In honor of summertime, I thought I would post the following essay. It won first place in the flash fiction category, the prompt being the heat of summer..
SWEET ENDINGS by Cherie Fruehan
I can’t remember when I died. Well, not the exact moment anyway. I certainly recall the day. Ungodly hot. On the day of my death, the summer air was abnormally thick and stagnant, the type of environment I wouldn’t dare expose myself to…ever. I hated summer. She was a sadist who took pleasure in draping her steaming hot blanket over us, holding it down, attempting to suffocate us all.
I was not alone in my indignation, for there were others with me. We were all captive, within the same cramped space, hiding, trying to keep cool, trying to avoid our eventual fate. A fate that would soon become glaringly obvious. Temporarily shielded from the sweltering atmosphere, we remained boxed within four windowless walls, shoulder to shoulder, with little room to move about. No view to the outside world, the sound of the crashing waves were the only hint as to where we were. We were imprisoned, but at least it was cool within our confines. Chilly, even, as speckles of frost lined the walls. The air was fresh and crisp, almost sweet-smelling. A direct contrast to the hellish world outside.
Every time the door to our shelter opened, I winced, shielding my eyes from the blazing sun, as its fiery orb pulsated in the hazy sky, threatening to end my life; all our lives.
I scolded myself when I thought about the others. It was every man for himself in our sanctuary from the sun. I knew I had to push the others out of my mind. It was the only way I was going to survive. I needed to figure out a way. However, I was not in control, for it was the sentinel at the door who held our fate in his hands. Every time the door opened, our captor would remove one, sometimes two, of my brothers and sisters and send them out to be devoured in the cruel world by those who had no respect for our kind. Sometimes, the guard would visit several times within the hour. Other times, there would be a lull in the action. I couldn’t figure the pattern.
Each time the door opened, I tried to make myself invisible, to be inconspicuous, to not draw attention. My plan seemed to be working. I hadn’t been summoned. I appeared to be safe in a population that dwindled by the hour. Unfortunately, I had the audacity to exhale.
As soon as I thought I had averted crisis, it happened. I heard the mumbling of voices on the other side of the door…something about choosing. Suddenly the door opened and our captor grabbed me, along with another brother of mine. I was frozen with fear. I could not move, as we were pulled out of our air-conditioned environment and into the stifling atmosphere. Sweat immediately began to burn my eyes, as I listened to the conversation.
“Which one?” the guard asked the visitor.
And that’s when I saw him, the one who requested me. There he was, staring at us, a hunger in his wild eyes as they flitted between the two of us. He raised his chubby arm, pointing at me with his fat finger as he licked his upper lip. The guard pushed me forward. “This one?”
“Yeah,” answered my new master.
The guard shoved my brother back into the shelter and slammed the door. I was devastated. Dizzy from the heat, my vision blurred as sweat dripped into my eyes. My master paid the guard and I was relinquished into his hands. His dirty hands. They were all over me. He looked me up and down, assessing every inch. I couldn’t think straight. I was furious, I was frightened, I was melting in the brutal sun.
“You’re my favorite.” He said.
Was he trying to soften me up? In any other situation, I could be sweet on the inside but not today. He wasn’t going to get the best of me. I was determined to preserve my hard protective shell.
Alas, my determination found it difficult to withstand the scorching sun! Weak and waning, I wanted to cry, yet I was adamant to not break, as my master tore off my wrap - the only thing protecting me from the sinister fireball in the sky.
There I was, naked, sweating, as he drew his face nearer to me, his lips moist and plump like cherries pulled from the cooler. His foul breath nauseated me, as he licked me.
“Mmmmm…” he said.
I winced. I wished myself dead. In that instant, as if he read my mind, he opened his gap-toothed mouth and took a bite of me. He had granted my wish. I heard the crunch and feared the worst as he gnashed his teeth. I didn’t feel a thing. Correction. I did feel one thing. Hatred.
I hated that bitch, summer. I hated the oppressive sun. I hated being an ice cream bar in the hands of an eight-year-old murderer.