fight, flight, freeze

Competition Six Winning Story: Fight, Flight, and Freeze by



It’s not as simple as his blood under your fingernails. It’s more like watching your fingernails splinter from trying to keep a grasp on each new thing as he pulls it away.

You make lists in your mind of everything you used to like before you met him: blueberry pancakes drizzled with honey, Saturday mornings in your pajamas, the type of book that makes him feel dumb, your ‘rustic’ northern accent, letting your pubic hair grow bushy, lunches with your college friend Eddie, mini-skirts, your parents.




The adrenaline tastes like battery acid in the back of your throat. He found all of it. The money, the clothes, the email with the confirmation number for the cabin up north. You had no choice but to pass it off as a romantic surprise and take him with you.

You stare at the meandering snowflakes out the service station window, startling when he beeps the horn. The cashier furrows her brow, watching you fumble with your armload of purchases while he waits in the car.

“It’s two miles up that way,” she says. “Just hang a left at the stop-and-go lights and keep driving ‘til you come to the boat landing.”




It’s too late in the season for walking on the ice, but the fat, wet snowflakes are effortless liars. You trail behind him, your face carefully neutral. Once he catches his balance, he strides further out, enjoying the idea of walking on water.

“Just like Jesus!” he hoots.

You hear the low groaning first, and you drop to your stomach. Lie flat like your father taught you when you were pigtailed and swaddled in a puffy pink snowsuit. You press your cheek to the surface and shiver while he dances on the cracking ice with heavy feet.





Rachel O’Cleary was previously Highly Commended in Free Flash Fiction Competition Five. She is an American who currently lives in Ireland with her husband and three children. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming at Reflex Fiction, Alternating Currents Press, Ellipsis Zine, Sledgehammer, Strands Lit Sphere, Janus Literary, and others. She occasionally tweets @RachelOCleary1


Photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash


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