Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature of extreme brevity; a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.
Below is my first work of Flash Fiction called “(Un)Lucky.” A woman named Caroline who considers herself unlucky goes for a walk through a eucalyptus grove with a Starbucks coffee and finds… happiness.
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Word count: 1,062
Caroline considered herself unlucky. Elevator doors closed as she approached. Traffic lights blinked yellow to red, Even her cell service was random at best. Friends did not please leave a message at the tone; they relied on 1 Missed Calls to inform. It didn’t.
Statisticians would claim that the probability of stellar dust surviving Earth’s atmosphere and landing within Caroline’s Starbucks venti coffee cup during a rare sunny afternoon walk under her favorite menthol-scented grove of eucalyptus trees was too remote to bother calculating. And yet, that’s what happened. She did not see it fall; if she had she would have assumed the dust was bark or leaf detritus, possibly dislodged by the squawking flock of feral green parrots perched high in the trees scouting for hawks. Besides, eucalypti are messy. Stiff ocean breezes overhead kept the tops of the grove in slow, rhythmic motion; something was always falling and lodging in her long tangle of hair that the drugstore bottle labeled “summer wheat”, but her ex-boyfriend called “yellow”. Perhaps if she had seen it, she would have plucked the ashy substance from the surface of the melting whipped cream and not fallen into the coma.
That morning she hit the snooze button on her alarm three times— once more than her normal. She flossed for the first time in several months, rinsing repeatedly the uncoagulating pale blood from between her teeth. On her way out, she forgot her sneakers and puffed back up the dark, uneven stairs of her rent-controlled building; the stairwell stank of mildew. She snatched her Keds from the windowsill above the sink where she had left them to air out and relocked the studio apartment’s deadbolt, fumbling a keyring heavy with useless notched metal from past apartments. The keys thudded dully at her feet; sweat from her brow dripped on the threadbare industrial green-yellow carpet as she bent down to recover them. She stopped to gripe about the rising heat and rent with the shirtless neighbor down the hall and set out again, hand-cranking open the windows on her 2001 Hyundai. She maneuvered the surface streets because the highway was choked from an early morning fender bender long since cleared to the side, but still jammed with gawking commuters shamelessly scanning for a glimpse of carnage. There was none. She decided not to fill her nearly empty tank with gas she couldn’t afford, yet still missed that last traffic light before the entrance to her office park because she was fiddling with the AM/FM radio tuner knob. She endured the economical mediocrity of small salad, dressing on the side, but splurged for expensive coffee at a nearby Starbucks overrun with toned clones: flat-bellied mommies in their thirties, all sporting cropped yoga tights, fitted tanks, and strollers. None sported Keds. They’re so lucky. She grabbed her drink and retreated outside, catching her reflection in the window; it was an amorphous image unfamiliar to her. Could I ever be that lucky? She drank in the fresh air, recognizing a faint tinge of menthol; her skin reflexively prickled as the sun warmed her soul. Could I? She gazed into the now cloudless sky. Doubts blossomed into inspiration, then action; she bypassed her usual paved exercise route and labored the longer, winding, wooded path uphill to find her favorite grove. The parrots squawked above and Caroline smiled; she was glad to be back.
Had she done anything differently— anything at all— the dust would have missed the three inch ring of whipped cream atop her venti skinny cafe mocha climbing at her 2.6 mph pace, at an exact 36 inches high off the ground, at precisely 2:36 pm, under her favorite menthol-scented grove of eucalyptus trees.
When she dropped into a coma, the general news media failed to notice. In her neighborhood, no matter the medical diagnosis, drug overdose was always assumed the cause. No news there. It wasn’t until the next day, when the second wave of stellar dust entered the Earth’s atmosphere and millions across the globe also fell into unexplained comas, that confusion and alarm set in. Al-Qaeda? North Korea? An accident at Area 51? How about DARPA? What about the Chinese?, the TV pundits aggressively questioned the new generation of self-appointed experts. The panic that ensued heightened when seven large spacecraft, positioned just outside the magnetosphere of Earth, were spotted. It was no accident: this attack was an intentional biological contamination by a non-Earth contingent.
Those who remained awake were afraid, a palpable fear that drove them to commit monstrous irrational acts. Many took their own lives. Even more took those of their family, friends, neighbors, passersby… total strangers. Base instincts kicked in, and the laws of man were thrown out. Utter anarchy. A vicious free for all.
By day four, over 3 billion people were comatose and an astonishing billion more had been killed in the pandemonium. Masks, clean rooms, and respirators were of little use. The stellar dust was merely a delivery device for an unknown agent that arrested the brain function of highly intelligent animals. Humans, apes, monkeys, squirrels, pigs, crows, and elephants were affected. Dolphins, porpoises, and whales became incapacitated and drowned. After evolving for 55 million years, the taxonomic Order Cetacea became extinct overnight. Literally. Drowning Cetacea was conceivably a mistake, an oversight on the part of the invaders whom the overly zealous media had paradoxically taken to calling “Dust Mites,” after the microscopic arachnids whose primary food is dead human skin cells. The dust would have been far easier to engineer as fatal rather than as anesthetic they argued in broadcasts to an off-air audience. It was assumed the Mites had wanted Earth-life unconscious, not dead, for the next step in their presumably dreadful plan.
By day five, all consciousness ceased to exist on Earth.
And it all began with Caroline— blissfully unaware Caroline. She was the first human to slip unconscious five days ago on a sunny day while walking under her favorite grove of messy menthol-scented eucalyptus trees, listening to the loud squawks of feral parrots, and sipping on a skinny cafe mocha with whipped cream. She had been smiling; she was happy for the first time in a very long time. There was one set of circumstances, and only one, that could have landed her in this fortuitous situation: she alone escaped the horror.
At last, Caroline was lucky.
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(Un)Lucky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.