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Flash Fiction Friday - 16mm

Flash Fiction Friday is my new way to keep my writing reps up and flex those creative muscles. I'll take a writing prompt and turn it into an original piece of flash fiction. Here's the first one!

A woman finds old 16mm film from her childhood and sees that she had a sister — what happened to her?


Mary pulled the flaps of the cardboard box open and peeked inside. Unable to see its contents, she flipped the light switch and illuminated the room. It was apparent that no one had touched the box since it was packed some twenty years prior. Mary's slender fingers sorted a variety of trinkets.

"Do you want something at the pizza shop?" Derek called out from the adjacent room.

"Yeah, get me an Italian grinder. All the fixings."

"Got it. See you in twenty."

AI generated image of film roll and film still camera
AI generated image of film roll and film still camera

The storm door's piston hissed as Derek exited. Mary's stomach growled, anticipating the delicious sandwich. She hadn't realized just how famished she was.

They had spent hours clearing out her parent's estate. They had started early in the morning, fueled by corner store coffee and the adrenaline provided by grief. They had been buried for three days. Mary was still gripped by moments of pure sadness. She offered herself breaks as they sorted through the memories left behind.

A small film canister nestled at the bottom corner of the box caught her attention. She pulled the black plastic cylinder out of the box and examined it. A satisfying POP made her grin as she opened the canister and turned it over to catch the roll of film in her palm. She placed the canister down and gently unrolled the first few inches of the film. She held it against the light and squinted her eyes, trying to make out the faces in the negative film strip.

"Hey, Mom," she smiled. "Looking good."

A feeling of deep sadness welled up inside her chest. She pushed it down with a hard swallow. The tears in the corner of her eyes fell without acknowledgment.

She unfurled the film roll even more. Her eyes squinted. The unfamiliar face of a child, a young girl who wasn't her, caused her to pause. The young girl, no older than three, leaned with all her weight against Mary's mother's chest. They locked eyes and smiled at one another.

"Who is that?" Mary asked herself.

She moved the film closer to her eyes. It was indeed her mother. And the young girl was indeed a stranger.

The sadness morphed into inquiry. She tossed the film strip on a table and dumped the rest of the box's contents on top of it. She didn't know what she was looking for. Answers to her question. Who is that person?

Mary was an only child. Their family was distant both physically and emotionally from any of their relatives. She searched for clues as to who the young person coddled against her mother indeed was.

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