Fiction : Prologue to ‘The Last Scentsei’.

Prologue

Itabashi Suburb, Tokyo, 2049.

The silk scarves they had used to construct the ceiling panels of their little makeshift tent were just translucent enough to allow someone to see the little lights affixed to the garland and which were hung from the ceiling of the room. The tent itself was a fairly simple construct consisting of different pieces of fabric which were suspended on a wire frame, fabricated from bits and pieces found in the nearby streets after the markets and shops closed down for the day. Colourful scraps of delicate tissue had been carefully sown together to increase the overall size of the canvas, and the ensemble looked like one of those paintings from the past made by a famous Dutch painter in which he had mixed all kinds of colourful blocks together. From inside the makeshift tent, the lights looked exactly as they were intended to : like the billions of stars that illuminated our skies in the galaxy. The improvised shelter was a little enclave of sorts, a hideaway they could get in to escape the world around them. Even though the canvas was paper-thin it shielded anyone inside from the would outside as if some kind of magic spell had been cast on it.

The little girl inside the tent, – she couldn’t have been a day older than seven -, was lying down on the floor mat, her head resting on the older woman’s stomach. The woman was slowly caressing the girl’s hair in a soothing, repetitive motion. The woman was in her late thirties but looked a lot younger. Her jet-black hair and delicate, pale complexion bestowed upon her an air of sophistication, refinement and intelligence. Her regal features where supplemented by a statuesque figure and sharp jawline, all of which only accentuated the most beautiful aspect of her face : her striking emerald blue eyes. If a thousand ships had launched for Helen as she had once read in a forbidden book, then there wouldn’t be enough wood in the world to build the necessary ships for her. The little girl resting her head in her lap was a miniature version of the woman, even slightly more beautiful if it were possible.
“Never forget, Kaori-ko,” the woman whispered while both were staring at the lustrous lights above them, “people will try and take a lot from you in this world. They can lock you away, burn down your house, cut down your trees, and so on, but there’s one thing they can never take from you.”
“What’s that?” the little girl asked.
“The stars in the skies. If you make them yours, if you declare that they belong to you, then nobody can take that away from you. Ever. They will always be there for you, waiting for you, watching you from above. They will guide you in the darkest of times, when you feel abandoned by everyone and everything the stars will be there for you and show you the way.”
The little girl reached her arm out towards the tingling little lights which reflected in her big, pearl-like blue uncharacteristic blue eyes.
“Never?”
“Never.” the woman reassured her while planting a kiss on the girl’s forehead.
“Why?”
“Because when we leave this earth after our time is up, that’s where we go. We become stars. Every person who has ever walked on this earth represents a little star like that.”
“So that we won’t forget them when they’re gone?”
“Exactly.” the mother smiled.
“And you’ll be here to protect me from all those things too, right?” the young girl asked meekly.
“Always. And if not in presence, then I’ll be looking out for you from above.”
“Like the stars?”
“Like the stars, Kaori-ko. They represent every generation that’s ever lived. If you ever feel lonely, look at the stars at night and remember that you are always surrounded by everyone who’s ever been here.” They laid there for what could have easily been an eternity until the sudden thudding of footsteps echoed throughout the stairwell adjacent to the room. A moment later, a man in his early forties entered the room with a look of panic across his face. He had handsome features, and the first signs of white whiskers near his temples. He was holding onto a box the size of a large book with his left hand, and once he was inside the room he carefully locked the door behind him.

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Flash fiction : “Now is the Time of Monsters.”

Do you remember it? Do you remember what the weather was like that day? What smells were floating in the air that hour? What your heart-rate was the minute before? What the last thought entering your mind the second prior was? The moment when you realised there’s something more than all of what we can observe?

I remember it well, the first time I realised that all we can see is not all there is. I had just turned 10 years old. It was the first tornado of the season and we were racing home from a baseball match out in Sandpark Hill. The storm had eluded all early-detection systems and had appeared as quickly as it would vanish later. The moment the meteorologists issued the warning on the broadcasting system and the speakers sounded the ominous alarm, it was already too late. Dad drove our truck like a madman, only narrowly avoiding collisions with other drivers who were trying to do the exact same thing, and we managed to make it as far as Lancaster bridge. Dad and Mom in front, my sister and I in the backseat and Carrot the dog in the trunk. When it became clear that we couldn’t go on, Dad stopped the truck with screeching tires under the passageway and told us to bury our heads in our laps and to shield our heads with our hands. The first truck that crashed into ours ejected me in one sweeping motion through the open passenger window, my body miraculously avoiding any collision with the steel frame of the car, like a basketball falling cleanly into a net. I landed near a pillar under the arches supporting the bridge. It took me a while to regain consciousness but when I did, the view I had was that of our truck laying on it’s roof and being sucked away slowly from underneath the bridge with everyone screaming and crying inside.

The tornado was pulling it out slowly, gently, like I slowly spun a sling of spaghetti onto a spoon with my fork during Sunday dinners. As if the Gods themselves wanted to make sure that I witnessed every slow second of what was about to happen. In an absurdly overzealous miscalculation of my childish abilities I let go of the pillar I was holding onto and started running with my little legs towards the truck. I would somehow manage to pull it back to safety. I saw my mother’s contorted face turn from panic to sadness, as she realised that my doomed attempt at saving them would inevitably also result in my own demise. I will never forget that look of selfless agony on her face, of being more worried about another’s fate than her own. As soon as I reached the truck and placed my hand on the scratched metal of the front bumper, the Gods decided that my misery had gone on for long enough and put an end to it by quickly pulling up the car into the stormy skies. Unwilling to let go I was dragged along until my hand gave way, and I fell to the floor in the eye of the storm.

I had traversed the skin-scratching sandpaper-winds outside and was now suddenly in a vacuum of pure calmness, an oasis of soundless peace. I could see the storm of sand and steel playing out in front of me, just outside of this invisible tube I was trapped in, but inside there was nothing. I looked up to but there was nothing but blurred mayhem. I was caught in total chaos, swallowed whole by the white maelstrom of whirlwinds. And then, on the foggy perimeter just outside my field of vision, it is in that clashing of light and darkness, silence and screams, that I saw for the first time the sights of another dimension. The force of the vortex was tearing the fabric of our reality apart and I caught a glimpse of something that mortals were never supposed to witness. Flashes of light and colours filled my eyes, liquid visions of a millions hues of other worlds and other lives being lived poured straight into my consciousness. A thousand lives and a thousand galaxies we had never been told about. I saw faces of people who could only live on other planets. Of places where gravity worked in different ways than here. I would have dismissed it as a hallucination, were it not for the near-tangibility of it all. I reached out my arm to touch the perimeter of the whirlpool where the visions of liquid light and translucent shadows were flowing through one another at the speed of light like molten steel in a mill. If you ask me now how long I was in there I would reply that it lasted an entire lifetime, a limitless eternity, but witnesses of the scene said it lasted no longer than a couple of second. A thousand generations live inside me now. When my fingers finally reached the barriers of the vortex I was trapped in, the whirlwinds died down as quickly as they had come and I found myself on my scraped knees in the middle of the highway with my arm reaching out into the ethereal nothingness of what I had seen.

People who witnessed my fall rushed to my aid, unable to believe I barely had a scratch on me. They never found my parent’s car, something the city’s police chief assured not to be unusual with storms of this strength. I hesitated to tell them what I had seen, because I was sure they’d never believe me. They’d tell me I had hallucinated everything because of the chaos, but I was sure of what I had witnessed. A secret transition. The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born. And when the planets and fates are unaligned, two worlds collide and breaches appear along the surface. And I was the only one who had witnessed it. I had been where no-one else had been before, trapped in between both. Between two times, between two dimensions.

Now is the time of Madness. Now is the time of Monsters.

Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development. It is a favored genre among the English-speaking world’s most celebrated writers for its ability to convey deep truths and universal human emotions in just a few short paragraphs. When done well, flash fiction can convey deep truths and resonate with readers from all walks of life. Flash fiction compresses an entire story into the space of a few paragraphs. There is no defined word count for flash fiction, but some commonly used word limits in flash fiction range from just six words on the short end to around 1,000 words on the longer end.