So I've been doing a daily writing prompt over at Reddit.com - /r/promptoftheday, if you're interested in following along. And what I've been noticing is that instead of following the prompt, that is, instead of writing just a paragraph, or a description, I've been writing scenes. They're not stories, because they're so short, just snippets, really, but they're usually not things that I care to work on any further. I have enough distractions as it is. I can't keep doing this, abandoning projects to work on the newer ideas. So I have these little snippets, 300-1000 words, of ideas that I liked enough to write about but not enough to revisit them and turn them into longer works.
And this morning, I started to think a little about that. I wrote a prompt today, for the 'describe the object of your obsession'. I'm no good at writing prompts, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. I don't follow them. If it says, 'describe this', I will instead start writing a story. Beginning, check. Middle, check. End, also check. And what I just realized about ten minutes ago that what I'm doing is writing flash fiction.
I’ve never really been a fan of flash fiction, but that was before I realized that there could be a market for these little stories I’ve been working on. I really like the one I worked on today – the prompt was ‘obsession’, so I wrote about a man obsessed with death. Why not? I’m pretty preoccupied with death myself, lately, and they say to write what you know. It's too big to post on reddit, so I'm putting it here. This is just what I wrote and copy/pasted into the 'new post' window, so don't look for greatness or anything.
I walked in through the door, not knowing quite what to expect. Henry’s letter had been vague, to say the least, and he was already an eccentric man. As the door creaked closed behind me, I heard a cheerful voice call me inside. I walked further, hanging my coat and hat in the foyer, and with no small amount of trepidation I found myself in the kitchen, where Henry waited for me.
“You’ve come,” he said, and his eyes were gleaming.
I almost took a step back at his expression. There was more than an air of madness about him; less an aura than a pollution. I knew that Henry had been occupied of late, running his homegrown ‘experiments’, but I hadn’t thought that his preoccupation had gotten this far. “Of course. Your letter was very convincing.”
“Good. I knew you’d come. The others declined me, claiming other engagements. But you’re a true friend.” He leaned forward and steepled his fingers, looking into my eyes intently. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“No, I… You invited others? But the letter said-”
“Sorry to deceive you. I truly am. But…” He smiled. “But I need to know. I need to know.”
I felt like I had stepped onto the stage of a bad play. “Need to know what? For God’s sake, Henry. What are you talking about?”
My friend stood up slowly, taking his time to adjust his clothing, patting a crease out of place and putting his hands into his jacket pockets. “I’m talking about death, William.”
I walked over to the table and sat down heavily across the table from him. “Dear Lord. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. What is it?”
Henry snorted. “I knew you’d respond that way. You’re so sentimental. Does it matter what? I’m dying. And you’re dying. Everything on this planet, every living thing, is dying.” His hand moved inside of his pocket. “And I just can’t take it.”
I sat back. “I don’t understand,” I settled on saying. It felt safe enough. But his eyes still glistened as he considered me, standing above me like a dark angel of judgment.
Then he sat back down across from me. “There are two things that every being on this earth experiences. Birth, and death. We don’t remember birth. Our brains aren’t capable of it. But death? The moment of death? It’s been… a fixation, I do confess it. Once I started to think about it, I couldn’t stop. There is a moment that we each experience. The one moment when we realize that we are not going to live through this, that on the other side of that dark curtain is an experience that we cannot fathom, and that we can never return from.”
“Henry,” I said, slowly, “why am I here?”
He sighed, and removed his hand from his jacket. Attached to his hand was a pistol. “I knew you’d ask that question. I’m going to kill you, Will. Slowly. And then, while you’re dying, bleeding out, you’re going to tell me what it’s like.”
I stood up, my chair crashing, unheeded, to the ground. “You’re insane. Kill me? You think I’m going to let you kill me?”
“Sit down.” He gestured with his gun. I ignored him. “How is that going to help you? My death won’t do anything except end my life. You’re still going to die. Damn it, you’re still going to die. Wait your turn! If you’re curious, turn that gun on yourself, instead of killing me!”
For a second, he faltered. The tip of the gun drooped toward the table, and I prepared myself to run. “No,” he said then, and smiled, and the smile was the most frightening thing I had ever seen.
He was right, though, in a way. Having never been truly in fear for my life, it was terrifying. And not just some random, nightmarish horror. Terror. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it echo through my whole body, and my hands shook uncontrollably. Was I viewing the end of my life? The real end of everything that I knew as existence? Were these my last moments to gulp the stale air of a madman’s kitchen, to glut my eyes on all the sights I had taken for granted in my too-short years?
Then the gun fired, and I was shot. There was pain. My chest was on fire, burning. I looked down, and saw the blood. Then there was a short period of darkness, and when I opened my eyes I was on the ground. Henry was sitting next to me, and there was blood on his shirt. His jacket was off, and I could feel a wad of cloth propping my head up. I tried to say something to Henry, but I had no voice. Nothing came out of my mouth but a harsh gurgle, and a trickle of blood that Henry wiped away.
“I missed,” Henry said, and then I understood the sadness in his eyes. “Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”
I gurgled again, and tried to breathe, but no air went into my lungs. I tried again. Nothing. Like a weight was on my chest. The pain was starting to fade, a little.
“Damn it, damn it!” He took my hand, caressed it. “Look at me. Tell me! Tell me what it’s like!”
He took hold of my face and turned it toward him. I felt his fingers, vaguely. My eyes were going dark. I was suffocating, my brain was starving for oxygen. ‘I’ was getting hazy, fuzzy. Dark. I didn’t realize that my eyes were closed until Henry pried them open, giving me my last sight on Earth. His grim, lined face, his eyes searching mine for answers. I didn’t have any. I tried to speak one last time – what I was trying to say, I had no idea. But he held on to my hand like a drowning man, leaning close, as if my words held the secrets of the ages. Then I felt my heart stop beating.
“No. No! You didn’t give me my answers. Do not go gentle into that good night, William!” And his high pitched laugh followed me into darkness.
P.S. Probably going to keep the font in TNR. Courier is great, but I think I like Times better for casual use. Not that it makes a huge difference, I know.