You might call this little flash from David Hartley supernatural, surreal, or other-dimensional. Either way, it's filled to the brim with heart-touching warmth. Read on and leave a comment...
The fragments of my dream drift away when Tom and Rachel start tugging on my toes.
‘Dad?’ said Tom. ‘Dad? Dad? Dad?’
‘There’s a tree in the living room.’
And there’s that worried look on both their little faces that tells me that what Tom just said is absolutely the truth. They are both holding small green handfuls of what looks, at first, like grass, but when Rachel holds it out to show me I recognise pine needles from the forest down the road. I frown.
So it’s; slippers, gown, stretch, yawn and a tentative walk down the stairs to find more of the needles littering the hallway floor. And then more in the dining room and the kitchen, and some on the tabletops and chairs.
So I push open the living room door and there, propped in the corner, is the top half of a pine tree strewn with all sorts of brightly coloured rubbish. Big shiny balls, frilly paper, there’s even a plastic star at a wonk on the top. I tell the kids to stay in the doorway.
I step forward, crunch, crunch, crunch along the foliage floor until I’m close enough to touch a branch of the tree, so I touch it. It’s real alright, silently screaming itself into a slow brown death in the corner of my corner of suburbia.
And underneath it, in the shade, a cube wrapped in colourful paper with a ribbon bowtied on the top. I take hold of the cube and pull it out into the light. Rachel gasps.
‘Stay there,’ I say, tugging at the ribbon, knowing that I should be calling the police right now, what I really should be doing is calling the police.
But I don’t, because the bow unties and ribbon slips quietly off the box, and I tug at the paper and it rips easily and underneath - it’s just a box. Just a plain red box with a lid, which I lift off.
Inside, for a moment, there is nothing, and then the base glows white and flickers and fizzes and clears and shows me a scene. It is me and the kids and the living room. The tree is there also and there are lots more of these carefully wrapped boxes, which we are uncarefully unwrapping and pulling out toys and books and clothes from them, each item bringing a fresh smile for our bright, glowing faces. So I put my head further into the box and see more of the scene, and now I can see Lisa, and she is still alive and she is smiling and she too is opening a box, a small one, and it contains a silver necklace and her face lights up and she grasps my shoulder and says something I can’t hear and then puts the necklace on.
David Hartley is a writer based in Manchester, UK where he is one fifth of the writing collective Flashtag. His first collection of flash fictions will be published with Gumbo Press in early 2013. He tweets at @lonlonranch and much more of his writing can be found via his blog abarrelroll.blogspot.com