Flash Fiction: Striking (385 words)

Tavea knew she should be peeling herself up on the ground, finding the road again, heading toward home. The grass around her was no longer just cool, but growing cold and a little damp as night deepened. She had a bed waiting for her, and a sunrise that would drag her out of it soon enough, but the city lamps had all been doused at midnight and in the darkness, the sky was star-scattered and just on the edge of remembering to be blue. It was a thousand times brighter than the black of shut eyes.

“It’s not that bad,” Marlis said, laying beside her. Her head was six inches or so from Tavea’s shoulder, while her feet pointed off in a strange direction, ankles crossed over each other. Neither she nor Tavea had moved much after they flopped down in the field a few hours ago.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Tavea said. She didn’t want to think about it either, though she was having a hard time keeping her mind from wandering that way. Back to her work table, and her tools. Back to the split pieces of wood she had ruined all afternoon.

Marlis kindly shut her mouth.

Tavea pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes, then realized that didn’t help, and slid them up over her forehead instead. “I just don’t get it,” she murmured. “I start off thinking I know exactly what I’m doing, and then I don’t.”

“You’re figuring it out,” Marlis said. “You’re getting closer.”

“Yes,” Tavea said shortly. “But every time, I think I’ve got it. I head straight for it, and then… I don’t get there. And today, when I was done, it was like looking back at some crazy path I’d been running, and I was zig-zagging all over the place with no idea what I was doing.” She stopped herself before she went any further, turning her next sentence into a low groan in the back of her throat, and clenched her fingers in her hair. Then she let her arms flop back to her sides and tried to return her attention to the stars.

“Lightning doesn’t cut a straight line either,” Marlis said after a moment. “We still call it striking.”

Tavea blinked. “Shut up,” she murmured. But it helped a little.

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