Category: Flash Creative Nonfiction 2023

Era Death

to all the versions of myself that I’ve killed

by Kaylin Rivera

[CW // sexual assault]

Circa 15, 16.


Pressured by your so-called friends around you to give away the one thing that you were told was sacred. Was it worth it? An older man who sure as hell should not have been talking to someone your age. You wanted to get it over with, to not be pestered by the incessant voices. You told yourself it did not matter, it was not as special as it was regarded. You wanted to get rid of it, to tear through the sanctity of yourself, but the feeling during and after… a thick alloy, coating your skin, reaching around trying to absorb you whole. Afterward, proud of your torn stockings and soreness between your legs. Bragging rights of doing it on a roof in the autumn weather with someone who wanted to consume your essence yet they chose not to tell their parents about you despite being together for almost two years.

Good enough for the iciness of their roof, but not enough for the warmth of their home.

Showered you with gifts and romance… shadowed by the suffocation of ownership.

You remember not wanting to fall behind, but now that you reflect… you were certainly not falling behind with the rest of the people your age, just within that vicious cesspool you clung to for validation. Attention… weighing your body down, putting a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach and needles in your chest. You were told to be a leader growing up, to not be a follower, but did you listen? No.

Ugly, ugly, ugly emotions clouded judgment, despite having the awareness to know this was not what you wanted.

Circa 16, 17.


The previous part of you died; you did not recognize who you once were. A new hair color for every new era, right? Wrong. You thought choosing a new color to don around your crown would be another part of you, that you could wash away the pain and the memories with overprocessed bleach and dead ends.

Yet another one, also older than you. It’s because you’re super mature for your age right? You let him say words to you that you would never let a stranger utter. So why did you let him taint your aura? Day in and day out you ingested the verbal abuse, telling yourself it was banter, it was jokes, and it did not bother you.

Words swathed with poison stacked upon each other like plates piled atop one another with the smaller ones on the bottom and the larger ones on top. Even his parents saw how he treated you and yet day in and day out you slept on his bed with a smile on your face. You took his remarks and his flesh into your mouth without thought. You and he desired entirely different things and you deluded yourself into believing that it would be okay. You and I both knew that it would not last. He was acceptable for that era.

Acceptable for the masochist in you.

Remember that one time when you told him that you could turn it all off? That no matter how many times he positioned himself inside you, you would not flinch, would not feel a goddamn thing other than disgust? He teared up that night and you smiled inside. For the first in a long time, you felt something.

Acceptable for the sadist in you.

Remember when you cut your hair and he uttered ‘lesbian’ immediately after? The smile dropped from your face and you yearned for the lost locks falling past your shoulders.

It was okay though.

You obtained the sweetest taste of secret revenge and ‘till this day the only person that needed to know was you and her. You brought her around him, kissing her and sliding your flesh against hers while heading to his place right after in a drug-induced stupor. It was the only way you could press your lips against his snake-like tongue. It was the only way you could endure his presence, his voice, him. Thinking about her while being with him made it bearable—almost. Did you ever think about her feelings? You were so wrapped up in your pain that you never thought about how she would feel, yet you thought it was fine as she had never been with anyone else but you.

The arrangement was mutual, right?

What you did not recognize was the toxicity of him rubbing off. You harbored his essence like a devil on both shoulders. She shared something sacred with you and you viciously seized it without taking into account her feelings, her wants, her desires. You did the same thing in turn that was done to you. Did you deem yourself worthy of her or above her?

You do not have to answer that… we know the result of it.

We were so terrified of being alone that we stood together, telling each other that we loved each other despite deeply hating each other under all that desperation. You overshadowed her, let her put you on her pedestal. You devoured her just as others have consumed you and were surprised when she clawed her way out on her own. You liked to control her, to have her worship you like a false god. You say that it was her fault for idolizing you, but you knew better. She may have only been younger than you by a year, but she was mentally and emotionally underdeveloped. She looked to you for guidance and you took advantage of that just as others have done to you.

You sucked the soul out of each other and barely remembered anything.


Circa 15-19


You do not want to talk about him. But you have to. Distance was always a component of him and you. You could only get so close being miles away. The fucked up part is the foolishness he and you had. You convinced yourself you would see each other one day, be in each other’s arms whilst ignoring the distance that had nothing to do with where you lived. You loved the idea of him and wove him in your life. He was the in-between of it all, and you thought that was okay because it was not like he was here in person. How much harm could it really be? You hurt and tore each other apart with your dreams, the dreams that never quite aligned with each other. You repeatedly called each other the right person at the wrong time, but how many more wrong times were there going to be? But that is okay. You did the hardest thing, which was letting each other go despite having so much love for each other’s souls.

If only he was a woman, then maybe it would not have ended as it did, right? Perhaps the thought of being with him physically terrified you so much that you lied to yourself once the love for him was blown out, like a battery forgotten in the back of a Wii remote.

Circa 20-22


Solitary confinement.

Romantically, emotionally, physically.

You killed those past versions of yourself, reached into yourself and yanked them out one by one. You have been broken and in turn broken others without realizing until it’s too late. But that is okay because you are a work in progress. You’re learning yourself, knowing who you are.

This time you’ve planted a new seed, with compost and everything, taking the time to cultivate this newer version of yourself with the scraps of your past self. Continuously under construction because with every era that passes, you kill that past version of yourself to create space for something new. Never feel as if your life should end, only the era you’re living in.

the version of me who I have not killed yet

Read our questions for Kaylin Rivera.

Kay Rivera (they/she) is a queer writer currently studying at Queens College who graduated from LaGuardia Community College. They have a special interest in writing fantasy works in order to provide the representation they were looking for as a reader. They’ve been writing since their early adolescence and would like to pursue a career in writing and seek to inspire others to become writers.

Image credit: “Seedling,” Kevin Doncaster. Flickr CC BY 2.0.

The Little Differences

by Raisa Zannat

On a bright winter morning, I waited inside an army jeep parked outside of a red guesthouse in Sajek Valley, a little valley located in the mountainous southern part of Bangladesh. My uncle waited impatiently in the driver’s seat for my cousins to come down, cursing under his breath every now and then. He was a very punctual man. I wonder where he learned it from: was it his years of experience in the Army or did he inherit it from his strict father who always made him wake up at the crack of dawn? My uncle had been waiting for ten minutes, but my cousins had yet to come down.

The day before my uncle and I hiked a nearby mountain trail — a five-hour-long hike ending with lunch at a tribal village. I was excited about the hike but felt terrified at the same time. Being raised in a city, I was not accustomed to mountain air, nor was I used to hiking for five hours straight. My uncle often called me “Farm Chicken,” because according to him, I was raised like one. Always protected, fed, and kept away from the wild. That day, he would drive this “farm chicken” to the airport. I had a flight to catch. A thirty-minute flight to the city and fourteen-hour flight to New York later that week.

I had taken many trips with my uncle, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Bangladesh Army. I spent most of my summer vacations in cantonments in whichever part of the country he was stationed. The late-night swimming lessons and the ice creams after the evening hike were my favorite part of summer. Every evening when we went out to run, I remember the marching soldiers would always stop to acknowledge my uncle and would not move until he gave the sign. This would fill me with a great sense of pride.

Every child needs a hero. Someone they can look up to, someone they can boast about. My uncle was that hero for me. And not only for me, but for many other people. This one time, I saw him help a sergeant with his exam. My uncle tutored the man every day after work for a month or so. The day the sergeant passed his test and became sergeant major, he showed up at our door first thing in the morning: bright-eyed, full of hope, and with a smile up to his ears. He hugged my uncle, and I could see tears form in the corner of his eyes. After the sergeant who was now a sergeant major left our premises, my uncle turned to me and said, “It’s the little difference that you make in this world.” Back then I didn’t know what he meant. I was just a sixth grader who was worried about school and her friends. I was naive and too distracted to understand the value of this phrase.

It was half past nine when we started to drive to the airport. My uncle looked straight ahead. The roads were curvy, sometimes slanted. He seemed to know them. My cousins chirped away in the back of the jeep with my bags on their laps. While driving by a farmers’ market, a local ran towards our vehicle with two pumpkins in his hand. My uncle halted the jeep and assured the guy that on his way back from the airport he would buy those pumpkins. The guy seemed satisfied. While fixing the rear-view mirror, my uncle said to me — “You could have stayed a couple of more days here. The fresh air would have done you good. What is it about Dhaka? Only traffic and pollution. One can’t even breathe there.” Sitting in the back seat I just hummed in response. I wondered if he forgot that I wouldn’t be in Dhaka for long. I was leaving for New York in a week and things were not going to be the same. During this one month that I spent with him, he didn’t mention once how he felt about me moving away. I didn’t bring it up either. Whenever one of my cousins would bring it up, he would just say “One doesn’t have to leave their own country to make a better life, anyone can make a good life out of whatever they have.”

We reached the airport in time. My cousins helped me with the bags. We waited at the lounge and had our breakfast. My uncle decided to pick plain toast and butter. I started thinking about all the breakfasts we had together. He loved the way I made tea for him. Two spoons full of black tea boiled to perfection in milk, with a spoonful of sugar. He used to brag to others that I knew the perfect way to make milk tea. I didn’t know if I would be able to make any more tea for him. I didn’t know when I would see him again.

It was a perfect morning — bright, sunny, and a bit cold. I thought to myself — if I wasn’t flying back; if I was still in the little valley, I would have probably taken a walk. A walk around the park, or the lake where I fished with my uncle many times, or strolled around the garden that had hibiscus flowers in it. The day would be very different. I would have gotten myself a little tanner or I would have gone home and had that pumpkin from the farmer’s market that my uncle bought. My grandmother would have cooked it sweet and spicy, slightly caramelized, sauteed in oil, and seasoned to perfection. With a side of warm white rice.

I looked up at my uncle. He didn’t have his uniform on today. He was in his civil wear: a plain polo t-shirt with formal pants and New Balance. Such an odd combination, yet comforting to me. I had seen him in every attire: in various uniforms, in joggers, in white Punjabi for the Friday prayers. Even though he was in his mid-forties, he always seemed older and intimidating. I remembered the first comic book that he got me from the US, the first letter he wrote me from his mission in Sri Lanka, and the first MRE he brought me from his UN training because I wanted to see what he ate, the bandana that he sent me from Darfur.

The concierge came to notify us that it was time for me to board the plane. My uncle hurried to get up, and I felt a sudden tug in my heart. I spent many months with this man and there were moments when I didn’t like his company. He felt a little too much at times. A little too intimidating, a little too authoritative, a little too unnecessary. But now, when it was time to leave him for good, something did not feel right. I wanted to hug him, but I had never hugged him in twenty years of my life.

I stared blankly at my uncle. unsure of my emotions. He rushed me to get up but then stopped. Maybe he could sense that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. He gently tapped me on the back of my head and said, “I know you’ll be okay out there; you are a good kid and I have trained you well.” I hugged him and tears rolled down my cheeks. Two decades of memories started weighing on my heart and it was too much. I picked up my bag and ran to the door, not looking back once. To this day I wonder if he broke into tears just like me, or if he stood strong fighting his emotions like he always did.

Four years later, I am okay out here living by myself. Even took a little trip to Poconos this summer. Hiked in the mountains. Got me a stick to wave around in case I see a snake or two. I wish I could go home and write a letter about my lone adventures to my uncle, who taught me everything I know. Someone who gave me the courage to be who I am today. Independent, strong, and not afraid of adventures. But he is not here among us anymore. What remains is the little difference he tried to make in this world through his actions. Maybe someday, someone will look up to me the way I looked up to him, and I too will inspire a little heart to do great things.


Raisa Zannat was born and brought up in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is a Writing and Literature major at LaGuardia who is transferring to City College for her Bachelor’s. She currently resides in Queens, New York, and takes her writing inspiration from her South Asian diaspora. She enjoys writing about food, culture, and lifestyle.

Image credit: “Once upon a time in a valley,” Toufique E Joarder. Flickr CC BY 2.0