If you’re one of my dozens of newsletter recipients, you’ll know that I include a piece of microfiction in each newsletter. About a year ago, I shared the microfiction pieces I wrote over the first year of sending out my newsletter. Here are the second year’s pieces.
Alarm goes off. Get out of bed. Stretch. Use the bathroom. Take a shower. Get dressed. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Eat breakfast. Go to work. Come home. Eat dinner. Read a book. Get ready for bed. Go to sleep.
It’s the same every day. Well, five days out of seven. The other two days have a lot more staring into space, along with laundry, grocery shopping, and bill paying.
One Thursday morning, after opening the door to go to work, someone was there. Poised to knock. Carrying a briefcase.
Clearing their throat, caught off-guard, the person said, “You are done with this life. You are ready to apply what you have learned.” They held out what looked like a textbook. Its cover read, “Deity School: Introduction to How to Be a Deity.”
Then the person exclaimed, “Oh!” and took something out of their briefcase, offering it as well. “There’s a workbook, too! You can fill it in as you go.” The person beamed.
Time for a new adventure, it seems.
Linnea sat at her kitchen table while she stared at the pencil dot on the piece of paper, trying to recreate the optical illusion/brain trick that her new friend told her about. The friend said you’re supposed to imagine yourself disappearing into the pencil dot.
Linnea squinted and screwed up her face and tried looking away and back at it real quick, but nothing. It still just looked like a dot. On a white sheet of paper.
“Of course,” she thought. “My life is so boring, why would a dot on a paper be anything other than a dot on a paper?”
Getting up from the table to rest her eyes and make her lunch, her cat, Weetabix, took advantage of her absence and started batting at the pencil dot. He pawed it, it disappearing under his paw, and then he looked at his paw to see if he’d caught it. One time he thought he had, but it was just a shadow. So he stared at it, ready to pounce if it moved even a little.
Linnea returned to the table, plate full of sandwich and apple slices in hand, to give it another go. She stared at the dot in between bites of sandwich, dreaming of a more interesting life where she would have something better to do on a Saturday afternoon than star at a pencil dot. Weetabix stared at her sandwich.
Stare. Bite. Chew. Stare. Dot. Stare. Imagination. Movement? Bite. Chew. Stare. No, there was definitely movement. Weetabix agreed and swatted at the paper. Look away. Look back. Dot… missing? Weetabix on the floor, chasing pencil dot. Pencil dot getting bigger. Darkness inside. Exit. Weetabix hissing. Escape. Stare. Stop chewing. Dot bigger.
Linnea grabbed Weetabix and what was left of her sandwich, and jumped.
ESCAPE. Escape. escape.
e s c a p e
Out. In. Rest. Out. In. Rest. Out. In. Rest.
Every time Elsie stepped out of her house, she’d need at least a day to recover. To reset her body and her mind. The world was overwhelming, and she learned from an early age that she was not safe out there.
One day, a new neighbor moved in next door. She caught glimpses of him—red jacket, shifty eyes, nervous look. As time went on, she observed similar behavior from the neighbor that she exhibited herself.
Out. In. Rest.
She soon realized she actually wanted to talk to the neighbor, and hatched a plan.
Elsie mailed a letter to his house. The letter contained an idea.
On the day it arrived, Red Jacket Dude stood at his mailbox reading the letter. He checked the return address and glanced over at Elsie’s house. Glanced back to the letter. Glanced at the house. Squinted his eyes.
He kept the letter in his hand but quickly scrawled something on the envelope, stashed it in her mailbox, and quickly retreated to his house.
Once the coast was clear, Elsie snuck out to retrieve the note. She read it. And smiled.
Two weeks later, neighbors noticed that a human-sized hamster tube had been built connecting the two houses.
Now Elsie and Red Jacket Dude could spend time together without venturing out into the big scary world.
Janice liked new beginnings. Fresh starts. Clean breaks. Nothing cluttering up her future like any obligations, or inconvenient things like personal connections. She was a one-woman universe who preferred to take on a series of unrelated adventures.
Her next one involved a funicular. She was looking forward to that.
Her last one, well, she was still cleaning out the dirt from under her fingernails. At least she remembered to also bury the shovel this time.
Imogen could see things other people couldn’t. But only when she wore her glasses.
Without her glasses, things were a little blurry, but she otherwise saw the world for what it was. People disconnected. Neglect. Sickness. Pollution. Greed. War.
With her glasses, she saw the world for what it could be. People talking and connecting. Animals cared for. Healthy people. Clean air. Generosity, Community. Peace.
She preferred to wear her glasses.
“See you tomorrow!” Gina said to her friend Stephen, as they waved to each other. They both knew they would see each other tomorrow. Their memories of the future were complete. Clear. Unbroken. They would be friends for the rest of their lives. There were so many fun things to look forward to with Stephen.
But they had no actual memories of how they met. Adventures they had in the past. Shared joys and rough patches. All they had to go by is what they kept in their journals, filling in chronicles of their days before going to sleep, so that their pasts would not be lost. Gina’s bookshelf was filled with dozens of old journals, starting from when she was old enough to hold a pencil, and she skimmed as many as she could each morning.
When she got home from seeing Stephen, Gina sat down at her desk to fill in her journal with her day’s activities and noticed that some pages had been torn out. The entire last week’s entries were gone, other than yesterday’s entry. But yesterday’s entry shed no clues. Naturally, she had no memory of tearing these out, nor what they contained. Was she hiding something from herself?
Gina called Stephen to see what he knew, since yesterday’s entry stated that they spent some time together then too. Stephen told Gina that his journal entry from yesterday, along with his entire last week’s entries, were also gone. He was similarly flummoxed. Gina made a note to investigate the following day, and went to sleep.
Two days later, Gina woke to find a new, blank journal on her desk with a note to herself: “New journal! Start fresh!” Her bookshelf was filled with literature and reference books, travel and nature guides.
He heard a knock at the door. He ignored it, because he was busy and he didn’t like people. But the knocking persisted. There would be a slight pause, and then more arrhythmic knocking. He started to feel it in his skull.
Finally, he threw down his newspaper and stomped out of the kitchen, trudging through the hallway and into the entry, one arm out toward the door knob and already prepared to yell in the face of whoever had the gall to behave in such an obnoxious way, and on a Sunday morning too. He opened the door, took a deep breath, and there it stood: opportunity.
Every morning she heard bird song greet her as she awoke. And every morning she sang back to the birds. Neither could understand each other, of course. But as time went on, the birds would linger, longer and longer each time, to hear her song. And she would flit about the yard, feeling freer and lighter, listening to and responding to the birds.
Until she could sing their songs and they could sing hers.
They all realized that the world was a mess, so they all—birds and woman—went to live in the woods together, never to be seen again.
Janice lived in a world of plenty. She, like many her age, accumulated new things readily and frequently. She became surrounded by things. A few made her smile, but most felt obligatory. She kept needing larger and larger living spaces to keep all of these things. But she didn’t know any other way.
One day, not that long ago, Janice returned home to find her house had been broken into and many valuables stolen. She felt horrified, violated, confused. Once she regained her senses, she rushed to the one shelf where she kept things that were important to her, things that brought her joy. She didn’t realize, until that moment, that any of her things were different from any of the others. That moment brought utter clarity.
The items on the shelf were all still there. They weren’t of monetary value, so they were left alone.
Janice grabbed a few boxes, filled them with these items, a dozen outfits, and her few books, sealed the boxes up, and called the auction house and a Realtor. She was going to start over. Different. Smaller. Better.
Each week, the giant appeared to look at the Great Tree. He walked around it. Peered in at it. Touched its leaves. Sometimes he would snip a leaf or branch here, add a wire there. He tended to the ground and soil, watering and adding moss as needed. But very little water was needed, as it rained about half of the days.
Little Dapple, the fairy, lived in the Great Tree along with her family and most of the other fairies. To her, the Great Tree was the center of life—her home and her world. There were a few other, slightly smaller trees nearby, where a few fairies who craved more space had gone. But Little Dapple liked the constant company and chatter of life in the Great Tree.
Little Dapple appreciated the giant and all his efforts. Even though his snipping cost Little Dapple some of her hair once, when she was careless and didn’t get out of the way in time. It had never grown back, though the rest of her hair kept growing. At first this surprised her, but then it made her more curious about the giant and his world. Perhaps there was something to life outside the Great Tree after all.
No one knew how long the shaking had been going on. Every few years, the town would experience a mild earthquake, and long-time residents said that it had always been that way. The shaking came at irregular intervals, and wasn’t disruptive to people’s lives or the town’s structures.
Some people laughed at the inevitable up-ended lawn chairs. “We will rebuild!” they joked.
But after the eclipse, that all changed. The shaking became monthly. Then weekly. Then daily. But still at irregular intervals.
Then books started falling off of shelves. Pets started hiding. Foundations started cracking. The intensity was climbing.
Eventually, the shaking settled into a rhythm. The accompanying noise became deafening.
The giants were coming.
As May stitched the lines of thread into her quilt, she thought of all of the people who were important to her. Her children, Charles, Prudence, and Theodore, all grown with families of their own. Her friend Berta, who died the year previous. And her neighbor, Jim, who took care of the yard.
She thought about her life while she stitched, her carefree childhood, her young adulthood fraught with challenges and glass ceilings, and her years at home with her children, filled with schoolwork, baking, and very little quiet. She thought of her husband, Fred, who was everything to her until he got sick, and then all she could be was everything to him.
May thought of voyages taken overseas and books read by the window and blooming gardens. She thought of knots in her hair and aches in her hip and the occasional overcooked dinner. She thought of holidays and cups of tea and the first house she and Fred lived in together. She thought of her favorite dress.
As she finished the stitches in the last quilt square, she put down her needle and thread, climbed into bed, wrapped herself in the quilt, and fell asleep.
May did not awaken. But the quilt contained her memories, so she would live on.
As usual, if you want to support my efforts at this blog, please consider buying your Amazon purchases through this affiliate link where I receive some financial benefit. Or go right to the source and send me money through PayPal. No pressure, though.