Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Flash: The Center Does Not Hold

Two weeks ago Chuck Wendig was having a blue fit or something, and issued a flash fiction challenge based on William Butler Yeats' poem, The Second Coming. In particular, around that key line, "Things fall apart; the center does not hold." Work on Death By Adverb is keeping me from putting as much into my flash fiction this month as I might, but I played around with the theme (a week late), and ended up with more of a dystopian vignette than a story, and only about 625 words. But here it is, for what it's worth. It might appear to contain some political commentary.

The Center Does Not Hold

Things fall apart; the center does not hold.

Was it better when everything stayed in its place, and the magnetic pull of the god kept everyone in tight orbit around their station? My grandfather says it was, but I think Grandmother is less certain. Maybe that’s because she says that her place used to be a bit cramped and uncomfortable. I used to think she meant she had to live in a little box. Now that I understand metaphors, I think that her box is only a little bigger.

Grandfather says there didn’t used to be violence and fighting, because everyone knew his place and was content. But I have learned how to get into the records, and I think maybe it wasn’t so simple. Grandmother says it never is, and that I should think long and hard about what I’m doing.

I have thought. And what I think is that I’ll take my chances on what the world will be without that center Grandfather likes so much. Sooner or later everyone is going to have to either line up on the side of the old ways or on the side of freedom. I know where I’m going to be, and I’m not going to wait until the fight comes to my street. I think Grandmother is secretly proud, for all she’s cautious. We aren’t telling Grandfather.

My parents don’t get a say, because they vanished a long time ago. Now I know why, and I think they’d like me to fight the death-grip of the god, or those who claim to speak for the god.

The first thing I learned when I joined the rebels, is that there’s always a center, or things really do fall apart. We have leaders and rule and a command structure, just like the army on the other side. That’s fine. You do have to have someone in charge. What we don’t have is anyone born into her place and stuck there.

We’re mostly young. The older people have something to lose, but under the god’s regime most of us would be looking at a long empty life of doing what we are told. Or maybe we would be quietly ‘disappeared’ if we didn’t prove useful enough. For all Grandfather says the old times are gone, they really aren’t. It’s just that some of us are fighting the old ways, and that threatens a lot of people.

The funny thing is, I’m still doing what I’m told. But—and it’s not a difference to ignore—I helped decide the purpose to which I’m being directed. We all voted on how, where, and when to make our move, and then our leaders set to planning.

Grandfather would say that everyone deciding that way is chaos, but he’s wrong. It’s something called democracy. Some of the men argued that letting leaders make the detailed plans was giving our power away, but most of us think we should let people do what they are best at. And no plan will be set in motion without the approval of us all. It’s kind of messy, to be honest.

It has to work, though. If we fail, things will be worse than ever. The so-called priests of the so-called god will go back to openly “liquidating” people who don’t stay in the places they are born into. The color of you skin or hair will determine what you can do all your life, and shut up if you don’t like it, because if you don’t match the priests’ looks you must have an inferior brain.

There’s a word for what we want, you know.


I’m willing to take my chances to make that our center, even if everything else falls apart.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


  1. Well, we're both feeling reactionary this week, then. Good tale.

  2. Very nice story, Rebecca, and a good cautionary tale about the direction a society can take when there aren't checks and balances in place.

  3. Wow, fantastic job, Rebecca. I really enjoyed it.

    And you had me at "Chuck Wendig." Love that man.

    1. Thanks. I get a lot of flash-fiction prompts from Chuck, as well as a lot of good writing advice. I've been following him and using his prompts for several years now, and as a result have discovered a lot of different genres I never knew about, let alone would have written in.


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