Wednesday, August 18, 2010

24/7, Divination 18

I am participating in Folded Word's writing month event, called "24/7," during August. Participants spend the first 24 days of the month writing short works, then spend the final week in revisions. The second part of this entry gives more details.

I'm not required to give a central theme to the entries, but I chose the theme "Divinations" and am using a pair of dice to generate prompts (values shown below). My prompt for August 18 is to write divination-themed flash fiction that uses death.

Next of Kin (498 words)

"Please take good care of my company."

Officer Hart almost missed the yellowed note taped to the back of the door, the smell was so bad. Bad, but not unfamiliar. She waved the flies away and studied a body beginning to melt, thankful for her booties and gloves. A full hazmat suit would be nice.

She stepped outside and called in the death of an elderly female. Likely from natural causes, but the coroner would make that determination. A jogger had reported the odor. Sad, as always, but unremarkable.

Then why the note?

Sighing, Hart applied more nose cream. The screen door snapped shut behind her, in surprisingly good condition. Her gloved finger turned up only a thin film of dust, enough to have accumulated postmortem. Most of the dirt came from decomposition and decomposers. Compared to this house, Hart's was a pigsty.

Still a Jane Doe, the decedent had amassed an impressive collection of vases. Fluted marble, bronze globes. Dolphins cavorting in sculpted waves. They covered beveled glass shelves that flanked living room and dining room, floor to ceiling. Jane Doe's bedroom -- sheets drawn tight, coverlet smooth and even -- was still a work in progress, with two shelves filled and the rest bare wall.

No pictures hung anywhere. No husband, no children, no grandchildren. No posted instructions on who to call in the event of...this. Instead, a Smith-Corona sat on a typing table next to the bed, beside a partly-used ream of 20-pound bond on the flyleaf.

A manual typewriter in this day and age! Hart tried not to gawk, forced herself to concentrate. The note on the door, its letters irregularly spaced, had probably been written here.

"Please take good care of my company." What company? There was no sign of pets. Ghosts?

Pressed, clean clothes hung in the closet and lay folded in the bureau. Hart turned back to the vases, studied a bedroom shelf. Unadorned silver drew her attention, then the stopper.

Not vases. Funerary urns. Hundreds of them. Hart glanced back at the ghoulish remains.

Beside the urn lay a small, cream-colored envelope trimmed in gold, not sealed. The note inside had come from the Smith-Corona.

"My name is Miles. I am seven years old. I died with my parents in a flash flood..."

Hart eased up and down the rows, reading. Most of the urns had been unclaimed; some had been found in the trash; some, bizarrely, in yard sales. Estate sales. Abandoned for lack of funds. The filing cabinet in Jane Doe's front closet held newspaper clippings, letters with official seals, pads of research notes written in a stately hand. Receipts. Thick files detailed the life and death of each individual rescued from obscurity, reunited with kin where possible. Brought here otherwise.


Hart waved more flies away. The decedent -- Nina -- was barely recognizable as a human being. Hart wished she had a photograph.

She stepped back outside as the ambulance pulled up, its silent lights flashing.

The marble belongs to the base of my maternal grandmother's lamp, which I now use at my writing desk. Photo dates from October 2005.

Key to dice values:

Blue Die
1 (CE logo). Twitter poetry (140 characters or fewer)
2. Twitter fiction (140 characters or fewer)
3. short poetry (8 lines or fewer)
4. prose poems (under 100 words)
5. micro fiction (40-100 words)
6. flash fiction (101-500 words)

Purple Die
1 (CE logo). Birth
2. Water
3. Air
4. Earth
5. Fire
6. Death

My Random House College Dictionary, Revised Edition, defines "divination" as 1. the attempt to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means; 2. augury; prophecy; 3. perception by intuition; instinctive foresight. One meaning of "occult" is "hidden." That gives me a broad range of interpretation.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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