Another flash fiction challenge from someone else’s title thanks to Chuck Wendig. I selected Ring of Bullets and I went weirdly literal? I feel like there are a lot of places to go weirdly literal with Ring of Bullets. Last time I selected a title no one else had picked and then as the stories started to filter in it was one of the more popular ones. So I’m just going with the one that grabbed me when I read through the list.
I’m still working toward the short and flash fiction podcast. I will be likely opening it up to doing reading of other author’s work occasionally so if you are interested please let me know.
Ring of Bullets
It has been 16 years. 16 years of peace, prosperity, life saving breakthroughs, empathy, and all the good things humanity ever strove toward. The first few years no one believed it, no one knew this would be real, no one thought it would last.
A few people today, still say it won’t stick. They stand on the street corners, yelling and shouting, while people walk past in a blissful haze. I sometimes stop and watch. Every couple hours a Representative comes out and brings them water, or a snack, and offers them help. I’ve never seen someone take the help.
Well, not in the last ten years. At the start, of course, everyone was getting help. Everyone was helping. Then people got used to it. The world is perfect, but it isn’t special anymore. Just another perfect Tuesday.
I remember what it used to be. It really is better now. I remember the ache of hunger, the deep despair of loss, the dull emptiness of disasters—the worse feeling when it was people who made the disaster.
The last few years have been the strangest. I feel like I don’t belong in this world anymore. It is still perfect. It is still amazing. Every single day.
I was excited 16 years ago. I was thrilled to finally be able to follow my passion of making art. I had help setting up a jewelry studio. I started to find my niche when people brought me old things. They wanted them turned into bracelets, necklaces, shimmering reminders of the past. Of how far we’ve come.
This job was bullets. An old man—he would have been an old man when the peace began—came in with a handful of bullets. He wanted something that he could give his great-granddaughter on her wedding day.
The bullets were lighter than I expected. He’d taken them apart before he brought them to me. He wasn’t sure what he wanted exactly. He said I was the artist, I should use them to make art. I’d smiled at him.
I would make him something that honored what it had taken to get here. The sacrifices had been great.
I ran the bullets through my scanner and my cleaner. They were, just as he’d said, safe, already taken apart.
I sat at my bench and pulled out a paper sketch pad. I had a computer I could sketch on too, of course, I used it for people who wanted something specific. I could render it in minutes while they watched. When I had time, I preferred the paper, the sound of the scratch of the pencil.
I sketched a dozen designs and threw them out. Nothing was working right. I decided just to work with the metals. I dumped the bullets out onto the table, dozens of them.
I picked up one with the outer part peeling off. I was able to peel away the copper easily with my fingers. At some point the lights in my workshop came on automatically. I had tiny cuts on my fingers and a pile of separated metals.
I scooped up the heavy discs, dotted with my blood and dropped them into my bin to recycle. I knew that I would make a bracelet, a thin, delicate, copper bracelet. It would gleam and shine with potential.
Working the bracelet took a few days, but every time I passed the recycle bin I ached just a bit at the dull, flat discs.
I ran my fingers through them, the discards of the past and finally dug them all out. I separated them and pulled out the lead and tin, heated and waiting for me.
I carved a ring, smooth with only a single ridge running through the middle. I poured dozens of mixtures into the mold. One came out, a dull tin alloy mix. It felt like it might have been a year old or a thousand.
He came in and I showed him the bracelet. He was delighted and was sure it would be perfect for a wedding gift.
I placed the bracelet in a box and hesitated for a moment before taking out the ring. If I was the artist and I was creating art, this was the art I had created. I unfolded the cloth around the ring.
He stared at it for a long time in silence. “You know sometimes I think I don’t belong in this world anymore. The world is beautiful, sparkling, gleaming.” The ring didn’t sparkle or gleam, I did think it was still beautiful.
He hesitated before finally reached out and picking it up. “This reminds me of…” He stopped and slid it on his finger. “Of a time long since passed.”