Before I post this week’s Free-Range Fiction story, I want to let you know that this is an experimental piece. I have been reading “From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction” by Robert Olen Butler. He has a tactic of getting into a “trance” when you write and this piece reflects the third time I’ve attempted to do part of this tactic that I’m reading and learning about.
I also need to thank Chuck Wendig again for helping to prompt me out what has been a bit of a writing slump. I came very close in the last couple of weeks of putting the whole writing life on hold, if not permanently behind me. Something about this prompt, in addition to this post last week, helped my creative switch kick it into high gear again. Thank you Herr Wendig.
This week’s flash fiction challenge was to use this random sentence generator and find 1,000 words to make a story from it. Since I didn’t know what I was going to get — trying some experimental ways of writing seemed a perfect match. Personally, I’m intrigued with what came out of this new way of processing the ideas and stories in my mind’s eyes. I also wanted to play with tense and visuals. As always, it’s a bit dark. Best to read with an adult beverage in your hand, I propose.
The random sentence I received was: A naked slot resides. I’m making it the title of this little flash-fiction experiment. Hope you enjoy these 927 words. Tell me what you think in the comments below. Growing as a writer means sometimes, even, I got to digest a bit of manure from the garden of the internet. Throw it at me.
A Naked Slot Resides.
A naked slot resides between the memorial marker for my husband and my son. It will one day fill with the memorial marker for me, the wife, the mother. The grass in the naked slot is lush and cool, shaded as it is by a giant maple tree. I sometimes lay in it, answering its whispering call. I can hear murmurs under the earth. Ants. Moles. Worms. Other things, unmentionable things. The worms are the noisiest. I hear them chatting, complaining about the clay pots that hold the remains of the loves in my life.
“It’s stale,” the worms hum.
All our ashes lain to rest on the land where our doom rose up from the ground like those unmentionable things which yammer on, normally when the moon is high. But I can’t think about that right now. Later. Not now.
I lay now in the cool grass, the sun high above the maple. I stare up, sunlight venting through the branches and leaves, leaving dancing shadows on my face. The mountain two miles from here looks down on me, a white figure dressed in white stretched between two graves. I close my eyes. Dinner can wait. Hell, breakfast and lunch did as well. I don’t worry about the dried leaves, grass or other debris that will likely stain the back of my dress. I just lay there, feeling the earth beneath me, the sun upon me, the whispers of the creatures beneath me. I think about who will have this land with three memorial markers after I’m gone, after I keep making dinner wait. I see court battles from neighbors and the county government. But they are all unable to do anything because these remains are here. They shall be here forever. As part of the grass, dirt, tree, leaves, ants, moles and worms. I shall remain. My husband shall remain. My son shall remain. We all will remain neighbors to that ever-present mountain.
I sat up, knees bent. I could feel the ants marching across my left calf. Their sets of six legs prickling my skin are there even when they are not there – the fall that should have killed me but didn’t kill me left them always marching. Today, however, the scratch of tibial spurs from a pair of sparrow-brown ants drags against my epidermis. I watch as they ascend towards my knee and then decide, seemingly, that the incline is too steep, then scrape along their way down to my bare ankle and escape out through the middle of my toes.
I lay back down, and close my eyes to the sleep I know is coming. The warmth of the earth. The peace I feel in this space. It allows me to slip into an easy nap. I dream. I see my son, a toddler, so many years ago. His father and I holding him by his hands between us. The milky sand of Virginia beach warm under our feet. We were the perfect family at the perfect moment. The waves active enough to make it fun to run in and out of them as they broke on the beach. I smile down at my son. When he turns his face towards mine and smiles, he begins to vomit. Giant slugs fall from his mouth which has begun to tear from his gums. The slugs deposit on his body, burning his skin. Immediately my husband and I are at his side at the hospital, but not right at his side, but looking through a burn-unit window. He’s much larger now, but there are actual burns on his skin. A high-school boy prank gone wrong. He would never leave that bed. The first of the memorial markers now sits as the focus of my dream. I see my husband, he’s beckoning me to come stand under the maple tree and watch the sunset on my son’s grave. We had to install 8 foot fences in order to have the marker protected. He is sweaty from all the work to maintain the property. The sunset would be replaced with the spiraling lights of a medic car, my husband had worked himself to death.
A cool breeze and the low light of sunset wakes me, sending shivers of the approaching autumn down and through me. My lips are chapped. Today is the end of the third day with no water. I can feel my heartbeat skip now and then. I suddenly want the quilt that I made for our TV nights. I struggle to sit up and see flashes of black dots, or is it bats escaping from the barn in the back? I can’t hear anything. Just the thump of the blood slowly moving through my body. I count the 50 steps from the naked slot to the back door. I pause in the doorway to keep my self from vomiting. There’s nothing to expel. It’s a chore, but I get the quilt from the couch. The TV looks at me with neglected blinking signals. I haven’t turned it on since the man at the mortuary helped me erect my husband’s marker.
It takes me nearly twenty minutes to walk the 50 steps again. I have to pause. I don’t want to fall. Not yet. I can sink into the earth once I’m in the naked slot.
The comforter smells still of family nights of popcorn and Star Trek. It’s warm. It’s colors reflect on the moons sliver of light. I close my eyes and the worms tell me good night.