/r/flashfiction

Photograph via snooOG

Sharing and critiquing extremely short stories. Please review our sub guidelines before posting.

What is Flash Fiction

A flash fiction story is an extremely short story that has a protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. The parts of the story can be implied, but flash fiction is not a scene or vignette.

On our subreddit, stories less than 500 words are considered to be flash fiction.

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Contest Contests on this subreddit

About

This reddit is intended for people to share their "flash fiction", or stories written with the goal of being extremely short. We're looking for three types of submissions, and appreciate a tag in the title showing which type you're submitting:

  • Original or for your original work.
  • Non Story for articles, blogs, or discussions about flash fiction.
  • Prompt for writing prompts.

Please assign appropriate flair after you submit your post.

Linked articles that are not tagged will be deleted

Rules & Guildelines

1. Keep it about the writing here

  • No advertisements
  • No requesting writing services, calls for submissions, or homework help
  • Authors are allowed to link to a personal subreddit or Reddit profile, but not to a monetised site, a site where you can monetise or to a website where you are selling things.
  • A link shouldn’t be all that’s in the post, the story must be posted on this subreddit in the text box.
  • Linking to a reading at the end is fine, but use a non-monetised site.
  • Patreon and Paypal links are not allowed. Link to your sub or Reddit profile instead

2. Posts must be in English, and good-faith attempts at flash fiction

  • Maximum of 1000 words
  • Posts must have a title
  • Plagiarism will result in a ban. Do not post other people's work.
  • No joke posts, copypasta, troll, fecal, urine, meme-based, or AI generated stories.

3. No reposts

4. No hate speech or other harmful content

  • Includes, but is not limited to, pedophilia, bestiality, incest, rape, and abuse or torture
  • Avoid racism, suicide, and political debate
  • Avoid real-world drama (politics, recent tragedies, etc.)
  • Use your best judgement, but mods have final say

5. Be civil in discussion, feedback, and critiques

  • Users are held to a higher standard here. Think before posting

6. All submissions must be tagged

  • Add the tag at beginning of your post title.

7. Tag Not Safe for Work stories with a [NSFW] tag in the title.

What is NSFW? If you wouldn't want your grandmother, boss, or mom to read it then tag it. Examples of NSFW Content:

  • Anything Sexual, Erotic, or Pornographic in nature.
  • Anything with overt, grisly, or gruesome violence.
  • Anything with excessive language.

If you aren't sure your story fits our rules, message the mods, and if you can't wait for a response go ahead and tag it.

If critiquing another redditor's work, please be respectful and helpful.

Related Subreddits

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/r/flashfiction

6,561 Subscribers

2

Absent

The attic was stuffy with summer heat. It reminded Charles of days spent at his grandfather’s, searching through the detritus of his past, things he had relegated into the dusty garret but Charles had found fascinating. There was a wooden walking stick with its point sharpened, an old pair of field glasses, a theodolite separated from its tripod. When Charles had found a journal filled with indecipherable math and survey coordinates, he became convinced his grandfather had been a wizard.

Now, years later, searching through his own father’s home, Charles didn’t see any pictures of his grandfather. None alone or with his own father or with any of his siblings. He realized then, that if his grandfather had been a wizard, his one trick had been to disappear.

www.matthewcmclean.com

1 Comment
2024/02/21
21:16 UTC

4

The Fight

I love my knife. She always stares at me. She’s not too special, just like me. I got her at a corner store for $6.99 plus tax. I keep her so sharp. She stays in my hand as often as I can keep her there. I named her Petunia. I always liked the name Petunia.

I am ready for a fight.

I happened to be downtown that night. The night of the fight.

I needed a walk. I needed to get out of my apartment and feel the pavement of a bustling street. I grabbed Petunia and slipped her into the sleeve of my jacket. She felt comfortable there, like we had rehearsed so many times before.

I was passing by a big party in a bigger building. I heard a scream coming out of the back alley and it drew my attention. A young girl in a red dress was being pulled from the back entrance by a man in a suit.

I stopped. Petunia gripped me. She was ready to deflower herself.

And then I saw it.

It was like the crack of a whip. This man drew up his swollen hands and dropped this young woman to the ground with one mighty strike from his muscled arm. She spit out blood as he readjusted his golden rings, standing above her. The lights of the building shone upon him as he tossed back his slicked hair.

Petunia shuttered.

Quietly, I walked down the alley toward them. I was raggedly dressed and disappeared among the pile of garbage bags that lined the alley wall.

He was yelling at her as I approached from behind him. The lady in red was still on the ground. I could see the blood dripping out of her mouth. As she pushed herself up from the wet alley pavement, I noticed her bracelet glimmer in the bright lights.

I was able to get much closer than I ever thought possible. He smelled like whiskey and menthol. But it was time.

Petunia pulled herself out of my jacket pocket. She opened up as I pulled his chin back, exposing his neatly-shaven neck. It smelled like lotion now.

Petunia struck.

Again. And Again. And Again.

He fell limp.

Petunia looked over at me.

My eyes met the lady in red.

He slumped out of my arms. I saw his hands starting to turn white as he hit the ground. Petunia climbed back into my jacket pocket as I ran into the darkness of the city.

Right before I turned the corner, I heard a voice like a whisper.

“Thank…”.

But I was already gone.

8 Comments
2024/02/21
06:54 UTC

1

The Prayer

I was sitting at the end of the pew with my eyes closed and hands clasped together, praying for something to happen. Upon finishing the prayer, I looked up, but, seeing that nothing had happened, told myself, “Forget it,” and got up, making my way out of the church. As I was walking out, somebody grabbed my wrist, and that person whispered forcefully to me that I was “causing a scene,” but I pulled my hand away and whispered back, equally forcefully, “no, sir, you are causing a scene, what with your lies.” Leaving the man in what looked like a state of shock, I continued my exit, and found myself outside in the thick summer air that, to my pleasant surprise, smelt like a vast garden of flowers.

1 Comment
2024/02/20
17:27 UTC

1

To Say or Not to Say

Anita was tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep. Beside her, Ashok slept peacefully, blissfully unaware of his loud snores.

Anita considered poking him gently, just enough to rouse him and get him to stop making that dreadful noise. It would be unkind, no doubt, but at least she could sleep peacefully.

“Forget it, I will order earplugs first thing tomorrow”, Anita made a mental note before drifting into a deep slumber.

The next day, Ashok was up before her. When she looked at him quizzically, he said, “Your snores woke me up in the middle of the night!”.

0 Comments
2024/02/20
03:25 UTC

3

[HF] Retraining

The cavalry rode to the top of the hill and stopped. They looked down into the Yellow Creek and saw a pack of wolves wrestling in the dust. A man with a long gun dismounted his horse and kneeled in the dirt. He propped the barrel in between two yellow rocks, rocks that looked like they’d been put in place for this very purpose. He looked down the top of the rifle, lining up the rear notch with the front iron post. His pupil, the two sights, and the mass of wolves were all in perfect alignment. It was just a matter of everything staying in perfect place when he squeezed the trigger.

The Major looked at the man that had his eyes down the sights and said, “Shoot straight now, boy.” The man, startled by this unexpected and unwelcome advice twitched just as he was inching the steel trigger back toward his face, causing his finger to slip and the hot lead round to ricochet off the rock and pling off towards the moon. The wolves stopped their fight and looked at the horses at the crest of the hill.

“Well, thunder, Sir!” the excited marksman shot.

“What thunder, Reed! You missed!” the Major snapped. “Send him back to remedial training, Sergeant.”

The man sitting on the dapple grey horse behind the Major’s mare looked at the Major and said simply, “Yes, Sir.” Then he looked at the flustered marksman, “Mount up, Reed. Back to Day One training when we return to camp. Johnson: You will be his instructor, again. When you say he is fit to ride and shoot again, then he will be allowed back in the saddle. I will validate your assessment.”

Johnson made no sound, but nodded his head at his Sergeant, and then looked at Reed.

Reed slipped his long gun back into the case attached to the leather straps on his horse’s side, and checked his revolver to make sure it was clean, loaded, and ready to go. He pulled himself up into the saddle and dug his spurs into the horse’s side. He rode behind the Major’s mare all the way back.

Johnson rode up beside him and said, “I saw what happened. Don’t worry. You’re the best shot in this outfit and everybody knows it. We’ll get this training done in no time and then we can head out again. Water under the bridge.”

Reed didn’t acknowledge Johnson’s words. He didn’t look at him. He didn’t look at anything except the back of the Major’s head who was about three lengths ahead. He saw his coarse, dusty, brown hair and imagined what the next ride would look like with the Captain in charge. Captain deserved a promotion, he thought. Reed kept on riding, steady, feeling his revolver on his thigh, staring at the back of the Major’s head and said, mostly to himself, “water under the bridge.”

***

For more interesting stories: "links in bio," etc.

2 Comments
2024/02/19
21:16 UTC

1

Baby Cage

The whole summer was gonna be a wash just because Momma had caught Sheila with her hand in between Mia’s legs. It wasn’t even about sex, or maybe it was, but either way Sheila had just wanted to know if everything worked the same. Judging by Mia’s gasp and how things felt, they were, which was good. Unfortunate timing and an unlocked door, though, were bad. Now there was bible camp, Study Sundays, trips to the old folks home with Aunt June, all sketched out to keep her out of trouble. Sheila wasn’t a baby anymore, but her summer was shaping up to be one big cage.

www.matthewcmclean.com

0 Comments
2024/02/19
20:22 UTC

2

A Wish for the Boring Times

“I wish you had told me that you did not like travelling BEFORE we got married!”, Tanya cried. This was often how their arguments began.

This time, Tarun smiled patiently and said, “Happy Anniversary, my love. Our flight to Mauritius leaves tomorrow”. Seeing the tickets, Tanya’s eyes lit up.

She loved every minute of their holiday, apart from the last few days when Tarun was under the weather. By the time they returned, travel everywhere was restricted due to the pandemic.

As Tanya remembered her husband’s last days, she wiped away a tear, “How I long for those boring times”.

1 Comment
2024/02/19
15:57 UTC

2

minimum rage 69

0 Comments
2024/02/19
11:18 UTC

1

minimum rage 68

0 Comments
2024/02/19
11:17 UTC

2

A Portrait of a Daughter-in-Law

I looked at the photo on the wall, a picture of a pregnant me, with an older woman. As I peered closely at my mother-in-law, I thought of my early years of marriage. Without doubt my mother-in-law was kind and good-hearted, but the relationship had been off to a rocky start, with both she and me headstrong and belonging to different generations. It had taken me time to be empathetic towards her.

Hearing approaching footsteps, I turned to see my son and his wife. As they hugged me, they placed a cake before me. “Happy 80th, Mother”, it said.

1 Comment
2024/02/18
11:23 UTC

3

The Other Oasis

The Other Oasis

I walk alone in a desert. Where is my oasis? I have lost her. Another oasis shines like an emerald in the distance.

“Don’t go. Please, don’t go,” she cried as I went out to chase the emerald of the desert.

The oasis walks away from me with each step. My heart doesn’t harden; I persist, I take another step. “It will all be alright in the end,” I tell myself. I dream about what I will do when I reach the other oasis. My throat aches, and my lips crack like the ground beneath me. “I will drink from its cool and clean water,” I tell myself.

“We have everything here,” she said to me. “Water, fruit, and you.”

Blood has caked my feet, for I can no longer walk. I fell on my knees. Every moment spent resting, is wasted. There’s no rest for someone like me. I must walk and walk until I catch the emerald. I submerge my hands in the boiling sand and stand. But for a moment, I look back, and see nothing but the heartless desert. I take a step back but stop myself. I have come too far to turn back now.

The sand comes together and forms a giant dune, rivalling even the mightiest of mountains. But some sand leaves its dune to find a bigger, better one. Will it ever find one? Or will it forever roam the endless desert all alone?

“I will always be there for you,” I said to her. What have I done? What have I done?

The day turns to night, but I continue to tread through the desert, and now, the oasis doesn’t run away from me. I thought I finally had it. It finally came true. The emerald, trapped in my hand. But when I touched its shimmering leaves, it disappeared. It was all a cruel joke played by the desert. An illusion or maybe a hallucination of my own creation. I fell, and the clouds began to cry.

“I will wait for you till eternity,” she said.

1 Comment
2024/02/18
06:48 UTC

4

The fire.

The hot coals burned. It built itself into a great fire. We all stood back and looked at it as it flickered into the night.

My hands were cold. It didn’t matter how close I got to the fire, they just felt cold.

“You ok brother?” A voice came out of the distance.

I didn’t have an answer to give him. My hands couldn’t get warm, no matter what I did. I inched closer to the fire.

“He deserved it. We’ll take care of it in the morning.” The voice came again.

I looked back at him. He was lying there next to the pile of wood, his eyes still open and staring.

They poured me another shot. The music turned up louder and louder.

I looked back at his open eyes.

“He deserved it,” I thought.

It was his eyes I couldn’t shake. They kept staring at me.

3 Comments
2024/02/17
09:08 UTC

2

Love at First Sight

She had just settled into a deep sleep,

When she was roused by her alarm’s beep.

It was time to feed the baby,

“I need some shut-eye”, she murmured, feeling lazy.

She got up nonetheless, shivering as she pushed the blanket away.

“Hello, my little girl”, she said. And as she fed the baby, she smiled, “You are getting bigger everyday”.

The baby giggled in reply,

Staring deep into her mother’s eyes,

Before it started to cry.

In this manner thus, she spent many sleepless nights.

But it was all worth it…it was after all love at first sight.

1 Comment
2024/02/17
06:53 UTC

2

What are you going to do?

“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?!”

It wasn’t the words that scared her. It was the volume. He kept saying it over and over again.

“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?!”

She was cornered in the kitchen. He was four days into a junk battle and his money ran out a day ago.

He kept scratching at himself. Even while yelling and smashing things, he kept scratching. His fingernails covered in blood and his skin peeling from his neck.

“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?!”

He screamed at her. The chalk outlines in the corners of his dried mouth stuck to his skin like dried gum on a hot pavement.

“WHAT ARE YOU GONG TO DO?!?!”

He pushed her out of the kitchen and she fell onto his bag of tools. He screamed again:

“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!”

While lying on the ground, a massive man standing over her, screaming, she felt a moment of calm.

On the tile floor of her kitchen, she saw a lone ladybug scuttle across the floor and onto a hammer sitting next to her right hand.

There was a slight breeze that was warmer than she had felt before for this time of night. The ladybug crawled onto her hand and stopped. Her eyes met with the hammer.











The ladybug sat on her as she washed her hands. The warm water poured through her fingers and onto the hammer.

Her house was finally quiet.

1 Comment
2024/02/16
09:38 UTC

1

Boys Don’t Cry

The family drove to the swimming facility nearby. The father wanted his son to be an athlete like him. “I don’t want to go in”, the boy cried. “You have to get over your fear”, said the father as he dragged his reluctant three-year-old into the kids’ pool amid the poor boy’s shrieks and protests. When the boy started wailing, the father chided him, “Boys don’t cry!”

As the mother watched from the deckchair, she examined the cigarette burn on her hand, fresh from last night. “Boys don’t make others cry either”, she said to herself quietly.

1 Comment
2024/02/16
07:17 UTC

1

Beauty is only skin deep

Ping! My phone lights up with a notification.

The last time we spoke was 5 years ago, when I had just started dating Prateek. Giggling excitedly, I showed you a photograph of him and me, posing near a pizza parlour after the first date. “But he is bald”, you said laughing. “So what?”, I had replied.

Curious, I open your message. It is a photo of your wife posing near a rock, wearing a bandaana and a pink tee and shorts, smiling from ear to ear.

Below that, your message, “Our first trip out of town after Anshika’s chemotherapy”.

1 Comment
2024/02/16
07:16 UTC

1

Jinx!

Two men, sweating and looking at the dead body, began to speak: “I think we should stop take—”. They looked at each other.

“Jinx!” said the man in the grey fedora.

The man who had been jinxed looked down at the body, hoping that Mr. Jeffries would say his name, releasing him from his heavy burden. They kept on digging until the hole was deep enough to contain the body. The speechless man pushed and pulled on the dead man’s limbs until he finally rolled down into the hole. Then they began to pile dirt on him, filling up the hole shovelful by shovelful.

After the work was done, the sweat stained their collars and they sat down under the chestnut tree. Mr. Jeffries lit up a cigarette and offered to light the other for the man who could not speak.

“I really enjoy the silence, don’t you, Mister… umm, let’s see, what did you say your name was again?” He laughed at his own cleverness.

They watched the moon rise above the trees and then nodded off, descending into a deep slumber. A little while later the jinxed man felt a nudge on his shoulder and before his eyes were open he muttered, “what, is it time to go?”

“Yeah, it’s time to go alright, Mister,” said the man with the badge on his shirt and the .44 revolver in his hand.

This bit of conversation startled Mr. Jeffries awake. A second man with a badge and revolver stood over him and he saw the silhouette of the lights on top of the black and white car.

“You gotta be kidding me.” That’s all Mr. Jeffries could say: you gotta be kidding me, as he looked at his accomplice.

“No, Jeffries, this ain’t no joke. We got you red-handed. The teller identified you before you even walked in the bank, and now we are going to dig up that mound, and I have a pretty good idea that we are going to find your wheelman, aren’t we?”

“Officer, you gotta hear me out. When you woke this man up,” he pointed to the man who had no right to talk, “he was under jinx. And by your own ears I know you heard him say ‘is it time to go?’”

“Well, well well. Is that right, fella?” asked the officer.

The jinxed man looked at the moon, the trees, the ground, the fresh mound of dirt, anything but the two police officers or Mr. Jeffries' eyes. Eventually, almost imperceptibly, he nodded affirmatively.

“Just incredible,” said the second officer. He reached out his hand and helped Mr. Jeffries to his feet. Then he gave Mr. Jeffries his service pistol. “A confession is a confession, and you know the rules, ole-what’s-your-name.” He grinned at that, but knew nobody could see it in the dark. He just hoped they caught it.

With that, Mr. Jeffries put two .44 slugs into Mr. Simon’s chest and watched him collapse. “The rules is the rules,” said Mr. Simon as he slumped over.

“I think we should stop taking Jinx so seriously,” said the second police officer.

“I agr—,” said Mr. Jeffries and the first police officer, simultaneously.

***

For more interesting stories follow u/quillandtrowel

2 Comments
2024/02/15
21:57 UTC

2

Last Shot

The last shot rang out.

10 minutes earlier there was screaming, crying, begging. Now, there was less.

Soon there would be a lot less of much more.

The first time he heard a firearm go off it was shocking, but expected. His ears rang, his hands shaky and his heart raced. Now 5 years later his heart kept racing, his ears still rang, and the shock of the rifle was the least of his concern.

He noticed his lips were dry, but he knew no matter how much he licked them they would still feel dry and cracked. The smell of the air was acrid, he could taste iron at the tip of his tongue every time he licked his lips. He could no longer tell if it was his blood or the gunpowder or whatever other residue lingered in the air.

He kept breathing, although his chest was pounding and he was slightly light headed. The air was clearing up and he could finally open his eyes. Specks of debris had been so constant that he could only see the world through increasingly slow blinks, his eyelashes were the only thing to signal when it was safe to open his eyes.

He took a deep breath, sat down, and looked around.

He is not a well equipped soldier so there is no need to count ammo or report to a superior officer. Hell, he’s not even a militia fighter, before, only a few people knew what courage under fire was. Now courage was a concept taught by books and books now only offered a bit of kindling to get some fire going.

He looked up and through the smog and ash he could see a ray of light.

Since electricity was no longer available, it must be right around 7AM.

He could no longer hear the men outside.

He knew a couple of them were seriously injured, but that no longer mattered.

If they weren’t already dead they would soon be. Antibiotics are no longer available and doctors haven’t exactly helped people in years.

He closed his eyes and when he opened them he decided that he had to move.

He was in a dark room and light was peering through a hole made by what could only have been a fallen tree. The rot around the floor made it obvious that the hole had been made many years ago.

He got up, walked through the back of the room where the door used to be and slowly made his way down the hallway where he eventually found the stairs. Every step he took carefully, making more of an effort to try to listen for somebody else’s footsteps.

He walked two floors down and eventually reached what used to be a reclaim store. Mannequins had been ransacked and most of the good clothing was gone, but some of the livelier colored jackets and shirts were still there. Most of the material was soaked and for a moment he thought about looking through the clothes to see if he could find something useful. Maybe he could repurpose some of the clothes in the future. He looked through the clothes and tried to find what fit, he thought back on when XL shirts fit him just right and now he seemed to have plenty of room in Medium shirts.

After a while of searching he decided against it, carrying wet clothes would only add to the load in his pack and he didn’t know how far he would have to go until he got his next meal or had a place to rest.

He looked through the dirty windows and saw no one outside and decided to risk going outside.

Besides, the deer they shot last night could have kept them all fed at least for a couple of days.

He took it as slow as he could crawling and squatting between rusted out cars. Small towns not being as populated did not have terrible riots so walking through them was always easier. They were not as pretty as they once were, but they at least didn’t have all the impending doom signs and hatred written in every possible space.

After 10 minutes of crouching and listening he could see what was supposed to be his dinner spot.

The man that had shot the deer and took them in still laid on the ground, he must have been the one yelling all night. Every minute of time that passed illuminated the sky more and more.

He heard voices ahead of him.

He gripped his backpack straps and tried to take long deep breaths.

He didn’t have a firearm, he didn’t want to fight, he knew if it came down to it he would have to run.

He took a breath in and heard someone behind him.

He turned to see the gun barrel.

Then he never saw anything again.

1 Comment
2024/02/15
19:08 UTC

2

Grief

You’re driving on a dark road late at night. You didn’t tell anyone where you were going. Not that they would care anyway. Finally, you reach your destination. You pull over on the side of the road and stare at a cross dimly lit by a lamp at its base. You walk up and sit at the foot of the cross. You feel tears start to well up inside of you as you consider the purpose of your visit. You start to talk. You tell him about everything that’s happened since your last visit. He listens in complete silence. You tell him things you couldn’t tell anyone else. He doesn’t judge you like they do. Your painful feelings are safe with him. You sit for a long time and stare at the cross. Tears once restricted start to flow freely from your eyes. You wonder what’s wrong with you. The memories are painful. A sense of bittersweet reminiscence envelopes you as you sit there quietly weeping. No response ever comes. Not that you expected it to. You wonder what he’s thinking as you sit in sorrowful silence. You feel a familiar pain grip your chest as you get ready to leave. You say your goodbyes and make promise of a return that might never happen. You really hope that he was listening. As you head home you start to feel a familiar sense of loss. You really miss him. That pain in your chest is relieved ever so slightly.

1 Comment
2024/02/14
14:53 UTC

3

Masks

What kind of mask do you wear? Don't pretend like you don't know. Everyone has a mask that they wear. Whether you actually wear it or not is your decision though. I use my mask a lot. It keeps me out of trouble. I have the tendency to embarrass myself greatly. Small things don't bother me anymore. When its big though I go to a dark place. The place where my true self lies silently weeping. The only way to keep going is to put that pain and burden onto my true self. That's why I keep the mask on. That true self of mine can only take so much punishment before he finally breaks, and when he breaks its all over. So, what about your mask? Are you like me? Is it for your own safety? Is it for others safety? Do you find your true self off putting? I do. You never know what someone else is hiding under their mask. So tread carefully. Someone else might have their true self hidden under there, and maybe that true self has to be hurt for them to move on. Be careful when you choose to peak under someone's mask. Its one of the most intimate acts. Once its done it can never be taken back. Ill never be able to show people what's under mine. That reflection of me is covered with scars of past trauma and abuse.

1 Comment
2024/02/13
19:22 UTC

2

Promise Ring

The ring was simple metal, but had a strip of meteorite through it that shined like diamonds. When he went into prison he had hidden it. Inside he had fought countless prisoners to keep it. It was all worth it when he was released, stepping out onto the penitentiary’s blacktop parking lot he saw her waiting for him. The woman who he had killed for and the one who gave him the ring. Her smile was reward enough. The ring had been a placeholder.

www.matthewcmclean.com

2 Comments
2024/02/13
18:14 UTC

2

Red Ants

The sun beats down on my bare back. A vulture, sitting on a spindly arm of a Joshua tree, watches me as I trudge through the sand.

The soles of my feet are caked in blood and sand and sweat. I lick my cracking lips, but no moisture is found on my tongue; the action leaves my mouth as dry as the grit wedged in my fingernails.

"I love you," you whispered to me under the shade of an oak in summer.

Do you hear the wailing sun as it cries out for the moon? Of course not, for pleas do not travel through the void. But my skin still burns from its sorrow. Would it still, were the sun a stoic?

I seek shelter under a rock outcrop. An ant, red as my blistering skin, crawls up my leg. I flick it off.

"You'll always be a part of me," I said, for I cannot love.

Seven-hundred-twelve… seven-hundred-thirteen… seven-hundred-fourteen… I lose count of the red ants marching past when the sun runs out of its weeping breaths and collapses below the horizon. I count the stars next, and see you in the cosmic tapestry they weave.

The despair of the sun is all-encompassing, an immolating anguish that engulfs all within reach. But the moon’s is a melancholic nostalgia. It's battered and beaten and exists only because of fatal collision. And the stars? I do not know what stars feel, for they are so distant that I can only speculate.

Rain comes as the sun again laments the moon. I climb atop the outcropping and wait for the tears to swallow the land.

"Is that not love?"

8 Comments
2024/02/12
22:28 UTC

3

Parked Dreams

It was an alcoholics’ den, a dive bar for those who wanted the company of other drunks. It was all they had in common, which led to some fantastic conversations and ridiculous fights.

Tommy had found it amusing at first, let the day drinkers in to make money before the dinner rush. After awhile, though, there wasn’t any dinner rush. People walked in, saw his crowd, and walked out. The last time he had served dinner to anyone it had ended up on the floor in a pool of vomit.

Every now and then, one of the souses would see his unhappiness and offer to buy him a shot. Every time he agreed to it, he could feel himself becoming a bit more like them. He knew it was bad when he started having dreams of burning the place down for the insurance money. The image filled his head with flames of Halloween orange bursting through its windows as he watched from the parking lot, slowly finishing a six-pack of Mickey’s.

www.matthewcmclean.com

0 Comments
2024/02/12
22:04 UTC

4

Third Person Narrative Voice

Hi, my name is Jacob. I sometimes mumble funny ideas to myself when no one is around. I have large bushy eyebrows, the kitchen is my favourite room in my house, and I’m self-conscious about my feet. I am writing to you because I am tired of narrating my own life. I wake up, and there he is. Me. Every day, I dictate what I do. Not only am I tired of the sound of my voice, I don’t trust myself anymore. The other day I opened the fridge and made a sandwich. A sandwich. Did I even want that sandwich? Sure, I made myself think I did. So you see what I mean? I’m asking: please, I need another perspective.

“Well, sir,” spoke the representative of Third Person Narrative Voice, “I can see you have been on the waiting list for some time.”

“Yes, some several months now.” Jacob crossed his legs.

“Well, sir, I cannot make any promises, but we may be able to get you a new perspective by next Wednesday.”

“Next Wednesday!”

“Yes, sir. I just need you to confirm your address.” I confirm my address. I wait several days for Wednesday to arrive. And then, Jacob received his new perspective.

Initially, Jacob was elated to have a new perspective. Jacob understood family and friends differently; he began to value his career again; he learned the importance of learning an instrument; and he no longer drank soda, because soda is bad for you.

Jacob’s life had changed.

But then one day, something happened at the deli counter. Jacob drove to the grocery store. He made his way down several aisles and collected several items. Jacob stood by the deli counter. Number 46. When his number was called, Jacob attempted to point to the meat he wanted, but instead pointed to ham. “A hundred grams of ham, please.” Jacob did not want ham. Jacob wanted salami. But he did not say that he wanted salami, nor did Jacob point to salami. And yet, that’s what he wanted. Salami. As the days passed, Jacob attempted to quietly contemplate the matter. He considered what he wanted and that he was unable to have it. This reminded him of a particular evening when he did not want to smoke a funny-cigarette, but took an exceedingly long toke, just the same. Jacob began to scour his memory for discrepancies. He began to look in the mirror more often, too. Early one morning after failing to fall asleep the night before, Jacob looked at himself. There he stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection. He studied his face and his lips would sometimes part as if he wanted to say something. But he wouldn’t. Instead, he would stare. Jacob would stare at himself, at his bushy eyebrows, and on some occasions, he would cry.

1 Comment
2024/02/12
16:33 UTC

2

Hound

We came across a dead horse two hours before riding into town. Its guts dangled through the slash marks, rotting.

A group of ragged village youngsters waved at us, beckoning.

One of them greeted me cheerfully: “Sir, you must hire us locals to guide you through the woods, for there have been sightings of a monstrous hound that haunts all travelers.” I dismissed him, the peasantry always begs, exploiting our good humor, like a dog licking the soles of the master. Pitying nonetheless, from my clattering purse, I tossed a coin onto the ground.

We departed the next morning. Some time after, the wood grew dark and the smell was of crimson. Ahead, bushes rustled then there came a howl. A sound of a creature who knows only hatred, a sound of the hunger and the feast.

Looking up, my friend from yesterday waved at me, fingering a coin.

1 Comment
2024/02/12
13:29 UTC

3

Red

It wasn’t her dress or her shoes that caught my eye. She leaned, almost acrobatically, around a smug businessman to reach her flute of champagne. A thin Tiffany’s diamond bracelet dazzled in the evening light and she caressed the glass, drawing it to herself.

It was her nails that drew me in. Painted a deep red, but cracked. The corners showing their wear.

Her neck was thin, but not because of youth. It was from hunger.

She savored the last drops of champagne as she was whisked away into swollen hands. The glass left spinning on the tabletop.

The music played on as she disappeared into the crowd.

5 Comments
2024/02/12
07:24 UTC

1

I'm Sorry

April 15th, the last day I saw her. I lay awake every night, hoping to hear her voice one last time. I often replay the moment in my mind. It’s been exactly one year, but the memory still lingers, infesting my mind like a virus. I wish I could forget, but that is not a pleasure I am worthy of. If there’s one thing I deserve, it’s to feel this, this gnawing pain slowly eating away all that makes me human.

All the things I said, for which I will never be forgiven, I hope you know there is nothing I regret more. I hope to God you know.

I know it may sound selfish, but I finally understand what you went through. I wish I had understood sooner. Perhaps I would have been better to you, helped you, instead of casting you away to float alone in this ocean of blackness. I can feel myself sinking, being pulled by an invisible force I cannot comprehend. Perhaps it’s finally time to stop fighting.

I’m sorry.

1 Comment
2024/02/11
17:57 UTC

2

UTX-9000

“These are the radios I’ve fixed,” and Sven pointed to a collection of old radios most cannot recognize, “and these are the radios I’ve yet to fix.” Sven stood for a moment with his hands on his hips. “But I’m looking forward to fixing them.” Sven moved rather slowly through the space, ensuring he didn’t skip anything worthwhile. “And,” he gleefully continued, “have you seen this before?” Sven pointed to a pair of large, heavy-looking walkie-talkies. “They’re military-grade. Still, all things need a little tinkering after enough time and enough dust.” Sven waddled over to another table that hosted more electronics. “Like this,” he pointed. “This was once used to translate alien languages.”

Sven had candidly spoken about so many things, each respectively interesting, that when he first began speaking about the “UTX-9000, is its name,” those in attendance were interested whilst unsure they understood its function.

“You mean it translates languages once alien—or foreign, which are now understood? Like an anthropologist studying isolated tribes from Papua New Guinea, or something?”

“No,” Sven thoughtfully responded without removing his eyes from the device or his hands from his hips. “For aliens.” One of his hands shot upward, pointed, and then returned to his hip. “But I haven’t gotten it to work. I’m still missing some parts, and you can’t order all your parts. You’ve got to figure it out,” he nodded. Sven moved to a bookshelf littered with short and tall, fat and slim assorted manuals that he’d collected and saved since, well, a long time ago. “It requires more reading.” Sven stretched his neck forward and his face grew closer to the rows of manuals.

“Where did you get it from?”

“And that’s a picture of my wife.” The framed photo hung next to the shelf. “That was her first day on the job, you know. She was a nurse for her whole life.“

One of the listeners stepped forward, briefly admired the photo, and then asked a second time: “Sven, where did you get it from?”

“The UTX-9000? I don’t recall. I don’t remember where I got most of this stuff. Some of it garage sales. Some of it online, at the beginning of the internet. Most of it’s been here a while. It’s been some time since I worked on commission, so. But there’s still time to repair it, all of it. Hopefully.” Sven returned to looking at the photo of his wife while the eager listeners stared at the UTX-9000. “I prefer calling it the Universal Translator X.” Sven turned to the group of listeners, who were intently listening, and giggled. “Sounds sort of sci-fi, doesn’t it?”

7 Comments
2024/02/11
17:05 UTC

4

She laughed

On the street, I met a gal. Her eyes both bowed and stared. Every time she stared, she laughed. It wasn’t a fun laugh; it was a laugh that made everyone look at either their shoes, or the sky.

She made her presence felt. Everyone was uncomfortable. Then she began to speak.

Her mouth created words that were intended to draw out the worst in everyone. She gobbled on with a Queen’s confidence and the mouth of a frog.

I couldn’t tell if she was eating or defecating. In her case, they were both the same.

And then she laughed. For hours.

It wasn’t until four hours later. After drink and dinner that I actually saw her. She grabbed me in a hallway, her eyes leaking with mascara and tears.

“I’m so fucking sorry,” she whimpered.

Our eyes met once again. And I saw her naked.

She pushed me as hard as she could. She began laughing again as she disappeared into the hallway.

5 Comments
2024/02/11
05:24 UTC

2

iPhone Note #455

He walks through the beaded curtain into the pool room and they all look at him. The lights are low but he can tell they are all unhappy to see him. The fat one takes a shot. Eight ball to the corner pocket. Scratch. He scowls at the table and looks at the interloper. “Light, kid.”

“Pardon?”

“Where’s your light?”

“I don’t understand.”

“The light. It’s been snuffed from your eyes.”

“How do you know?”

“The way you stand.”

He stands up a little straighter and drags a smile slow across his face. He knows it’s fake and he feels sick. They all watch him. Some in the back snicker. The tall one in the corner knocks his drink back and wipes dribble from his chin. He rubs his eyes with the tips of his thumb and index finger and moans softly.

Fat one clears his throat, lights a cigar and drags. “Your fire’s low. It ebbs in the wind. It won’t warm you.”

“What do I do?”

“Fuck if I know.”

Raucous laughter. Fat one sits on a chair. “Whatever you need, you won’t find here.”

Tall one belches and clasps his hands over his mouth. Swallows hard. Mutters, “I’m good.”

Interloper squints hoping to see the dozen ugly faces in the shadows more clearly. He can’t.

“Go,” one whispers in a voice cracked and high.

“I… I don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?” Fat one asks leaning back in his seat.

“I don’t even know which foot to step with.”

7 Comments
2024/02/09
21:48 UTC

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