Friday, May 8, 2015

The Siren Call - #fridayflash

Devenna held the garage shutters open as bombers zipped overhead. Old Man Moa drove their only taxi inside, and idled for half a minute before turning it off. The air raid siren was too loud for Devenna to ask Moa about his passengers; the codger had fit six corpses in his cab, one sitting up front, five others packed into the back with creative use of the footwells.

The siren was too loud to ask Moa what he'd done. A bomb rocked uptown, its voice loud enough to be heard over the siren, and the old cabbie ignored it and began removing the bodies, laying them out on the cracked concrete floor. Devenna could only help him. Together they carried a woman who was missing half her head, but whose wound was wrapped in the yellow blanket Moa wore on winter drives. Comfort covered cruelty.

When all six passengers were laid to rest on the floor, Devenna handed Moa a rag for his face. He had grit and gore stuck in his gray beard, and in the wrinkles of his leathery forehead, yet he cleaned the faces of the dead before his own. Somewhere, another bomb tried to speak up over the siren, and then both voices went silent. Maybe the foreigners had hit the siren's source. Devenna had never thought about where the city kept that sort of thing.

Moa blinked through the window, and the spirals of smoke still rising from uptown. It was like he heard something in the new silence. Devenna strained to listen, and heard the old man wheezing.

To Devenna's disgust, the old man huffed a deep breath and climbed back into his taxi. Devenna stepped in, barring him from closing the door.

Moa rubbed his eyes. "There are more bodies every hour. Foreign monsters won't stop shelling."

"Then leave them." Devenna made an obscene gesture at the city through the garage shutters. "Come hide out in the shop with me. The dead aren't paying you fares."

"They've paid enough. They deserve proper burial."

Devenna grabbed the old man's shirt and shook him. He felt so light, like there were just bones inside his clothes. "Stay. You'll be killed."

Moa narrowed his bloodshot eyes up into Devenna's face. "The meaning of life is not to live forever."

"Life has no meaning!"

"I'm sure yours doesn't."

As though the world punctuated his sentence, the air raid siren resumed. Devenna tried to argue and couldn't hear himself, and Moa jerked the cab door closed. He drove off down Seven, making the left that took you towards uptown.

It was their only cab. The garage was on the outskirts, a lousy target the foreigners might still hit. They could hit anywhere. Devenna remained with the passengers on the concrete floor, regarding the woman who had a stained blanket instead of a face. Either because Moa was wrong or because he could do nothing else, he left her to go out back and begin digging graves.


  1. Sometimes it takes courage to retain your humanity.

    I'm so sorry you won't be posting any more Friday Flashes! You are one of my favorite flashers. I've loved everything I've ever read by you.

    1. Thanks for always being here for me, Gany! I've just become too busy to keep up #fridayflash, even though I'll continue to write much more fiction. I actually have two flash stories coming later this year from Sockdolager and Fireside Fiction (which perhaps I should hashtag?). Working on novels has just engulfed me!

  2. Keeping a brave face in the face of destruction is indeed a hard thing to do. As always loved the story and will be sad not to see you in the Friday Flash crowd anymore. But am very happy for the success you are starting to have. Good luck with the novels I'm sure you will do well. ^_^

  3. Loved 'Comfort covered cruelty' on so many levels. Comfort trumps cruelty too.

  4. Harrowing flash fiction. I really enjoyed it.

  5. "The meaning of life is not to live forever."

    Comfort covered cruelty.

    These, and so much more, hit home. There's also the fact that, even if you don't believe, you can still do, as Devenna does.

    'Tis a far, far better thing I do than I believe needs doing.

    Great flash, John

  6. A deep piece, John. Very enjoyable despite the harsh setting. I'll be thinking on this one for a bit.

  7. Shit. This is majorly immediate stuff. It's truly horrifying that Moa is pouring all his decency and determination into gathering bodies -- which tells me as a reader that putting that beautiful energy into rescuing the living is fruitless. Devenna actually reminds me of how someone I know described her own psychic state at the end of WWII.

  8. Captured the puzzling instincts people hold onto in such horrors. This was bleak and blunt and the structure hit hard.

  9. The meaning of life is not to live forever. -> not a helpful thing to say. Poor people.

  10. I agree with someone in the above comments who said the fact that any heroics involve the dead means the situation is more dire than if they were rescuing the living.

  11. Intense flash, John. I'll keep an eye out for your work as it appears elsewhere, and look forward to reading it.

  12. This was a really harrowing story, John. Really intense.


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