Friday, August 26, 2011

Open Water - Flash Fiction

Copyright Lisa Vooght 2011
Taken aboard the schooner Sultana.

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Open Water
I watch her, high in the rigging, dancing among the lines, framed by a sky so blue that it hurts, about to unleash the canvas which will capture the wind. She is agile and sure; there is no need for me to fear. The one thing I know is that she will not fall unless she chooses to.

“That girl's crazy,” remarks the guy next to me, redolent of fried onions and sunscreen. I know that he is willing her to fall, he's one of those people who watches Nascar hoping for a fiery collision and discusses a hometown tragedy with just the right note of sadness to disguise his vicarious enjoyment of public mourning.

No, crazy is chasing invisible rats with a broom while she crouches in a corner of the bedroom in terror. Crazy is taking a hammer to the stereo receiver because it is sending her messages in the dead of night.

I say nothing, and leave my eyes turned skyward.

Sometimes we climb the old coastal lookout tower, and I watch as she stands on the railing and sways above the sand, arms stretched toward the sea. I don't know why, but the only time she feels secure, whole, happy, is when her ties to this world are as fragile as possible. And nearby the sea, always the sea, it's saline pulse echoing her own.

I feel that same throb when she is next to me, a tender quivering creature who slips in and out of my grasp with fluid grace as the mood takes her.

My parents and friends express the same thoughts and fears. They want to know why I continue to care for her myself, why I don't send her away “for her own good”. It is just a matter of time before she leaves. I should spare myself the pain, the worry, the unpleasantness of catering to her fears and visions, her tempers and her meltdowns, changing soiled clothes and shampooing her hair because she's afraid it's full of snakes.

I watch her, high above me.

The ocean is dark, and deep, and full of mystery. It hides creatures both loathsome and sublime. Stretching to the point where sky meets earth and future meets past, it can lift us to incredible heights and stomach churning lows. It gives life and it takes life; it is life.

And so it is with love.

Word count: 402
Definition: Open Water – water that is unprotected, well-exposed, and influenced by a variety of often dangerous environmental conditions. At quite a distance from shore.

Offered as both a Friday Flash and Romantic Friday Writers post. Comment code is always FCA. Thanks.
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Don't forget to check out my Rule Of Three Blogfest page for a sneak preview of the writer's project coming this fall.


  1. Li, this is so amazingly beautiful. This line was my absolute favorite: "I don't know why, but the only time she feels secure, whole, happy, is when her ties to this world are as fragile as possible." As a traveler, I seem to know a lot of people like this, people who live on the edges of cliffs because that's when they feel most themselves. They always say that they feel most "alive," but deeper than that, I think it's how you say it -- there's a security there for them, a wholeness and maybe even happiness. I don't know why either, but I can relate and this piece will have me reflecting more on why I am the way I am. Thank you so much for putting this together and for your talent with words. I know that I couldn't have expressed it any better myself.

  2. Really enjoyed this Flash Fiction :) Looking forward to more from you ..


  3. Oooh this is so rich, like the ripples in water when one object is dropped in but which continue to swell in a wider diameter.

    Loved the part about her seeking to break the connection with terra firma, to pulse at a different rhtyhm

    marc nash

  4. Dear Li,
    This is such an amazingly beautiful text, but I am not sure I understand it. Is the 'she' in your story a human being or an animal or something else? The labels tell me that she may be a mental patient. Oooh, what a difficult relationship!
    No, I don't really understand everything in your text, but I love it, just the same. It speaks to the heart. Love is not always something that can be explained.

    Gosh, you sure are a good writer. You give me goose-bumps!

    Best wishes,

    Anna's RFW No. 16 'Smooth Sailing'

  5. "SHE," is irrelevant! A beautiful piece of work here dear girl. For some one who once claimed "Not to be a writer" you sure have me fooled. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Sam - I think it varies with the individual, of course. For some, it's the sheer adrenaline rush, for others, the sense of accomplishment after mastering a challenging situation and/or one's fear. For this character, it's freedom from the overwhelming input of life in general. There is nothing but pure physical sensory input; wind, water, sky.
    I'm glad you loved it - it's the reason for writing.

    Darlene - thank you, and thank you for dropping by!

    Marc - you hit the nail on the end. Sometimes the drumbeat of society is deafening; those who seek to escape it by following a different pulse are called "mad".

    Anna - I was more or less playing with the word "crazy" in all of its different contexts. Yes, she is a human and suffering from mental illness. While I certainly don't agree with using the word crazy or other derogatory terms which stigmatize those suffering from mental or emotional issues, it is nevertheless still used in the general population and I never shy away from reality in portraying fictional characters.

    As a matter of fact, all of these characters are crazy by someone's standards; the bystander for taking pleasure in other people's misery, the boyfriend for being crazy in love with the girl, his parents and friends think he's crazy for sacrificing his life to take care of her, and he thinks they're crazy for wanting him to abandon her.

    And, of course, it's a love story :-)

    Thanks for reading.

  7. Well, Jules, I can only say that you were one of the first believers and so I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. As my funds are low, perhaps you would settle for virtual hugs and some chocolate?

  8. I really like this. I'm drawn both to "her" reaching for freedom, and the "caretaker?" so willing to be there. And can only hope it doesn't end tragically.

  9. Li I love this. It is beautiful. The ideas, the flow, the imagery. Fab! :O)

  10. Most enjoyable to read, I think it is clever to write a fiction in so few words..


  11. Li, this was just beautiful. Simply beautiful. Thank you for letting the words flow to us.

  12. I came in via my phone Li. I agree. This is beautiful. You use some amazing imagery. I love how it begins and ends especially. Fantastic entry.


  13. Very nice! And fried onions and sunscreen is an interesting combination of smells.

  14. This is so full of rich descriptions of both characters, moods and scenery. I could see her at the top of the sails climbing along the rigging or whatever it's all called and those watching her waiting to see if she'd fall.
    A very nice read, thank you.

  15. Crazy needs to be loved too, it's just sad it wears out the one that loves them so much. I hope he continues to find the strength, she does love him, she trusts him, just in her own "crazy" way. You did this very nicely and covered so gracefully so many issues.

  16. I love the rich imagery, especially this mix of smells...salt spray, fried onions, and sunscreen. The emotions between the pair are complex, but explained well in such a short work. Nice!

  17. @Renee - if I were to expand this - no, it wouldn't end tragically.

    @Madeleine - thank you, I'm glad the flow came across.

    @Yvonne - hard work sometimes as well, just as you try and fit experiences into a doazen lines of poetry!

    Stu - thank you. I wanted something beautiful to come from some ugly realities.

    Denise - thanks for checking in via mobile! glad you liked it.

    Alex - unfortunately, I sat next to a guy on bu one time at the beach the description. *makes a face*

    Daydreamertoo - yep, it's the rigging. And I, for one, would have liked to be up there!

    Kwee - thoughtful comment. I hesitated to use the word crazy since it can be derogatory, but I wanted to tell the story honestly.

    Marsha - thank you. I work hard to use the senses and "show, not tell". :-)

  18. Wow! What an incredible mix of emotions and imagery! Great job Li!

  19. Your narration is so point-on and I just love the last paragraph, so poignant. Your description of the characters is so bold and well-worded. Loved this.

  20. Thank you, Rasz. This was one of those stories which formed itself all at once.

    @Ms. Queenly - a nice critique, thank you!

  21. Hopping for Shah's Hop this weekend. I have never written a flash piece. You are brave. LOL


  22. Chuffed you linked this at my hop - a beautiful expression Li. X

  23. Este blog é uma representação exata de competências. Eu gosto da sua recomendação. Um grande conceito que reflete os pensamentos do escritor. Consultoria RH

  24. @Shah - you're welcome

    @instantinsurance - not sure if I translated your comment correctly? The best I can do...
    "This blog is an exact representation of skills. I like your recommendation. A great concept that reflects the thoughts of the writer. HR consulting"