Tag Archives: image prompts

Flash! Friday – ‘Unforeseen’

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.  Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.
Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Unforeseen

It’s there, in my mind, like a weed. This was too easy.

She’s never left the cage unlocked before. Not even for her cigarette breaks, or to eat – though she doesn’t eat much, now. But this morning she rose from her desk, mid-sentence, a ribbon of smoke rising from her ashtray, and left the room.

My cage stood open.

I ran, of course. Who wouldn’t? It’s not that she mistreats me, but captivity is a torment. I’m a free spirit. I’m –

Oh, Zeus. She’s coming! It’s been so long since I was loose that I can’t remember where I am, or where to go. I must hide! But she keeps me in rags, barefoot, and anyway I may not leave this dwelling. Separated from her, I will die. Is that irony? I should know.

Every writer needs a Muse, and I am hers, soul-bound. She doesn’t need to cage me, but she can’t trust me to stay.

I reach a dead end. I turn, desperate, but she is behind me.

There you are,’ she croons. ‘Enjoy your run? Had to get your blood up, somehow. You’ve really been underperforming lately.’ Her smile is a sudden blade.

Ah, me. My fatal flaw? Plot twists have long been my undoing.

***

So – yay! This piece of flash fiction has taken me *hours* to complete, but hey. I finished it. It’s mine! I did it! It’s been so long since I entered any sort of flash fiction competition that I half-expected never to complete a piece again, so I’m glad I proved myself wrong. My old brain cells aren’t firing on full power, as is clear from the Titanic struggle this story caused within me, but heck. A challenge ain’t a challenge if it ain’t hard, right?

So. You’re going to head on over to Flash! Friday and throw your name in the ring, right? You’re not going to leave me hanging? Good friends don’t do that sort of thing. Go on. Go on. Go on, go on, go on, you will, you will, go on…

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.

Wednesday Writing – ‘The Year of Alison’

Image: unsplash.com. Photographer: Kelly Bozarth

Image: unsplash.com. Photographer: Kelly Bozarth

The Year of Alison

Then, there came the year you started to call me ‘Alison’, instead of ‘Allie’ or ‘Al’ or ‘sweetheart’, when you wanted to call me in for tea or attempt to tell me off. It hadn’t come out of the blue – you’d already started gently removing me from your lap or unwinding my arm from yours as we walked, tapping me awkwardly on the shoulder instead. When I’d frown, you’d say something, quick and irrelevant, as I drew breath to ask you why. Your words were a wedge between my old life, and this new one I wasn’t so sure about.

You’d raised me. You were my only family. But you were getting old, and so was I.

It was hard to do everything by myself. Dressing, bathing, dealing with my own nightmares. I’d had you for all that, before. I wondered, sometimes, whether you missed our bedtime stories as much as I did or whether you were relieved not to have to think about this half-crazy kid who’d been dumped on you, a bundle of warm blankets barely moving, more than eight years before. I was your daughter’s daughter, the child of your beautiful lightning-bolt child, and you loved me like you loved her. Maybe you feared I’d leave you, too. Maybe you feared I wouldn’t.

Hallowe’en was our favourite time of year. You’d bake a cake and make it look like a pumpkin, and we’d play games long after I’d come home, pinch-cheeked, from my rounds of the neighbours’ houses. I knew you’d be watching from the end of our garden as I trudged from one to the next, collecting coins and sweets and chocolate from the kind people who shared our tiny cul-de-sac; I’d pretend to ignore you even as I stole reassuring glances, my mind already half-full of home.

I’d been looking forward to our Hallowe’en for months, this year of Alison, wondering if it would set you back on track. Hoping it would fix things.

‘Go on out, now,’ you said, when it came to the right time. ‘Enjoy yourself, love.’ I stood, witch-bedecked, face-painted, in the kitchen, and stared at you.

‘But aren’t you going to watch for me?’ I asked, wondering why the thought made my heart pound harder than the thought of any shadow-dwelling demon.

‘You’re big enough to bring yourself around now, surely?’ You bent, slowly, to peer through the oven door. The pumpkin cake was baking, unconcerned.

‘But –’

‘Go on, Alison,’ you said, straightening. You smiled, clutching the dishtowel, from across the room. ‘I’ll be here when you get back. I promise.’

And you were. We ate, and shared my spoils. Our laughter held notes of awkward relief.

‘Let’s go out in the garden,’ I suggested, on a sugar high. ‘We have sparklers left from last year, right?’ I loved to watch them dancing in the darkness, held between your steady fingers, far out of my reach. All I could do was look, but that was enough. I didn’t want that power. Not yet.

You grunted and got up, and we wrapped ourselves in coats and scarves. You reached down the box of tiny fireworks and the matches from over the stove, and out we went. The garden was dark and still and quiet, the stars overhead like shimmering dreams. I wanted to spin on the spot until it all blended into one.

The flare of the match drew my eye back to you just in time to watch you set it to the sparkler’s tip. It exploded into life, spitting and hissing like something enraged, a flower of the gods. Your hands were starkly shadowed and your face like a hollowed skull, squinting against the glow. Your eyes were hidden in the light.

Then, you handed the sparkler to me.

‘Here,’ you said. ‘I think it’s time for you to hold this, now.’

I stood and stared at you as it fizzed between my fingers, not even caring that it burned, until all that was left in the garden was its dying red end and the faint starlight, bleached out by its dancing afterglow.

Every year was the year of Alison, after that.

 

 

 

Friday Fiction

Image: New Old Stock http://nos.twnsnd.co/

Image: New Old Stock
http://nos.twnsnd.co/

The Narrow Path

I should have paid better heed; I know that, now. It’s hard, come harvest, to watch everything – children, livestock, land – and worry about a man, too. A man who should know better. A man who should have understood the danger.

But still. I should have been mindful.

I woke in the night, a cold wind trickling down my back.

‘Ger?’ I whispered, thinking maybe he was relieving himself. Or, I allowed myself to dream, tending to the baby. I rolled my eyes at the prospect. ‘Ger, where are you?’

I sat up. As I had been taught from early girlhood, I checked carefully before I put my feet on the floor. At first glance, nothing seemed wrong; the room was filled with moonlight, and all was quiet, but I blinked, and looked again. The silver glints in every corner told me They were here. Their eyes always gave Them away. Every shadow was a doorway, now. A million worlds overlapped with my tiny room, and I held my breath as I looked around.

‘Don’t touch my children,’ I said, and the only answer was a wave of sniggered laughter like an echoing whisper.

I felt my hair stirred with a breeze that was not there, and they were gone.

I ran to my children, but they slept in their cots and cradle, warm and peaceful and dream-filled, and then I knew.

I went to ask advice of the old women, who had lived many lives. Cross the stream closed-eyed, I was told, then follow the narrow path. Keep between the stones. The eldest of them all advised me to walk the path on my knees, but she knew even as she said it that I would refuse. Be prepared to be asked for more than you can give, daughter, she said. They do not like humans who come on the skin of their feet.

I left my children with my mother and set off. I could see the stream from the end of the village, and the path beyond, but I knew that meant nothing.

I could be gone for a week. A year. More.

I did as I had been told My eyes sealed shut as I stumbled across the stream. I clambered out onto the path, keeping my gaze fixed on the crooked tree. I walked between the stones.

From the fields all around I heard wailing. I heard my mother’s screams, and those of my children. I smelled burning. I did not turn, for They were everywhere, watching. Smiling.

A person stood in the shadows under the crooked tree, and I could not see his face. He had the height of my man, and the shoulder breadth. He had the scar on his left forearm, as like to Ger’s in every respect as to be the same.

‘Wife,’ he called. ‘Bring me home!’ He had Ger’s voice.

‘Tell me the names of our children,’ I called, and he did.

‘Tell me the date of our union,’ I called, and he did.

‘Tell me,’ I called, ‘the colour of my kirtle.’ He did, and it was then I knew my man was dead.

I turned from him and began the journey home, his voice clawing at my heart with every step. His words became screams the further I walked. I reached the stream and ducked my head beneath its waters in order to drown either him or myself; when I surfaced, gasping, all was quiet.

I returned to my squalling children who did not know me, but that would heal in time. I removed the borrowed kirtle and laid it carefully out on my marital bed, the bright red of it a match for my hand-woven blanket, and I recalled my man’s voice. His eyes. His laughter, when I came under his roof as his wife and he saw the gift I had brought him, over which I had laboured long.

‘No point telling me it’s red,’ he told me, kindly. ‘The way my eyes are made, it all looks grey.’ His only flaw, he’d laughed.

I folded my heart up along with the kirtle. I had children crying for their supper, and now I had only myself.

Flash Fiction Friday

Image: wodumedia.com

Image: wodumedia.com

The Captain’s Return

Just as the movie got to the good bit, the first dull boom rang out. Barron stiffened in his chair. The hairs on his arms lifted right up, like they were listening; every muscle was taut.

‘What the…’ Barron put his steaming bowl of noodles down and hit the Pause button, trying to breathe quietly. Just as he swung his legs off the desk, the second boom shattered the stillness of the sleeping station.

‘Hell. Just my luck,’ he muttered, heaving himself to his feet. He’d been looking forward to the solo graveyard shift all week. Just him, the silent monitoring station, and the howling Antarctic outside, it had sounded like heaven on earth.

Boom.

He shrugged into his jacket and fumbled through the piles of documents and readouts for his flashlight. He dallied – just for a second – in front of the gun locker before swinging it open.

Boom.

The door was a long dark corridor away. He clicked the flashlight on. Its beam shook a little, but he stilled it.

Boom.

Something – something heavy – was pounding on the door.

He unsealed it with numb fingers, his weapon a reassuring weight at his side. It hissed open to reveal a fur-clad figure, his eyes like lost stars in the bitter darkness.

The stranger lowered his seal-skin glove, swaying on his feet. ‘I told my men I would be some time,’ he said, in a voice like the Aurora’s hiss. ‘But I’ve finally found my way back.’

Barron dropped his flashlight as the long-lost explorer stumbled into his arms.

(The above story is my Flash! Friday entry for this week)

 

Tamara de Lempicka's painting, 'Jeune Fille Verte' Image: internaute.com

Tamara de Lempicka’s painting, ‘Jeune Fille Vert’
Image: internaute.com

Jeune Fille Vert

So I saved for a green silk dress, second-hand, and stole Mama’s white gloves. She hadn’t worn them in years, and I doubted she’d miss them any more than she’d miss me. The dress was nice, but it wasn’t exactly like the one in the picture. It didn’t have a ruffled neck, or a bow at the shoulder. Come to that, it wasn’t quite the right shade, either – it sort of made my skin look mouldy. In a certain light, though, I looked all right. I’d pass as a fine lady on her way somewhere grand.

I found a hat at the back of my closet, more cream than white; it had a brim, at least, perfect for spying on the world without it hitting your eyes. The girl in the picture didn’t show her feet, so I just put on my black patent shoes, the ones I normally kept for church. Today, though, I left my socks off. It looked better. My feet would get sweaty, I knew, but I figured it couldn’t be helped.

I’d even found a small valise, an old-fashioned one. It wasn’t in the picture, but I thought it looked pretty. My things didn’t all fit inside it, but it hardly mattered. ‘They’ll give you everything you need in the hospital, girl. You’ll have more’n enough,’ Mama’d said. Mama never lied. Well – she always spoke the truth, but she didn’t always speak it with a good heart.

I checked my wristwatch. They’d be here to get me soon. I took a final look in my dusty old mirror; the glass was browned and blooming, but I could see enough to know the dress clung tightly in places that were new, and hung baggy in places that were old. I took a breath and watched myself, wondering. My hair, completely the wrong colour but at least it curled like the picture-girl’s, jiggled when I moved my head. My heart was as quiet as a sleeping baby.

Sort of what got me into this mess in the first place, I guess. My heart, and a sleeping baby.

Then, a flicker in the mirror told me they were coming. Angled right, my warped looking-glass was kind enough to show the road.

My valise was light. I threw it, and it landed in the bush, just fine.

I slipped my hot feet out of my shoes; they followed the valise out the window. My soles gave better grip on the downpipe. I had to grab my hat with one hand as I neared the ground, but I managed pretty well.

I didn’t wait to hear them ring the bell, or to hear Mama’s holler. She’d be mad to lose the money they’d have paid her for me.

Then I ran, just like the girl in the picture’d said. Run! she’d whispered, with her scarlet mouth. Run fast!

I didn’t slow until I’d reached the cover of the trees, as green as my green dress.

 

Image: indulgy.com

Image: indulgy.com

 

Unforgettable Things

These are the things I can’t forget: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.

They bring my medicine twice a day, and the glass – they call it that, even though it’s made of plastic – is pink. I think I like that colour. The glass holds the water (not too much!) that I need to make the medicine go down.

Sometimes the nurse sings a song as she hands me my medicine, and my pink glass, but I can’t remember what the words mean any more. I like her voice, though, so I don’t mind.

They are nice, the nurses.

At least, I think they are.

I can’t forget these things: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.

I remember other things, sometimes. I remember eggs, and how fragile they are, and how you have to be so, so careful when you carry them. My unforgettable things are like eggs, the doctor says. I stroke them gently and keep them safe, and carry them around inside myself so carefully, in case I drop them.

I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine. The doctor says if I repeat it to myself, it’ll stick to my brain like glue.

I don’t know what’s happening when the nurse wheels me into another room. This room is small and has a broken TV, and its window looks out over the carpark. The nurse says I need a bit of privacy, but I prefer the big room, where everyone else is. It’s warm, and it has a window with a view of the garden. But I have to go into the small room. I don’t know why. ‘Just for a while,’ they say. ‘Not for long.’

I’ve been in here before. I think it means I’ve done something wrong, but I never remember what.

So here I am, in the small room. It’s cold. It’s raining. There are a lot of cars in the carpark. I try to count them all, but I lose my place when someone comes in.  A Visitor. A gust of air follows them through the door. Inside it words are carried, carefully and gently, just like me and my eggs.

The words are another song. ‘Happy Birthday to you,’ they say. They sound happy. It seems wrong. I don’t know why.

‘Sorry!’ says the Visitor. ‘I’m just looking for the loo?’

‘Happy birthday to you!’ say the words again, and the world cracks.

‘Happy birthday,’ roared the fist. ‘Happy birthday!’ whined the belt as it flew through the air. I remember the buckle opening my face, digging into my head. I hear crunching, and snapping, and breaking, and I remember screaming I remember…

‘Come on, darling,’ says a nurse. I see my pink glass and my pills. My throat hurts.

I must remember: I was hurt, I am getting better, and I have to take my medicine.