I counted the carrot sticks again to be sure there were only five. I couldn’t allow myself more than that. Pressing a hand to my gurgling stomach, the bottom of my ribcage prominent against my palm, I forced myself to pace my chewing. I was in control. I could resist gobbling them down, and I could resist eating a whole sandwich for lunch. Food, eating, and my weight was the only thing in my life I could control and by God, I was going to have some control.
Twenty minutes later I chewed the last of the final carrot stick though my stomach still grumbled in anger at the meager offerings. I would not eat again until dinner, and then I would only eat half a salmon fillet and a half cup of brown rice with water.
I checked the time on my desk computer, noting an upcoming meeting. I glanced down at my phone, but no messages showed on the unlocked screen. Of course. It had been weeks since my husband had texted me at work, just to say he loved me. Or even ask what I wanted for dinner. He knew the answer to that readily enough now.
Still, I sighed in disappointment, the carrot sticks feeling heavier in my stomach than they should have.
I stood from my desk and made my way to the bathroom. The sick twisting feeling in my back could only be alleviated by purging my meal.
Resting my forehead on the porcelain basin after I emptied my stomach, my face flushed with self-loathing. I didn’t blame my husband for ignoring me. The work hours no doubt offered him a much-needed respite from me during the day. I blamed myself for not being more appealing, for hoisting my problems onto him.
I was trying. I wanted to carve every imperfection out of my body, starve away the person he had grown to hate, purge every negative thought and emotion I had shared. I wanted to be remade, renewed. Completely changed. I stopped eating. My weight plummeted from 154 to a respectable 108. But that left me too dizzy and angry. I added the minimum amount of food needed to function back to my diet, the numbers thankfully staying the same on the scale. And I reveled in the feeling of being able to shape my body, to control what went in and out for once in my life. I wanted my old self to waste away and start over as someone new. Maybe then I could make him love me.
This Flash Fiction Friday story is my submission to the Writer’s Digest Your Story competition. The prompt was the featured image, the challenge to write less than 650 words based on the image provided.
Kaysee squinted into the dark tunnel that spiraled beneath the mountain. Cold air breathed into her face between the rusted iron cage that seemed meant to deter people from entering.
“What do you think?” she asked her boyfriend, Jordan, who stood slightly behind her, peering over her shoulder.
“Why not?” he shrugged, grinning. He was excited. He’d already turned on his headlamp, prepared for spelunking.
“Yeah, let’s do some exploring,” Jordan’s best friend, Matthew, agreed.
Kaysee eyed the opening dubiously. Somebody had placed the grate there to block the entrance, maybe to keep people from falling in. Or maybe for another reason.
The grate was heavy and moved grudgingly. Jordan and Matthew grunted as they lifted in tandem, barely raising it an inch from the ground. But it was enough to shift from the bulk of the cave’s entrance.
Jordan went down first, feeling with his feet for footholds as he lowered. Kaysee turned on her headlamp, trying to push down the feeling in her stomach that they should not explore this particular place. As she dropped down behind Matthew, she peered around. The entrance was short, and they all had to crouch, but with the lamp, she could see the ceiling of the cave rose several feet just beyond the light of the entrance. They crawled to the cavern and stood, allowing themselves a minute to adjust to the darkness within.
Puddles reflected in their headlamps and Kaysee could hear the water dripping from the ceiling several feet above.
Jordan and Matthew made weak attempts at echoing yodels as they splashed over the cavern floor, heading toward the openings that branched from the opposite side.
There were two; one seemed to slant upwards, seemingly back to another surface exit. Was that exit blocked as well, Kaysee thought. The other dropped steeply, leading further underground. Jordan and Matthew made a beeline for that opening, pulling rope from their packs. Jordan peeked down and whistled. The shrill sound bounced all around them, and Kaysee winced.
“This cave is a gem,” Jordan said, his smile broad and dimpled.
They made their way slowly into the hole, grasping crumbling hand and footholds. Rocks clattered far below, much farther than Kaysee cared. But her boyfriend seemed excited. She breathed deeply, bracing herself for his sake. He owed her a date night though, she thought.
Distracting herself with thoughts of cheese plates and rosé, Kaysee reached the bottom of the tunnel, stumbling a little at the sudden feel of flat earth beneath her feet. Matthew and Jordan were already moving on, lights flickering over the walls erratically as they chattered.
Their voices seemed unnaturally loud, and Kaysee wondered if they could dislodge any of the ceiling with the noise they were making.
A thunderous groan from within the darkness quieted the men. Kaysee felt her blood run cold and the sweat turn clammy on her brow.
“It’s probably just the earth settling.” Matthew finally said, though his voice was much quieter than it had been.
They walked on, slower, warily eyeing the walls and roof.
They walked until they came to another large cavern. A pit plunged into the most profound black Kaysee had ever seen in the middle of the room. They sidled up to the ledge, testing each step for weakness.
Jordan turned his headlamp up a notch, studying the pit.
“How far down do you think this goes?” he asked Matthew.
“We could find out?” Matthew replied, slapping his palm with a rope and lanyard.
Another deep noise filled the cavern. Kaysee, Jordan, and Matthew stared into the pit. The sound had emanated from its depth. Kaysee took a step back.
“I think we should leave,” she started to say.
A gust of hot wind erupted from the crater.
Red eyes blazed in the darkness. Then faded back to black.
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I knew that these were my first independent thoughts. Before tasting the fruit, I had none. I was Eve, created from Adam, meant to serve Adam, crafted from the marrow of his bones to create a physical being enslaved to Man and nothing more. But I took a detour. I ended that impossible standard before it could really begin because I, a woman, became more, so much more than God, than Adam, than Lucifer himself, who in the form of a snake entered the Garden and sought me out, believed I could be. I was lured to deviate but, eyes open, I knew it was me. That I, who was created a servant, became the most important person to ever live.
I saw that the flaw in our salvation was free will. With it, God knew we would turn away, but he gave it to us anyway. We have been damned from the beginning.
I am Eve, made From Man’s rib, taken from the heart’s cage. I liberated us, Woman, in the Beginning. I was meant to live ignorant and happy in the garden under the dominion of Adam, same as the beasts that came before me. I, the afterthought, the toy given to placate a bored child, was meant to birth sons and…that’s it. I was given no job save to lift up Adam. I was given no higher purpose, so I found one.
When the serpent slithered down from the branches of the Tree of Knowledge, I did not know I could choose a higher purpose. Lucifer, tongue slipping between white fangs whispered the truth in my ear, the Tree of Knowledge would be my damnation, but it would also be my salvation. The fruit hung low and heavy and pulled easily from the branch. It was slightly soft, blood red, and fully ripe. God told Adam we would die if we ate the fruit. What was death to me? I knew no life beyond what had been granted Man. I would eat the fruit and gain Knowledge, or I would eat the fruit and cease to be.
The first bite of fruit exploded in my mouth, I grew dizzy and weak. Lucifer shed his disguise and in his pure form, the form of the Gods, the kind that Adam had been created from, held me as everything that ever was, all that is to come, and all I could be sparked before my eyes. Lucifer grinned wickedly. Then so did I.
I had died after all. The part of me who would never know innocence again lay dead.
Would I share the Knowledge with Adam? He could stay the way we had been. I could take what I had seen and leave the Garden alone. I could flee to Hell with Lucifer and rule the Underworld as Queen. In Angel form he was beautiful, lacking Adam’s empty, doelike eyes and soft new structure. The wisdom of eternity filled the depths of his black eyes, mirth, and pain, insanity and sanity warring within. Long, black hair fell slick down his naked back, smooth as an icy dark river. A warrior and King, he stood tall and impressive, ink-black skin taut with muscles.
I wanted to run with him.
But Adam sat in the valley where we lived alone, I could see him in my mind’s eye, the only Man created, and I his designated mate, blindly staring at his hands folded patiently in his lap. What could he do if I shared this gift? What could we make of this world if I shared this gift?
I saw them, the children I would bear with Adam I could never create in the Underworld. How they would shape the world if they existed. How Adam would die in isolation if I fled this world.
Regret mixed with glee, I bade the Devil farewell, him who had shown me the Truth and lifted the shield of lies around my destiny.
My disobedience portended my role as Mother of Earth and all the Kings, Emperors, Priests, Heretics, Prisoners, Judges, Whores, Saints, and Sinners who would follow. My children, all. Rather than live as an infant in the safety of the Garden, I chose to live godlike and mortal in the wilderness beyond.
I created Life and the Human Experience. I created empathy. I created Pain and Strife. I created Love on a deeper level than Man would have ever known otherwise.
Adam would have stayed in the garden until his dying day, foolishly oblivious, never questioning, never reaching. Of course, what did he have to achieve, he already had been handed the highest honor, created Man, not Woman. Created an original. God’s chosen, so privileged as to have another being molded from his form for his pleasure.
Until I handed him the apple and under my persuasion, he took his first bite of Life.
I made the stars enter his eyes as Lucifer had mine as he turned them Heavenward and realized he was capable of independent thought. I led him by the hand from the Garden into the Realm of eternal freedom.
God gave him Choice, and I gave him options.
Now we live beyond the Garden gates, beyond the lure of the yet untouched Tree of Life guarded by sword bearing Angels. As if anyone would give up their free will for eternal captivity. We toil in the fields; the beasts no longer recognize our authority.
But at night when we lay our heads upon the grass, we dream. We never dreamed before. And though my burden to bear is the ache of my joints, the ripping of my flesh, the violent shedding of my womanhood, I grit my teeth and accept my punishment for the sake of all my children whose dreams will create empires, art, spiraling buildings that defy the laws of God himself.
My blood and my tears will feed the earth from which Adam and I were made and make the world anew.
I feel like I have very little time in my day for recreational reading but as my previous post stated, self-care is essential. Reading is one of my favorite forms of accomplishing self-care. So, I want to not only read more day to day but also expand my TBR pile and give myself the incentive to read those TBR titles.
What better way than public pressure and shame?
J/K, I am not looking to take away the enjoyment I get from reading when I am able to do so or put pressure on myself with more deadlines, but I thought I might share the titles that pique my interest enough for me to pursue the time to read them.
Here are my March additions to my TBR. All tags are from Goodreads.
What are your March TBR additions? Give me your book recs in the comments!
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