Flash Fiction by Paul Robert Mullen
They shot me once as the clock struck 3pm.
Shadows twisted. In the square where my brother fell a week earlier, the late-spring sun, a deepening shade of yam, screeched through my eyes. I slumped heavy against the ruins; thick gloop and clots and bile leaking through my fingers into citadels of sodden leaves where my head would come to rest. Pine cones, bowed at the edges like brain, skittered on cobble stones in tunnelled whips of wind.
The burning street was otherwise clean, scrubbed by drudges who swore that bloodstains were the art of the devil. My brother’s neural tissue was still festering - blasted chunks and dented crucifix - in a bucket somewhere near the convent walls.
A car hustled passed. Tyres shrieking, sirens, a father wailing for his son. Every year someone has to pay.
I kept thinking of my mother’s last words.
Nothing is ever quite enough.
The kids were playing kick the can around a maggot-ridden stray towards the barracks. I wanted to tell them they shouldn’t be there. Shouldn’t be witness to this. They laughed and cursed, and their fading sound echoing through tight, blistering alleys. The metallic clipperty-clank of a crushed metal can is no soundtrack for death.
I lived long enough to hear the captors tamed by the surge of an AA-52, whistling through bone so clean it rang in my ears for the minutes I was spared.
Kids screamed and ducked into the cemetery, and a woman howled from a balcony. I could smell gooseberries, and shit spilling from my gut.
It was Sunday, I think.
Or maybe it wasn’t.
Paul Robert Mullen (he/him) is a poet, musician and sociable loner from Liverpool, U.K. He has three published poetry collections: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), and 35 (2018). He has been widely published in magazine, journals and anthologies worldwide. Paul also enjoys paperbacks with broken spines, and all things minimalist. He is a regular contributor for Marias at Sampaguitas.