FIVE:2:ONE is a cool literary magazine that does both print magazines and online features — called #thesideshow — for flash (>1000 words) fiction and other shorter works. I’m thrilled they accepted my flash story, Her Solitary Domain, for this week’s online features.
This story describes one woman’s path to finding her calm in chaos. Surely, in times such as ours, quiet accounts of hope and restoration must also stand alongside the forceful narratives of resistance and protest?
Beyond that, the best part of writing this one was describing the setting: my old boarding school in India. I took some creative liberties because the school has never dealt with an epidemic of snakes, thank goodness. And here’s a funny thing: when I wrote this piece and sent it out, we did not have a Facebook page. I made it up. Shortly after this story got accepted, a Facebook page did indeed come about.
Messages had been sidewinding their way to her till she could no longer ignore them. The old hill-bound boarding school was shutting down because of “an epidemic of snakes.” Local Hindu authorities, believing it was ancient Naga ground, would not allow any killing. They had proposed buying the premises for loose change to develop a temple complex. The longstanding Board of Trustees, which had replaced the school’s colonial British owners a few years after Independence, had accepted with the relief of a prisoner escaping a harsh sentence.
On the school’s Facebook page, familiar names shared nostalgia-drenched memories of precious childhoods. After they had all scattered across the world, she had remained in her separate orbit. Even now, the excited chatter and uploaded photos meant little.
In her present life, many dues were demanded: love, duty, responsibility, desire, ambition, compliance. They all grabbed at fragments of her constantly so that she never managed to gather herself whole together. Only in the midnight’s deep stillness, with the precision of a preying bird, she was able to claw out one careful recollection from her mind’s shattered mosaic.
One last note: I’ve written about how a couple of my earlier stories started decades ago. This is one such story. I began writing it in 2000-2001. For whatever reason, I never got beyond the sketch of the school and a child reading on the banisters. Last year, I began going through some of my old written fragments to see if I could find another way back into them to finish them. With this one, I found a way back in by using the perspective of the child grown into a woman and looking back. It’s true what they say: perspective is everything.