A bit of flash fiction to light your way this winter season.
Small flames, and a callback to an old, old story. These stories are our heritage; they only live so long as we remember them, retell them, reinterpret them.
by Leonard C Suskin
Winter, still, is a time for small flames. That serves as a small blessing to me, me who left this world through the comfort of the smallest of flames. It's grey here between, so very grey, but sometimes I can see backward through a small flame.
Yes, it's true, what he wrote about me. Are you surprised that I know? People did once read by dancing candlelights, or even gaslamps. But now, as I learn more and grow into a flickering shadow of what I might have been, now candleflames are for lovers, for birthdays, for mourning. Yes, time still passes here and my innocence has faded but still I was never a lover. The dance of flesh in counterpoint to the flickering candleflame holds little longing, little interest for me. Perhaps a small measure for the closeness, the touch.
Sometimes I glimpse a birthday. Through the flickering lights of the slenderest candles I can see their eager faces, see families whole and in love, see sweet cakes stacked on garish-colored plates. Everything smells of smoke and soot, but I can still see and, sometimes, still remember. If I listen closely I can hear a child's wish.
A reunion with a parent, sibling, or even beloved pet who's passed on.
Fear not, small child. The last wish will be the one granted. Not in this life, but the next.
Sometimes I show them. I still carry with me the image of the Christmas dinner that never was with my grandmother and hers, that one scrap of warmth that eased me into the cold. To show it again to a small, sad child is no hard trick, and I think they always see theirs at the banquet. I think it's comforting.
Anyway, like I was saying, winter is the time for small candles. For years I'd look forward to it, to a chance to linger about Christmas trees strung with popcorn and adorned with flickering tiny flames. Then more and more the candles went away, replaced by cold, dead, electric fire encased in hard glass. To look through no longer brings comfort, but an icysharp pain, a view of a world too sharp and too hard and too real. It breaks my heart to be driven from Christmas.
But it is winter and it is, as I said, a time for small flames. They aren't my people, but there are some who light candles, one more on each day, tiny flickers of living fire. Tiny windows for me to peek into the world.
There's a part of my story they never told, not in any of the times I read it by candlelight.
When I passed, I clung to the dead matchstick like a talisman and, even in this place, I still feel it with me. I drift, drawn to the small flames, have not yet joined the banquet myself.
I've yet to meet Him.
Very few stop here to stay with me with the candles, in between. You're the first in a long time. I'm sorry, but thank you.
Anyway, like I was saying, there are still candles, and still people who light them. I don't know the language, but I know they're calling to Him when they light them. I know they do because I can feel the light getting brighter, I know because I feel an unnatural warmth spreading from the flame. I know because for a moment - just a moment - the scent of beef stewed all day in root vegetables and the oily smoke scent of cooking overcomes the ashes and soot. For that moment I can step into the flame and join the banquet myself.
It might be soon time for me to leave this place between, to join Him and all who came before me and lose myself. To cast off this dead matchstick I carry.
Will you take my hand? Will you come with me?
Or will you linger for a time beside the small flames brief flickers dancing across all too brief moments of life?