This weeks #FridayFlash was originally published in a now defunct e-mag called Evolve Journal. It turns away from horror and moves in a more real, more disturbing direction. I’ve done some slight editing and am considering using parts of it for a new story/novella/novel that has been growing legs of late. This is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it.

Remote Control

Sheriff Jim Wilson brought the news with tears in his eyes.

“What happened? Where are they?” Dave asked.

“I’m so sorry Dave,” Jim’s chin dropped as he fought to control his emotions.

“Is it Dana–the girls?” Dave choked on the question and he thought he might be sick.

“Damn it, tell me.” He grabbed the sheriff’s jacket. “Please tell me they’re ok,” he said, sobbing.

“There was an accident.  Dana lost control. The car rolled several tim—.”

Dave could barely breathe through the sobs. He collapsed against the sheriff, “No, No No-no.”

Jim held him awhile; it was all he could do.

When Dana left treatment, claiming sobriety, Dave had hoped for reconciliation. Now he slumped to the couch thinking how much his hopes had cost him.

“Did you know she was using again?” Jim asked.

“She was high? Her meetings—Oh God—Jim, I let them go. I let them go with her, how do I live with that?” He looked up for an answer.

No answer came and they sat in silence. Finally, Jim said the only thing he could, “I’m sorry Dave,” and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Just go, please. Just go.”

The sheriff left, but returned the following morning. He knocked on the door. Dave’s hair was matted. His eyes, bloodshot and swollen, flashed to the Ziploc bag in Jim’s hand. Dave didn’t speak, just took the bag and shut the door.  He didn’t want comfort, his pain was personal, and it was all he had.

He sat on the couch and looked at the bag for a long time. Shelley’s doll was damaged; a deep scratch ran down the side her face. Sophia’s bear was unmarked. How tightly had the twins held on to these treasures in the final moments? Did they feel each other’s fear as well as their own? Finally, he opened the bag and held his face to the opening. The smell unhinged him. He pressed the bear tighter and tighter to his face, and screamed. The bear muffled his cries. Finally, his face red and his voice hoarse, he slept. The doll and the bear slept with him, still in the bag.

When the attendants lowered the small caskets into the ground, he stayed until he was alone. The accident, the wake, the guilt, all served as a cold blanket that weighed on him, crushing his very will. He stood in front of the small grave markers holding all that was left of his life. He had intended to leave the bag, but he could not. He walked home, and the rain fell disguising his tears.

He settled deep into the couch. For the last week the bag sat on top of the television, a talisman of memories. He wanted to hold the smell in, savor it, and remember it. Each time he went to the bag and opened it, he knew he was losing little pieces of them. Yet, he couldn’t help himself.

He stood at the refrigerator door, thinking of missed opportunities to spend time with the girls. Opportunities that were now lost forever. He grabbed a beer, drank it, set the empty can down, and just took the box. On the way to the living room, he took a bag of Cheetos from the pantry. Sophia’s favorite, he thought, turning on the television.

He drank until he could no longer sit upright, felt around in the cushions, couldn’t find the remote, and decided it wasn’t important. He prayed the dreams would stay away as he drifted off. Once more, his dreams were of the twins, taken from him so soon.

They were learning to swing on their own. He was proud, but felt a loss. They would no longer need his strong hands to push them. He watched, smiling, as tears streamed down his face. He was so happy to see them again.

 The whine of an approaching engine violated the calm. He ran, but moved too late, he was only three steps from the porch when the car bounced through the privacy fence. It bore down on the girls.

Sophia was down. Shelly was up, legs kicking to propel her ever higher.

Too slow, I’m too slow.

 He saw Dana, her knuckles white on the wheel.

 “You bitch,” he screamed. “No!”

Dave tripped on the raised stone pathway and fell. He heard the screech of metal, and lifted his head. A white sandal landed in front of him, its buckles busted.

He woke, the pillow was wet on his cheek, and an unvoiced scream deafening in his head. The arms of the couch were smeared orange; the empty bag of Cheetos lay on the carpet, and the room was littered with empty cans. The dream was a lie, but it might as well of been truth. He hated Dana for both.

Dave sat up and walked to the T.V. He picked up the Ziploc again, feeling the softness of the contents through the plastic covering. He was about to open it again when he felt the hard object inside the bag. It was the remote, trapped within the bag. Since the accident, he had found the remote in all of its familiar hiding places. Under cushions and pillows, on top of cabinets and dressers, and now the girls had found a new one.

He took it out, realized the T.V. was off and almost turned it back on. Instead, he left the remote, took the bag, and walked to the door. The summer sun warmed his skin as he walked outside.

“It’s ok girls, Daddy will be alright, I love you.” He thought he might be in time, but he didn’t want them to see him this way anymore.

He sat in the middle swing, his feet scraping the bare spots in the grass their small feet had made. Tears coursed down his cheeks, and his throat tightened as the breeze pushed the swings on either side into motion.swing