Flash Fiction

Contents

♦ Ready to Rock, January 2020
♦ A Fowl Conquest,
March 2020
♦ Graffiti Beast, May 2019
♦ Crossing Seven Bridges Road, September 2019

Ready to Rock

Flash Fiction in 440 Words
Magical Realism; By Melissa F. Kaelin
January 2020

On a damp midwestern evening, cool air settled into the house and a thick fog rolled past the bay window. The chill brought with it a kind of silence, the heavy kind that starts at the ceiling and falls over the house, dropping through the carpet, down to the basement cement.

Mark swore he could hear his heartbeat, a bored but faint drum inside his chest. That’s when he heard it. A sound, ever so small. It bounced off the corners of the pristine walls, a high pitch that was punctuated, eager. Bird song. No. A window beetle. Yet, each note of the creature’s voice was short and staccato. Maybe the chirp came from just outside. Or just inside.

Mark stood up, aimless and alone in a two-story home, and he peered around the living room. The quiet returned. But he knew, any minute, so would the sound. He paced into the kitchen, but when he heard another note, it was farther away. The chirp was proud, almost musical. It echoed off the corners of the house. His tormenter had to be inside, perhaps hiding by a pipe or under the sink, just inches from a toxic tonic of cleaning chemicals.

Mark ambled across the house, checking every room and crevice, moving closer to the stairs, then farther away. In alternate measures, he listened for the silence, followed by the melodic pull. Why had the creature come? What did it want? Where could it possibly be?

The hour grew late, time dipping deep into the forgotten hours, but Mark was overcome with a foreboding. He needed to find the source. He searched the house twice over. Listening a third time, he sat on the couch by the window. Darkness enveloped the fog outside, and he drifted off into sleep.

His torment continued this way for days. Then it spilled into weeks. Mark’s search for the mysterious sound became a hazard to his health. After a foggy month, he was deprived of sleep. The creature taunted him in his dreams. Whether by a figment of desperation or his own imagination, the sound evolved into an electric scream. Like the high-pitched riff of a tiny amplifier.

Mark could hardly function. He’d skipped meals, misplaced his shoes, and cycled through the same clothing for weeks. One chilly evening, the fog lifted, and Mark finally remembered to do his laundry. When the washing cycle finished, he opened the door to the dryer, and a creature plopped onto the cement.

Belly up, hanging on dearly to a tiny electric guitar, was a lone cricket. It shouted one last incomprehensible lyric and retired its screaming guitar.

The End

.          .          .

A Fowl Conquest

Flash Fiction in 440 Words
Magical Realism; By Melissa F. Kaelin
March 2020

“Drat!” Tim shouted, his foot sinking into a gap between the sidewalk tiles. “I almost lost a leg on that one.”

“Tell me about it. You’d think they could repair the street before it gets this bad,” Nicole said. She pulled her jacket close around her small body, fending off a gust of cold wind. “It’s the same old shit. Every year.”

“How do these things get so deep anyway? I swear, it’s worse here.” Tim was extremely tall with a perfect head of black, curly hair. He grew it so long, she could almost understand how he could miss such gaping holes in the ground, more than six feet below his eyes.

A Canadian goose flew overhead, honking its horn as it breezed into the sunset, heading toward the river.

“It’s just the changing of the seasons,” Nicole said. “Come on. The spring migration?”

“The only thing migrating is their copious amounts of poo.” Tim watched the goose disappear out of sight. “Aren’t they supposed to fly in flocks?”

“Maybe he’s late,” Nicole joked. “A snowbird of great means. Stopped for sushi on his way to the riverbank.”

“That would be enough to lure me away from the crowd.”

She laughed. Since the snow melted, the two of them had walked this block every day. They took time out to exercise and enjoy light banter, as they traced the park and returned to their brick house. Not unlike the potholes on the street, the gaps in the sidewalk had steadily grown wider and deeper. The ground was so wet, the gray-blue sky reflected in tiny puddles that pooled in the crevices. Sometimes, even puffy white clouds appeared in the reflections.

That night, Nicole realized she’d forgotten to put gas in the car. She hated waiting in long morning lines, so she jumped in the sedan and drove to the nearest gas station. She was almost home, when the back tire sank deep into a pothole near the house. She kept driving, cringing as the car bounced back onto the road and the tires jolted out of alignment. The car jerked back into the driveway. Then she saw a single goose coast above the street.

She stepped out to study its path, and doubled back. As it flew over the street, the goose littered the surface with droppings so bright, the feces glowed as they fell. Upon impact, each excretion lit up like lava and burned an unfathomable hole in the asphalt below. Some singed the ground in long lines. The goose continued on its conquest.

“Holy shit,” Nicole said. “Who knew a goose could drop it like it’s hot?”

The End

.           .           .

Graffiti Beast

Flash Fiction in 440 Words
Magical Realism; By Melissa F. Kaelin
May 2019

This piece of magical realism was inspired by “In Our Element,” the ArtPrize winning mural by Ruben Ubiera.

Flipping the car out of Fishladder Park, Tonya took a few wrong turns.

In a 1967 AMC Marlin painted Seaside Blue, she veered around the corner of Clover, only to end up near the river on Front Avenue. To everyone else, her AMC was an antique piece of junk, but to Tonya, the car was a comfortable bubble. She relaxed against the pleated interior, soft like fish gills. On the outside, the fins glimmered brightly, even as midnight darkness consumed the edges of downtown.

Knowing little about Grand Rapids, Tonya turned onto a closed drive. A gate towered above the roadway, with a stirring gothic frame and a sign she was too tired to read. This place had an urban pop soul. Tonya knew she’d grow to love it here, but tonight, she felt like she was drifting down river. She spun the car around, venturing under a highway bridge that appeared to be underwater. A sea of goldfish with veils for tales swam in graffiti, painted under arches in the architecture.

Submerged in an aquarium dripping in blue butter, Tonya spotted a menacing face. Long, white fangs curled over its jaw. She switched on the high beams, as the graffiti beast pounded toward the pavement, carrying a table knife the size of a skyscraper. She became one with the school of goldfish, desperate to escape. Their winsome veiltails fanned out behind them, but their mouths gaped open as they tried to save their own leopard-spotted bodies from becoming a fillet. Tonya glanced at her fingers, only to watch them whiten as they clamped the wheel. The graffiti beast leapt out from the arches and into the street behind her.

One with the school of fish, she pumped the accelerator. The veiltails gained speed as she did, but they couldn’t swim fast enough to evade the menace’s grasp. The Marlin knew what to do. Marlin lifted off the ground, his tires floating just an inch above the pavement, and he created his own waves. While the beast lashed out from the arches, swinging its mighty knife across the highway bridge, the headlights emerged from the tunnel alongside a dozen beady fish eyes.

Marlin swam higher into the air, buoyed by his dorsal fins, and he transformed into a humpback whale – a mechanical mammal of wonder. He breached into a river of sky, sprouting a blowhole and releasing a ring of bubbles from his fluke. The bubbles, glimmering white and navy blue, formed a protective layer around Tonya and the veiltails.

The Marlin blew bubbles once more, creating an opaque stream that catapulted Tonya and the goldfish safely to the stars.

The End

.          .          .

Crossing Seven Bridges Road

Flash Fiction in 440 Words
Magical Realism; By Melissa F. Kaelin
September 2019

Under the harvest moon, the highway transformed as it entered the hills. The eight-lane interstate narrowed to a mere lane on Lucy’s side of the road. Less like an interstate and more like a rattlesnake, the road veered to the left at sharp angles, dipping into the gorge and wrapping around the cliff wall. The path above Lucy’s car pitched its scaly head in the dark, the cliffs jutting out over the pavement. A looming presence insisted there was more to the scenery than one person’s vision let on.

Her eyelids heavy, Lucy pulled off on the first exit ramp she could find. At first, this part of the south seemed desolate. Small towns propped themselves up against the curbside, with vacant shacks standing here and there. She drove for miles, searching for somewhere to stop, anywhere with a light to battle the darkness and a welcoming door. She found nothing. She followed the curve of the road out into the countryside, where an untamed expanse of trees draped in thick vines reached out toward her. The time was nearing midnight.

Exhausted, Lucy slowed her 1969 AMC Javelin to a halt. Curious to breath the southern air, she rolled down the window. The air was bittersweet moving through her lungs. To her left, the branches of the forest draped down from extreme heights. On her right, a swamp beckoned with the music of tiny, unseen creatures. Cautiously, Lucy stepped out of the car. Darkness closed in. But drawing closer, too, was the firmament, a celestial mess of pinpoint beacons in outer space.

“What would you give?”

The question drifted on the midnight air, floating on a lazy breeze between the leafy locks of the rain-drenched willows. A country road in South Carolina stretched out before Lucy, the yellow lines still shining from recent showers. She stood near the ditch, her Javelin pulled onto the grass and parked, pointing south. The scene glistened in the starlight. In that space, everything in nature seemed to have something to say.

Alone in the depths of the south, she saw a sign for Seven Bridges Road. The first bridge stood only footsteps beyond the car. It beckoned to her. She could almost hear a voice in the mist that gathered over a small creek-bed below. What price would she put on her own life in this place? What would she risk to cross to the other side?

A mystery waited there. A strange craving called to her, urging her to walk down the lane in a different kind of light. Lucy took a ragged breath, setting her arms loosely at her sides. She crossed onto Seven Bridges Road.

The End

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