Peace: Flash Fiction

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Peace
Bistro 17

His cold hand squeezes a broken razor blade between index finger and thumb. His fingers remember how the blade slips along the grain of the balsa wood to carve the ligament and bone that builds the airplane. Using the same technique his fingers invent new ways to test his wrist’s pale flesh. Pins and needles dance their electric shock along a cold cut of sliced skin. A red rivulet seeps to the surface. Lips pinch. Teeth clench. The blade sinks deeper. An icy fire: the cold that burns, the heat that freezes, fire on the flood, and the red blood spurts.

… fear in the gut … an animal urge to surge to and fro and run … feet trapped in mud… dragging through deep sand … crabs’ claws clinging and drawing back … somewhere in his mind’s attic in the scramble of flotsam lining the beach a grey rat scavenges … dry bones … blunt snouts snuff the candle that once brought him a glowworm of hope …

Cold sweat flows, thickens, then dries. A voice inside his head cries out to the emergency numbers on his frozen cell phone but his fingers no longer respond to his mind’s dark urgings. Is this the beginning of the end? Is it the beginning of a world without pain, amen? A century of centuries flash through what’s left of his mind in a single second.

Eternity: that long, dark, endless, winter night — no stars, no sun, no moon, no spark, no hope, just this eternal cold that holds all motion suspended.

Somewhere, within his rib-cage, his heart is a caged animal raging against the white-bone bars. It sees. It senses. It smells the fear that falls to his feet and flows out from his armpits. Nostrils flare and stiffen in a bestial desire that flesh holds for fresh torn flesh. A black velvet band binds eyes, ties hands at the wrists, and pulls itself tighter and closer across his chest. His heart, a stone now, cast into an icy pond. As it descends it bumps into the bodies of vestigial memories that have been here before.

Somewhere in this Arctic night white pads shuffle as sleek feet move across the snow. The polar bear’s snuffle is a whimper of hope that his end will come swiftly in the bright light of midnight descending, all red in tooth and claw. The nightmare draws closer, ever closer with an acquiescent shuffling of feet. Face to face, present and past are ambulant tenses that foretell no conditional. He has no future, let alone a future perfect. A dislocation of infinitives stretches into an intangible infinity.

Lips move and promise an end to heat and cold. Here, they say, is darkness without memory; here is sleep bereft alike of nightmare and dream; here is oblivion; here is the cessation of strife and struggle; here is peace.

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14 thoughts on “Peace: Flash Fiction

    • It’s a love – hate relationship … for the Inuit, they tell me, hell is eternal cold … unlike the fiery furnace that others speak of … and having been caught out in snow storms on more than one occasion … there are few things worse than the cold ice blindness that descends and freezes the body and bewilders the mind …

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    • Thanks, Judy. I removed the drawing for a time, as I thought it was too morbid (Moore/Bird) but I then decided to put it back. It reinforces the dark imagery of the prose. I am so very happy with my scribbledy drawings … I can’t draw: but to create spaces and fill them with colour is wonderful!

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    • The original title of this cartoon was “A different kind of albatross”, with reference, of course, to the Ancient Mariner, who stoppeth one of three. It’s a dark cartoon and reinforces the darkness in the writing.

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    • You did indeed, John. Your eagle eye has not deserted you. I changed the drawing as I thought the first one a little bit dark. I have now replaced it at the head of the piece. My second cartoon is attached at the end.

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  1. Morbidly beautiful and frightening; well-written, of course. In one sense, this hits very close to home; I understand and so, consequently, I fear. Masterfully crafted, though I would not want my two quite vulnerable teenage children to read for the simple fact that this piece makes cutting and suicide seem somehow so appealing!

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    • Thank you for your kind comments. I think if one can understand what the suicidal person might be thinking then it is easier to help when and if called upon to do so. To know the arguments in favor is to be able to better marshall the arguments against. Albert Camus does this so well, as I point out below, in The Myth of Sisyphus / Le mythe de Sisyphe.

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  2. A cheery good morning, Roger. ( ; Beautiful detail. Intimately connecting the reader (writer) to cutting, to suicide, to release. I approve of the writing even as I fear its power. It makes death beautiful. If Virginia Woolf had read this, would she have walked into the river sooner? Instead of using stones, would she have found her own razor blade? And would I have wanted my younger daughter or my son, who suffer deep anxiety, to have read this at certain vulnerable points in their lives? Yes, it should be written. Writers must write and the world must learn to live with fear.

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    • Good morning, allison: the above story has two sources. The first was the suicide by hanging of the Welsh National Soccer Coach a couple of years back. This struck me very deeply as his death mirrored those of a group of young school children who made a multiple suicide pact in a small Welsh Town. I was deeply upset by these events. The second source comes from one of my doctors who told me that all pain eventually ends when death occurs and that for those suffering what seems to be unbearable pain, death brings an ultimate and inevitable peace. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus suggests that the one thing our philosophies should face, and few do, is the act of suicide. He rejects suicide, as do I. His final image is that of Sisyphus, rolling his rock up the hill once more. Camus ends with these words: “Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux / We must believe that Sisyphus is happy.” Not a great translation, but my own!

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