My procrastination (on the eve of the apocalypse)

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My procrastination (on the eve of the apocalypse)

Flash Fiction

by Sarah Barnett

I click my fingers, make the children freeze, because I can pause time.

I’ve never been much good at controlling this class. They’ve known for a while the end is coming, so they don’t care. Why spend their final days learning stuff they can’t pass down? Knowledge is powerless.

I put my feet on my desk, observe the tableau: Amelia poised like a graceful bird, as she takes a leap from her chair; Harrison gripping his paper aeroplane, ready to let it soar; Josh, his face in nasty contortion, Amy’s pigtail in this grasp, her tears crystals fixed to her cheeks; Mason hunched at his table, quiet and forgotten; lice-ridden Lily, mid-step, her toes pinching in her ragged shoes; Ethan with his arms in mid-flap, unable to relate to the chaos of a neurotypical world; clumsy Beyoncé – honestly, what were her parents thinking – amid a flat-footed stumble.

I come to Maisie, the artist – my favourite but I’m not allowed to show it. Her head is down, pencil poised to draw her dreams. Dreams that will never come.

My turn to run amok. I yank off my hijab, let my hair tumble free, weave through the statues, twirl and dance till breathless. Finally, I collapse into my chair, straighten my clothes, click my fingers.

The chaos resumes. Amelia lands, all grace lost; Harrison’s plane nose-dives to the floor; Amy yelps and smashes her fist into Josh’s face; Mason slides under the table; Lily’s foot comes down, toes diving through the split in her shoe; Ethan flaps on; Beyoncé falls to her knees. But Maisie looks up, stares me down, as if it’s just us, in the eye of the storm.

‘Miss, where is your scarf?’

My fingers flounder in my hair. I’m rumbled.

Maisie rises.

She clicks her fingers.

Everyone freezes except me and her.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I knew she was special.

‘Come on,’ I say, as I take her hand.

I lead Maisie from the classroom, down the corridors past the other classes frozen in time, and out into a world poised for destruction. We take in the greenness of it all, everything we’d planted to save ourselves. We look up. The comet is hard to miss now, a fiery bullet in the sky. I remember the daughter I almost had, incomplete, lost in blood and pain, and wonder if that was a blessing. I squeeze Maisie’s hand. We can hold on to this moment for as long as we wish.

classroom illustration
About the Author

Originally a journalist and sub-editor, Sarah Barnett’s words have been performed by Short Story Today and Act Your Age Productions. She’s been published in Flashflood 2021 and 2023, Paragraph Planet, Five Minutes, Retreat West, and Free Flash Fiction. She also has a speculative novel in the works.