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Fragments

Anthony Rivera is a proud father and happily married to his best friend for twenty years. He's worked on sketch comedy, stand-up, and improv comedy before finally deciding he'd rather work by himself in a quiet room with a giant cup of coffee. He writes fantasy of all kinds and tries to occasionally splash in his Puerto Rican heritage when he can like he just did.

Please, choose.
I hate being rushed, especially with something this sensitive. It has to be perfect. Just a bit longer. I've narrowed it down to a few. Just need to find it. I know it's there. I'm sure it's in my childhood. It has to be. Scanning again.
I'm sitting on Granny's old rocking chair on the porch. Storm comes out of nowhere.
Lightning flashes. The old oak down the street explodes. There's fire.
I'm frozen with terror. I can't move from that spot. My hoarse voice whispers out pleas for help that no one hears. I've never felt more alone.
No, that's not it. Something happier. Maybe a couple years earlier?
Granny's birthday party is an assault of sound and happiness. It feels like the entire neighborhood has come to my backyard. We eat Gramp's famous ribs, play horseshoes, and sing "Happy Birthday" so loud that the windows shake. I give her a macaroni brooch in the shape of a blue jay that looks like it has melted in the sun. She says it's her favorite gift and promises to wear it forever. I feel so proud as she shows it off to everyone.
Everything is great until the Brusques, who live next door, show up with their kid. Susan Brusque says words during Charades, steals money from the Monopoly bank, and even peeks out of her blindfold so she can smash the Pinata. I swear from this day on, Susan is my nemesis.
Please, you must choose soon. Everything is prepared for stasis and your body....
Yes, yes. I know. Another minute and I'll be ready I swear. I'll scan faster. I'll check my teens but I'm pretty sure it's not there.
I'm making out with Billy Carpenter on the side of the house where I know Sue can see. As I kiss him, her jealous eyes glare at me through the blinds. It fills me with a thrill that Billy's dull, flapping tongue never could.
Not right. Still not right. The memory has to be around here somewhere. I'll know it when I find it. Hmm, maybe I missed it?
I position Granny's rocking chair on the porch to give myself the perfect view of the clouds. I sit out there at sunset and it feels like I'm inside of a painting. The clouds transform from stale white to a burst of red, orange, and purple. It feels like the sun is fighting against time itself, refusing to be snuffed out until the last possible moment before everything goes dark.
The storm comes out of nowhere. I stay on the porch because I love the rain; the beautiful music it makes as it taps a tune on the wooden planks. I could listen to it forever.
Then the dark clouds come and hungrily devour the sun's last desperate rays. They are laden with my secrets, my fears, my nightmares. It feels like they are coming for me.
The lightning cracks across the sky like the wrath of an ancient god. Every strike unnerves me. I hold myself because there is no one else there.
The first bolt takes out its anger on the old oak. It didn't stand a chance. I swore it called out for help before it was reduced to nothing.
Frozen, my whispers unheeded, my rocking ceases. I sob softly knowing that the lightning will come for me next.
Then she came. Susan saw me between the blinds. She braved the storm to sit next to me on the porch. She says I'm dumb for being afraid, for not going back inside. Says lightning is just static electricity and only babies are afraid of it.
I get so mad that I forget about the stupid storm. We argue until Sue lets out a huge fart, then we laugh.
I call her Fart Face Susan. I swear from this day on, she is my best friend.
I really must insist you choose a memory now. The doctors are waiting. Time is a luxury you do not have.
Time.... Yes, you're right. There is never enough. Please, just a few more scans. I'm so close. I can feel it.
Granny's wearing the macaroni brooch as I hold her hand. She's dying. I promise to find happiness. I promise to be strong and follow my heart. I promise to be like you, Granny. You are my hero. Her last breath leaves as I hold her hand. The brooch lies still on her chest. Lightning strikes somewhere outside.
Granny.... No, not that. I can't handle it.
You have only moments before your body goes past the point where we can help you. Once you're in stasis, we can take our time to cure you. You have to choose.
I'm sorry. It's so much to ask. I'm afraid I'll make the wrong decision. It feels so important....
Wait, I know. It was so obvious but so near that I looked right past it. One last scan. Last year.
I'm rocking in the chair Granny left to me. The rain is playing its delicate music.
I cough and feel the wetness on my lips. I wipe it with my sleeve. Blood. I take off the sweater and lie to Sue saying that I was hot. She doesn't question me.
I don't want anything to ruin this moment. The illness will still be there when we leave, the pain too. We rock together in silence, enjoying nature's orchestra.
Lightning crashes into the old oak tree. I don't flinch. Sue is with me, holding my hand. The old oak survived the lightning before and it will survive now.
Yes.
This one? Remember, we won't pull you out of stasis until it's your turn on the waiting list. It may take years.
I hope it does. Can you send a message for me?
Yes.
Tell Sue I picked this memory. Tell her I'll be holding her hand forever. Tell her not to be scared. Tell her I'm not scared anymore because she braved the storm for me. Tell her she's a Fart Face.
I will send her the message. Goodnight, Mrs. Brusque.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, October 12th, 2021


Author Comments

"Fragments" was inspired by the song Constance by Spiritbox (ty to G for the song and the spark). The song itself is about dementia and how it affects everyone involved. "Like a slow moving coup" "Memories dissident" were lines that really struck me and the idea of memories being fragmented and having to sift through them. The sadness of losing pieces of yourself over time. And it made me think, what if you could choose which ones to keep? Would that be a blessing or a curse? This is the first time I've written in 1st person with present tense and it completely changed how I felt as I wrote. I had to make sure to tell the character's feelings as much as the action unfolding. It was a lovely challenge. The hardest part was making sure that each memory was from the POV of the main character as I bounced around.

- Anthony Rivera
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