Steve Gergley ~ Three Flash Fictions

  1. The Really Big Heart

Me and Kyoko dri­ve to Rochester and check into a hotel behind a din­er. Dangling above the bath­tub we find a human heart the size of a per­son. Slick with a shim­mer­ing, oily liq­uid, and beat­ing with an irreg­u­lar, stac­ca­to rhythm, the heart con­nects to a net­work of thick arter­ies that worm into the ceil­ing like elec­tri­cal wires.

Kyoko looks at me and nods. She steps for­ward and rests her palm on the giant mus­cle. Accelerating its beat into a fran­tic sprint, the heart swings on the ropes of its arter­ies and thumps against the walls of the show­er. Plaster crack­les over­head. Shimmery liq­uid rains from the ceil­ing. Fat droplets pat­ter against the top of my head.

Soaked from head to toe, Kyoko strips off her clothes and steps into the bath­tub. She slips into the sil­very liq­uid and stares at the dan­gling heart. She leans her head back and opens her mouth. She clos­es her eyes and waves at me to fol­low. Dropping my oily clothes on the floor, I join her in the tub and close the cur­tain behind me.


  1. Shadows Inside the Sun

Me and Kyoko wake up in a bath­tub in the mid­dle of a desert. On our left, the waste­land stretch­es on for­ev­er. To our right, a sand-scoured sky­scraper cleaves the wavy heat of the land­scape. Built in the Soviet style of archi­tec­ture, the build­ing is a bru­tal­ist puz­zle box of knife-slash win­dow slits and rein­forced concrete.

Me and Kyoko climb out of the bath­tub. We look down at our bare bod­ies. We dash across the burn­ing sand until we reach the cool blade of the building’s shad­ow. There we find a mid­dle aged man sit­ting cross-legged in front of the entrance to the aban­doned skyscraper.

The man wears a black cow­boy hat and stonewashed blue jeans. An acoustic gui­tar rests on his lap. A black leather vest hugs his gaunt, sun­baked mid­sec­tion. When the man sees us stand­ing before him lost and unclothed, he begins plunk­ing a sim­ple melody using the F# pen­ta­ton­ic scale.

Covering myself with my hands, I turn to Kyoko. She looks at me, shakes her head, and steps for­ward, defi­ant in her naked­ness. The man’s melody mean­ders along. The rusty strings of his gui­tar ring out with sur­pris­ing bright­ness and clar­i­ty. The man stares at us and takes a deep breath. Kyoko rests her hands on her hips and stares back at him.

I’m sor­ry, but could you move please?” she says.

Instead of answer­ing, the man begins to sing in a reedy baritone.

There are shad­ows inside the sun

And stones stuck in our eyes

Our names decay like flesh

But time can nev­er die

The man repeats these lines three times. With each refrain, his voice grows loud­er. More griz­zled. Kyoko stares at him with a con­fused expres­sion and waves her hands over her head.

Hello! Can you please—”

The man ignores her and bel­lows the song at full volume.

Kyoko scoffs and shakes her head.

Fuck this,” she says, and starts walk­ing around the man to try to find a way into the building.

The man refus­es to move. A pair of buz­zards cir­cle over­head. Kyoko wrench­es the gui­tar from the man’s grip and toss­es it into the sand.

The moment the gui­tar clangs against the ground, the man cries out in anguish and scrab­bles through the dust to retrieve it.

Why can’t you just leave me in peace!” the man yells, hug­ging the gui­tar to his chest. Moments lat­er he rests the instru­ment on his lap and begins fin­ger­pick­ing a new melody, this one vast­ly more com­plex than the first. Looking down at his gui­tar, the man begins to weep. “This is all I have left. Why can’t every­one just leave me alone?”

Kyoko looks at me and then down at the man.

I’m sor­ry for get­ting angry,” Kyoko says. “We’ll leave you alone if you want. But are you sure you’re going to be safe out here by your­self? Don’t you want to come inside?”

The man shakes his head. He plays his gui­tar. He con­tin­ues to weep.

Just leave me alone,” he says.

Okay,” Kyoko says, her voice soft­en­ing into a whis­per. She looks at me and ges­tures with her chin toward the front door of the skyscraper.

I nod and fol­low Kyoko into the aban­doned build­ing. I pass through the dark door­way. I look back and watch as the man sits out­side, star­ing across the ruined land­scape, sway­ing to the rhythm of his des­o­late song.


  1. Top Floor

Me and Kyoko climb the mas­sive stair­case of the aban­doned build­ing, the grim reaper float­ing close behind. His yel­low robe shim­mers like sun­light glint­ing off still water. His cold breath curls around our necks like an arc­tic gust. Miniature sick­les twirl from his bag­gy sleeves and slice apart the air in our wake.

Every twen­ty-two steps, we pass a pair of nee­dle-thin win­dows. Outside, we see noth­ing but clouds and sky. Outside, the world is bathed in a puls­ing red glow.

The red glow is a very omi­nous glow. But things have not always been this way. This glow was a grad­ual devel­op­ment. It hap­pened over a peri­od of time.

Looking to my left, I study Kyoko’s pro­file. After a while, I ask: how long have we been climb­ing this tow­er? When did we last smell the earth?

Too long, she says, flash­ing a quick smile.

She brush­es a scythe of hair from her eyes. She rests a hand on my cheek. She redi­rects my gaze to the stairs ahead. Tripping, in this sit­u­a­tion, would be bad.

Behind: the grim reaper exhales a frosty sigh. Behind: mil­lions of tiny grim reapers fly from the void of his yel­low hood.

The tiny grim reapers swarm around us like angry bees. Their mul­ti-col­ored robes glim­mer like pol­ished gems in the strange light of the tow­er. The bony nuggets of their bod­ies burst upon con­tact with our skin.

Me and Kyoko break into a run and take the steps two at a time. My bare feet smack against the smooth gran­ite of the stone stair­case. My breath hiss­es with each shal­low gasp of air. My legs burn cold with each sky­ward lunge of my stride.

Despite all this, we keep going. We run on. We run and run and run. We run until our skele­tons scream. We run until we breathe the clouds. We run until we taste the moon. We run until our eyes turn to milk and there are no more stairs left to climb.


Steve Gergley is the author of the short sto­ry col­lec­tion, A Quick Primer on Wallowing in Despair (LEFTOVER Books ’22), and the forth­com­ing nov­el, Skyscraper (West Vine Press ’23). His short fic­tion has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, X‑R-A‑Y Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, New World Writing, and oth­ers. In addi­tion to writ­ing fic­tion, he has com­posed and record­ed five albums of orig­i­nal music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fic­tion can be found at: