THE EMPTINESS • by Desiree Wilkins

Ted struck a match and held it up. The glow of the flame bounced off his glasses, illuminating his pointy nose. He flicked the match into the night. When its ember died out, he lit another one.

Dinah tried her phone one more time but it wouldn’t turn on anymore. She kicked the tire and swore.

“That won’t fix it.” Ted didn’t look at her. Just kept his position on the hood of the car.

Dinah threw her heels at him. He hopped down and grabbed her by the arm, pinning her against the passenger door. He felt her heart pound against him. “You need to chill out.” He poked a finger at her chest, then pushed off her and hopped back onto the car.

Dinah huffed and picked up her heels. She felt stones poke through her nylons. She hated that expression. Chill out. It was abusive; his actions and words were abusive.

“You could do something,” she pleaded. Her blood boiled. She hated him, she absolutely hated him. She got close enough to see if he reacted. “Are you listening to me?”

He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. She knew he wouldn’t say more. She went to the road and stared into the emptiness. It was so dark there could have been anything out there. She thought for a second that something could be right at her shoulder and she shivered with fear. But she was too angry to let it linger. She didn’t pick this route. She didn’t even know what road they were on.

Into her misery came a bright light that quickly disappeared. She squinted and saw it again; then the light brightened, then dimmed, then disappeared. It rounded the final bend. She waved her arms wildly, stepping out into the vehicle’s lights. It screamed to a stop in front of her and she ran to the unrolled passenger window. She peered in and smiled at the pretty blonde driver.

“Hi. Sorry. Thanks for stopping. We think some kids must have slashed our tire or something. It’s been a pretty slow burn the whole trip. We’ve been out here for hours now, I swear, hours, and we don’t have a spare.” Dinah caught sight of the dashboard clock and felt sick. It was two in the morning. She wondered if anyone even missed her at the banquet.

“Get in,” the driver said. “I don’t have a spare but we can get some help.”

Dinah turned to Ted. She almost invited him but instead said, “I’m leaving.”

Ted looked over and shrugged, didn’t get up. Dinah got in and slammed the door. She turned to the driver with a relieved smile as they drove away. “Thank you so much.” She squeezed her sore feet into her heels. “I was afraid I’d have to sleep out there. My phone isn’t working and we usually have a car charger but for some reason my bonehead fiancé took it out this morning.”

“It’s no problem at all,” the blonde said. “You know this isn’t a road, right? It’s a driveway.”

“What? He turned into a driveway?”

The blonde nodded. “Yep, another few minutes you get to an old farm house.”

“We should probably turn around, then.”

“When are you getting married?”

“September, if ever.” Dinah messed with her phone, punching it into the palm of her hand. “Shouldn’t we turn around?”

“No, this is where we’ve been going.”

Dinah looked over at her and the driver gave her a curious smirk. Dinah’s stomach lurched.

“You don’t remember me, do you, Dinah?”

***

Ted’s phone buzzed half an hour later. The voice on the line was quiet. “It’s done,” she said.

“Fine.”

“Did you love her?”

Suddenly he was very tired. He opened the trunk. “Does that bother you?”

“Of course not.”

“I’ll contact you soon.” He hung up and took a bag of clothes and a metal container from the trunk. He threw his phone onto the backseat and scattered the clothes around the interior, then doused everything with gas from the container. There was one match left; he lit it and tossed it into the back seat. He headed down the winding path with plenty of light from the flames.


Desiree Wilkins lives near Philadelphia with her husband and their son. Her fiction has appeared in the print literary magazine Happy and online at First Stop Fiction and Cleaver.


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Every Day Fiction

  • S Conroy

    On the downside I’d say this feels like it should be part of something bigger. There’s not enough to work out whose side if any one should be on and the why question is unresolved. Is it man murders fiancé for money and goes off with blonde lover? But they don’t seem to be lovers and no mention of money. There are a couple of other scenarios I could speculate on but without any evidence from the story.
    On the upside the writing is good and if there were some rational behind the unexpected twist this would be a pretty cool ending too.

  • S Conroy

    On the downside I’d say this feels like it should be part of something bigger. There’s not enough to work out whose side if any one should be on and the why question is unresolved. Is it man murders fiancé for money and goes off with blonde lover? But they don’t seem to be lovers and no mention of money. There are a couple of other scenarios I could speculate on but without any evidence from the story.
    On the upside the writing is good and if there were some rationale behind the unexpected twist this would be a pretty cool ending too.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    As S Conroy says, a promising piece that suffered from too much unresolved mystery. I loved the premise, though.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    As S Conroy says, a promising piece that suffered from too much unresolved mystery. I loved the premise, though.

  • Sandra Heggen

    This feels more like a vignette than a story. It does leave me pondering about the story it might have come from, though, if the writing is as well done throughout.

  • Sandra Heggen

    This feels more like a vignette than a story. It does leave me pondering about the story it might have come from, though, if the writing is as well done throughout.

  • Kate

    Wow Desiree, four stars and one word…yikes! Thanks for trusting me to fill in the blanks.

  • Kate

    Wow Desiree, four stars and one word…yikes! Thanks for trusting me to fill in the blanks.

  • Chris Antenen

    I’m with Kate. I wrote flash before I knew what flash was and writing friends were always telling me to ‘flesh out the characters’ or ‘sounds like part of a longer piece’ or ‘is it a vignette?’

    This is what flash fiction is – my opinion – so if it’s is one of the above don’t tell me. Short-short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction, whatever ‘trust their readers to fill in the blanks.’

    Sometimes stories end where they end, In other words they end themselves, in the same way that characters often take over their lives and drag the writer along..

    I really liked this, and as some critics like to say in the negative – this one GRABBED me and didn’t let go.

    Good story and well written. Easy five.

  • Chris Antenen

    I’m with Kate. I wrote flash before I knew what flash was and writing friends were always telling me to ‘flesh out the characters’ or ‘sounds like part of a longer piece’ or ‘is it a vignette?’

    This is what flash fiction is – my opinion – so if this story is one of the above,don’t tell me. Short-short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction (whatever) writers ‘trust their readers to fill in the blanks.’ but they must be skillful enough to provide the blanks.

    Sometimes stories end where they end, In other words they end themselves, in the same way that characters often take over their lives and drag the writer along, whether in short stories, flash fiction, novels, plays, or any other form of fiction.

    I really liked this, and as some critics like to say in the negative – this one GRABBED me and didn’t let go.

    Good story and well written. Easy five.

  • I liked this story. I thought the twist in the tale was good. I agree there are unresolved mysteries but I felt the story had a resolution. I like stories which make me want to know more.

  • I liked this story. I thought the twist in the tale was good. I agree there are unresolved mysteries but I felt the story had a resolution. I like stories which make me want to know more.

  • The writing was fine, as was the idea. But there’s just nothing here to explain it. Thanks for sharing.

  • The writing was fine, as was the idea. But there’s just nothing here to explain it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bud Clayman

    This is indeed flash fiction but it is underdeveloped. There seems to be a whole scene that is missing or vital backstory that we are not given. Sorry, but I can only give it two stars. It was interesting-up to a point.

  • Bud Clayman

    This is indeed flash fiction but it is underdeveloped. There seems to be a whole scene that is missing or vital backstory that we are not given. Sorry, but I can only give it two stars. It was interesting-up to a point.