Ghosts are much more than they appear. They live in the creases of our brains and mock us and vanish with not so much as a wisp of smoke. They are our lives, buttoned down, our pasts, ethereal and empty. They are us.
Send your flash to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking for work of around 500 words (less is definitely good and I will publish longer work on the blog, but anything over 800 words will not be considered for the monthly best of flash fiction in print).
Waken by Ben Tremillo
When I wake up, an old woman is sitting on my chest staring into my face. I am having dif?culty breathing and my body is stiff with fear. She doesn’t say a word.
In my youth, it was a fairly common occurrence, waking to ?nd her perched on my chest, staring, mute, looking as if she had something to say, some deep observation of my then innocent life. I never waited to ?nd out if she had something to tell me. Horri?ed, I would shut my eyes and try to wish her away. That’s when I would wake up to an empty room and the sudden realization that it was all a dream, a product of my own mind and not an actual woman, decrepit and old, lingering on my chest. It happened perhaps a dozen times throughout my adolescence. Then, just as suddenly as she appeared in my life, she disappeared.
But now she has come back. It has been three decades since the last time I saw her. I had completely forgotten about her, the way one forgets childhood friends or a favorite TV show growing up. She had simply stopped being a part of my reality. But now, here she is again, the same woman. The same look in her eyes, the same feeling of dread permeating my skin.
What could she possibly want? Simply to stare into my eyes once more? Is she curious to see how I turned out? Or is it something more, something I cannot fathom in the fuzz of my drowsiness? I cannot move an inch. It’s also harder to breathe than I remember. Perhaps she has put on weight. Stranger things have happened.
In the years since I last saw her, life has been unsteady for me. Never ?nished school. A job I hate. Twice divorced. I don?t have nearly the kind of relationship I would like to have with my kids. My father dead, by his own hand, for what reason I could never know. It’s amazing what occurs in a lifetime, even if you’re not paying much attention. The things that happen to us always linger in us, I guess, like a recessive gene. And when they spring up, we are not always prepared for the reaction.
I look into her unwavering face. Her eyes appear oceanic. Miles and miles to the bottom. I think I see myself in there, drowning from the weight of what I carry.
Suddenly, I know what I have to do. I should have thought of this before. I close my eyes, ready to wake up, ready to end this dream, ready to put off dealing with anything for at least another 30 years. But slowly, I can feel her leaning over as my breathing becomes more labored from her shifting weight and I can feel her hair fall across my face and, now, her breath against my ear, I hear her lips parting and she is ready to whisper what she came across all my life and losses to communicate, across these years of forgetting and wanting to forget, to this place I have found myself, unsure of who I am or supposed to be or how to even ?nd out and she is ready to ?nally speak and I
I am almost ready to listen.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
Send your flash to email@example.com.