A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—providing exceptional authors with exposure and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

On the Eleventh

Of the two, Francesca was always the free spirit, the risk taker.  They went skydiving in Vegas what seems like ages ago. High above the desert, he needed a shove to get out of the door while she laughed all the way down. When they settled onto the ground, breathless, and struggling with the harnesses, she said that she wished she could fly,
like the birds, unencumbered by gravity, if only for a few seconds.

He withdraws the decade old cell phone from the back of the dresser drawer, tucked in behind socks and underwear. It’s an old thing, not good for calls anymore, but he keeps it charged. He’s been good for a
full year, hasn’t needed it until now, for this day. He hasn’t, in fact, thought of Francesca for nearly a month, hasn’t seen her smile in the children’s faces, hasn’t seen a woman on the street that looked like her and resisted the urge to rush over, and with this fact comes the uneasy realization that he is relieved of this absence.

But he needs to hear her voice, the sounds it makes, on today of all days. If he doesn’t, he’s not sure he can face the morning. So, he sits on her side of the bed, and cradles the phone, navigates the
menus until he finds the stored voicemails.

There is only one. It is seven seconds long.

He braces himself, and presses play.

There’s a painful second of static, and then amid the ambient noise:

Caro mio. I love you so much—you and the children. I’m s-sorry.  Good—goodbye.

He plays it over and over, hears her struggle with the final farewell again and again. For a moment, he remembers the day ten years ago, when he stepped out of the meeting to check the missed call. He
remembers hearing the message, the crying and screaming in the background, and not knowing what it meant. He listened to it three times before he could hear what she said. And he remembers a co-worker bursting through the hallway and into the conference room to turn on the television. It didn’t matter what channel you were on;
they were all the same. He remembers watching the unfolding terror among the huddled group and he remembers that night, feeling small and pressing the phone to his ear to hear the message over and over again
until he couldn’t see the keys through the tears.

She jumped off the first tower before it fell. Not confirmed, but he knew. He saw her in one of the pictures, a lone woman free falling with the tower in the background. The photo was pixelated and blurred, but she was slender and tall like Francesca, she had long flowing black hair like her, she wore the same clothes she left with
that morning, and he just…knew.

It had tormented him to think of the fall, of the unequivocal conclusion that all falls must bear. Yet for the first few weeks, poring over the photos was all he could do. He thinks about her now, as he plays the voicemail once more, and he wonders what she felt as she sailed out of the darkness of devastation into the light of day,
and about the choice she made to fly instead of burn.

And maybe it’s true what they say, that the last few moments are an eternity compressed into seconds, inhabited by the people and the things that you love. Maybe somewhere, she’s still flying, free like a bird, unencumbered by gravity, and laughing. Maybe the fall never really ends, and maybe next year on the eleventh, he won’t need the
old phone anymore to make it outside the bedroom door.


Matt Mok grew up in Queens, New York and now lives in New Hampshire. He started writing a few years ago after rekindling an interest in reading. To his surprise, his stories were accepted for publication.
In his spare time, he enjoys procrastination.


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page.