Flash Fiction by Mileva Anastasiadou
Show Me Your Lips and I’ll Show You Mine
You entered the eating room, dragged me inside, I’d rather wait, I told you and you shrugged, claiming you were still thirsty, it’s the most natural thing, you said, you came closer, closer, you came so close I almost smelled your breath, awkward, but also inviting, I smelled strawberry milkshake, when you whispered in my ear, in the old days people didn’t cover their mouths or noses, I didn’t believe you, I rolled my eyes to make sure you knew you couldn’t fool me, I’m not ready, I told you, but you insisted, I’m sure, you said, I’m sure that was a thing, and you went on with the details, about how people used to eat in public, they even had gatherings, they cooked and shared their food, they even kissed in public, and I was too disgusted to believe you, so you showed me pictures from your history book, and I said oh God, and you nodded like you couldn’t believe it yourself, but it was a thing, you said again, emphasizing each word, like it took you lots of effort to swallow the knowledge and you came closer, closer, you touched my mask but I pushed you away, I blushed, so you looked away and said that was before the original sin, before humans were exiled from heaven and I thought about it, about how I hadn’t done anything wrong, about how I wanted to see the whole of your face, so I told you I’d show you my lips if you showed me yours, and you laughed and laughed and asked if I was sure and I nodded, I nodded hard and we both took off our masks, slowly, reluctantly, we took big breaths, in front of each other and stared at each other’s lips for long, our strawberry-red lips, before you took my hand, pulled me closer and your lips almost touched my lips when our straws touched each other, the milkshake sweetness overwhelming my taste buds, my soul, and I closed my eyes, it was bliss, like the world stopped, like we were floating, like we’d shared an intimate secret and we were one, like we broke back into a paradise lost and we were free and freedom tasted like strawberries, sugar and your breath on my face.
Show me Your Truth and I’ll Forget Mine
The man with the tree tattoo welcomed change at first. The sky turned orange, and looked good for a while. There had been a flame at first, a flame the winds turned into fire, unbridled fire, which spread like a virus, like greed, like all unstoppable pestilences ever spread. It’ll soon end, said mom, mom who always knows better, who’s always comforting. The firemen gave up. Impossible to work with such strong winds, they said. Poor trees, were front line soldiers, but couldn’t fight wind. Those trees, those trees are heroes, said the woman on the TV. Let’s honor them, she said and the man bowed his head, for he didn’t know how to honor doomed trees. He thought he heard a tree crying on the background. I’d flee away but I have roots, I feed on them, I need them, they keep me grounded, connected, trapped. Nobody paid attention to that one coward. Most trees were brave.
Trees fell, buildings collapsed and the man stumbled, couldn’t trust his feet or legs or body. He went on as usual, he moved on, for he didn’t know what else to do, a burning sensation on his arm, where the tree tattoo was, went unnoticed when he checked the map of his emotions, to find a place he’d been before, but couldn’t find a familiar place, that’s uncharted territory, said his boss, who was the first to notice the vanishing tree on his arm, as if the tattoo faded, the tree withered. Run, whispered the tree, run when they call you a hero for they expect you to die, but the tree couldn’t run, the tree had roots.
That tree on your arm, said his boss, has committed suicide, and the man nodded, he couldn’t save his tree, or any tree. It’s not fair, his boss said. It’s not, the man agreed, and hugged his boss, there was a notebook in his mind where he wrote down who’s good, who’s bad and his boss just made it into the good guys’ list.
Several generous rich donated money, there was a list of them, to fix the problem, to find solutions. Until they didn’t. We can’t waste resources on trees, they said, or people will die. The man joined the protest, protect the trees, protesters yelled, but then came others, who claimed all creatures should be protected, and that was obvious, the man thought, but the trees were the first to die. He cried himself to sleep, watching trees die on the TV and his distress only worsened with time to the point of tears filling his eyes at the sight of Christmas trees, or even books. They’re dead trees, he told his mom and mom remained silent for a while, couldn’t utter a word, she nodded, but the man couldn’t see. History moves on like this, best and worst times, then boring times, mom said and the man wished for simpler times, for the familiar normality he knew well and mom said it’d come back, but didn’t sound that sure anymore. Sometimes I want to shut the fuck up, he said, pretend nothing’s real, none of it, I want the world to stop and turquoise to replace darkness, but he knew well that was no intermission, that was the start of a new normalcy. Life must go on and we must learn to live with the winds and the fires and destruction, said the experts.
He thought he heard the drum, that voice in his head got louder, that was the sign, he went in line, synchronized his steps, he didn’t mean to, as another softer voice inside him warned him: Don’t ever walk to the drum, the drum may be wrong, it usually is. But it was too late, the man had lost himself, the battle, all hope, his mind blown away, blown up, infected with conformity, messed up by the winds and the noise and the exhilaration provided by following the rhythm, succumbing to an unintended, imposed normalcy, surrendering to darkness.
And all creatures would come as one, except the trees, to mourn the trees; flocks of birds would fly in formations, chirping and shrieking, lions would roar, dogs would bark, people would applaud and sing songs of solidarity. The man with the vanishing tree tattoo joined the crowd and clapped his hands, he clapped for the trees – applause is easier than fight, safer than protest, happier than despair – secretly grateful he didn’t have roots, those turquoise days a fading, utopian memory he’d soon forget.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Jellyfish Review, HAD, Ruminate, Lost Balloon, X-R-A-Y and others.
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela