Help: Flash Fiction #Flash4Storms

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The hurricanes season delivered destruction across Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the rest of the Carribean. But that’s only a piece of the suffering that rips through the world and not the latest or the last. Sarah Brentyn is donating $1 for every flash fiction story around the theme of Help, up to $50.  Entries need to be in by October 14 if you want to join in. Just include a link to her site Lemon Shark so you get counted. I’ll match her donation, so let’s max her challenge out!

Help

Audrey climbed the steep, narrow stairs to the third floor and switched on the light. She kept a tidy attic, dusted, everything in labeled boxes from shoe-box rectangles to the one that had delivered her new washer. Many were stuffed to the brim, and some she filled gradually. She had empties too, waiting for the next wedding or birth, the next death, the next act of brutal terrorism, another war or earthquake, or a hurricane like the ones that spun across the ocean and left thousands in need of help.

There was so much despair that for a long time she felt guilty if she smiled, horrible for a burst of laughter. To appreciate an autumn day or lunch with a friend seemed selfish and careless as if all that suffering meant nothing to her, just another day of rain down life’s gutter. So, she compartmentalized, pared fragile layers from her heart and filled her boxes with fragments of a mangled world. And each day, she spent a few hours after work lifting lids and letting the emotions sweep her into fits of hilarity or weeping. Her boxes spared her from drowning in helplessness and kept her happiness safe. In a world gone mad, they kept her sane.

Sight #Writephoto

The enemy showed up at the wall when autumn’s copper leaves twirled from brittle twigs and food ran shy. I slid my rifle from the borehole and dug in my pocket for a wedge of bread and wafer of dried fish I’d saved from my rations. The offering all I could spare, I reached into the cold tunnel, and my fingers lingered on the girl’s hand. She smiled, her pupils like glistening pebbles in pools of bronze.

Sisi buka nash corazones, ee?” she said in a language I couldn’t understand.

“You’re welcome,” I whispered. “You should go now.”

But I didn’t let go. She tilted her head, eyes crinkled in question. And as she did each day, she peered through the hole, and her voice lured me from the desolation of war. She told me stories in her strange tongue, soft words sharing blushed secrets and dreams. Her laughter rippled toward me, and at times, tears tumbled into the stream of words. She wiped her cheeks on the worn sleeves of her ruby dress, and I stroked her hand, yearning for her warmth through that dark stone hole.

I didn’t shoot her.

With the first snows, our officers issued fresh orders and we cleaned our rifles. I rested the barrel in the hole and waited. Bullets weighted my pocket beside the bread, and my fingers froze. She came with the others across the muted green of a beautiful and barren world.

“Ready!” my captain shouted.

Rifles clacked against the stones along the line. I raised my gun and sighted. Her red dress shone like a brand.

“Aim!”

She danced across the broken land, her eyes smiling into the black hole between us.

“Fire!”

I shot wide and high. She halted and stared at my borehole while those around her screamed and fled. Weapons barked like feral dogs; light flickered in the pocked blackness as we shrieked. The torrent of noise swamped my senses, and I shot through the hole until my rifle ran dry, shouting at her to run as tears blistered my eyes. Blood bloomed on her dress. She staggered backwards and pitched to the ground, snowflakes chasing her down.

Through the bitter winter, I stood vigil at my borehole, watching crows feast and snow frost the red silhouette of her body. In the spring, the last tatters of her ruby dress fluttered away in the wind, and I watched over her bones.

I don’t think I shot her, but she was just as dead.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the wonderful prompt, despite where it took me.

***

Forgive me for this very rough translation of the girl’s words:
We (Swahili)
open (Indonesian)
our (Russian)
hearts (Spanish)
yes? (Arabic)