f l a s h f i c t i o n
Where is ‘here’?
Full disclosure, I have consumed three bottles of Nyquil. The floor is cold but it isn’t uncomfortable. I’m wrapped in my fuzzy blanket laid out cheek to wood floor. There’s dog hair in my nostrils and dust floating in the sharp blue light seeping from my bedroom window. How did I get here? My phone buzzes in my waistband and it’s a text from a number I don’t have saved. 423-586-7421 says, “are you feeling any better?” That isn’t really the number but I feel like I can’t give that to you because someone somewhere will try to call them. 423-586-7421 seems like a pretty alright person, they don’t need prank calls from curious readers.
The next text says, “You would love it here.” I text back, asking the mysterious number where ‘here’ is and they tell me that it’s somewhere nice. I call them and the person answers immediately. The voice is quiet, a woman. Very soothing. Young. Trancelike music plays in the background. “You know,” I say, “I don’t recognize your voice. Or this number. What’s your name?” and she laughs. She tells me that she doesn’t know me or my name. She says that she doesn’t care and that it doesn’t matter.
“How do you know I would like it there, then?” And she says, “Well, you don’t like it where you are, right?” And I say nothing, dog hair dances on the floor. I don’t like it here, 423-586-7421 is right. My contemplation is interrupted by her chuckling. “Yeah, sure, you would like it here,” she says, “you should come over. I’ll send you the address.” I hang up.
She sends the address. I look it up and apparently she’s calling from somewhere in Tennessee, which does sound nice. I imagine being alone in a shanty somewhere in the mountains. Bears. Wind. I taste moonshine on my mind’s tongue and it is terrible, sharp and flavorless, but I love it because it reminds me of when I was young and fun and willing to drink moonshine just because my friends were laughing along with me. I stay on the floor, watch the light change from blue to pink to white to gold. Of course, I never go to Tennessee once the sun rises, dreams are only considered dreams when they’re left unactualized in your noggin. Florida is as close as I will ever get to home and Tennessee will have to wait until I fall asleep.
Charlie had never felt sheets so comfortable in all his seventy-three years. What were they, Egyptian cotton? Bamboo? What was the thread count, two thousand? Jesus.
Each of his breaths was lighter than the last. His body was numb like he had sipped one too many cups of Sleepy Tea, taken one too many of his bedtime “after dinner mints.” Charlie smiled as his head sank deeper into the hospital pillow. The sobs of his loved ones faded into a muffled bass.
There was no light, only a comforting darkness. Charlie knew he would never have to worry again. He would never have to work again. He would never have to be afraid or hungry again. Charlie was heading toward the eternal sleep, the big vacation in the sky.
Charlie fantasized, as he died, about everyone who would have to go to work tomorrow. He laughed at the suckers stuck in traffic as his body stopped ticking. His lungs didn’t rise. His heart grew still. There was no kaleidoscope of colors. Nothing hurt. All was good. He sank deeper into the void of his pillow.
Charlie was ripped from his eternal vacation by two paddles and an electric shock. He punched a nurse twice in the arm and screamed, “Why did you wake me up!” His family was mortified.
The Opposite of a Phoenix
One day a mystical force, dirty and repulsive, stole you away from your loved ones and replaced you with this, someone who looks just like you but doesn’t work quite right. Crawling from your lukewarm bathtub, wrinkly and exhausted, you are the exact opposite of a phoenix born from the ashes. A minotaur is a half-man half-bull monster. You are a monster too except you’re one-half furious and the other half belligerent, drunk off of plastic bottle whiskey and watered down beer. The Sphinx is a beast that tells riddles so riddle me this, if you want to be better so badly then why haven’t you changed back to your old self? Unlike a leprechaun and his gold, at the end of your rainbow sits half-eaten can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup. You’re sick. Can’t you see it? And the soup isn’t working.
Cavin Bryce is a twenty-one-year-old graduate from the University of Central Florida. He is the prose editor for SOFT CARTEL and book reviewer for Pidgeonholes. Twitter: @CavinBryce