Today’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck: take all ten of these words and include them in a story. The words are:
Funeral, captivate, deceit, brimstone, canyon, balloon, clay, disfigured, willow, atomic
So I give you:
In The Red Sunset
The red glow of the atomic sunset was beautiful. It hovered over the canyon, sending out waves of deceitful glory. The red light filled up the dusty corners, while a hot wind stirred dirt up into small whirlwinds. The ground was gritty beneath my feet. It was a quiet and empty place. I knew it was toxic and that it would probably kill us eventually, but since we were all going to die anyway why not enjoy it?
I stood at the edge of the canyon, drinking in the light and thinking my thoughts.
The funeral had been held yesterday. The air had stunk of brimstone, which was normal when the wind blew from the west, but it felt like the very earth was being sympathetic. He’s dead, you know where he’s going! Exactly where he belongs, maybe. It’s hard to tell. Hard to unravel his intentions from his actions. Hard to know if life would’ve been easier with him or without him. Hard to know a lot of things.
The boys in the village want to celebrate, that’s for sure. Maybe not a good thing – all they ever want to do is find excuses to stop working and celebrate. We’re alive, let’s have a party! Maybe they have a point, but maybe I’m more like my father than I want to admit.
Bill Gray came up to me, maybe to offer some consolation. Although I think he’s smarter than that. He got too close to the city’s weapons as a child, back when everybody was escaping into the countryside. His disfigured face taught him a lot that the other kids his age never had to learn. Made him more thoughtful. Slower to talk. Good listener. I liked Bill Gray.
“Well Miss Annie, how’s your day? Thinking about taking a ride in my green balloon?” He smiled at me, and I smiled back. His green balloon. He had made it out of an old piece of silk and some string, and he used to throw it off the porch roof for me when I was little. It would float slowly down to the bare dirt, and we would make up stories about the times before, and how people could fly in the sky. Back when he had been little and I hadn’t been born. I believed him, although it was hard to imagine flying in the air. I loved it when he told me stories. My father had no time for such things, when the business of surviving took up all of his time and his thoughts. He was a hard man, and now I understand why, but I would have liked to have heard his stories.
I would pretend to be in the balloon, floating far away.
“Maybe so, Mr Gray. Maybe I am. I’m thinking things are going to be changing around here.”
“Maybe not necessarily changing for the better?” Mr Bill Gray was a smart man, as I may have mentioned.
“I’m thinking the boys aren’t going to be doing much work for a while. I’m not sure who could make them anyway.”
Bill took off his hat and wiped his forehead. “Well they’ll not be listening to me now anymore than they ever have.” Mr Gray was also a disfigured man, as I believe I’ve mentioned.
“No, probably not. No elders around anymore. Not sure what those boys are going to get up to.”
“Best lock your door at night, for a while anyway.” This startled me, and upset me some. I hadn’t been thinking along those lines.
“I suppose.” I frowned.
“Miss Annie..” he paused, holding his hat in his hands, turning it round and round by the brim. “Miss Annie..”
“I’m right here, Mr Gray.” He seemed tongue-tied, which was not his way. He was a quiet thinker, but once he started talking he said what he had to say.
“Miss Annie, what if I did have a balloon? What if I had made a balloon out of old silk dresses, with a basket made of willow branches? What if it were down around the bend in the canyon, by the clay banks where nobody could find it? We could fill it with hot air on the ground and take off. We might not get very far, but what if we did?”
The whole idea was a surprise, shocking, even. Mr Gray was not a man given to secrets and hiding things – or so I had thought. I was beginning to think Mr Bill Gray might have hidden depths I had not been aware of. I liked that.
I also liked the idea of this balloon. It quickened something inside me. I’m not a fancy person, so I’m not going to call it hope or anything like that. But something felt different, and it felt good. I also liked Mr Bill Gray, as I do believe I have told you more than once.
A balloon. That was something to think about.
What would we do? Where would we go? Who would we find? I’d like to say anything would be better than here, but I know that’s foolishness. A lot of places could be a lot worse.
But a lot could be better, even if only a bit better. We hadn’t seen other people in our little settlement since I had been small. We had been all alone here for so long. Who knew what had happened everywhere else? The thought of finding out captivated my heart.
Maybe it was time to take some chances, and leave this stale comfort behind. All of a sudden I was ready to go. It was time to find out what else was out there, and see what kind of a new life we could make for ourselves. Something better than watching the poisonous sunset and waiting.
I slipped my arm through his. “Well then, Mr Gray, let’s go and find out what’s out there.”
He put his hat on and smiled at me. I smiled back.