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The Thistle's Flower: Short, Short Fiction

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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There is a path into the hinterland that I do not want to follow. The entrance is nothing more than a footpath through thorny brambles that rip and tear at a man until he falls to the ground, a bloody hulk in a miserable waste. Who is it that says all must walk this path? Have they gone and returned to tell us such things? No! No one returns. So how do we know?

I do not want to walk this path. I have seen others step out, unwillingly, but they go, and I hear their screams and see them fall. Then they are gone. No one returns. How can this path be good when it metes out such pain?

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But my turn comes. The path is before me, and I have no choice. I must go and see for myself the horrors that lie beyond the hedge. I step forth. The clinging, scratching, cutting, and ripping begin, not only of my clothing but of my flesh, and then, in a matter of time, of my spirit. Let it end here and now. Stop the pain. But it does not end, and I am compelled against my will to go on.

I press on, to where I do not know. Dangers lurk in a dry land where thirst is a constant, unwelcome companion. Slithering, creeping, crawling, prowling creatures lie in wait to poison the body, and unrealized horrors eat holes in the soul.

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The grey sky lightens, only a little, and color seeps into the shadows. Further on, blue patches peek through the mottled canopy of black, purple and grey. A beam of light so real, so tangible it could be made of steel, penetrates the thick darkness. It lightens and warms my heart.

I am happy. I walk again among the living, free of the thorny brambles, free of the darkness. I live! I live! No one told me I would survive, that it was not all gloom and despair. I dance in the meadow among flowers, birds, and wild things that mean me no harm. I lie down in peace and sleep without fear.

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But on the morrow, the grey skies return. The gloom covers me. Was the joy only a dream? But from where would such a dream come? I wrestle with the mystery. The thoughtless answer is that there are good and bad stretches along the way. If that were true, I would spend half my time wishing I would die. But what if I am simply misreading reality?

I walk more purposefully today through both the flowery meadows and the thorny brambles for that pathway is of a single kind. Both joy and dread are tempered. I find peace in dark places when I stop fighting against the thorns. I move more slowly, tread more lightly, and watch for the berries in the brambles and the beauty of the thistle’s flower.

© 2020 Chris Mills

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 24, 2020:

Jerusha75, thank you for sharing how the story impacted you. Really, it did move me as well as I wrote it.

Jerusha75 from Wichita on August 24, 2020:

There is a peace in your writing that soothes the soul. I found this piece especially beautiful.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 10, 2020:

Genna, Jo, and Lawrence, Thank you for coming here and reading this bit of creative writing that mystified me as I wrote it. What was I saying? I wasn't quite sure until the final sentence made it clear. Keep doing your thing and seeing the beauty along the way.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 10, 2020:

Chris

This was beautiful.

Jo on March 09, 2020:

Wow! That was beautifully written. We often allow fear of the unknown to hold us back, but the path less trodden can be far more rewarding. Just as long as there aren't any snakes in the grass. Nicely work. ;)

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 24, 2020:

What an interesting title. It pulls the reader in, and the powerful imagery and metaphor keep us there, on that path so many of us have traveled. Just beautiful, thought provoking writing, Chris. :-)

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Cole, I look forward to seeing what you have to share with us.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 15, 2020:

Venkatachari M, Thank you for your comments.

Cole Ikerd on February 15, 2020:

I haven't been on HubPages much. I've been busy with life and I'm afraid my writing hasn't been as consistent as I'd like. It's nice to know you remember me, though. I'm trying to get a few things going, if all goes well, I'll get some stuff uploaded before too long.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on February 14, 2020:

A very interesting and enlightening story of the struggle between gloom and light aspects of life. I enjoyed your narration of it all.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 14, 2020:

Dora, Yes, this is the response I hoped for. Thank you for being in tune with my story. It is not an easy truth to learn, but it is essential if we are to know contentment in this life.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 14, 2020:

This is beautiful, I did not want it to end. "I find peace in dark places when I stop fighting against the thorns." What a blissful thought and an even more blissful reality!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 14, 2020:

Linda, If you scroll down in the comments to my response to

Doris James MizBejabbers, I think that you will see that your and my thinking are pretty close on this. It does not have to be the totality of life. It can be one chapter or one scene of life that was dark and forboding. I'm glad you found your way. Thank your for your comment.

Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on February 14, 2020:

Many compare this to life which it is, but it took me back to when I was in a dark depression that I would try to fight my way out of. I'd see much darkness and rays of light here and there. I saw much death but fought my way to life. Tough battle but I won in the end. I loved the wordplay here. Really made me remember those bad times turned good.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 13, 2020:

Thanks, John. I just got back from reading it.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 13, 2020:

Hey Chris, I finished the "kangaroo" poem you requested. It's in Poems From the Porch 22. Cheers.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 13, 2020:

Yes, John, Fess Parker played both roles. He was the perfect Boone. Loved the series.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 13, 2020:

Haha, right. He might even give the frontier back to the natives, God forbid. But now I'm being sarcastic so I will stop.

manatita44 from london on February 13, 2020:

By Golly, Paula, you've got it! Oh my! Read about him so much; saw his documentaries and a movie too. Ah well, I'm 68. Haha. Thanks a lot!

No,no! Mr Bean needs the toughness and courage. God gave him a different talent. But then you're joking, right?

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 13, 2020:

Fes Parker played Daniel Boone in the TV series and Davey Crockett in a movie I remember. Oops, how old am I?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 12, 2020:

I'm thinking Mr. Bean would be a good Daniel Boone. What do you think?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 12, 2020:

The answer, Paula, is...Yes. How's that?

Suzie from Carson City on February 12, 2020:

LOL...Well, Chris & Jodah..if he wasn't thinking of Crockett, thanks to US, he surely must be now! "King of the Wild Frontier!!" I give away my age so freely!! OK, guys, help me now...was it Fess Parker? or did he play Daniel Boone?? LOL Funny I remember these things from a hundred yrs ago and don't recall what I did yesterday We all know what THAT means! Yikes!.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 12, 2020:

It is a tough path, Audrey and I know you are familiar with it. Many blessings on you and your family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 12, 2020:

Paula, you have a way of making me feel so damn good about myself. Thanks. I need that boost sometimes. Yes, Davey Crockett is who Manatita must be thinking of.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 12, 2020:

Manatita, I agree with Paula and John. I believe you were searching for the name, Davey Crockett. There are a few others, but not as well known. So I was a Boone or a Crockett in another life? Maybe so. Or maybe a drunk in the gutter. Who knows? Thanks for visiting.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on February 12, 2020:

I'll join you anytime, Chris, as I'm familiar with this path. I love your writing, so descriptive and relatable. The photos provide just the right scenery and are perfectly placed.

My best to you, my friend.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 12, 2020:

Davey Crockett?

Suzie from Carson City on February 12, 2020:

Manatita....Would you be trying to remember, Davey Crockett?

Chris....It's clear you have perfected the flash fiction genre. Your stories are most enjoyable and entertaining. Short tales that create a complete picture of human experiences, behavior and wonderful lessons. Thanks, Chris. Hope your day is a good one! Paula

manatita44 from london on February 12, 2020:

You were probably a great explorer like Boone or the other American guy, what's his name? …. well, let's say the English woman Jane Goodall, only she is still alive, as far as I know and souls do not change their gender, not usually. Lol.

A lovely piece of writing! Please remind me of the great American adventurer and wildlife explorer. I have gone blank. Daniel Boone and ….

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 11, 2020:

Cole, I have not heard from you in a very long time. I will visit your profile to see what you have been up to. I appreciate your words. Thank you.

Cole Ikerd on February 11, 2020:

Great work! It was predictable in all the right ways and beautifully described some of the deepest, oldest truths of humanity.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 11, 2020:

Bill, but there are ways to make the journey more difficult. Thanks for the encouragement.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 11, 2020:

Sean, yes, it is a parable of life or about certain times in our lives. Thank you for understanding and for your support.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 11, 2020:

Liz, This story, and many others I've written have been the same for me...like a one shot film. I see it happening and write it down. Others require much more work because I'm just making it up. Glad to hear that readers can sometimes pick up on this.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 11, 2020:

I've been on that same path, my friend. The walk is easier today for sure,and will continue to be easier as long as I am vigilante.

Superb writing!

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 11, 2020:

Absolutely amazing writing, my brother, Chris! A masterpiece, another one! A parable of life and not only with a gripping word-crafting! I am so blessed learning from you, my brother, though I have started to feel the first signs of addiction! Ha!Ha!

God bless your talent!

Sean

Liz Westwood from UK on February 11, 2020:

You write with such a great choice of words that it feels like a one shot film. This style of writing takes your readers with you on the path. On another level, we're left all trying to figure out how our lives fit this pattern at times.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 10, 2020:

MizB, I'm not sure where the path I wrote of begins or ends. Your description of your friend's experience is one place to apply this. It is interesting. This could also be any path we consider horrible. I've known people to learn they have stage 4 cancer. They were horrified. As they went along, they began to see beauty and experience joy that seemed to me to be unnatural. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 10, 2020:

Chris, this is a perfect description of life. Could we all have this feeling as we enter earth just before our births. I don't know. I can't remember it, but I had a friend who claimed he did and felt this way.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 10, 2020:

Ruby, it could be life or any part of life. The beauty is always there, but as you said, after the downs, we see it once more.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 10, 2020:

Bill, and you are one of a kind. Thank you for reading this piece with understanding.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 10, 2020:

Shauna, that's life in a nutshell, isn't it? Ups and downs, knowns, unknowns, fears, strengths...all in a few, short...years.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 10, 2020:

Could this be the ups and downs of life? Then we survive and see beauty once more. Chris I love the way you write about life in a most unusual way!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 10, 2020:

You are simply a very fine writer,Chris! Superb work here.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 10, 2020:

Chris, you've managed to capture life's ups and downs, knowns an unknowns, fears and strengths in a few short paragraphs.

Brilliantly written!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 09, 2020:

Eric, it is good to hear from you. Thanks for reading this reflective and subjective piece. I'll zip over to your profile to see what you are up to. I hope all is well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 09, 2020:

Really good. A little thorny I might say ;-) I love picking blackberries and don't mind the cuts so much. A thistle flower rubbed just right is as soft as could be. Never gave them much thought along these lines. Thanks for a great read.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 09, 2020:

Pamela, I think it is helpful to view life as a journey. Pilgrim's Progress was one of the classics. We can visualize the beauty and the hazards along the way. Thanks for taking the time to read.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 09, 2020:

This is an unusual story. The path sounds frightening, then it is not. The comfort level gets better as he walks the path I think. This reminds of making peace with our fears or maybe our demons. This story is thought-provoking, Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 09, 2020:

Sometimes the reflective part breaks through, John. When it does, whatever I am writing flows and seems effortless. As for the content of this one, I suppose it speaks of every tough spot anyone might encounter in life. This offers a different way of processing the hard times.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 09, 2020:

This is something rather different from you Chris. Who knows what awaits along an unknown path? You described it well. Wonderful images by the way.