Flash Fiction


Flash Fiction


He would have wanted to tell the story, and he couldn’t—now closing the contour of silence—about the supposedly funny whistle until the first wounded began bawling. About the falling pine trees hit by fiery fists and desperately smelling of resin, about the steel whip flogging the grove far and wide, about the darkness looking from above with humming eyes, and striking again and again with bluish-purple flares and shards of steel. About him shooting, writhing, digging in with his hands, but then accepting and understanding that death is nothing but snug meltwater.

He retreated alone and stumbled against dead bodies; it looked like he was the only survivor. There were more houses exploding nearby and neatly lining up: an icy road, a bullet-ridden car, a chuckling daemon that moved and stalled and moved again, and the eyes in the sky kept buzzing, and the steel fits pounded the asphalt. A large-caliber gun spat out fire from the bushes, and the damned eyes went silent and fell to the ground.

Blue force, sure

How many made it out, and where

Who cares now

Where were you

My radio is down

Load the wounded

Hurry the fuck up

That night the Russian storm groups didn’t make it through. The gate to Kyiv—Moshchun grove—held out. Kyiv held out.


History is made at war, so there is no history at war. The body or steel of the enemy is the same artifact as some Scythian rider. We do not shy away from using his skulls or personal objects in a museum, even though he used to be human. He used to, but history is dead. Soldiers are similar to archaeologists, hunting for relics in the ground but with less joy. Similarly, places drop out of history. In this front-line village, night and day are the same - translucent yellowish-green autumn of this year’s early spring. Time is cut into hunks by especially intense rocket artillery or missile fire (rather infrequent). There is no space for time: it crawls inside. The soldier, this subject of history, soaks up time like a sponge, accumulating the fiery αἰών inside himself. It is nighttime in the middle of an autumnal early spring, and the same spring chill is in the air, though we are dressed warmer now. The same flame of aeon inside, amplified by the flame of sexual abstinence that sometimes bursts the veins apart with a herd of tiny satyrs. The amber moon and the silver stars are weaving onto the purple fabric, sometimes vanishing from sight among bursts of white phosphorus (rather infrequent).


Rain turns everything into an omnipresent clag that multiplies and fills all the fields, thickets, trenches, and foxholes. We sleep, eat, hide and slog around in clag; that is who we are: fiery, vigorous, but dog-tired clag. We learned the reek of mud, its tendency to fester wounds and stick to everything in reach. We are a rough oil and fire sketch on a filthy and sick canvas. This clag hangs on to us and the mortar shells, doubly coalescing good and evil. It drains us of our energy, but its womb sucks up the deadly steel directed at us. In some sense, both the benevolent nature and the evil demiurge took a hand in the trench mud. From the dugout's filthy womb, we get initiated and born onto the outside: trench beasts with dim reddish halos. This hurts every single time. Jagged unrevealed figures begin to take shape against the muddy backdrop, the upside-down diagonal crosses on the shear of the dugout and the spade-chiseled features baring their teeth from the trench wall with every tank hit. Suffering does not purify: it muddies head to toe. Something I do is read poetry to the guys at night in the dark and wet pit. Sometimes they lend me an ear. 


The shelling began at seven, and it has not stopped since. I can hear muffled sorties and then the whistle and hiss. Sometimes the shells land close, at times too far away. I lie in the dugout, and my imagination portrays a red-hot grid of trajectories, set into the frosty landscape of mice kingdom on the unharvested fields, into the pattern of the decimated thicket, where a human is harder to find than a shell-shocked ghost or a stray dog, and the road edges hide rotting landmines, bags, cans, cartridges, blood- and pus-soiled bandages and who knows what else, into the tangle of trenches looking like organs of a whale interlaced with the belly of the dugout and those who sleep inside. I remember the shards of ice with the blood-red berries inside that fell on the parapet five minutes before the shelling when the sun thawed the branches that concealed our position. The ice crumbled and cracked as it fell on the rampart before my eyes and melted, leaving the red berries and humid traces on the black and brown soil.

And then the shelling began, the shift was over, and I was lying in the belly of the dugout having slipped away from the net of the shells akin to a wise fish, having fun thumbing in my head through shards of ice, blood-red berries.

 The night snow splashed across the debris, leveling out the angular marks of walls and burned roofs, froze for a while, and then dribbled down, taking its time and steeping its own paths.

When I was four, I was captivated by the snow's whiteness and the trees' blackness. I am still enchanted at forty.

This is a weird place: close to the frontline one can walk, breathe, and hanker. Usually, it leaves behind pathetic scraps of motion and feeling. The frontline is true, to some extent, the thoroughness of life, but a life dreadfully compressed, grotesquely twisted inside an earthen nook, an iron box, or a razed thicket. A life fickle and flickering like an epileptic’s aura. Every new sortie would be a cicatrix, even if all went well. The local ruins allude to the war but calm me down, possibly because everything dreadful supposedly had happened.

By day, there are no birds, not one, but at night something enormous and hunting keeps flying around. That spark of joy when the dark outline in the sky is only a bird. I remember squeezing myself into a tree near the position "Zeus" trying to hide from a giant coal-black drone hovering over the thicket. It had something both retro futuristic and sinister about it, but I let allusions slip at the time. Or that time when I wanted to shoot at Russian drones near trenches of "Evil" but changed my mind to stay out of sight in my OP while they were raining one HEDP after another.

What remains of the market is in the town center: the tipsy vendors, the higgledy-piggledy booths and warehouses. Few people are around, mostly soldiers and those trying to make a living off them. A world without people is snow and soot slowly oozing out.


(Translation by Denis Pinchuk, Bohdan Bondarchuk)


Dmitriy Shandra is a poet and a paramedic of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He is from Kiev, Ukraine



Previous Post Next Post