Flash Fiction by Tania Hershman
Into the Cave
We went into the cave because the world was noisy, oh so noisy. We said to each other, Let’s slip in here, and we slipped in there and made it ours. We made it home, we made it everything we needed, and we only needed ourselves. So quiet, we said, arranging our cave exactly as we liked it. Peaceful, we murmured as we fell asleep.
We stayed there for much time, so much time we lost count of days, of hours, of years even. We had brought everything we might want, and ways to create more of it. We were so happy in there, in the cave, there was no more of that tussling that had always arisen with us before, in that oh so noisy world outside, no more of the stinging, stabbing words that had been our lives. There was only singing, whistling, sleeping, making, sitting, laughing. We loved our cave, and our cave gave us only love.
When they came, we tried to hold on to everything we had arranged, the home we had built, but they threw words at us: “radiation”, “danger”, “subsidence”, words that the world of noise uses to make everybody deaf. We tried to whisper that we didn’t care for those words, but they were so loud themselves they could not hear us.
They took everything apart. They undid what we had spent days, hours, years setting right for ourselves.
Then they took us apart, too.
Where we are now is too bright. Where we are now is filled with constant sound, no matter they have given us devices to shield our ears. Our eyes are blurred, our hearts are hurting from so much of it, and how we miss our cave. We have nowhere to make home now, all they will let us have are paper, paints, and so we recreate it over and over, from so many angles. Look, we whisper to each other, Do you remember this? And this? Look, wasn’t it beautiful. At the end of every day, they come and take what we have made away, bring more blankness, refresh the colors, and so the next day and the next, we do it all again.
We still dream that we will escape, that our cave is waiting for us. We do not believe their words of danger, subsidence, radiation. We will find our way back.
Methods of Disposal
We are trained to notice. We are trained to see wires where no-one else would see wires. We are trained to look under and around. We each have a torch. We each have cutters. We have many tools. Some of us can smell it. Some of us feel it in our fingers, toes, appendix, spleen.
You say, Get out! You say, Step back, form a wide perimeter, get behind, get away. We are not trained for that. We are trained for approach, for slowly slowly walking towards, slowly circle, slowly kneel. We do not get out, even when we know we should. We know we should and even then. Because of who we are. Because of where we’ve been.
Because of where we’ve been, we tell you what you don’t want to hear. We are always telling someone something they wish they hadn’t heard. We are always moving towards, waiting for.
They call us names they think we don’t know about. We know. We don’t care about the names. We care about the names. We don’t know how to talk about it. We don’t talk.
We go home, afterwards, whether there was or whether there wasn’t. One day, we think, we will not see the wire that must be cut.
One day we will make sure the one we should cut is not cut. How else will we end this.
At home, which is sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, we drink, we talk to our family, or the dog, the cat, the walls. We try not to think of that one wire. The wire that is coming for us.
Tania Hershman is the author of three short story and flash fiction collections, three books of poetry and a hybrid book of poetry/prose/fiction/non-fiction. Her poetry collection, Still Life With Octopus, will be published by Nine Arches Press in July 2022 and her debut novel, a fictional memoir-in-collage, Go On, by Broken Sleep Books in November 2022. She is co-creator of @OnThisDayShe Twitter account and has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics. www.taniahershman.com
Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.