Category: Flash Fiction 2023

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A Promise Goes Both Ways

by Alexandra Rivera

“Hey, bean…? If I ever become one of those things, I want you to put a bullet in my head.”

I was still maintaining my faith in societal restoration and keeping track of the days since the outbreak (it was day 59) when my partner, Sam, uttered those words. We were sitting at the top of a rickety, wooden watchtower on the west end of this abandoned gated community we found and inhabited a while back. It was nighttime, and the sky was illuminated with dozens of stars. Just like every clear night, I was staring at the dark blue sky, searching for constellations while she kept watch for walkers. It has become one of my favorite traditions of ours, since the others aren’t so wholesome (lots of killing and blood). Besides, the sky’s the one thing that has yet to decay in a zombie-infested world. I looked up from what I could’ve sworn was the Big Dipper to where Sam was looking.

It was a walker. It looked just as all walkers do – brainless. A husk, even, of a previous son, friend, or father. She kept her attention on the aimless walker outside the community gates, not allowing a single movement of theirs to go unseen. If a walker was in our proximity, there was no messing around with Sam. She may not have been a survivalist before the outbreak, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she read a How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse book or watched a ton of The Walking Dead.

Her medium-length, dirty blonde hair was tied back in its signature short ponytail as a safety precaution. She wanted to shave it off entirely, but I convinced her not to. I envied her hair length and texture since I was forced to cut mine after it got seriously matted. When I showed Sam my new hairdo, I told her I looked like a bean now; she chuckled and said I was beautiful and I was her bean (hence the nickname). She wore an oversized, plain white t-shirt tucked into a pair of gray joggers we found at one of the abandoned communities we looted. I had on a lavender shirt that Sam thought complimented my deep skin tone well. Her words and troubled expression made me tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear and offer her a warm smile when she turned to me.

“Listen, Miss ‘Captain of the Basketball Team.’ Those walkers could never catch up to you even if they wanted to. Me, however, I may run out of breath-”

“I’m being serious, Hannah. I need you to tell me that you will do that for me.”

My eyes widened– she doesn’t ever refer to me by my full name. She looked stern as she took my hands in hers and squeezed it.

“I need you to promise me that you won’t let me become one of them. That you won’t let my body be reduced to those things outside. I know you, I know you won’t want to do it if I end up getting bit, which is why I need you to promise.”

I paused, collecting my thoughts. She was right – I would never want to kill her, even if she turned into a flesh-eating monster. I mean, if she were a walker, I would probably beg her to bite me too. She stared at me with desperate, pleading eyes that said just agree to it. I could tell how much this meant to her, a simple promise. Even if I couldn’t uphold it, with the hopes of seeing her smile for the first time that night, I took a breath and–

“You know that a promise goes both ways with me right, Sam? If I agree to kill you before you turn, I expect the same from you.”

Her eyes gleamed in the starlight, but her expression turned somber. “If that’s what you want…” She pursed her lips and broke eye contact. It seemed she was considering our version of exchanging vows to each other, since I doubted we’d have a post-apocalyptic wedding. It’s not like she wanted a wedding anyways; Sam thought marriage was a social construct. She didn’t have even parents to walk her down the aisle before the world went to shit. But I always saw weddings as a beautiful tradition. Plus, it’s a fancy event where I would be guaranteed at least 4 hours of my girlfriend in a dress.

As if she could tell my brain was going on another tangent, she nudged my shoulder with hers and giggled. “Hey, what’s this about you running out of breath? You used to be in choir, Bean. I remember you singing that Bruno Mars song in the Spring concert – how did that go again? Was it –”

“Sam, no.” I groaned, not wanting to relive the cringy memory. She sang “Grenade” awfully. Even joking, she did not sing too loud, to avoid alerting walkers. I could tell she wanted to lighten the mood again, and I pretended that her attempt was adequate, but the pit in my stomach stayed until I fell into a deep slumber, nestled into her chest.

I don’t know why Samantha was convinced that walkers were lifeless creatures. I don’t know why I was either. My days consist of being trapped– mentally and physically. She keeps me in a room reminiscent of a jail cell, keeps me in a body that is no longer mine. As my body groans for human skin, I yearn for someone to put a bullet in my head. She comes to visit me every night, whispering sweet nothings from a distance, as she knows I will bite her if she gets too close.

One somber night, on what felt like two years since the outbreak occurred, she looked into my dull, dead, ugly eyes and insisted, “Do not worry, Bean. I will cure you of this illness. I promise.”

If I could speak, I would’ve told her that a promise goes both ways.

Read our Questions for Alexandra Rivera.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Alexandra Rivera is a student and employee at LaGuardia Community College studying Digital Media. She is developing her filmmaking and graphic designing skills in hopes of becoming a content creator. Representing marginalized people is a mandatory aspect of any piece of content Alexandra seeks to put out in her future.

Image credit: “Hamilton Day 1,” Sean Hurley. Flickr CC BY 2.0.

Chocolate Bar in the Summer

by Joel Pazmiño Rodriguez

            The chants of the crowd roar in rhythm, and the drum pounds through the speakers. He nods at the owner who’s biting his pen at the counter, but he doesn’t respond. There’s a cup final this weekend in Spain, and fútbol fever runs hot in the only deli left on the block.

            “Hello, I made an order para recojer,” he tip toes over the counter to say. “A bacon, egg, and cheese on a plain bagel.”

            “Ah, si. Ahorita lo hacemos,” the deli chef says. “Six mini.”

            He turns on his heel to look behind the glass, a sight he’s already familiar with, yet takes inventory and imagines what the desserts and bread taste like. The ones with jelly filling aren’t his favorite. But the ones with chocolate are the ones to his heart. The American chocolate bars are sweet, but they have no story for him. A Hershey bar can mean Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, but to him it’s Halloween and a dental appointment. The little, quarter-sized ones, that used to cost him 25 cents, are the ones that helped him gain the bad weight. In hindsight, they also helped him change it into good weight at the gym. His hair nearly touches his hulking shoulders, and his t-shirt is tight on his arms.

            The bell above the door rings, and two sets of footsteps scurry up to the counter. “Excuse me, how much are these?” A voice that squeaks like rusty hinges in need of WD-40 asks, pointing at a chocolate bar in blue wrapping. When was the last time he had one? Years ago now, definitely. The Jet chocolate bar was one of those foods that he didn’t eat. They’re delicious, but one leads to five, and the crash from a sugar rush wasn’t cute anymore, neither was it healthy. But they were so good. When he had them in the winter they would crack, melt on your tongue in the summer, the thick milky molasses-like texture slithering over and under your tongue.

            “Cheese?” The deli chef’s eyes look through the head-sized gap between the bin of bagels and bakery desserts, while his head faces the TV. The commentators chatter loudly and have side conversations about the players, while the deli owner curses at them.

            “Cheddar por fa,” he says, still in the memory of chocolate in the summer.

            That one summer especially, sitting at the front of his mind, he stayed cool with several Jet chocolate bars. At the age of twelve, he was outside with neighborhood friends from noon to moonrise. That’s where he’d get the Jet chocolate bars from. Jose, the youngest one would hook it up: his family was wealthy and owned a restaurant-bakery and carniceria. But only when it was the two of them. They played GTA in Jose’s bedroom, SKATE, or Halo. And his mother was beautifully sexy, her alluring voice spoke charms, and her sleek Barbie figure turned heads. His aunt, a near carbon-copy, was younger, and less modest. Another friend from the group, Santiago, shared with all of them except Jose, that Santiago saw her standing naked in her room, in front of her mirror, rubbing oil over her breasts: salivating at the sight of her plump ass jiggle. She left with the family when the patriarch bought a business in Nevada. The restaurant couldn’t compete with the birth of establishments on the block. Jose would finish high school in the desert, only to come back as a stranger.

            “¿Quiere mayonessa y ketchu?”

            He shakes his head, and the deli chef turns back, a phone call, another order.

            As much as he enjoyed the perks of Jose offering free food, he rarely set foot in the establishments. He’d go in when his mom asked him to buy some meat, or a coffee with whole wheat bread at the restaurant-bakery. They were always filled with talkative people, ones willing to speak to anyone. But that was a lot for him, especially at that age, and having that trouble with socializing even surprised him considering the friends he had. A rag-tag group of muchachos traviesos, banditos, friends, in puffy snow pants, sweats, or jeans, hoodies, parkas, sneakers, scarves, or Gears of War, rock-steady, boots. They used a trash bin as a sled, and a friend’s driveway as their mountain.When Jose invited them for hot-chocolate on a slow mid-winter day, he politely declined, only thinking of the cute waitresses that spoke so eloquently, or the potential for him to get roasted. When Jose looked a little sad at his rejection, and he felt bad, the oldest, Alvaro, saved everyone from the feeling by saying, “Burger King Breakfast tomorrow?”

            He turns to face the TV with the deli owner and nods at it. “¿Como van?” He feels the warmth from the lights of the cold cuts and plays with a Jet chocolate bar. His fingers twirl it like a baton, and he slides his thumb along the brand, the spines, the sweetness.

            In a brief commentary of the game, the deli owner explains the final to him, as if he knows nothing of fútbol. The owner loved this team since childhood, when his father and uncle wore matching jerseys and drank coffee and beer and had conchas, buñuelos, chicharrón, and empanadas. They’d stay in all day to watch their team play and the rest of the games of that weekend morning. He’d sit with them for years, until his uncle got sick and moved to Colombia, his uncle who wasn’t really blood but an old friend turned family. “They just learned how to video call each other.” The owner smiles.

            From a counter attack, the commentators rile up the owner, making him stand up. “Ahi van,” he slaps the counter and his pen jumps.

            “La orden,” the chef yells and watches over the owner’s shoulder with his mouth hanging.

            He stares and smiles at their focus, their passion, opens his sandwich, leans against the counter, and watches the game with them, with a chocolate bar in the summer.

Joel Pazmiño Rodriguez is an Ecuadorian-American English major at LaGuardia Community College. He was born and raised in Queens and is passionate about books and movies. He takes inspiration from his upbringing and adventures he goes on. He hopes to publish a novel or collection of stories one day.

Image provided by author: “Books of Spring ’23”


by Robbie Atienza

There is something in the walls. I can feel it. Sometimes, I sense that I’m being watched, observed, like a fish in a glass bowl. These last few months, it’s as though there’s a sadistic presence within the house, tapping at the glass to elicit a response for its own amusement. My fiancé, Richard, doesn’t seem to notice. He tells me I’m just being paranoid. I think he’s starting to think I’m crazy. Maybe I am crazy.

It started about three months ago, the night Richard proposed. We came home from our date to find that the front door of our house had been kicked in, leaving splinters across the foyer. When the police arrived and told us it was safe to go in, we took inventory of what we lost. That’s the funny thing. Nothing was missing. Every valuable accounted for, every important document secure. The police told us that the would-be burglar must’ve gotten spooked before he got the chance to rob us, but I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t sleep that night. The image of that sinister, black footprint on our broken door imprinted itself in my mind.

As the weeks went on, I started hearing sounds at night. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I would hear coughing, metallic clanging, sometimes even my own name. I would shake Richard awake and beg him to check. In a drowsy voice, he would say something my ex-husband always used to say: “You’re lucky you’re so beautiful.” He’d go downstairs and a few minutes later, he’d come back to bed and tell me it was nothing. That can’t be true. Several times, I tried telling Richard how I can’t take another minute in this house, how we should just pack up and move, but he brushed it off, believing it to just be pre-wedding jitters.

Yesterday, when we came back from grocery shopping, we found a dead canary in our bed. Its neck had been twisted almost all the way around. Its yellow feathers were speckled with blood and black powder. Richard did his best to console me as we waited for the police to arrive. Without any signs of forced entry, the best the police could do was deliver their signature “We’ll look into it.” When the police left, I pleaded to Richard that we spend not one more night in this house. He said that he empathized and that first thing tomorrow, he would buy some security cameras and new locks. I told him it wasn’t enough. Richard objected, saying that this was his father’s house and his father’s before him. He wasn’t going to let what he assumed was some neighborhood kid’s sick idea of a prank take it away from him. He urged me to stay and against my better judgement, I gave in.

A crash. A scream. I wake up. I instinctively turn to Richard but he isn’t in the bed with me. My heart drills at my ribs as I hear clattering and rumbling coming from the downstairs kitchen. Suddenly, the noises stop. God, what do I do? I turn on the bed lamp and reach for my phone, but it isn’t there. Only a black smudge.

“Richard?” I cry. “Are you there?”


I brace myself as I slowly walk down the stairs. I flip the light switches as I cautiously step through the shadowy house. When I reach the kitchen, flipping that last switch, I see my fiancé. His neck twisted almost all the way around. Before I can process it, I hear a hacking cough behind me. I turn around. It stands in the living room just outside the kitchen. Despite the lights being on, the man-like silhouette is darker than coal. The only features you can make out of the jet-black figure are his miner’s cap, his beady white eyes, and his rotted teeth.

“Carl?” I ask, paralyzed with horror.

Honey…” the figure croaks. “I’m home.

Read the editors’ questions for Robbie Atienza.

Robbie Atienza is a Filipino-American film and television major at LaGuardia Community College. He is a passionate storyteller who seeks to entertain audiences with his works, whether they be told on the screen, stage, or page. His inspirations include Stephen King, Martin McDonagh, and Quentin Tarantino. You can find him on Instagram @robbieatienza.

Image credit: “Canary Chic,” M.Shattock, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.