Microfiction Challenge Day 2 – Electric

The Swinburne Microfiction Challenge is running as part of the Emerging Writers Festival, a yearly festival celebrating new and exciting writers. This year the festival is entirely online.

For the Challenge, a new prompt is released each day. Writers have 24 hours to write a story of up to 500 words to be judged by Going Down Swinging and Swinburne University. I’ll be attempting a new story each day and posting my pieces here. Some author notes are at the bottom for those interested.

Day 2 Prompt: Electric

Forty Three Days

It was forty-three days after she came to be that the first spark began.

Nothing more than a flicker; the sort of thing doctors measure to make blanket statements. Alive. Dead.

She was alive. She was nothing more than a cluster of cells, and on the internet people kept comparing her to food stuffs. Small as a pea. Small as a pomegranate seed. As though I were a farmer of specifically minuscule produce and not a pregnant woman.

She was alive, and she was flickering with the beginnings of a charge that would determine everything that mattered.

It was ninety-two days after she came to be that I received a phone call in the night. Not even that late, nothing dramatic; I was going to bed early then, tired with growing. I got properly dressed to go into the hospital, even though my brother had said to rush, because to go in with my pyjamas on seemed like a silly cliché, a scene from a bad movie. The doctor explained what a stroke was to me as though I might not be very smart. Or maybe a lot of people don’t know what a stroke is. Either way, I did and I do.

Mum couldn’t talk but she could listen. She could smile while I told her what was happening inside me. That the flickers of electricity were frequent now. That she had eyes, but they wouldn’t open for a while yet. That her bones were forming inside the beginnings of arms and legs. I didn’t tell her that she had vocal cords now, the first steps to speech. It seemed cruel.

Mum placed her hand on me, and closed her eyes. I willed a movement, a kick, even though I knew one wouldn’t come. We are not a feel good Netflix special. We are a mediocre story you wouldn’t even bother sharing with a friend over coffee, unless you really ran out of things to talk about.

It was one hundred and twenty-four days after she came to be that the doctors called again and said I better come in. Somehow conveying urgency even while they said things like ‘only if it’s convenient’. My brother and I took turns. There was no listening or smiling now. Just mum’s slow breath, her wilted frame under a pink, absurdly soft-looking blanket. Like something from the nursery of a baby girl. 

I knew she couldn’t hear me, but I told her anyway. How she was getting bigger, the size of my palm. How her brain was now regulating her heart beat, steady and stronger by the day. 

There were moments when the breathing stopped, then started again with a gasp. Like a hand grabbing the edge of a cliff at the last moment. 

Then there was the moment when the breathing stopped, and didn’t start again. When the electricity was finally gone.

Author Notes

This wasn’t my favourite prompt of the challenge thus far. I had an idea about brain electricity and how this begins to form in the womb, but not sure I captured it as fully as I would have liked! Hopefully enough here to rework in the future.

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