KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Flash Fiction: 502 words

Echo Location

by Soramimi Hanarejima

While reading a study that examines the deposition of linguistic residue on toothbrushes, you become fascinated by just how much wordy debris people scrub from their teeth every day. You decide to use the protocol detailed in the study to find out what’s on her toothbrush.

First, you thoroughly clean it in a solution that strips the bristles of weeks’ worth of buildup. Then, after she has brushed her teeth in the evening, you place her toothbrush head down in a glass containing a mild cleansing agent.

Peering into this glass, you watch thin, filmy tendrils peel from the rows of white tufts. The wispy remnants of what she has said today drift off and dissolve away into the solution, disappearing like twirls of steam from a teacup unraveling in the air. When her toothbrush appears to have relinquished everything, you remove it from the glass, then pour the contents of the glass into one of the small spritzing bottles you use for the moss garden.

Out on the veranda in the dark quiet of night, you hold the plastic bottle near your left ear and push down on the top of the bottle. A short, soft hiss accompanies a burst of mist. Minuscule droplets tingle your earlobe, and you listen as closely as you can.

It’s a jumble of words that sound poorly enunciated, but you delight in what you can make out: foreground fixation; lifted by laughter; serendipity; tousle. You do this a few more times and get additional words—beshadowed, such a meshler, awesome—along with a couple repeats. Then you go back inside, saving the remainder of the bottle’s contents for another time.

You carry out these steps again and again over consecutive nights, the results improving as you adjust the strength of the cleansing agent and length of time her toothbrush soaks in it. In under a week, you’re able to get phrases and even whole sentences, clear and comprehensible, occasionally with mood.

  • Quiet yet gleeful: just so darling of you

  • It will all come out in the wash—you wait and see.

  • The gnarled branches of time, in frozen writhing across the universe.

  • With fond sarcasm: If she could play any instrument of her choosing, it would surely be the heartstrings.

  • Irately: indifference as his insulation from the world he thinks is so abrasive, but no

This extraction of words from her toothbrush solidifies into a daily habit, and over the following weeks, you steadily increase how much you can recover intact, regularly getting strings of sentences. You hope to get whole stories soon.

As you work toward the harvesting of narratives, trepidation creeps into you. You become apprehensive that you’ll end up jealous of what she says to others—of the words and tones she seldom uses with you, the secrets she doesn’t share with you. But this fear can’t subdue your desire to hear everything you can glean from her toothbrush. To gather more clues about the person she is growing into.

Soramimi Hanarejima
Issue 12, Summer 2019

writes innovative fiction and is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium (Montag Press, 2017), a fanciful story collection which “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags” (Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos, quoted in A Contemplative Collage). Soramimi’s work can be found in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction, Arkana, Book XI, STORGY Magazine, and The Esthetic Apostle.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Overhead, micro-fiction in Panoply (Issue 7, August 2017)

Hierarchy of Needs, micro-fiction in The Fiction Pool (6 January 2017)

“Short Takes: Interviews with Short Story Writers” with Soramimi Hanarejima by Nancy Christie in her blog Focus on Fiction (21 April 2016)

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