Valley of Blood

splash

© Sue Vincent

Taylor watched the light from the campfire flicker reflected in his opponent’s all too confident eyes, as he picked himself up from off the ground again and raised his bokken. She was already in position, barely winded, while he was almost totally out of breath. He knew his brother and sisters were watching, but he couldn’t afford to take his eyes of his adversary. They practiced with wooden bokken because they were non-lethal, and for the most part, produced only bruises and welts, but it was still a hard fight, harder than he thought it would be.

Dani was six years older than Taylor, was bigger, stronger, and had a longer reach. Eventually, he’d grow taller, but that would take years, and right now, she had every advantage over him, including that of experience.

“You’re getting better, Taylor,” she taunted him. “I think you’ll make a fine swordsman someday.”

“What do you mean someday?” Suddenly, he raised his bokken over his head and charged.

She just laughed and dodged his clumsy attack, but that was really his trap. Taylor wanted Dani to think there was no way to beat her, but if he couldn’t defeat her with strength and skill, he’d settle for tricking her. Quickly, he swung his stick in an arc low over the ground, and hit her hard in both shins. Dani nearly lost her balance, which gave him a chance to score a blow. Even then, she managed to elude his bokken, but not by much.

The sound of two pieces of wood repeatedly striking each other filled the air, and every time Dani stopped to brag about how he’d never be able to stop her, he’d pull out another surprise.

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From the Mundane to the Magnificent

sprinkler head

Image found at gardenisto.com

The worst thing about the coming of Spring for Frank was fixing the sprinkler system. He had never been handy with tools like most of the other guys, and messing with this plumbing nightmare was a dread.

There were always a few sprinkler heads that refused to turn and ended up having to be replaced. Then he had to figure out how to set the distance and the arc for each of them, typically while they were running, making everything a wet, muddy mess. Of course, some of the sprinklers that did work, sprayed too wide or not wide enough, so they’d have to be dealt with as well.

At least this year, all the zones fired up right away, which meant the plumbing and electrical systems hadn’t been effected by the winter.

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He’s Not Here Anymore

desert

© Jan Wayne Fields

“What did you hope to find after a year?”

The question was rhetorical or maybe self-indulgent. He was alone, unlike a year ago when they all gathered to scatter his Dad’s ashes over the land he loved so much. He thought about leaving another rose, but it would just wither and serve no one.

What then?

“Maybe this is all there is, Dad. Maybe it’s just you and me sitting together for a quiet hour, alone with each other.”

He listened to the wind and finally realized what it was telling him. His Dad wasn’t here anymore. He’d moved on.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge for April 27th (although the URL says May 11th). The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

My Dad died a year ago last week. The scene somewhat reminds me of Nevada where I grew up, and also of the area in Utah where my Dad liked to fish.

We actually put his ashes in a hole near his favorite high desert lake. Hardly a secluded spot, but then, it really wasn’t my choice. Thinking about going back produces an empty feeling. It’s just water, rock, sand, and sagebrush. Dad isn’t there anymore. His spirit has moved on.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Goldilocks Is All Grown Up

girl and bear

Photo credit: Google images – found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

“If your parents find out about this, they’ll kill us.”

“They won’t find out. Besides, I’m not a little cub anymore. I’m a big bear.”

“I fell in love with you the second I saw you. Maybe even before that.”

“I know, Goldie. You’ve told me before. You ate my porridge, sat in my chair, even *ahem* even slept in my bed.”

“I was a little girl then, Babe.”

“And I was a little cub who didn’t know the ways of the world, but look at us now.”

“We still have to keep this our little secret. If Mum and Da ever saw us together, they’d freak.”

“I’ve seen your Da’s gun. He even tried to hunt Papa once, but fortunately he missed.”

“It’s not just my parents we have to worry about, there’s yours as well.”

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The Princess and the Bear

girl and bear

Photo credit: Google images – found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Catherine and Vincent were in love, but cursed by the evil Bishop of Aquila to forever be apart. She had spurned his blasphemous advances, and though thought to be the faithful servant of the Holy Pope, he in fact was in league with dark and sinister forces.

He discovered her affair with Vincent, Captain of the King’s Guard, a relationship forbade her due to her royal blood, and so with His Majesty’s blessings, a powerful spell born in Hell forever changed the man Vincent was into a huge, ferocious beast.

“Oh, sure. You want it now. Can’t you wait until we get to the cabin? In case you haven’t noticed, its freezing.”

Come on, Baby. Don’t be like that. You’re just mad because I was hibernating with those other bears.”

“I noticed how you had your eye on the large female.”

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Horror in Straw

straw people

Photo credit: Ellespeth

On a school field trip, third-graders Tony and Martha decided to do a little independent exploring. Slipping away from the rest of the group, they headed into a secluded field.

“I think they’re some kind of scarecrows or something.” The boy wrinkled his nose in thought.

“That seems silly. I mean they look like they’re working, and they’re…” she blushed gazing at the straw women’s attributes. “…women.”

“Let’s have a closer look.” Tony started to run forward.

“Wait! Remember? The farmer told Mr. Pushkin none of us were allowed in this field, and that it was dangerous.”

He turned back toward her. “Oh, come on. We aren’t going to hurt anything. I just want to…”

“Tony! Get out of there!”

He saw the expression of horror on Martha’s face and then spun toward the field. The straw people were moving. One of them was swinging her ax at him menacingly.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of April 24, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 150.

Yes, I noticed the two straw people were supposed to be women, and of course, the first thing I thought of was that they were haunted.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Kiesha’s Grand Adventure

airship

From the 1986 animated film “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”.

Grandpa’s rathole, or what he called his “lab,” was full of devices in a state of desuetude. But the journal that arrived by messenger just five days after the old man’s body had been delivered to the crematorium told Kiesha an entirely different story.

The stench she had anticipated wasn’t so bad as she steered her way through the haphazard arrangements of arcane machinery. They were all in a state of becoming, but only one had been completed and was ready for use.

Her Dad told her never to visit here, and that the old man was involved in debauchery, his insipid character being capable of nothing else. A month ago, she would have listened.

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Why Does My Wine Glass Look Like That?

glasses

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Johnny B. and his two companions in “crime” had a merry time of it in first class on their way from London to Sydney. He was late the villain of a popular CW television series, and now taking his musical show on the road, or rather in the air, and he wanted to have a good time. Unfortunately, most of the other people in the aircraft’s exclusive section took a dim view of the three adults behaving like self-indulgent adolescents.

Of course, he took to twitter to humiliate them as was his right as one living out loud and up front.

But sleep had taken everyone eventually. For John, insomnia was a close companion, and eventually, whilst the other passengers were slumbering, he had awakened. Johnny looked at the still half-full cup of wine on his tray. The liquid inside wouldn’t be at that angle unless the aircraft was in a steep dive.

Then the speakers crackled to life. “Ladies and Gentlemen…”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for April 22nd 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 162.

I follow actor John Barrowman on twitter, and this tweet of his made me wonder what had actually transpired. I consider commercial aircraft to be “libraries with wings,” and yes, I do enjoy a modicum of quiet (children notwithstanding, me being a Dad and Grandpa).

I also recall seeing a single panel comic strip I read some decades ago depicting an aircraft passenger looking at the glass on his tray, with the liquid being tilted at an angle indicating the plane was in a steep dive.

Together, that formed today’s tale.

To read other stories inspired by the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Sacrifice

spider-man

The cover art for Spider-Man issue 33 (1963)

“You’re going to be fine. Just hang in there. We’ve got heavy equipment coming. We’ll have the two of you out of there in an hour.”

“What?”

Ben Howard was on his knees. How did he get here? Wait. The earthquake. The little girl was going to be killed. Somehow he managed to push her in a hollow space as tons of concrete and steel rained down around them. What was that about heavy equipment?

“Can you hear me?”

Ben opened his eyes, not realizing they’d been closed. There was an opening in the rubble just in front of him. A firefighter. That’s who was talking to him.

The girl! He looked down. She was unconscious but breathing, thank God. Oh no.

“She’s not going to make it. Damn it! I didn’t push her all the way clear. An artery got nicked. She’ll bleed out. You’ve got to do something.”

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The Girl Who Liked Pteranodons

turu

Title card for the 1964 episode of Jonny Quest, “Turu the Terrible”

“Grandpa, I want to color.” The almost three-year-old girl showed the new box of crayons to the old man.

“But I thought you said you wanted to go to the park after dinner.”

Her blue eyes brightened. “I go to the park.” She dropped the box on the floor and went hunting for her shoes.

“Hey, wait a minute, Danni. Can you put the crayons away?”

She stopped in mid-stride, anticipating her liberty, wheeled around and ran back. “Oh yeah.”

They left by the side door, and she spent several minutes examining the air conditioner before being escorted by her Grandpa out the gate and to the sidewalk.

As the luminous ball of gas lighting the world slid slowly toward the western horizon, he watched her play on slides, climb ladders, and try to imitate a much older girl who was hanging upside down from the bars. Danni didn’t get very far, but she had a lot of fun introducing Regan to her Grandpa.

That night, after the child had brushed her teeth and put on her pajamas, the old man and the little girl shared one of his fondest memories from childhood on DVD; a couple of episodes of Jonny Quest. She really liked the show with the Pteranodon.

I wrote this for the Saturday Mix writing challenge at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to take five words and use their synonyms in the body of a story. The original words are:

  1. paint
  2. release
  3. fan
  4. light
  5. clothes

I’ve bolded the synonyms I used in my tale to make them easier to spot.

I thought about the angst I expressed yesterday over what has been perceived as bigotry and prejudice against politically and socially conservative writers by the mainstream science fiction and fantasy industry, and after a lot of thought, and then writing another piece fo flash fiction this morning called The Unknown Children, I realized the world had much bigger problems for me to be concerned about.

The story above is a compressed version of how I spent yesterday afternoon and evening with my granddaughter. Yes, she really likes the old 1964 animated TV series Jonny Quest, which I watched when I was young, and especially one called Turu the Terrible.

If anyone wants to judge me, fairly or otherwise, they can judge me by what I write and by my humanity and compassion, and if I’m still not good enough, then I’d say they have a much bigger problem than I’ll ever have.