Below is a little piece of flash fiction, coming in at just under 1200 words. It might be a little lengthy for flash, but I didn’t feel it qualified as short story length.
The photo shown was my prompt, and I found it here: https://thejohnfox.com/2016/05/picture-writing-prompts/
Hope you enjoy this quick read. Comments are welcome, and if you like it enough to share, I would greatly appreciate it. 🙂
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The wooden shed had been painted cyan years ago, though no one could be sure who the painter had been. Over time, wear began to show on the shed in the form of knicks and chips, sun-soaked streaks and swollen patches where rain had collected on the roof. Countless people had used the shed for different things, and despite the storms it endured, the shed remained firmly planted. No one considered painting over the vibrant cyan. It shone despite its various scars.
A rusted iron padlock hung from a bent nail on a corner plank of the shed. The lock was left open as if someone had neglected to snap it over the door. The outline of the lock left an inverted shadow against the paint—a spot that had been shielded from sunlight.
Perhaps the shed door standing ajar was what enticed the little boy. Perhaps it was the cool brightness of the paint, and how the light filtering through maple leaves glittered upon the shed in a dazzling dance. In any case, the small boy was intrigued, and he clumsily bobbed through unmowed grass toward it, abandoning his clean-faced mother who surveyed the rest of the yard (“Oh, what a nice space.”) When he reached the structure, he used all of his little strength to tug the door open wide enough to slip inside.
The inside was dark and cool, with spots of sunlight spilling through cracks in the roof. An earthy scent filled the space, but the shed was otherwise empty. A few shelves along one wall held nothing but a thin layer of dust and dirt. A small crater in the corner snatched the boy’s attention, and as he neared it he felt the air become cooler still. In this spot, the wooden floor had been splintered, and a small dirt-filled hole was left exposed. He stuck a hand into the soft earth, as kids are wont to do, and wiggled his fingers about.
A hushed giggle chimed through the enclosed space, tinkling against the walls like fine china. The boy wrenched his arm out of the earth and fell back. He looked around, searching for the source of the sound, and was met with nothing but a gust of wind that caused the shed to creak. A voice behind him made him shout in surprise.
“Oh, there you are!”
The boy’s mother poked her head into the shed and spoke with laughter in her voice. The boy stood and wiped his hands together.
“This little shed will come in handy, don’t you think?”
The boy nodded and scuttled back to his mother, taking her hand. She smiled down at her boy, and together they left the shed and walked back across the yard.
Eventually, as the new family settled into their home, the shed began to see a new life. The shelves slowly filled with tools and pots, seeds and jars. The grass of the yard was trimmed and watered. A row of rose bushes was planted along the side of the shed, and the following spring they bloomed into bursts of dark pink, the cyan wall contrasting like a gleaming smile. Throughout all of this, the boy took to spending his time in the shed, which the family left unlocked.
On one occasion, when the mother was looking for vegetable seeds for her garden, the boy hovered over the hole in the shed’s corner. He absently pushed the brim of his too-big garden hat—a gift from his mother, deeming him a very good yard work helper—out of his eyes as he focused on his task. The mother hummed an indistinct tune as she peered over his shoulder to see her son burying one of his toy animals in the dirt. As he did so, he whispered something to himself, or to the dirt, or perhaps to the shed.
“Son, why are you doing that?” she asked without reprimand, sounding merely curious.
The boy beamed up at her.
“It’ll be safe here!”
The mother shrugged, thinking that children would be children, and beckoned her child to follow her back to the garden.
The boy followed obediently but stopped before exiting and turned back to face the depths of the shed, smiling.
It carried on. The boy would visit the shed often, whispering his thoughts to no one in particular. Sometimes his voice would be pitched with excitement, like when his first few days of kindergarten turned out to be more fun than he anticipated. Or like when he had a friend over for the first time, and the shed became their secret hideout.
Sometimes his voice would tremble slightly, like when a severe thunderstorm had cut the power. Or like when he couldn’t figure out why his mom was so distressed.
Sometimes, when he was older, his whispers turned to tears, and his voice faltered. How could he articulate the heartbreak of rejection? How could he describe the helplessness, the confusion, the insecurities born of a fading matriarch? How could he sit there, in his cold little haven, and confess to teenage debauchery? Sometimes he didn’t have the words, so he poured out weepy thoughts instead. They pooled in the shed like rainwater.
Once, the boy had burst from the shed, anger bubbling up his throat like bile. He grabbed the padlock from where it hung and looped the shackle through the metal on the shed’s door. The U-shaped loop of the lock was rusted beyond reason and would not budge. The boy tried to twist it into place as hard as he could, but eventually, the corroded metal won out by simply snapping. Frustrated, the boy tossed the broken padlock into the rose bushes. He sat in front of the shed, seething without seeing. For a while he just sat, listening to the rustling of the maple tree and the chirping of the bugs and birds. He wondered how long the shed had been there, and why his mom never painted over it, or attempted to patch its holes and cracks.
Over the years, the shed remained resilient. It suffered a few more knicks and chips. A corner of the roof caved after a particularly bad storm. The hardened shell of a hornet’s nest remained stuck under the eave of one side. There was a small dot of singed wood where the boy, as a burgeoning preteen, had experimented with cigarettes. Along the inner wall of the shed, just above the small hole of buried secrets, the word “safe” had been carved. But the shed had sturdy walls and had seen worse, and the vibrancy of its cyan exterior did not fade.
The interior was constantly changing, as always. Families would come and go. Memories soaked into the wood walls as a varnish, giving off an ineffable gleam of time passed. Every childhood game echoed and rose from the exposed earth as if a ghost in a graveyard. Every promise made, every tear spilled, every kiss shared lingered in the air of the shed as if in cold storage. As if pressed between sealed lips. As if padlocked against a cruel world.
Despite everything, the cyan shed stood strong.