It starts as a trickle. Just a small flow of water like the kind that runs along the curbside toward the drain after a ten-minute afternoon rain shower. The liquid puddles toward your feet and you step forward to avoid getting wet. But the water follows. You take two steps. Still, the water comes. Now you begin to walk at a brisk pace. Better to get ahead of it a bit. But when you turn, there it is lapping at the edge of your shadow.
The trickle becomes a steady stream. Your footsteps quicken, but the flow matches you. Perhaps, you think, if I slow down a bit the water will too. So you try. The water doesn’t slow down. Instead, it pours into your shoes and seeps into the bottoms of your pants. Each step becomes heavier than the next. As your limbs turn to stone, you break into a jog.
Now the stream forms a rapid river. Wild broncos rise up from the depths and charge forward in a terrible stampede of whitecaps. The force of their advance crashes in your ears and echoes through the ever-deepening canyon the water carves. You run.
Now the river ascends and folds its serpentine lengths together to amass into a wave. The wave looms, darkening the sky above so you forget there ever was a sun. You run as fast as you can. Ever on the water comes. Ever blacker it grows.
At times, your steps falter. The water rushes forward as you slip back and the edges of the wave break off like ragged shark’s teeth to ricochet off your heels. Still, you run.
On you go because there is no more reality where standing still exists. Your legs cramp and your lungs burn. But body be damned. You are sprinting, avoiding collisions by milliseconds and millimeters.
The wave is all you see. Its crest surges and folds to cave in around you. Your back is hammered in the tsunami’s torrent and you’re sucked into the liquid’s wicked embrace. Water fills your mouth as your screams are suffocated.
And all the while, the onlookers only ever comment, “Marvelous, how fast she goes.”
She wanted to see the exact moment day turned to night. Standing in the field, she forced her eyes to the sun, waiting for the distant green hills to swallow it up in the coming dark.
She tried to capture the moment before but one time she had fallen asleep and another she had been distracted by a wandering daydream. She wouldn’t miss it again. Fireflies blinked in the tall barley and some tried to land on her face but she shooed them away like boys who asked to play during recess. Nothing would make her look away this time.
No that ain’t what happens, her brother had said.
Well what then? Daddy said it goes down and turns into the moon.
Well that’s cus Daddy don’t know what happens either.
Then tell me! Please! You have to tell me or else –
Alright, alright. Jesus, don’t scream or my ears’ll go out. It’s different for everybody, and most don’t ever get to see for themselves cus most don’t believe it. But it happens, and I swear it cus I saw it myself.
She shivered as a cold gust came across the barley and over her legs and arms and ears, tightening her skin until it became bumpy. But she still stared ahead, tugging at her sunflower dress, stretching it as if it would offer some warmth.
As it got closer to night, the sun sank faster into the face of the earth. She wouldn’t take her eyes off it. She promised herself. Tears ran down her cheeks but she did not cry. Only half left. Something buzzed at her ankle but she didn’t kick for fear of blinking. She wouldn’t miss it again. She promised.
It changes you. It doesn’t disappear down behind the ground. It goes somewhere else though. Goes into whoever can bear to see it. All the fire, all the light. Goes right inside you til you turn into something else.
That sounds made up.
Remember when you said giraffes sounded made up until you saw one at the zoo?
That was different . . .
More than halfway gone, it looked more like a chunk of ember spit from their fireplace and burning into the hillside. Or maybe a clot of blood landed on the earth from some invisible giant, the air above it shivering or steaming, she couldn’t tell which.
Her mind slipped for only a moment as her body reminded her where she was – outside in the cold. Limbs shaking and lungs fluttering in the harsh wind. It blew on her eyes too, but it couldn’t cool them while she kept focus on the sun. Her eyelids wavered, but she locked them in place wide and open. She lied to herself that if she closed her eyes it would be the same as dying.
With only moments left in the day, she saw that even though the sun shrank in size, it grew in other ways. Redder and deeper and hotter and stronger. And brighter. Or did the hills and the trees and the field and everything else just grow darker at the edge of her view? Maybe the sun just stole the light from everything else in its last passing breath.
The sun finally went and released all its light and she stared into it until there was none left.
No light on the barley or from the fireflies above it. No light on her sunflower dress. No light in the sky from the moon or anything else. No light on her hand as she waved it in front of her face. No light in the morning or the next one after.
She always remembered the last time she saw the sun. And though it had disappeared, she knew it wasn’t really gone. Not down behind the hills or swallowed up by the night. It went somewhere else. She knew it went inside her, burning.
Zain Syed is a copy editor and aspiring writer who focuses on themes relating to love, nature, and death. His poems have appeared in Canto Magazine and The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, and he's currently working on writing fiction. He lives with his fiancée and two cats in Nashville, TN. You can read some of his unpublished work at zainsyed.net.
FLASH GLASS: A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF FLASH FICTION, PROSE POETRY, & MICRO ESSAYS