Release

Fiction, Flash Fiction

After the regime has fallen, and the reek of burning documents been aired from the grim offices of Internal Security, still no one ventures down to the basement. On its shelves, thousands of jars, thousands upon thousands. Their tops have grown gritty with dust, and their labels—pasted on so carefully—curl up like dying leaves.

Flash Fiction by Gerri Brightwell


After the regime has fallen, and the reek of burning documents been aired from the grim offices of Internal Security, still no one ventures down to the basement. On its shelves, thousands of jars, thousands upon thousands. Their tops have grown gritty with dust, and their labels—pasted on so carefully—curl up like dying leaves. Crammed into one jar, a duster used to wipe a chair where a dissident sat for a ten-hour interrogation. In another, the handkerchief an old man swept over his face as the police pounded on his door. In this one, the sock of a journalist long since executed, and in the next, his wife’s dainty pink underwear.

In quiet towns far from the capital, former police dogs spend their days dozing on sofas. Occasionally their nostrils twitch at the aroma of roasting pork, or the prickly smell of a wool coat hung by the fire to dry. Soon they fall back into dreams: a jar being opened, a scent blooming out. Oh, the excitement—to snatch at that scent, to plunge after it with the officers following close behind, rushing along empty streets, over bridges until, in an alley behind a supermarket, over the reek of rotting vegetables, the scent floats out fresh and strong. In the darkness, a movement—a figure bursting out from amongst the trash bags, scrambling to get away, but there’s no escape. What bliss to hear the officers’ shouts as they move in, to let loose a volley of barks, to hear so many voices crying out together in joyous unison.


Gerri Brightwell is a British writer who lives in Alaska with her husband, fantasy writer Ian C. Esslemont, and their three sons. She is the author of the novels Dead of Winter (Salt, 2016), The Dark Lantern (Crown, 2008), and Cold Country (Duckworth, 2003). Her short work has appeared in many venues including The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Copper Nickel, Redivider, and BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines. She teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Please note that this story is also being submitted to other journals.


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