A flash fiction piece I wrote for my Creative Writing: Fiction Class. I hope y'all get something out of it, this means a lot to me.
At the birth of every child, there is a woman who bears gifts. She looks to be kind, her brown hair so dark that it seems black from far away. Her eyes are inviting, drawing you into a warm hug full of love. Her hands look frail, wrinkles covering their entirety. Her body is small, appearing to float, as if she is barely even there. She gives each child a basket forged from the hearts of the dead. The dead’s empty souls are given a purpose once again. Those baskets all hold a small pebble inside, or sometimes a rock, or occasionally even a small stone. And that is the beginning.
As the children grow up, the woman visits them frequently. She meets some of them daily, and others she visits once a month. To some it feels like she’ll never leave, and others wonder if she ever actually existed in the first place. When she visits she presents more gifts, more pebbles, more rocks, more stones. Depending on the day, a child could expect two small pebbles and a stone, and on others just a rock.
It started out as a game the children would go back and forth and play.
“I hope she visits me today. She hasn’t brought me a gift in months!” A young boy said once.
“I have too many gifts. I don’t know if I can carry anymore.” An even younger girl had replied.
“Way to brag. You’re so special because you have more rocks than me!”
She slammed her face into her hands, “That’s not what I was saying…”
“Doesn’t matter.” His expression was cold and serious, yet still there was a light in his eyes.
“I hope you get more gifts today. I think you deserve it.” And she was sincere.
“I do deserve it! I’ve been good at home, and I’m doing well in school and everything is good. But there’s always the gifts that are missing. Why would she give one gift if she didn’t want to continue showering me with gifts?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
“ Maybe it’s because I keep throwing my rocks. Maybe she doesn’t think I like her gifts… But I really do. It’s just, the rocks compel me to toss them across ponds, and into streets and over rainbows.” The boy paused for a second, eyeing the girls basket.
“Do you even throw your rocks?” The boy asked her.
“No, I can’t. They’re stuck.”
“Let me try.” And the boy tried. Unsuccessfully he tried taking one of her rocks, but the girl was right: it did not move, did not even budge. “No wonder it looks like you have so many rocks! You never throw any of them out!”
As the children are young, they can throw the rocks away without a care. The rocks don’t mean anything to most children. But some can’t get rid of the rocks even if they want to. The girl was one of the few that couldn’t. And that weighed on her. Weighed as much as many children’s baskets put together.
The boy’s basket was nearly empty, as devoid of rocks as his skin was devoid of color. His pale skin contrasted the girls black skin just as their baskets were opposites of one another. Her basket was filled to the brim with rocks and stones and pebbles that filled all the empty space in-between.
“Why does she always get all the rocks?” The schoolchildren would say.
“She isn’t better than any of us, and yet she has all these stones… I think the Woman takes pity on her. Because she isn’t good enough. And she’s trying to make her feel like she belongs.”
“She is finding rocks and putting them in her by herself to make her look better than us.”
“At least my rocks are better than hers. Quality over quantity, am I right?”
The words kept coming, again and again and again and again. She tried not to let it get to her, but it did. Her words were heavy, her basket making it impossible for her to move. The pebbles came with the words, just as fast, just as quick. They piled more, more, more. Until the day that they stopped.
On that fateful day, rocks stopped coming and something miraculous happened. The Woman appeared and started taking out her rocks, her stones and her pebbles. Took them all away. Made her capable of moving again.
She played with the other children, throwing rocks without much care in the world. Rocks flew like bullets across the yards of the children she befriended. She felt free, like she was flying high on a kite, above the world, among the clouds.
But that feeling of freedom wouldn’t last long. That light as a feather flight that took place when the rocks left, it wouldn’t stay. She wouldn’t be able to soar in the sky, instead she was banished to the ground, never to move again. This was because weeks after the emptying of the rocks… she lost her father. A boulder replaced all those stones the Woman had taken away. The basket fell on top of her and she couldn’t breathe.
She couldn’t move.
She couldn’t do anything.
All she wanted to do was to dance around and throw rocks with the other children, and she would never be able to again. She couldn’t. She would never be able to.
At least she never thought she would. It didn’t seem plausible at the time.
But at least her mother was still around. They talked about the rocks in their lives. She found out that her mother had just as many rocks as her at one point in her life. It was the curse of people like her, of that thing anyone like her had. They found a sense of warmth in the knowledge that they shared this hardship, in all its forms. Together they went to someone, to talk about the rocks in both of their lives. And even though the rocks stayed, they got a little lighter. They were able to be moved, a shared weight on the backs of a mother and daughter. And honestly, the talking made it easier, some of the rocks were replaced with feathers, memories of those stones that plagued their lives- but so much lighter.
And that’s why I’m here today, standing in front of you. Instead of hanging off the edge of a rooftop in the middle of Brooklyn. I’m here. I no longer want to know how it feels to fly in the air, and I no longer crave the crash at the end of it. Well sometimes, I do. I still have my rock filled days. In fact, most of them are rock filled. But no matter how full my basket gets, how many rocks I collect… at least I know I am not alone, and I will never be. No matter how lonely I feel, how empty my heart is, how terrible the rocks in my life make me feel, I know. I will never be alone. And sometimes that is enough.