A while ago I stumbled upon a flash fiction competition sponsored by NPR called Three-Minute Fiction. Their round 11 premise was “Write a story in which a character finds an object that he or she has no intention of returning.” I found the premise very interesting but unfortunately had missed the entry deadline. However, I was inspired to start writing a collection of stories based on that premise. I found the idea of people finding unusual objects and how they might react to it intriguing. Things like someone else’s dream, someone else’s last breath, or a jar of sunshine.
The stories in my Finders Keepers collection reflect those musings although they don’t all conform exactly to the original premise nor do they usually conform to the competition’s word limit of 600, although they do meet the generally agreed upon flash fiction limit of 1000 words or less.
This week I’m posting ‘The Package’ here on my blog but also in my Flash Fiction section. I’m also happy to take suggestions of objects to be found. I like a good challenge!
In case you’re interested, the round 11 winner of the Three-Minute Fiction, Ben Jahn’s story can be found here. I highly recommend reading it. It’s amazingly written and of course, it’ll only take three minutes of your time.
Finders Keepers – The Package
The package had been misdelivered and no wonder. The smudged delivery address gave only a suggestion of a destination and the illegible sender’s address gave no hope of recommencement. How it landed at his residence, Nergüi couldn’t even begin to guess.
He made to throw it on the coffee table so he could slip his suit jacket on but hesitated. The package felt remarkably dense for something that was barely bigger than his two hands and its heft felt urgent. Even though he had a meeting on the first floor in a few minutes he decided he had enough time to open it and see if it was even worth the effort to track down either the sender or the recipient.
He grabbed a swift-edged knife that keenly sliced through the stiff, clear tape and flipped open the flaps to reveal crumpled brown paper. He tossed it out and was irritated to find a simple wood box, rough in execution and devoid of any stain or lacquer.
He almost threw the entirety into the waste bin but having come this far decided to see the thing through. He reached in, rustling aside the last remnants of packing paper, and pulled the box out, tugging off its lid.
Its weight pressed firmly in his palm yet it was empty. Nergüi wrinkled his brow and peered closer, inadvertently inhaling the box’s stale air. It held the sweet scent of freshly cut trees and the acrid stench of a cooking fire. The fragrance was reminiscent of his grandmother’s yurt and he pulled back in surprise.
Cautiously, he bent down again and gingerly respired.
He now smelt the caustic jab of accelerant-derived flames, heard hard voices and the sweet, fractured tinkling of breaking glass. His mind thought wildly of the riots not so many years ago and the clatter and confusion of a city trying to slough off its old skin.
He bent in bewildered curiosity and breathed deeply with his nose and open mouth and this time the box’s perfume came with images as well as smells and sounds.
Frosted breath hanging in the frigid dark as the first rays of the sun begin to crack the surface of the sky. A broken plate, tears, and a frightful beating. The weariness of a long walk weighed down by hunger and a heavy load. A woman of modest beauty entwining her slim, rough fingers into a warm palm.
The shattering cry of a small infant with the beleaguered look of an old man. That same infant’s body wrapped in blue fabric and reverently covered in a cairn against the backdrop of a keening, crushing wail.
The small curl of a child’s back and the feel of his silken hair, fire lit and small against the vast dome of night sky embedded with stars but no moon.
And then anger. Sharp anger. The kind that’s been under pressure for years, built on a foundation of resentment, and now released in sustained agony.
Flames rising up in a sudden spurt, overwhelming but perfect. The feel of a rock in the hand before it is loosed upon the clean, smooth surface of a window. The exhilaration of destruction. The undulating whoop of triumph.
Then the hard feel of a gun butt against the head. The world splits into several hazy reflections and the rigid, guttural gasps of breath as a warm rain pools and engulfs then entombs. One last stab of misting fire flares before a sinewy darkness descends. One last fade of scent and then quiet.
Nergüi drew away slowly not quite sure what had happened. The box felt lighter, empty. He gently placed the lid on top and crossed over from granite-tiled floor to the light wood of his bedroom, impeccably designed and decorated and incongruous with the smog dense city that surrounded the building.
He seamlessly slid open the drawer of his nightstand, brushing past the odds and ends that had already accumulated and tucked the box in the farthest corner, away from all light. He shut the drawer, straightened, and strolled over to the mirror and adjusted his tie.
He then wandered back in to the living room, glanced at his watch and was pleased to note that he wasn’t going to be late for his meeting after all. He shrugged on his suit jacket and walked out his front door, shutting it firmly behind him.