Flash Fiction: “Brain Polaroids”

Brain Polaroids (Crazy Moths IV)

The boy Sky woke and there was crust in his eyes that kept the lids together, which was good, because otherwise he would have seen the moth on the headrest. Not a moment too soon—right when his eyelids were strong enough to break the crust—he remembered the rules: Don’t look up or there they’ll be. The world opened bright around him and he gazed down at his lap. To survey the scene he used only his ears and his hands. He could tell he was in the station wagon, that was easy. Quite well he knew the plasticky smell of the seatskin, and he could feel the hum of the engine idling beneath him. Next he decided his head ached. He touched it and it hurt more. And a moth flew away, like it had been sleeping on his eyebrow all this time. It tickled the bottom of his wrist and then bounced off the ceiling. The wind on his plump little arms told him the doors were open. The doors shouldn’t be open.

And so, like his mom taught him to do when it was absolutely necessary; he polaroided. This means he shot a super-quick glance out through the window and then back down to the safety of his lap, and while staring at his lap he let the image develop in his mind. It came slow, like when you jiggleshook a picture from the old Polaroid camera his dad had. The colors and edges and things came as chemicals. The picture developed. It was the fun wooden play structure at Veteran’s Park. The station wagon had apparently parked right up against the metal bars, in the sand. Sky didn’t know you could do that. More parts of the picture joined together. His dad (!) sat on the upper level of the play structure getting ready to go down the metal slide. Sky didn’t know why his dad would risk being out in the open. The slide wasn’t even good. It screeched and slowed your butt down. One time in the summer Sky and his brother took butter to the park, to put on the slide, but it melted in his pocket when they were still on Middle Road. More of the picture: there were bugs up there with Sky’s dad, clouding his hair. They were probably moths, and Sky’s dad wasn’t even looking down at the ground like he was supposed to. Then the rest of the picture came. Next to the play structure was where the swings were with the heavy rubber seats. His brother was there, wobblestanding on one of the swings, holding the chains to keep from falling. Stand-swinging. This is a fun thing to do, but not when there were moths all around like you’re a lightbulb.

“Why are you playing,” he screamed to his knees, but his dad and brother were having so much fun they didn’t answer. Sky was too confused still to be properly horrified. He did a follow-up Polaroid, and this time when it developed his dad was already buttsqueaking down the slide, getting nowhere, and his brother was still on the swing. The two of them didn’t seem scared of the moths. And because he really wanted to, Sky started to think that maybe the moths were finally safe to look at again. This must be the case because why are dad and Joey out there? Then he got mad and clenched his fists and thought: I’ll make sure it’s the case. I’ll go play.

That’s when he heard a nearby collision, a metallic rattle. Someone somewhere had run into something, probably one of those green metal baskets they got all around the park, the ones that protect the garbage cans. He listened carefully then for more noise. Feet, running on sidewalk, sand, coming towards the car. Sky didn’t think it was a tanglebrain because tanglebrains didn’t run. They were too crazy to want to run.

To better gauge the situation, Sky polaroided sideways towards where the sound was— real fast, then back to his lap. The picture barely had time to develop: it was a very-short person, maybe a kid like him. It was running kinda towards him, kinda not. Running bent forward like his head was a battering ram. On his head was a Halloween monster mask with a roaring blue-green lizard face with rubber teeth and tongue included, though the rubber on one side of the face was partially melted and collapsed. The weird plastic face turned into black fuzz for the rest of the mask, starting from the forehead, like hair. It was one of those whole-head masks. There were tiny eyeholes for the person to see out of, too, but there was no way they lined up properly with the eyes. The mask person was very very close to the station wagon by the time the brain-polaroid had finished developing in Sky’s head. Not a moment later he heard the mask person smash headfirst into the side of the car, then collapse into the sand.

“Hey,” Sky yelled. “Did you die?”

It was a kid who responded. Sky thought maybe he was as old as Joey. “No. Come with me.” His words came hollow from beneath the big rubber jaw.

“I’m gonna play with Joey.”

“Are those your family?” said Mask.

“Yeah. What’s your name?”

“Hector. And your family is cuckoo, you can’t play with them. Come with me to my dad in the trailer.”

“Don’t say that.”

“They’re cuckoo,” said Hector. “Just look at them! Actually don’t.”

“Don’t say that,” but by then Sky was already out of the car and following Hector away from the car and the park. Toward the trees. Hector ran in a weird snake pattern but Sky managed to keep behind him by staring at the heels of his shoes. They were brand new Jordans that were too big for him. Behind, Sky heard the squeak of the swings as his older brother changed his grip on the chains.


I wanted to kick the new year off with a subject near and dear to my heart: moths that make you go insane.

To catch up with the Crazy Moths franchise, check out the other installments!

Crazy Moths (Crazy Moths I)

It is I Who Lick the Garbage (Crazy Moths II)

Billy Wiff (Crazy Moths III)

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