Flash Fiction

Scroll down for a selection of very short stories…

Coffee Break


She sat down heavily at the little chrome table. She’d just have a minute. Around her the Saturday shoppers passed unaware. The tears had come from nowhere. Well, that wasn’t strictly true… it was the spectacles that had done it, left next to the empty coffee cups. Just like his. A style no-one wore these days. Seeing them there on the table had made her heart lurch. Just a minute then she’d take them in to the counter. Somebody would be bound to miss them.

He’d always worn the same style…aviators, they called them. She shook her head to clear the memories. It was a long time ago… a good innings, they’d said… Too young though.

She had been young then too, slim and attractive, once the dark circles had faded and the pinched look of grief left her eyes. She was older now than he had been…older by far. In fact, if she was honest, she was just plain old. Old and plain. All illusion of glamour had disappeared beneath the upholstery, the curves multiplied with a mathematical logic that owed nothing to aesthetics and far too much to gravity.

She didn’t mind. There was compensation… grandchildren, bus passes, senior discounts… that kind of thing. And she had lived more than many; not longer, not yet… but with a capital ‘L’. It was a good letter…laughter, love…a good way to live…

She watched the young people passing. Half of them doing twiddly things with their phones, others trying to look interesting… all preening, though, hoping to be noticed. Mothers with pushchairs that looked like something from a science-fiction novel. Men rushing through the shopping with as much haste as interest. It never changed, not really.

“What can I get you?” The waitress didn’t meet her eyes. She looked bored, her pen poised over a dog-eared pad covered in scribbles and doodles. She supposed she’d have to order something. One of these new-fangled coffee thingummies. “Madam?… Are you okay?”

The young woman looked upset. She wanted to reassure her but couldn’t seem to find her voice. She stood and felt an arm slide around the slender curve of her waist. “She’s fine,” said a familiar voice. He took the spectacles from her fingers and smiled down at her. “She’s with me now.”


bluebell mayday magic 017

Cold starlight and winter winds, the only caress on a faded cheek. Memories slither through the gaps in the trees to people the night. She hadn’t walked this path for a long time. The first time, she had been young; half a smile at that, bitter now, an uneasy motion of lips that have forgotten softness. Weakness! The softness, or the forgetting? She wonders, just for a moment, shrugging off the answer. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters any more. Just one more nail in the coffin.

She is too old for this.

Even the spade is too heavy. Cursing arthritic hands, she uses it as a cane instead. At least it has rained. The ground will be wet…

Through the broken gate and into the wood. There would be bluebells in spring. Now, though, the place looks forlorn, draped in ivy and the last brittle leaves. The sack hits a stone. She winces. It is getting too much for her, but there is no-one she could ask for help. No-one left.

She had never asked. There had never been anyone who would have understood. So she has never told…

A fallen trunk gives her a place to rest. Warm breath makes ragged ghosts in the night. She would have to stop soon… maybe this will be the last time she would visit the wood. Or… maybe not.

bluebell mayday magic 077

Not far now. Her handiwork begins to surround her. Exotic trees of all ages flower out of season, the planting of half a century makes a spiral of colour in the moonlight of the little clearing. Children play here in summer, finding fairyland under the blossom, poets find inspiration in its delicacy and lovers a secret bower of beauty when the moon is full…
For a little while she walks through the trees, reaching out a hand to caress the bark , the tenderness of a lover in her fingertips. She can lose herself in memory here…

Not tonight, though. Soon the frost will come… there is another tree to plant…

Weary already, she carefully cuts the turf and lays it beside the sack… winter green against the fragile pink branches that peep from its opening. When she is done, the sapling will grow undisturbed. Evergreen, this one. It will outlive her, she knows. She breaks the earth and begins to dig. Deeper and deeper. A satisfaction in the ache of muscles long accustomed to the work. Slower though, now… after a lifetime…

Finally it is deep enough. Just wide enough for the roots to be spread, but deep, very deep.

She drags the sack closer, taking out the sapling and gently spreading root and branch she lays it aside. It will be a beautiful addition to her secret garden. Then she tips the body head first into its narrow grave. He’d lasted longer than the others… she thought, as the earth closed over him. He deserved an evergreen…

x sheff jan 082



The pen moves slowly across the page, as if resisting the words that spill forth in ink. There is a hesitancy, a reluctance, as if the writer herself does not want to see the story that is unfolding. An expression of horror glazes her eyes and her mouth moves in silence, haunted by the journey of violence and death her hand reveals.

Years of abuse and oppression curl in copperplate atrocity, tracing cold decades from hopeful bride to browbeaten victim. A story that tears at the gut and one that needs to be told; silenced for too long by fear and fist. She recognises the tragedy of her life, of her lost dreams and forgotten laughter. She knows the despair, the self-hatred, the unreasonable guilt…

Make it stop. Please. Make it stop.

The litany echoes in her mind. Mute tears blotch the paper as her hand moves inexorably onward. Pity for lost innocence, hurt for broken illusions, pain for the blackened flesh and scarred wrists… grief for the children… colouring each word with a dark agony.

No-one sees. No-one knows. The fallacy of happiness is maintained… the smiling mask remains in place…no-one wants to look beyond and see…

The tale moves on, towards that night…

Make it stop.

There had been blood. So much blood.

It has to stop. I am sorry.

It had been too much.

Not the children. No.

She can no longer see. Tears and blank horror blind her… but her hand moves on…

And I am sorry.

Sorry for my life, sorry for my failure to act. For my blindness.

Sorry for this woman, my daughter, my sister, whose pen moves without her volition, telling a story that needs to be told. She writes my words at my impulsion because she can…because she too knows… and I can reach her now as I could not do before…I can speak now what I could not tell before…

Now, from beyond…

“Automatic writing or psychography is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source. “ Wikipedia


The Listener

Bakewell Imbolc 001 (5)

Shadows curl around her like smoke. They are close tonight. She bats their presence away…as if they are flies that distract her from the task in hand. She cannot settle, cannot concentrate. Can’t think for their insistence. She leans back in the chair, stretching tired limbs. Resting her eyes… just for a moment.

But then they are there. All of them.

The dark screen of her eyelids peopled with presence. There would be no rest. They clamour for her attention. She sighs, beginning the slow process of teasing them apart. Most of them are no more than illusion… fragments of herself, shards of the shattered lens through which she sees the world. Memories… those she can dismiss, banishing them to the outer realms of consciousness; some with tenderness and an aching loss. Some no more than a replaying of the day, drawing from it the lessons learned. They can wait.

Fears, hopes, dreams… they mingle with the milling shades. They too can go. There is always time for those… and each one resolved brings another in its wake. They are hers. She has no place here.

But there are others. They are not seen, nor are their voices heard. They are felt, known, present. Older selves and younger, faces from the past far and recent. And the Others. The command from she knows not where… to look, to feel, to open her heart and let them in. These are the lost ones, strewn across the tapestry like a myriad blind stars.

And she must listen, hearing their tales, letting them empty themselves of their pain before they can move on… hearing with love the secrets their hearts had kept; hearing without judgement what none had cared to hear. There is only compassion. Empathy. An empty vessel waiting to be filled.

Winter rain batters the empty seafront; the shutters of the hot dog stall rattle in the wind beside the tawdry sign of the fortune teller. Behind the brocade curtain, tears roll down the faded face of the sin-eater as she opens her heart…


“Shhh…” He glared at his sister. “Honestly, girls are useless.” The cat turned and looked straight at the children. It hissed, crouched low like a panther. They froze as the old woman turned and looked at the bush where they were hiding. Lank grey hair hid her face. All they could see was the curious brilliance of her eyes.

They barely dared to breathe.

A branch snapped and they ran, diving through the undergrowth towards the fallen stones of the wall. The world seemed to change as they jumped that final hurdle and landed breathless on the tarmac. Neither sunlight nor traffic noise had penetrated the green shadows that separated the old house from the neat gardens of the street.

“She’s just a lonely old woman,” their mother had said, her hands deep in the flour of the baking bowl. “A bit eccentric.” They had waited, eager faces lit with the fire of mystery. “She was old when I was a girl. Had a flea-bitten cat that followed her everywhere. Samael or Samuel. Something like that. Must have died years ago.” It had looked as if she might say more, but she had pursed her lips and frowned in a way they knew was final. “Just stay away. Right away.”

There was no chance of that. They had crept over the wall again and seen her picking herbs in the forested garden. They had heard her muttering to herself and seen the tattered raven perched on the branch by her shoulder. It looked ancient; its eyes gleamed with knowledge, yet its feathers were torn and dusty. Beside it was the moth-eaten cat… black, with great yellow eyes. Listening, both of them. They had watched the old woman hobble back to the house, the long black skirts caught up to carry their harvest, the raven fluttering ahead, the cat at her heels and they had followed, creeping up to peer through the dirt encrusted windows…


“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help, officer. I hope you find them.” The policeman smiled back, fascinated by the curiously brilliant eyes and lustrous white hair. Unusual in one so young. “I seldom get visitors…” She laughed and gestured at the glossy feathered raven in its cage and the sleek black cat that wound itself insistently around his ankles. “Perhaps the locals think I am some kind of witch.”

The accountant

He had kept his secrets. He had thought he was safe… He was doing so well. Doing alright anyway. Now, he was not so sure. It was all gone. He has nothing… is nothing. Nowhere to go… nowhere to be.

Except here.

There is no escaping Review. He had done his best to prepare, fearing what was to come. At close of day, he had gone over everything. Every day. For years. Tracing the threads back to their beginning. What had been right and what wrong? Except, it wasn’t that easy, was it? Understanding…first principles, it seemed, mattered more than tangible results.

The dark tunnel is daunting, closing around him, a steely wormhole drawing him towards a distant point of light. There should be fear. The thought flits across consciousness… is considered dispassionately and discarded. He has gone too far for fear. He moves onward, surrendering reluctance to inevitability. He is not the only one to have felt like this. No-one escapes Review… not here. Not now. The Records wait.

Light bleaches all detail, there is nothing, no-one… only images, flickering pages of a Book, replayed with perfect clarity. No human emotion to cloud Review, no room for excuses… no one to hear them. Fast forward, but he recognises the scenes as they fly past. Right from the start. Slowing now and then to linger on the details… on the cause of error, the root of misunderstanding Lingering too, with perfect justice, on each true success, each genuine effort. Consciousness flayed with Truth. No place for illusion. Beginning to end, with nowhere to hide. No mercy. Only excoriating clarity.

Only a balancing of the books. How appropriate. He wondered if he could still smile…

Where would he go from here? Back to complete his training? Or forward into the unknown? He stands on the brink of time. It is time. That’s the thing about Review… The new-born soul closes the Book of his life … life over… and now he must judge himself.

Image from Light Bliss

20 Responses to Flash Fiction

  1. gillswriting says:

    Thanks for the continued support and follow of my humble blog. Glad to re visit here and found new and different sides to you! Love this story by th by.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your writing. It is like the finest of wines. So many lovely and unexpected nuances…particularly in the flash fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane Risdon says:

    Wow loved these. Your writing is so concise and evocative. Thanks for finding me so I could find you! FF I such fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kayuk says:

    What a great read at this time of the year! You’ve a real talent for flash.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marsha says:

    I hate to admit such a lack of literacy, but this is the first flash fiction I’ve read. I’ve heard of it. The first story drew me in, hinted around at the strangeness of the ending, but it was still a surprise. I love your description, this sentence especially. “Warm breath makes ragged ghosts in the night.” Have a great new year, Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I thought these three flash fictions as you call them, were really good. I particularly like the first one.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just found this page Sue. I’ll be back to read more of it. I loved Coffee Break so much I had to comment.


  8. restlessjo says:

    Coffee break caught at my heart 🙂 🙂


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