Displaying items by tag: fiction
Sophie bends down and peers under her seat. “Have you got Zack? I can’t find him.”
“Your brother?! Sophie, you know he’s… Oh, you mean that scruffy toy zebra. No, I haven’t got it. Why would I have it?”
“Well, where is he, then?” Her voice rises an octave as she clutches onto her boyfriend’s arm. “I don’t know where he is, Paul. I need to find him.”
Paul turns to face her. “Did you take it with you when you went to the restroom just now?”
She swallows. “Yeah, I did. In my pocket. He must have fallen out. Oh God, he could be anywhere now. We need to go and find him.”
She starts to get up from her seat, but he reaches out and grabs her arm. “Sophie, come on. The halftime show is literally just about to start.”
“Fuck the halftime show. I need to find Zack. Come and help me. Please.”
He shakes his head. “You know how much I was looking forward to this show. I’ve loved Eminem ever since his first album. I don’t want to miss anything.”
She blinks away tears. “I can’t believe Eminem is more important to you than I am.”
He folds his arms, a frown on his face. “Don’t be silly. He’s not more important to me than you. But he is more important than a stupid toy zebra. My dad spent a lot of money to get us here. Have you seen how much Super Bowl tickets cost?”
My mother’s sisters say their grandmother had it; what they, being partly Welsh, call the “sixth sense,” and my grandmother on my father’s side once claimed that her sister had it, though she didn’t call it the same thing. She called it “trouble.” Anyway, no one talked about it after my parents shut me down. They must have told them all to shut up.
Both of my parents were shrinks. My father with his doctorate in forensic psychology worked with the police department and legal system. My mother was a geriatric psychiatrist and ran her extremely efficient department in the local hospital system. It was an understatement to suggest that my parents competed with each other in just about every way. Professionally, physically (who was the most consistent and successful amateur athlete), intellectually (who read the most erudite books and articles) and sexually (who could attract the most attractive admirers whether they were acted upon or not.) Sometimes our meals were so tense with subtle and not so subtle rivalry that I developed an ulcer at age fourteen.
My unfortunate ability came to my parents’ attention when I was five. We were waiting at the airport for our connection to Phoenix to visit my father’s recently widowed mother. For a kid this age, waiting was extremely boring. A young woman sat down next to us, accompanied by a rough looking boyfriend and I gave her a long searching look. “She’s gonna have a baby!” I announced at top volume.
The girl looked horrified, the boyfriend’s mouth dropped open and my mother yanked my arm. “What are you doing?” she low-level yelled. “Why would you say such a thing to a total stranger?”
Me all innocent: “Well, because she IS. SHE’S GONNA HAVE A BABY AND IT’S A GIRL!!!!!!!!!”
My dear mother slapped me. She, being a shrink and all, supposedly did not promote physical punishment for children, but her hand shot out like a bullet and then I was wailing at the top of my lungs.
The boyfriend kept saying, “Is it true? How would that kid know? Is it mine?”
I was on the sidewalk. I remember thinking: Why am I on the sidewalk? I had been carrying a plastic bag from the store, but the milk carton inside it must have fallen hard, because I saw that it was leaking. The baking powder was in a can, still intact. Maybe Mom won’t be too pissed at me.
Sound, at first so muffled and distant as to seem dreamlike, came rushing back, a ferocious whooshing. I raised my face to billowing plumes of auburn smoke that scaled the heavens, shifting occasionally to reveal fierce flames. Veils of ash and debris swept over me. Phantom figures streaked and stumbled in all directions--specters of brown and gray, coalescing briefly, only to be swallowed again by the incessant gloom.
I had only a vague recollection of the explosion, the stunning force and noise.
It was snowing, sort of. I reached out my hand, as if to prove that, somewhere in the world, two snowflakes could be exactly alike. Fragments of something solid and dark collected in my palm. Shingles. Pieces of shingles from the roofs of houses--roofs of houses that sheltered boys and girls and moms and dads and cats and bicycles and leftover chicken casseroles and the magazines that Dad hid in the garage so that Mom wouldn’t find them.
Dad and Mom. And my younger brother, Davey. They were in my house when I left for the store. Davey was playing video games in his bedroom. Dad was in his study, probably paying bills. Mom was in the kitchen. She had sent me to the store so she could bake a chocolate pound cake.
A primeval howling like thousands of cats stranded in trees morphed into wailing sirens and mingled with the shouts of neighbors and the crackling of flames. I picked up my bag with the leaking milk carton. “Remember, Charlie, I need whole milk for this recipe, not skim,” Mom had said before I left the house. If I actually had left the house in this lifetime, in this reality, just a 17-year-old kid walking four blocks on a routine errand.
I'm Anna, 16 years old, and I already can't stand my life anymore. Oh, no I don't want to end my life, but I'm angry! Angry at my father who has already replaced my mother with Lucia - that's my "stepmother", if you can call her that way. It's been six months, six months since Mum died of fucking cancer and my dad has already replaced her with this... woman. You can see how much mom meant to Dad.
Let's change the subject. It's been three months since we moved to a new house. Three hundred km away from my friends, my school, and especially my passion, boxing. Boxing is my whole life, medals, cups, I did a lot of competitions, but it's over... and my father doesn't care. Tomorrow, it's the beginning of the school year, in this new bourgeois high school, where I'll be in a boarding school (finally good news). I feel that I'm not going to like it, but I have no choice. A little more than a year before my majority (I'm from the 18th of October), finally freedom and I'll be able to get out of this crazy house.
3rd September: 8 a.m.:
I start with math, my favorite subject... I sit in the last row; a guy sits next to me.
-Hi, are you new here?
-I'm Jonathan and you?
-Nice to meet you. Can I stay next to you?
I say yes and we continue to talk for the whole hour. He seems like a nice guy. At the end of the hour, he proposes me to meet his friends later after school. I told him that it won't be possible, maybe another time.
My words were failing me so completely and utterly. All the blank space looked as if it were taunting me. I had been up long enough, and had enough coffee, that the pixelated page I was typing on seemed to form an arrogant smirk.
I reread the twenty pages I had already written. That didn’t help. In fact, it only succeeded in reinforcing my doubts. Typos, grammar mistakes, poor vocabulary, et cetera. Good Lord. Why? Why was this so hard? What indefinable quality was I missing, what spark, what structure? Was it the word order? The plot? The diction? What made great writers so magnificent, and what separated the aforementioned great writers from the pretentious ones and the airheaded ones and the ones that did everything right but were still missing that X-factor that changed a piece from a look into the author to a reflection of the world and all the beauty and pain of humanity?
I reread what I had just written and frowned. Run-on sentences, while maybe not the answer, were probably part of it.
Rudderless, I drifted out of my chair and into the back garden. Now it was silent, but during the day I would be greeted with the overwhelming symphony of the cicadas. The insects were loud, this time of year, chirping and cricketing, desperate for a mate. So lonely were their cries.
I drifted back inside and made some tea, needing caffeine but wanting a change from coffee. While the tea steeped in hot water, I steeped in silence, perched on the kitchen counter, inhaling the scent of the Earl Grey. My thoughts slowed to almost nothing, a slow sludge of awareness and idle speculation.
Without warning, a heavy loneliness descended upon me. I thought of the cicadas as I dialed my friend Willow. Willow was a charming gal who always made an entrance and was followed by the semipermanent smell of bacon and lavender, an unlikely yet heavenly combination. She didn’t pick up the phone. I glanced at the time on the stove and frowned. Of course she didn’t—it was three in the morning, and some people I knew weren’t writative insomniacs.
I scrolled through my contacts and dialed Tris. Tris worked the night shift on weekends at the American Cancer Society in order to drum up enough funds to get a degree in anthropology at the University of Texas. She was quiet, mostly, with a wild streak and short hair dyed platinum blonde. It was a Saturday, so she would just be returning home.
I’ve never been the type to be decisive. To be fair, I’ve never been the type to be much of anything. I’m more of an in–between type person, not quite this nor that—but I won’t flatter myself by self–bombarding with adjectives.
“So, which season did you say again?”
My Chem partner for the get–to–know–you questionnaire is looking at me with a mild impatience in her eyes, her eyebrows creasing ever so slightly.
“Well, I would probably say summer…” I pause. I stereotypically associate summer with blindly optimistic, lighthearted people; the physical epitome of a California Valley Girl. That could only be me when really tired, tipsy, or in love—none of which have ever ended well. Saying that my favorite season is summer would not only be bad luck, but also falsely portray my personality as blithe. That doesn’t fit Chem as a subject—and besides, everyone loves summer. It’s too basic, which is also something I don’t want to be.
“Actually, it’s winter, sorry.” I give her an apologetic smile, which, knowing me, probably just looks like an awkward grimace. My chem partner writes down my answer slowly, as if her thoughts are slow to translate into her hand. I wonder where her head is, and if that means she’s bored of our conversation, or me.
It’s just your Chem partner. It’s not like you’ll become best friends or anything. But you could definitely be more enthusiastic. “So, what’s your favorite season?”
“Summer.” My chem partner says automatically. A slight flicker in her eyes smiles at her own quick reply, as if she’s making a private inside joke about me. I smile at her guiltily, pretending to ignore that I think summer is a basic season to love. It’s not like it’s actually indicative of anything. Or maybe she’s smiling because winter is so unpopular—it’s kind of an edgy season to like. Drab and lifeless.
“That’s cool,” I say languidly. “By the way, I would actually say my favorite season is fall.” Yeah, that’s definitely a normal season to like. All fresh and tranquil and everything.
“Tell me your name again. And why you’re at a new school.”
I watch the corners of my mouth drop down, forming a frown, in the mirror as I do my tie up. “Come on, Mom. I’m not going to forget.”
“Tell me.” She’s stood behind me, a worried look on her face. I hardly see her without that look these days. She’s barely smiled since we found out. Not that I blame her.
I sigh. “My name is Jack Mitchell. We moved here last week from Brooklyn because you got a new job at the hospital.”
She nods, kisses the top of my head, then leaves the room. I know she’s scared that I will forget. That I will let my old name and background slip out. But I know to be careful. I want a new start as much as she does.
Still looking in the mirror, I focus on the scar above my left eye, and recite the story in my head. I was riding my bike in the garden, and the wheel caught on a stone. I went flying into the glass door and cut my head open. Yes, it did hurt. Yes, it did need stitches.
I give myself one last look in the mirror. I don’t look any different to Luke Holden, the boy I was a few weeks ago. And I don’t feel any different. But I need to be different. For myself, and for Mom. I want to see her smile again.
I turn, picking up my school bag, slinging it over my shoulder and leaving the room.
Ilyana Laouini is a student at Mermoz High school in Saint Louis, Alsace, France. Ilyana is the second of three winners in a flash fiction contest her school held. Each student was to write about a societal problem that worries them. This is Ilyana’s story.
Hi! I’m Rosa, and today I’m going to tell you how my new life in the United States is going. Not as well as I thought…
I’m in a beautiful high school, and I alternate between my mother’s posh neighborhood, where you’re sure to get stared at if you don’t fit into the “SUPRA RICH” category, and my father’s poor neighborhood where all the delinquents in the city are. I forgot… the most important element (according to others) is that I’m black, you’ll understand this detail later. To make my boring life faster, I write, a lot…
Let me describe my life as a movie for teenagers: I’m in a beautiful high school where you meet three beautiful groups: the popular, the intellectuals and the geeks. Personally, I do not fall into any of these categories although I would say that I am anything but popular. Let me introduce you to Jake, the disruptive element of my life who writes a blog «not sorry» and tells all the gossip of this school.
The day my life changed was Monday, March 14th. As happens to me very often, I end up in detention time with the regulars: Cooper, Amy, and Turner.
I never imagined for a moment that this hour of detention would take me to jail. Jake, the most hated person at this school, was found dead in front of us because of poison in his glass of water. That’s when my whole life changed.
Of course, an investigation was opened, and we were all suspected of being the culprits, and even though I had a strong desire to kill this young man I would never have been able to, moreover, I don’t think that Cooper, Amy, or Turner would have been able to commit this crime.
The same day the police interrogated us one by one to gather the most information, but unfortunately despite the days that passed nothing allowed to know how this poison landed in Jake’s glass.
Pupils… Persuasive… Pedal… Pentagram…
Angie gulped for air as she broke the water. Strings of auburn hair clung to her face like seaweed, refusing to be contained by her swim cap. The sun was rapidly sinking toward the horizon. But she was determined to finish.
Quagmire… Quarrel… Queasy…
Angie had grown up in the water. She had a picture of herself at only three months old being dipped by her dad into the cold shallows of the Pacific. An expression of sheer delight on her face.
Rusted… Rowdy… Roadkill… Resurrection…
Swimming was Angie’s daily ritual. And she was good at it. She was the highest ranked in the county for the 200 freestyle. She might even have a chance at a scholarship (which she definitely needed). But her dedication wasn’t solely about maintaining her competitive edge over the summer. She loved the sensation of weightlessness — the way her body moved up and down with the swell of the surf, as though she were flying. The underwater drone of sea life creating a soothing vacuum. The power of her muscles propelling her forward one more lap… then another… and another. Swimming was her drug.
To clock the amount of laps she swam, Angie assigned a letter for each one, conjuring random words to help keep a steady rhythm. The practice had a meditative effect. Her mom had taught her this as a little girl, to calm her when she was upset. Now it cleared her head.
At dawn, three kids slay a monster.
Breathing hard, Saturn drops to zir knees. Ze clutches a black knife in one fist, and the hot, still-beating heart of the Harbinger in the other. The air crackles—Gus still holding his black metal staff high above his head, lightning bearing down on the other-dimensional being. Gus hurls bolt after bolt from dark clouds like a twelve-year-old Thor, striking the Harbinger in the same smoking spot, forcing its many-eyed face into the dirt.
Bronwyn rushes to Saturn’s side, dropping her goopy, green-stained broadsword to prop zem up. Strands of brown hair escape her ponytail, clinging to the spatters of Harbinger blood on her face. “You good?”
Ze shrugs her off. Bronwyn has severed many of the Harbinger’s arms, which squirm and flop and grasp even after dismemberment, but Gus has the right idea. Whenever it seems to be dying, the monster only transforms again, growing in power with every contortion of limbs.
When Saturn’s eyes focus, zir vision fluctuates between two separate worlds overlain. The In-Between, with its purple sky of dying stars, its moon-rock mountains, the toxic-waste reek of the world-devourer’s open wounds—and the playground in the town of Tedium, Ontario, with its rusty metal play structure and its rotting gazebo. In both worlds, a storm rages throughout the dawn, hovering above the battle. Lightning strikes around them, shattering boulders in the In-Between and severing the branches from Earth trees.