Flash Fiction

The Secret Year by J. Herrera Kamin

Shyness by Pete Armstrong

Straight On Into Heaven by Karen Arbogast

 

The Secret Year by J. Herrera Kamin

     Have you heard what the kids are saying these days? 
     I teach history to the graduating class of 2074, and the other day one of my students said he thought my parents’ generation—his grandparents’ generation—had a secret year
     I suspected another runaway conspiracy theory. “Go on,” I prompted him.
     He said there was a year which his grandparents’ generation had hidden. 
     “Hidden?”
     From the pages of history.
     “Where did you hear this?”
     It was just a feeling he got, from talking to his grandparents.
     You see, it was one of those years that just kept getting worse and worse and worse. But in those last few months it got so absurdly, impossibly horrific that all the people of the world came together in collective embarrassment and decided to try it again. On January 1st, they reset the calendar by a year. 
     “Let’s just say, for example,” this student explained to me, “it was the year 2020. When they reached January 1st of 2021, they reset the calendar to January 1st 2020. And did the whole year over again. Isn’t that crazy?”
     “Which year do you think it was, then?” I asked.
     “We’ll never know, will we?” he said. “It’s a mystery. They erased all evidence that it ever happened.”
     “But who is they?” I demanded.
     That made him falter. But then he smiled. “Everyone. Right?” The smile faded. “I mean, whoever writes history. The victors. It’s always someone, isn’t it?”
     “Or something. You should talk to your grandparents more. Investigate further.” I sighed. “If it’s true, I really wonder what year it was, and what happened during it that was so damn bad.”

J. Herrera Kamin is a speculative fiction writer based in Vancouver, Canada. His work has been featured in two print collections -- Hellfire Crossroads 7 and Red Cape Publishing's D is for Demons -- and online at BewilderingStories.com and Kaleidotrope.net. When not writing, he can usually be caught playing music, browsing used book stores, cycling, and chasing that mysterious twilight world found between dreams and reality.

 

Shyness by Pete Armstrong

Deep in a volcano dwelt Shyness the demon, far underground where all was black. He had dark eyes. Orange embers sputtered within his mouth. Ominous groans rumbled from his grinding teeth. His cloak was made of silence, his belt of anxiety, forged in the depths below. He had hidden from the sun so long that he had very nearly suffocated his heart.


All day long the demon collected rocks and broke them with his powerful hands, crushing them into a powder. To this powder he added fear that he sucked in from people on the surface and with this mixture he made powerful bands that could enclose you, constrict you, squeeze all the light and life out of you. Shyness was a terrible beast.


When he had a formed a handful of tight bands, Shyness left his dark domain, emerging onto the land to find some helpless writer. He lurched forwards, clump, clump, hiding himself behind the trees, brandishing the bands with which he would smother the poor writer and stop them from writing another word.


As he strode onwards the ground trembled and all the creatures of the forest ran away.


But there on the path ahead stood a child, a scrap of a thing, an infant, who gazed up with curious eyes. Shyness stopped and glowered at the child, sniffing the air, searching to locate their fear, waiting for them to run, but the child did not run. Instead they stared back and said to Shyness,


"Hello, what's your name, what're those? I haven't seen those before, are they bands? can I play with them? I saw a band in a book once, a boy was pushing it down the road, you need a stick, do you have a stick? it will be tea time soon, I'm hungry, what's your name? can I play with one of those?"


Shyness stepped towards the child, he wanted to constrict them, but as he did so he shrank. He grew smaller with every step. His arms shrank and his chest and head. Everything about him fell away so when he reached the child there was only a scrap of him left, a remnant, shreds of what had been.


The child stooped and picked up the last crumbs of Shyness. They turned and flung those flakes outward, into the winds, to the ends of the Earth.


The flakes hung up in the breeze, but the child never saw them, their attention had now been caught by a butterfly that fluttered by, flapping as it flew from flower to flower.

Pete lives in a leafy suburb in central Sweden. He spends his days in blue jeans looking after children, listening to Bach and writing stories. These stories have been published by Strukturriss, Wells Street Journal, Art Ascent, Vernal Equinox amongst others. They are usually in a classical style, occasionally returning to the East Coast of Scotland where he grew up. He has also published a book of hiking tips and anecdotes. When given time off he hikes through Swedish skog, trying not to bump into moose. Again.

 

Straight On Into Heaven by Karen Arbogast

They said the Strassell father flew his airplane straight on into heaven. An accident, they told us. 


Returning from a supply trip up near Chicago on New Year’s Eve 1949, he hit a snow squall. He tried to fly around it but it closed in on him. He tried to get above it but he flew too high and ice formed on his wings.  He couldn’t turn around. He couldn’t descend. 


All he could do was go up so that’s what he did. Up above the snow squall.  Up through the clouds. Higher, higher. Troposphere. Stratosphere.  High, higher, highest. Thermosphere, 400 miles above the earth. Exosphere.  That might have been when he passed the moon. 


Maybe that was when he knew he wasn’t coming back, they told us.     


Still he wouldn’t give up. There was Catherine.  And the kids. He had to get back to them.  So he pushed that throttle hard as he could and he squared his shoulders and he braced himself for a crash-landing but what he expected to happen didn’t. Instead with a superhuman push of energy he soared right through the pearly gates, straight on into heaven. 


“…now he’s always up there in his plane,” they said after every story’s telling, “Watching over us.”  


After the funeral, Aunt Catherine returned to St. Louis with her boy and her girl. Same age as my sister and me. They moved in with our grandparents by the Assumption Church and School, one block over.

 
Throughout the rest of that summer when I was alone, I would sneak a look up at the sky and search for his tiny dot-of-a-plane circling above our neighborhood wanting more than anything to see him. To believe this story as much as everything else they told us. About God. About Adam and Eve. About heaven and hell.   


But as the first day of school approached, I started thinking about other things. In time I stopped looking up entirely and forgot all about the Strassel father and his airplane, the snow squall, the troposphere and how they said he flew through all this and landed in Heaven always watching over us and how this was a was a good thing.

Karen Arbogast is a flash fiction writer living somewhere in Ohio. She has been published in Crux Magazine; Everyday Fiction; was a runner-up in a Writer Advice contest and also a Gotham contest nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editor of the (alas) now-defunct Words of Wisdom magazine (so said the now-deceased editor (more sadness) in a letter to her) in 1997 for her story, “Badmen I have  Loved.”   Karen doesn’t want payment. She does her own taxes and  hates struggling with “where do I put THIS?” So please – no pay to Karen.