Tag Archives: Flash! Friday microfiction

Flash! Friday – ‘Checking In’

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Image_Michel. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Foto_Michel.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Checking In

I settle, cross-legged, on the pavement, my sleeping bag furled beneath me. I hold out my empty cup, trying to remember coffee. I run my dry tongue over my film-coated teeth.

But, I remember: I chose this. There’s no going back.

They clip-clop past me in their heels and polished brogues, with their suits and their pretence. I feel like sticking my leg out and tripping someone, just to see. Just to see if they’d see me, then.

But I’ve worked hard to be invisible.

She stops unexpectedly. Smiling. Tall. Expensively slim. She smells good. I don’t know her, yet I know. How has she found me?

‘It’s time, Agent,’ she says, crouching.

‘Pardon, love?’

Her smile tightens. ‘Enough. You’ve been recalled to active duty. Report to Control by oh-eight-hundred, tomorrow.’

I give her the full benefit of my teeth. ‘Dunno what you’re on about, darlin’.’

She says nothing. Her gaze skewers me.

‘But I left,’ I tell her, my false grin dying.

‘Nobody ever leaves the Service,’ she replies, not unsympathetically. Then, she wrinkles her nose. ‘And do something about that smell, won’t you? Decorum.’

As she walks away, I gaze into my still-empty cup, and sigh. I suppose a small advance would have been too much to ask?

***

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was to create a mini-tale from the prompt image, above, which also had to include a spy. Well, I included two, even if one was off-duty (though, as the story asks, is one ever off-duty if one is a spy? Anyway). I wrestled with this piece of flash, just a bit, and I’m glad to see that I beat it into submission, even if it’s a bit of fluff, really, which doesn’t say very much. At least, dear readers, I wrote it, and for that alone I’m glad. By the by, have you ever thought about entering a Flash! Friday challenge? Well, if you never have, this might be the week. There’s a special prize on offer today – as well as being in with a chance of winning, you might also win one of two Golden Tickets to take part in the next FlashDogs Anthology. I already have one, so you’d be joining me and a host of other wonderful folk in a great celebration of all things flash, and indeed, fiction. Give it a go.

The weekend is nearly here, and I hope a good one awaits you all. May it be wordy and bright!

Pffft…

Er.

So, the wheels have fallen off my blogging, as of late. I had a very busy week last week (saving the world, conquering planets, bringing peace to the masses, all the usual stuff) and I didn’t even have a chance to read. I know. I can barely bring myself to believe it, either.

So. Here we are, on Saturday, and there’s no book review.

As a means of mollification, I could direct you here to a short interview I gave with Flash! Friday during the week. My tenure as champion is blissful, but short; over the course of the weekend I’ll be judging the current competition and choosing a new winner. It’s sort of bittersweet, yet fitting.

I could also direct you to this Tumblr blog, which is dedicated to a very wonderful topic. I didn’t create it, so I can’t really take any of the credit, but I’m hoping it might distract you all from my own complete uselessness this week.

Monday next is a Bank Holiday here, and I can’t guarantee I’ll be conscious in time to blog, but I’ll do my best. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Stick with me! There’s never a dull moment here at Clockwatching… HQ.

Image source: yamu.lk Found via Google Images

Image source: yamu.lk
Found via Google Images

Form an Orderly Queue

Y’all will have to forgive me a little horn-tooting here, this morning. Not that I’m one to brag, normally, but when a long-time goal is achieved, I think it deserves a little mention, don’t you?

Oyez, Oyez! Photo Credit: Howard TJ via Compfight cc

Oyez, Oyez!
Photo Credit: Howard TJ via Compfight cc

So, on Monday, the winners of last week’s Flash! Friday were announced. You might remember, if you’ve been paying attention, that I actually managed to dredge a story out of my brain last Friday and submit it on time. It was one of those moments where the prompts struck off my inspiration like a tuning fork, and I thought: Hmm. Yes. I think I know what I’ll write about here.

Of course, I was convinced of two things: one, that the idea I had would be used to death by other people (and written about much more effectively) and two: that I would come nowhere near the winners’ podium, as it had never happened before. (Well, I’ve been Runner Up a few times, but that’s not the same).

Not that winning is the point, kids. It’s not. Taking part is the best bit, and creating a new story out of nothing is pretty fantastic, too, and that’s not to mention how great it is to get to share that story with so many other wonderful writers, all of whom are just trying to improve and have a bit of fun while they’re at it. That’s what’s important.

(But, come on. It would be nice to win, just once. Only human, and all that).

So, I took my twisty little idea and I crafted a short tale out of it, and I sat back and told myself it was actually pretty decent. Not the best piece of flash fiction ever written, but certainly one I could stand over and be proud to call mine. And so, I did the necessary, got it submitted, and went about the rest of my life.

And then, after a very long and very hard day on Monday, a whole pile of Twitter notifications started to pop in. So, intrigued, I checked.

And. I had been and gone and done and won the darn thing, for the first time, after two years of competing. Better late, I can tell you, than never. My story, Judge, Jury, Executioner was judged the best of the stories entered for last week’s competition, and I was really, truly delighted. I was delighted firstly to have been judged the best by my peers for that week, but I was even more delighted to have won the competition with a story I really liked, and one which meant something to me. It’s a feeling like no other when you get an idea, and you feel it transmuting in your mind as you think about it; a deep level of your consciousness knows what to do with it, and starts to form it into something else, something you didn’t expect, before your very eyes. Things you’ve read, or heard, or dreamt of, all come to bear on one tiny piece of fiction, and it pops out of your fingers like something which has always existed, and you just know this is a story. This is something which owes its roots to the culture in which you were formed, but which is new, and fresh, and which is adding a different thread to the tapestry. Judge, Jury, Executioner is, for me, a story like that.

It’s only 209 words in a very big internet. It’s a tiny artefact of culture which will fade and be lost before long, like everything we humans create. But, for now, it exists, and I’m proud of it.

But life goes on, as go it must, and I have many things to do today, so I’ll have to hurry you up. I’m only going to be signing autographs for the next hour or so, okay, so get in line and wait your turn, all right? Make sure to have your name written out clearly on a piece of paper so that I don’t actually have to ask you how to spell it, because we big-shot writers can’t be doing with anything like that, you understand, and I’ll get to you eventually.

*sigh*. It’s such a hard life…

.

Flash Friday – ‘Judge, Jury, Executioner’

First woman jury, Los Angeles, 1911. Public Domain photo by the Library of Congress. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

First woman jury, Los Angeles, 1911. Public Domain photo by the Library of Congress.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Judge, Jury, Executioner

He looks so fine up there, his head thrown back, a thick pulse thudding at his throat. If it weren’t for his shackles he could almost be in church, a pillar of righteousness.

But instead he’s in the dock, and I’m here.

The judge reviews the evidence, making it sound even more damning than the prosecution had. Gruesome injuries, he drones. Overwhelming strength. I tremble, but the defendant doesn’t hang his head; he stays straight-backed, his eyes fixed in the crowd, on one face in particular.
I don’t have to look to know which one.

When I caught my husband sneaking out at night, I did nothing for the longest time. I waited. I chose my moment carefully, following on silent feet. When I saw him embrace another man – this man, whose life I’m about to judge – a rage like hellfire filled my bones and blood.

So I crept to his house. I murdered his wife. It was as if a demon overtook me.

And when they dragged him to trial, this fine innocent man, he confessed. To spare my husband, he confessed. To spare me the shame.

‘Madam Foreperson. Your verdict, please.’

Like a coward, I rise and condemn him, and his eyes never leave my husband’s face.

**

This week’s Flash! Friday (which I heartily recommend you try) asks participants to write a story between 190 and 210 words (I barely scraped in!) based around the image prompt, above, and the ‘concept’ prompt of ‘Man vs. Self’. The image prompt was of a jury of women sitting in judgement, and perhaps it’s because of my love of folksongs with their dark, twisty deeds, but the first place my mind went when I thought about interior conflict was this: what if you were judging someone for a crime you knew they hadn’t committed, but you had no choice but to convict them?

Well. And so, this tale was born.

Again, I make no claim to have written a ‘good’ story. It’s a story which didn’t exist an hour ago, and that – for me – is enough. I’ve been finding story-writing tough lately, and so any week in which I can get a story to coalesce long enough to capture it is a good one. Let’s hope it’s a good sign for the rest of the day’s endeavours!

Alors, my loves. I must fly. Happy weekend, one and all, and make sure to do some creative thinking over your down-time. It can only be, I’m assured, a Very Good Thing.

Warmup Wednesday – ‘Unjessed’

The Falconer, Central Park, New York City. CC2.0 photo by Matt Karp.  Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Falconer, Central Park, New York City. CC2.0 photo by Matt Karp.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Unjessed

There was a time I relished your captivity. Rules. Regulations. Proscriptions. Thou shalt not. It was safe. I was a bird in the hand, watching the world, unwilling or unable to fly.

One blue day, I leapt and was carried, and the sky took me, and it was good. Better than had been promised. Things were different from up here. I called to you, but you couldn’t see. You wouldn’t.

You wait for my obedient return, my bowed head, my supplication. I hear your voice calling, I feel the old pull, but my head bends only to the wind, now.

***

One of Flash! Friday’s new initiatives is Warmup Wednesday, where participants are asked to write a story of exactly 100 words (no leeway!) based solely around an image prompt. The stories are not judged, and so it’s purely for the fun of creating something new. It’s been so long now since a prompt actually kicked anything off inside my brain that when I saw this image, and it chimed exactly with how I was feeling, I knew I had to write. I did, and I’m so glad.

Because, guess what? It really made me feel better.

A story is, of course, about whatever a reader wants it to be, and I hope that anyone who reads this particular piece will take their own meaning from it. But, personally, it has come from a very deep place of anguish and uncertainty, born out of comments recently made in the media by an Irish Catholic bishop, which shook me to my foundations and made me sick to be a person of faith. It is harder and harder with every passing day, it seems, to be a person of faith in modern Ireland, and to feel the beliefs which have always sustained you slipping away, one by one. I’m not sure what this story ‘says’, but all I know is I’m glad I was able to get the impulse to create it out of my head.

And now, on with your Wednesday. Have a good one. Do some writing, maybe.

Flash Friday – ‘Initiation’

Ye gods and little fishes be praised. It’s Friday, and I’ve actually managed to write a piece of flash fiction for the first time in weeks.

I might cry. Seriously.

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

I had almost given up hope that I’d ever manage to pull the cat (no pun intended) out of the bag ever again, truth be told. My brain’s been a bit out of kilter lately. But this week’s Flash! Friday prompt stirred up several ideas in my poor old skull, and I went with the one that floated to the top.

And so, without further ado, here it is.

***

Initiation

‘What you waiting for? Do it!’

The pellet gun’s heavy in my hands, and there’s sweat pooling around my fingers. I stretch them out and resettle them on the trigger, but it doesn’t help.

‘You too chicken, man?’ Allen laughs. I can see his crooked teeth.

‘Poor widdle baby too afwaid to shoot?’ Dean pulls a face, all big eyes and pouting lips. ‘Poor baby afwaid Mommy’s gonna spank him?’

‘Shut up, you guys,’ I mutter. It’s not a smart move. Allen smacks me hard on the arm and steps in close, his breath invading me. I feel the stinging outline of his hand tingling under my skin like a barb. Like I’m in a pit, sides all steep, and there’s a lion coming for my blood.

‘You wanted this,’ he whispers. His words leave a wet cloud on my face. ‘Don’t forget that. There’s guys’d kill to be where you’re standing.’

I blink away. The kitten’s still tied, wide-eyed, too scared to even mewl. Allen fixed the stake down, so it won’t move. The wire’s already cutting into its tiny leg. It knows. I know.

Now.

Time the shot with my heartbeat. I’ve only got one pellet.

I swing and take out Allen, and then I run.

***

The photo prompt was the teeny little kitten, above, and we had to include the character of a ‘gladiator’ – perhaps not literally, but described in terms strongly enough to be evocative of a gladiatorial battle. I was struck straight away by the fact that the image was of a kitten (a baby lion?) looking fearful, and how that was such a reversal of the typical gladiatorial scene, and then my story began to take shape.

So, it’s not the best piece of flash ever written. It’s not going to win any prizes. But, you know? I think it might be the first piece I’ve managed to write this year. That’s sort of scary. Friday the 13th is lucky for some, I guess! Let’s hope this means my mojo is well and truly back… and happy Friday to one and all. Hope to see you on the Flash! Friday podium this week!

Brainfreeze

It’s Friday, which means Flash! Friday is going on. I heartily urge you to go on over and take a look, and throw your name in the ring if you can. This week’s writing prompts are ‘Janitor’, and this fine photo:

Coliseum in Rome. CC2,0 photo by Vlad. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Coliseum in Rome. CC2,0 photo by Vlad.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

For some reason, I find myself unable to create a story from these prompts just at the moment. My thoughts are scattered in a million directions, and no matter what I try to do, all the stories I come up with based on these prompts seem old, and dull, and done to death. If my mind was a telephone exchange, all you’d get when you dialled the number for ‘Flash Fiction Inspiration’ would be an engaged tone.

So, I’m going to step away from it, for now. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I’ll come back to it in an hour, or three, or five, and a story will suggest itself which will seem beautiful, and perfect, and true, and if it does then I’ll write it.

And perhaps (shock to the horror) it won’t.

And as I’ve finally learned? That’s all right. It’s all right not to have inspiration strike you between the eyes every time you see an image prompt. It’s all right not to feel happy with the story you write. It’s all right to choose not to post up work which you’re not sure is representative of you at your best. It’s all right to do your work justice and not share it until it’s ready.

I am a busy person at the moment. It’s all good; I like to be busy, and it can be a lot of fun to just buckle yourself in and hope for the best. There’s some stuff going on which I can’t share yet (though don’t worry, I’ll get to it soon-ish), and it’s all very exciting. Stay tuned…

But, until then, I’m off to try to find ways to focus, and with any luck we’ll have a piece of flash fiction by close of business. In the meantime, what are you going to write today?