Horla Flash Fiction (February 2021)




I COMB the air out of her hair.  She has forgotten all the forget-me-nots that I gave her over the years.  There is nothing left to do besides decide on the most appropriate pallbearers.  Our boxes have been ready for some time.  Hers is lighter.  She slept well while waiting.  I was surprised.  I find sleep taxing. There’s so much on my mind.  There’s so much to finish before the end. 

I first saw her when I was a mariner. I was walking along the Santa Monica pier.  The captain said that I was a horny bastard, having been at sea for too long.  I followed her into the Pacific along with the first mate and stevedore.  We brought along cotton candy and hot dogs and hoped for an orgy.  In the ocean she pulled my shipmates down into the depths that all sailors know are near.  We were far from the lifeguard’s sight.  She and I were left alone.  I saw the captain on the beach with his monocular, laughing.

She said that for a sailor, I was a saint, so there was no reason for me to drown.  We made our way to Wrangel Island where I built her a cathedral made from black pebbles on the shore.  Inside I placed a reliquary of forget-me-nots; the blackened bones of St. Brendan, rose  root picked by sneak thieves in a bodark forest, glass eyes from an Anchorage pharmacy that went bust after the Gold Rush and a Cook Island cuckoo clock that the captain sent as a wedding present.

She has forgotten all those things.  Her teeth are no longer red.  She sleeps while I bargain for better pallbearers.  I had wanted to be buried at sea and I had hoped that she would be buried next to me, but she refused, saying that our sea was dry.  The ice is melting all around which will make it easier on the pallbearers who will double as grave diggers.  They take her out with no tears.  I am astounded at how deadpan they are.  No one is amazed by mermaids anymore.




John Greiner is a writer and visual artist living in New York City.  He was educated at the New School for Social Research.  Greiner’s work has appeared in Antiphon, Sand JournalSein und Werden, Empty Mirror, Sensitive Skin, Unarmed, Street Value and numerous other magazines. His books of poetry include Circuit (Whiskey City Press), Turnstile Burlesque (Crisis Chronicles Press) and Bodega Roses (Good Cop/Bad Cop Press).  His collaborative work with photographer Carrie Crow has appeared at the Tate Liverpool, the Queens Museum and in galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Venice, Paris, Berlin and Hamburg.

Title photo credit – Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

Horla standard disclaimer – image has no direct connection with the fiction