prompt: word, title: without a trace in misc. flash fiction

  • Sept. 24, 2021, 8:29 a.m.
  • |
  • Public

A labelscar is a word within a word. Or maybe it’s more of a word without a word. A labelscar is what gets left behind when a word has stood for so long that the world has changed around it but it finally faded away as well. A word lingering as its own negative shadow long after the positive demise is writ into history. An accidental echo once that branding’s purpose is buried and gone.

Outside and above what was once the anchor of a dead or dying mall, there it is, the labelscar. By this I mean, the place where the sign was, where the bright-lit box of letters reading “K-Mart” or “Sears” was, the absence proclaimed by the grime built up around what is now no longer there.

Before the house of cards had finally collapsed, there were letters that screamed out to the people and very stars in the sky what this place was, what it meant. The values slashed, everything must go and so eventually everything does. They blared out neon but eventually the businesses closed and that neon gone, sold for scrap and the labelscars are all that is left. Sickly grime of commerce accrued around the sign, for decades unwashed. The paint behind that missing signage, without having suffered bleaching from decades of sunshine. No one will repaint now, no one will clean now, there it is, the name of the defunct business cut out in reverse, the labelscar. The non-sign beaming more obvious than the sign ever did or ever could.

Unless a Spirit Halloween moves in for a three-month clip and a banner’s draped haphazardly over it, the labelscar will remain, as obvious a tribute to something dead as the rubble-feet and base left extant from the statue of Ozymandias. “Montgomery Ward” announced on the empty building’s side in negative, like a piece of paper rubbed with a crayon over a fancy engraving, producing a dead man’s name. The residue of tombstone or of war memorial. The labelscar. A not-quite-healed wound, burnt on from the outside in, formed around a thing that’s forever gone. Gone but not without a trace, not without a tracing left behind. A vacuum that remains, glowing ten-times more obviously than when there was still a something vital there to see.

Of course, dead malls and dying big-box stores are not the only places where there are absences burning brighter than a presence ever could. That’s the funny thing about it. What’s lost love but a labelscar upon your mind, your soul, your heart? The outline of that lover or that friend, parent, sibling or whatever, gone and gone for good, seared into the aching edges of your very essence.

Next time you’re driving by, I don’t know, a “Borders” or an “Ames” our flatlining rusted-belt economy never found a new name to replace, just remember, labelscars aren’t just for building that no longer match their purpose. They are for hearts blistered up by absence just the same.


No comments.

You must be logged in to comment. Please sign in or join Prosebox to leave a comment.