Flash Fiction:


Falling Apart

Justen Russell




The Dread Machine

1320 Words


Published by The Dread Machine in issue 1.4, Falling Apart is a bleak look into the life of someone doing everything they can to hold on just a little longer in a near future version of our competitive, at times dystopian world.

Behind the Story

A good friend of mine, after reading “Falling Apart” remarked that it was incredibly bleak, but did not need to be so. In their version, rather than end as it does, the next line of the story would be: “and that is when you met me.”

Their new version would not compromise on the critique of capitalism, nor tone down the cruel, dystopian nature of the world you live in, but in a surprising second act—written jarringly in the first person, of course—we would explore the world of Me.

Me would have been the victim of a tragic accident. The kind that can strike anybody and ruin them in an instance. Trapped in a hospital bed, unable to move, the world is also indifferent to my struggles, but in a different way than they are to yours. Then we meet.  

In a quirky, twisted meet-cute, my head is grafted onto your shoulders. Though it is not the life that either of us expected, we learn to get by and share one life. The halves that we are left with each being more that what we would have had alone.

I really liked the poetic nature: the two halves make a whole. I liked the jarring change of narrative and how perfectly it complemented the Time Burton-esque feel of this new act. Most of all, I liked the message. That in the nightmare of capitalism we sometimes let run amok, there is a way out through co-operation. Is it by design that we are made to feel like life is a gladiatorial match? If we are too busy competing with each other, how can we ever compete with those on the very top. In this second, non-canonical alternate ending, giving up meant escaping through kindness and a human connection rather than independence and spite.

I did drafted much of this out several times, just to see how it would look. Not to change the story that is published, I do rather like “Falling Apart” as it appears, but it is also fun to see what other people get up to when given the chance to inhabit the worlds you create.