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Flash fiction - The death of Dave
The majority of this hub covers the inspiration behind 'The Death of Dave. You may like to scroll down and read the Flash Fiction before you go ahead and read the explanation.
A Tale with a Tiny word count
Nothing concentrates my mind better than writing a piece of fiction with a challenging word count. Brevity has never been my strong point so occasionally, I like to torture myself by working on a piece of flash fiction. As someone who literally thinks in images, I have tried to create a story in 250 words that gives the reader a series of scenes to imagine. I have taken inspiration from the dark side of children's fiction and an old master of flash fiction; Aesop's fables. It's a tale of loss and survival.
Who doesn't know this one? The tortoise and the hare; more haste less speed. Always a bit self satisfied, I thought
Aesop's fables were a guilty pleasure for me, when I was a child. Guilty for two reasons. Firstly, my parents didn't approve of the book I was bought for Christmas by a maiden aunt. My father called it a handbook of social control. I had no idea what he was talking about but the fact that it was disapproved of made it alluring. Secondly, it was a favorite 'read aloud' volume of my Sunday school teacher. Dad didn't approve of Church or Sunday school either, which is probably why I insisted on going every Sunday, kitted out with my fake Mary Quant handbag. I would listen to the incredibly short stories, with their finger wagging morality, whilst polishing the patent bag with my best cotton handkerchief, (the one with the embroidered Peter Rabbit.) As often as not, when the tale was almost finished, I would look up and meet the gaze of the teacher as she delivered the punch line, pearl of wisdom. It did not bother me that I was singled out for such a pointed look. I loved the attention lavished upon me. Being a naughty little girl was clearly reaping it's rewards.
Grimm's fairy tales
The Brothers Grimm
Darkly Gothic and full of violence, sex, (including incest,) death and child neglect, the collection of folk tales published by the German Brothers Grimm fed my childish imagination. Not for me the Disney Snow White, with it's sickly sweet heroine. My Grandfather had an old publication that was, shall we say, a little more racy. But whether you read the darker story or go with the 'cute' version, there is no dressing up the business of wanting to cut out the beating heart of a teenage girl. As a small child, I poured over the sanitized volume and read between the lines. Once a teenager, I was delighted to discover that my hunch about the more disturbing nature of the Queen had been correct. More Elizabeth Bathory than wicked stepmother. The folk tales recounted by the Grimm's revealed to me the darker side of what is to be human; the negative driving forces within relationships and the promise that in every day life, the macabre is lying just beneath the surface. I really was a horrid little girl.
As a horrid little adult, it is the imagery of the tales that capture my imagination. The ugly sisters in Cinderella; cutting off their toes to fit their feet in the glass slipper. The witch pinching a caged Hansel to see if he was fat enough for roasting. Rumplestiltskin demanding the heroin's first born child, (for who knows what purpose.) All dark, macabre and strangely familiar as anyone who has watched 'crime TV' will testify.
Every word counts.
The tiny word count of Flash Fiction, necessitates the pairing back of the story line. The joy, (and the frustration) of constructing a tale, which takes the reader on a journey, with the usual component of conflict, is that it matters as much as to what you leave out as to what you put in. Aesop's fables are stories boiled down to an essential essence of a plot. Despite their annoying morality, they are famed around the world and are probably bought as Christmas presents by maiden aunts for a whole new population of naughty little children every year. Their brevity makes them a 'must read' for primary school children. It's no accident that these moral nuggets are so popular. Perhaps they were the original flash fiction. They say very little and yet stay in the memory. The protagonists' conjure vivid images in the imagination. I always see the Tortoise with my maiden aunts face.
Fable and Grim
In the death of Dave, I have attempted to marry the disconcerting imagery I love so much from the Grimm stories and a message which I hope is a lot less finger wagging than Aesop. Dave can represent any loss, the reader can project what ever they like into the character. He's not necessarily the death of a real person, he could be a divorce or a redundancy. Any event that pulls the rug from under the reader's feet; could be Dave.
For those who might wonder at the name of the 3rd character in the story; Zosime, to save you Googling it, the name means survivor.
The death of Dave
When death came for Dave, Her plane fell out of the sky. Friends and relatives bailed out, shouting apologies. Her hands grappled with the seat-belt, which wouldn't release. As She surrendered to the inevitable, oxygen masks and sick bags frantically slapped Her in the face.
Awake, She found she had torn in two. A tiny naked 'her' squatted at her feet, smiling idiotically. It scampered away from the wreckage, returning with cool coconut and a sticking plaster. Swallowing reluctantly, too weak to protest, She returned to a dreamless sleep. The creature was still there when She woke. Whistling quietly to itself,it was sewing a dress fashioned from life jackets. It seemed bigger.
Every day, the creature would find food, water and firewood, chattering incessantly as She lay softly moaning in the wreckage. Zosime, for that was the creatures name, sang songs and told happy stories. She hated them, they always began with; "Do you remember when Dave?". It grew tall, whilst She became thin and darkly translucent.
When they spotted the ship, She begged Zosime to leave without her, secretly pleased at the prospect. "But I can't leave you behind," it said. The creature took out her needle and began stitching their feet together. Then it dived into the sea and struck out for the rescue ship, dragging the hapless shadow behind her.
Dave, almost gone but not quite forgotten, stirred from his sleep and went with them.