– Flash Fiction by Sobia Ali, Artwork by Erin Asmussen –
There lives a tiny, funny old man in my head; clothed in a white robe, back bent doubled, grey-bearded. He pops out of somewhere in my brain as soon as I sleep. He holds a long rod with which he taps on different parts of my brain to see if everything is running level and smooth. He assumes himself a sort of keeper over me. But the instant I wake up, he scurries into some hole and disappears. He seems to think I don’t know about his being. He thinks wrong. Because I have slept and woke and slept and woke innumerable times over the years and now and then caught him popping out or evaporating. Once I woke to find him sliding on my vessels to my legs. The panic he was in to go back to the head! Sometimes I pretend to fall asleep, to trick him into existence, but when he has made sure and decided to come out, I really flake out. Of course, he laughs at me, at the way I would like to be sure. The wicked funny old man. I don’t mind, though. He is lonely and the pranks he plays on me are his only recreation. Besides for all my attempts at finding out, in actuality I don’t want to be sure and have no idea what I would do with the knowledge. It will hinder me in my other works. And laugh do I in my turn whenever I catch glimpses of his pert little face, his long grey beard which tangles itself around him, the way he frisks about looking frightfully important. There comes a humorous gleam in his eyes on perceiving my mirth, as he does like me happy, and there is a hope that I may come to believe in him. Have me believe in him is what he does secretly desire, though he may pretend otherwise. Same as I. What would I not give to be convinced that he exists and watch over me when I lay unconscious and unprotected? That he is not one of my whims? Sometimes I wonder if it is me who is a whim. Whose? I don’t know. I don’t know anything, except at times I find the old man sitting sadly in some dark, remote corner of my brain, maybe because for all the cleaning and repairing he does for me he can’t make me be certain of him. Maybe because it is not so much fun to be doubted. Maybe because he finds it hard to believe against my unbelief. Maybe because for all our assertions to the contrary, we really wish us into beings. Maybe because unbeings don’t make any sense.
Sobia Ali studies English Literature in India. Her work has been published in, among others, Atticus Review, The Indian Quarterly, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Another Chicago Magazine, The Aleph Review, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, Gone Lawn, The Punch Magazine, Mekong Review, Litro Magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Manawaker Studio Flash Fiction Podcast, Bull, Necessary Fiction, and other places. She is currently working on a novel.
Erin Asmussen has spent her entire life making art. She sculpts and paints everyday and is always looking for a new place to grow her creative gifts. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design Technology from the Art Institute of Colorado. After graduation, the next several years were spent making Mannequins, carving giant play lands, and building theater sets. In her personal work there are images filled with surreal creatures, landscapes, and objects from the imagination. Erin has a natural gift of bringing the unseen to the seen. Follow her on Instagram @erinasmussen