This is a flash fiction story I wrote a few months ago for a contest, but never actually submitted. It had to be under 400 words, and came out to 398. So without further ado, I present:


“What a disturbing way to start a story,” she says. I can see in her eyes that she is serious. I’m disappointed. Why? Why exactly is it disturbing to begin a story with a fact of life?

I can feel the edges of my mouth sinking under the weight of her stare. “Once you get further in, it lightens up.” Why did I just lie? Do I really need to justify the atmosphere of my work? Growing up, my mother always told me that sadness was a germ; a bacteria that would spread if we didn’t wash it off of ourselves. I took this quite literally, and would wash my hands thoroughly any time I was upset. I know better today, yet I still do this. The reason being that it continues to work despite the impracticality of it. As long as I believe I am washing away the depression, it ends up doing a lap around the bottom of the sink and slipping through one of the eleven little holes amongst the suds, and into the abyss.

The problem is that it’s all over everything now. Any time I leave the house, I come into contact with it. I feel like, lately, every day I wash more so than the day before. So how can I be expected to write cleanly about such a filthy world?

I turn to leave, catching her surprise as I complete the motion. She was not expecting this, which in turn leaves me surprised now as well. Glancing back, I see an intense concern seeping out of every pore in her face. This causes me to turn back and face her yet again, though the silence is now truly uncomfortable. Is she trying to analyze my expression? I try to smile, but I can’t tell if I do, but I can tell that it’s not the right emotion for this moment. She hands me back the paper. “It’s still really good, I just think…”

“I don’t think this is going to work,” I interrupt. She emits a humorous little squeak and bites her bottom lip. I bow. I don’t know why I bow, but it just feels like the end of a performance. This time when I turn, I close my eyes so as not to catch any more emotions.

Later, the soapy water causes the ink to run off the page.

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