Shadow Play | Flash Fiction

January 10, 2018

 

Evie loved to play with Joy, her twin sister, in their backyard paradise. During the summer, when the sun’s rays transformed their fawn-colored hair to honeysuckle and their skin to a warm olive, Evie could almost forget about the black case at the top of her father’s closet.

 

Inside, life was dimmer, especially in the winter months when Evie’s waking hours felt more gray than gold. At these times, the shadows coalesced into serpentine forms and called to her from her parents’ bedroom. Did your father really say you couldn’t touch it? Even if you’re careful? He can touch it, why can’t you?

 

Evie gave in to the sibilant whispers one dreary day in January. She locked the bedroom door, dragged the desk chair into her dad’s closet, and pulled down the forbidden case. Two satisfying snaps later, the case lay open on the bed, its shiny contents snug in contoured gray eggshell foam.

 

She drew in a quick breath. Her fingers traced over the engraved branches twisting down the burnished barrel as if blown there by an invisible wind. Her palm wrapped around the wooden grip, cleverly carved to resemble a tree’s trunk. She raised the weapon to eye level as she’d seen her father do the few times he’d allowed her to accompany him to the firing range. Her pointer finger found the trigger and she smiled. See Daddy? As long as I hold it away from me, I won’t get hurt.

 

Sunlight through lace curtains caused the shadows to dance on the wall.

 

Evie aimed the gun, pretending to shoot her mother’s jewelry case, the lamp on her father’s bedside table, the tissue box. If only Daddy would let her shoot cans in the backyard or take her somewhere to practice with targets.

 

She leveled the sites at the door. As if in response, the knob jiggled. Evie’s heart coiled like a snake about to strike. She had to get the gun back into the case! Adrenaline surged through her arm to the tip of her trigger finger, and the weapon recoiled against her hand with a deafening crack.

Evie leaned closer to the convenience store's bathroom mirror and scrubbed at the shadows under her eyes. She couldn’t tell if the smudges were bags or smeared mascara in the flickering fluorescent light, but she clearly saw her sister's accusing glare in her own reflection.

 

At sixteen, she’d been on the street for almost half her life. After Joy’s funeral, she couldn’t stay at home. Every time her parents looked at her, they saw the daughter they lost in the girl who killed her, just as Evie did now.

 

She pushed down her black pleather micro-skirt, more mini than micro now, and left the store. The thinner she got, the longer her skirt became. Evie snorted at the thought. Laughing at herself was easier than crying.

 

A man approached her with his hands in his pockets. “I’ve come to take you home.” Blue jeans, plaid flannel shirt, and a baseball cap——he had to be an undercover cop.

 

“That’s sweet, but I’m waiting for my ride. He’ll be along in a minute.” She watched the traffic whooshing past pretending to anticipate someone.

 

“Evie, your parents asked me to find you and bring you home.”

 

He knew her name? Hazel eyes with touches of emerald and warm amber stared back at her with intensity. She swallowed. “Who are you?”

 

“A friend of your parents. You belong at home with them. They miss and love you.” His voice was as soothing as warm honey on a scratchy throat.

 

The shadows curled around her ankles like cats vying for attention. They were old friends now, her constant companions since childhood. They alone understood her—who she was and what she’d become. They didn’t mind the constant stream of men who brought her gifts of green paper rectangles or white powder. None of the men minded her shadows either; they all brought shadows of their own.

 

“Evie, look at me.”

 

This man didn’t have an entourage of shadows. Instead, his gaze overflowed with compassion and his smile filled her parched soul. Cool, creamy peace washed over her as her life rewound before her. Every mistake, wrong choice, and regret was sucked away until she was back in her parents’ bedroom with the desk chair in her hand. The shadows danced on the wall, enticing her with sibilant whispers.

 

“I wish I’d never touched that gun.”

 

“You can’t undo the past, but it doesn’t have to define your future. You always have a choice.”

He held out his hand, and she placed her fingers in it. His skin was warm and soft, except the center of his palm where her fingertips brushed a rough, round scar, much like a bullet hole.

 

Hissing, her shadows lost their grip for the first time in eight long years.

 

 

Shadow Play was my first piece of flash fiction ever sold, appearing in Splickety Prime 3.3. The idea for the story came to me in the middle of the night after a Bible study on Genesis 3. The Splickety Publication Group had three magazines dedicated to flash fiction (stories under 1000 words). 

 

 

 

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