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THE LOSTLING

HONORABLE MENTION
The 2017 Screw Turn Flash Fiction Competition

BY DANIEL SOULE

A streetlamp flickered. Under the lamppost stood an old red phone box. In the old red phone box a black telephone was ringing.

Down the street came a boy. No one knew his name, or if they ever did they had forgotten it along with the boy. His clothes didn’t fit him well—his coat was too big, his trousers too short. Dirt tried to gather under his fingernails, even though he had bitten them to the quick. He was filthy. He scratched from lice and carried a newspaper for packing under his clothes if the weather turned cold. He was heading to one of his spots—a cardboard box and a plastic sheet, hidden beneath a tumbledown railway bridge as forgotten as he was.

The boy heard the telephone. The ringing grew louder and more and more insistent the closer he got. Overhead, the streetlamp flashed an orange warning against the night sky.

The boy stopped under the lamppost. He had nowhere to go, other than his cardboard box. There was no one waiting for him at the tumbledown bridge. He looked up and down the street. There were no cars with somewhere to go. No one walked their dog, picking up its mess. Teenagers didn’t kiss on the corner, already ten minutes passed their curfew. Only a rat was there to see him disappear and reappear in the stuttering orange light. No one saw him. Nothing had changed.

His dirty, bitten fingers curled around the brass handle of the telephone box as he checked the street once more. Even a boy such as this, a forgotten soul, a lostling, knows to answer a ringing telephone. For if no one else was around, then surely the call must be for him as much, if not more, than anyone. Who else would a call be for, in a telephone box no one used, if not for the boy that no one wanted?

The red door swung shut behind him. Out of habit, he slid two fingers into the change slot, checking for unwanted coins. But no one used telephone boxes much anymore and in a few more years they would pass out of memory like so many things, like so many people. His other hand curled around the receiver, lifting it to his ear, to answer the call that must be answered.

“Hello? . . . ”

The streetlamp stopped flickering. Beneath it, the old red phone box stood empty, its receiver swinging in the silent night.



Dan Soule was an academic, but the sentences proved too long and the words too obscure. Although Northern Ireland is where he now lives, he was born in England and raised in Byron’s home town, which the bard hated but Dan does not. They named every other road after Byron. As yet no roads are named after Dan—but several children are. He tries to write the kind of stories he wants to read and aims for readers to want to turn the page. Dan’s work has featured in Number Eleven, Storgy, the Dime Show Review, Short Tale 100, Phantaxis and the horror magazine Devolution Z.

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