Sydney, you knew what you were getting into when we flipped that coin.”

“Damn my gambling addiction.” she muttered, stomping on something that she couldn’t, and most assuredly didn’t want, to identify. “I thought we agreed on not pursuing our vices. Do you remember that conversation, Alastair?” Sydney spit at the ground, a spider better not have just landed in her mouth. “Virtues… virtues!”

“HA! See?” There was a crackling from the other end of the line. “I knew you would throw this back in my face. What did I say before we flipped… ‘you better not preach to high hell about building our better selves if you lose.’ “

Sydney tossed her hair back and cut a nice even slice of giant dead centipede out of her way. “You know me better than that! I’m weak! When thrown temptation I take it! You should have been a better comrade and stopped me in my tracks.”

The line went dead.

“Are you kidding me Alastair?” she shouted to no one. “You can’t be the baby, I’m the youngest. You’re my mentor, ass hat!” The forest crowded in around her. Sun setting, shadows growing, and noises squelching from all over. Some musical, some definitely not. Sydney knew that joining the army was not something her mother wanted for her, or that her father accepted. Hell, even her brother thought she was going to die. “This better not be how I go.” To her credit though, she joined believing she could make a difference. Was she scared? Sure. Did she do it anyway? Well, clearly.

Sydney, although, didn’t think her biggest problem would be the very thing she despised most. Not humans, which she had originally thought (“Selfish ones like Alastair, especially”), but worse. Insects. The giant insect invasion had hit the Earth in the year 2020, just a month after Sydney had enlisted. Of all the things that could have happened: world war, global pandemic, even a natural disaster… of all those it had to be an alien invasion of fucking bugs.

The line came back on. “Did we learn our lesson?”

“If the lesson being that Alastair is a selfish prick more concerned with getting even then getting his brother in arms safely to the compound than yes. I did learn my lesson.”

There was a sigh on the other end. “I’m sure our superiors would understand considering who I was trying to get through the forest.”

A different sound now pervaded past her headset and filled the forest clearing. Brushing past more trees the sound grew to less of a ringing, but more like the sound of something artificial. Like a machine. “What is that supposed to mean?” If machines could buzz.

“Exactly how it sounds.” Up ahead, behind a copse of trees, one of the shadows moved.

“Vice, vice.” she muttered. In her next breath Sydney ducked behind the nearest trunk. The gun slung across her back fell easily into her hands. A bright side to this whole invasion was she learned how to survive. Surviving meant paying attention to your surroundings, it meant moving past your fear and it meant one of the first things you learned was how to use your damn weapon.

The shadow moved closer and stepped into her line of sight. Her eyes widened. Long and lean as a needle its body stalked into the copse of trees. The twilight hour had not killed the sun yet and the gleam against its metallic skin was as shiny as the gun in her hands. This bug was different than any she had seen before. Each time it stepped with one of its thin legs that buzzing intensified, as if it had gears instead of organs propelling it forward. This was unlike anything the United States had seen before. Sydney said, “I hate you.”

This was the moment. The moment she had to face again, and again. The reason she joined in the first place. She was stronger than fear. She would rise above the thrum in her chest, the sweat on her palms, the numbness in her limbs.

The girl stepped forward into the clearing just as Alistair’s voice came from the other end, “Here’s a virtue.” The gun clicked into place, sights steady right between that monster’s eyes. “Sydney, I love you too.”

And the shot rang true.

Photo by Jacek Ulinski on Unsplash

Flash Fiction – "Creation"

It was a game she liked to play.

The steam rose into the air. Jasmine, rose, the caffeine of the black tea all blended together into one. It made the room smell like flowers. From the right corner of her desk the tiny porcelain cup let the steam fly in a steady stream, the tulips painted onto the glass dancing in breeze that wasn’t there. The cup would never cool and in turn, let the room fill with everlasting spring.

The writer looked up from her keyboard to the cup at the corner of her desk. Dew on the grass, fresh air dancing in the sun, bright beautiful flowers all permeating into the essence of the room.

Across the room, a glimmer of steel caught the writer’s sight. Slowly, she watched the shape coalesce before her eyes. The tip appeared first, silver as stars and sharper than a corner, with the body following after. Long, but lean enough to be a comfortable weight when held, and built to move like the wind. It’s handle was wrought in sunlight itself, golden and as shining as the day.

She rose from her desk slowly, letting her fingers linger to tap on the surface. It was right there just waiting for her to take it. Some part of her though still believed she was dreaming. So… she reached for the tea first, because that was more likely to be real. Her hand reached out only to pause before the little porcelain handle. Then gingerly, like petting a strange animal, she let her fingers tap on the surface. Hot to the touch. Then, braver, she reached all the way and nearly burned her hand when the steaming cup was in her palms. When the tea went down, it was like drinking from a meadow. The writer put the cup back on the desk.

One step, then two she crossed the room. The way the sunlight was streaming through the window almost made the sword seem like a mirage. As if when she reached out to touch it all she would find would be the wall. The writer steeled herself, letting her fingers reach… then close… fingertip… by fingertip around the golden handle. Her body was very still. Even after having played this game a few times before, she still could not believe that this was real life. The weight in her hand was not imagination by the way her bicep braced. Cautiously, she pointed the blade at the window.

There were a few other sentences she had written.

Once the sword was in the girl’s hand a shadow appeared as the wind blew east….

Through the open window a gust rocked the hinges of the shutters and sent a chill down her spine.

The strange scent of sugar burned to a crisp pervaded the sweet smell of spring. Magic was afoot…

Her nose crinkled. It wouldn’t be long now.

The shadow moved closer, the shape shifting with the wind, until it wasn’t a shadow but a someone at the window.

A clang rang the air as steel met steel. The someone said “Are you ready?”

Standing sword to sword, the writer answered “Always.” Then she smiled, the girl on the opposite side of the window smiling too.

A grand adventure was waiting just for them to go and meet it.

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Flash Fiction – “The Devil”

“You have met with a horrible destiny, haven’t you?”

The devil in the mask held the dagger out, the handle towards me and blood from the blade pooling in its fist. Still as stone, its unmoving eyes bore into mine.

I tried to keep trained on the blade but couldn’t help but let my stare wander back to its face. Not like it had changed the whole time. The same macabre expression of a grin slitted with pointed teeth and a forked tongue hooked out of the right corner of its mouth were still all I could see. Some part of me was trying to see a crack to the monster underneath but masks existed for a reason.

“Horrible destiny….” I laughed, but brokenly. “I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.”

It drummed its claws along the steel, a little ting sounding every time a nail made contact. Then one scratched down a little too far and I flinched, a little too noticeably. So… the devil did it again. And again.

Just to break the cycle I took a step closer, and it mirrored me. When I took one to the left, it took one to its right. Step by step bringing us closer and closer together. Only when I took one back did it not move in turn. It stayed still, that smirk forever painted on its mouth.

It wanted me close. But couldn’t it see that this game was irrelevant? With my posture hunched, and my breathing hitched there was no way it didn’t see how exhausted I was. I didn’t even have my sword anymore. Then there was that dagger… just out for me to take.

If I wanted to survive I needed it. But, the one offering it was someone who wanted to drag me down at the end of all this…. something that would never want to hoist me up.

“All heroes have heard that before.” It bounced the blade in its hand, and the moonlight above glinted off the red steel.

I bit my lip. “I’m not a hero.” Then, I reached out and took the dagger. The devil didn’t let go though as my grip tightened.

It chuckled, low and grating. The sound like nails on a blade. Then it put its free hand to the edge of its mask and tipped it off.

“No, you’re not a hero….” the monster whispered, my own face reflected back at me like a mirror where its own should have been. The expression was familiar but crooked, and hungrily grinning at me underneath the shadow of the mask. “are you?”

I would have taken those pointed teeth and forked tongue for anything now… but they weren’t visible any longer since now I was the one wearing the mask.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash