Flash Fiction Friday – Machine of death

flash fiction

It had been my intention this month to work on character development. I had a plan that would start with building a character sheet on Monday. Then I was going to write a letter from that character on Wednesday (why? I have no idea any more) and I was going to conclude that character’s contribution with a flash piece based on that character.

Well, I’m not going to do that now. Basically because last week and the first half of this week were, shall we say, compromised. So instead I’m going to just attempt to write a flash piece based on the follow prompts I gave to my Scribophile group – “The Projects”



The line: “I have no idea.”

The object: A pencil sharpener

Style: Nostalgic

My parents had split and the house was being sold. The upstairs bedrooms were still crammed with the belongings of my little sister Laura, now 25, and my own, now 28. You walked into those rooms, and it was like we had never left. Posters of hockey stars, my own artwork, flags and other bits of flotsam-and-jetsam littered the walls. Faded a little, but otherwise just exactly how I’d left them when I moved out ten years ago.

The bookshelves were a little bearer then when I’d occupied the room, I’d taken the best pics with me, leaving school text books and rubbish novels I’d never even finished. The desk under the window had draws packed full of stationary, trading cards, gum wrappers and who knows what else.

It was when I pulled open the bottom draw that I found it. A pink pencil sharpener in the shape of a butterfly.

“Whose is that?” Laura asked, leaning over my shoulder.

“It was a gift.”

“Who gives a guy a pink pencil sharpener, who gives anyone a pencil sharpener? Lame.”

“It wasn’t for me. It was from me. It meant something deep at the time.”

“Who was it for?”

“Just a girl I liked, you wouldn’t know her. Man, she was an amazing artist.” I walked over to the bookshelf, memories stirring. On the top shelf was an oversize atlas, the big A3, hardcopy type that nobody bothers to crack open now we have Google Earth at our fingertips.

Inside the heavy covers I found two images I hadn’t thought about in years. Both were city landscapes. The first was of a city in devastation. Giant waves crashed against buildings, trees bent in the wind or were scattered across roads. Like a hurricane had ripped the place apart, I’d drawn that one. The second picture was of a pristine city. Two thirds of the page was dominated by the cityscape, but in the left hand side of the image, where the sky was blank, floated an iridescent butterfly. Our prompt had been “chaos”.

“Those are very cool. Can I have them?”

I closed the cover of the atlas, sealing them away again.

“Not on your life.”

“What happened to her?”

I shrugged, “I have no idea.”

“Did you have a lovers tiff?”

“No, we never got that far. I was going to ask her out. We heard the ambulance during math but didn’t think much about it. When I got to art next period, she wasn’t there. Mr Higgins said she’d collapsed in PE. A few weeks passed and she didn’t show up. I heard a rumour that she had cancer or leukaemia or something and they moved to the city, to be closer to the children’s hospital.”

“Did you try calling her?”

“Didn’t have her contact details. We’d only started talking that term, when we were assigned as partners for our term project.”

“So that’s it, you just never saw her again?”

I nodded.

“You need closure. Google her.” I looked at my little sister dumbfounded and smiled, feeling a weight lifting that I’d never realised was there.

WORDS: 520

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More stories by Tracey Ambrose @ traceyambrose.com
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Tracey Ambrose
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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