I’m getting (slightly) controversial with my title; is this what happens when you get more confident and become ever so slightly less inhibited?
The wonderful site that is Flash! Friday challenged the global writing community to come up with a flash fiction story. 1000 words or less. Based on childhood mischief (Tom Sawyer was given as a good example).
The competition was called Dog Days, here is a link to the finalist stories http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/dog-days-finalists-stories/
Being mischievous, I submitted two stories.
I’m not sure if I’m getting too involved with my writing. Sometimes, I cannot sleep and worry so much about my characters and the stories that I have real attachment that knots my lower stomach as much as any real-life challenging situation. I tend to think of this as a positive sign, but I really need to find better ways of dealing with it as it tends to take a lot out of me. The first story took so much out of me that I felt the need to de-tox on a second (lighthearted and fun,) story.
I struggled with the title, then came up with MoonShine…
His black overcoat whips around him in the horizontal rain. His exaggerated silhouette looks like that of a comic book superhero against the shimmering full moon. The satellite dangles above the oceanic vanishing point; its knowing grin smirks at the suggestion that there is, or ever has been, anything heroic about him.
He watches the relentless origami waves crush down and enfold on each other. Their calling echoes harvest buried memories, suppressed by countless years of therapy, coping strategies and medication.
The moonlight shrouds the landscape in luminous mercury pigment and highlights the tall grass, which looks like a million acupuncture needles on the malleable spine of the sand dunes. It rustles as if it’s alive and agitated, it shoals and jostles; it wants to say something forbidden.
It whispers his name, his real name.
A name he has not heard for three decades.
He is like a disembodied time traveller, sent to witness the grotesque events, but unable to intervene…
He is fourteen again.
The summer day has relinquished its ferocious heat to the clear, cool night sky. The moon is full, its glow echoes of a thousand tales of romance. The starry swirl looks like a smeared glitter lamp against the void of space and time. The ocean smells of age, of time, and of a time before time.
He sees the shipwreck, jutting out of the sand like prehistoric avian carcass. Bleached curved bones reach skywards as if trying to claw their freedom from the sands.
She is lying inside. Her heart still beats for him. He approaches confidently. He performs the walk of a nervous actor playing a role.
“Pass me another beer, Josh, my knight in shining armour,” Jess says, her smile is pure, but hints of mischief.
He looks at her. He has thought about this night for months, but knows he has to be careful with the sand in his folk’s freshly stolen car.
“What’s taking you so long?” she calls.
“Nothing. Just wait. I’ll be there in a second.”
“How much alcohol did you steal from your parents?”
“All of it,” he shouts back into the wind, “we have every colour and flavour imaginable. I even have Poitín, good ol’ Irish moonshine.”
“Did you get the cigarettes?”
“Did you really push the car out of the drive and down the road before starting it?”
“Yep. And there is a pillow corpse in my bed, before you ask.”
He returns with the ice-cold beers. He builds the fire, and lights it. The pyrotechnic wigwam exhales sparks, that dance and swarm into the infinite night sky.
She rolls on her side to face him. Her eyes reflect the dancing flames of the fire, and in this light, she makes him feel like he has never felt before. Her freckles are more prominent after the long summer days, her hair more blond and her skin warmer in colour.
He wants her more than anything and yet he cannot describe how he feels. It feels like hunger or thirst, something primeval and unsettling.
“What are we doing, Jess?” he asks.
“This.” She pulls his hand across her stomach; it’s smooth, delicate and warming. Then she invites his hand elsewhere.
He stops her, “No.”
She looks at him confused, slightly saddened, almost hurt, “I thought this is what you…what we, both wanted.”
“Not yet. We’re too young. I want to…more than anything, but…” He thinks about his words carefully, “…our parents, they made the same mistakes. We’re better than that.”
She smiles, a smile of deep understanding.
She looks at the sea, “Did you bring a change of clothes?” she asks.
He smiles, “and towels and blankets. I’ve come well prepared.”
They talk about the beach, and the foxes and the rabbits playing in the dunes. They talk about anything; they talk about everything.
They finish their drinks, and the next ones, working their way through the garish coloured liquids.
They stagger into the water. The sharp, cold Atlantic takes their breath. The waves are high. Much higher than they seemed from the shore; but they are brave, young, and invincible.
It takes her away. Out, towards the rocks. He sees it happen. He freezes in disbelief. Then it takes him. He realises he cannot help her. The current is strong, but he fights with every molecule in him.
He reaches the shoreline, coughing the stinging briny water from his lungs. He looks for her. Further up the coast he sees a shape.
The ocean has spat her out like discarded driftwood.
He runs. He cradles her. It’s too late. Her skin is already cold and devoid of colour. Her once blond hair is sticky and dark red. Freckles flecked with blood. Her head lolls limply and her eyes reach for distant places; eternal places that he cannot see.
He cries. He cries for her. He cries for them. He cries for a future neither of them will see.
It has taken him thirty years to come back to this place.
His wife has just given birth to their beautiful daughter. He feels he is undeserving of both of them. He came here to pay his respects, to have some closure, perhaps even to remember the beauty of summer one more time.
He sees the shipwreck, its bones decomposing with age. In the sand dunes, he hears the screams of rabbits and the bloodthirsty call of foxes, the game of prey and predator.
He thinks about the ocean and its immense power. It is the creator of continents, the destroyer of lands, the birthplace of life itself – yet it bows submissively beneath its master, the moon. Its sinister light and haunted gaze give nothing away. It looks shocked and in disbelief, but it knows everything.
It controls the ocean, yet it no longer has hold over him.
He wraps his overcoat tightly around him and strides headlong into the summer wind.
While the story had some lovely comments from the fantastic Flash! Friday community, it didn’t make it through to the final.
Because it deeply affected me during writing and afterwards, I decided to de-tox on by writing a second story. Something more lighthearted and fun (please see part 2).