1.) “Flash fiction” is REALLY short fiction, usually under 1500 words. A quick read.
2.) I wrote this piece during a Fun & Games Salon session with Tempest–click here to join us next time!
3.) If you’ve been following me on social media (specifically Twitter) you know I’ve had a really rough few weeks. But during that time, I sold both a story and a poem! This is that story.
4.) Click here to read this story where it was published at The Arcanist (and because getting more clicks helps me look really popular)!
5.) Love y’all. Stay safe. My life is better with you in it. 💜 AK
THE INVISIBLE GIRL
The little girl saw me. She walked straight up to me. When she shivered, I knew she could feel my presence. No one noticed her absence—only the unicorn with its empty saddle knew she was not on the carousel. Her hand reached out to me. I bent down…
…and she was swooped up by a pair of strong, brown arms. I caught a glimpse of the wave of the man’s hair as it fell across his cheek, and I knew.
It was Serrano.
Once upon a time, that vibrant boy stole the heart I no longer had. He made me a promise, in the mud beneath the blooming cherry tree. He would always be there for me, always see me, always remember me, and I would never be alone. His father was the owner. As this carnival traveled, so would he.
For years, we ran and played. He described food to me I could neither smell nor eat. And the sounds: the tinkling carousel, the screams from the roller coaster, the laughter in the hall of mirrors.
I liked his face as he laughed; the beauty of it made me miss the heart I no longer had.
He was laughing the day he left me. Or, rather, the day I disappeared from his sight forevermore.
They always leave.
It hadn’t been his age or his height or any other measurable thing. It had been a rubber duck, dropped by a small child. The duck gave a mighty quack as it hit the ground. Serrano and the child laughed. Serrano ran to catch up with the family, lost duck in hand. The parents thanked him for being such a gentleman. He bowed as if he had on his father’s cape and top hat. I was so proud of him in that moment.
I didn’t realize it would be our last.
Serrano was my lost duck.
The unicorn scares me. It knows who I really am. Who we all are. I believe the unicorn was here before everything, and it will be here after we die. It is the fire and earth and wind and rain. It is the heart of this traveling show, and we revolve around it.
If I could find my heart, I think Serrano would come back. He would know. He would return to the cherry tree where we first met and dig in the mud there. He would find my bones and set me free.
Or he wouldn’t.
Maybe he would see me and feel me again, and we would dance under the stars to the music of the carousel. Maybe he would bind me to his side forevermore. Maybe I would have my own tent. My own poster. The Invisible Girl! Come One Come All! And I would trace the tracks of tears down the cheeks of other young people who had lost their own hearts. Or were about to. And they would know. And they could run.
What happened to me—what the unicorn knows—was not Serrano’s fault. I would have told him, if we’d had more time. I would have told the little girl, if she’d managed to touch me and make the connection.
Raul knows. He was the one who stole my heart in the first place. He was the one who buried my bones in the mud beneath the cherry tree, under the stars.
I came to him when I first became The Invisible Girl. He could hear me. He could see me. His mouth opened like the people who screamed in the haunted house.
He hated the sight of me.
The unicorn knows what I want. At first, I wanted what everyone wants: to be loved. And I was loved, right up until the moment I drowned in the Tunnel of Love. After that, I wanted to be seen. To have my existence acknowledged.
For a while, I wanted someone to burn down that cherry tree and forget all about me. Now, I just want peace. I want to be part of the world or nothing at all, not caught here in the middle.
I was not tied to the Tunnel of Love. Or the cherry tree. Or the unicorn. I was tied to Raul. Our souls were tethered, but I was nothing to him. He had made that clear enough.
From time to time children spot me, dance with me, even ride the carousel by my side (they always choose the unicorn). But none of them connected with me like Raul.
Until Raul had a son.
I missed my chance with Serrano. Part of that was my fault. I wasn’t ready.
But Serrano’s daughter could unbury my heart. Burn down the tree. Hand me that peace I so desired. I could finally leave it all behind and no one but the unicorn would remember me.
Or I could drown her in the Tunnel of Love and make them all remember me forever.
Time was short. An amusing thought, coming from The Invisible Girl who has now existed for generations. Who but the unicorn knew how much longer Serrano’s daughter would be able to see me?
I found her behind the tent with the stripes. (The unicorn knew where she was.) I tiptoed through the grass, even though I hadn’t left footprints in decades.
She was eating a stolen chocolate bar and giggling. There was chocolate all over her face. Then she shivered.
I stood in the light cast by the carousel.
I know what she saw. A shadowed girl with a dark ponytail. A shimmering dress with a long skirt and a top shaped like a heart. Like a Valentine. Like the entrance to the Tunnel of Love.
I did not go to her. I just stood and smiled and waited. She smiled back with that adorable chocolate-covered face.
She reached out to touch my shimmering skirt.
And I took her hand.
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