Flash Fiction by Natalie Madden

Do You Really Want to Know?

Right now, there are people, hundreds of them, thousands of them, that are turning into ice or stone or fire or marshmallow or Don Juan or Aphrodite, and none of them will be happy. Sooner or later the incompleteness will show and they will change again into something else.

She lay looking up at the ceiling, her attention drifting between its shadows and the sound of his calm and deep breathing. She turned her head to the right and looked at his face. His eyes were closed and he looked tranquil, the corners of his mouth curled ever so slightly into a natural and unaware crescent of a smile. It reminded her of how he looked just two hours before; quite similar, except at that point he was still wearing his glasses and he did not look tranquil, only tired. She thought about his smile, the most beautiful, perfect, fantastic vision of a smile she had ever seen in her life so far.

Then her memory became bathed in the images, the clear rendering of his face above her, the smile and the bitten lower lip and the blue eyes looking right into hers. Her arms tightened around his body as she held the image in her mind and as she did this, she felt the corners of her mouth slide into a smile. She involuntarily let out a sigh and she felt his grip tighten around her. He said he loved it when she sighed. She relaxed her arms and shifted her position, turning her body away from him.

She could then feel that the happiness she felt being in his arms was slowly being replaced by a sadness and panic gradually seeping into her mind. He stirred as he felt her move and asked, mostly still asleep, if she was okay. “Just do it,” her inner voice told her. “You’re always going to wonder.” She lay debating it. She couldn’t tell how long she lay there filtering through the rational thoughts and the impossible to ignore neurotic questions that cynicism and self-doubt rooted deeply in her mind long ago.

She sat up. He opened his eyes. She looked down at his bare chest, at the flesh covering his heart. She looked at it and she looked at him. She lifted her hand to where his heart was, slowly at first, and after a moment’s hesitation, dug her nails into his skin. With one swift movement she pulled it back and looked beneath it. She saw smooth, grey stone embedded in his ribcage. Shock jolted through her body, though in her mind she wasn’t really that surprised. What did surprise her was when he then reached to her chest and did the same. They both looked to where her heart should be, and they both saw smooth, grey stone.

Natalie is a writer and editor from Dublin, Ireland. Her work so far has dealt mainly with depression, self image, relationships, grief, nature and mythology. She is one of the editors and co-founders of Three Fates magazine, an art and writing magazine distributed in Dublin, which you can find out about on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/threefatesdublin/.