by Treehouse Editors

a brief encounter by Maria Flores

“How much longer? Are we almost to Heaven?” Javier gazed up at the tiled ceiling of the crystal box, the speed of their ascent rising with each new articulation of Isabel’s pattering heart. The next measure: staccato. She took her brother’s hand. Prestissimo. His dough-soft palm was surprisingly dry and warm against her fingers. She inhaled deeply.


Her throat throbbed, the meat of her heart snug against her tonsils as each fleshy beat pulsed in her mouth. Almost. Almost there. Javier’s curls bounced as the gleaming elevator shook with the effort of bearing them skyward. Isabel shut her eyes, but the insides of her eyelids, rather than presenting her with red-dappled relief from the cold glow of the rattling cage she shared with her brother, were painted with her final visions. A tableau of swirling sand and pale gray froth, strascicante: her vision blurred, her eardrums beat with the pressure of the sea. Javier? Where was Javier? Bodiless, senseless, buffeted through uncharted space, she opened her mouth to scream–

At the piano bench, her mother had demonstrated acciaccato: Isabel saw each note tossed against the next like dominos tack-tacking one another with increasing, frightening speed as the whole design slowly collapses. Silence falls with the last domino, the last note clinging to the air like a breath of salt breeze. The elevator shuddered to a stop. Isabel opened her eyes, but saw nothing. Too breathless to scream, she gripped Javier’s plump hand tighter as she felt her heart burst with fright. A door opened where there had not been one before.

“We made it.”

Haphazardly homeschooled for about a decade, Maria Flores was raised on Egyptian mythology, Aztec ghost stories, and Tolkien in a house of cultish Catholicism. She has been writing fiction since she discovered how at age 11.