The Golden Key Flash Fiction Open 2014 Honorable Mention, judged by Karin Tidbeck
The excavation began by the bureau in the forgotten bedroom. It had been a deliberate forgetting, the hardest sort. The excavation began by the bureau because Ellison, the youngest among the seven of us, insisted without ceasing that she had seen dancing upon the Oriental rug a figure no larger than a doll. It was then we remembered again the bedroom. We told her no, that such figures never danced upon rugs.
She bore our denials with a wrinkle in her broad forehead, her black irises ensconced below. She stomped away to the library, where our father had given us free rein in the days before he shipped to the Barbary Coast and did not return. She brought volumes down from shelves high as the Himalayas, creaked open their bindings and perused for hours.
On a rainy Thursday in August, she revealed to us that she believed what she had seen—in a tall hat, she emphasized—could only be one of a few varieties of creature. She listed them to a gathered assembly of all the Rudgard siblings, flipping the top page of a crisp white paper pad as she began.
“Brownie,” she said. “Pixie. Unmindful leprechaun.” “Why?” we asked.
“No wings,” she said. “And the hat.” She opened a book and pointed in turn to depictions of each.
“Unmindful?” asked Hildegest. Ellison did not answer.
We did not wish to discourage her, but we did not believe that such creatures existed, nor that they wore hats. The excavation would, we felt, lay the matter to rest.
We peeled back the rug, pried up the floorboards, and found hard dirt. We dug the hard dirt and uncovered a tarnished silver box. Within rested a translucent amber button. Suspended inside the amber button we saw a tiny insectoid creature with large eyes, a kindly expression, and five attached legs plus one nearby that looked as if it had been frozen in mid-escape from its owner. Though it is hard, of course, to read the expressions of such creatures.
No one spoke. We replaced the box, patted down the dirt. Ellison helped us nail the floorboards back into place. From then on, however, we found that the bedroom could no longer be forgotten. The same summer, Ellison’s blonde hair grew redder, and the wrinkle in her forehead gave everything she said a parenthesis that never closed.
James Heflin is a writer and musician living in Western Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Ireland Review, Conduit, and other journals, and his fiction has appeared in Planet Magazine and others. By day, he is editor of Preview Massachusetts magazine and managing editor of the Valley Advocate, an alt-weekly.
The most secret of his secret hiding places was, many moons ago, the cavity at the bottom of his Dune game box. No one older would be curious about such a science-fiction fanboy thing, and no one else ever wanted to play the game, so it was perfect.
Art — kAt Philbin is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She draws inspiration from fairy tales and personal mythologies to create her delicate illustrations with many, many tiny pen lines. See more of her artwork at www.katphilbin.com.
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