Flash Fiction: The Circle Treatment

Confession: I have no idea how to write short fiction. I’m not one of those folks who have been writing maniacally since grade school. I only got serious about writing in my later years, and the form I focused on was novels. It would seem as though writing something shorter would be easier. But it scares the heck out of me. I’m used to taking my time to get to the point. Well, here goes nothing.

The book I am reading is CINDER, by Marissa Meyer. The first sentence from chapter one:

The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.

The first real image to come up is this, a painting by MC Escher called Circle Limit III


Okay *deep breath* here goes.

The Director of Human Affairs has us all stand in a circle each day at precisely three pm in the so-called afternoon. Not that anyone really can tell one hour from another on this ship.

He insists that this routine is the best way for all of us to heal. That punishment is a waste of human resources and there are too little of us aboard this vessel to spare. His assistant trains her camera on us, recording the moment for the live broadcast feed. I keep my eyes squeezed closed until I will be forced to look at him.

I haven’t admitted my real fear yet. Standing here, looking into his eyes, I wonder what he sees when he stares back. My dead body? Or does he wish he did.

I’d been found barely alive in one of the storerooms deep in the ship’s bowels.

This is his punishment, like all other shipboard perpetrators; to face their victims daily. There’s no better way to deal with crimes aboard a long term mission like ours as we catapult through space.  Such is the ship’s philosophy.

But I see no remorse in those eyes. I see only hunger.

I open my eyes slowly and his red-rimmed ones meet mine. I’m supposed to believe the sorrow, the regret I see there is for me. But I know it’s really the shame he has to face as the entire ship watches this spectacle, judging him .

There are others in the circle. There are even other circles. There are cheating husbands facing their wives and lovers, child abusers, thieves facing shop owners, bullies facing victims—the entire pageant of life encapsulated in a vessel bound for parts unknown.

But I don’t care. All I see are the eyes that laughed as I screamed. So, back to my fears. I know he’s going to do it again.

This farce won’t stop him.

The thing I fear most is myself
Because I’m the one who is going to have to stop him.


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