Source: For 2019’s first flash fiction post, I’m going to share the story that placed 1st in the The Writer’s Workout’s September 2018 500 contest.
Prompt: Write a story embodying the concept of depression in under 500 words.
I can’t hear the music. It used to play nonstop inside my head, each new moment stirring up melodies. Most people perceive color through sight, but I found it inside song. Now the world is gray.
I stare up at my ceiling. The light fixture above my bed hangs loose at one end. The sun seeping in through my curtains blanches my room and stings my eyes. At least it’s comfortable beneath the blankets, safe, something like pleasant. I should get up, but I already know how the day will go – I’ll sit down at the piano and feel just as blocked as I did yesterday. Time will slip away. Night will come again. I’ll toss and turn. Repeat, repeat, repeat, like the notes in a song in which I’ve forgotten the next verse.
My stomach growls for the third time. I can’t ignore the hunger pains anymore, clenching like my body wants to curl and fold itself up until it can blow away on the breeze, taking my mind with it. I wouldn’t mind floating through the air, aimless and at rest. At least I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.
With a sigh, I push myself up on my palms. Something is wrong. I’m too weighed down. I look back to see my shadow staring at me.
“Stay,” my shadow orders.
I try to rise, but my shadow sticks to the bed. It’s heavy, as if all of the void is condensed inside its ink – all of that vast emptiness we spend our lives trying to forget.
“I have to try,” I tell it.
“It’s not worth it,” it tells me. “Any song you write will be erased by time. Anyone who listens will forget it. Nothing worth anything can come out of your useless soul.”
My phone buzzes on my bedside table. “Hey,” a text flashes on the screen. “I picked up tickets for your recital next week. Looking forward to it!”
…I was looking forward to it, too.
“You’ll disappoint her. You’ll disappoint yourself. You’ll fail.”
I pull forward with all of my strength, and my shadow rips free from my bed.
My fingers summon the notes of a familiar song. It sounds blank at first, all of its colors gone, but I keep playing. Even if the song seems like silence to me, maybe someone else will hear what I used to.
I tap out the chorus, and for a moment, my walls turn blue, my hands turn tan, the sunlight turns gold. Then the gray returns.
I smile, just a bit. Colors flicker like the stars in the void. Even if I can’t always see those stars through the fog, I can hear them in the echoes of my notes. Maybe one day the abyss will be the night sky again – not empty, but full of planets, fire, light. For now, one note after another is enough.
I hope you enjoyed this brief story! If you’d like to read more, members of my email list get first access to updates and sneak peeks.