The Unblinking Eye
Flash fiction about a woman growing older
For this week’s Story Cauldron I thought I would share a very short story I wrote early in 2020. It’s very unlike my typical style, and I’d completely forgotten about it. But looking back on it almost two years later, I’m really quite fond of it.
By the way, today is the last day of NaNoWriMo and honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased that the month is coming to a close. As I’m writing this, I have just under 3,000 words left to reach 50K, and I’m worn out. My novel draft has a few too many holes (it’s very drafty!) but at least I have a start on it.
It stares at me with its cold gaze. Never does it praise or compliment. But under its glare, I feel the painful obligation to perform, to escape from my own limited body and become another person. It does not judge, but it sees everything, the graceful sweep of my lips, the pores on my cheeks, the pale scar over one eye from when I was scratched by a cat.
Commanding, it looms over me, requiring me to meet its desires and needs. I could not argue against something that knows me down to my soul.
Its call is intoxicating and addicting. More than anything I want to escape, to crawl back into my shell. Yet every day I return to primp and prep and then pose for its icy stare.
It wasn’t always like this. Once I was just a girl in a striped t-shirt and shorts with a long braid that snaked down my back. I climbed trees and rolled around in grass ornamented with violets and dandelions. I ate popsicles and swam with tadpoles.
Then I grew older and the tadpoles grew up as well, becoming insatiable toads. My braid unraveled, my clothing peeled away. They paraded my innocence until the fiction caught up with the truth, and then they wrung out the truth until it left me empty.
Now I lay back, exposing my empty husk of a body, feeling the heat of the lights and the tightness of the makeup that hides what little is left of the real person behind the mask.
And the eye continues to stare, unrelenting, stripping away the last of my secrets.
But I have one last trick that it hasn’t yet discovered.
While the eye never ages, never changes, I have grown older. My skin sags and my hair thins. Although the eye is unaware, today will be the last time I wriggle and writhe under its gaze.
Tomorrow I shall disappear.
I wrote this story in 2020 for one of the SWAP52Club weekly writing exercises. That week’s prompt was to use the photo prompt below. All kinds of ideas came swirling into my head but nothing really ‘stuck.’ So I just started writing and this little flash fiction piece was the result.
Story Cauldron is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.