Senselessness in Suburbia: a flash fiction

(Note: This is a quick short story in response to Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge on 5/12/14. Please let me know what you think!)



Senselessness in Suburbia

Ellen opened her eyes and blinked until the chair rungs came into focus. Her head ached and she felt nauseous. She lifted her right hand to the painful spot on the top of her head and groaned softly.

She used her other hand to slowly push up into a sitting position. She was on the floor of her kitchen. How did I get here?

She looked around slowly. Her hand flew to her mouth. Jim was lying on the floor behind her. She moved to sit beside him and touched his face. It was bruised, one eye swollen shut, his lip split and bleeding. “Oh! The Borderlands expire thanks to the hundred violins.”

Wait. What? She had meant to ask if he was alright. She tried again, “A poetic pattern retains inertia.” What the heck? Something is very wrong. I’m not making any sense. She stroked Jim’s cheek but there was no response.

Using the chair beside her, Ellen climbed to her feet then sat as her vision threatened to short circuit and her stomach lurched. The kitchen was in disarray, drawers pulled out, and she could see into the next room that it was similarly trashed. What had happened? She couldn’t remember. “The expression of classification is connected to the culture of corporeality.” And something was seriously wrong with her though she seemed to be thinking clearly.

She needed help but she couldn’t call 911 if she couldn’t talk. Mark! The next door neighbor was a doctor.

Ellen made her way out the back door and staggered across the yard in her fluffy slippers and terry robe. She banged on the back door with the side of her fist until it hurt but there was no response.

Nick! Nick was halfway down the street and he was a podiatrist but surely he had gone through medical training. She looked back at her own house then turned and went along the side of the neighbor’s house to get to the sidewalk. Need to hurry but I can’t afford to pass out.

Along the front of houses, the well-manicured lawns were empty in the too bright mid-morning sun and the birds chirped too loudly. She could hear a lawn mower somewhere but couldn’t tell where. Which house was Nick’s? It was yellow with white trim, she remembered that. She walked along, pausing to put a hand on a tree trunk whenever her head swam too much. She found Nick and Marina’s house and went up the walk. There was no answer here either.

What now? Tears threatened as her head pounded so that she could hardly think. She snuffled and headed back toward her own house. Need to check on Jim. Maybe if she dialed 911 they would trace the call and come even if she couldn’t explain?

The hum of a car coming up the street behind her made Ellen stop and turn around, hope rising. It was a police cruiser! She stepped into the street and waved her arms. The car slowed to a stop in front of her.

The passenger door opened and a young female officer stepped out and came around the car. “What’s the problem, Ma’am?”

She clasped her hands together as if praying or pleading with the young officer to understand her. Please, you have to listen to me. “The criminal disappears after the inventor.” Her face crumpled. No! No! No! Why was she saying that? Those weren’t the words screaming in her mind to get out. Why couldn’t she say them? She forced her feelings under control. No! She would not give up.

The older male officer in the car leaned out. “What’s going on? Is she a bag lady?”

The younger officer looked at her then spoke over her shoulder. “No, I don’t think so, Sarge. Too well put together, good haircut and color. I think you better call an ambulance. She might be having a stroke.”

Ellen reached out and grasped the young officer’s arm. She tugged at her, trying to pull her toward the house.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the young officer said. “My name is Theresa. I don’t understand but I’m going to do everything I can to help you.”

Ellen tugged at Theresa’s arm, and turned to point to her own house, then grabbed the young woman’s hand and raised it to the top of her own head, tipping forward to show the bruise.

Theresa’s eyes went wide. “Okay, okay, I think I get it.” She called back over her shoulder. “Sarge, she’s got quite a wallop on her head. I think I better follow her. Somebody else might be hurt.”

“Okay, I’m right behind you.”

Ellen drew her down the sidewalk by the hand. She heard the Sargeant following. She led them around back but when she tried the doorknob, she realized the door had closed behind her and locked. She gave a wordless cry of frustration.

“Is this your house?” Theresa asked.

Tears welling in her eyes again, Ellen nodded and pointed to the gap between the curtains in the door’s window, one hand on the other woman’s shoulder to draw her closer.

Theresa leaned in and looked. “Sarge, I think I see someone’s legs on the floor.”

“Let’s get it open,” he agreed.

They stepped back. Theresa broke and cleared the window glass with her baton then reached in to turn the knob.

As soon as the door opened, Ellen rushed in and knelt beside Jim, crooning as she stroked his hair.

Theresa checked his vitals then turned to her partner. “He’s still alive.”

He nodded and spoke into his shoulder mounted walkie-talkie. “Dispatch, we have a man down inside the residence.”

“It’s going to be okay,” Theresa told Ellen. “Help is on the way.”

Ellen nodded and let the tears flow as she held Jim’s hand. It was going to be okay.



  1. May 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of pieces that incorporate the sentences by using them as nonsense. Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels a little cheap. Your version worked very well and fit logically into the story.

    It would be terrifying to be able to think logically but to only have nonsense come out. Well done.

    • melorajohnson said,

      May 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks. I knew someone who had a type of aphasia and it popped into my head. I’ve thought many times about how something like this would be terrifying in it’s own right but to have someone depending on you communicating was an interesting twist to my thinking. Glad you liked it!

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