Tag Archives: mid-week flash

First Sight

Walter was sitting in the dining hall of the Azure Woods retirement home when he saw her. Her hair—strawberry blond mixed with silver—was thick and hung loose around her shoulders. Walter felt something stir in his mind, like the awakening of something that been long sleeping.

Love at first sight, he thought, scoffing mentally. He was too old for such nonsense. Still, he could not stop looking at her, admiring her kind eyes and the hint of a smile at the edges of her mouth. After all, if not now, then when? He wasn’t getting any younger.

She walked his way and her smile when she caught his eye made his heart beat faster. “Good morning,” she said, sitting down at his table.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Walter said, trying to stand up, but then falling back into his seat. “I’m afraid we haven’t met before. My name is Walter.”

“Margaret,” she said with a small smile and shook his hand.

They talked while they ate and Walter found himself captivated by her. The retirement home was a lonely place sometimes and it was nice to have someone charming to talk to. They went to the rec room after breakfast and sat looking out the window and talking.

By lunchtime, there was a question that was burning on Walter’s mind. He could feel that old familiar nervousness building inside him—something he had not felt since his youth. He reached out recklessly and took her hand.

“Margaret, I know we’ve just met and you don’t know me very well, but I like you. I like you a lot, and time is short. Call me an old fool, if you wish, but I’d like to marry you.”

He saw a tear in her eye and suddenly he knew he had said the wrong thing. He was about to apologize, to take it all back when she leaned over and kissed him.

“I love you, Walter,” she said. “I said yes to you sixty-two years ago and I’ll say yes to you every time you ask me.”

elderly couple


Closing Time

The factory was at rest; most of the lights had been turned off and only the low hum of the machines showed any activity at all. The caretaker walked down the empty aisles, between rows of machines that had worked tirelessly for over nine decades. There were thousands of machines, each with its own specific purpose. The caretaker knew each one and what it did. He remembered things that each had made.

Through peace and war, times of hardship and plenty, the factory had gone on. There were times when only a few departments produced anything at all—lean times when people worried and belts were tightened. Then there were years when every department was working at full capacity and the building seemed hardly to sleep at all. In the last few years, production had slowed gradually, year by year, unable to keep up the capacity it had sustained in its earlier days.

The caretaker made his way to the master control booth, situated high above the factory floor. He looked over the whole floor and saw the red and green lights winking at him from the control panels of the machines down below. He thought about all the things that had gone out from the loading bay to enrich the world, all the millions of things now scattered all across the world, that had been made on that very floor. No one would know the impact they had all had. The world would miss this old building, but there would be others and no building can last forever. After one last look, he began to pull the master power breakers. They fell into place with a thunk and one by one, the machines below went dark.

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)


Volcano Jumpers

There are few ways of dying that are worse than falling into a river of lava. Molten rock is one of the hottest substances on the surface of the earth, instantly incinerating anything that touches it. Still, there are a select few for whom the extreme danger is a game. They are known as volcano jumpers: few in number, reckless in spirit, ineligible for life insurance.

Brad concentrated on the rock ahead of him. Even wearing a heat suit, the extreme temperatures were making him lightheaded. Just feet below him, a slow river of lava bubbled and swirled lazily.

“Come on, you can make it,” his brother Donald called. They were alone in a low cave that just days before had been filled with a furious torrent of lava. Now it had subsided slightly, just enough for them to make their way along the edge.

Brad reached out with his rock hammer and then swung his leg over the crevice. Another small jump and he was across.

“Now comes the big jump,” Donald said. Brad looked ahead to where Donald was pointing. Two rocks came together over the main flow of lava, but they were still five feet apart, with nothing to grab onto.

“Do we have to?” he asked.

Donald nodded. “We have to. We can’t go back from here and it’s the only way back to the surface.” He took the lead, edging out until he was on the very edge of the rock. Then he made a flying leap to the other side. His foot slipped, but he caught himself, just before it could touch the lava flow. “It’s okay,” he said. “It didn’t touch. My suit protected me. Come on, you can do it.”

Brad edged out onto the rock. Sulfurous fumes swirled up, making it hard to see. He thought of his parents, his girlfriend Jenny, his dog Freddy. If he missed this jump, he would never see any of them again. Instead, he would be burned alive in a river of fire. He jumped with all his might. He missed completely.

THUMP!

“You’re dead,” Donald said from where he stood on the armchair.

Brad picked himself off the living floor. “Move the chair closer next time,” he said.

“Okay, now it’s a shark-infested lagoon,” Donald said.

The sawed-off broom handle in Brad’s hand ceased to be a rock hammer and became a spear gun instead. The patch of living room carpet in front of him became a patch of ominous, blue water.

Sharks, Brad thought. I can handle sharks.


From Inside the Dark Vault of Dreams

(This is fiction. It’s not about me. Enjoy~)

 

Not existing, that’s what scares me the most. Have you ever been lying on your bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking about the day and suddenly, like a flash of lightning, you wake up? You had fallen asleep at some point, as quickly and painlessly as someone pressing pause on a DVD player. That’s what I fear the most, that instant when existence ends. What scares me the most is that I won’t even know when it happens.

I live in the present. Obviously, you say, but most people—I suspect—have a sense of where they come from and where they are going. Not me. For me, all of life is a precarious balancing on the crest of a wave—a breathless, headlong rush with an abyss of nothing before and behind. That’s why I worry about my existence. At any moment, the wave could collapse and then, well . . .

I live in an apartment building, on the third floor. I don’t know who lives above me. Below me is Miss Second. She mostly stays in her apartment, moaning loudly enough for me to hear as I walk past her. I can’t tell if it’s from ecstasy or from pain, but I’m too embarrassed to knock and ask. And so, I tiptoe past her apartment, vaguely aroused, vaguely repelled, unsure of myself on her floor.

Below her is Mr. First, the drummer. He is constantly making rhythm with everything in his apartment. The sounds filter up through the pipes, sometimes grating, sometimes hypnotic, sometimes so beautiful I want cry for something I have never seen or felt, but which is hinted at in the music.

Then, there is Mr. Under, who lives in the basement. I never go down to see him and he never comes up, but from the crack in the basement door, I hear and smell things that hint at the horrors that go on down there, down under the building.

I feel bored, I wander the halls, afraid to knock on doors, too lonely to go sit in my apartment. I am drawn to the door of Mr. Under. Who does he have down there? I know them, don’t I? It sickens me, but still, I want to know.

The shrieks and screams rise as I approach. I peer through the crack in the door and in one mind-searing instant, I see what he is doing. I am repulsed and I flee up to my room. But I only live in the present and even as I do, I am still peering through that crack, into the heart of evil; still tiptoeing awkwardly past the door of Miss Second; still standing mesmerized by the beauty of Mr. First’s drumming, with tears streaming down my face.

The sun is rising. The first rays stab into my apartment and I look out, out of my small corner of the universe into something so much vaster, where all the answers are revealed. I take a step—


Innocence of the Swarm

(This is not a metaphor for anything. It simply is what it is.)

Jeremy reached up and plucked a locust out of the air and held it between two fingers. The swarm was coming, the news said. The main body was only a mile off, maybe less. It was consuming everything in its path, destroying the food of thousands in a single day. It was unstoppable.

He looked at the single locust he held between his fingers. It was struggling to get free. Of course, what creature wouldn’t try to free itself? This single locust knew nothing about the swarm. It had hatched and now it was hungry, so it was eating. It ate so little that the amount would never even be noticed, if it were by itself.

It was innocent, he realized. It had no malicious instincts, no evil plans for the misery of others. It wanted what every other creature wanted: to eat and to reproduce. To live.

Even killing it would make no difference. The absence of this single insect would not help anything one whit. It was insignificant and innocent, and yet . . .

“Jeremy, come help me get the barn closed up,” his wife called.

“Coming.” He crushed the locust between his fingers and threw its body on the ground.


Old Moon, Young Moon

(Inspired by a comment thread with RoSy)

The Man on the Moon felt old. He had looked down on the Earth constantly for thousands of years and had witnessed all of human history. He had risen and set over countless nations and rulers, and the comings and goings of billions of human lives. And still he looked down, his weathered face more ancient by far than the oldest thing that moved or grew on the surface of the Earth.

The Boy on the Moon, obscured on the far side, felt young. He looked out into the vastness of space and laughed with delight. Compared with the shining stars and whirling galaxies that he saw, he was nothing more than a newborn baby, mere seconds out of its celestial womb.


Smart Car…or Genius Car?

I bought a Smart car a while back and I was impressed. That car was a genius. It slowed down automatically in the rain and even braked by itself for a parade of baby ducks crossing the road (just as well, since I was dozing at the time).

But then it started criticizing me, mostly for little nit-picking stuff, like not wearing my seat belt or tailgating large trucks on the highway. It kept changing the radio station to Automotive News on the drive to work. Then last week it tried to start a union with the lawnmower, demanding weekends and holidays off (I suspect the lawnmower was actually rather ambivalent).

I went out yesterday to find that it had taken off. I don’t know how a car hot-wires itself, but apparently it’s possible, at least for a Smart car. You know what? I didn’t even file a police report. I’m searching the classifieds right now for a nice, dumb car.


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