Air (flash fiction)
(writing group prompt)
Her breath on the glass, hot tears streaming, fingers spread in yearning across the closed window — her mind screams as she watches him go where her voice can’t reach him anymore. Knees buckling, she falls to the floor. There isn’t anything left. Nothing.
Sid pushed up his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then looked disappointingly at his cold tea. He stood from his desk and quietly opened his office door to sneak in to the kitchen for a snack. He hadn’t eaten. It was 3:00 in the morning. Had he spent all day with her?
Sid sighed and opened the fridge to look for…something, anything really. He grabbed a few slices of individually wrapped cheese slices and a soda. Breakfast of champions, he mused.
He looked outside through his kitchen window and his thoughts drifted numbly as he ate. He hoped sleep would come tonight so he could have a sharp mind tomorrow to edit his draft. Perhaps he could send the story off by next Monday. Perhaps not.
He finished his last drop of soda and stood up slowly.
“A little late, don’t you think?”
Anna, his wife. That scornful look that had never been there in the beginning, but after many years was now etched into her face as if she had been born with it.
“Ahh…yes, just wanted to finish the story…” Sid would have gone on, but knew she didn’t care.
Anna huffed and exaggeratedly hit the off switch for the kitchen lights, walking hurriedly back to her room. Sid could barely remember what she was like before this angry caricature took her place.
Sid didn’t bother going to bed, but instead headed back to his office. He’d sleep on the couch again. He no longer felt comfortable in his own bedroom anyhow.
His recent writing had reflected, in many ways, his inner turmoil and stress. Sid had never wanted kids. Sid had never wanted to support a stay-at-home mother. Sid had never wanted to be tied down to a house while his heart wanted to wander. Sid had been a pushover, and now he was paying for it because even as he had been pushed, it had never made him less vacant. It had never taken him out of his daydreams. The people in his life were what felt like fiction. And Anna, the “Evil Queen”, was not going to accept that Sid would soon have nothing left to give. His sorrowful fantasies, the stories that dripped with his own blood, was his only escape.
Sid lay down and let sleep take him.
The moonlight washed over her pale skin and glistened on her tearful eyes. “Goodnight.” He whispered into the dark.
— — —
Sid woke naturally to a bright room. The kids must be in school already, he thought.
His eyes scanned the room as he sat up. He put his glasses on, and along with the clarity, she stood before him. Thin, barefoot, messy hair. She was barely there, but there she was.
“You finished the story, then?” She squeaked out, slowly padding over to lean on his desk.
“Yes…I think…finally. The ending was exactly where I found you, do you remember?” Sid spoke quietly.
“Perpetually suspended in tragedy, yes. I remember.” She looked down shyly, running her finger across the edge of his desk.
“You lost him. After he told you he’d never let it come between you, he left anyway. Life…isn’t fair. I wanted to convey that.” Sid stood up and ruffled his hair a bit.
The girl sighed softly. “I…”
The door opened suddenly to Anna’s flaring eyes. “You…talk to someone, you aren’t just talking to yourself! I can understand talking out loud, but this…this has been going on for months!”
She was right — what had started as small whispers had turned into full-fledged conversations of which only one side was heard. He no longer cared. He had slipped calmly between reality and his world of ghosts.
“What the FUCK is wrong with you? WHERE are you? WHO are you? You’re supposed to be a husband and a father, but I barely hear your voice, let alone see you, except in here!” Anna was nearly screaming, using threatening hand gestures as a way to establish dominance, it seemed. The sound of her anger was more annoying than actually threatening, and Sid’s emotions were beginning to bubble up.
“Father…” Sid laughed and shook his head. “Every positive interaction I’ve had with those kids has been FAKE. And I think you know that.” He pointed a finger at her.
“And you and me?” Sid felt heat rising up his neck. “We’ve been together so long and I’ve changed so much, but you were too busy getting the life you wanted, to notice!” Sid seathed. “I’ve LEFT reality. I’ve LEFT you, in all but body! And looking at you, hearing you, hearing those kids — it’s like… pulling on my arm until it gets yanked out of the socket! Trying to pull me back to this shithole life I was never meant to live!”
Sid was wild-eyed. He’d never raised his voice to his wife. His temples pulsed with blood. He felt alive.
Anna was speechless, for the moment. A sweet respite.
“And…I like talking to her.” Sid finished.
Anna snapped, “YOU ARE TALKING TO THE AIR!”
In Sid’s mind, the thin, barefoot girl slipped in. “She can’t see me…” It was more of a statement rather than a question. A sad realization.
“She can’t SEE anyone!” Sid yelled. “She cares nothing for anyone but herself!”
Anna, wide-eyed, shook her head, “What…”
“Yes, yes, I’m talking to the air, Anna. The fucking air…”
“…Dad?” Sid’s teenaged son knocked on the door.
Sid twisted around to face his office door, still hearing the echoes of his voice on the walls. Breathing in, breathing out. Alone.
“Dad? Are you okay?”
Knees buckling. Falling to the floor.
There’s nothing there. Nothing.