Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to present two pieces of flash fiction by one of our members, Ana Vidosavljevic, from Serbia: “A Blue Finch” and “A Yellow Marigold.”
A Blue Finch
I keep many secrets in the pit of my stomach. My trees and shrubs witnessed many fortunate and unfortunate events that occurred in the depth of my body. And I helped many wretched souls that got lost among my thick tree trunks. On the other hand, I couldn’t help some of them. They were in a hopeless pursuit or running from their own wrongdoings. And their own deserved destiny caught them.
One lost soul especially got stuck in my memory. Her name was Hope.
Hope was a little blonde girl, not taller than my blueberry shrubs. She came to me breathing heavily, and almost losing breath. She was running like a wild animal pursued by the hunters. And she was pursued. She was pursued by strange people.
Those people were all dressed in black, and they carried the torches that lit their way. My body is dark and unwelcoming to those who have bad intentions. And seeing those people’s eyes, I knew they meant evil to that little girl.
They yelled and laughed awfully, their voices harsh and scary. And their intention was to scare Hope, make her stumble over some rock or tree trunk, fall down and get caught by them. For what reason they wanted to catch her, I didn’t know, but I knew that they were not good people.
The terrified girl ran and kept losing balance, tired due to running who knows how long. Her pale face was wet, tears and sweat were mixing on it, and her blonde curls slicked down her back, wet and dirty. I opened my arms and took her. I hugged her and brought her to the deepest parts of myself. Those people couldn’t find her there.
Hope entered the very dark area of the forest, and found a cave. It was pitch dark in the cave and in any other situation she would not dare to enter it, but this time, this cave was her savior. I knew that she would be safe there and I led her to the cave’s entrance. She entered cautiously, sat on the dry ground, and tried to stabilize her heavy breathing.
Hope had some strange scars on her wrists, as if she had been shackled. Her legs and arms were all in bruises. I wondered who had been so cruel to this little girl. And how could have someone been so terrible to this innocent creature. Her doe-eyed face breathed with purity and her tiny body could not do harm to anyone or anything. Her frightened figure moved with her fast breaths and she cried silently trying to reduce any noise coming from her. I couldn’t understand. But in the end, I never was able to understand humans. They tortured and killed for fun, they drank poison excessively, they ate when they were not hungry. What rule of nature imposed such behavior? None. They were not the creatures of nature.
Hope was frightened. Her body trembled and she prayed to die peacefully without being tortured like her mother and her father. She couldn’t understand why her family was doomed to die in a terrible way, stoned, tortured and condemned. Why were they accused of witchcraft? And what was the witchcraft, anyway?
My heart was full seeing that Hope was getting better with every day that went by. I opened my secret places full of strawberries for her, and I led her to the stream to drink fresh water. Those people couldn’t find her here.
But since autumn would come soon and cold winter would follow after, I started being worried how this little creature would survive the cold and lack of food. She didn’t have fur to keep her warm, and she couldn’t hibernate. She was too small to hunt wild animals and sooner or later she would become their prey. My heart ached when I thought that this poor creature would die alone. And I decided what to do.
It was getting colder with every new autumn day. And Hope’s clothes were getting ripped off. And she didn’t have any other clothing. She was worried. What would she do?
When the last days of autumn came and the cold northern wind started blowing, carrying snow on its back, I opened my ground, still warm and cozy, and showed little Hope the underground labyrinth that the cold winter storms couldn’t reach. Its catacombs were protected and only swallows and nightingales lived there during winter. The green moss spread all around and formed a beautiful bed, comfortable and welcoming.
Hope entered the labyrinth and smiled. Her face bloomed with happiness and fear disappeared. She loved it there. There were always raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, no matter the season. And the bird song entertained her. The birds taught her how to sing and by the end of winter, she sang better than most of them. Her old clothes were ragged, since she had worn them for so long, and she walked half-naked.
I was sad to see Hope in those rags. Therefore, I gave her beautiful blue feathers and wings, and a yellow beak.
Once spring arrived, I opened the door of my labyrinth and let her out. First, Hope spread her wings insecurely, uncertain what to do and how to use them. But soon enough, after a few trials, she soared through the air. I was happy.
Hope looked at her blue feathery clothing and wings and realized that she could fly. And wasn’t it the most beautiful thing: to be free and to be able to fly?
Not long after, Hope found her friends, other blue finches, the rarest birds in my forests. And she joined them. They were all orphans, once upon a time, lost and miserable, who had looked for a shelter in the depths of my body. And I helped them. I gave them the shelter and brought them to one better world, the world of nature.
And if you come sometimes to my depths and look around carefully and noiselessly, you will spot a couple of them, jumping from one branch to another, soaring gracefully and singing the most beautiful songs you can imagine.
A Yellow Marigold
A yellow marigold wanted to talk. She was just a garrulous little flower who couldn’t keep silent. And she was so sad that other flowers didn’t talk. They sometimes whispered some secrets to the wind that passed by and petted their yellow petals. But the little yellow marigold wanted to talk, seriously talk, sing, even shout loudly. However, she knew that if she started doing that, her petals would fall off and her green dress would disappear. And instead of a flower, she would become a little redhead girl who had no friends and whose home was not a happy place.
Maria lived in a shabby little house at the end of the village. The end of the road was the place where her father had built their home. And behind the house there was a beautiful forest that brought not only a fresh air and enchanting bird song, but the playground for Maria and her little sister Martha.
Their father was a miner and he often left the house and didn’t come back for a week or two. He probably was trapped in those underground catacombs, as her mother had explained to Maria and Martha. And those days without him around were the best. Those days were filled with the peaceful hours, their mother’s hands knitting, her soft voice singing, while Maria and Martha played in the garden. They didn’t miss him, because he brought the awful alcohol odor, angry red eyes and his leather belt that left long red painful marks on Maria and her sister’s skin. But those red marks didn’t hurt as much as it hurt to watch him beating up their mother with his bare hands and kicking her with his dirty boots. Those wounds hurt more. They left imperishable scars.
Every time her father came back stinking of beer, cigarettes and sweat, her mother would usher Maria and Martha to the forest and tell them to stay and play outside until she came to look for them. They knew what would follow: their father’s drunk yelling, throwing the chairs and other furniture around the house, and beating their mother. And they couldn’t help her. They looked at her sad and terrified eyes and begged her to let them stay in the house with her. But she was persistent. They were to go immediately and play outside. The girls obediently did what their mother asked.
Once they went deeper in the forest and found those clean grassy areas with marigolds, strawberries, clovers and other colorful flowers, they forgot what might be happening in the house. They got immersed in their playing and singing. Sometimes, they played for hours and hours before their mother came to find them. And the sight of their mother was terrifying. Even though she tried to mask her bruises, cuts and broken teeth, the little girls could see that she must have been in hell during those few hours. And they knew that coming back from that hell was announced only when their father fell asleep.
Every time they spotted their mother coming though the beeches and oak trees looking for them, they rushed toward her carrying in their hands marigolds which they had picked up for her. They hugged her and stayed long in her arms, letting their mother’s tears fall down on their hair and wetting their red curls. The three of them stayed embraced like that for a long time as if they hadn’t seen one another for years.
Every time their mother sent them to play in the forest and they went to their favorite playground, Maria’s heart ached with fear that their mother might not come to look for them that day. That thought made her panic. She was afraid to go back home alone with Martha, without their mother holding their hands and encouraging them to follow her back home. But they were also afraid to stay in the forest during the night. Night brought some strange sounds, shadows and creatures that lurked around and threatened to eat her and her sister alive. Night in the forest was scary for little girls. However, night at home while their father was there was more frightening.
One gloomy day, when the sun hid behind the clouds and didn’t want to show up, and the dark clouds covered the sky threatening to turn day into night, their mother, with the tears in her eyes, sent Maria and Martha to play in the forest. It was not a good day for playing outdoors, but their father was so drunk and angry that they could hear his scary voice a mile away.
Maria took Martha’s hand and told her that everything would be fine. They walked slowly toward the forest, which seemed dark and hostile. Their little hearts were beating fast but they comforted each other. They had one another. They were not alone. When they came close to the meadow full of marigolds, thunder and lightning ripped the sky. Big rain drops started falling and, in a few minutes, Maria and Martha were wet. They looked around searching for a shelter but there was no cave, no place that could give them temporary protection from bad weather and danger. Maria took off her jacket and put it on the top of the blueberry bushes and then she and Martha hid below. At least the raindrops didn’t fall directly on their heads, as instead Maria’s jacket collected them. They waited probably a couple of hours for the rain to stop and when it finally stopped, they felt relieved. But the sun didn’t come out and since they were wet, they felt cold. They waited for their mother to come and take them home.
Hours and hours passed and their mother didn’t appear. The evening sky told them that maybe they would have to spend that night in the forest. Hungry and shaking due to being cold, they hugged each other and prayed. When the darkness ruled over the forest and the temperature dropped significantly, they fell asleep. After some time, their breaths slowed down, and their hearts started beating less intensely until they completely stopped. And Maria and Martha fell into a deep eternal sleep.
The next morning, a hunter accompanied by his dog, found two little dresses, two pairs of old children’s shoes, two little jackets and purple hair ribbons. But he didn’t see any girls to whom these things belonged. He and his dog searched the whole forest looking for the children, but they didn’t find them. What the hunter and his dog didn’t see were two beautiful yellow marigolds that stayed calmly and silently next to the place where the hunter had found the children’s clothes.
Maria was restless in her new clothing and role of a flower. She admired her own gracefulness and fragrance, but she couldn’t keep quiet. And she knew that every time she tried to talk, she would become a girl, vulnerable and lonely. Her sister Martha was happy, on the other hand, just to sit quietly and admire the surroundings. She was safe and her sister Maria was next to her. And what was even more important, very soon, within a few weeks, their mother who had become a fairy, would come to look for them and take them with her. That’s what the blue finch had told them. Their mother had sent him to inform her daughters that she hadn’t abandoned them. But they had to be patient and silent and they should refrain from talking, otherwise, their father might find them and then they would probably never again see their mother, who couldn’t get back to her human figure. Between death and life as a fairy, she chose the latter.
And now Maria and Martha were waiting. At least they didn’t have to run away and hide. Here, no one disturbed them as long as they kept quiet. Talking and singing provoked Maria but the fact that if she kept quiet she would see her mother made Maria hushed. Just a few more weeks and then, the three of them, their mother, Martha and Maria will sing, smile and laugh altogether.
Ana Vidosavljevic is Serbian born writer, teacher, surfer, avid water lover and mother. Her work has been published in many both online and print publications.
“A Yellow Marigold” and “A Blue Finch” were published in Ana’s collection of short stories “Mermaids” (Adelaide Books).