Flash Fiction 1st Place: Simeona the Stylite by Shannon Savvas
Come astronomical twilight, Simeona knows it is time to escape. She climbs the footholds bolted to the wooden power pylon at the crossroads opposite her house. Six months since the earthquake, and still the government has not sent technicians to restore the village’s electricity.
Folded into herself, she sits in the company of one small Scops owl, her hunting done. Together they are still. Together they breathe. Together they huddle, sense the weight of the dark, listen for the smallest disturbances.
Across the road, lamplight fluctuates from room to room. He calls Simeona, soft and low, come out my little whore, rising to urgent and enraged until he seeks her out in the armoire cupboard in the hall. Atop the pole, Simeona remembers her son’s bloodied foetus slipping from her body and whimpers her confession echoing the muffled cries in the house.
Bless me Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Husband, Friend and Lover, for I have sinned. But let’s not forget, none of you except my baby Stefanos are without sin, so empty your pockets and let those pebbles fall back to the ground. There will be no stoning here. No need. I’m prepared to pay, for all of us.
When he’s done, with the belt and his cock, he snuffs the kerosene lamp. In the silence, the hum of electricity sings a lullaby across the wires. Simeona sleeps.
Months before, when Father Paul first came around one Sunday night, she hoped he would speak and rescue her. A priest hears all in Confession. But when he said, Now Andreas, I hear you’ve been seen in confession in the next village. Am I not good enough for you? Simeona’s husband laughed. Not at all, Father. But if I confessed to you, you might be tempted to tell the Widow Anna how much I’m cheating her on the sale of her olives. The bottle clinked beneath their laughter and her hope drowned in the single malt her husband poured into the priest’s glass.
Come astronomical dawn, she wakes to the sound of thunder, high and rolling, fading towards the silhouetted mountains. There is a rustle of loss under her skin. Confluences of snakes burrowed under earth and bedcovers await the light.
Come nautical dawn, darkness retreats from the tremulous light on the horizon. Clouds tease apart, revealing a waning moon and the morning star. Simeona dangles her feet, curls her simian-like toes around the tingling wires, and absorbs their energy. The electricity burns like a lit fuse through her blood vessels, fires up her neurons, powers her synapses and kickstarts her flagging heart so that she believes, one day she will feel again. Live again. Love again.
On the cusp of civil dawn, when heat steams the wet from dark streets, and engorges the air with pungent fig, rosemary and jasmine, the owl flies off to hunt breakfast for her babies.
Already the red dragonflies dance in the shimmering air. It is time for Simeona’s spirit to return to her body.