Ophelia, flash fiction by Celia In Underland at Spillwords.com



written by: Celia In Underland


Outside, the wind lunges with fervour, roaring with invisible strength. The rain pounds insistently against the pavement, rebounding into the cavernous, darkened night, and under the harsh, unyielding glare of the streetlamps, it scatters a kaleidoscope of fragmented light.

Inside she is alone.

A single tear charts a sorrowful path along the hollow curve of her sunken cheeks, painstakingly outlining the contours of her gaunt face, before succumbing to gravity’s relentless insistence and vanishing into the worn fabric of her pale blue blouse.

It has been like this since Monday. Today is already Friday. Five long days.

This time.

The old photograph, clutched in her unsteady hand, is fading – – its vibrant colors surrendering despondently to the tyranny of time. The memory it depicts, however, does not capitulate so easily. They are more vivid. More poignant. Tangibly alive.

They are smiling.

Peering innocently into the unwavering lens, each yearning to seize this fleeting, rare moment of shared delight, to preserve it in time like a fragile moth encased in eternal amber. The sheer evanescence of it all was undeniably palpable. They knew it. Even then, they were both acutely aware of it. They understood that his impending ascendance would distort their reality. That their lives would inevitably have to shift in tandem with the formidable influence he was poised to wield. And they were both acutely aware of the sacrifices he would be required to make. That they both would have to make.

But they could not have foreseen the future that was to come. How could they have?

The distance between them.

A shrill, discordant ring shatters the heavy silence.

The abrupt intrusion of the telephone catches her off guard, interrupting her thoughts. She hesitates, but answers nevertheless, an old habit perhaps. Or hope.

‘H-hello,’ – – her voice, a gravelly whisper, grates harshly against the sterile hush of the room. It feels foreign. Abrasive. Unforgiving.

‘Yes-yes-I’m fine.’

‘Thank you but no. I – – I don’t need. No. Thank you. So thoughtful of you to… Yes. No. Of course not.’

‘I uh I have to go. I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry there – – there is – – someone at the door-ok, bye.’

The lie feels real.

She drops the receiver abruptly, leaving it swinging like a noose from the wall, before reaching down to yank the jarring-white cord from its power socket.

Outside, the wind is relentless; gathering speed. Tearing mercilessly through the leafless branches; stark and empty now. The rain has dissipated, leaving in its wake, a tear-stained pavement and a monotonous grey sky.

Inside, she theatrically strikes a match, watches the tiny flame sizzle and expand before settling into a steady, hypnotic glow. She lights a cigarette and exhales forcefully, spewing a cloud of smoke across the room. In the half-light, she can discern the faint swirl of the smoke clouds spiralling upwards towards the ceiling; phantoms from a past she cannot bear to touch.

The bouquet of violets, rosemary, pansies and rue he gave her less than a week ago have begun to fade, but still their colours slice into her skin; like a razor presiding mercilessly over her. The dirty vibrancy of their petals clashes cruelly with the monochrome she has come to value. Jaundiced like the sun, too bright for dull eyes. Tainted.

The pen trembles in her frail grip. The ink mingles with her tears, streaking red across the page.

Red for love. Red for danger. Red for blood.

“Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny

And in his grave rained many a tear”

She parvanes meticulously around the room, step for step following his. Her arms outstretched, wrapped around the neck of a shattered silhouette.

She stops. Immobilised in thought.

“You promised me to wed.”

A clarity.

With a sudden, violent movement, she rends the photograph in two. “We know what we are, but know not what we may be,” she screams into the vacuum. The echoes of their younger, gentler selves reverberate off the whitewashed wall; reduced to jagged shards of torn paper. Their smiles fragmented forever. Shattered.

‘The readiness is all,’ she murmurs softly to the oppressive silence, ‘Providence. In the fall of a broken sparrow.’

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