With stories whose endings are visible from the first sentence, or inferable from the length of web browser scrollbars, I don’t release my awareness of real time as I do with narratives long enough to settle into an illusion of merging with them. Instead I become acutely aware of surface tension, the bent boundary between the story’s time signature and mine.
Much fiction of a thousand words and under pauses and circles in syntax and detail choice descended from Gordon Lish and Amy Hempel. Context, excluded or eluded to, becomes such enormous blankness that the magnifying sentences seem barely to move through it. Perception seems not fleeting but permanent.
Other stories end up at flash length by shaking off the spell of Chekhov and Flaubert, paring away naturalistic scene making for storytelling reminiscent of biblical narrative, myth, or fairy tale, baring dialogue and actions in their full strangeness. Time accelerates. Years might pass in a page.
Boundaries never vanish with flash fiction. That, and its newness, allow for experiments in syntax, subject, and effect that seem to me less frequently ventured, or perhaps accepted, at five or six thousand words. There have been so many short stories. Perhaps there’s too settled a sense of where they need to arrive and how they get there. Flash seems always a stop on the way to somewhere. It might be anything.