Honorable Mention – Flash 405, April 2023: “Flight”
At 39 weeks pregnant, Sadie Dellacort wasn’t sure what terrified her more: that she could launch into labor at any moment, or that she would begin flying when she did. Just lift, right off the ground, like every woman in her family had for generations.
The flights were a phenomenon, but the town was used to them. Sadie’s neighbors had already fixed pillows to their rooftops with a communal nail gun. An enterprising somebody had sewn together several large fishing nets, which the town would cast over the taller trees to keep the Dellacort women from tangling in the branches. Years ago, Sadie’s grandmother had landed in an unprotected tree, too high to climb down in her advanced state and wedged tight into the branches. This turned out to be a godsend, seeing as she was able to brace her feet against the tree trunk as she pushed. The baby boy emerged and landed safely on one of the blankets outstretched below; the umbilical cord snapped in two from the fall.
The Dellacorts were never able to control the flights of their women. Speed, direction, pattern: all seemed to be left up to some entirely impenetrable force. It was thought that the quicker the woman’s temper, the wilder her flight, but that theory was disproved when a saintly great aunt had violently pinwheeled above the sea for two hours before smacking into the brick lighthouse.
Dellacort women had been lashed to the ground with rope, chained in place, and handcuffed to the wall, but nothing stuck. Sadie’s aunt had dried herself in cement from the knees down, but once contractions began, her body broke through the gray block like she was a superhero. Perhaps the Dellacort women were superheroes, it was said, unless they were actually witches. Why did the women even allow themselves to get pregnant, some wondered. There had been a time when Dellacort women did not survive the birth at all, whether from crashing before it or being burned at the stake after.
Sadie was consumed with fear over the flight, and later, once the amniotic fluid was streaking down her legs, she waited for the weightless feeling with consuming dread.
Yet as her contractions progressed, as she shrieked from pain and as the circle of confused family and witnesses increased, her body never escaped to floating heights above. She stayed, firmly and more fearful than any flight, on earth.
I love the idea of pregnant women flying away. It had me thinking for a long time about what it means to escape and what it means to be bound to one body.
Shayla Frandsen (she/hers) received her MFA in fiction in Utah, and previously earned an MA in English in New York City. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Under the Sun, Blood Orange Review, SLAB, Irreantum, Literary Mama, Beaver Magazine, and others. Her writing received first place in the 2023 Plentitudes Prize for fiction
Photo Credit: Jonathan Borba