Flash Fiction

Happily Ever After

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This post was originally published through Patreon on December 18, 2018.

Happily ever after.

The cliché mocked Samuel in the moldering darkness of his one-bedroom apartment. A fairy tale ending, saccharin sweet, and so unlike the reality of human life.

Happily ever after.

It was a lie told to little children to shield them from the dark, sinister truths of the world, and perhaps also a lie told to adults too weak to face their problems head-on. In either case, it was a con man’s ruse, as plastic and artificial as a G.I. Joe action figure.

Happily ever after.

Once upon a time, Samuel had tried his own luck at “Happily ever after.” And what had it gotten him? A low paying job and a lonely, miserable life. No family, no friends, no wife or children.

But that was about to change.

Happily ever after.

The accursed phrase had been the object of Samuel’s obsession for almost thirty years. Every day, as he fought rush hour traffic, as he toiled at a job he couldn’t care less about, as he stopped at the groceries to buy his microwave dinners, he mulled over those perverse words, a slow, acid churn that never stopped until he turned out the light and allowed his bitterness to assault him in his dreams.

That was when the demon had visited and made Sammuel an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Happily ever after.

That was the wicked creature’s proposal, and Samuel hadn’t paid a moment’s notice to the price.

“A wish granted,” the demon snarled, “in exchange for a kind thought turned sour. A harmless enough cost, I should think, and a chance to live—”

Happily ever after.

And Samuel had wished, and Samuel had watched each one of his desires spring to life.

What an extraordinary power, he thought, and in the heat of his excitement, he didn’t see the change that took place inside of him.

A harmless enough cost, the demon had said, and it had seemed at the time that he was right. In Samuel’s elation, how was he to notice his desires turning dark, his wishes turning vindictive, his own definition of “Happily ever after” turning more and more twisted by the day?

Now, Samuel had conceived of the ultimate wish, and all he had to do was summon the demon one last time.

Just one more wish, and in the ashes of a smoldering post-apocalyptic world, Samuel could, at last, live—

Happily ever after.

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Memoir of a Star

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Lyra was a noble star descended from a long line of other stars: Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Andromeda. Together they reigned in peace and prosperity, each of equal stature, strength, and rank, presiding over an expanse of space and time that blazed with their celestial light. But in the midst of such perfection, Lyra grew bored and, restless for adventure, decided to leave her kin and stake out a corner of the cosmos for herself.

And so, after saying goodbye to her family and home for the last time, the star set out, crossing the threshold of her ancestors’ domain into empty space.

She thought the darkness beyond her realm both novel and unique, and, for a while, Lyra was entranced. Here was an endless mystery waiting to be uncovered by her otherworldly light. But as time progressed and her sojourn continued, the darkness started to oppress her. It pushed back, jealous of her light, and with time she began to dim.

After eons of aimless traveling, Lyra stopped and, surrounded by the void of empty space, thought better of her quest. Only then, on the verge of returning home, did she look back and realize she’d lost her way.

Despair set in. She could already feel the relentless cold reaching into her core, gumming up the forces that kept her alive. Numb and frightened, Lyra cried.

Her tears fountained in the endless dark, shimmering like stars in miniature. Soon her sobs and heavy breathing slowed, and she watched, fascinated, as her tears first pooled, then condensed, pulled together by the fundamental force of gravity. Nine distinct bodies emerged from Lyra’s despair: nine worlds, each with their own unique needs and desires. They huddled about her in the darkness, afraid, and she offered them her light, rekindled by the fire of a blossoming love so intense that she was never to feel the cold of empty space again.

Lyra loved each of her children in different ways, but Earth was special, for this was the daughter who’d seen fit to bear children of her own. Life erupted from Earth’s fertile soil and swept over oceans and forests, mountains and plains. Some took to the skies, others to the water. Some marched across Earth’s rugged terrain on two legs, others on four. Lyra beheld their various forms and loved each and every one.

First children, then grandchildren. Her new family was nothing like the stars she’d left behind, and Lyra was pleased.

If only my ancestors could see how happy I am now.

Lyra had set out in search of herself, and in so doing had almost lost herself. Now she had a family of her own. Her place in the cosmos was set and she would never feel restless again.

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Old Man Jeffords

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This post was originally published through Patreon on December 11, 2018.

A light came on in the Jefford’s house, disturbing the darkness of the night. It oozed out of a smokey plate glass window, alighted on a cracked and peeling wall, brushed the tops of thick bramble-like weeds. If anyone had happened by and glanced through the grimy glass, they might have caught a rare glimpse of Old Man Jeffords himself, clutching his chest and tumbling to the moldy floor. But there was no one there that night—Old Man Jeffords had isolated himself for over fifteen years and people had stopped checking in on him long ago. And so he passed, as so many unfortunate souls do, in silence.

Old Man Jeffords lay with his head pressed against the carpet, inhaling the rotten perfume of a house he’d stopped grooming the day his wife died. He didn’t care that his heart had betrayed him, for life was a restless and unending wake. All he could think in this ultimate moment was that he could finally close his eyes, knowing he would never have to open them again.

His fluttering heart seized; his leaden body grew stiff. The infinite depths behind closed eyelids succumbed to a deeper darkness, a desolate existential wasteland that, like a magnet, pulled Old Man Jeffords down. There was no life here, and that suited Jeffords just fine. In his heart, he’d already died long ago, and he welcomed his unmaking with open arms.

“Samuel.”

The soft, diaphanous whisper reached him just before awareness tapered for good. It buoyed him up, a counterpoint to the sinking weight of his despair, and he was left suspended in the no man’s land between life and death.

“Lisa?”

In some way Jeffords didn’t understand, his wife was alive. Alive. The allure of the silent, everlasting darkness compelled him, but if Lisa was still out there, if they could still be together…

“Don’t leave me,” she said. “Don’t let the darkness destroy you.”

Jeffords had slipped beyond the realm of human emotion, but what he found on the threshold of existence was something more intense: a primal, all-consuming desire that realigned the filaments of his soul.

The poles of that great cosmic magnet shifted, and Jeffords was no longer pulled down but up. The darkness receded, and in its wake, a blinding light burst forth. Here, in this new place beyond life and death, Jeffords beheld the woman he’d loved for so many decades—only now she was remade, and so much more beautiful than she’d ever been before.

“I never thought I’d see you again,” Jeffords said.

“Love never dies.”

Jeffords opened his heart to her, just as he’d done the day they met 57 years ago.

Flash.

The two souls merged, a mighty fusion reaction that could easily have burned the universe to cinders. And in the intersection of their eternally bonded hearts, Jeffords came to know a third and even greater love, one that promised he would never be alone again.

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