Last Year’s Flash Fiction: Dreams of Falling

Storytelling Collective does a yearly challenge for flash fic, with prompts and a nice community format. Every year I complete a run I pick my ten favourites and collect them into what is basically a zine. I’ve got 2024’s up, so now it’s time to share some faves from 2023.

Dreams of falling

An image rendered in faux-photocopy style of a hand holding a pocket-sized steampunk-style watch face with multiple dials and a twist of wire along the top exposed screws.

The worst thing about probably falling for eternity is that she remembered an incredibly mediocre short story she’d read once. Before she’d remembered the story, her main concern had been what her options were going to be if she needed to go to the bathroom. Worries about a theoretical full bladder—or worse—were wiped away by the sudden memory of some story in a collection she couldn’t remember the name of.

Like most collections of short stories, the end value was fine, more or less. The main reason she’d picked up the collection, a short that had been turned into a movie, had been disappointing. There had been a good story or two in the first section of the book but as the pages went on the quality seemed to degrade.

The one she remembered while falling had been near the end and halfway through it she’d just been skimming the words. It was about Alice falling down the rabbit hole, but the hole was endless. There were lots of descriptions and possibly? She wasn’t certain, but the text may have switched back and forth between the lyrical descriptions of the White Rabbit’s hole (she allowed herself a laugh at her phrasing) and an essay about Lewis Carroll’s work.

It made sense to have suddenly remembered this less-than-par short story as she fell. Though she wasn’t, technically, falling. Her body was pretty certain she was, but the human body is a fool and a compulsive liar. The lead that kept her safe and attached to the station had been severed and there’d been a small explosion and now here she was. Falling, or flying, or moving maybe was the most correct description. Her suit didn’t have thrusters; it was a basic mechanic’s onesie that didn’t even have accommodations for using the toilet.

The upside to the whole thing was that, as a basic mechanic’s onesie, the air supply was small. Enough in the tanks to let you pop out and take a gander at what was going on and tighten some screws or realign a whatever. Which was what she’d expected when she stepped Outside.

But when she’d got to the problem sector, she saw that it was going to be a much more involved fix than a couple of screws or the incredibly illegal but commonly used combination of a kick and a well-crafted curse.

She’d seated her magnetic soles against the hull and thumbed her radio to transmit a heads up, so her apprentice could ready what they called her Big Business Suit.

And then there’d been a weird judder through her tether and, as she’d turned to look, it felt like the hull had hiccuped. The metal skin buckled, breaking her magnetic grasp, and off she’d gone.

And now she was in the middle of nowhere, remembering a mediocre short story. Which was worse, she’d decided, than remembering a bad short story. Something that truly sucked could still get some passion going. Anger at seeing where a story could have gone, at the author’s complete pratfall of a piece, all satisfying stuff. The boring stories didn’t give you that. It would be nice to drift out into that cold nothing with some sort of vibrant feeling.

As she settled back into a sort of space approximation of the sort of posture you were supposed to take if you were capsized in a river, seated back with legs ahead, her bladder twinged. She wondered if it was uncouth to place bets on if you’d piss yourself before your oxygen ran out. Maybe. But it wasn’t like anyone would know. She smiled. This was better than remembering that story, at least.