Every year, on the month up to short story day (21st December in the UK) I write a piece of flash fiction a day. This is the third year I’ve set myself this challenge. Each day I post the stories on my Facebook writer page, but this year I thought I’d collect them here at the end of each week. I hope you enjoy them ,and if you do please spread the word.
Crammed between old prams and grandfather clocks Chloe felt like she was another artefact in the Antique shop. Near the back of the room the owner fussed over his cat, feeding it sardines, head first. Tomato sauce dripped on the counter.
Staying out of sight she searched amongst the blue and white pottery for the design Bernie had spotted. The two ghosts stood on a doorstep, screaming. It was nestled near the back, behind some cheap transfer willow pattern. A small cup. Pocket size. Chloe checked over her shoulder then looped her fingers around the glaze, easing it between the other crockery, and slipped it into her coat.
The cup would not detach, surface clasping her skin. She felt the glaze spread up her veins like infection, skin turning a pale blue. She tried to shout to to the owner, but her tongue shrunk to a blackened stump and she had no words anymore.
The owner fed his cat the last fish, wiping his fingers on stained trousers. Easing his way through his stock he found the small blue and white cup on the floor beside the shelves. Picking it up he held it to the light, though truth be told little light made it through the dirty windows. He turned the cup this way and that. On the doorstep stood three ghosts, eyes hollow, glaze filled mouths stretched wide as they screamed.
Ghosts of Suns
Dandelion clocks repeated across the once perfect lawn like ghosts of suns. Mary watched Brendan stand in next door’s garden. Over the wall the congregation of weeds crowded out every last trace of the garden. Hers wasn’t that bad. Yet.
Next door Brendan stood with the grey sphere in front of his mouth. She didn’t know for certain his breath had carried every seed across, but until he started his daily routine of counting the hours by plant, her lawn was flat and even. Clear of the yellow flowers and their haunting.
In the pestle Mary crushed the floating seeds, parachutes smearing to pulp. She poured in Canada balsam. Drew the grass blade across her palm and let blood pool into the bowl.
Outside, a ripple went through the clocks. First, the parachutes crowded Damien’s eyes, seeds burrowing into his softened corneas. The rest of the plants released their bounty, rising into the air and floating toward the twitching boy. One by one they slid into the pores of his skin until every inch was obscured by the wilting white hair of dandelions.
Mary sipped her tea, manicured nails tapping on the cup, and as yellow toothed flowers erupted through the remnants of the boy she closed the kitchen blind.
Clothed in Leaves (after Allingham)
Twig haired and clothed in the bones of leaves Selina sheltered beside the lake. Around her left wrist she wore a single string bracelet soaked in the fat of a gibboted man, threaded with dried amaranth and aconite.
Beside her, the parade of creatures walked up the mud deep path, away from the lake. Their stick legs scratched through the dirt, knotted fingers finding tunes in instruments draped with pond weed. She blocked her ears with silt to shut out the drowning polka they played.
The final Faery passed. Selina swallowed the gill herbs and lowered herself into the lake, opening her mouth to let standing water fill her lungs. Diving beetles tickled inside her chest.
It took time she could not count to walk to the centre of the lake bed where Bridget lay. The flag leaves had long since rotted in a way her daughter did not. Eyes forever open Bridget stared up at a fluttering sky, above the lake her body could not leave.
With no other way to take her Bridget home, Selina rubbed her own belly with skin bane and pressed the child through the flesh of her stomach. A return back to her womb.
Tears turning the lake brackish she closed her eyes, reached behind her back for the rusted knife in her belt and waited for the thieves of her daughter to return.
When The Sky Splintered
Most people were inside the day the clouds shattered. Injuries were minimal. We wandered housing estates lifting armfuls of splintered cirrus and cumulonimbus, wearing them like coats of steam.
School children held jigsaws of thermals in gloved fingers, shoving fragments of heated air into jackets and laughing as they floated inches off the ground.
The next day we found strands of sunlight fallen into branches and powerlines, stretching as gravity dragged them to the soil. Once they hit the ground they dirtied, losing any gleam. We bagged them up, these ropes of glowing, took them home and washed away grit to let them shine once more.
In our houses we draped ropes of light across our hearths in place of candles that stood unlit. The sunlight soon dulled and turned to ash.
Soon after, people started to find pieces of the sun itself, none bigger than a scatter of loose change. These did not stretch or dirty, just glowed in our hands as we threw portions between us, reliving childhood games of piggy in the middle. Pretending we were gods or the laws of physics. We ignored those struck by the falling shards, their bodies smouldering in the street.
Waking this morning we discovered lawns spattered by fallen stars. Each one nestled in a palm. We slid them into pockets and watched the power of galaxies shine through the threads of our coats. The constellations we carried burnt themselves out without burning and we stumbled through the unlit day.
We do not know when the rest of the firmament will fall amongst us. There is no light anymore. We shelter in our houses, away from the darkness outside and wait.
A Summation of Starlings
Standing on the field margin Barney and Mark watched the birds dip and loop through the air. Beside their feet patches of blackened grass smouldered. None of the starlings came close enough for the two friends to see the words imprinted on the feathers. The summation graced and spun, as a single dancer, acting out the scenes tattooed upon them.
Mark hadn’t meant to lose so much to the casino. Lose so much Jane packed up and left. The birds twirled above them, for a moment becoming a croupier pushing cards across a table, hooking back a stack of chips, then sorting themselves into another scene, the texts on their wings a script they didn’t know they were following.
Barney handed Mark the sheet of paper and he wrote down his account of the evening. What he could remember through the whiskey sours. Balancing it on the clods of mud, he placed his last poker chip on top. The red and white plastic caught the light, starlings zoetroping in front of the sun. Barney drew the flint blade across the back of Mark’s hand and his blood dripped like jet onto the disc and paper. Pouring on paraffin they set fire to the pile. Plumes of acrid smoke rose into the clutter of birds, snagging the beak of Mark’s starling.
The bird erupted from the summation, a dead pixel falling, finding its own flight to land amongst the flames. The morning air filled with the scent of burning keratin as feathers and beaks charred.
“Only until charred,” Barney said, putting his hand on Mark’s shoulder. “And remember to stay silent.”
Mark picked up the starling, hands sticking to melted barbs, and pushed the bird into his mouth. Crushing the bones he felt the moment he placed his last all or nothing bet slide down to pool in the pit of his stomach. Burnt feathers rustled against his tongue and tickled his throat. The cough was shallow and fleeting, but enough. Above them the starlings turned as one and flew to crowd the men. One after the other flew down the narrow channel of Mark’s throat to follow their companion until their was no more room inside and his skin split with the eruption of feathers and beaks and claws.