It seems sort of appropriate that my return to Flash Fiction Friday should be stumbling and come out a day late, after how uneven it’s been for the last couple of years. But at least it’s here! This month I’m participating in Flash Fiction February, an event hosted by the Storytelling Collective. This year’s prompts are all Tolkien quotes and I’m doing a mix fan fiction, original fiction (like today) and probably just notes and brainstorming. Anyway, this was the quote for yesterday:
“I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know”
And here is the piece. I hope you enjoy it.
She feeds another handful of notebook pages to the fire, and watches them shrivel before ripping more pages out. The sight of it tears at her heart, a feeling like cold fingers, but she can’t stop now. All around her are scattered the remnants of her life’s work, now doomed—blessed—to never be completed. Binders lie empty, notebook covers stripped of their contents, data disks crushed beyond repair, the contents all fed to the flames.
A single notebook remains and she stands, clutching it in her hand as she scans the room for things she’s missed, turning over document boxes in search of stragglers but there are none. She’s been thorough, in this as in everything. Pulling the rocking chair closer to the fire, she tucks a gray strand behind her ear and and sits. The notebook is in her lap, and she smiles as she runs her finger over the linnen cover. Her first notebook for the project, containing the thoughts and theories she had when this was all still a dream. The pages rip just as easily as all the others.
She really never meant for things to end up this way. For years, decades even, she was so sure that she was doing the right thing. That her work was helping, making the world a better place. It’s only lately, in these last few horrid months when everything started falling into place, that she’s seen the truth. In some ways, that’s the worst part—realizing only once her experiments began to be successful what they would use her research for.
But there’s still time. She’s already trashed the library, destroyed the samples and let anything she couldn’t burn sink into the bottom of the ocean. Only the documents remained, and now only her memories… She feeds the last few pages to the flames and watches them be devoured, then turns and snatches the pill case from the little side table with a trembling hand. Popping the lid, she takes out two dull blue capsules and pops them into her mouth. It has to be this way.
For a moment she thinks of fleeing, of starting over, of living out the days she has left as someone else with no blood on their hands, but she steels herself against the temptation. She’s thought it over more times than she could count. It has to be this way. They have ways of making her talks, ways of pulling the information out of her brain whether she speaks or not, and she can’t have that. It has to end here. The capsules taste chalky as she crushes them between her molars, one on each side for good measure. The contents sting as it spills over her tongue and she forces her lips to remain shut, pushing back the urge to spit and retch.
The effects take hold quickly, her pulse quickening as her vision blurs. Within a few breaths, respiration has become a chore, as if she’s forgotten how to do it and has to draw each breath with conscious, grueling effort. She settles back in the chair, giving herself over to it. There are no knocks on her door yet. They won’t be able to get to her in time. She smiles as she fades.
It isn’t yet too late.