Returning to Life


Photo credit: Dorothy

They seemed just two more Asian tourists sitting on a bench watching the ferry at Angel Island.

“When did you die here?” During her lifetime, she would never have asked such as direct question of a man, but death is very liberating.

“1899.” He was staring at the ferry and the multinational conglomeration of visitors, all happily chattering and oblivious to the history they were walking upon. “I had been a dock worker and got the plague. They sent me here for quarantine, but I was also sent here to die. You?”

“1922 when the island was an immigration station. I was suspected of having a disease, but I actually got a parasite from another Chinese immigrant. I suffered on the island eighteen months before I died.”

“How many others like us do you think are here?” He turned toward her finally, noticing that like him, she was dressed in modern clothing.

“Too many, but most won’t let go of the past.”

“If you’re ready, we can rejoin the living.”

They stood and held hands. “Yes, let’s.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge Week of April 3, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I was stuck about where the photo was actually taken, so I made something up.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I visited Angel Island many times. It’s accessible by ferry and you can take bicycles and ride around the entire island. It has a very interesting history, some of it very grim.

You can read the details of both when the island was used as a Quarantine Station and later as an Immigration Station (people could be held on the island for anywhere between two weeks and two years) for the context of my two characters.

In this case, I’ve given my couple a second chance at life, though I’ve kept the mechanism of how deliberately vague. If you can learn to let go of the pain of the past, you might find your way back to a new life and the rest of your future.

Guilty confession. I read this story before crafting my own and yes, it influenced me. My bad.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to

15 thoughts on “Returning to Life

  1. Very creative James! I like how you are giving your characters a second chance at life. If I were to be reborn again I hope I am reborn with smarter brains and wisdom so I don’t make the same mistakes. LOL! Great story!


    • Angel Island is the second largest island in SF Bay after Alameda and it has a rich history. It also affords a terrific 360 degree view of the bay and the surrounding cities, so if you ever have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll probably never be able to visit all of the places I’d like to see with my own eyes, but the world is an amazing place, and as much grief as the US gets, we are a huge nation with a great deal of diversity. I’ve spent most of my life living in and visiting the Midwest and West, and I’ll likely never see all of even my own country.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the idea of being able to choose when to be born again.
    Well put together story, James.
    Interestingly, I was reading about Angel Island just last evening. I live in the Bay Area (a New Orleans transplant) and thinking about what would be fun to do this spring.


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