Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and fifth-seventh piece in this series. This week’s is a 500-worder by Samantha Wilcox.
Sweetness and spice swept my senses as I lifted the lid. So powerful was the hit, I let my eyes close and breathed in, before looking up into the sky. The bright white as my sight adjusted soon dulled and I found myself beneath a hazy blanket, still standing on the street where I found it; a hush enveloped me where I stood holding the ornate vessel. Soon, though, the busy world around me broke the spell, its many voices strangling the air. I closed the lid carefully and negotiated the crowd to reach the shadows, away from the calling, sizzling and spitting.
I sat on rock shaded by Katsuras; I was on the outskirts of a park. Green stretched behind me scattered with white rocks, tall trees, twisted wooden bridges. It was beautiful. I breathed deeply; In…out… Something about this find was special, I felt it like a thrill as I let my breath release and re-lifted the lid.
Looking into the depths of the velvet lining, I saw the outline of another, much smaller, box. Its glossed veneer glinted in the darkness; gold leaf spiralled to its hinges. My desire to open it mounted but just as I moved to, the sound of an erhu stopped me. It was close, perhaps behind me, though when I turned I found I was alone.
‘Hello?’ I asked anyway, my voice tentative. Was this mysterious player the owner of the boxes? When no answer came and the music continued I felt wary. I placed the boxes down on the rock beside me and stood to leave. As I stepped away, however, I felt the pull of the boxes and the music stopped. My agitation grew as a small man appeared from behind trees. He approached me and I shivered, uncertain. Then he was before me, gesturing to the boxes, smiling.
‘I-I don’t understand’ I stammered. But I realised that I did. I did understand. It was a sign. I was supposed to find these boxes.. why? The man chuckled softly. I had felt lost; I had come to China searching, though I had not been aware.
Crack. Woken from my reverie, I saw the man disappear behind the trees. I reached out for the boxes; as I touched the wood of the first I felt my body lighten, my heart lift. I sat to pull out the small glossed treasure, stroking the hinges as I raised its lid.
The shock of colour as the tiny butterfly flew free from its confines held me raptured. Blues and crimsons and yellows and golds, silvers and emeralds and an array of oranges, warm as saffron and bright as apricot. When it had flown around a little, it hovered, poised above me, and so I held out my hand. And there it flew, landing on my flesh, soft and firm. The spice and the sweetness filled the air around us.
“Hello, little friend’ I said. And the peace of the world settled in my soul.
I asked Samantha what prompted this piece and she said…