Tag Archives: image prompts in flash fiction

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?

 

Flash Friday – ‘Remains’

Wine Glass, CC2 image by BlakJakDavy. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Wine Glass, CC2 image by BlakJakDavy.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Remains

I drove home, but I shouldn’t have. I’d only taken a mouthful or two, but that wasn’t the problem.

I’d remembered the gloves while I prepared his glass. No touching!

I’d been careful about disposing of the packaging. Not there!

I’d waited, carefully, while the powder dissolved. Please! Not yet!

I’d flung my undrunk wine down the sink and stowed my glass in my handbag. Hide it!

I’d been careful.

I’d touched nothing without good reason. I hadn’t used the bathroom. I’d kept my hair wound tightly – but even if one had escaped, I could explain that, couldn’t I? Transfer from his jacket, or something? I’d barely breathed. I’d disturbed nothing.

But I’d had to hand him his wine. Gloves off.

And I’d wiped the glass afterwards. Hadn’t I?

I pictured it, on the railing of the sun-filled balcony, his cooling body on the ground.

And all I could see was distortion, whorls and smudges, and what remained of me.

**

This week’s Flash Friday competition marks the beginning of its third year – can you believe it? – and my first one as a Dragon Captain, or one half of a judging team. This isn’t one of my judging weeks, though, so I’m assured I can take part! The dragon’s bidding element has been removed, so all the competitors have to go on is the image prompt, above, and the stipulation that the story fits neatly and perfectly into 160 words.

So, the effort above is what I came up with. I’m not sure it’s going to cut the mustard, but even if it doesn’t, I’m glad to have dragged my scattered brain into some sort of shape this morning and made a story out of what I found. Is this the week you’re finally going to give it a whirl? Go on! Tell ’em I sent ya.

Flash Friday – and Flashversary!

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.  Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.
Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

‘Penny for the Guy!’

‘Please, mate. Penny for the Guy?’

An elderly man stops, smiling. ‘Comes around quick, eh?’

‘Hopin’ we’ll raise loads this year,’ says John. ‘For the new statue, an’ that.’ He wipes his running nose on his sleeve.

‘Good lads. I’m sure St Fawkes would be proud.’

He’s barely turned and gone two steps when the air shreds with a boom. Then a gust of flame, like a dragon awakening in the bowels of the city, gushes along the skyline. Faintly, we hear screaming.

‘My God,’ says the old geezer, stumbling back. ‘My God. Virgin preserve us!’

‘What’s goin’ on?’ John gets to his feet. ‘Is it –’

We spin as another explosion cuts off his words. All along the river, we watch London burn.

‘The Recusants,’ whispers the old man. ‘Finally. We are repaid in our own coin.’ Orange flames dance in his wide, wet eyes.

**

So, er. Nothing like an image of a burning city to make one think of an entirely different (Catholic, Virgin-preserved, St Fawkes’d) England, wherein the original Gunpowder Plot wasn’t foiled and things developed in an entirely different way. Right? Is it just me?

Anyway.

This week’s Flash! Friday challenge is even more special than normal. This week sees the start of this year’s Flashversary, which means that massive prizes await the lucky winner (check the site for all the details, but this year the prize pot is pretty darn impressive), and if you’d like to take part, you are more than welcome. You don’t have to be a regular competitor; you don’t have to be a ‘member’ (if such a thing even existed). You certainly don’t need to pay any sort of entry fee. You’ve just got to look at the prompt image and find the story behind it, and be able to tell it in 150 words exactly. There’s no Dragon’s Bidding this week, and there’s no leeway with the wordcount, either. Write a piece of flash based around the burning city, above – as loosely or as closely as you like – and make it a Flashversary to remember. The more the merrier, and who knows but you could be one of the lucky people chosen to go through to the next round. Wouldn’t that be something to boast about over Christmas dinner? Sure it would.

I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar names among the entrants this week, but even if you don’t compete I hope you take the time to check out the entries. Even if you’re not a fan of writing flash fiction, every week Flash! Friday dishes up some of the best flash fiction reading on this here interwebs. Please do support the cause (penny for the Dragon, anyone?) and whatever you do, spread the word.

Happy Friday!

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.

 

Wednesday Writing – Three Little Flashes

Standoff

‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

Photo Credit: {Lina} via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: {Lina} via Compfight cc

The Good Girl

I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told.

I have to try to be a better girl, though, because Mama’s still sad. I knew today was going to be bad because she was in bed when I left for school, and she didn’t answer me when I called out ‘goodbye!’

When I got home, she was drinking out of her special bottle again, the one I’m not allowed to go anywhere near. Her eyes were all funny, and it made me quiet inside when I saw her.

‘Get lost!’ she told me. ‘Go, on! Get lost!’ She called me a horrible name, too, but I know she didn’t mean that part, so I didn’t cry.

But she meant the other part. About getting lost.

I turned all the wrong ways when I went out through our gate. That way I knew I’d get lost as quick as I could, and Mama would be happy again.

I passed a lady with pictures all over her arms and lots of red lipstick on. Mama’s got a name for ladies like her, and it isn’t nice. So when she asked me if I was all right, I just put my head down and kept going, really quick.

Then I got to this huge park. There’s a river in it, and everything. I like the sound my feet make as I walk across the bridge. I sound like a horse or an elephant, and it’s funny.

My tummy growls, like a lion.

There’s a nice man up ahead. He has a suit on, and he has shiny shoes, and a shiny smile.

‘Hey! Hi, little treasure,’ he says. ‘You look starved! Lucky I’ve got some chocolate, eh? Come on over here for me.’

I’m a good girl. I always do what I’m told.

Photo Credit: squeaks2569 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: squeaks2569 via Compfight cc

Stormbringer

Most nights, I’d dream about the cloud. Hard not to – I mean, it hung on the horizon, day and night, fair weather or foul, like the frown of heaven. Those mornings when I woke up feeling like I’d eaten my pillow, I could be pretty sure it’d been in my head all through the night, trickling in through my ears, through my pores. Settling inside me with every breath.

When I was a kid I used to think the cloud was like a thick black blanket over the Old World, keeping everyone beneath it warm and safe. I’d say this to Ma as she tucked me in at night, and sometimes she’d give me a tight little smile, and sometimes not.

Nobody lives in the Old World now. How could they? No air to breathe, no light to see. It’s just us, over here. Far enough away to be safe, Ma said; close enough to be scared, is what she meant.

Some days it boiled, the cloud, like it was stirring to move. Others, it just sat there, placid, looking well fed and sleek. Sometimes it rolled like the sea, stirred by an unfelt wind.

‘What is it, Ma?’ I used to ask, staring out our tightly sealed windows, across the miles of barren land that separated us from it. ‘What’s it made of?’

‘Hush, now,’ she’d say, dragging me away with her poker fingers. ‘Don’t ask questions.’

There’d been lots of theories down through the years. ‘The will o’ God,’ some said; ‘the work of Ol’ Nick,’ said more. ‘The gover’ment,’ muttered others, ignoring the shushing noises from all around.

I woke one morning with my mind full up. Houses emerging from murky, inky darkness; people inside like husks, sucked dry. The cloud retreating, drawing up its roots and pulling free. A roaring noise, an angry howling. Rocks and twigs and bones flying, whirling. Blackened skin, sunken eyes, yellowed teeth exposed in a final, pointless battle against an enemy that couldn’t be fought.

I blinked the dream away and ran to find Ma, to tell her the cloud was coming, but she already knew.

**

Yes, all right. I admit it. These three stories are ones I originally wrote for Flash Friday, and all of them are at least a year old. However, I’m hoping this means that some of you won’t have come across them before, and that if you have come across them already, it’ll be so far in the past you won’t remember it. I’m tired today, and I tried to create something new.

I really did.

But it wasn’t happening.

So, then I thought: what about all those stories you’ve written which, like mayflies, flare and sparkle for one single day, and which are then never seen again? Some of those stories are reasonably readable. Some even pretty good. What about them?

And here we are. Three of my own personal favourites from the fifty or more stories I’ve so far written for Flash Friday, and ones which haven’t (to the best of my recollection) appeared on the blog before. I hope you enjoy them, if it’s your first acquaintance with them; I hope you enjoy renewing the acquaintance, if it’s not. Happy mid-week, and I hope you’re not in a slump, as I seem to be!

(P.S. Of course, as always, feedback on these pieces of flash fiction is welcome, and gratefully appreciated).

Wednesday Writing – ‘Spotlight’

Image: unsplash.com

Image: unsplash.com

Spotlight

Driving home, she allowed her mind to wander. Her hands flashed through the motions, adjusting the steering wheel, flicking on the indicator, correcting the volume on the radio. Click was an image of her changing from third gear to fourth. Click, and she was applying the brake, gently, to avoid a swerving cyclist. Click, a stylish black and white shot in which she squinted against the sun, creases framing her dark-ringed eyes. As her car wheels ate the miles, the desire she thought she’d quelled began to pulse through her again like a tree root, pushing out all else. The deliciousness of it buzzed through her veins like an electrical charge, the suggestion of it making her knuckles whiten on the wheel.

Coffee. She needed to think.

She pulled over and let the car sit, pink-pink-pinking gently as its engine cooled, while she rummaged in the glove compartment for change. She shoved aside a random purse, an identity card spilling out of its unzipped opening, showing her a face she’d already forgotten. Several sets of keys to houses and cars she didn’t own rattled beneath her questing fingers. Finally, she found the stash of dusty, fluff-covered coins kept for emergencies, and she tossed them into her palm.

Emergencies. Like ‘My car’s broken down; do you mind if I come in and just call a garage? I’ll pay for the use of your phone, ma’am.’ Or ‘Have you seen this little girl, here? Please, ma’am, I need your help! Just sit into the car, for a moment, and take a better look.’ Or ‘I’ve just been mugged. Everything’s been taken, my wallet, my keys – can you please spare just a few cents, ma’am, so I can call my husband?’

She looked at the wedding ring she always wore, and grinned down at it. Inside, it said Cedric, April 28th 1976, Eternally, but she’d forgotten where she’d found it.

Snapping shut the glove compartment, she unfastened her seatbelt and pulled on the door release. She stepped out onto the pavement, whistling softly through her teeth as she checked for anything in uniform, but everything looked quiet. Still, she reasoned, fingering through her coins, doesn’t hurt to stay on the right side of the law. Smiling, she strode to the parking meter and fed it enough money to last the half-hour she felt she needed to get settled over a cappuccino, maybe read a newspaper. Flirt with a waitress or two.

But on her way back to the car, she saw her. Across the road, against the brickwork, holding a panting dog on a straining leash, laughing as she pressed a cellphone to her ear, a dark-haired beauty stood. The spotlight descended upon her like the finger of Heaven, shining on her nut-brown head and freezing her beneath its glow like a fly caught on a pin, and watching all this, she knew. She knew, just looking. Her blood jumped, like someone had slapped her, and she knew.

This was the one.

Quickly, she yanked open the car door, flung the ticket on the dash, and grabbed up the crumpled map she always kept on the passenger seat. She licked her lips and stretched them out, baring her teeth, warming up to a smile, before backing out and slamming the door shut again.

Look left. Look right. Cross. The sleek dark girl was still on the phone. The dog saw her coming, and released a yapping growl.

God, Christian, all right! Jeez. Okay. I’ll come over.’ The dark girl was laughing, and for the first time in a long career, she waited, holding the creased map, still practising her smile, one that looked open but not stupid, trustworthy but not weird, friendly but not too friendly.

And she waited.

‘Hang on, Christian, okay? I’ve just got to…’ She trailed off, muffling the phone against her chest. ‘Hello? Do you need help with something?’ She’s talking to me.

‘Oh, gosh. Um. Please – finish your call! I don’t want to impose -‘

‘No, it’s fine. Honestly. Do you need directions?’ Her eyes were brown too, clear, guileless but wary. There was no smile on her face.

‘Sure, sure. Um. Hardacre? Is it around here someplace?’ She fumbled with the map, the wedding ring winking in the glow of the spotlight.

‘Please, don’t bother with the map. Please! Just listen, okay?’ She looked up, and the dark-haired girl was earnest, staring, one hand on the leash and the other on the phone. She started to give directions and the other woman pretended to take them in, even asking questions and clarifying details, before the conversation tapered off.

‘Okay. So, you’ve got it?’ The girl’s eyes were wide, wanting to help.

‘I sure do,’ she replied, wrapping up the map. ‘I sure do. Thank you, ma’am.’

‘Wow. Ma’am is for my mother. Please! You’re welcome.’ She nodded, just once, before picking up the phone again and turning, the dog’s straining making her leash-holding fingers turn yellow. She began to walk away.

‘Hi, Christian? Yeah, sure. No, no – just a woman lost, needing directions. Okay, so where were we? Oh, really…‘ The girl’s laughing voice left a trail, like scent, in the air, and she didn’t notice she was gripping the map hard until she heard it tearing in her hands. She took two strides to the nearest trash-can and threw it in.

Her calf muscles were tensed and her shoulders taut. Her fists clenched and her jaw set and she wanted to, so badly, but she’d blown it. She’d gone off too early, using the map trick. Now, how was she going to approach her again?

Before she knew it, she was halfway down the block, keeping well back. The spotlight moved with the dark-haired girl, and she shone within it like a newfound pearl.

She’s been chosen, you know, she heard, inside. Not by you. By someone higher than you. Through your hands, His will be done.

She kept walking, her throat sore from holding back a sob.

This will be the last one, the voice inside her whined. Just one more, and that’s all!

But that’s what you said the last time, she answered.

And the time before that, sang the voice. And the time before that, and the time before that.

 

Flash Friday – ‘The Believer’

Caution Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Caution Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Believer

‘You will not.’ Does he thinks he sounds like God himself? ‘You will not open that door, Brother Benedict.’

‘My lord, the people –‘

Apostates! Serving their just punishment! Do not interfere in Heaven’s work.’

‘Heaven’s work? Condemned to an agonising death?’

‘They made their choice.’ The Prior sniffs, folding his arms across his belly – a belly the people whose screams we can barely hear had a role in filling.

‘My lord, forcing them to sacrifice their last crumbs to the Church at this time of famine? Surely they had no choice?’

‘All must play their part.’ He licks his fat, wet lips.

Murmurs rise from my gathered brothers as I step out of my allotted place. Their prayers rumble to a halt.

I ignore them.

Five strides see me to the door. I rip down the nailed Proclamation and wrench the chamber open. Heat and horror fill me, but one last step, and I am home.

**

This week’s Flash! Friday prompt was the image above – a rickety-looking door bearing a radiation warning, for those o’ you who can’t make out its teeny-tiny details – a mention of Hallowe’en and Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, and the necessity to include a monk. So, rather a lot to try to include in a story which has to be sub-160 words! I hope I got the monk bit, the ‘document nailed to a door’ bit, the rebellion bit, and the horror bit, and after that, well. I can do no more.

It’s Hallowe’en, and that means I’ve spent many hours decorating a load of paper bags with seasonal drawings, which I’m about to start filling with sweeties. I do this every year because where I live, there are lots of children, and they descend upon us like a flock of locusts. We have to start planning our tactics for Hallowe’en night some time in August to make sure we’re stocked and as ready as we can get. Every year we buy more stuff, but every year we run out, and I can tell you there’s nothing worse than a kid, all dressed up and full of the joys, coming to your door looking for their treat only for you to say you’ve run out. I really hope it won’t happen again this year! It’s not much fun to have to hide in the dark until they go away – they don’t tend to take offers of sandwiches very well, either.

Anyway. Happy Hallowe’en – feast well, my friends! See you back here tomorrow for a suitably spooky book review, and until then, Blessed Be…

One of my designs for my Hallowe'en goodie bags! OoooOOoooooOOO...

One of my designs for my Hallowe’en goodie bags! OoooOOoooooOOO…

Flash Friday – ‘Double Cross’

Local fisherman, Yugoslavia. CC photo by GothPhil Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Local fisherman, Yugoslavia. CC photo by GothPhil
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Double Cross

Andrej gazed at the walls of old Dubrovnik while Josip threw the nets.

‘God’s blessing,’ Josip muttered. Andrej crossed himself quickly and drove the boat on.

A sudden boom made them look toward the city. Clouds of yellowish dust rose from the walls.

‘Starting early,’ Josip murmured.

‘Vuković’s ‘modernisation’ won’t wait.’

‘Walls that stood against all comers, brought down by one of our own.’

‘One of our own? No Croatian would do this.’ Andrej’s pulse raced.

‘But he has the Crown Prince’s command.’

‘Forged. Forced, maybe.’ Andrej spat.

‘You opposed the Cathedral’s razing,’ said Josip. ‘Didn’t you?’

‘As did every loyal Croatian,’ Andrej replied, too quickly. He turned to meet Josip’s calm gaze, and knew.

Josip’s hand rested lightly on his gun.

‘But – you prayed. You spoke the old faith!’

‘Just words, comrade.’

The hammer landed with an empty click.

Andrej smiled. ‘If you’re going to play the game,’ he whispered, drawing his knife, ‘make sure you know the rules.’

**

I agonised over this week’s Flash Friday contest (which explains the late posting of my blog, for which I apologise!) We were given the prompt of the two fishermen in their boat, and we were told they had been photographed off the coast of Dubrovnik. We had to include a politician. And this story, about a corrupt government official and his crony – who got his comeuppance in the end – is what my brain came up with.

Anyone who has ever played Scrabble with me will tell you one thing I’m not good at is tactics and machination. I would most decidedly not be a good politician – the to-ing and fro-ing of power structures leaves me cold and confused, usually. I wish there was no such thing as corruption and favouritism and power games and political manoeuvrings. Also, because I have been to Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro at various times in my life (including a wonderful holiday in the utterly beautiful Dubrovnik several years back), I know two things: its city walls are breathtaking, and the history of this region is painfully, terribly complicated. Dubrovnik, as it was when I visited, was my idea of heaven – but not even its ancient beauty was spared from the bullets and bombs during the former Yugoslavia’s long struggle toward peace. I make no pretence at understanding the nuances of the war, or the reasons behind it, and this story is born from my fragmented ideas about the religious, cultural and political differences that have caused so much strife in this beautiful part of the world.

But I agonised over writing it, because the last thing I wanted to do was cause any offence. So, if I did, I apologise.

If you haven’t been to Dubrovnik, go. See the walls, wander the ancient streets, visit the Elaphite Islands, explore the sun-drenched countryside, get to know the people. The countries of the former Yugoslavia are among the most beautiful in the world, and if I’m ever in a position to go back, I’ll be on the first plane out.

Have great weekends, everyone. See you all back here tomorrow for another book review – until then, dovidenja!

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.