here are a couple excerpts from some fiction pieces i’ve been working on. fiction’s not usually my bag, so these are mostly for fun but if anything serious comes out of it, i’ll be sure to let y’all know here!
Little bitty pretty one, come on and talk to me
Little bitty pretty one, come on and talk to meee
I don’t know the rest ooo-f
So I’ll just sing
“Steph- What’re you do-? Are you singing?”
His desperate voice began to pull me back. I was singing. When had I begun?
How long since the bombing stopped…?
“What were you singing?”
My head was still cradled in my hands. I didn’t expect to stop shaking. I hadn’t been able to find a moment of stillness since the invasion started. I’d grown accustomed to doing everything with shaky hands I didn’t think to try singing. But here was my head, still, cradled in my hands.
I could feel the cold beads of sweat running down my forehead, stinging past my eyes before following their ultimate path along the crease my palms made along my cheeks. At some point, tears began to flow through the canals my sweat created but I held steadfast; my head needed the stillness. My body needed the flood.
As the tears began to tap out, I allowed myself to hear his voice, still asking me questions. Still asking me about that song. Makes sense. It was the first thing I’d said (sung?) out loud in days.
Slowly, I lowered my hands away from my head, letting it hang there for a moment before I heard my voice, low and hollow, begin to explain.
“I’m not even 100% sure what the name of the song is. I always called it ‘Little Bitty Pretty One,’ because I only ever knew the one line. And the whoa-oh-ohs. We used to – my sister and I – we used to sing it. At the lake.”
“Whoa throwback! Last lake left in the country dried up years ago…”
I hadn’t expected him to say something, but I also hadn’t realized I was trailing off. I couldn’t blame him for trying to keep me from slipping back into catatonia.
Time behaves differently in a bomb shelter, and the silent treatment takes on a whole new form of tortuous punishment.
“But I was on a lake.”
“You must’ve dreamt it. You fell asleep just before this last round of bombings started. I know, I’m not really used to ’em yet either. I’d’ve been terrified waking up like that too. And, listen, I’m so, so, so sorry about what I sai-“
“We would sing it at the lake on the inner tube.”
“The inner tube?”
“Yeah, the inflatable raft. My sister, our friends, and- Our dads would pull us on the inner tube on the lake behind the ski boat. Half the fun for them was trying to throw us off so when we were trying really hard to hold on and starting to get scared, we’d sing that song at the top of our lungs. We learned it in dance class years earlier so neither of us really knew the words.”
My words were coming back as fast as the memories that were rushing back. Our carefree laughter. Entire days spent outside, out in the sun. My skin sometimes burned there was so much sun. I almost miss the hot pain across my flesh. Days in the sun on a lake filled with dark water, enough water to reach depths of hundreds of feet.
The first water sources to dry up were the small streams and ponds, the run-offs, the swampy areas of the forest most people don’t even notice. But it wasn’t long before the rivers and lakes started to go too. Sure enough, in due time, water became one of the scarcest commodities in the country.
Remember the lake and the feeling of floating in waters so deep I couldn’t even fathom reaching the bottom, I didn’t even want to think about the water creation and purification system our bomb shelter ran on.
That last summer before the lake dried completely was the last time I saw my sister. The few rains that spring meant there were still a few areas of the lake deep enough for tubing, but those areas could barely keep kayaks afloat by late August. Not that many people still had kayaks by that point.
I remember her hair had gotten longer and was wilder than she normally let it get. When the world’s ending, normal changes.
“I wasn’t sleeping.”
My words grew harsher when I finished my story. I would’ve been surprised by my own tone, but I hadn’t seemed much in control of myself since I’d come out of this fob.
He was taken aback by my tone’s change too. Maybe he thought me telling the story about the lake was me offering forgiveness; maybe he thought my biting words rescinded it.
“When you said I fell asleep before the bombing started. That wasn’t true. I remember them starting. I don’t remember them stopping.”
“Sorry, it’s hard to tell when you’re not talking to me.”
Silence hung for what felt like hours although the time that elapsed before I spoke again could’ve easily been minutes.
“I just don’t want to ever forget how important the truth is.”
They were the last words my sister said to me.
I left that part out.
“Then can we at least address the elephant in the room?”
“You mean the dead body?”
“Jeez, he had a name.”
“I know, and I told you not to ask him for it. I told you to leave him outside.”
“And you haven’t told me anything since. I get it. I’ve learned my lesson.”
His lesson came with a bit, it seemed. He sighed.
“I really am sorry. He seemed like he was getting better. I thought he might could even help us eventually.”
“Nothing gets better anymore. It all just gets worse.”
“Then what are we even doing here?”
All Terry could think of was that light bulb.
It was a light he owned but could not control.
A single, solitary light bulb hanging from a wire in the very center of the pantry ceiling of the house he’d bought three months earlier. He owned and controlled everything in that house, except for one light bulb.
Terry’s had a hard life, you see. Neither of his parents wanted him, so they took full advantage of a hospital’s “drop off your baby, no questions asked” policy. At least, that’s what his third foster mom told him. He couldn’t remember what he’d learned before that, but it at least covered being able to talk and eat as well as to understand basic hygiene and table manners.