fiction, flash, Uncategorized

Flash Fiction: Glass Shop

Halloween 2020. 976 words.

Image credit SplitShire.

You have never seen beauty like the sunlight shining through shop windows into this proliferation of color. Red glass bowls cast crimson parabolas across a white tablecloth. A cluster of blue wine bottles share the light between them, commingling their cobalt splendor. So brightly do the points of sunlight blaze in a large family of crystal balls that you remember stories about house fires started by unwatched refractions. 

A row of prisms dance across the top edge of the front windows. You squint into their scattered rainbows. They seem to scatter memories, too: you can’t remember how you got here.

 The shop is uncomfortably warm, and has a stale smell, as if no one has visited in a long time. You wonder where the owner is. It feels wrong to leave the place unattended, but you don’t want to stay. Though the air is still, the glass ornaments and bells that hang from the ceiling shiver as if in a soft wind. You think of ghosts. In Victorian times they would cover the mirrors when someone died so they couldn’t trap the dead. What might be trapped in this chaos of reflections?

You wander through the shop, dusting your hands across forests of art-glass swizzle sticks and animal figurines. A heap of round glass fishing floats (witch balls, they call them) occupies one corner. Tiffany lamps sprout from a table like psychedelic mushrooms. Another table is green: bottles, vases, gazing-globes, liquor glasses, opera glasses, ashtrays. Antique Christmas ornaments cover most of one wall. Below them are big crystal bowls filled with smaller items: beads, marbles, stained-glass nuggets. 

You dig your hands into this clicking hoard and pick up a lump of yellow glass. In the sunlight, it reminds you of urine. You put it back and pick up a soda-blue marble. As you roll it in your hand, your mind supplies the taste of it: how it would clatter on your teeth, slide cool and slick across your tongue; how tempted you would be to swallow.

Dropping temptation back in the bowl, you return to the center of the shop. Something has changed, but you can’t pinpoint it. Then you look again, and see what was there from the beginning. 

Against the far wall stands a tall wooden case, rough-built like a wartime coffin, its front a plate-glass window. Inside, a man stands sleeping. He is of no particular age or obvious character, but you shudder to see him. Somehow he stands upright without support, and you wonder if he is a wax figure or some kind of mannequin. You don’t know why he could be here. He doesn’t belong.

From a hook beside the case hangs a long iron hammer. It is dull and crudely made. It looks like something used to stun animals for slaughter. Like the man in the box, there is no reason for it to be here. Like the man in the box, it makes you shudder.

You are standing in the center aisle. Tables to your left and right hold trays of little things one might pick up. Your eye falls on a silver tea tray loaded with glass paperweights. Your fingers close around one clear orb with a blood-red flower blooming in the center. It’s heavy as a stone, and fits perfectly into the curve of your hand. You want to throw it more than you’ve ever wanted to do anything in your life. 

When you look up at the man, his eyes are open. They fix on you, muddy and cruel. He grins. 

The paperweight flies from your hand. The crash of glass through glass is as loud as the death of the world.

When the echoes clear, the man steps out of the case. He inhales loudly, sucking at the meager air. He takes up more than physical space. He lifts the iron hammer from its hook. It seems to fit perfectly into the curve of his hand.

“No.” Your voice shivers. “Don’t do it. Please.”

For a second, he is still. Danger stands poised, not yet loosed on the world. You feel that there is something you could say to stop what’s going to happen. But no words come to mind.

The moment passes. Rolling his shoulders, he steps forward with brutish boots, swinging the hammer, loosening his muscles. A flick of his arm smashes a tableful of figurines. Animal heads and broken ballerinas glitter in the air for an instant before they fall. Another blow obliterates the glass table they stood on. 

He clears the next table with a careless backswing. Another wave of glass crashes to the floor. The base of a round bud vase rolls to your feet, glimmering like Eris’ apple.

You start to back away. You think of running, but know you won’t reach the door in time. He is grinning, still grinning, anticipating the moment when there is no glass and only you remain. 

“Stop,” you say. Your voice doesn’t make much noise now.

He swings high, smashing chandeliers, breaking bells and sweet glass chimes. Glittering shrapnel stings your brow and cheeks. You close your eyes, but the crashing of his hammer only magnifies when you don’t watch him. When you open your eyes, the shop is gone.

You stand in a waste of shards and powder. Glass dust hangs in the air. Fragments of it are trapped in the creases of your eyelids. Soon you’ll blink, and they will fall into your eyes. 

The man rolls his shoulders, breathing heavily. Beneath his shaggy, glass-flecked hair, his eyes are unreadable. You open your mouth for one last plea, but your throat will not contract. Your muscles lock up one by one, leaving you frozen, unable to run, unable to fall.

As he lifts his hammer for the final blow, you look down and see that you are made of glass.

Image credit SplitShire.

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