Posted tagged ‘flash fiction’

All in a Night’s Work

October 8, 2013

In slow motion, like a movie, the baby soars through the air. My body moves with agile stealth as I dive toward the target, capturing the crying infant before it hits the ground. I hand him to the medics and turn to my maiden in waiting. “I will catch you,” I say. “Jump!”

When the alarm sounds, I’m having a terrific dream about dating a curvy hot blond with full pouting lips. It figures, any time I’m able to have a decent dream, something has to interrupt it. But my job doesn’t allow for selfish indulgences like dreams–my job is usually filled with nightmares, but that’s the role of a firefighter, and I knew that when I signed up.

It’s three a.m. and the trucks are in high gear, heading across town to the high-end eastside. A typical house in these suburbs boasts a lawn the modest size of a football field with round-the-clock lawn maintenance. I can barely afford water for my grass, much less a personal botanist.

The house is mammoth and a good three stories. You’d think someone like Oprah might own it for a secret getaway. With lattice covering the bottom of the surrounding porch–real old school, I think it’s Victorian. But hey, I ain’t no architect. If I was, I would like to add this to my resume, though. It’s gorgeous, or at least it was.

As the engine draws near, fire blasts through two windows upstairs, one right after the other, raining glass and miscellaneous burning debris across the lawn. The lower portion of the house has flames dancing in every window. If there is anyone alive in there, they won’t live much longer.

The captain is hollering orders as we tumble from the truck, gathering the fire hose and extending it toward the house. The neighbors are rallying with concern, panic, and even curiosity sketched into their faces. The captain pushes them back, barricading them with his arms until we get the pylons set, roping off the dangerous territory.

“Oh my god, there they are,” a frantic woman says, pointing to one of the higher windows. “My baby, please get my baby!”

“Ma’am, we’ll get your baby, just remain calm,” I say with confidence in my voice. That’s when I see her, the bombshell from my dream, standing on top of the first story rooftop in a large nightshirt flapping in the wind and the torment of the heat. But I cannot allow myself to indulge in manly instincts at the moment; I am the only hope to save this pleading woman’s daughter.

Another burst of heat sends the only remaining window between the girl and the fire through the air. She’s screaming something, but I cannot hear what she’s saying until I see her turn with a bundled up object in her arms.

“Oh my baby,” the woman on the ground repeats, more emphatic than before. That’s when it dawns on me the blond is not her baby, but her babysitter.

I glance around the base of the house with the tendrils of fire lapping at the bricks from the lower portion. “We’re not going to use the ladder this time.” I get the captain’s attention and tell him the only option is to catch the survivors. He doesn’t ponder too long before he agrees. I offer my services and get as near to the burning building as possible. “Toss me the baby,” I say to the woman standing above me.

Her platinum hair whips across her face like strands of hay in Dorothy’s cyclone. But with obedience she moves to the edge, pulls back her arm like Dan Marino and lets the infant fly.

With the baby on safe ground, she leaps with the grace of a gazelle, lingering in the air for an eternity. I see our future, our wedding, our own children–a happily ever after, and she lands with the weight of a leaf’s skeleton.

I lower my head to take in those full, voluptuous lips to see Grandma Moses cradled in my arms with long silver locks, blowing in the breeze. She smiles at me with a toothless grin and hugs me very hard.

“And you saved my momma, too,” the teary-eyed witness says.

As I was saying, my job is usually filled with nightmares, but that’s the role of a firefighter, and I knew that before I signed up.

Watch of the Gargoyle

September 24, 2013

I told myself I wasn’t ever doing this again, yet here I am walking home at quarter to midnight, down the long and dark city streets alone. The shadows loom overhead, almost caressing, perhaps teasing me as if they know something I don’t. Still, I’m fine with my ignorance and home isn’t that far away. Only two more blocks until the shortcut in the chain link fence, allowing access to the other side. Where I am is the city–on the other side of the field is where real civilization starts.

The cars are sparse, only interrupting every so often with bright headlights and the sound of rain splashing the tires, up into the wheel wells. The cars disappear as stealthily as they approach. I hardly notice because the next building is my favorite in a love-hate way; it’s an old cathedral. Unsure of its construction, I only know it’s probably the oldest building in the city. Never having been inside, I always imagine the beautiful glass of rainbow colors reflecting the sunlight during the daylight hours as it shines down on worshipping parishioners. The reason I’ve never gone to see for myself is I can’t stand the glass of my vivid imagination shattering into a million little pieces. Besides the beauty of the glass dulls to the mystery of the gargoyles perched on the ancient edifice as they glower down off the corners. Who knows what stories they would tell if only they could speak?

The doglike figures lean over, lips pulled back threatening with sharp teeth. Taught wings are eager to spread and ride the wind on a second’s notice. Their soulless pupils glare down piercing the dank night air. Watchful eyes observe thousands of people, as they guard their domain through the night.

A menacing stillness sweeps over the tall building in a cloak of anticipation, sweeping kind memories into the closet and locking the door. The leaves stop twirling, the rain subsides, and the wind settles as it dawns on me how truly alone I am. The only sound I can hear is my feet shuffling on the pock-marked sidewalks and my rasping breath. Tiny bellows of steam escape my throat in rhythm with my steps. It feels later than it is when the midnight bell tolls.

Gong Gong

A devious-looking gargoyle on the nearest edge captures my attention. For a second, it appears to stealthily watch, a cat preparing to catch an unsuspecting butterfly.

Gong Gong

“Don’t you fucking move!” a hand shoots out striking the front of my shoulders. The stranger jerks me toward him and drags me in reverse, my feet shuffling to keep from falling. I fight him, wiggling the best I can and his baseball cap topples from his head on the sidewalk.
“I warned you,” he shouts, pulling my chin up with his elbow clamping my throat.

The back of one shoe catches on the step and pulls from my foot as I try to scream. Although the shouts are reverberating through my head, nothing escapes my frozen lips and I hear the last sound I may ever hear–

Gong Gong The bell tolls.

We stop in the shadows against the cathedral wall. His coarse hands tighten around my throat, milking the last bit of air from my lungs, the last gasp of his filthy sweat inundating my nostrils. The cool night air chills me producing a tingling in my legs, as they grow limp.

I’m dying.

I didn’t fight hard enough, and tomorrow morning little Catholic kids on their way to school will find my body in a crumpled heap against the door. The thought sickens me as my world continues to surrender to obscurity. My bowels churn and my esophagus reminds me of the medium-well cooked steak I’d eaten earlier.

An ear-shattering whoosh echoes through the night’s misty drizzle as my body tumbles to the wide steps. Pitch-blackness envelops the night, choking out anything that would normally gleam. The blurring shape of the man stands threatening a mammoth bat-like creature. Amidst a heart-stopping shriek, the air fills with eerie gongs drowning out the screeches of the battling entities. A man grunting as he jabs and spins, and the creature’s low rumbling growl.

Violence ensues as the man’s blade flashes through the night, slicing through shadows, but striking nothing. I hear a shriek of pain and his hefty body thuds on the ground. I find the strength to stand, thinking I will run. The nerves in my legs are frozen solid in fear and refuse to allow me to flee.

All exertion stops. Silence ensues with one tall, ominous shadow remaining. The bottomless eyes manage to flash before it turns away. Tall and life draining, it waits, unmoving. A gesture so deliberate I can see it’s the gargoyle. A new energy fills my body and I turn away, staggering like a drunk toward the sidewalk. Glancing back at the scene, the signs of a struggle are gone except for the remaining baseball cap, mashed and rolling across the lawn.
A large gust of wind picks up the hat, spinning it into the distance until it fades away. My eyes shift up the gray stone building to the markers at the top. I witness one of the gargoyles’ posts is void of its master, offsetting the structure.

Gong Gong the bell rings its final peal–midnight.

A dark cloud closing in with a calm flapping noise takes its spot on the corner of the building. The wings are so wide they smother the moon and most stars in the sky. Its claws dig into the gutter lining the rooftop, omitting the screech of a delivery truck’s brakes. Its wings pose angled behind it, sitting steadfast to ensure no sins can occur on its watch. After all, that’s what gargoyles do best.

Video: Jackson, K (2013, August 23)

Reverend Alan Birss, minister at Paisley Abbey, said most of the gargoyles were replaced during a refurbishment in the early 1990s. He thinks that one of the stonemasons must have been having a bit of fun.

Die, Fly

September 16, 2013

green flyThe apartment window farts a warm waft of air into the room alerting Bernard who struggles at the computer. “Shit,” he says, checking his watch. His fingers move at a hummingbird rate across the keys. A sudden gust rushes in stirring the documents to form a paper ballet that swirls gracefully to the floor.

“Damn it,” he says, rushing to close the window, but not before a fly manages to zip inside. Its sparkling body catches the light as it reflects twinges of green. “Great.” Sarcasm coats Bernard’s voice.

No sooner is he comfortable than the fly flits about his hands, disturbing his rhythm. Bernard swished at the fly and continues to type. It buzzes past his face. “Argh,” he says, slamming his fists down on the desk.

Hanging on the far wall is an old fly swatter. Bernard snatches it searching the room. The vermin lands, tiptoeing across his desk. Grunting, he swats several times but misses, despite knocking a lamp and a stack of books over.

“Too quick for the swatter, eh?” he says. “I got something that will slow you down.”

Holding a small trigger bottle of water, Bernard frowns. “Now I got you,” he says, snarling like a gunfighter at the OK Corral where everything is anything but okay.

The fly zips past him, buzzing its siren as it weaves teasing through the air like a SR-71 bomber. Bernard spins in a circle, saturating everything before managing to nail the fly. It sputters and lights on the ceiling just beyond his reach. It vibrates its saturated wings. Bernard grabs the swatter and leaps at the ceiling. He swings, jumping and batting at the insect until it takes to the air. The fly giggles. It zips past his face in an aerobatics corkscrew, mocking him.

“Time to bring out the big guns,” he says, smirking. Rummaging under the kitchen sink he finds his aerosol Buzz Off. The pest lands on his shoulder whispering obscenities and chuckles. With a swish of his free hand, he sends it swirling through the air into the kitchen.

“I wish I could kill you more than once, you son-of-a-bitch.” The thick spray shoots from the nozzle. It coats the walls, the floor, and the tiny table still holding dirty dishes from lunch in a cloud.

Bernard gasps, fighting for air. The fly perches on the stove’s top in front of him. It washes and licks its hairy little hands, rubbing them together in a sinister fashion.

“Die fly,” Bernard says, gritting his teeth and spraying until the nozzle sputters. He tosses the empty can into the garbage.

The fly claws at its throat standing on its hind legs. Twirling several times, it spits, gasping a final wheeze. It tips backward tumbling beneath the burner, clutching its thorax.

Leaning over the stove, Bernard can see the critter’s tiny legs stirring in the air propelling itself in a useless circle.

“Don’t think you’re getting off that easy,” he says short of breath, reaching up to ignite the burner.