("Flash Fiction" is simply very short stories.)
Silver Oxide Streets
Flash Fiction by Meredith Anne DeVoe
I walk silver oxide streets, black and oddly cobblestoned, and with a sheen of perpetual rain reflecting the streetlights. A woman passes me with a toddler squirming in her arms, the child's eyes meet mine, and the eyes go wide, then the baby begins to scream just as I pass. I have that effect on children.
I slip into a tiny convenience store and fill a Styrofoam cup, the Pakistani behind the counter reads his paper and ignores me, as usual, when I throw the same limp two bucks on the Formica. The heavy door wheezes shut behind me as I go.
I know there are just few more blocks to go but the coffee isn't warming my stomach or my fingers, like I expected; I’ve been walking all night and haven’t got more than a hundred feet from that shop. I pull the sweater close around me and the wind cuts through my skirt, why did I come out in this cold night, wearing this? Sean will laugh at me, tell me I’m crazy.
Speaking of whom, where is he? He was right here a minute ago, we were both talking about going into that little shop that always smells like garlic and lamb. Sean says the guy behind the counter is a Sikh because of his precisely-wrapped turban, but I tell him no, Sikhs wear only white turbans, this guy’s is gray one week, gold the next. We were joking about it, Sean making some lame pun on the word “Sikh”…
I stop and turn. Did I walk away and leave him: Is he back there in the shop, or standing just outside under the streetlamp, looking for me, sipping his coffee? Shaking his head because I spaced out again… I turn back, seeing only emptiness on the sidewalk under the “24 HOURS” sign.
I start back, and realize it is not the first time tonight. I stop short just as a gale wind takes my breath. But there is nothing to take. The wind blows through me like it would through rain. I am numb with cold, I have long since dropped the cold coffee from my icy fingers, it spreads blood-black on the wet cobbles, I cannot feel the edges of my sweater to pull them close to me. Why did I come out in this cold night?
But there is Sean’s face, in glass before me. I must have turned in the darkness, and the convenience store is closed, the window dark. I hear a rhythmic beeping, someone’s phone perhaps. His face draws nearer, and there is terrible pain in my chest. Pressure, like the wind has me against a frozen stone wall. But his hand is warm, and there is a warmth in looking on his face.
There is gold there, a welcome light. It is Sean, but not Sean. There is no glass now, only his face drawing nearer, and terrible light, and voices I don’t know, and the strident alarms. He sees me, and he knows I cannot stay in this place where the taste of blood is in my mouth and obstructing every breath. I feel the bullet in my lungs, the crashing of the glass, I know the stain of my life’s blood on the sidewalk and the Pakistani looking down with horror, for he has missed the thief entirely. His lips are trembling, despite his accent I know the word “forgive” and I meet his gaze, trying to tell him I forgive. I have seen the picture of his wife and children on the wall behind the cash register and looked into their dark eyes while the receipt printed out, making its little sounds like tree frogs in pain.
“Intubate” is a word I hear and before the plastic appliance takes over, Sean’s kiss on my lips, his breath on my eyes…
The light is no longer terrible. Like his kiss, it is warm. His face gives way to another, more beautiful, better known, whose kiss is my breath, whose gaze is my life’s blood.