Anyone who’s ever read my writing knows I like words. That doesn’t mean my stories are filled with an overabundance of unnecessary words. I prefer to think I don’t ramble on forever—at least I hope I don’t—but I like the rhythm and flow of carefully selected words that paint a vivid picture and bring a story to life.
This week my friend (and bestselling author) Dan Alatorre posted a Flash Fiction Challenge on his blog: Use a generic name generator website to create your title and write a story . . . in a thousand words or less. You can check out the “official rules” on his website and find other authors’ submissions there.
Now, I’ve never tried anything like this before, and even writing an email under one thousand words is a challenge for me; but it sounded like fun, so I’m in.
Challenge Accepted! Game On!
I sure hope my intro doesn’t count toward my thousand words, or I’m in big trouble. –The End (just kidding)
My title choices are in the photo above, and I decided to use The Sky’s Bridge. Start your word-counter engines…now.
The Sky’s Bridge
One year. That’s how long the doctors said she had left. I knew they were lying. Judging by the expression on my mother’s face, so did she.
Still reeling from the devastating news, far worse than we had expected, neither of us spoke as we stepped outside. A strong March wind whipped along the side of the building. My mother struggled to walk, her frail body weakened by the disease consuming her.
I pulled her closer, helping her to move on. We huddled together under the pretense of warding off the cold, but we both knew the truth. We were desperate to hold on to each other for whatever time we had left.
The silence continued, hanging heavy in the air during our ride back to her house. But the noise in my mind was maddening—a cacophony of emotions screaming in unison. I needed to stay strong for her and did my best to shut them down.
Mom sat frozen in place with her cheek pressed against the window, face cast toward the sky. Her wrinkled fingers trembled as she twisted them in her lap, stroking the ring my father had given her on their wedding day. More than twenty years had passed since he’d been taken from us, but she still wore it every day.
I reached over and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You’re not alone. We’re gonna see this through together. Okay?”
She nodded. “I know.” Her gaze never strayed from the clouds above, her voice sounding as distant. “Do you think it’s real?”
She didn’t need to elaborate, I knew what she was asking—I’d been wondering the same thing myself. I swallowed hard, torn between lying to comfort her and facing my own beliefs. My own fears. Several moments passed, but I still couldn’t answer.
Growing up, my Auntie Grace often told me the story of the bridge to heaven. A folk tale of this magical path we travel across, taking us from this life to the next. They called it The Sky’s Bridge. It’s said that all of our loved ones who’ve gone on before will gather there to welcome our spirits home and guide us on the rest of our celestial journey.
“Charlotte?” Mom’s voice cracked. She turned to face me as we pulled into her driveway, tears filling her red-rimmed eyes.
I averted my gaze, knowing she’d see my answer. I’d never been able to lie to her.
Mom’s chin dropped to her chest. The painful look of despair that encompassed her would have broken my heart if it hadn’t already been shattered at the doctor’s office. I climbed from the car and walked to the passenger’s side to help her out.
Once standing, I pulled her into a tight embrace, my lips by her ear. “Yeah, Mom, I believe it is. I know they’ll be waiting.” I brushed her hair from her face and kissed her damp cheek before leading her inside.
The precious few months that followed her diagnosis were difficult. We made the most of every good moment and coped as best we could with the bad. The cancer progressed, her pain grew worse, the good days ceased to exist.
Occasionally she would wake up and tell me about her dreams. One day she said she saw the bridge, but she wasn’t allowed to cross. The guardian told her it wasn’t her time yet. I let her go on believing it was real.
That night the phone rang, waking me from a sound sleep. I rushed to be with her.
The cheerful spark, the light of her soul, no longer shined bright in her eyes. I sat on the edge of her bed, careful not to disturb her, and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “It’s time to go home now. Daddy’s waiting for you.” I choked back a sob and wiped my eyes. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
Her lips moved without a sound.
I never believed in legends or fairytales, but Mom did. As the end drew near, I prayed she was right. The idea of her beautiful spirit being gone forever was more than I could bare to accept.
Fear and sadness marred the face of the woman who fought so bravely against a merciless enemy. I held her as she lay dying. The hours dragged on through the night. Dawn approached.
Her eyes opened wide, and she pulled in a sharp breath. Her fingers flexed on my arm, but she no longer had the strength to grab hold. “I see the bridge. And every—” She struggled to breathe. “Everyone is there. Waiting . . . to greet me.”
A single tear rolled down her face, landing in the smile that had returned. Letting go was painful, for both of us, but her message gave me hope. One day we would meet again.
“Give them a hug for me. Okay?” I kissed her cheek, knowing this was the last time she’d feel my touch. I stroked her soft white hair and pulled back to look at her, searching her pale green eyes. Her image blurred. “I love you…”
Her eyes found mine. “Always.”