Breathe in, Breathe out

This is a piece of micro-fiction I wrote for a new NYC Midnight microfiction competition. My prompts were ‘suspense and/or thriller’, it had to include the act of writing in a diary, and the word ‘condition’. I found it difficult to constrain my ideas and try to evoke the genre of suspense in so few words, and to include language features was also tricky. In the end I stumbled on the motif of breathing which hopefully gives it a bit of depth.


Breathe in, Breathe out

The air inside the church filled every set of lungs with lead, and the candle on the altar burned precious oxygen from the air. The detective who had worked the case was here, but the rest were victims who had come to see cruelty finally rendered powerless. Some held hands for strength, others shivered even though the air was warm. The old woman didn’t deserve to die in that condition, a knife under the ribs, left alone to bleed out, but there were no wet cheeks in the room. They had done all their sobbing years ago into stained sheets and hard mattresses.

Only her daughter Katherine sat apart from the rest, as the priest delivered his reading. When she came onto the chancel to deliver the eulogy, she lifted up a leather-bound diary. Disbelief. Shock. Hushed whispers settled to a tense silence. The diary had never been found.

‘My mother wrote in this diary everyday…including the day she died.’

She opened to the final entry.

‘The name of the person who last visited her is written here…’

This evoked a collective intake of breath. One of the detectives stood and moved toward the chancel. At this, as if she had rehearsed it, Katherine tore out the page, turned and thrust it into the candle flame. It yellowed, then shriveled to black. At that moment a gentle breeze stirred through the church. The ash was scattered like otherworldly glitter and lead was lifted from lungs.

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