December the 2nd

A Flash Fiction Guest Post by Dan O’Brien



Lightning flashed.

For one brief second, everything was illuminated.

And my life was never the same.

The walls were a strange color. I did not recognize them. The dull buzzing of a device beside me blinked with crimson lettering, spelling out the time. Throwing back the sheets, I did not recall how I had gotten into bed. As my feet touched the floor, the cold of the season traveled the length of my body.

A sense of dread overwhelmed me: What was my name?

Taking the three long steps to the door, I opened it with a frightened huff.

Patrick: that was my name.

The next room was not familiar. The high ceiling was clearly from an A-frame home. This was a piece of knowledge that I knew well: A-frame. Was I a carpenter?

Long windows were obscured by heavy drapes meant to keep in the warmth. The footsteps beyond the next door, creaking as they approached, were an acoustic nightmare. I contemplated taking a step back, but hesitated. Across the long room between me and the next door was a dilapidated mirror.

Each step was a recalled memory. Her name was Alice. I loved her from the moment I first saw her. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. We had a spring wedding; it rained, though only for a brief, beautiful moment. The sky grew dark––shadows infected everything.

The memories faded.

There was screaming.

Someone was repeating my name.

Suddenly, my head thundered. I recall a little boy, maybe nine or ten. The boy is Ryan, my brother. He hands a ball to me. My hands look youthful.

Looking down, my hands looked old.

How did I get so old?

The footsteps stopped at the door. A brief moment of panic overwhelmed me. With a defiant creak, the wooden door opened toward me. I raised my hands as if to shield my eyes, frightened for a moment that something horrific was waiting for me on the other side.

Chagrined, but still shaken, a man stood just inside the doorframe.

“Mr. Cleary, how are you feeling today?”

There was a vague sense of recollection when I looked at him. “Do I know you?”

He took a step into the room. “I am your doctor, Patrick. You brother is here to see you.”

I walked toward the man, noticing his white lab coat. I watched the mirror as I passed, but did not take the time to admire my reflection. I hadn’t seen my brother in a long time – how long I couldn’t be certain. A circular set of wooden stairs spiraled to the floor below. Gesturing forward, the doctor let me go first. I placed my hand on the handrail and again looked down at my hands: how old they looked.

I thought I should know the way, but I did not. The next room was a mystery. An ugly bourbon couch lined one wall. A man sat upon the couch, hands on his lap, a rolled-up newspaper clutched in his hands. Blue eyes looked at me with recognition.

I did not now this man.

“Pat?” The voice was familiar.


He stood from the couch, placing the newspaper onto the cushion beside him. “Pat, it’s me. Ryan.”

I blinked several times and cocked my head. “You’re so old. How did you get so old?”

Ryan looked past me to the doctor, his eyes glassy. I couldn’t understand why Ryan was so old. I looked at my hands again: these were the hands of a very old man. I can remember Alice clearly. I remember that I was supposed to go to the store and get canned peaches.

“I need to get peaches.” The words felt odd.

Ryan gestured to the doctor angrily. “I thought you said things were getting better.”

There was a long piece of glass beyond my brother. A man stood behind me, an old man. Taking a tentative step forward, I touched my face. The image touched its face as well.

“Why am I so old?”

Ryan looked at me like a deer in headlights.

“Where is Alice? Where am I?”

Ryan grabbed my shoulder and I looked at his hands; old man hands.

“I have to get home. It’s the 1st. The 2nd is our anniversary. I saved up for a trip this year. Alice is going to love it.”

Ryan started crying then, the crawl of tears tracing rivers down his skin. “Today is the 2nd, Pat. December the 2nd.”

I looked at him oddly then. “We should get going then.”

Ryan shook his head. “You have to stay here….”

Touching my face again, I realize I am too old. I don’t remember being this old.

Lightning flashed.

For one brief second, everything was illuminated.

And my life was never the same.

My eyes open and I don’t recognize the room I’m in.


Dan O’Brien has written 12 novels (all before the age of 30) including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. He currently teaches psychology at CSU, Chico. You can learn more about Amalgam by visiting the website at:


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