Every two weeks writers have the chance to take part in Soliloquies Anthology’s Flash Fiction contest. We publish a new single-word writing prompt as a starting point, and you write a story in 300 words or less. This winning story uses the prompt clog.
I can see them through the gate. They move with an unsure footing, some sinking into the mud. The babies are crying and the mothers are shushing. The only visible faces are those looking back with wide eyes and trembling lips.
“Mama,” I whisper.
Her eyes are narrow. She isn’t listening.
“Mama,” I say louder.
She takes my hand, still looking forward. “Hush, baby.”
The uniformed men stand along the gate and at its rusted entrance. Their rifles swing lazily at their hips, dangling off their strong shoulders. The black metal glints in the sunlight and we all steal glances. I doubt if any of us has ever seen one so quiet.
We shuffle forward a few feet. I can feel necks stretching behind me trying to see over the crowd.
“Let us through,” they whisper.
“Let us through,” they hiss.
The clog loosens some and I’m behind the woman talking to the guard. He looks indifferent towards her sobs, her broken face, her sad children. She crosses through the taught iron, dragging her youngest to the ground as she falls into the dirt. The older boy pulls at her sleeve as tears slide across his cheeks.
Mama speaks quickly and softly. We cross under the harsh stare of the guard and I look to the ground for the black line Mama pointed to on the old map back home. All I can see is scuffed dirt. No grass.
I turn and look back. The crowd stretches behind us, fat and slow. Mama said the whole country would show up, all of us one big group. I wonder if this is how they think of us. I wonder if they think of the gate and each of us passing through one at a time.
Andrew Catone has been writing since he was five years old. At first, he wanted to become a professional novelist. Get paid to write! But after pruning his aspirations and analyzing his prospects, his biggest dream in life is to just quit his day job…and he knows he doesn’t have to be a writer to do that.