4: Arturo’s Choice

I entered this short story in a weekly fiction competition; the photo below (Unicornio, by Salvador Nunez) was our only writing prompt. To read the winning stories, and other entries check out Flash! Friday.

unicornio-salvador-nunez
“You’re dead of course,” the old man said, and Arturo nodded.
“Now, what that means is that this isn’t a dream, you can have the angel, the unicorn or the magic carpet, but you can’t have it all.”
“That’s not what I was lead to believe.” Arturo said, as somewhere below the table he could feel hot sand beneath his toes. The bitter disappointment he had initially experienced had waned now to sleepy apathy. At first, Arturo had pushed the wine away, but the old man had no interesting conversation, and so far the wine, and the view, were all that appeared to make up heaven.
“You know it’s strange,” he said, as he felt for the brim of his hat.
It was the first piece of his Halloween costume; the last clothes he had been wearing when his wife had seen fit to fire those bullets into him.
“It’s just that I was always taught that when we die, we go to a better place, if we’ve been good, and a bad place, if we’ve been bad. What then, is this place?” He laughed, “it’s like nowhere at all.”
The old man grunted.
“Do you want a gift or not? I haven’t got all day. People die every second. Not everyone gets to be so lucky as you.”
“Lucky?” Arturo asked.
“Lucky,” the old man replied.
Arturo contemplated his choices. Finally, when he had grown tired of wearing the old man’s patience out, he said: “I’ve made my choice.”
“And?”
“I’ll take the shovel.”
“Why?” The wooden face contorted into a tortured shape.
“I’d like to see my wife,” Arturo replied, amazed at how the words no longer burned in his mouth.
“Hell’s that the way,” the old man said in disgust, motioning at the ground with his chin.
Arturo picked up the shovel, and began digging.

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2: Mind the Gap (Regina West Flash Fiction Winner)

This is the second story in my Fifty Tales of Fiction series, hope you enjoy!
I entered this in Regina West’s  Flash Fiction comp and was delighted to be chosen as the winning entry.

Image by Artur84, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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“Mind the gap!”  She said, and I laughed on cue as the train approached the platform. Ten years is a long time to get to know someone, that is if you can ever really claim to know someone utterly.
“That’s me off to work then, have a good day,” she kissed me goodbye.
“Oh and I won’t be back ’til late because it’s deadline day,” she said as she boarded the train, swept along effortlessly by all the other dead-eyed morning commuters.
“Deadline day again?” I shouted to her over the station hub-bub, over the nasal whine of the tannoy which said, “stand clear of the closing doors.”
“I’ll call you at lunchtime!” She replied, then train pulled away, and she was gone.

I left the now silent, empty platform and crossed over to my side of the station, where the Eastbound train would take me in the opposite direction to my girlfriend. I thought about her as I walked, about how she had smelt so new this morning. She had gotten up earlier than usual to wash her hair. When I mentioned this to her, and had reached my hand out to stroke her head she had pulled away.
“Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.” The tannoy said again, to no one in particular. She was no longer here to mock that voice with me and I felt her absence more now than I ever had, any other morning.

How do gaps form between people? I read an article recently about the creation of the universe, there’s a theory that states that our universe might have grown up like a bubble in an older universe. That it might have expanded and blown up inside the host universe until it replaced it completely. Perhaps that might happen to our own universe one day, at least I think that’s what it said.

Maybe that’s what happens between people too, in that gap where one person ends and another begins, a small bubble of resentment, mistrust, or plain apathy is formed, then if it isn’t captured while it’s small, it grows, until it obliterates everything.
Lunchtime came and went, but there was no phone call, several times I went to pick up the phone, but something made me stop, and replace the receiver.

That night I worked late. I stayed until everyone else had gone, and I had to rush to catch the last train home.
As I was standing on the platform staring with glazed eyes at the billboards on the walls, I heard the sound of laughter ring out. I turned my head, there she was.
“I’ll call you tomorrow lunchtime ok?” She was saying to him, before kissing him goodbye in a way she used to kiss me a long time ago.
Suddenly I felt it, our own bubble-universe bursting.
“Mind the gap” the tannoy said, as she turned and saw me, and the train pulled away.

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