Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear meeee. Happy birthday to me. Now here’s some Friday flash fiction, courtesy of the birthday boy/old man.
In one direction, the road stretches out towards a dust-hazed horizon. From the other, a walker approaches. It’s a woman, evident from the contours of the thick coat she is wearing, but her face is hidden beneath a fur-lined hood and large tinted goggles. A faded scarf is pulled up over her mouth and nose.
There is no sound but the crunching of grit beneath her boots, and even this ceases as she halts, fists clenched around the straps of her rucksack.
Ten feet up the road from the walker, a sign reads ‘CITY LIMITS’. She looks at this for a few minutes. Then she twists her head around to look back over her shoulder. Beneath the scarf, her lip curls. The place she has left behind isn’t worthy of the name, although it’s safe to describe it as limiting.
She turns back to the sign and sighs, the scarf fluttering as she exhales. She slips the rucksack off her aching shoulders and drops it by the roadside, then sits on it.
From her pocket she pulls something small and creased. She unfolds it, and pushes her goggles and hood up off her face so she can look at the well-thumbed memento. It is faded sepia, an ancient photograph that has outlived generations. It depicts a serious-looking man, sat on a hand-made chair in a wooden hut. Behind the man a small hearth fire burns. In his right hand is a long rifle; the other clenches into a fist that he holds before his breast.
The man’s eyes are long-faded, but the photograph’s owner imagines the pride that once shone in them. She smiles a little before refolding the photograph and slipping it back into her coat.
Standing, she readjusts the goggles over her eyes and pulls the heavy hood back up. Shouldering the rucksack once more, she turns her back on the city and resumes walking. The sign is soon left far behind.