Aphelion Issue 287, Volume 27
September 2023
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Flash Fiction
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The Tour

By Romana Guillotte

  Her mother would say it was her idea, but Rebecca had been laying the groundwork for months: pamphlets here, novels there, and casual articles on the anniversary of the war. A travel brochure marking the war anniversary was the icing on the cake. Now Rebecca was squishing around in the green fields of France on that misty November morning. She wasn’t entirely sure how she picked that particular brochure--so far the tour hadn’t impressed her.

    “All this was a battlefield for World War I, called the Great War at its time.” The tour guide struggled with syntax, but Rebecca let it slip, considering she did too. While all around her was green, the only colors she knew about World War I were gray, tan and brown. Dreamily she gazed over the long stretches of grass.

    “The trenches were said to stretch for some kilometers on both sides.” The tour guide motioned in strange parallel manner that must have been cultural. Rebecca gave a small humorous shake of the head and saw a nearby tree. She wondered if it had witnessed the horrible carnage—it certainly looked old enough. Slow motion images of men in tin helmets, blowing whistles and charging out onto No Man’s Land played before her eyes and made her blink. With a frown, Rebecca wandered toward it, and realized something was urging her forward to touch the tree.  Something...she wasn’t sure what, but it had been a long trip and searching for the right words seemed extra difficult at this point.
    On the other hand, and on the other side of time, you had Daniel. Or Lt. Daniel Reed. Either way, he hadn’t wanted to join the Army, but everyone was doing it and he didn’t want to look like the patsy, so he did it.  His mother was surprised when he emerged from father’s library, on his last day at home, in uniform. Then off he went despite the tears in her eyes and his sister’s eyes.
    Now he was stuck.  Stuck with a shoulder wound, stuck in France, stuck in No Man’s Land – or the edge of it. He slinked to a nearby sapling just out of sight of the enemy and leaned against it, a miracle it survived. What could he do? What do they do that was so noble and heroic in all those books he read?
    Rebecca stopped at the tree. Her fingertips barely touched the bark when there was a spark. When her palm met the surface, she saw something hazy out of the corner of her eye, flickers of light. Both hands on the tree now, and a whole portal into another world opened. A soldier leaned against it. And he was in full WWI soldier regalia. She took a breath.
    For a moment, Daniel thought the air had gotten to him, perhaps it was a gas attack, for he swore he saw a girl standing next to him in a smart coat and Wellies. She looked as surprised to see him as he was to see her. Daniel reached out in curiosity and their hands met in a comfortable and congenial handshake.  She was real all right, but what she was doing on the field might take some explanation.

    “We’ll be continuing on,” A French voice called in English.
    She sighed. “Thank you, whoever you are.”

    Daniel, taken aback, said, “Thank you, angel lady.”

    Then the woman was gone. Daniel slumped to the ground, just in time to miss a bullet in the shoulder. And to hear a nearby whisper for help.  Slowly he slinked toward the wounded soldier.  They crawled to safety together, or what they hoped would be safety. Hard to tell in a war.      
    Back on the bus, the tour guide flashed a smile as she handed out thick cards written in French, English, German, and Japanese. “Please let us know about your experience, we could use suggestions, as our tour is new.”

    “New?” Rebecca blurted for some reason.

    It caught the young guide’s attentions. “Yes.”

    “Oh…well nice job.”

    The guide looked to pat herself on the back. “Merci, mademoiselle.”

    Rebecca smiled and pulled out a pen.

                                                                                                          THE  END

2015 Romana Guillotte

Bio: Romana Guillotte is an MFA Screenwriting Candidate at UNLV, though more importantly a terribly average cellist and a ginger that loves dragons. She writes reviews for “Marc Gunn’s Celtic Music Magazine” and had flash fiction shorts appear in “Foliate Oak Literary Magazine”, “Slink Chunk Press”, and “Grievous Angel Magazine.”

E-mail: Romana Guillotte


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