The Loss Issue
Quick as a Flash - Week 7
Fact and Fiction
Hello and happy holidays, dear readers! Today I bring you the Loss issue. All sorts of things and people get lost, so let’s explore that for a bit.
But first, I would like to confirm that the next issue may be a day or two late due to the holidays. Regardless, I promise we will have a Last issue in 2021 before greeting the new year.
The sea calls me to cross it, and the forest begs me to walk its many paths. The skies invite me to get to know it via hot air balloon, while mountaintops whisper for me to gaze upon their summits.
And yet the one person I wish would ask me to stick around? He never says a word.
Em slid one of the straws from Sarah’s fist. Louis and Dom made their choices. Each held out their selection, breaths bated.
The ice flowing in Em’s veins dissipated, replaced with white-hot guilt. Louis got the short straw. He would be jettisoned to preserve oxygen on the ship.
I lose track of things so easily: my keys, my phone, the remote. I once even misplaced my toaster—don’t ask. So when I saw an infomercial for microchips that sound in response to clapping, you bet I dialed 1-800-FOUND-IT.
But now I clap, and all I find is a cacophony of beeps.
People panicked the first night the moon didn’t show. What would become of the tides? Would they need more lighting infrastructure?
Turns out, there was no need to fear. Luna was gone, but her gifts to the Earth returned every sundown like clockwork. They were safe, after all.
“Got your nose!” said Uncle Danny.
Little Seb sobbed at the apparent theft.
Twenty-five years later, Sebastian, now known as the Snuffer, stared at his display case of nose tips he’d sliced off those he brought to justice. Never again would a crime go unpunished under his watch.
Summer. Seven-year-old Charlie Young stared out the window to view the surrounding neighborhood. A light dusting of embers poured over the streets as kids ran around outside in their playsuits, not caring how dirty the ash got the little hazmat outfits. They rolled the ash into balls to throw at one another, made gray angels on the ground, and brought out their tiny, heat-resistant shovels and pails to build castles.
Charlie rubbed at the small scar that crawled up his hand. He got it last summer when he had managed to sneak out of the house to try to join in on the firestorm festivities. A particularly intense flurry had caught him and burned him right before his mother realized he was missing and quickly ushered him inside.
“Honey, I told you, you can’t go outside during these summer storms! It’s too dangerous without a playsuit!” She sighed when Charlie only stared at her as she continued to apply the cold, wet rag on his burn. “Maybe we can save up for you to get one on your birthday.”
But then layoffs happened, and all his mom could get him for his birthday was a cupcake with a single lit candle. He remembered watching the flickering flame’s swagger, as though it taunted him for not being able to go out and enjoy the presence of real, natural fire.
The delighted shrieks of a group of younger girls getting caught in a cindered dust devil broke him from his thoughts, and he closed the blinds with a huff. Forget it. He didn’t need to go outside to have fun. He could watch reruns of The Foreverbugs.
That night, he stood outside, watching the cooled pools of ash blow away in the wind. All the kids were inside by now, getting ready for bed after a long day of play. His own mother would soon be after him to step inside. He kicked at a small ash pile in the grass, angry that the fire-retardant spray used to keep the plant life and properties from burning was too toxic to use on human skin.
He stared up, tears ready to fall, when he caught the glistening of a shooting star out of the corner of his eye.
“Why not,” he muttered, closing his eyes. And then he wished. He wished that, for once, he could be like all the other kids during a firestorm. That he did not have to be punished for being poor.
And the next day, another flame day, he watched as the children danced on their driveways, the air sizzling around them. He narrowed his eyes and almost closed the blinds early to look for something to watch on TV, but something had caught his attention. The embers had started to pour harder. The firefly-like specks transformed into an angry swarm. Then the cinders got bigger until they started coming down like penny-sized hail. The kids screamed as they were pelted, and parents yelled from their doorsteps to get inside.
The embers, now looking much more like mini meteorites, continued falling. It wasn’t until a tennis-ball-sized meteor crashed into the street, creating a crater on impact, that the storm started to die down. Within another five minutes, the firestorm quit, no longer having the energy to keep up its tantrum.
Charlie could only stare, wide-eyed at the empty street. Had his wish done this? Deep down, he knew that had to be the case. It didn’t feel like a mere coincidence. So for once, he wasn’t the only one stuck inside. The others had lost their privilege.
That night, he stepped outside to greet the stars again. They sat still in the dark sky, none of them streaking this time, but he had to say his piece before his mom once again rushed to drag him inside.
“Thank you for granting my wish,” he said. Then his smile inverted, and his brows lowered over narrowed eyes. “Now, do it again tomorrow.”