Flash Fiction 1st place - Anju Natarajan '22

The umbrella broke in the wind. The spokes curled and crumbled, the sidewalk reflecting its twisted silhouette. She hurriedly dropped the object as it was rendered useless. Pulling her dark, black hat further over their face to shield the rain, she walked. Black lace covered her face, the same lace adorning her legs. Looking down as she walked, she finally arrived. Rows of headstones glistened in the rain, water drops rolling down them at an unfathomable pace. Someone offered her an umbrella, but she refused. The crowd opened for her, letting her walk to the front. As she walked, she felt sympathetic pats on her back and shoulders, the sound of gentle crying echoing throughout.

Finally looking up, she gazed into the golden cross resting on the priest’s neck, her blank stare unsettling the man. He thanked her for coming, saying that the service was almost over, and she could spend time alone with her husband.

 

Former husband.

 

“I thought I would let you know that with the current air quality and the storm getting worse, the funeral home suggests not having an open casket for today.” The priest quietly offered. 

 

She shivered. “No.”

 

“No?”

 

“No. I need to see him.”

 

The priest simply nodded, asking for help to open the casket. 

 

She moved to the back of the crowd again, letting the guests visit its casket before she had to gaze upon its face. 

She heard wails, whispers, prayers and the like. She continued focusing her attention on the drops that rolled down the fibers of her black fur coat. She suddenly felt a presence next to her and looked up, again met with the golden cross. 

 

“You may see him now. We will be inside.”

 

She calculatedly walked forward, feeling holes burning throughout her body from the stares of others.

Water from her eyes fell onto its cheek, rolling down its pale jawbone. She knew it was rain that cascaded down her face.

 

She would never cry over this creature. 

 

She looked down at its hands, resting open by its sides. Pulling up the sleeves of her jacket, she gazed at the array of color, occasional cigarette burns dotting her dark arms. She never once saw its hands relaxed as it was now, as they were usually balled into fists, aiming at her.

 

She directed her attention to its stomach, unusually flat now, as it used to be rounded, filled to the brim with alcohol. Its gray hair splayed across its white face, the same hair which she combed and geled before work every day.

 

She wasn’t allowed to work. She was too young to earn a permit.

 

She then looked at its throat. It was caked in makeup. She knew why. She still felt its soft flesh under her fingernails, its skin turning darker and darker shades of red. She enjoyed seeing him finally suffer, die for its sins. 

 

She was unconsciously gripping its throat now, her knuckles white. 

 

She looked up. And saw the golden cross.