Welcome to the second installment of Flash Fiction Friday! Yes, I told you this would be a regular feature — and look, IT IS.
I would like to thank everyone who submitted first lines for this story. This week’s sentence was chosen with the help of a random number generator.
Today’s Flash Fiction Friday prompt:
She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew that this was not it.
(Note: Today’s story is darker in tone than the usual Bright Tuesday post, and so I am posting a trigger warning for the topic of suicide.)
She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew that this was not it. She guessed that she didn’t want anything at all, and the empty bottle of pills on the coffee table answered that supposition with mute confirmation.
Her arm was draped over the back of the settee, fingers teasing the soft fringe of the cushions propped behind her. The sun was rising over the city skyline, waking the masses who lived and died inside hard cocoons of steel and concrete, sealed off from the rest of the world in air-conditioned prisons. A million panes of glass refracted the morning rays into a hot knife that skittered, harmless, off the windows of her own apartment, only to be re-directed, with laser precision, onto the closed eyelids of the sleeping homeless on the street below.
The sun was not her friend. She preferred the night, with its secrets and shadows. The darkness welcomed her, offering refuge for her lies and spent dreams. There she could be anyone — or no one — but the morning left her exposed to the hardest truth: she was only herself, and always would be.
She reached for her glass, and tipped it back with a practiced turn of her wrist. The vodka burrowed into her, a living creature digging a warm nest in her chest, and creating a sheltering hole where she could bury her regret. She filled her glass again, and added a splash of orange juice to the vodka, a reluctant tribute to the encroaching morning.
Her feet padded across the plush carpet, and she stumbled a bit, but there was no one there to see her, to express concern for her weaving gait as she made her way to her bedroom. The room was in disarray, with expensive clothing strewn across the bed and plates of half-eaten food stacked on the nightstand. A smear of lipstick left a jagged line of crimson on the white carpet beneath her vanity table. Her favorite perfume was tilted on its side, and leaking out in slow drips. The room stank, an oppressive mixture of cologne and rotting food, but the offense failed to register in her fading faculties.
She fell onto the bed, pushing the piles of designer wear out of her way with languid limbs. One foot became tangled in a gauzy scarf (she had paid $800 for it because the salesman told her it brought out the “haunting depths” of her eyes), but after a brief struggle she gave up and left it hanging there, a gossamer shackle on her well-turned ankle.
Her eyelids were weights now, and they slipped shut, too heavy to prop open any longer. She willed sleep to come quickly, to carry her through the dreaded light of day, and hold her captive until she found herself secure in the sanctuary of endless night. She felt her consciousness leaving her body, felt her thoughts sliding away like raindrops careening down endless miles of gutters, but then the words, his words, came back to her, forcing her mind open again, making her think and want and worry.
Is this all you want? Is this the life that satisfies you?
He had left her, not waiting for her answer, not caring anymore what she wanted. She knew he would not be coming back; they never came back, and she never thought about them again after they left.
But she was thinking of him now, and the rest of them too, all of them, their faces and voices floating over and through her, reminding her of things she had done and not done, and leaving her wondering which was which. They all asked her the same thing, what do you want, what do you want, what do you want, until her head split and tears leaked out of her closed eyes, landing with soft explosions on the pillowcase.
Then the voices left her, and her mind closed, and her heart stopped, and in the very last moment she realized she didn’t know what she wanted, but it wasn’t this.
Thank you for reading. Here’s are some ways you can help keep this feature going:
- Submit a first line suggestion for next week in the comments section. No obscenities,please. Prompts will be chosen at random, lottery style.
- Come back to Bright Tuesday next Friday to find out which suggested first line was chosen, and to read the next Flash Fiction Friday story.
- I appreciate constructive criticism, so please feel free to offer your thoughts and opinions in the comments.
Fiction Writers: You are invited to write your own flash fiction story (750 words or less) based on today’s prompt to post on your own blog. Just be sure to include a link back to this post, and to leave a link to your story in the comments section. Doing so allows participating authors to read and comment on each other’s work, and also helps readers to find new authors to enjoy.