A lot of my flash fiction is stored on a tumblr blog. I fell out of the habit of using tumblr before they started censoring my fun but sometimes head over there to scroll through my old posts. There are nearly 50 slices of story there, many of them ideas for something greater.
I’ve been transplanting my favourites here and I was surprised to note that neither of these two had made it over yet. I love these stories. “Hunger” because it’s creepy and didn’t start out that way. The idea in my head when I first looked at the picture disappeared as soon as I started to write, the story below happening instead. “Socks” is me at my sentinmental best.
Hunger claws at my belly, my thoughts, fuzzing them. Breathing deeply, I search for the scent that will turn me back or scare me forward, and all I catch is the clean, bitter smell of snow. Cold nips at my lungs, and the back of my neck prickles. I imagine I can feel icicles spreading through my body, slowing my shivers.
Ahead, Terry, Brian, and Kee cut a trail through the knee-deep snow. Their outlines are so familiar now. I’ve been following them for weeks, always behind. Terry’s the only one who looks back. Brian will pause now and again, hand on Kee’s shoulder. Kee never looks back. He’s too scared of what’s behind him—with good reason.
Terry looks back now, his face a mask of shadow and light. I fill in his features from memory, everything but his eyes.
His eyes lie.
I nod. He nods and turns. We keep going.
The terrain is easy but for the snow and I begin to count my steps, delighting in the simple placement of one number in front of another. It’s been a while since I could think this clearly. Since my senses were so un-fogged by the animal stench of newly rent flesh, spilled blood, rotting corpses, and the stink of a world gone mad. I breathe deeply again, pulling in the cleansing burn of cold. I exhale mist. It almost feels cool on my lips.
I push on, over the last ridge and down through a depression. One last turn and there it is. Where there has been endless snow, water now reaches for the horizon, lapping at the clouds in smooth ripples.
I listen for the whisper, for the call. For the hunger that has chased us quite literally to the end of the earth. All is quiet, but my shoulders aren’t ready to unhitch and settle back down where they belong. Terry walks back to meet me and I stand there—feeling, thinking, trying to think.
I can smell him, and why does he have to smell so good and why can’t the scent of him remind me of mornings cuddled up against the dark and the sweat of our lovemaking and oh, God, my stomach hurts and my head hurts and I can SMELL him and it’s prickling the back of my neck and it’s not cold enough and it hurts, it hurts, it hurts!
I pull at my coat. My gloved fingers grasp at the zipper, fumble, catch against tiny metal teeth, and…
I can smell me.
Terry’s hands cover mine and I look into his lying eyes until my vision blurs. I’m… crying and my tears are warm. And I’m cold. The hunger is still there, but not in my head. I’m hungry. My belly aches with it, but I can think.
I… I’m… cold.
And I don’t want to eat him.
The socks were my idea, the view his. Getting married? I can’t remember who brought it up first, but wouldn’t be surprised to hear we’d been drinking at the time. Or maybe we were doing something stupid and fun and one of us made a comment, probably about another other couple doing stupid and fun things, and wondered whether…
Okay, it was me. I admit it. I should take credit—unless being married turned out to be the biggest mistake ever, in which case I’d somehow remember it was his fault.
“What are you muttering about to yourself over there?” he asked.
“Is it the wind? Here, snuggle a bit closer.”
I did that, edging my legs sideways until they bumped into his. A little hip-shuffling had us pressed together, side by side, and it was almost comfortable. He solved the arm thing by digging a hand beneath my shoulders, wrapping it around my upper back. I turned a little sideways and we were snuggled.
“Much.” He smelled like wood smoke and fresh air and, well, him.
“So what do you want to do tomorrow?”
“Dunno,” I mused. “I thought it’d be warmer.” Yep, the honeymoon had been my idea too. I was full of them. “Maybe we should have—”
“Stop already. This is perfect. No one else would think of camping on the beach in March.”
“Oh my God.”
Chuckling, he tugged me closer and kissed my temple. “At least we won’t have to worry about getting sunburned.”
“You really need to stop.”
“And once I get my massage, I’ll totally think I’m at a five-star resort somewhere instead of tucked into a tiny, thin tent with my ridiculous husband.”
“Just kill me now. Get it over with.”
I knew he was mostly kidding—especially when the laughter in his voice moved to his chest, down his legs, leaving him a little helpless and breathless next to me. I took advantage, of course. I snuck a hand under his sweatshirt and three shirts and skated my fingers over his ribs. Twitching a little, he batted at my hand. Ineffectually. There were a lot of layers in between. I tucked my fingers up under his armpit and tickled. He convulsed and tried to pull his arm out from beneath my shoulders.
Nope. Not happening. I had him trapped and at my mercy.
Oh God. Did I really have him trapped? What had I been thinking? Not about this… this trip to the ocean at the wrong time of year, perfect view of the beach notwithstanding. The other thing. That idea I’d had that we should get married. Do the together thing until death parted us. Or until…
My fingers weren’t moving. I looked up to find him smiling down at me. He smoothed hair away from my forehead. “If you don’t stop thinking so hard, I’m going to have to expose you to the elements and make love to you.”
I wished he would. Not the exposure part, the other part. Could we manage without freezing to death?
The corners of his smile turned down. He was still pressing my hair back and it was nice. Soothing. “Tell me what you’re thinking,” he said.
“Have we…” I shook my head, nearly dislodging his fingers. “Did I talk you into this? Did you do this just for me?”
“The camping trip?”
Sure. I nodded.
He frowned. “You know, I could get pissed about this.”
I gave him a quizzical look.
“You’re assuming I don’t have any input in my own life. Craig decides we should get married, so, sure, I say yes. Craig thinks we should spend our honeymoon camping and, like an idiot, I nod my head. Of course. Sounds brilliant.”
Not sure how to respond, I held my tongue.
“Do you actually remember how that conversation went, the night you asked me?”
“I was watching that other couple at the mini golf place. The one just in front of us. They’d hit their ball into the pond and he was threatening to push her into the water after it. Instead of screaming, she was just laughing and trying to push him in too, and I thought… That could be us. They were all happy and comfortable in each other’s company and that was how I felt about you. I’d known it for a long time and everything just clicked in that moment.”
“And so you turned to me,” he said, picking up the story, “and said, ‘We should get married.’”
A hot wave of embarrassment washed over my face.
“Do you remember what I said?” he asked.
It must have been yes. Here we were, freezing our asses off by the coast of Maine. In March.
“I said, ‘It’s about time you asked.’”
I looked up. “What?”
“You were already doing your thing. This thing. Worrying. And all I could think was yes. Finally. He’s ready. Let’s do it.”
“That’s what I told you.”
How could I have forgotten that part? “And this?” I gestured toward the view.
He smiled. “This is how memories are made.”
I looked outside, at the piece of inlet framed by the nylon of the tent, and it was like that night all over again. This was it. IT. We were here and we were together. Wearing stupid socks and weighed down by every shirt and blanket we’d brought with us. And he was right. I’d never forget it. This view, the warmth of him next to me, his scent. Him.
And… it was perfect. All of it. Just perfect.
I turned back. “You’re right.”
“Don’t sound so surprised.”
Laughing, I started up my tickle again. “Want to see how many layers we can shed before we get frostbite?”
He grinned. “Now that might be the best idea you’ve had yet.”