Flash fiction by Tina Konstant
“Thousands, Baby. Gilly-googleplex-millionopsis.”
Beanie giggled, rolled down the short hill and landed in a flowerbed, then looked back at the sky. “That’s not a real number!” she squealed.
“It is!” Casey rolled down the hill and squished into the muddy flowerbed next to her six-year-old child.
Wet grass soaked her shirt making it cool and sticky. “Ask your dad. He’ll tell you.”
“Where’s Daddy tonight?” Beanie clung to her mother’s arm and searched the fireflies for the one that shone brighter than all the others combined.
Casey pointed her finger up to the skies. “Through the fireflies, all the way up. There, you see him blink? See him wink?”
“He’s up high tonight.”
“He can still see you. He can still tickle you!”
Casey rolled over and wrapped her arms around her little one, curled her into a ball and lifted her up.
“Daddy,” Beanie shrieked. “Mummy’s making up numbers again!”
Making up numbers.
That night, 57 years ago, clung to Casey’s memories like dew at dawn. Just three short days later, her Beanie fled to the safety of the fireflies to be with her father, leaving Casey to fight the gilly-googleplex-millionopsis demons who had chased her there.
Over the years Casey had often wondered what it all meant. How something so precious and perfect and new could be devoured by such evil. And exactly what it took to make it right. To even the score.
She’d lived 59 years without her husband and 57 without her child.
Now she was 63. She’d done some things in that time she regretted. Like not being strong enough or smart enough or brave enough to save her baby. She’d done other things she did not regret. Never will. She paid the price. Forty years locked in a room with no moonlight or fireflies. She didn’t mind. She liked the silence. It gave her time to think and remember.
The numbers she remembered weren’t made up. They were real.
The four boys who took Beanie? They went to hell. Along with their brothers and sisters. All of them. 19 in total. Each one, a firefly in the night sky.
Casey smiled at the guard. “It certainly is, Walter.”
Strapped to the bed, a syringe in her arm, Casey smiled.
“Anything you’d like to say?” the warden asked.
Casey lifted her head and looked at the mothers and the fathers of the children whose lives she had taken in exchange for her Beanie. No, she had no words. The pain and fear in their faces was enough. Casey smiled. Some of the mothers gasped and gripped their chests. They’d made the demons that took her Beanie. They had a price to pay too. Locked in their own nightmares with no moonlight or fireflies.
She let her head rest on the pillow then looked up, way up, beyond the lights and the ceiling and the dark, right into the night sky. “There you are, little one. There you are.”