Discover more from Along the Hudson
Short, speculative fiction
“I’m telling you, David, it all goes by faster than you think. And don’t get upset at me, but Val has a point.”
David takes off his glasses and draws in a deep breath. “Go on.”
“You do spend a lot of time cooped up in that office—a lot of time on your phone, answering calls. Is your job really that demanding?”
“It is, Dad,” David responds, an edge in his voice.
“Fine, it is—sure. But is it all that important?”
To this, David hesitates. He twirls his glasses between his thumb and index finger.
“All I’m saying is this: consider your children. You love them. . . I know you do. But they need to know that, too. Show them.”
David bites his lower lip—at first in anger—but then he replays specific, all-too-recent scenarios in his mind.
“Blink and they’ll be gone. I’m only saying it ‘cause it’s true. I’ve lived it. Sam will be off to college and then she’ll get married. And Johnny…who knows. Maybe the little daredevil will become a white-water rafting guide or something.” They both laugh.
The conversation turns lighter, brighter. David says goodbye and sets the phone down on his desk. He opens the creaking office door. Samantha and Jonathon hear it—long for it, most days—and dash around the corner from the living room. Both children scream, “Daddy!”
David can’t help the smile that surfaces. He knows, deep down, his father is right. He also knows at this very moment he’s going to correct course.
The children approach him—arms flailing, hair bouncing.
David stretches his arms wide and prepares to wrap them up in a great big bear hug. But before they reach him, a sudden hum fills his ears and surrounds him. He’s distracted by this strange vibration.
David blinks—and his beautiful children are gone.
Everything is silent. Still. David’s in the same hallway—the same house—but it feels empty. The walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint. Cobwebs hang in the corners where the walls meet the ceiling. In a panic, David turns around.
“Sammy?” David shouts. “Johnny? Where’d you go?” He runs down the hallway and heads into the living room. The kitchen.
“Val? What the hell’s going on?” David checks all three bedrooms, both bathrooms. He catches his reflection when in the master bath and becomes dizzy. He had. . . aged. The wrinkles on his face are prominent, and he wears a mostly silver beard to go along with his wavy, silver hair.
David almost passes out. He falls forward and catches himself on the sink. That’s when he notices the wedding band on his ring finger. It’s gone. Heart in throat, tears coming on, David closes his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s near the edge of a tall cliff and some craggy bluffs. The ocean roars up at him.
“Dad!” someone yells to his left. “What’s the matter, old man, can’t keep up?”
A tall, lean man with a long beard and ponytail strides toward him on a hard-packed, winding path. His smile is a mile wide. It pokes through his beard.
“Johnny?” David asks, voice a bit hoarse.
“Uh,” the man replies. “You feeling alright, Pops?”
David doesn’t say anything. He just stares at this man—his son.
“Only have another mile or two, okay? We’re almost there. Promise.”
David falls into step beside him, glances out toward the ocean, and breathes it in.
When he turns his head back toward the path, he’s staring down a wide aisle in a place with a high ceiling and grand, stained-glass windows.
He’s in a cathedral.
“What the hell’s happening,” David whispers. After he says this, he realizes he’s holding someone’s hand.
Samantha. She has the same girlish face. She’s beautiful, stunning—all dressed in white.
“Hey, Daddy,” she says. “You okay?”
Tears sting his eyes. He tries to smile and blink them away.
The ground begins to vibrate. An ethereal hum cascades from the vaulted ceiling, down the walls, rattling the delicate windows.
Overwhelmed, David drops to a knee. His vision blurs.
“Dad?” Samantha says, arm looped in his. “Daddy…”
David feels like his head might split in two—like his chest is about to cleave right down the middle. He breathes in and out. Closes his eyes. The hum engulfs him like a great blanket extinguishing a fire.
When he opens his eyes, he’s lying flat on his back. He feels little feet and hands swarming him—two little bodies crawling and squirming.
“Daddy!” Johnny and Samantha yell, grabbing their father by the face and planting big kisses.
David sits up and brings his children with him. His breaths come short and fast.
“Hey,” he says, pulling them in close. “I love you.” He notices his wedding band on his finger.
His wife, Valerie, comes into view. She’s grinning.
“Daddy, are you done working?” Samantha asks.
David finally finds words. “Yes. . . I’m all done.”
A loud cheer erupts as Samantha and Johnny tackle their father to the floor again.
David blinks voluntarily once, twice, three times. He remains in the same position, arms wrapped around his children.
Right where he needs to be.
Thank you so much for reading “Blink” today. I hope you enjoyed it!
For those interested in participating in Fifties by the Fire, please see the prompt below. I’ll schedule it for Friday at our usual time: 3:00 PM EST.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Prompt: Write a fifty-word story (fiction, poem, or work of CNF) that somehow incorporates the accompanying image.
(Special thanks to John Lightle for providing “The Bullet on Front Street” for our prompt.)
Take care and have a great week!
Along the Hudson is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.