Flash Fiction

If You Can Make It There

15,000 years travelled and I was finally out of gas. Gas, in this case, consisted of an atomic battery that was, unfortunately, quite impossible to recharge. Until I found another power source I was out of luck, stranded like a castaway on this unfamiliar world. It was strange to see it looking so bleak, lakes black with oily slick, birds were scarce and no human settlements visible. Animals in general seemed to have fled this area, and I was left wandering on a deserted highway with no real idea of what direction to follow. I had been attempting to get from a job I’d completed in the year 4600 to 1510, where I would investigate a cultural revolution which apparently was the origin of the great catastrophe of the twenty-first century. I had broken down early, however, and was now stuck somewhere post-armageddon.

The days passed very slowly. I was staying alive on rations and hydration pills. It took at least three days before I made it to the outskirts of a city. Towering buildings were lined in rows as far as the eye could see, like hundreds of dominos, some collapsed into the adjacent structures. I’d not seen any life and was beginning to think I was alone when I spotted some children darting across the street in front of me. I watched them as they ran into one of the old abandoned monoliths, clearly where they were living now. It was then that I saw him, the wizened old gentleman who was hastily carrying himself on crutches after the children. “Come back!”, he cried.  He waved his arms around in frustration, but they were too quick for him. He collapsed to his knees and held his face in bony old hands.“God damn kids took my last pair of glasses, I can’t see a thing without them.” The old man looked at me imploringly, as if I would produce a replacement. In truth, I had never seen a pair of spectacles outside of the museums.

We exchanged some information, I explained I was a traveller looking for fuel to get home.
“Join the club buddy, everyone’s had it hard since the disaster. You might be waiting a while…”  He confirmed my fears, I was going to be hard pressed to get back to 2580. The man introduced himself as William, and offered to help me find my way to shelter. By careful questioning, so as not to give myself away, I discerned that I had traveled nearly 500 years before the time I call the present. I could scarcely believe this was the same planet. Clearly, the technology to properly deal with waste had not been developed yet. All around were mounds of discarded food, plastics, papers and all kinds of rubbish. William told me that there were areas outside the city where the garbage was buried in the soil itself. “Most of the world is a landfill,” he said.

We found a building that was inhabited and had running water. William advised me to stay while I searched for fuel. I didn’t tell him that the fuel I wanted was most likely buried like those landfills he was so happy about. My new abode was high above the city, and I could see the ocean in the distance. It had encroached on the city somewhat; the water formed channels between what were once giant buildings and it reminded me of some of the books I read on the history of New Venice before my trip. They called it New York back then, New Amsterdam before that. When I looked out toward the sea I could see the head and shoulders of a woman poking out of the water. On her head lay a crown, framing a regal face like a monument to some queen of antiquity. I contemplated how sad she looked, drowning in the sea.


A Lovesong for Elliott Smith

I read the words on Elliott’s fan maintained but somewhat official website; “Memorial service to be held for Elliott Smith…” I was checking to see if he was going to be playing in Ireland, which he wasn’t. He wasn’t going to be playing anywhere, ever again.

I had been an Elliott Smith fan for about a year at that point. I was already aping his songs. I probably have been, to some extent, for the entirety of my “career” as a musician. I was young, only sixteen. I still am young I suppose, but it seems like a very long time ago. I feel like a different person, but still the same. I was always slightly melancholy, without even trying. I vomited effortless cynicism and sarcasm.

To that extent, I had found my music. I had found someone who had managed to do the “one guy with a guitar and the truth” thing, and do it sincerely, beautifully. It felt like a piece in a musical puzzle that was defining what I was supposed to do or be. It sounds delusional now. It probably was.

The day I read that he had died, I don’t believe I cried. I probably have done since. I did curse the world, and whatever fates had conspired to end his life. I listened to all of the songs I had downloaded. I had hunted for a year for his work in music shops nearby.

Of course, after he died, they stocked him, in a gesture of rock star myth perpetuation. Why the fuck are people suddenly interested in an artist when they die? All I see are lost albums. I see a man who was thirty six, only eight years older than I am currently, a man who was in the absolute prime of his musical life, despite extreme adversity that included a serious drug habit, and all of the demons that torment so many of us. A guy who could create the bones of what would become “From a Basement on a Hill”, which I would argue is the best posthumous release of all time.

Did I find his songs so sad before he died? Did the allusions to mortality ring so true? I’m not sure; it’s hard to remember. I definitely didn’t think “Needle in the Hay” was a happy song. All I knew was that it was the most beautiful music, not music, sound I had ever heard. It hurts that he will never compose another song, and that countless mediocre bands will live into their seventies. There is no justice in popular taste.

The new documentary, “Heaven Adores You”, will give you some insight into the man. It doesn’t bother with the myth, talks directly to the people who knew him best without becoming too gratuitous. Nobody wants the details on his addictions, bar tabloid trash websites. Find more information on http://www.heavenadoresyou.com.