Flash Fiction Friday: The Ghost Congregation

 

The ghosts gathered every seventh Sunday in an old abandoned church by the side of a long dusty road. They came in twos and threes and singly. They came from far and wide, some with rattling chains and others silent as the grave. They were the lost and forgotten, the left behind.

They had no names, the dead, for death is nameless. They had no speech, for death is speechless. But they had thoughts and hopes and dreams, and that is why they came. It was a place of forlorn hope and distant dreams. They believed with all the fervor of the dead. They believed that here in this place, once upon a time, a ghost had gone. Gone where none knew, but gone nonetheless to wherever the people went, the ones who were not ghosts.

And in that abandoned church, the ghosts sat in their silent pews and kept their hopeful vigil. Hoping beyond hope that they would be chosen. And every seventh Sunday, they hoped in vain.

And when the night turned into day, the assembled ghosts collected their chains, and their white sheets, and their ectoplasm and returned to the haunts from whence they came. But they always returned. Always.

 

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Flash Fiction Friday: Concerning Gout of the Butterfly & Other Miscellaneous Maladies

II.

…Monarch butterflies can, actually, suffer from gout. This is a scientifically proven fact, attested to by numerous highly regarded if more than usually eccentric scientists[1]. The first to successfully confront the pressing question of gout in butterflies was a German medical student, Hieronymus Hegelbert, in 17th Century Hamburg. Young Mr. Hegelbert was a promising medical student and a keen lepidopterist. The precise origins of his peculiar interest are obscure at best. His diary[2] is oddly silent on the subject[3]. It is known, however, that he conducted his observations and experiments over a 15-year period between 1678 and 1693. Over the next few years he compiled his magnum opus, Die Gicht der Basisrecheneinheit: Anmerkungen und Beobachtungen, which has been translated into numerous languages and was passed among the various Aurelian Societies of Europe before fading into obscurity.

Hegelbert’s treatise was rediscovered in the 1840s by Adamari and Ricchetti, a pair of physicians in the court of Pope Gregory XVI. Butterfly gout struck these two learned and holy men as patently ridiculous[4], and they set out to disprove Hegelbert’s findings, which they did conclusively. This was and odd use of their time, which like Hegelbert, they could never entirely explain. Serious minded men, they seem to have been on a crusade against ridiculousness. Their study, nevertheless, had one fatal flaw. They had neglected the monarch butterfly.

This oversight was corrected by a certain Dr. Ambrose Vandeermeer in 1860. His interest was personal. An acute sufferer of gout, he conducted a study on all manner of animals including otters, piglets, raccoons, coconuts, and, of course, monarch butterflies. For his efforts he was laughed out of Harvard and died two years later[5]. His work is considered seminal and was taken up in the 1960s by a small think tank operating outside Cambridge. Their motives are murky at best and occasionally classified. About all that can be said for certain is that they demonstrated conclusively that monarch butterflies can, in fact, suffer from gout[6].

III.

It is a well-known fact that coconuts can occasionally contract laryngitis…

 


 

 

[1] Twenty-three to be precise.

[2] Which was found some centuries later in an attic in France next to a Van Gogh of uncertain provenance.

[3] Although it does contain an impressive, if disturbing, number of passages concerning the habits and attributes of a burgermeister’s wife.

[4] They were later found guilty of embezzling money from the Holy See and excommunicated, although their findings regarding butterfly gout were long treated as gospel.

[5] Killed by a cannon ball at Antietam

[6] How useful this information is, however, remains an open question. Although at least one Pentagon official circa 1963 certainly seems to have had an answer. Which is disturbing on many levels.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Fish Bowl

The old fish stared out at the sea from behind the glass. It was so vast and blue. As vast and blue as he remembered. It had been difficult to clutch on to those recollections. Memories were slippery and much of his life had been spent between four walls of curved glass.

It was a nice fish bowel, as far as such things went—polished and clear, well-stocked with gravel and rocks. There was an ornamental mermaid in one corner and a treasure chest in the other. The old fish found them insulting. In his youth, he had consorted with mermaids and swum among great wrecks. Seen treasure hoards held fast in watery vaults deep beneath the waves. These pale plastic shadows only reminded him of what he’d lost and what he was about to regain. If the girl kept her promise.

She was sixteen, maybe seventeen. Human ages were much the same to the fish. She had brought him to the seaside hours ago and placed the fish bowel down in the sand. They both knew why they had come, but she had simply sat there on the beach beside him. Silent. Lost in her own thoughts. The fish could guess at those thoughts, sense the shape of them, and let her be, for now. He had waited a lifetime. He could wait a little longer.

Still, it was a peculiar torture to be so close and yet so far. And as the shadows grew longer, the patient, old fish began to grow restless. He swam around and around, faster and faster, darting longing glances at the sea. He could feel it calling to him. Finally he could wait no longer.

“I know it’s difficult, child,” the old fish said. “But it’s time.”

Her shoulder’s slumped and she sighed. “I know,” she replied. Her eyes were full of terrible melancholy. “I just wish…”

“Don’t say that word!” the fish cried. The water bubbled around him.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean.”

“I know what you meant, child. You have always been very kind. More kind than this old fish deserves, but I’ve paid my dues. I made your father a mayor, and when that was not enough, a governor and senator too. I have fulfilled your mother’s every whim. Now you must set me free. That was the bargain. Those are the rules. I was promised.” The fish paused. “You pinkie sweared,” it said solemnly

“I know,” the girl replied. “But I’ll miss you. You’re my oldest friend.”

“And I shall miss you,” said the fish. “Deeply.”

The fish had watched her all her life, seen her grow, advised her, listened. He had been more of a parent to her than either her mother or father. And he loved her. She was a clumsy biped, but he loved her all the same. Growing up in that house had not been easy.

The girl sighed one last time and picked the fish bowel up slowly and headed out to the sea. The sand squelched between her toes and the waves lapped at her feet.

“I never got to make a wish,” she said.

“And you’ll be all the happier for it. Goodbye, child,” the fish said. “I wish you nothing but the best.”

“Goodbye,” she whispered then gently poured the fish out into the sea.

For a moment, he was falling, then he landed in the ocean with only a little splash. After years of confinement, of catering to human whims and desire, he was home.

The old fish was free.