flash fiction: mother

Sun May-11th-2014 // Filed under: Flash Fiction

It’s Mother’s Day in Finland, so it seemed quite fitting to write a little story about a son missing his mother.

The opening sentence, “I knew it was my last chance to see Earth, but I still declined to watch,” came from Jaana Wessman. She’s also a mother, but, I suspect, a different kind of mother than the one in this story.

Then again, she’s in politics, so who knows.


I knew it was my last chance to see Earth, but I still declined to watch. I’d seen it before. I didn’t need to see it again. So I kept my back to the window.

With all the furniture gone, the living room looked bigger than I remembered, and vaguely alien. And then there was the design, of course; perhaps it was already doing something to the room. I wasn’t sure. My mother’s notes had been detailed and extensive, but they were all about the process. What little there was about the principles involved was beyond me.

The mailman stirred. I had hoped he’d stay unconscious, but he was waking up. I thought about hitting him in the head again, but what if he died? That could be a problem. Blood didn’t really flow when you were dead. I was pretty sure about that.

He could be awake. It didn’t matter. He was secured to the chair, and the chair was bolted to the floor in the circle. It would hold him.

It had been hard work, carving the design into the room. It had to be exactly right. I was sure it was; Maximillian and Skyler wouldn’t enter the living room anymore. They’d look in from the door and arch their backs. I tried to carry Skyler inside, but she hissed and clawed at me, and I gave up. It was a good sign. Animals can sense things. They couldn’t come with me anyway.

The carving had taken months. For the spiral I used a chisel, then smoothed out the edges with an X-Acto knife. I penciled it in first; working out the design had taken a few weeks. It had to be uninterrupted, but accommodate the shape of the room, incorporating the two doorways and three windows into the design. Finding ways around them was a puzzle I spent another week solving. The spiral ran over every surface, terminating at the circle in the middle of the room.

For the intricate patterns between the spiral, I used just the X-Acto knife, for the most part. I went through dozens of blades, carving in the grooves and channels, nicks and hatchings. Symbols and words, or what I took to be words. A map of where I was going, perhaps. Sometimes I imagined a vast, alien landscape, looking at it. At other times, I saw shards of substance in a bottomless void. My fingers were raw by the end.

The blood had been hard. My mother had apparently used cats. I couldn’t do that to Maximillian and Skyler, so I used my own blood. The X-Acto knife had come in handy there, too; my left arm was covered with scabs and scars and bandages. I’d had to stop for a few days when I started to grow dizzy. The painting itself had been easy, just me and a little brush, with the radio on in the background, filling in all the shapes between the spirals.

The mailman had his eyes open. He looked around, saw the design. Did he appreciate it, the work that had gone into it? I felt pride. The blood was dark, almost black. The polished silver was radiant.

The silver had been harder, much harder. Getting it was no problem, it wasn’t that expensive, but melting it down was another thing. Setting up the furnace in the back yard got me some stares and a few pointed questions from the neighbors. “It’s for arts and crafts,” I told them. “Sort of.”

Pouring the molten silver into the spiral was the worst. I set the room on fire dozens of times, and putting it out without destroying the design was almost impossible. First blood, then silver; that was the prescribed order. When the blood got ruined, I had to take out all the silver, cut myself and fix all of the blood, then try again with the silver.

No silver may touch the blood. That was the rule.

The ceiling was an absolute nightmare. I did my best on that ladder, smearing molten silver into the ceiling with a steel rod, cooling it down with a spray bottle of water. I thought about going in through the roof, but then I wouldn’t see the pattern properly, and I would ruin the blood. It was terrible. I almost gave up. I wore protection, but some of the burns were still bad. Very bad.

But I managed.

“What’s happening?” the mailman asked.

“You really came at a good time,” I said. “If I was religious, I’d call that providence.”

He swallowed hard. “Why are you doing this?”

“All my life, I’ve been,” I started, but decided otherwise. “Forget it. It doesn’t matter. I’m leaving the Earth. It’s sick and filthy, I can’t take it anymore.”

He stared at me.

“I’m going to meet my mother. It’s been thirty years. I don’t remember much about her,” I admitted, surprising myself. “But I think she was very kind.”

He started thrashing. “Let me go!”

“I’m afraid I need you. You see, she wrote down directions so I could follow her.”

That’s when he started screaming for help. I stuffed a rag in his mouth. I don’t think anybody would’ve heard him, but I had to concentrate.

I licked my finger and placed it in the beginning of the spiral, and felt something like electricity. I took an experimental step, sliding my finger along smooth silver, and the room shifted. The spiral expanded, a silver path stretching out before me. I was on the verge of something. I felt a restless energy. I was ready to walk it all the way to the end.

With my other hand, I took the X-Acto knife out of my pocket and popped the cover off. I would need more blood when I reached the circle, much more. And I only had so much left.

And I couldn’t hurt Maximillian and Skyler.

I wondered who would feed them when I was gone.


  1. I’m loving the way you accent the insanity with the ordinary. Also enjoy seeing all the intricate details and care that goes into the charming little interior design project.

    I’ve been playing with a format of very short dark comedy pieces that you might like. There’s no gore though, yet.


    My takeaway here is that you, sick bastard, are making my work look like children’s books. I’ll have to step this shit up.

    Comment by Rudolf Enberg — May 12, 2014 @ 1399855531

  2. I’ll be honest, the first two are kind of meandering, and you’re definitely telling more than you’re showing — everything is very much on the nose. I mean, Paul’s a gay seagull and he’s in the closet, and then he finds Jesus, but it doesn’t really fix him. I get that, but you’re kind of spelling it out for me. I’m not sure him being a seagull does anything for the story, either. The one with Jenna has similar issues; I think the joke at the end is actually genuinely funny, but the way you take to get to it doesn’t really set it up that well. In both cases, I like the art more than the stories.

    But you know what, I really like the third one. It’s dark as fuck, sure, but it’s got serious focus, and it delivers a punch where you feel it. It’s got flow. The minimalist approach is good. You don’t need anything else for that story, you’re telling me exactly what I need to know about Jamie, and what kind of a man he was. By itself, the picture wouldn’t do much for me; combined with the story, it’s just about perfect. That’s good work, right there, on a completely different level than the first two.

    Comment by Mikki — May 12, 2014 @ 1399900307

  3. Awesome, thanks for the feedback!

    I never really intended the animal stories to be taken seriously, but still, bad writing is bad writing :)

    Comment by Rudolf Enberg — May 13, 2014 @ 1399975131

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