Three Works of Flash Fiction by Conor Barnes: “The Dream Eater”, “The Duel”, and “Void”

Three Works of Flash Fiction by Conor Barnes: “The Dream Eater”, “The Duel”, and “Void”
The Dream Eater

Their new roommate did not need to eat or sleep. Instead she told them to share their dreams. Her only rule was that she must not be asked to interpret the dream.

They abided. They loved sharing every detail, and soon everybody in the dorm did too. She explained that labyrinths were best. Endless corridors, doors to nowhere, stalkers that changed shape when one turned away. At night the woman sat on the roof and received tribute, framed by the moon.

“I am in a lake and can see my ex hosting a beach party with my friends. I am drowning and they try to save me without leaving the beach.”

This pleased her.

“A snake is wrapping around my legs and I know it wants my teeth. But I check my mouth and my teeth are already gone. I look down and the snake has a human grin.”

This pleased her immensely.

The last night before she was to move on to the next school, a student from another dorm came to her and shared his dream. In it, he became lost in a building. Though he was deep inside, the sun beamed through the walls, and he burned alive.

He could make out the woman’s smile, in the dark of the roof. She thanked him for sharing, then bid him farewell. But he didn’t budge.

“Can you explain it? Is it about my soul?”

Disappointment surged through her. The dream evaporated into meaning. But still, she’d consumed a portion.

The student was still babbling. “I think it’s about my childhood. If you could interpret it, that’d be really helpful.” He turned to stare at the yellow moon. “What does it mean?”

The woman wrapped around the student. As water pushed the air out of his lungs and his skin began burning away, she hissed into his pounding ear: “Nothing. Nothing.”

The Duel

It is an hour until the duel. He thinks I will not kill him because I fear the law. But the law is made of men, and men will honour what I do today.

My wife’s scarf is around my arm, crusted with her blood. The arena will see it when the state observer checks us for hidden knives. He will give me the true blade. The true blade will make us equals. I will watch the market odds vibrate on the neon signs while their red light spills across us. The odds already say I will lose.

When we sign the final form together, I will spit on him. Everybody will begin to suspect. The odds will quiver.

If not for his capital friends, he would have been hanged. It would have millions of views by now. If not for his friends, he would have hanged.

But he couldn’t refuse the duel. He is a fool.

He won’t know until we bow and he sees my eyes. My wife and my son are resting in the bottom of my eyes, in the bottom of my heart. He will know. It will become hard for me to hide it. When I think about this moment, it becomes hard for me to hide it.

We will take the three steps. His will be dedicated to the scum that protect him. My first step for my wife. My second for my son. My third for the markets that make this possible. There is nothing else.

I will take a last look at the odds. They will tick up when the camera sees my face, hiding nothing. He will see the same odds on his side. He will become afraid, like an animal dreaming.

I will turn and throw in one motion, the way I have practiced. If I am lucky, he will fall and very slowly die. If I am unlucky, I will kill him with my hands. There is no fear in me. His blade will not pierce me because there is no place for death to enter me.

I will dip her scarf in his blood. It will free hers. The market will close. The crowd will cheer, many of them newly rich. The announcer will try to interview me before I am arrested. There will be no beauty left in the world.

Fifty minutes until the duel.


This is sacred sand. It was once a sacred temple that fell from the dream of the creator. I shall tell you how it came to be sand.

When the world was born, it was all one thing. Time was the same as space and you were the same as the light after a storm. But the words ‘time’ and ‘space’ and ‘you’ and ‘light’ did not make sense when the world was born. It was only and entirely form, without void, without withoutness.

Then God conceived of time as a separate thing. He did not know that he conceived emptiness as well. He gave birth to twins and then the world began to crack. Time let his brother Emptiness split many things. First the past split from the future, then the sky from the earth. Soon there was emptiness within all things. Things no longer simply were, they began and they ended. Because God does not begin and does not end, He was fascinated. He watched what happened in His creation.

God watched the day become night and said This is good. God watched the wolf kill the lamb and said This is good. God watched the fire eat the garden and said This is good.

Over time emptiness spread and wrapped tighter and tighter with form. Soon things were made of separate things. Soon everything was made of atoms.

Then God was truly pleased with his creation. He went to sleep. While He slept He dreamed new dreams. Everything He dreamed He added to the world. He dreamed the temple and He dreamed the altar. He dreamed Man to worship Him. Man was confused because Man was dreamed by something that is not empty, but Man was empty.

Man tried worshipping God but he was still empty. He tried not worshipping God but he was still empty. Man wandered the earth in rage for three years and learned many things. When he returned to the temple, he split its atoms apart. For a moment there was the radiance of a thousand suns and it was almost like the splendor of the creator. Then there was only sand. God saw it from His dream and said This is good.

Man saw the destruction he had brought and felt shame. He did not know it was good. He wandered the earth again for three years as penance. When he returned, he planted the sunflowers you see now across the sands of the temple. When they were grown, he laid down in them and died, and all of his matter spread across the field and the earth. God saw it from His dream and said This is good.

When the world is reduced to total emptiness, it will no longer be made of separate things. It will be only one thing again. Then God will wake up and bring Man back. He will take him over the waters and the deep darkness and will show him the empty and void world. He will say Do you see what we have done together? Do you see what we have created? Then God will sleep again, and Man will be steward over the nothingness, king of the void.

Conor Barnes is a Canadian writer living in Halifax. His fiction has been published in Literally Stories, the Metaworker, Shirley Magazine, and elsewhere. His poetry has been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Puddles of Sky Press.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy “Dream Errors” by Jay Charles.

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