Here is my offering for Chuck Wendig’s most recent Flash Fiction Challenge. I chose CJ Eggett’s line, “The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other” as my jumping off point. I clocked in at exactly 1000 words, am calling this The Sparrow Room, (sorry for any weird formatting nonsense, WordPress didn’t like my word document), hope you enjoy:
The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other.
Shit. Shit shit shitting shit. It always started like this. A single sparrow. Soon there would be–yep, there they go–a flock, a host, a goddamn tribe of sparrows pouring out of every wall, filling the room. I sighed. I hated The Sparrow Room.
I hid from the squawking fluttering orgy overhead beneath the room’s exquisitely carved writing desk, though it wasn’t really. Carved, that is. It had been cheaply machined from a block of pine and stained to resemble a true antique, but cover was cover and not getting drenched in phantasmic bird shit was a win any day of the week. It took forever to get that smell out of my hair and I was only allotted so much scented cleaning goop–a fresh smelling purplish ooze used to clean up after spectral manifestations. Any more beyond that came out of my check and I needed most of it, the goop, for The Sparrow Room. It was a fucking nightmare.
When the sparrows dematerialized they left the room covered in, I don’t know what to call it, ectoplasm? Spiritual detritus? Ghostly hoo-haw? Whatever it was, it was pus yellow and smelled. Like a rest stop bathroom sodomized a Dumpster full of Indian food.
I scanned the room; today’s manifestation wasn’t so bad. The walls were covered, no way around that, but very little had ended up on the tables, chairs, or linens. Thank The Blessed David Bowie–I liked my God to be a little glam. I crawled out from under the faux antique writing desk and set to work cleaning the room. Quickly. If I didn’t goop the ghostly hoo-haw as soon as the sparrows dematerialized it would leave discolored spots on the wood paneling and burn holes in just about everything else. Thankfully no apparition could damage anything organic, or living. Just stuff. Things. Otherwise I’d have died the first time I cleaned this room, the sparrows got the jump on me and their ghostly little shits burned actual little holes in my cleaning crew jumpsuit. I had to pay for a new one out of pocket.
Why didn’t I ever get to clean The Citrus Room? Infused with the memories of content migrant workers–or at least not angry ones–plucking fragrant oranges from warm citrus groves in Southern Florida. The feel of sweat, of being bone tired but having earned the right to be that tired, and resting aching muscles after a long day. Piper got to clean The Citrus Room. Piper with her red hair, china doll skin, who could flash some cleave at James–our dude-bro supervisor, “Do you even lift, bro?”–and get any room assignment she wanted. The thought of Piper in her sixties dragging around two Hefty bags full of mammary glands while I and my gently sagging tits remained upright is all that kept me from giving her shit about it.
And it could be worse. I could be Ronnie.
Ronnie had to clean The Perpetual Orgasm Room, and it’s not quite the cornucopia of ecstasy it sounds like. Basically if the room didn’t get some kind of release, sexual or otherwise, every twelve hours it moaned at you. In a very, very, obscenely suggestive way. And the filth it whispered? I consider myself a maestro of dirty talk–“Squirt your babies inside me, you horse-cocked meat mountain!” Kind of gross and hot at the same time, right?–and the only time I’ve ever blushed was overhearing that room whispering to Ronnie. Once the moaning started it would unleash its particular Eau de Parfum and that stank was impenetrable. Ronnie bathed in goop, actually bathed in goop, had been doing so since before I started working here, and there was never a day he didn’t smell like rancid fish.
I had just doused the last wall, was turning my nozzle to the writing desk and a few spots on the rug nearby, when another ghostly sparrow shot across the room. Out of one wall and into another, or into the goop on the opposite wall where it burst into flames. Seriously. Burst into flames. What fuckery was this? All rooms had one manifestation per day in them, tops. One. I had been cleaning The Sparrow Room for more than a year and there was never more than one manifestation in a single day. It couldn’t be starting again. I pulled the two-way from my belt. And if the goop incinerated one sparrow-
“James,” I spoke into my two-way. No answer. “James!”
The radio made a hissing squawk, I heard what sounded like Piper giggling, then James, out of breath. “Yeah, what, Ellie?” he sounded annoyed. Asshole.
“Uh, I think there’s something, maybe, wrong,” I said. “In The Sparrow Room.”
Static, more giggling, and then another beep. “The Sparrow Room? What? It’s already–” James’s voice dropped to a whisper, “damn girl, you have, like, excellent nipple symmetry,” then back up to full dude-bro, “–just, uh, can you just deal with it?”
“Goddammit James, forget Piper and her symmetrical tits, and get up here! Something’s wrong!” He’d gotten my ire up. Also Piper was a slut.
“Fine!” his voice digitized, too much for the little speaker, as he shouted. I still had my nozzle pointed at the writing desk. Do I double coat the walls? Scrape it off? Oh man, oh man, oh man, the flock was coming. The door flew open. James, jumpsuit half off, Piper, jumpsuit mostly unzipped, ran in.
“Ellie, what-” James panted.
Pandemonium. The walls, every wall, erupted in flame. Burning sparrows flitted across the room, everything was on fire, everything. Fuck. Me.
The sparrows finally stopped materializing but it didn’t make the room any less on fire. Piper and James just stared, mouths agape. I dropped the nozzle and handed my radio to James as I walked out of The Sparrow Room.
“Piper,” mouth still open she turned her head towards me, “Nice tits. Very symmetrical.”