*3 flash fiction pieces

Starfish

How do I proceed? One at a time.

All I can see here is suffering. Everyone competing, miserable at their constant lack of ability to measure up to some monolithic cultural ideal. Their souls are starving.

This world looks normal, but it feels wrong. The leaders are corrupt. The divisions are stark. The successful are beyond decadent. The poor wake up under a merciless sun, sell their daylight for whatever they can get.

The saddest thing is the resignation. The “This is just the way it is”. Everyone’s downtrodden, comparing themselves to each other. The system is designed for that. It can’t function without insecurity and fear. It’s a tremendously efficient machine, epic and eternally churning, oiled with the blood and sweat of faceless millions. Nothing can be done, or so it’s believed.

Man is the halfway point between animal and angel. This place is trending back towards the animal. I have to help steer it towards the angelic, towards eternity.

Being good is sixty percent understanding and forty percent forgiveness. That’s why I’m going to stay and try to help.

I’ll have to take the “starfish on the beach” route with this place. You know, the old story. A man is walking on a beach covered with starfish that’ve been left there by high tide. He comes across another man picking up each starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the water where they belong.

“You’ll never get all of them,” says the first man. “It doesn’t matter.”

The second man picks up another starfish and throws it back to the surf.

“It mattered to that one,” he says.

One person at a time.

I’ve been sent here for a reason. Maybe this place won’t even be evil by the time I’m done with it. If an evil person can corrupt a paradise, why couldn’t it work the other way around?

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Flies and Grasshoppers

I used to feed horseflies and grasshoppers to my turtle. I’d catch the flies as they buzzed against the cobwebby garage window, trying to find a way out. The bigger, the fatter, the better. The grasshoppers I’d find in the bushes along the garden, black liquid drooling from their mouths.

Once I caught them between my fingers, I’d pinch their wings and quickly motor myself up to my room where I’d drop them through the little hole in the top of Filburt’s tank cover. I’d watch as their legs kicked in the water. I’d hum the Jaws theme as Filburt noticed them, swam over, and devoured them.

He’d seize them from below with his hooked beak, hold them in place. He’d dig his claws in and push out, quite literally ripping them apart. Often their legs would kick long after they were floating in multiple pieces on the water’s surface. Sometimes the flies were small enough to be swallowed whole. The grasshoppers, with their armored shells and spiny legs, always took the longest to kill, and they were full of what looked like fluffy lobster meat.

When Filburt was done, there would be insect limbs and chunks scattered on the colored rocks at the bottom of the tank.

Filburt was a good turtle, and I liked to think the bugs were a welcome alternative to the dry fishsticks that made up his normal diet. Those things looked like turds, or sticks. This way, he could sort of hunt, and was getting some fresh nutrients.

But I’ll admit, I got kind of a rush off it, too. Catching and feeding. I always watched. I wondered if bugs could feel hopelessness or fear or pain. I wondered if they had voices, would they be screaming as they floated on the surface, knowing that something was about to get them. Sometimes, when it took a long time to catch a particular fly, I’d feel like I’d just scored a goal or something when I finally felt it buzzing between my thumb and index finger. Some days, I’d do this for hours, running back and forth between the garage and my room.

That was a long time ago.

Now, I’m dead. Don’t ask how, don’t ask why. It just happens.

I’m standing in my old high school swim team gym. Our Olympic-sized pool is in front of me. I’m naked, standing on the diving board.

Below, the swimming pool is full of horseflies, houseflies and grasshoppers. I have to do ten years worth of laps in this pool.

I’m shocked that I managed to feed my 5 inch painted turtle an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of grasshoppers and flies in only a ten year period before giving him away to a nature center when I went to college. I’m almost kind of impressed with myself, to be honest.

There’s a lifeguard, a skeleton with sunglasses, sitting on the lifeguard perch. He blows his whistle.

They’ve actually told me I’m getting off pretty easy.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Back-Up Body

I love digging through old drawers and closets. It’s like a crash course in reminding yourself who you really are. Sometimes life happens so fast we just live through it and time passes and we forget where we’ve come from. Everything just piles up in the corners while we do our casual time surfing. But pull out an old notebook from when you were a teenager and start reading it and suddenly you’ll be that teenager again. It’s reassuring.

I’d filled three garbage bags of Salvation Army donations and stacked five separate piles of old notebooks before I saw the duffel bag. It was leaned up against two of my old suitcases, back in the corner.

I’d almost completely forgotten about it.

I thought about leaving it be, but I unzipped it. Just one look.

Inside the duffel bag was a perfect copy of my 20 year old self, sleeping peacefully. My back-up. He was naked, knees drawn up to his chest and his face on his knees. Folded neatly for storage. Waiting to be used.

I still remembered the suggestion from the techs at the cloning facility — you’re going to want to preserve your younger self, they’d told me. Live your life the way you want, but keep a back-up. Store in any temperature, and the body will be ready for you to use the second you lose interest with your original one.

It cost as much as a new car, but I paid it off within the first four years. I literally brought him home after making the down payment. He came in this duffel bag. I unzipped it and looked in on him from year to year. But mostly he just sat in the closet, forgotten along with the rest of the stuff from that part of my life.

I know people that change bodies once a freaking month. It’s such a waste of resources. I keep this guy in here for emergency purposes, and also to give my own life a double once I get too old to function properly.

People used to stare down 80 years of life. With bodytech, now you stare down 160 easy. So much time to do the things you want. So little stress. Enjoying every day, the little things, is that much easier.

As of now I don’t think I’ll be needing this fellow until I’m well into my 80's.

I zipped up the duffel bag and went through a box of old toys. I found an old Godzilla koosh ball and was delighted.

Everything is a work in progress.

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