Warning: The flash fiction piece featured in this post is so powerful and deep and poignant that I’ve reread it half-a-dozen times or more. I usually open our blog posts in a slightly formal, detached manner using “we” instead of “I.” But this time, I can’t. The feelings that Scars, by Caitlin Brug, give me are too great for speaking in “we.”
I relate to Brug’s main character, Mara. I know her. At times, I’ve been her.
Grab a box of tissues when you curl up with this one. I’d avoid reading it at work or in a crowded coffee shop – unless you want people passing by asking if you’re okay. Just a suggestion from someone with wet cheeks. My teenager would say that it evokes “all the feels.” Seriously.
I, Blog Editor Jody T. Morse and the universal SRP “we” – including our amazing Founder/Editor Patricia Flaherty Pagan, want to extend copious amounts of gratitude to all of our past SWFFP entrants and winners. You fuel our motivation and excitement about the work we do here at Spider Road Press! Please keep writing, keep reading, and keep connecting through the power of the written word about the complex lives and experiences of female-identifying characters.
Scars by Caitlin Brug
Mara stood at the edge of the cliff, peering down into the glistening sapphire waters below. Normally the thought of standing outside in November wearing nothing but a black bikini would terrify her, but it didn’t today. Nothing mattered today except the dive.
Mara had been a swimmer in high school and ten years ago leaping off the high dive would have come as naturally as walking down the street, but this cliff was a lot taller and steeper than any diving board. Plus, Mara hadn’t swam, much less dove, in a long time. The dark gray of the jagged rocks that formed the cliff appeared black this overcast afternoon and she could taste the salt rising from the surface of the crashing waves below. The chilling sea air didn’t make her shiver, but reinforced a sense of peaceful calm. This was where she belonged.
Not inside her parent’s house, wasting time on arguments that didn’t really matter.
Not in Kev’s arms, which felt comforting at first, but closer up were tracked with needle marks.
Not in the shopping mall, selling vitamins and supplements to narcissists looking to get bigger or stronger or leaner than the guy next to them at the gym.
Not weeping over her daughter’s too-small grave for the thousandth time.
Not confined to an uncomfortable bed of a bland room on the twelfth floor of St. Mary’s with round-the-clock supervision.
No, it was here, surrounded by towering pines and round little pebbles nudging her bare feet. It was feeling serenity for the first time in years and saying good-bye to the scars of her past that brought her to the edge of the cliff. Mara closed her eyes and waited until her mind was blissfully blank. Then, she dove.
The wind rushed against her face, but the sharp cold was a shocking pleasure compared to the numb pain she felt going through the motions each day. She kept her eyes closed but could hear the roaring waters grow stronger as she neared their break. In the brief seconds before she hit sea, she noted that her form was perfect, and for a moment imagined that she was back in high school, about to receive a perfect ten at a competition.
Her hands broke the icy waters first, preparing her face for submersion. There was not even a hint of a splash as she slipped smoothly beneath the surface, quiet as a whisper. The frigid waters felt like a breath of fresh air and her black hair swirled around her head like seaweed. As the darkness of the sea overcame her and her lungs tightened, she thought of everything that tried to drown her in the past; her family, her relationship, her deep, constant grief. Not so long ago, she thought those things would overtake her; that she’d sink to the bottom and become consumed by it all. But this time was different.
As she flipped her body upwards under the water, she opened her eyes a crack and noticed that there was finally sunlight seeping through the surface of the sea. She didn’t rush upward right away because she could feel the freezing numbness healing her tired, broken body as a triumphant rush of euphoria overcame her. The moment couldn’t last though; her lungs quickly complained so she kicked her legs and began to swim to the oxygen awaiting her on top. She broke through the dark depths and took a deep gasp of life.
This time, she resurfaced.
Caitlin Brug is a writer and student from Kenosha, WI. Brug is studying creative writing, English literature, and communication. In her spare time, this talented writer enjoys reading, being outdoors, and hanging out with animals (and sometimes people).
Visit our website submissions page for general submission guidelines for the 2018 Spiders Web Flash Fiction Prize and to read about our esteemed judge, Julia Rios. We can’t wait to read your flash stories featuring strong, complex, female-identifying protagonists.