I sit cross-legged in front of your grave. I contemplate the cracks that dart through the jagged letters of your name; they are caked with dirt.
Why did you do it? So many years ago, yet I am still here pondering why you left me. You could have told me my late nights drove you crazy. You could have told me we didn’t talk about things enough. You could have told me you were pregnant …
As always when I visit your grave, anger is the first emotion that surges to the forefront. My life of what could-have-been dangles in front of my eyes. And then I look back at the stone that grows darker every year, and I remember: you took that away, didn’t you? You took the blade and slashed it up your wrists. You forced me to watch your lifeblood splatter the ground. You took our child with you. Did you seek to escape me, or to punish me?
A songbird interrupts my seething. It’s a speckled yellow creature with puffy white chin feathers. It chirps its merry melody at me. I don’t want to be cheered up right now.
I glare at it.
It engulfs in flames. I watch with satisfaction as the ashes float to the ground and join your tombstone.
I walk through the rest of the graveyard. It is wide and filled with those who’ll never see heaven. It only reminds me that I may see you again. Surely I’m going to hell too.
The thought is mildly pleasant, until I remember how many years I have left to go. So many years until I can ask you the questions I’ve held onto like a child’s blanket. I can’t let go. Why?
Each tombstone I pass speaks to me. There are flowers and candles and various food donations for the afterlife. They are stacked up upon each other with such care. I marvel at the hope-clung families ignoring the truth of this land of shame. What a waste. Don’t the mourners know where these people are? This is a place of desolation and futility.
As I walk through the worn path, I add my own mark. Flames lick at my toes and wriggle around the weeds. Hot tears sizzle down my cheek. Good, let’s get this out of the way.
I continue my pilgrimage. The graveyard opens up into the rest of the long dead tribe. My kin.
I regard the expanse with bleary eyes. I suppress the sob in my throat as the depth of my isolation engulfs me. The rest of my family is out there, too. I was the last of my kind. The thought will not leave me.
I play with fire in the air. I let the tendrils squirm like snakes and blister my vision with white-hot scars. It is cleansing. It blocks the view of the hills below, each crested with a gleaming white stone. They take care of those. They know where their souls have gone to rest.
But I can hear their song. The lament of loss angers me. The melody rises up with shrill tones. It marks their regret, the moment they killed my kin. They have the audacity to mourn their passing? They opened the floodgates; they chose to save their own when the rivers overflowed and our lands turned against us. No, they will not find forgiveness from me.
When my heart breaks I know it’s time to go. I feel the nausea reach a peak and a cry escapes my lips. I scream. I scream until the air has fully expelled from my lungs and only grey wisps come out. I sniffle into my ash-caked hand. I regard the onlookers below. They have turned from me, but pity is clear on their faces. I don’t care. This is it.
I turn my back. The flames extinguish and my blistered skin sizzles.
I will go on, I will mourn no longer until your anniversary comes again. It’s time to go back home.
Author Comments on Flash Fiction and death as the subject matter:
Thank you for reading Evelyn! And I hope you enjoyed it. This was a fun short that I enjoyed writing. This was actually one of the first flash I ever attempted. I want to share my learning experiences with you if you intend to pursue flash fiction writing.
Suicide is a one of the most common subjects in the flash-fiction industry, and therefore cause for rejection. But just because something is common doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. None-the-less, this piece wasn’t accepted in flash magazines for that reason. I tried three magazines, and they were all nice enough to give me personal feedback along the lines of “Strong voice, but overdone subject matter.”
If you want to try flash writing, I recommend staying away from subjects such as death, suicide, or such life-type ultimatums. When we only have less than 1,000 words to write a story, or even more difficult, less than 500, it can be easy to want to focus on a powerful subject. But because every beginner starts with the most powerful topic they can think of — death — it loses its impact to readers.