Flash Fiction Challenge: Life is Hell

Posted: April 11, 2014 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Challenge
Tags: ,

Sweet Jeebus, it’s been awhile.

Work has been hectic and time-consuming, plus there have been a number of social engagements and events that my wife and I have been involved in the last couple of months that have eaten up time. I’ve barely had time to peck away at Journey to the South (yes, I’m finally getting around to actually re-working that and polishing it up for publication) much less to sit down during the week and pound out a thousand words (or more) for a Flash Fiction Challenge.

But, I’ve finally had a bit of a calm and I think it’s appropriate that (given the press and pressure of life these past few months) the one I’m able to actually do is “Life is Hell” – the thrust of which is to write a story about Hell, whether literal or metaphorical. So, hopefully you’ll enjoy the piece – entitled “A Trillion Shallow Wounds” – I was able to put together below and keep watching this space for some news in the coming week or so.

Barry had been staring at his computer screen for five minutes straight before he realized that he’d completely zoned out.

It wasn’t that he’d got lost in thought or had been daydreaming or anything nearly as pleasant as those things would be in comparison. No, he’d simply blanked out, staring at the monotonous bureaucratic text that filled his screen, over and over and over, eight hours a day, five days a week. He sighed and rubbed t his face, hoping to shake off the dullness he felt but feeling little success in the effort. After another ten minutes of barely being able to concentrate, Barry pushed away from the desk he called “his” in the large work-pod shared by ten other people and ambled across the floor in the direction of the break room.

One of the managers flagged him down mid-route and yakked at him about some arcane tid-bit of business or another. Barry nodded repetitively and let the information wash over him for the few moments that decorum required he stand and pay attention, before he continued on his way to the break room.

It was a small space built into the cavern that was the work-floor of the building, three tables with four chairs each jammed into it along with a fridge and counters and vending machines. Barry walked to the pop machine and slipped a handful of change into the mechanical behemoth, withdrawing a plastic bottle filled with caffeinated sludge that would eat away at his teeth and convert itself almost immediately into fat lining his stomach and thighs.

God, that’s morose, Barry thought to himself as he wiped his lips with the back of a hand. But what did he have to focus on to counter those depressive thoughts, hanging over his head like a cartoon rain cloud? Nothing, he thought as he took another long draw on his pop. He walked over to the outside wall, which was just windows looking out on the flat plain of the building’s parking lot, its space bounded by trees and bushes in the distance.

He sighed wistfully, searching his mind for the last time in his memory that he could remember being something other than cynical and hopeless. College. College was probably the last time he remembered being hopeful. That he remembered having a drive to do something. He’d been playing in a band then, cramming in road trips and late night sets in between classes and exams. It had been exhausting but exhilarating, too. He’d felt alive.

And then the band had fallen apart. Barry had tried forming another or finding a spot in someone else’s, he’d even tried being a solo act. Nothing had worked. Eventually, he’d fallen to just playing for friends at parties, then just for himself, and now…Hell, it’d been years since he’d picked up a guitar and played. Sometimes he thought about it, but that musing was always followed by feelings of guilt for having set the instrument down in the first place and pessimism that nothing he did would match the joy he could conjure in his memory.

And so, like a trillion shallow wounds – none deep enough to kill him outright – his heart and soul had been bled almost dry. There was nothing there any more aside from a grey pall that hung in his mind and the bleak hope that maybe he’d have an aneurysm or get hit by a bus, something quick and unexpected to bring this sad show to a close, since God knew that Barry didn’t have the mournful passion to take his own life.

Heaving a sigh, Barry finished off the sugary drink and tossed the empty bottle in the recycling bin before turning and ambling out of the break room.

Back to the salt mines.


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