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Before the Flash

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My Aunt Claudia, from my paternal side, adopted me when I was around four after my parents had tragically died in an accident. My memories of them were vague; they were blurred outlines, unseen shadows. I only remembered disappearing into my aunt’s outstretched arms, her perfume floating around in my conscious mind.

She, and later I, lived in the “run-down” part of the greater city, where smugglers, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, rapists, gamblers, where all the gangs and buffoons lived. Of course, my aunt wasn’t any of these. She was a fortune-teller. All day long she read teacups and palm leaves and bird feathers and tried to deduce the meaning of crossed lines and splashes. Whether she was accurate or not, I couldn’t say. She would dress in her “typical costume,” of bellowing robes and black scarves, sometimes accompanied by a turban, and proceed to startle her customer by the use of seductive words. She would drag each syllable out; make her voice snakelike and low. Usually the customer left in a hurry.

Once I asked Aunt Claudia if she could test my fortune. She made me drink a cup of scalding tea, its fiery liquid scorching my throat. Afterwards, she checked my teacup while I stood nervously in the corner of the room. Finally she announced, “I honestly can’t tell.”

“So you don’t know!?”

Aunt Claudia peered over her glasses. “I do know, but I’m not certain.”

That did not make any sense.

I didn’t question Claudia. Maybe magic didn’t exist, but my aunt was remarkably precise. “In five months’ time your wife will bear you a stillborn son.” The customer, upon hearing this, swore in Claudia’s face and didn’t even pay. He stomped out angrily. Five months later, a stillborn baby was born.

I had lived with Aunt Claudia for ten years. She never pushed me too hard. I went to school, did my homework, and cooked up random suppers. I wasn’t exactly the cook of the century, my method was basically to dump ingredients into a heated bowl of water and add salt. Surprisingly, they resulted in satisfying results. I guess Aunt Claudia suffered internal torture.

She never made me call her “aunt.” Although occasionally, when my emotions were stressed, I would precede her name with “aunt,” I mostly called her Claudia. She never minded. She didn't demand. She didn't nag. That was what made me love her more than my own parents. In other words, she was very “cool.”

We lived like this for a decade, minding our own business. Claudia did her hedge-magic, and I did my algebra. Our lives were rarely interrupted, and Claudia didn’t predict any “horrible, death-awaiting” fortunes for unwary customers. I passed grades with an A-minus average, except for math, which I passed with an A-plus. My teacher was very impressed.

“You should be a mathematician one day,” she informed me.

Maybe I would have. If it hadn’t happened, then perhaps I would.

But the big deal?

It had.

On March 22, I heard my aunt scream. It wasn’t the scream you emitted when you saw a bug or a snake or something; it was a scream that scraped throats raw. It was a scream of pure terror. I nearly killed myself sprinting to check on her.

She was in her fortune-telling room, sprawled across her chair, a crumpled wad of papers clenched in her fist. Ink of a black gel pen dripped from the edge of the table. Her head seemed to mechanically turn toward me as she noticed my presence. Upon seeing the mess, I immediately dropped to my knees and began cleaning it up with a spare napkin.

Claudia groaned, her eyes fluttering.

“Claudia! Are you all right?” I hastened to stand.

She shook her head. I asked her if she needed a glass of water. She didn’t reply.


Now, I must confess, I was quite bewildered and perplexed at the whole situation. Aunt Claudia never acted such drama in her so-called prophecies. When she was done “sightseeing,” as she coined it, she took whatever fate was and held it calmly. But today, she was hysterical. I had never seen my aunt hysterical before.

When I finally managed to coax her into having supper, I threw in my mishmash of random meats and vegetables into a pot of heated water, before settling into the chair beside her. I was aware that she was still clasping the wad of paper.

“Claudia, what’s wrong?”

For a moment both of us were going to switch roles.


She was silent. I tried prying her fingers away from the paper. With great difficulty I managed so, and eased it out of her grasp. Aunt Claudia’s face was paper-white, and the eyes were round and shocked.

I slowly unfolded the paper, dreading what could be scribbled on there. I distinctly remembered Aunt Claudia telling me various ways of sightseeing. “This is, as I call it, the ‘Paper method.’ You take any sheet of paper, and a pen, and allow yourself to slip into the visions. While you’re at it, the pen itself will draw out the outcomes.” She flashed me a smile.

“Are the results bad?” I whimpered.

She looked at me carefully. “Maybe.”

Now, with trembling fingers, I unfurled the crumpled sheet and stared uncomprehendingly at the drawing.

It was not of a mythical, two-headed beast, or a bloodstained doll, not even a shadowy silhouette! Instead, it was a clump of scrawls and scribbles. I could not decipher the meaning.

“Aunt Claudia?” I was nervous. “What do these scribbles mean?”

I thought she was going to stare blankly at me, not responding, but to my surprise, she opened her mouth, and a flood of words poured out.

“I don’t know what it means. I don’t know I wasn’t expecting it, I was just trying to see what of the future and I saw it. It is a wasteland the sun is red-“

“Aunt Claudia.” I tried to speak as soothing as I could. “Calm down. It was just a vision.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“Just a vision!”

“Well,” I stammered, “It’s of great importance, I’m sure, but-“

“Jenny.” Claudia’s eyes focused on me. “A vision is never wrong.”

I hurriedly released a question, “What did this vision mean?”

Claudia glanced at me.

“I don’t know.”

I didn’t even open my mouth to hurl my incredulity. How did she not know?! Before I could utter a single word, however, Claudia stood up.

“Your supper’s burning, Jenny. I suggest you go and take a peek at it.” Without another word, she strolled off in her long strides, leaving me alone with my own thoughts.

For some time I tried to decode the meaning of the scrawls. Perhaps a great accident was to be coming? A stray bomb? Every time I thought of a theory, my inner conscious said to me, “No, that’s not right.”

After an hour of hard thinking, and rushed swallows of my infamous soup, I felt my eyelids slowly drop. I pushed away my bowl, which was still half-full, and trudged up toward my bedroom. I caught a glimpse of Aunt Claudia lying in her bed as I picked my way up to my resting area. She was dreaming, and it must’ve been an uneasy one, because she kept tossing and turning about. I averted my eyes and proceeded to make my way through.

Early the next morning I woke myself up in time to get ready for school. I was pulling on a pair of jeans when I heard bumping noises in the kitchen. Still groggy and dazed, I descended down the stairs, my bare feet skimming over the rough fabric. Upon entering the kitchen doorway, I froze.

Aunt Claudia was sitting quietly at the table, her eyes closed. Her left hand was firmly pressing down a sheet of yellowing paper; her other hand held a pen. The pen was gliding over the surface, quite smoothly, like a good boat on water. The only sounds I could here was of my own breathing.

Suddenly, my aunt began jerking around. Her eyes rolled about in their sockets, saliva collected at her mouth, her body seemed to be in a sort of seizure. The pen was denting the paper; jagged, spiky lines were smeared across the sheet. The pen flew out of her hand and landed, with a resonate that felt like it was heard in the entire universe, at my feet. Claudia’s eyes opened.

“Claudia?” I approached her timidly, the fallen pen in my grip. “Do you… do you need any hel-“

My aunt drew in a ragged breath. “It’s nothing, Jenny. Go eat some breakfast.”

My breakfast skills were more admired than my supper ones. In a few minutes I cooked eggs and toast for the both of us. We soundlessly consumed our sources of nutrition. As I slung my cyan-colored backpack strap over my shoulder, I noticed Claudia staring at me.


She hesitated for a millionth of a second. “Don’t say of this to anyone. Anyone.”


During the course of a fortnight I observed Aunt Claudia carefully. Her visions appeared at random intervals, sometimes at supper, sometimes at night. I always stood next to her side, in case she needed aid.

The piles of crushed, wrinkly paper began building up. On March 31st (I kept track of the dates, mind you), Claudia asked me to burn them. I stubbornly refused, saying that I wanted to know the reasons behind all this incidents. She finally gave in, and nodded assent.

I flattened out the sheets and stacked them into sturdy columns. Then I began examining them.

The first few were, as I had said, messy zigzags bouncing around. However, as I continued into this mystery, I noticed that these irregular lines were… forming a shape.

No, not a shape.


April swept in. At first, I couldn’t recognize the letters. I realized a few: T, H, E, L, H. I questioned

Claudia about this.

She shrugged. “I have no idea.”

That’s what she seems to be saying all the time these days to me. I gritted my teeth.

The visions that assaulted Aunt Claudia were becoming more alarming. Her body would spasm, her legs kicking in different directions, her pen skidding across the paper. Sometimes her eyes would momentary open, although they saw nothing. They were blind during sightseeing. After the vision faded, my aunt would be on her knees, copiously vomiting into a pail bucket I set for her. She would remain in bed, her pale face taking away all color, her eyes gazing sightlessly at the ceiling. She would have a fever, and I had to run to and fro with a cool towel to lower her temperature. There was no doubt about it. Something was changing with my aunt.

And I was scared of it. Never had this happened before. Never had these visions seized her like vices and drained her of her health. I worried for my aunt.

I worried for myself.

The world was changing.

The day before the end, my aunt had a terrible vision. I didn’t know what it was, but I identified the letters as D, E, S, T, R, O, Y. I assumed it was the end of the world.

“Maybe you’re right,” my aunt said after finishing puking into the bucket.

I was.

That night I carried the papers to her sightseeing room. I spread them out carefully. Some words popped out.


The Flash? What the hell was that? Destroy what? I puzzled over them.

And then the morrow came.

It started off as normal as life could get. I held the bucket cautiously while my aunt heaved up massive amounts of yesterday’s supper. Her eyes were shining today.

“Claudia? Why are you so… tense?”

She caught me by the shoulders and peered deep into my eyes. “The end of the world,” she murmured. “It’s today.”

I fled to the school.

When I was walking on the track for PE, I noticed the heat was unbearable. Sure, it was near end of April, but when did 90 degrees come into the mark? I frequently wiped rivers of sweat from my face.

It struck me.

I knew.

I begged my math teacher to let me go home. “My aunt is sick. I have to take care of her. Please. I feel really bad. I’m hallucinating. Is that a flying unicorn? AHHH!”

My trig teacher relented.

I bolted down the labyrinth of hallways. I never ran this fast before, my feet didn’t even touch the floor. I crashed out the school doors and whipped myself forward toward my house. Her house. I fumbled with the keys; they shakily squeezed in the keyhole. I threw open the door.

Aunt Claudia was dead.

A trail of blood flowed weakly down her arm. Her eyes were open, staring off into oblivion. I saw the knife in her hand. She had slit her wrists.

I wasn’t concerned about that right now. I leaned forward and read the paper. The content was written with blood.




Underneath it was a mess of lines.

I slowly put down the papers. I didn’t look at my dear aunt. I walked past her corpse, into the hallway, as if in a dream.

I glided out the entrance room, onto the porch, already feeling the heat rising. Smoothly I made my arse sit on the porch-boards. It didn’t matter if I was inside or out. It didn’t matter where I was; what I was; who I was. It didn’t matter what I was going to do. The Flash was coming, it was inevitable, and it was going to obliterate us all.

Written by RisingFusion
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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