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4:03 AM

On the dashboard, the clock blinks 4:03.

Fiction | Flash Fiction
March 31, 2023

The steel skeleton runs along Old Finch, just behind the zoo. You’ve pulled the car over to the side of the road before the bridge. You let the car idle for a moment, then kill the engine.

When we were teens, we parked your mother’s minivan on the edge of the bridge to see if the legend was true. You remember that, don’t you? The way we caked the rear bumper with baby powder and smeared it across our black clothes, the way you almost fell into the river, spooked by the snapping of a twig.

We mixed up two legends that night—the child who pushed cars to safety over train tracks and the little girl who cried when she heard “Happy Birthday” on the bridge. They were a universal mythology in our neighborhood. We used to recount the gruesome stories at recess, curled up in the forest sharing a single bag of chips.

When you moved to Kingston, you found the same old tales floating around, nestled in the cracks in the sidewalk, tucked into every empty alleyway. I think that’s the only reason you didn’t forget. There were certain ghosts that followed you, no matter where you ran.

From here, you can see the way the Rouge River unfurls below the steel spine, snaking towards the lake. The trees rise tall alongside it, giants against the night sky. Neither of us makes a move to exit the car.

Every night for six months, I let the line ring out to hear your grainy voicemail, saw every text message marked with a blue check mark. But saying this will alter the shape of our mutual history. I seal my lips before it escapes; it rattles against my teeth.

We’ve never been good at the archeology of language, the delicate brushing of words stacked on words. We let ourselves come together; every touch like an excavation—the silent robbing of a grave.

On the dashboard, the clock blinks 4:03.

My eyes adjust to the darkness. I look out through the fogged window, my reflection peering back. My head rests against your chest, fingers intertwined, the syncopation of our breath; we’re alive.