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A Patch of Blue Sky: Flash Fiction by cam

Updated on November 11, 2019
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


My little patchwork of blue, crisscrossed by black stripes, becomes the solid color of the daytime sky through some optical trick if I stare long enough, which I often do. On a really good day, a blackbird or sparrow will land on the roof where I can see it, or a dove, on a very lucky day. I stare without blinking, tears streaming, and know that I share his innocence if not his freedom.

Occasionally, an airplane will fly across my blue patch, and I think of all the places the passengers might be going. Once, a lightning bolt rended and illuminated my darkened world view. At night, under a waxing moon, a white beam shines down through the darkness, recreating the barred window on the concrete floor.

Life on death row is simple. I’m allowed two books, so right now, Checkov and Faulkner occupy space beneath my bed. One of the guards brought me a King book, intending it to be a cruel joke, but I enjoyed The Green Mile, which really pissed off the man who gave it to me. Some of the guards are actually respectful. Only a couple are assholes.

I wonder if anyone still thinks about me being in here? Apparently I was a real celebrity during the trial, but that was more than two decades ago. My attorney insists on appealing my conviction every few years.

The crime I was supposed to have committed, but didn’t, was the sort that could not be easily forgotten, and there were many graphic police photographs to burn it into the social memory. The woman had been beaten, raped, carved up with a blade, then strangled. Forgetting is an efficient response. On one hand, it’s society’s self defense against horrific memories. On the other, it’s the ultimate rejection of the convicted.


I’m breaking out today. It was the birds on my skylight that inspired me. Now is my time to be free. I have nearly twenty years of observing the guards to know when to make my move. First I’ll stage a diversion followed by some quick acrobatics, and I’ll be gone.

The guard named Del is coming down the hallway. He’s one of the good ones. I like him. I tell Del I saw someone outside on the flat roof through the skylight, and he runs back toward the video observation room. They’ll all be focused on the roof for a while.

I rip bedsheets into long strips and knot them together for my means of escape. Getting one end over the bars below the skylight was the difficult part, but I manage.

I leap from the top of the sink, swinging, looking up at my patch of blue sky. I see a dove looking down on me as my vision fades. It’s my lucky day.



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    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      18 months ago from Traverse City, MI

      Tiyasha, You and John are in charge of my public relation and publicity. Seriously, thank you for your comments. I'm glad the story comes to life for you.

    • Cattaleya profile image

      Tiyasha Maitra 

      18 months ago from Gurgaon

      A great piece as usual.

      Chris, as John had mentioned somewhere, you really are one of the best short story writers around.

      Such vivid imagery and a brilliant narration. Loved it.

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      3 years ago from Northeast United States

      Good story but cliff ending. Is there a part two ? I wouldnt think so as it is Flash Fiction. Thank you for sharing :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I really thought that the subject was going to go for it. The ending was perfect, and I salute you.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Sara, I appreciate your visit to my hub and for the words regarding my story. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Genna, Sorry for missing your comment for so long. Thanks for such kind words. Capital punishment is a topic I have grappled with in recent years. The clencher for me was hearing accounts of DNA testing causing some innocent people to be released. Even with DNA, we are far from having certainty about many of the people on death row. Thanks for reading.

    • Sara Sarwar Riaz profile image

      Sara Sarwar Riaz 

      6 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Loved the theme, the descriptions, the imagery… you never cease to amaze with the wealth of your ideas.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      There is more than one way to “escape” the torments of death row. Your superbly written short reminds us of the moral horrors of capital punishment in that it is meted out to the innocent—not to mention the misery of false incarceration. This is an excellent piece of writing.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ann, thanks. I've painted myself into this same corner a number of times. I just wanted to get input this time to see if there is a more acceptable way to handle it. I'll leave this story as it is for now. Thanks for your input and for reading the story.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Presumably, you can be with the character right up to the end, describing sights, sounds and actions. I've read stories that then switch to an 'observer' to tell what happened and, if done well, it's not unrealistic. Artistic licence is possible.

      Great story and we're there with his thoughts, longing to be able to get through that skylight, one way or another.


    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      @cam8510: How's it going?

      First of all, when I write a story like that, I usually tend not to let a little thing like the protagonist's death bother me. That is to say, the inmate's "ghost" can simply resume the narrative when the body is killed. I sometimes give myself permission to be bizarre and illogical.

      However, if you would rather not, Cam, how about simply arranging that his diary be found recording his feeling up until he does it? It can be that the part after his death is simply predicted by him. Know what I mean?

      Maybe the warden might find the diary and read it.

      Good Luck!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ruby, You've hit on a good question. How many innocent are on death rows around the country? The fact that we can ask the question with complete confidence that an unknown number of innocent people exit on death rows is very damning to this method of providing justice. These innocent ones are considered to be the collateral damage of the criminal justice system.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I wonder how many more innocent people are on death row awaiting execution? I was hoping he could make it to freedom, but alas, only dreaming. I liked this one too. You are soo good at flash fiction!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      RQ, Thanks for the comments about the story. If this guy could just get off the suicide obsession and focus on some positive ideas, his story might turn into another escape movie. Thanks for reading.

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      Catchy little flash here Chris of an innocent man's torment in a place he doesn't want to be; kind of reminiscent of some of those old prison escape movies peppered with flavours of ' Papillon ', ' Shawshank Redemption ' and ' Birdman of Alcatraz '.

      Thanks for an engrossing write;



    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      wingedcentaur, I'm dealing with a problem I see in the story. I believe his death along with the fact that he is the main character/narrator produce an ending that is slightly unbelievable. How could he die and the story still be told in first person? I have several ideas in my head. I actually started a question here on HB and have received some interesting ideas. I've also gotten one idea from a reader and commenter on the story. If you have any ideas to resolve the issue, leave another comment. Maybe I'm the only one having this issue with the story. I appreciate your comments.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Cam, that was gruesomely "beautiful," if I can put it that way. I don't know... I guess I was sort of hoping his "escape" could have turned out to be less... fatal. But alas, you've got to keep it real.

      Well done, cam8510!

      Take it easy.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Frank, I'll leave the interpretations up to you and others. You have possibly solved one of my problems with the story. As my main character/narrator, he is on the verge of death at the end. Can that happen in fiction? If he dies right then, how did he communicate the story? I may be straining on a gnat here, but I'd like your opinion. Maybe it's only an issue if he dies within the context of the story. If, as you say, he only did this in his head, then I don't have a problem. He didn't really die.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      sad for him, because death row is a lonely place.. and maybe his escape is just being played out in his head.. did he really sheet down? I say no, 20 years on death row.. yeah he has only escaped in his mind.. maybe 20 times.. right? Great piece here my friend :)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Randy, it is appropriate to wonder about how many innocent people are locked up right now. And when we have the evidence that someone is innocent, they should be set free immediately with compensation.

      I am on a brief vacation and will be back in Philadelphia next Sunday. I won't be leaving permanently until June 1. We will get together soon.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Vellur, years of wrongful captivity, ended in a single choice. Thanks for reading.

    • Michael-Milec profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Chris.

      Just about right! Decades strong determination "the crime I was supposed to have committed, but didn't," was a turnaround in your story toward positive outcome of mitigated justice and deserved freedom; timing of your conclusion - overwhelming surprise crowned by ending captivity...

      Up and interesting.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Horizon 

      6 years ago from Philadelphia

      Well written story Chris. Loved the emotion and the birds. It's a sad story about a sad situation, makes me wonder how many people are locked up for something they didn't do?

      You are on the move again, have a great time. I was hoping we could get together before you left, maybe next time you are back this way. Have a good trip.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Finally freedom from his cell that imprisoned him for so many years. Gripping story. Great write.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Faith, thanks for the feedback on this story. I'll be making my move to Oregon at the beginning of June. I'm really looking forward to it.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Phenomenal flash fiction piece here, Chris! Wow, really good one. The patch of blue sky and the doves added much to this creative piece and melancholy. Yes, he is now free ...

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Hope you are settling into your new home.


    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Shauna, yes, you understood correctly. It is a sad story, but nothing like reality when we kill an innocent man in these death penalty situations. My opinion this world is big enough for multiple opinions. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      FatBoyThin, Thanks for reading and for your observations and feedback. Nice to have you visit my hubs today.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Bill, you and me both. Right now I'm in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands getting ready to head out onto the ocean in a kayak. If I didn't have this kind of freedom, if I was caged like an animal, I would have serious issues. Thanks for reading. By the way, on I'll be arriving on your coast on June 3 to begin a 6 month contract at a hospital in Medford, Oregon. I know it's a long way to Olympia, but if either of us is ever near the other, we I'll buy dinner, or breakfast or whatever is appropriate at the time.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      He hung himself, didn't he? I guess that's one way to free yourself from accusations that take away your freedom. Now his spirit is free to fly with the birds and go wherever he may.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Eric, I'm glad you liked the story and that it had the desired effect.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 

      6 years ago from Inverbervie, Scotland

      Unexpected and exciting, well-observed and with a positive ending, despite the character's past. Great stuff.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      John, I am very glad this story communicates the emotion I intended. Thanks for the kind comment and the feedback.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Chris, if I ever get locked up, they might as well just shoot me. That loss of freedom, which you perfectly describe, would surely kill my spirit.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Mary, thanks for be the first to comment on this story. The subject of capital punishment is loaded with emotion. People on both sides of the issue feel strongly. I wanted to put a person in front of us, so we can see the pain.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Extremely brutal. I could feel the coldness of the cell. Well done.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Of a your great stories this is my favourite Chris. I easily found myself in place of the innocent man on death row. It was a moving read..a sad but effective way of escape I guess after 20 years imprisonment. voted up of course.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I had to vote this a grand slam Chris. It is surely in league with The Green Mile.

      I could feel the sorrow and frustration of this wrongly convicted man....twenty years! I guess that kind of unfair imprisonment can drive you toward the only way out you know. Truly moving and amazing. I am almost speechless. Shared, g+, can't get Pinterest to work on my iPad or I'd share it there too. I want everyone to feel the chills I did when he "escaped".


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