Tag Archives: image prompts for flash fiction

Wednesday Writing – ‘Angel, Interceptor’

Image sourced: https://unsplash.com Photographer: Ryan Lum

Image sourced: https://unsplash.com
Photographer: Ryan Lum

Angel, Interceptor

I’ve always found it easy to stay hidden. It’s being seen that’s the hard thing. I envy them, with their carelessness and their loud voices, their total comfort in this world. It was made for them, after all.

I envy that.

I watch from the shadow of St – I think – Ambrose, he of the scourge and the silent reading. Oh, yes; I remember him. In life, he was an uptight, sanctimonious creep, yet here he is, immortalised in stone and precious metal while I still stand, technically enfleshed, looking more or less the same as I did the day I appeared to him in his bedchamber. I let him think he banished me unto the Pit, but in reality I was simply bored. I found bigger fish, that day, someone with a soul so large she could have enveloped ten so-called saints inside it with room left over, despite its single stain.

She wept as I took her but I was young, then. I didn’t care. I had a job and I was doing it, and that was that.

I see them now, life bursting from every pore, the frantic spinning of atoms and molecules and the proliferation of cells and the humming hiss of blood, and I know that a thought would be enough. A simple thought, and their flow would suddenly freeze, or a cell divide slightly wrongly, or an electrical impulse go awry.

I am cold, dark matter; my heart beats, but only when it remembers to. My blood hasn’t stirred in centuries.

And so I watch. They laugh and take pictures, posing with their mouths open and their eyes wide, their laughter like shards of glass in my ears. I am here to take them, to destroy what I can and claim the rest, to lay waste, to burn what does not please Him… but still I watch.

They are moving off, arms around shoulders, warm kisses on warmer cheeks, fingers entwined, towards the old city. A straggler hesitates, capturing one last shot of the statue of St Mark, and I feel a pull in my muscles, an urge to take to the air and shred this bridge and all upon it with the force of my magnificence – but it’s surprisingly easy to swallow it back. The human gets to his feet again, stuffing his camera into its bag, before taking off after his friends, laughing as he runs.

He judges them too harshly. Flawed, yes, but irredeemable?

A pigeon lands on the head of the metal and gilt Ambrose and regards me coolly for a moment or two. Briefly, I consider reducing it to atoms, but I sigh, and it continues on its journey. As one winged thing to another, we pay our mutual respects.

I squint up at Ambrose’s impassive face and formulate a thought before turning away. A gust of heat wafts at my back, and I permit myself a moment of pride. As I walk, I picture the sun rising over this young, ancient city, and the confusion of the authorities as they try to figure out what could possibly have caused a huge metal statue to melt, and I almost smile. But I came to smite, and smite I have; let someone else worry about the technicalities.

I fold my wings tight and run my fingers through my hair. There must be somewhere in this city I can find a bar with a nice, shady corner and a server who asks no questions, I tell myself, as I vanish into the flow.

 

Flash Friday – ‘Seek and You Shall Find’

Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wall, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wall, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

Seek and You Shall Find

‘I’d give all the gold in Bielen Major if these fools would get moving,’ Dan mutters, lighting up. He’s muffled like a swaddled child, shivering.

‘If you had it, you wouldn’t be workin’ on no Interplanetary Line,’ I say.

‘Yeah, yeah.’ He takes a drag. ‘It’s freezin’, man. Get in here!’ I’m still in my cook’s gear – takes me ages to cool down after a shift – as I lean out. My breath plumes. Up ahead, they’re arguing over the wormhole co-ordinates, and I wonder where we’ll end up, this time. Or when.

Idly, I turn my head. Platform’s full of disembarking passengers, bowed under baggage, hurrying into this world, whatever it’s called.

And if she hadn’t glanced back, I might have missed her.

‘Hey,’ I say. ‘It’s that girl.’

‘Who?’

‘Redhead from two stops back. In the Sakh system. Remember?’

Dan shrugs. ‘So?’

‘What’s the going rate for illegal alien intercepts, these days?’ I say, catching his suddenly gleaming eye.

**

Taking part in a writing competition every Friday is a scary thing; it makes time feel like it’s travelling far too fast. I don’t see the days sliding by from one Friday to the next and that, of course, is a disconcerting thing. In any case, here’s this week’s effort at Flash! Friday for your reading pleasure. As well as the prompt image, we were given the element of ‘treasure’ to include, and also the hint that the judge this week is a big fan of SF stories (which suits me, I must admit, as I like to both read and write SF stories). This one was a bit of a struggle to bring to a conclusion; I had other ideas, like the wormhole exploding, or the woman on the platform turning out to be someone from the future or the past (which might have been a good idea, maybe one I’ll revisit), but I plumped in the end for good old-fashioned greed. Just shows, you can hint at a futuristic setting and yet the people who live in it can be the most quotidian and banal of characters. I suppose that just because a world’s setting might feel exotic to us, it’s just ‘home’ to the people who have to exist within it, and people – at the end of the day – are just people.

In any case I hope you’ll enjoy this tiny window into a world where trains travel via wormholes and opportunists grab whatever chances they have, and there are whole planets filled with treasure. Happy weekend, all, and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for a shiny new book review.

Flash Friday – ‘Tears of the Clowns’

Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Tears of the Clowns

‘Even the gosh-durn dog looks terrified, Walter.’

‘Sure. Sure. But just give them a second, okay? These are my best guys.’

‘They’ve had ten minutes already! If they coulda made the kid laugh, he’d be laughin’ by now. Kickin’ up his liddle feet. Clutchin’ his liddle sides.’

‘Aw, you’re too hard on these guys, Jasper, I mean – hey! Wait!’

‘What? What?

‘The kid! He’s cracking a smile. He is!

‘Hm. Looks like gas, to me.’

‘No way, man. It’s Teddy’s ‘Vanishing Apple’ trick. Never fails.’

‘Vanishing Apple, huh? Ends up in the kid’s ear, right?’

‘Ah – well. Usually, someone’s rear end, actually.’

‘Sounds… unsanitary.’

‘They don’t eat the apple afterwards, Jasp.’

‘Small mercies. Kid’s still not smilin’, though, Walter. And now the dog looks distinctly uncomfortable.’

Dang it.’

‘I’m calling it, my friend. Joke Death: 08:17:23. Pull those guys out. Oh, and someone contact a veterinarian? Ask ’em if they’ve ever surgically removed an apple from a dog.’

**

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge involved a picture of clowns – which, of course, you’ll see from the image I’ve reproduced above – and we had to include ‘surgery’ as the other prompt. Like a lot of people who watched ‘IT’ at an impressionable age, I don’t have a high opinion of clowns, which is sad in a way because they’ve been an inextricable part of circus life for thousands of years. There are some fantastic dark, scary short stories written about clowns, none better than John Connolly’s ‘Some Children Wander by Mistake’ (included in his anthology Nocturnes which I would highly, highly recommend), and so I decided (unusually for me) that I was going to try to write something funny. The first thing to strike me about the image was the tiny dog, and the expression on its face, and the narrators’ voices – I imagine them observing proceedings from behind a one-way glass screen, like in an old cop movie – told me what was going on, and so I wrote it down.

My schedule, and my brain, have been all over the place for the past few days. I haven’t been myself. I hope I have a handle on things again, now, and I’m glad to have completed a story for Flash! Friday with relatively little struggle; it’s a good sign, I think, that I’m getting back up to speed. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my small tale about the clowns and their little dog, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a book review, and let’s hope it’ll be all systems go next week. Alley-oop!

Flash Friday – ‘Duel’

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Duel

He hadn’t noticed me leaving.

Kazuhiko, I mean. We’d been kissing until Emiko arrived, in her corset and fishnets. He’d been like a flame-blind moth for her, then. They all had.

It was a stupid party, anyway. Masahiro decided we should wear black and bring an emblem of death; I took grandfather’s gas mask, and it had gone down well, at first. Now, it felt stupid.

Emiko’d brought nothing. Of course. But nobody’d noticed.

I walked right to the cliff’s edge. Mist beaded on my skin and clothes, hiding my tears.

The scream made me drop grandfather’s mask.

It took me forever to stumble back. I called out, but everyone was gone. Except one. A stranger on the ground. I hurried to his side, and turned him, and the blood…

Kazuhiko’s knife – his death-emblem – stuck from the boy’s neck. Without thinking, I pulled it free, and threw it into the bushes.

Nameless blood lay heavy on my skin.

**

Wow. So, this week’s Flash Friday challenge was to write a sub-160 word story based on the image prompt (a wonderful picture of a pensive Japanese woman, or perhaps a teenage girl, gazing out over a mist-covered bay), and the ‘Dragon’s Bidding’, or required element, which was to ‘include a death.’

I think, all in all, I didn’t do too badly.

These challenges are fiendish. Who needs brain training when you have flash fiction, eh? Sometimes, I worry about developing things like dementia as I get older (it’s in my family, so don’t think I’m being overly cautious by considering such a fate at my tender *ahem* age); however, I think doing a couple of writing challenges a week is a great way to keep the brain nimble. It helps with writing, of course, but it also just helps in general, with synapses and biochemicals and what have you. It gets the imagination flowing, but there’s direction and focus to it – you can’t just go off on a ramble through the dictionary. You have to hit the targets. That’s why I love it.

This week, the first thing that struck me about the image was that the girl – or woman – was a personification of a typhoon. The image is entitled ‘Typhoon Maid Thursday’, and our Dragoness, Rebekah, mentioned that she wished to dedicate this week’s writing to the victims of two typhoons, both of which fell on this day during the 1950s. However, I have long learned that the first idea to strike your head is rarely the one to go with – for if it strikes you, straight off, it’s going to strike ten other people too. So, I thought again. Something about the woman’s posture made me think she was pensive, sad, lonely – hurt, even. So then, why is she dressed so strangely? What’s with the gas mask? Who is she?

And the story came from there.

And I realise now that I haven’t mentioned typhoons. I got so caught up in my own tale that I forgot entirely about the typhoon bit until after I’d written and posted my entry. So it goes. I may have been slightly off with my focus this week, then, but I wrote a story I liked, it was hard work to get it to fit within the word count, and I’m pleased with it. It’s not perfect. But it’s not bad, considering I wrote it in the space of half an hour while distracted with other stuff.

Are you going to have a go this week? Yes? Excellent! Well, you know what to do. Head on over to Flash! Friday, drop your story in the hat, and make sure not to mention I sent you. No – seriously. You don’t even know me, right? Right.

And good luck, my darlings. Fly!

Flash Friday – ‘Ram’

Krak des Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Krak des Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Ram

It’s my fault.

After less than a day, her skin turned pink and her hair started clinging to her neck in sweaty loops, but she was still beautiful. So beautiful.

It’s my fault.

We’d eaten. There’d been wine. I just asked her, right there, by the side of the road. One knee, and all, but no ring. No ring.

She said ‘yes’, and everyone around us clapped.

It’s my fault.

She spotted a junk-stall across the road. Tourist tat, souvenirs, that sort of thing – and rings, plastic ones with fake gems. A modern woman buys her own bling, she’d laughed as she dashed out.

She forgot which way to look.

It’s my fault.

Now I am the besieging army, and I am the fortress wall. I shore up the cracks as quickly as I make them, but the assault never stops. It can never stop. I will not let it.

It’s my fault.
It’s my fault.
It’s my fault.

**

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was to take an image of the beautiful fortress of Krak des Chevaliers – which I’ve long yearned to visit, though sadly it’s not in a very accessible part of the world – and a marriage proposal, and put them together to make a tiny story no longer than 160 words. It was also hinted that it might be good to look outside the box a little, and so this story was born. I lingered for ages over the end, and also over the title, but when you’re under a certain amount of time pressure (a good thing, of course!) you have to make decisions. I’m not sure I’ve quite achieved what I wanted with this wee tale, but I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about a fortress that wasn’t simply a fortress, and a siege that wasn’t simply a siege, and walls that crack but can never break.

My success in Flash! Friday has been negligible, if by ‘success’ you mean ‘winning’; I’ve been Honourable Mention a few times, and runner-up once or twice. My average isn’t great. I try to take this not as a sign that I’m terrible at writing flash, but that I just don’t seem to ‘get’ the prompts in a unique enough way to appeal to the judges – and that’s no reflection on my writing. With any luck, at least. I’m not going to hope for glory this week, either, but I’ve pleased myself by trying to see something different in the image, and that’s success enough.

So, it’s the weekend. The United Kingdom is still united. I’ve managed to squeeze a story out of my desiccated brain. All’s good with the world. Salut, friends – we’ll talk soon.

 

Flash Friday – ‘Hands Across the Sky’

Gemini V, August 29th, 1965. Public Domain Photograph courtesy of NASA.  Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Gemini V, August 29th, 1965. Public Domain Photograph courtesy of NASA.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Hands Across the Sky

Re-entry was moments away, but Rick seemed troubled.

I glanced over. I couldn’t talk through my helmet, but of course Rick – or whatever his real name was – didn’t need one. His exoskeleton was better than anything we’d ever come up with.

He blinked, and lowered his orbs. I looked back at the bank of switches overhead. Everything seemed normal – except my co-pilot.

We’d worked hard to build trust with the Grac. Rick had been chosen to come back with me instead of Michael Bell, who’d stayed behind; ambassadors. Symbols of inter-species cooperation. Insterstellar peace.

Splashdown was imminent. We braced.

Seawater rushed in. I smelt my first Earth air in God knew how long. I lifted my face to the sun.

And something – something large – blocked it.

‘Welcome, Joe Ronson,’ a huge voice boomed. Grac. I looked up. The sky bristled with alien craft. I spun to face Rick, who blinked again.

‘You made Earth sound so good,’ he muttered, shrugging.

**

So, this week’s Flash! Friday competition centres around the image above – the re-entry of the astronauts from the Gemini V mission, which landed back home on this day in 1965 – and the inclusion of an alien. Not the simple mention of an alien, mind, but an actual flesh-and-blood (or bone-and-aether, or shell-and-ichor, or whatever) alien. As usual, you’ve only got 140-160 words to do all this in, and as usual it was a challenge – but a lot of fun.

In other news – well, I’m dealing with a huge dollop of self-censure this morning, as I left my editing in a precarious place yesterday evening. I reached a point where I just couldn’t take any more (after about six straight hours of work, mind you), and even though I knew I’d be kicking myself this morning I had to throw in the towel when I did. So, as predicted, this morning my leg is sore from kicking and my brain is sore from thinking and my heart is sore from all the excising of my precious, precious words.

But that’s the name of the game, right? Have a good (and, hopefully, alien-free) weekend, do plenty of reading, and I’ll see you all back here bright and early tomorrow morning for an old-school book review.

I, for one, welcome our mighty Grac overlords... Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

I, for one, welcome our mighty Grac overlords…
Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc