That Time The Planet Exploded
Flash fiction from Francine Witte
This story was nominated by Soft Star Magazine for the 2023 Pushcart Prize.
Today’s flash fiction piece was written by Francine Witte. Francine’s flash fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. She has stories upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,) Her latest book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.
There are shards of mountain in your soup. The planet exploded, but still enough land, still enough air, and nothing but soup to live on.
Today, like always, you spoon the mountain aside – but what’s that shining from the bottom of the can? A key? An actual key? You say this out loud to your husband who isn’t there anymore.
A key seems rather useless now that there aren’t any doors.
The planet exploded from the inside, not due to Man which is what you would have thought. Instead, it was roil and boil and magma. It was oceans clapping shut like mouths. At first, you were glued to the TV, and then, like that, the TV was gone.
You found soup in the leftover supermarket store, the one with the shelves all this way and that like broken teeth. You and the few others armloaded up with cans of soup. You and the few others walking right out with no one to stop you.
You all agreed to spread out because of all the luxurious room you had always dreamed of. You all agreed to start your own countries.
Now, you open your nightly can of soup. You bang it open with a rock because the can opener got swallowed in a lava rush. You have grown used to bits of everything showing up in the can, but a key? You wonder if this was the last act of the soupmaker who was hoping to be remembered, if not saved. You hate these pieces of your used-to-be-world and how they only remind you that alone is not the luxury you thought it would be.
Some nights you want so badly to look at another face. You even pretend-plan a trip to another one of the countries the few others made. But you remember the agreement. No visits. Danger of new population.
You all decided that the last time you were together, all of your arms hefted with soup cans outside the leftover supermarket store. Goodbye, good luck, flab of another hand on yours for the very last time.
You remember this some days. Forget it on others. Like today, when you eat your soup and this key pops up, and you will stare at this key for hours. You will think about the times you came home from work, your husband on the other side of a lockclick. You will even hold the key in your hands for awhile, press it against the fleshy part of your palm which needs so badly to be touched. Finally, you will hold the key up to your heart. Wonder if there is anything left there to turn.
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Gods, this is gorgeous. Your writing style blows me away. There is so much to say on this piece and I don't even know where to start. Bravo!