I thought I would try an experiment. While I didn’t care for what I wrote in the flash fiction workshop at Boskone, I did feel inspired enough to try again. So here’s a picture I took this morning, after letting it sit in the back of my mind, here’s what came out when I started typing:
I’m thinking I might write a story about a man in the woods, lost. He has only a plush fur coat to keep him warm. He sees a trail of paw prints, the most perfect little cat prints pressed into a thin layer of dry snow. Other than that, no sign of any other creature in the wood.
The cat reminds him of something, he’s not sure what. He doesn’t remember how he got here. There was a bright light, a small creature dashing across a dark road, the screech of tires, and something smashing into him. But it wasn’t in that order. The memory is all muddled, the search, the hunger driving him on through the cold.
His hands are cold. His feet are like ice. With stiff fingers, he rummages in the coat, but he doesn’t even have pockets, let alone gloves. Finally, he sits down on the cold ground and pulls the coat around him. He even finds a long, fluffy scarf lying nearby to wrap around his feet.
While he waits for the feeling to return to his extremities, he decides that he has seen these trees before. That one, with the broken branches and mottled white bark, he definitely passed when he first started walking. So where are his foot prints? All he sees are these damned cat prints!
He is so hungry. He never used to let himself get hungry. There were always little sweets in his pockets. He sits for a while dreaming of chocolates and maple candies and licorice sticks. Odd little wine gums and sour apple chews.
The hunger gets him moving again. He needs to find help. He turns away from the cat prints and emerges from the woods into a tidy back yard, swept clean of snow. Filled with hope he hurries toward the house, only to hear the incessant cries of hungry cats.
They call, they call, and out onto the back porch, an old woman comes. She seems impossibly tall. Her arms are laden with bowls. Even when she bends to set down the bowls and fill them, the man still has to look up at her. He presses forward, brushing his sides against the cats and tries to speak but his voice creaks.
“You’re new.” She bends down to offer her hand, but he shrinks back. “It’s all right, dear. I won’t hurt you.”
He leaps onto the rail, and to his horror, discovers he has plenty of room. He balances easily. He waves his fluffy tail. His long flowing coat trails by his feet as he crouches there. That light was an ending. The woods were a beginning.
Those tracks, those tracks in the woods, he thinks. They were mine.