Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Flashback: 1.762 Seconds

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it can be purchased on Kindle in a new short story collection.

1.762 Seconds
Word Count: 590
Published: 4/26/13

I open my eyes. Cocktail weenies float around me in the air, wrapped in little crescent rolls. Pigs in blankets floating, bouncing off the windows and the dash. The lid must have come off the tray when the car went airborne. So, that’s weird.

Something tells me I’m not going to make it to the party on time. My car has rotated about a third of the way over. From its trajectory, I think it’ll land on its head for sure—assuming it doesn’t hit that tree first. But… I’m guessing it’s gonna hit the tree.

I’d dozed off, I guess. I opened my eyes when the car hit the curb, but it was too late and I was going too fast. There’s nothing I can do about it. At this point, I’m just along for the ride, rotating in space in a hurtling juggernaut that’s inching me closer and closer towards death or a substantial hospital stay.

Personally, I’m hoping for the hospital stay but, as previously noted, I don’t have a whole lot of say in this.

I’m sideways. I feel weightless. Like I don’t exist in the world. I’ve escaped its grasp as it tries to hold me down on the ground. I’m free, in a way. I wonder if this is what being born feels like. Or dying. Or traveling in space. Or falling. That tree is getting bigger. So, yeah, I suppose this is what dying feels like, in a way.

Time doesn’t really slow down, you know. It only feels like it. Your brain measures time in the number of memories it makes. When you’re in distress, you make a lot of memories. So when you remember that time, it feels like time has slowed down. But when you’re actually living it, you’re not genuinely thinking any faster. So, while it feels to me like this ordeal is taking a long-ass time, it only feels that way in retrospect.

Noodle that for a while.

Three-quarters of the way around, or so. Maybe I won’t land upside-down. Maybe I’ll keep spinning, land on the side and roll. I’m still weightless. God, that’s weird. The tree is getting bigger, despite being almost completely inverted. Roots climbing to the sky like branches, and vice versa. Pigs in blankets everywhere.

Do you want to know why I fell asleep at the wheel? I stayed up late watching a movie on TBS and then had to wake up early for a conference call. Went home to grab the pigs in blankets and now this. Stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I suppose regrets are, at this point, a waste of time—time being something that is in imminently short supply for me. But what else can I do but lament? I can’t even move my arms fast enough to brace myself. They’re flailing like empty sausage skins. Might as well be boneless.

That tree is getting bigger and bigger, spinning round and round. Soon it will fill up the windshield. Soon it will be the only thing I can see, filling my entire field of vision. Then the car will collapse around it, and all of my forward momentum will instantaneously stop. My chest will be crushed by the seatbelt and steering column. Twisted metal. Shattered glass. Soon.

Why bother being afraid. Fear of death is a luxury for people with time. And, frankly, I don’t think I’m going to walk away from this.




Fractions of seconds adding up to an eternity.

Oh my god…

This was one of my earliest attempts at stylistic experimentation. I was happy with the result, but didn't think it was all that remarkable. Readers responded more positively, which was a pleasant surprise. In any creative endeavor the norm is that you like your creation far more than the audience does, but once in a while that flips on you. It's an indication that your work is becoming less precious to you and, by extension, a bit more workmanlike.

This story started with a simple enough premise: the thoughts of a man who realizes he is about to die. It relies on the notion that time slows down when you're afraid--which isn't strictly true, but convenient for the narrative. It's telling that I had to work that into the narrative: a sure sign that I was running short and needed to pad it.

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