Author: Chris Preston
I just turned six years old and, for my birthday, Dad gave me a grown-up mask. It was supposed to be Mom’s, but she didn’t come home when she was supposed to. Before the sirens started.
I was only four years old when we went into our hideout under the basement. No mask fit me so only Dad could go back up into the dirty air outside.
Life in the hideout is boring. At first, there was a lot to do because Dad was very prepared. He worked as a scientist and his boss told him that something bad was coming. When it looked like we would be in our hideout for a long time, Dad even made rules for the different days of the week.
The weekend days are a “free-for-all,” as Dad says.
Mondays are cooking days. I don’t like the smell when Dad burns our soup, it stinks for hours.
Tuesdays, we read the whole time. My books, adult books, even some magazines. Sometimes, Dad thinks I am reading but only because I know which words always come next.
Wednesdays, we run the generator extra long to watch many shows and movies. Sometimes, we don’t if Dad hasn’t found any new gas.
Thursdays are grooming days. I always like the taste of minty toothpaste because Dad ran out of real mint a long time ago. We also trim our nails, wash ourselves with new water, and Dad cuts my hair. His hair is all gone. Mine is falling out too but Dad says that happens when you get older. After, I use a broom to collect the little bundles of blonde hair off the ground and put it in the trash can.
Fridays are my favorite day. Garbage day. Well, they used to be scary. Being alone is always scary for me. But now, it’s different. Dad made this new mask tight, as tight as it could go, so it fit my face. It was what I needed to leave our secret bunker again.
My heart was racing when I first left for my first garbage day with Dad. To get out, Dad as made a path through our house that fell over. It was daytime, but I wasn’t used to the sun anymore. I have what my dad calls indoor eyes. After I didn’t need to squint anymore, I remember saying, “what a mess!” Everything was different, like a big storm came through and knocked the whole world over. Our neighbours were all gone, it was just Dad and I left. Nothing like my television shows.
Since I started helping, almost our whole street is clean again. Dad says if we pick up all the garbage, and pluck all the weeds, people will come home again. Maybe even Mom too.
We would go out more, but Dad says we can only go once a week without getting sick. Our medicine would be gone if we did more.
I asked Dad when we can start cleaning up the next street.
“Next year, honey,” he said.
It will be a big job. There’s rocks and paper and bags everywhere. There’s even two people always asleep in the middle of the road. Dad said they’re just big plastic dolls. I don’t believe him.
I can’t wait until next year.
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.
"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."
We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.
Voices of Tomorrow
Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.
If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact email@example.com