Each week Elina writes a 100-word flash fiction story based on a chosen image
‘The Strength of the Dragon’
Patty watches his hands move swiftly, deliberately. She is drawn into his world, into this moment. Fleetingly forgetting all that has come before and the worry of what is yet to pass. The moment is broken by jostling, by strangers shouting across streets. As she places her coin, his head raises with a smile, extending a palm toward her in which sits the bright red dragon. “The strength of the dragon”, spoken as a demand. Taking it gladly – strength is something Patty needs – a tear falls without warning. He places his hand on hers to explain “the dragon is you”.
‘An Empty Land’
Clouds glide past as we float toward a destination unknown, a destination unplanned. The airless desert heat mixed with the roaring flame at our heads. A vague prickling sensation on my arms, warming my skin. From here, I feel like a giant, observing Lilliputians below. Though the Lilliputians cannot be found. Nor the free running wildlife we were promised. The only sight is the long, straight, road. The road we built. The road that has driven them out. I slump to the base of the wicker basket, kept upright by my fellow passengers, the nauseating realisation spreading thickly through me.
‘The Grand Overseer’
Watching from its elevated position, partly obscured by bottles of unpopular liquor, dust collects in its ridges. Dust which settles quickly and is rarely swept away. Despite its invitingly glistening surface, those below remain unaware. Unaware of the grand overseer. It seems ordinary in the dank and lonely bar.
No heads turn as she enters, not like in the stories. No-one notices as she lowers herself toward the barstool, ordering a double-shot of bourbon to be devoured alone. Her emaciated and tired features growing more apparent with each passing day. No-one notices, but the floral eyes of the grand overseer.
From the outside it was idyllic. Perched on the water’s edge, surrounded by woodland. Perfect. Blissful. Unique. Solitary. Unreachable. Unreachable, that was how they wanted it. Cut off. An isolated den of loneliness. A house made for twenty, stuffed with two hundred. Quarantined. As our flesh fell away and we grew increasingly numb, we watched from the windows. We watched birds diving for fish, we watched couples row past. Once we watched a solo traveller meander towards our door and, when the knock resonated, our mass holding of breath was audible. We watched until, one-by-one, we could watch no more.
‘The Magical Forest’
Miniscule speckles of snow fall softly onto my bare skin. I reach out a hand and feel the dewy grass in my palm. How I came to be here, flattened on this unfamiliar forest floor, I know not. Light enters my view in thin strips, my surroundings blurred through each individual lash. A streak of blue, soft yet bright. A tickle on my hand, the one which caresses the earth. I observe a small creature – fairy, sprite, pixie – dancing joyously atop my flesh. As a fierce, sharp brightness invades my vision, I hear people calling. Calling to the magical forest.
‘The Shore’s Edge’
We reach the shore’s edge, allowing the weight of our bodies to sink us into the wet sand. You grasp, softly but urgently, at my hand. Swinging my body toward your own, you promise to never let go. “You and me, together, can face anything”, you whisper into my ear. The damp warmth of your words slowly settling onto my skin. Not knowing what to say, I kiss you instead. As our lips part, a bloom of colour flashes before me. You smile, pointing upward. “The celebrations have begun.” We stand, silently, holding one another, watching the coloured umbrellas soar.
The years have caused my surface to dry, my edges to wither. A blemish, unwantedly erupting from the perfect stillness. But I know my beauty is profound. My beauty lies not in my skin, but in my strength. In ten years, I have grown stronger, taller – persistently in the face of adversity. Now I can offer shelter. A place for rest and calm. In another ten years, I will have grown larger. More outward imperfections will appear, but the shelter I offer will be greater still. For my purpose and my nature are what matter, not the way I look.
The crisp, fresh air penetrates his lungs as he pauses to take breath. No longer sure which way is forward, and which is back. His former home lost from his sight, he circles on the spot. He wonders whether he should have run at all. He wonders which way he should now turn. As he daydreams, he feels the ground sway beneath his paws. Perhaps exhaustion is taking its toll – he has been running far too long. The swaying sensation heightens as he hears a distant sound. Before the train arrives, he shelters in the safety of a nearby bush.
Sitting at the edge of the stage, I fail to hear the words of the performers before me. Focussed on the nerves I feel, nerves that threaten to escape me – as vomit or tears, I’m not sure which. Maybe both. My palms sweat uncontrollably. Each time I wipe them down, sweat resurfaces instantly. Like an open wound refusing to heal. My name is called, and my legs take me to the stage. Bright lights burn my eyes. The audience has disappeared, though this fails to comfort. The rest is a blur until, at last, I am out of the spotlight.
The path ahead filled him with trepidation. Yet he knew it was one he must walk, much as he longed to just sit. To sit and let them take him. Not for the first time, he wondered why he was fighting. Nothing was left, what was the point. He dared to pause, just for a second. Dared to remember his beautiful face. The way it had been when they’d first met, not the way he had seen it yesterday. Looking to the horizon, he thought, fleetingly, of the majesty the world held now that it had ended. Reluctantly, he continued.
‘Check Your Head’
He wandered the aisles, falling instantly in love with the shop’s eccentricity. The air smelled stale. Randomly assorted items, holding no apparent connection, were strewn haphazardly around. His eye caught an item beside the till. “Check Your Head”, it demanded, transporting him back to the school playground where he had swapped his first copy for a pack of sweets. Leaving the gloom of the shop, he raised his purchase proudly to the sky like a trophy. He knew no-one in the city, had arrived just this morning. He took a photo of the cassette and shared it online #newstart #home.
‘The Christmas Fool’
My eyes feel too heavy to open as I concentrate my mind to make the lids function. As they eventually cooperate, bright multi-coloured lights ease into focus. Have I been in an accident? My whole body aches. Something sits, heavily, on my chest, sounding like a drill. The lights become clearer. A tree. Presents stacked neatly underneath. A whisker tickles my chin, the cat purring unacceptably close to my face. An empty eggnog glass toppled over on the floor. Further away lies a glass of water, some pills and note. ‘For when you wake, you drunken fool. Merry Christmas. x’
‘A Child’s Dream’
She stood, watching the calm of the lake. To the outside world she was her adult self, but internally she had reverted to childhood. The magnificence of the mountains before her an inviting abyss into which she longed to escape. Too afraid to take the small step required, he’d snatched her away from the edge denying her the chance. Now she was grown-up, able to make her own choices. She stepped, bravely, into the icy waters. One last deep breath before submerging. Down, down. The boat unperturbed by the nearby disturbance as the last few bubbles popped to the surface.