Sisyphus descends a spiral staircase connecting heaven to hell. He’d been demoted at his job and now tasked with lugging a square boulder up and down the steps. Along the way, he encounters the ghost of Virgil who remarks that his situation had taken an abysmal turn. Sisyphus inquired if his situation was truly more futile than before. The task remained endless, yet rest proved monotonous for nothing would change and he’d lapse into ennui. Virgil guffawed and then gifted Sisyphus a clock so that he’d suffer equally in mind, body, and spirit.
A priest traveled abroad to seek an answer to an age-old question… what is the good in life? Along the way, he encounters a bard, a grandmaster, and a doctor in a tavern. When inquired, the bard pined about love blossomed and then lost, the grandmaster dramatized his rise and fall from power, the doctor lamented on duty and suffering. The priest quoted a passage from God but the three laughed it off. That night, the bard dreamt of risqué encounters with men, the grandmaster of bloody pieces on a chess board, the doctor of fevered patients in nooses. Sunday morning dawned and the three men attended confessionals, each pouring their hearts out. The priest nodded and forgave each of their sin, accepting an indulgence for their penances. After the service, all parties left and continued along their merry ways. The priest took off his collar and donned a tie.
A grasshopper ambled towards a road’s edge. Looking both ways, he saw neither car nor cyclist approaching and decided to cross. Half-way in, a thought struck the creature that his kind never explored the path to see where it led. A simple ninety-degree turn would do… As he lollygagged under the open sun, a bird swooped down and ate him.
Every winter solstice, Eve awaited a message from Apollo. Her husband had embarked on a dangerous mission to chart the fringes of the universe. Catastrophe struck the vessel and the last letter was strewn across the wide cosmos. Erecting a beacon that could transmit signals faster than light, she hoped to warp the past from the present. Every attempt however merely distorted the circumstances; the ship collided into an asteroid, lost compression from a puncture, ran out of oxygen… She mourned each failure knowing that each misstep resealed her beloved’s fate. Such was the cost paid for her undying love.
Illume, the light of the soul, had been blessed with the gift of life. She could animate all that she touched with a flick of her wrist, turning earth into gnomes, water into spirits, wind into doves, and fire into sprites. The dark lord who wanted to possess her however cast a pernicious spell while she slept.
One night, Illume encountered an ebony mirror in her dreams. The mirror did not reflect who one was but instead who one could be. On that night, a resplendent queen appeared in her guise who commanded the adoration and love of all the subjects in the land. The next night, a powerful sorceress emerged atop a mountain who fended off a great barbarian invasion from the north. On the third, a fierce huntress and she-wolf materialized and nearly leapt out of the panel.
The midnight encounters continued for centuries as the dream world slowly bled into her waking life. Illume developed her powers, transmuting herself into every one of the possibilities that the mirror showed. Each time, the ebony mirror absorbed some of her light, slowing turning its dark shade into a translucent sheen until she was eventually no more. By the end, a magic mirror stood in her place in a lonesome tower. The dark lord at long last arrived to claim his prize. When he gazed between the frames, he saw nothing but a blinding light for the magic mirror no longer reflected what one could be, but what one can never have.
Daisy waited by the tracks day and night for her beloved. The morning express fueled a jolt of anticipation but would deflate after the final call midnight. For years she kept the routine, working to uphold the promise made long ago. He’d come to her and she’d wait for him in Ljubljana before setting off to travel together. In truth, the two did meet but tragedy struck soon afterwards when their train collided headlong into another. Daisy survived the accident but with anterograde amnesia. Her beloved perished but not before whispering last words that he’d wait for her in the afterlife.
The city council sought to clean up the red-light district by renovating the streets and cleaning up the shops. Its latest initiative went too far as to puritanize the public; the proposition set a nine-o-clock curfew, banned all other mind-altering substances, and even fined all public displays of affection. They named it heaven-on-earth and sectioned off the district to run an experiment. Those invited would have their basic needs provided for but could not leave for a full decade. Those who attempted to depart through alternative means were marked with a halo. Many halos hung by decade’s end.
Seth received careful instructions for the wedding. A cornucopia of balloons, draperies, and fans would spring from the building’s façade. Explosions of color, fruits, and music would fill the venue. A pink convertible will take the newly weds away into the sunset. The promised day came but the bride and groom were no shows. Seth called all the family members, friends, attendees as to their whereabouts but nothing turned up. Frantic, he checked their social media, but no updates had been made. The following day, he received a text message from the would be couple. Both the bride and groom developed cold feet and fled the state. Chance found the two at the very same casino in Vegas after a night of heavy drinking. Swords were drawn and venom spewed but by early morning, the pair found themselves happily married outside a gaudy chapel.
Toad and Frog once met at a local pub by the brewery ducts. Toad, being a regular to the local marshes had sampled every wine and beer the establishment had to offer. Set in his ways, he knew exactly what he liked for any mood and occasion. Frog on the other was a dabbler who traveled far-and-wide, never sleeping under the same drainpipe twice. Mercurial was his temperament for he sampled with sips, never finishing one drink before the next. Eyed from afar, Toad approached Frog and asked why he drank, even offering to pay. Frog responded that he sought the world’s finest drink wherever it may lay. With a chuckle, Toad remarked that such a drink doesn’t exist. Frog disagreed and the two parted soon afterwards. Years later, the two found themselves on the same autopsy table. Toad suffered a lifetime of ammonia poisoning. Frog from a bloated liver.
Entry to Crimson’s Creative challenge
We used to joke that the boogeyman would hide under the bed and raising havoc in our dreams whenever things were going too well. A little bit of paranoia curbed inflated expectations, derailing our fantastical brain train and so preventing a full-on collision with the mountain that is reality. Of course, the boogeyman’s true quarters weren’t below our old dusty mattresses. Such conditions would’ve insulted his dignity and the role he played. We found him instead at the back of the caboose during one of our nightly excursions into la-la land. Peering through the single slit that had been carved into petrified wood, we saw a young man humming to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller whilst chopping garlic against re-runs of the classic Dracula film. Oh the irony and embarrassment we felt, having been so utterly fooled. The next night on our commute home, an old smelly man entered the train with knife in hand and foaming at the mouth. He took a young woman hostage and demanded that we return his spirit of which we stole. The lights went out and a massive jolt shattered the recollection. We woke to the sound of electric grinders.
Entry to this week’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner!