“I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb


Dante & Virgil Enter the Forest - William Blake, 1824
Dante & Virgil Enter the Wood – William Blake, 1824

Three friends suddenly find themselves in a strange realm in “I Feel the Same Way About You,” one of two diabolically surreal flash fictions by Jan Stinchcomb in our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }


It’s Emma’s fault since she was driving, but Cait and Lex know it’s not cool to say this out loud. They’re stumbling around in some rich person’s kitchen. At first they’re hesitant to touch anything but then they can’t help themselves. There is a bowl filled with tiny silver spoons and a set of crystal goblets. A dark forest is visible through the enormous picture window.

Cait picks up a leather-bound planner and flips through the pages. “Guys. Look at this. It’s mine.”

Lex’s hatred is swift and certain. Something about Cait always sets her off.

“See. My name is here, on the first page. This is my house. I’m married. I’ve got twins.” Cait squeals like a little girl. “I knew I would have twins! Lots of the women in my family do.” She looks around. “And I’m rich.”

There is a woman gathering firewood outside in the forest. She wears an ugly, tattered poncho and a sad face. Lex peers at her and startles into the realization that she is looking at herself. She tries to act as though she hasn’t noticed anything but Cait makes the connection and laughs. “Is that you out there, Lex? Don’t tell me you’re one of the forest people.”

“It’s not my fault,” is all Lex can say. She wants to wave to her future self but is afraid this might make her complicit.

Emma doesn’t say a word.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Lex.” Cait has never been happier. “You always have to be the rebel, don’t you? Well, there you are. Outside.”

“I’m not staying in this kitchen,” Lex says but she’s terrified of going outdoors. She dreads brushing up against her older self. That woman is haggard. Starving. Lex tries to think of what she did to deserve such a fate. She knows Cait is not a nice person, but still. How did they go from carpooling in the morning to living in these separate worlds?

Emma’s eyes are black and bottomless. Her hands are ice. The girl Lex knew is gone, but she puts one arm around Emma and leads her to what must be a sunroom. It is all glass, beautiful, something she will never have.

Emma doesn’t seem to weigh much anymore. She glides alongside Lex to a wicker couch, where they both sit down.

Soon Cait appears, exultant, with coffee on a golden tray. “I have an espresso machine! So I thought, why not?”

Lex refuses to drink. She knows if Cait drinks, she will seal some horrible deal. At first, out of spite, she says nothing, but then she screams at Cait to put the cup down.

“My goodness,” Cait says. She sounds exactly like her mother and all at once Lex knows where they are. They are in hell, yes, that is it. Emma plowed into the car in front of them and now they are in some awful future, where she lives outdoors and Cait has transformed into her mother and Emma will never speak again.

“Cait,” Lex begins.

“Let’s have some nice hot coffee. It’s the only thing to do,” Cait says.

“Please don’t drink it. Please don’t, Cait.”

Cait’s eyes are their usual blue but have gone flat. “I have always hated you, Lex. You are such a bitch.”

“I feel the same way about you but we have got to think. We can’t sit here and talk anymore. We have to get out. And don’t drink that coffee.”

“I won,” Cait says, sitting back and looking around. “I won and you are a sore loser. I always get the guys and now I’ve got this house.”

Lex jumps up and knocks the coffee cup out of Cait’s hands. She thinks she sees Emma’s expression change. She wonders if Emma would be more comfortable in the pine forest but fears they will never find her in the real world.

“Cait, I need you to work with me.”

“Not a chance. This is my house and I am not leaving.”

“You’ve already decided? That’s your problem, Cait. You’re too impulsive. You never think of the future.”

“And you think you’re a big success when you haven’t even sent in your college applications. You think you’re better than everybody else. Since first grade.”

Lex stands. She wants, needs, to break the air itself. It crosses her mind that they could be bickering for eternity. Forget about Emma for now, she thinks, as tears sting her eyes. Oh, yes. Grief is waiting but she has to get herself to it.

She has never felt such responsibility.

Her future self walks up to the sunroom and presses her nose into the glass right behind Cait. Why does she look so dull and defeated? Show a little self-respect, Lex wants to shout. She picks up a chair and hurls it against the glass. Cait’s banshee scream almost stops the chair mid-impact but the breakage helps to get them somewhere.

Bubbles of broken safety glass are everywhere, confetti for a tragedy. There is the metal smell of blood. Lex can hear the radio. It’s still playing that old song they were singing to, Bowie, from back when her mom was little.

The car is stuck in the middle of the highway. Emma is gone and Cait is crying. Lex’s eyelids are two heavy doors she must push against, knowing nothing good is waiting in the light.

{ X }

jan-stinchcombJAN STINCHCOMB is the author of the novella, Find the Girl (Main Street Rag, 2015). Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in New South Journal, Gamut Magazine, Jellyfish Review and Paper Darts, among other places. She reviews fairy tale-inspired works in “Notes From Rapunzel’s Tower“, her column for Luna Station Quarterly. She lives in Southern California with her husband and daughters. Find her at http://www.janstinchcomb.com or on Twitter @janstinchcomb

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