Small Fiction: Memory Palace

Photograph of a wealthy abandoned house with broken chair in the foreground, for Memory Palace by Malin James

From Matthias Haker’s Decay series

She looked at the dripping world, dripping water, dripping skies, from clouds to green grass, against the glass and under cars into places she couldn’t see, places filled to the brim with emptiness.

His shoes were empty. And the left side of the bed and the Apple mug from the eighties and his particle physics cup – bought for nostalgic purposes. Not nostalgia. Nostalgic purposes. Because that’s the way he talked.

He liked things that had a purpose, mugs and books, purposeful things like that. Things that held memories but also did something – something more than gather dust like his mother’s porcelain squirrels.

The house full of those things now—mugs, not porcelain squirrels. The squirrels went to a charity shop, along with the decorative geese. But mugs…she had mugs. And empty shoes and half-finished books and the cord to his first cell phone. His beer was in the fridge. His tea was in the sink. She left it as it was to keep his prints on the mug.

She lived in a memory palace – a shrine to their Before. Memories dirtied dishes. They warped the floor and filled her gut. Her cells, her tissue, her teeth and bones were stony with Before. Before is what she was. Because After was in a meadow off a long winding road, under wild green grass and rain.

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Small Fiction: Cold War

Black and white historical photograph of a woman standing at the Berlin Wall circa 1962 for Flash Fiction: Cold War by Malin James

Berlin Wall, c. 1962

She was prone to overthinking – thinking formed a wall guarded by a process she pretended to control. She deployed distractions and analysis with Soviet subtlety, creating, over time, a Byzantine web of protections. In the end, one department didn’t know what the other one was doing – left hand fooling the right.

She did this cloak and dagger for years – years and years and a lifetime – until the years ran short and programs were cut and a colder, less stable government dismantled the agency tasked with her sanity.

Facades began to crumble and buildings fell and the wreck of a woman lay piled in the corner of a room. Wrapped in wars that were not hers, she was blinded by things hadn’t known to see, invisible threats she’d felt in her splintered bones. She rocked herself apart in that room, in the end, a mouse in a concrete wall. The wall filled her blood and her back and her soft, soft parts as she fell around herself.

Small Fiction: Grounded

Black and white historical photograph of a 19th century chaise lounge for Flash Fiction: Grounded by Malin James

19th c. chaise lounge

She sits on the Victorian comfort of a well-intentioned couch. It had once been roly-poly but not it’s only  flat – like a child’s drawing of the thing it’s supposed to be.

She sits there in this aspirationally comfortable, not-soft thing while her own softness, both physical and emotional, oozes and puddles around her like syrup on a plate.

Her therapist is going over grounding techniques. One must be grounded…ground yourself…. Dr. Salt’s techniques are reasonable, but the idea of grounding strike’s her as curious and somewhat sinister. Beneath its mundanity, she imagines a form of arcane wisdom to do with digging the perfect grave or pinning butterflies for display…. Both are interesting subjects – far more interesting than Dr. Salt of the old-fashioned office and deceptive couch.

How does the couch feel, Dr. Salt drones.

Dr. Salt, she thinks, sounds like white noise. White noise is soothing, at least….

Is it cool? Hard? Smooth?

Dr. Salt, she thinks, is as helpful a marble in a pond.

Tell me, how does the couch feel? 

“Dead”, she replies with her deadpan face. Cool. Smooth. Hard. More like the couch than the couch could ever be.

“It’s dead,” she says, again. “It can’t feel anything. Given the apparent age of it, I’d say it hasn’t for quite some time. Felt anything, that is.”

Dr. Salt is quiet.

She smiles and pulls a thread loose. Therapy is going well.