Hello everyone and a warm welcome to Entry PART 4) for my weekly: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021” Week #41.
Today I’m featuring a contribution by Patricia Furstenburg.
Last week I set the following Challenge:
Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words.
Here is the image prompt and the contribution.
A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon
The ballroom was a giant aviary. People’s actions, she found, mimicked those of birds. Courtship, chatter, hunt, all here. Except that birds, birds didn’t belong in a cage.
She spotted the gold-trimmed black mask the instant she crossed the doorway. Nothing ever escaped her eagle-like eyesight. Yet she pretended not to, allowing him the illusion of initiating the hunt. Men fell for that. So she stood atop the stairs, in her black and caviar-beige Channel evening gown, the perfect shade of beige. She stood, tensed, the center of his attention; him, the man with the mask matching hers. She stood; unable to enjoy what was finally coming. Feeling none of the happiness she thought she will.
Why they call it sweet revenge? She tasted bile.
It had been stipulated in the contract. Both parties involved will be issued matching masks. Both parties will be aware that arriving at the masked-ball involved and was conditioned by, establishing contact with their prescribed partner.
He’d come. He was watching her, facing her, as she closed the distance. One step at a time, oblivious to music, and the agitation surrounding them. Aware of her dry mouth, her increased pulse, and the reason she’d done it all. To right a wrong.
For the first time since she dressed she was thankful for the mask, covering her flushed cheeks. Her lips, frozen in a sneer she hoped mimicked a smile. The pain she had harbored forever, she allowed it to escape as she took step after step. There was so much hatred that letting some steam escape, by staring at him, didn’t matter anymore.
By the time she had descended, he had closed the distance extending his hand to aid her take that final step. Her arm stiff, to mask tremor, she reached for his.
Their touch felt electrifying, and he smiled the moment he saw the specks of aged whiskey in her treacle eyes.
‘I am sorry I wasn’t there, at the foot of the Ferris Wheel’, he said, so she recognized him. Really saw him. Past the black mask trimmed with gold, past her veils of hatred. It was him, as the contract stipulated it will be, the man she wanted for her revenge, yet he was also himself, the man she had met in the park.
Too late. His had touched her gloved one, the double glove soaked in poison. Soon, his somatic muscles will paralyze. Her plan would have reached its climax.
He came through with a strange feeling, that his feet were not touching ground. And he was cold, chilled to the bone.
He was dangling.
Was he dead? His eyes were open, he thought. All he saw was blackness.
Black is the impression of lack of color, his mind offered.
He heard nothing either, only the blood rushing through his ears. He would have touched his eyelids but his arms were secured against his body, tied like a cocoon. He could wiggle his fingers though, frozen stiff.
His mouth shot open. A yell came out.
No echo. His voice just left his body – and was gone. And his body was dangling in space.
At least he wasn’t buried.
He looked around again. Above, as below, he discerned specks of light. Of all sizes. Then a river of them as if someone had spilled, in the dead of night, milk across the floor.
The Milky Way!
More crumbs ablaze caught his eye in the celestial horizon. A handful of fairy lights. A city!
And his body, dangling between them.
Ignoring his stiff neck he forced it backward and stared, forcing sight. A silk glove tied around his neck brushed his cheek like a slap. After the ozone-rich air an explosion of freesia invaded his senses. It matured, denoting elegance and grace
Stop it, you old goat.
And another note, above the spring-like ones: shimmering hints of honey.
The dawn, lifting the horizon, removed the amnesia cloak too. He remembered the masked woman descending the stairs, their bird-watching, and she, his project for the night. The disbelief that slashed his heart, and the electric shock when their hands touched. Losing consciousness…
‘Why?!’ he howled at the moon.
From the height of the hot air balloon gondola the woman in the black and caviar-beige Chanel gown retrieved a picture, kissed it, and let it slide along the cord to the man dangling below.
‘That’s why,’ she raged, her scathing tone like knives. ‘Remember her?’
Copyright © 2021 Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.
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