“The Aftermath” by Christopher Fraser
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Christopher Fraser’s faceless creature reunites with his divided parents.
It was a simple statement, filled with honesty and sadness, but the truth was evident in the man’s voice.
“We tried! We really did, for all of you . . . but we thought . . . we’d thought we had more time.”
A woman’s voice enters. It’s on the verge of tears, but is trying to stay strong.
A husband and a wife, that much was apparent by the ring on each of their fingers. They stood hand and hand, looking down at the small creature that currently peered up at them.
“You didn’t care.”
A smaller voice joins their conversation. Hurt, anger, and sadness all seem to mix into his words.
“Of course we did!” they both say.
Silence fills the air.
“Then why did you run?”
The creature asked this with his small mouth. It’s raspy, broken speech; it’s as if it never got time to fully develop.
“We never ran away from you . . .”
The mother answers, her hands squeezing over one another. An obvious sign of nervousness that even the most blind of the animals could see.
“The innocent never run, Maria.”
This statement bears no room for argument; it is one that the faceless child says with such certainty that the tides themselves could not change his belief.
The mother looks at him in shock, almost on the verge of tears, but the father steps forward. His movement doesn’t indicate anything he is going to say or do. It is strong, heavy, and almost unreadable.
“Son, you must understand that we needed to get away. We were too grief stricken. We couldn’t stay in a place where we had lost so much.”
It’s a strong statement, one that tells more than what most people in this situation would like to admit.
The creature is silent, swinging his backward feet to and fro.
“Then why did you do better with her?”
He refers to the sleeping girl behind him. She’s young, not even over eight by the way she looks, but yet the creature looks even younger.
The question rocks both the wife and husband. The father’s strong stance shakes, showing cracks in his demeanor. Sometimes it’s the most obvious questions that hit you the hardest. The wife was already close to crying, but when asked the question, she bursts into tears.
The father breaths in and out, trying to steady himself for an uphill battle.
“We couldn’t,” the mother cries out, reaching toward the small boy. She hopes that maybe, just maybe, there’s some hope of salvaging a relationship that never got to flourish.
“Why isn’t that me right now? Why does she get to fly up to the afterlife and I get to be stuck here? Why does she get the life I never got?”
Strong silence follows the onslaught of questions. The gears can be seen shifting inside the father’s head, thinking of what to say next.
The boy breaks it first.
“You two probably don’t even remember my name.”
“Daemon,” the father calls.
It’s the boy’s turn to stop. He looks as shocked as one can be without any facial features.
“Daemon, we loved you, don’t you ever think that we didn’t.”
The mother reenters the conversation, steadying herself well enough to say the words that needed to be heard. She proceeds, given that no one has stopped her.
“We didn’t run because we wanted to forget, we ran because me and Johnathon needed to start over. Something new. We could never forget you.”
The father looks to her, sinking in her words, and proceeds from there.
“We ran to do it right this time, to make sure that we didn’t make any mistakes. We wanted a new life, we wanted a new shot at being a family. We never tried to erase you.”
Plain facts, all truths.
The boy takes this all in.
“Are you happy, Mom? Dad?”
The two parents consider the question heavily for a few moments, but the father responds.
“I’d say that we’re doing our best, son.”
It’s a vague answer if you asked the boy, but good enough is good enough for him.
“And my . . . sister?”
One last question before leaving.
“We’re going to try and give her the best life one could have.”
The boy steps away from the girl, letting the parents pick her up from the dirt. Then, he’s gone.
CHRISTOPHER FRASER is a homeschooled 12th grader with a knack for building and writing. He has written many different pieces of literature for school in a variety of different genres, with mystery being his favorite. This includes essays, short stories, and mostly everything in-between, although short stories is the one he enjoys the most.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Mar 9, 2017