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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 7: March 2021
Flash Fiction: 518 words
By Robert I. Mann

What is between everything


He winced looking at his father’s face which said, Why are you asking this?

“There is no color between the stars because there is nothing to reflect light,” his father said. “It’s outer-space, outer nothingness.”

“But if you were in a spaceship coming close to a star, wouldn’t it light up space around you?” He imagined his father riding in the spaceship with him. His father had to see this was a good question, because they were riding together.

“You see when there are things to be seen and light to see by,” was all he said.

“But couldn’t you see light, just light, if you were inside it?”

“We know from looking at pictures from satellites and space stations orbiting the earth that between the earth and the sun there is only darkness. Nothing to reflect, leaves you nothing.”

“So, you look through light to see the light of the stars. The world is full of light that you don’t see.”

“Son, you’re not listening.”

“Dad, what is between everything?”

Lying in bed that night, in the dark, he pictured himself entering the light of a star, seeing its silvery rays around his spaceship in defiance of what his father had said. He then veered off to avoid the increasing heat and gravitational pull, passing the star and traveling on to more and more stars, each one having a different kind of silver light. He wondered where the last star was. He wasn’t going to ask his father this time; he wanted his own answer, not the right answer.

He decided that space had to end—it just had to. He imagined a plywood wall, looming up before him out of the darkness, extending in every direction as far as he could see. Bump! The spaceship bumped against the wall. He had slowed the spaceship so it wasn’t much of a bump. The ship idled there. But plywood is not very thick so he reasoned that the wall had to have braces behind it to keep it rigid. The idea of braces made the picture of the spaceship and plywood wall easy to hold as he lay in bed. Braces though must be braced against something.

One moment he was happily resting his spaceship against the wall and the next he was on the other side inspecting the braces, which were large wood buttresses extending out into.... On the other side of the wall he was in endless black space, an enormous ever-growing nothingness that was dissolving him into itself.

He ran into the living room and turned on all the lights. He needed to see furniture and lamps, all solid and in one place. He was especially comforted by staring through the sliding glass door into the backyard where diffused city glow showed him the dark flat lawn, silhouettes of trees and bushes, and the high cinderblock walls that separated his home from others—indestructible cinderblock walls.

His movement had awakened his father, who came downstairs. He knelt gently next to his son and stared with him into the backyard.

Robert I. Mann
Issue 7, March 2021

was born and raised in California, graduated from UC Berkeley (BA, Humanities) and CSU Northridge (MA, English Literature), and has been teaching writing and English and American literature for nearly 20 years in Italy. His short fiction has been published in numerous online and print publications, among them the new renaissance (an international magazine of ideas and opinions); The Pavilion (a literary room for expat writing); Mobius: The Journal of Social Change; The Bitter Oleander; and Volume 7 of the annual Delmarva Review.

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