Flash Fiction Friday: Ten Minutes of Hope

Alayna stepped back to admire her work.

It had taken hours to create but with the help of her mother and little brother, it was time for the big moment. Or, rather, the ten big moments. That’s all they were allowed anymore now that the government had cut the number of minutes of electricity use to just ten minutes per month.

The Revolution had begun just as any other from history. But this one quickly pulled another country into its fray, then another. What started small had turned into a world-wide threat. Her mother remembered days of heated houses, cars that ran, ample food to fill bellies and a thing called freedom.

A sigh spilled from Alayna as she imagined such a world. She couldn’t complain, though. They were one of the few families that had secured the government issued three-hundred square-foot storage units, unlike the seventy-five percent of the population forced to live on the streets.

“Ready to turn on the lights?” Alayna’s little brother asked.

She nodded. This was it. Her most favorite part of the year. The one time she could pretend that she lived in a world with abundant electricity and enough clothing for all. If she focused on the site before her she could almost ignore the gnaw in her stomach and stink that told her none of them had bathed in a week. She would sear the memory of what was about to happen in her mind to last for a full year.

“The time has come,” her mother said, as she flipped the switch on the wall.

The christmas tree lit with glorious pride and filled the room with the hope of a better world.

Alayna smiled. “Merry Christmas.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash

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Flash Fiction Friday: Wishful Thinking

James hurled the tennis ball at his bedroom wall then snatched it when it bounced back. He leaned against his bed and frowned.

Grounded again.

He didn’t see why. His mom had given him twenty bucks for the seventh grade dance. She’d never mentioned that it was “emergency only” money. The fancy fortuneteller the school had hired had given him much more than twenty dollars worth of advice.

At least it had seemed like more than twenty-dollars-worth the night before.

James glanced at the metallic statue that sat on his nightstand. His glower deepened.

All your dreams will come true, the fortuneteller had said. A single wish will change everything.

Yeah, right. James kicked a pair of dirty jeans out of his way—so that’s what that smell was—as he crossed the room and grabbed the talisman.

He clenched his teeth as he turned it over in his hand. This piece of metal had gotten him in serious trouble. And for what? Simply spending money he thought he could spend? Heat bubbled inside his chest.

His mom had always been hard on him. Work, work, work. If only he had a nice mother, like his grandma.

James gasped as an idea formed. He licked his lips and focused on the object in his hand.

Then he made a wish. A real, honest-to-God, bona fide doozy. He squinted his eyes shut and—

“I wish grandma was my mother.”

He opened his eyes and looked around his messy room.

Nothing. Not a thing changed.

His heart sank. His mom had been right, of course. She was always right.

With a groan he fell into bed and switched off his light. Being grounded was boring.

The next morning he woke to the sound of singing. Who was making that awful noise?

He stumbled down the stairs as he rubbed his eyes, fully aware that sometime in the night his mom had made good on her promise to repaint the hallway. The scent of bacon and eggs greeted him as he entered the kitchen.

Nice. Mom almost never makes breakfast.

“You’re late!” a woman-who-looked-identical-to-his-grandma-but-who-was-about-thirty-years-too-young said to him.

What?

“You’ve missed the bus! You’ll have to walk ‘cause I’m not taking you. Go get ready. And don’t forget to get your bathroom cleaned today or you’re grounded to your room for the next week. I expect better, young man!” She said all this in one single breath.

The exact amount of time it took for reality to hit James. His eyes went wide.

His wish had come true.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Pixabay by FeeLoona

Flash Fiction Friday: Out of Time

Ava ran through her front door gasping for breath. “We’ve got to leave. Now!”

“What?” Peter said, jaw wide. “Are you sure?”

“They’re coming. We don’t have much time!” Tears swam in her eyes. She jumped at a noise outside.

“Okay….” Peter glanced around.

“No!” Ava’s voice trembled. “There’s no time! They’re coming!”

Peter bit back the agony of leaving behind so many memories. “So be it. Stay close behind me.”

They fled their home just as a man and woman rounded the corner, voices raised.

The two mice ran for their lives, away from the homeowners and their nasty traps.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo by Vladimir Kramer on Unsplash

Flash Fiction: Bad Luck

“You’re late husband owes us a debt and it must be paid ‘fore you leave the country, lil’ lady,” the man says with an Irish accent. His thick mustache twitches with joy at my misfortune.

I swallow hard and blink back tears as I stare at the one-way ticket in my hand. It had taken every dime I could make to buy it. This was my chance, the only chance I’d get to start over. “But–” My chin quivers.

But nothin’. It’s the law. Your husband owes us so you gotta pay.” He takes a step closer, his large shoulders looming above my head. “Now.”

“I don’t have any money. How can I–”

He grins and shifts the toothpick around that sticks from between his teeth. “That third-class ticket you’re holding would do the trick. Always wanted to explore the world, see how much money I could make somewhere other than this dirt heap.”

My heart sinks. How long would it take for me to save up again? Where would I live until I was able to afford another ticket? “And I wouldn’t owe anymore? Ever again?”

The man laughs deep in his gut. Chills spill across my skin.

“You’re debt will be paid, lil’ lady. On my word.” He holds out a hand. “Do we have a deal?”

I duck my head and accept my fate. Never a day in my life had I ever had anything other than bad luck. Guess today was no different.

As a single tear slips down my cheek I hand over the ticket.

He squeezes it in his palm with a glimmer in his smile. “Thanks! Can’t wait to see what the Titanic will hold!” before he slinks away.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash

Flash Fiction Friday: Mother

“Another p-pancake, sweetheart?”

Jordan swallowed against the lump in his throat and eked out a smile. “No thank you, um…mother.”

“Y-you sure? You’re not yet t-twelve. A growing boy needs nourishment,” her voice sang. “I made your f-favorite, chocolate chip. You’ve loved those since you were a t-toddler, remember?”

Her mechanical grin made Jordan’s insides grimace.

“It’s fine,” his father, Carl, said. “I need to get the kids to school anyhow.” Carl’s brow creased as he looked at Jordan’s younger sibling, Sissy.

“They were…erm…good,” Sissy said. “Thanks.” She bit her lip. “Mother.” The third grader stood and shouldered her pack, followed by her brother and dad.

“We’ll see you after school.” Carl hesitated then leaned in to give Mother a kiss, cold metal against his lips.

“Bye!” Mother waved. “Maybe this weekend we can go to the F-fun Park like we did when the kids were l-little.”

Carl and the kids mumbled a goodbye as they stepped outside in silence.

Once they were out of earshot, Jordan turned to his dad. “Do we have to keep her? She’s weird. And she thinks she’s known us our whole lives. This has been the longest six months of my life. None of my other friends have a Mother like her.”

Carl frowned. “Give it a little more time, kids.” He looked back at her as she stood on the front porch, her smile frozen in place. His gaze drifted to the sign attached to her side, the one that read Artificial Intelligence. Brown & Company. “In the meantime, try to be nice.

“After all, she thinks she’s alive. It wouldn’t be fair to tell her she’s not.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo by Jessica Bristow on Unsplash

Flash Fiction: Wisps

“Come on, Lettie. It’s getting dark. The Wisps will be out soon.” Emerson looked around the thick forest, her blue eyes wide.

“Stop with the toddler-tales,” Lettie groaned and plucked another jacaranda blossom from a tree. “You’re almost eight. You don’t really believe all that fairy nonsense, do you?” She sniffed the flower and walked deeper into the woods.

Emerson tried to swallow but it ended up a hiccup. She scuttled after her sister. “But Lettie! What if they’re true? What about Nora-Mae?”

Lettie tossed her curled blonde hair over her shoulder with impatience. “Grow up, Em. That story’s been around since Granny was born.”

“But Daddy said it was true. Nora-Mae disappeared long ago when she followed the lights, the ones that bounced along the path.” She curled her fists tight. “This path, Lettie.”

“It was just a story. Momma yelled at Daddy after he told you. I heard her in the kitchen when I was supposed to be practicing piano.”

“But Lettie….”

“It’s not true, Em.” Her voice rose an inch higher.

“Nora-Mae heard voices, too. The fairy voices that called her to come and play. The ones that led her away and got her lost, so she never got found again.”

Lettie huffed. “Fine. We’ll leave. Only to shut you up!”

She stomped back toward their home, her little sister close behind. Along the way they passed Charlotte, one of Lettie’s school-mates.

“Watch out for the Wisps, Char,” Lettie teased. “They might get ya.”

Charlotte laughed. The sun sank another few feet into the ground, trickles of faded light on the path. She only needed a handful of blossoms to complete her bouquet for the supper table. She’d be gone before the forest was dark.

Giggle.

She turned at the sound just beyond the trees to her left. Had Lettie and Emerson come back?

Giggle.

A light twinkled just over the small mound of earth that took the path in another direction. But then it was gone. What could it be?

Charlotte looked back toward her home. It wouldn’t hurt to look, right?

Then she followed the light as it bounced and danced across the ground and into the trees.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit Pixabay

Flash Fiction Friday: Nightly Visitors

The alarm yanked Ruby from her half-dream, not that she had gotten much sleep anyway. She rubbed her eyes and charged like a mad bull up the stairs of the hundred-year-old house to face her new roommate.

“Jenna!” she yelled as she slammed open the door. “What in the world were you doing last night? All night long all I heard were footsteps marching through the living room and someone in that squeaky rocking chair.”

Jenna sat up in bed with a scowl, one eye still closed. “Whatever, Ruby. I was going to ask you the same question.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ruby crossed her arms over her chest.

Inviting Jenna to live in her deceased grandparents house had seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago. Not so much now. Maybe she’d give the place back to her parents and move into an apartment.

Jenna scrubbed her hands over her face. “It means, I could say the same thing about you. For hours last night I heard you downstairs moving around, pushing furniture across the floor.”

Ruby froze, glanced at the picture of her grandparents that hung on the bedroom wall. “No, I didn’t. I never got out of bed once.”

All color drained from Jenna’s face. “Neither did I, Ruby. Neither did I.”

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Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

Flash Fiction Friday: Awaken

“Jen!”

I gasp, eyes now open as I sit up in bed. The spot beside me is empty. Where is my husband?

Chilly air clings to my skin as I slip from beneath the covers and cross the room into the hallway. The stale scent of tacos I made the night before still lingers and my stomach winces. Why does this all feel so familiar?

The living room is vacant, although sunlight streams through the cracks of the blinds. No husband. I rub my eyes and search upstairs, then the basement. Still nothing.

“Kurt?” I call. No reply.

I try the front door. It’s locked. With a low growl I twist the locks on the door and yank again. It still doesn’t budge. I roll my eyes, triple and quadruple check to make sure the locks are off, tug on the handle. It stays cemented in place.

“It won’t open.”

I spin on my heel with a cry. Kurt stands beside me. I blink, breathe. “Where have you been?”

His expression is flat. “You can’t get out. No matter how hard you try.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That door will never open.”

A hand squeezes around my heart and ice spills down my spine. “Kurt? What are you talking about?”

He steps forward, grabs my arms. “You can never leave, Jen. Don’t you understand?”

“Kurt–”

“Jen!”

I gasp, eyes now open as I sit up in bed. The spot beside me is empty. Where is my husband?

Chilly air clings to my skin as I slip from beneath the covers and cross the room into the hallway. The stale scent of tacos I made the night before still lingers and my stomach winces. Why does this all feel so familiar?

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo credit LLZ

Flash Fiction Friday: The Accident

Jill wiped the windshield of condensation. A chill buzzed across her skin. How could it be both cold and humid? She shook her head and squinted against the rain that pounded the windows.

Was that a form up ahead? Her car crept to a stop and a thrash of rain assaulted it, the sound of a thousand angry drums beating the roof. Yes. There was a person walking on the side of the road. A young girl, no coat, hair plastered to her head, arms wrapped around her body.

Jill unrolled the window. “Do you need a ride?” she yelled over the cacophony of nature’s music.

The girl bent to look inside, her pale eyes piercing. Her chin shook. She blinked, then gave a curt nod. Water sprayed across the dash as the girl got settled.

Jill bit her lip. “Are you all right?”

The girl shivered and gave another nod. “Thanks. Nasty storm.”

“You’re lucky I came by. I’m on my way home. This road doesn’t get much traffic, especially on a night like this.”

The girl pushed hair from her face. Jill’s stomach twisted. Why did this girl look familiar?

“Why are you out here?” Jill put the car in drive.

“I need to get home.” The girl suddenly looked alarmed. “My boyfriend—I don’t know where he is, he—”

“Wait, you’re boyfriend is missing? What happened?”

“I have no idea. We were on a date but our car hit a tree. I blacked out and when I woke, I was here.” The girl began to cry.

“Okay, just relax.” Jill kept her voice calm. “You’re probably in shock. Do you know where the car is?”

The girl shook her head. “No, I don’t. Jimmy—he could be hurt. Take me home, please!”

Jill held out a hand. “Relax. We’ll find him. First, let’s call the police.” She grabbed her cell. “Why don’t you—”

“You don’t understand. I need to get home!”

“Yes, but don’t you—”

“No.” The girl swallowed. “Take me home. My mom will know what to do.”

Jill dropped the phone in her purse. “Okay. Everything will be all right.” But her belly pulsed with panic. Something wasn’t right.

The girl pointed down streets and Jill turned. Minutes later they pulled down a familiar road.

“This is where I—” Jill said.

“There. That’s my house.” The girl’s finger shook.

Shards of ice stabbed along Jill’s spine as she pulled into the well-known driveway. “What did you say your boyfriend’s name was?” she whispered.

“Jimmy Kovane.”

Breath stalled in Jill’s lungs. That name. She knew that name.

“Thanks for the lift. I’m home now.”

“Wait, what’s your name?” Spots danced before Jill’s eyes.

“Joan Chester.”

The girl jumped out, ran toward the rancher. Jill’s vision clouded with tears, her entire body shuddered. She blinked. The girl was gone.

Jimmy Kovane and Joan Chester died in a car accident ten years ago. Jill knew this.

She knew because Joan was her sister.

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman

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Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

Flash Fiction Friday: Sight

A police radio crackles to life as the paramedic dabs antiseptic on my bloody forehead. Lights from the cruiser outside flash through my living room.

I squeeze my eyes shut. “Tell me again how you knew the man was here?”

The officer is young, his face stoic as he scribbles in his little pad. “Neighbor. Across the street. Saw the attacker, called 9-1-1.”

Pain laces down my neck. My shoulders tense. I see images of a man in black, his knife. That punch.

I shiver. “Who?”

“The little boy.”

Ice fills my blood. I swallow. “That’s impossible,” I whisper. “He’s blind.”

 

©Laura L. Zimmerman 2017

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Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash