Karma Judgment Day

by Jaime Gill

1st Place Winner – Flash 405, February 2024: “Host”


Like most people, I only heard of the karma cult when that fading but still tabloid-famous movie star private-jetted to the Himalayas at the special invitation of the Enlightened Host. The actor renounced his selfish and superficial former life on Instagram, igniting global hilarity. I laughed too, although—knowing what I did—that was foolish.

#KarmaJudgmentDay remained a punchline for weeks, until the day itself dawned. The sun’s rays hit the cult’s snowy compound and the purest-hearted devotees were transformed into brilliantly colored butterflies fluttering like confetti through the sunrise. The secret doubters within the cult became caterpillars, which seemed a consolation until the Enlightened Host—astonished that his fabrication had manifested itself into reality—became a toad and ate them. He was then paralyzed in agony, the caterpillars’ flesh being toxic. Karma wasn’t just a bitch, she was a tricksy bitch.

All humans were transfigured when daylight touched them, a wave of metamorphosis chasing the sun across the globe. Wars ceased as troops became doves or beetles, according to their consciences. The doves ate the beetles, then became beetles themselves, and were eaten in turn. Politicians found themselves in forms nobody could describe. The circle of life span murderously.

Some reports were rushed out before the senders lost their opposable thumbs. Sleepless as usual, I saw shaky, DIY videos pour in from the east at five a.m. My past sprang up from the depths of my soul like a jack-in-the-box—BOO!—and I panic-paced around my kitchen looking for a reprieve.

A distant whine inspired me and I dashed in the pale predawn to my neighbors’ yard to rescue the dog I’d heard being beaten for years. It cowered as I approached, my arms outstretched, but all too late—here came the sun. The light! The revelatory, transforming light!

I’m blind now, immobilized and entombed. It’s hot and wet here. Suicide isn’t an option as I lack limbs and can’t stop myself reflexively sucking my host’s sour but sustaining juices. Sometimes a vast, doomy sound reverberates through this throbbing flesh realm. Barking. Happy barking.

I think I’m a worm inside that dog. It freed itself somehow.

I wish I hadn’t done those things. I hope those I harmed are now hummingbirds. I wish I’d helped my host sooner. I wish it would shit me out so I could die. There’s nothing to do here except wish, think, and remember.



Judge’s Comments:
I loved how the pace accelerates in this piece, only to climax with the narrator being trapped in stasis. The comedy works because it is so exaggerated and absurd—the image of the narrator seeking redemption by freeing a trapped dog, and then becoming a worm inside of said dog, is inspired. It’s simultaneously sad, frightening, and funny, without compromising on any of these.

Jaime Gill is a British-born writer living in Cambodia. His work has been published by Litro, Tulsa Review, the BBC, Pinky Thinker, Beyond Words, The Write Launch, The Guardian, voidspace, and Wanderlust. He consults for nonprofits while working haphazardly on a novel, script, and far too many stories, several of which have been finalists for awards including The Masters Review annual award, the Bridport Prize, the Rigel Award, and the Plaza Prizes. Find him on X (formerly Twitter) or Instagram.

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Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao