And since I haven’t found out how to upload (or even if I can upload) a .pdf file, here is an excerpt from the fiction collection currently in it’s final revision: Fiction in 1,500. A collection of very short stories with one common theme, all of them are under 1,500 words long. I love flash fiction and, in particular, this piece. I’ve been looking for a home for it for quite some time and, since I haven’t found one yet, figured I put it here. This is Sunrise, a story of one writer’s contemplation over his past decisions. I hope you enjoy.
How could he avoid it?
Life had become a steady parade of nocturnal decadence, glazed over neon signs giving light through the distorted amber reflections of one empty beer bottle after another; a panorama of one night stands and hangovers creeping into the distance of memory. As the latest in a bevy of strangely uniform conquests thought that she was slinking out with the same grace and sinew that had brought her to his bed for the night he found himself strangely detached, staring through the large plate window that opened onto his balcony and the skyline now shrouded in a halo of predawn gold; gold, like the hair of her bangs that had tickled his nose and woke him to her smiling face each morning as she straddled his lifeless form and roused him into the world once more with her kiss. He shook the memory and focused on the skyscrapers silhouetted ahead of him.
She’s out there, you know, he thought to himself.
His back was sore, liver and kidneys screaming wildly from the night’s debauch. If I had brains, he thought, I might give up the booze and find something more productive to do with all this time. There were better hobbies than pickling yourself or so he’d heard. The room seemed cavernous since he’d taken her pictures off the wall and packed them away with the handful of things she hadn’t cared enough about to come back for. A few books, an old dog collar for that little mutt they’d had when they first moved to the city, and, of course, the man who’d been stupid enough to let her go in the first place. He rubbed his left hand, one finger in particular that had felt so thin and cold in recent months. There was still a thin white line that the sun refused to cover over in tan, a subtlety that knifed his conscience every time he noticed. There was a ring in the night stand, tarnished gold that fit that empty patch perfectly. He thought a while about it, how he had run his fingers around it and studied it so intently the first few weeks after she’d gone. He’d never really paid it any mind before.
That ring, how it had seemed to anchor him so long ago, made his hand feel like a cinder block. He shouldn’t have missed it.
But he did.
The sun was blazing now, deep orange and focused intently on his face. No matter how he seemed to move, how he shifted the pillows over his head or buried himself under the sheets, it followed him. His skull was throbbing, adding to the misery of another sunrise. Defeated, he rolled into the floor and crawled into the living room where the shades were still drawn. He staggered into the kitchen to start his breakfast. He looked through the vacant fridge at half a jug of milk, a slice of ham left unsealed in its package, and the mostly empty carcasses of take-out boxes from every pizza joint and Chinese cafe in town. He settled on Cheerios from the pantry and gin from the liquor cabinet. Hair of the dog, he thought, taking an aspirin for good measure as the low, steady throbbing in his skull became a crack of thunder. She’d have yelled at him for it, mixing drink and drug. She was sweet that way, always worried about his health and the things he put in his system. She’d made him do things he’d have never done in the past, would never have done period if not for her. He took vitamins now, since there was never anyone around to cook or to cook for. What’s the point in fixing a salad and pasta if no one’s going to eat it? He turned on the laptop sitting on the coffee table and took a sip of his drink.
“Life experience” he had called it. That’s why they moved to the city in the first place, to give him something to write about. She hadn’t liked the idea but agreed out of love or devotion or one of those emotions. He’d stowed all of those away with her pictures the night he realized she wasn’t coming back. Wandering the streets, riding the subway, eating a questionable taco from an even more questionable trailer in the parking lot across the street from their apartment; it had been fun at first. Then came the night life. Bars and clubs and all the excitement he could find crammed tighter than a sardine into a darkly lit room with strobe lights and repetitive, unintelligible music cranked out from every conceivable dimension. It was innocent enough at first, coming home late once or twice every now and again. But every now and again became every other night and gradually spiraled from there. She’d shrugged it off in good humor and even accepted the drinking as a part of the experience. She had wanted him to go out and find what he was looking for.
It was finding out that what he had been looking for was the redhead she’d found him under that had done her in. It was a blur now, finely glazed over in a memory slowly eating itself into oblivion from booze and abuse. What had her name been? Alice? No. Ginger? That would have been appropriate. He couldn’t remember her face, anything other than short red hair, the look he had seen over a pale, freckled shoulder in the orange glow of sunrise. Blue eyes framed in a blonde halo, crying.
He pushed the thought aside with another swig, emptied the glass this time and began the morning’s work. He had wanted to write straight fiction, Hemingway or Steinbeck. He’d settled with something a bit stranger, more Bradbury at first that gradually devolved into something far less palatable to him. Horror was fine, he supposed, so long as it paid the bills. He was good at it, not that he thought it took a lot of effort. Vampires and ghosts; zombies were the easiest. Make it gory, make it violent, throw in some sex and a bit of witty, humorous dialogue and throw it into the pit. It was a no-brainer of a way to make a buck while he worked on his novel. He sighed at the thought and looked across the living room at the box on the floor by the fireplace. He hadn’t looked at the manuscript in six weeks, hadn’t felt like it and more than likely wouldn’t for at least another month. He had intended to start with a bit of truth, reminiscent of his high school years and the “adventures” he and his friends had shared. Playing hooky, getting caught smoking in the bathroom, all the stupid crap he’d thought was important as a kid. A long walk with a pretty girl and a cool autumn night; sneaking a kiss by the front porch swing before driving home at curfew.
Good way to end this one, he thought, tacking on an ending to a tale about two kids running from some sort zombie serial killer in the woods. He checked his spelling, word count and shot it off to the editor. Another unremarkable tale in an age of instant internet celebrity. A handful of emotionally disturbed teens and horror geeks lurking in their parents’ basements would devour it and, by morning, would forget that they’d ever seen the file.
He showered, shaved and got dressed for the night. Black suit neatly pressed with a red tie that shimmered just a bit in the right light. He slicked back his hair, brushed his teeth and stood in front of the plate glass window leading out onto the balcony. The sun was slowly creeping into the distance on the other side of his building now, leaving ghosts of orange and yellow streaming over the purple waves of cloud arching out across the sky. He’d go to the bars tonight, dance and drink and pour himself a few dozen shots of liquid courage. Eventually the inebriation would lead into that magical stage he’d found between incapacitated and irresistible and he’d find a pretty girl to take home. She’d be petite with light blonde hair that fell just past her shoulders. They’d dance and they’d talk before they went back to his place and do something that he’d equated with love once. She’d fall asleep in his arms and for a minute, a minute that always seemed to get shorter with every carbon copy girl next door, that it was her. He’d feel her hair tickling his nose as he curled up to her, lean down to kiss her neck, and take a deep breath of some alien perfume that smelled nothing like the vanilla and lavender of that woman he had loved. The moment would dissipate into the black unconsciousness of something less than sleep brought on by the liquor and, in the morning, she’d be gone again.
And the sunrise would be waiting, golden strands brushing across his face, warming his cheeks and making him miss her just a little more.