The Algerian Exchange

pillars

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-five year old Eileen Kateb could only hear the sound of her own breathing and her soft footfalls as she slowly made her way between the columns of the Cathedral de Sacre Coeur, which had recently been converted to a library. Her grandparents had quietly immigrated to England during the heyday of French rule over Algeria, so she could have blended in among the millions of Muslim women in the coastal city of Oran who looked just like her. However, she chose to dress as a European instead of clothing herself in a hijab, because, after all, Houari Boumédiène and his thugs knew she was here. That was the point.

“You can stop right there, Miss.” The man stepped out from behind one of the pillars to her left about ten meters ahead. He was average height, medium complexion, dark hair slicked back with Brylcreem, neatly trimmed mustache, pressed tan suit. He looked like an Arabic Peter Sellers. “I’m surprised the Americans didn’t send a male representative.”

“Actually, I’m British, and James Bond was too busy killing SPECTRE agents and seducing women in the Bahamas to accept this assignment, or perhaps you haven’t seen that movie.”

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A Girl and Her Dog

dog

MorgueFileJune2018 1418535473h5g6w

Toby trotted casually through the water, understating the panic he felt last night during the storm. The reason for this was the golden retriever now had two sets of thoughts in his head; his own canine concerns, and the comforting presence of Marianne.

“Good boy, Toby. You’re almost there. Just another block and then turn right.”

They’d been having these sorts of “conversations” since he was a puppy, so they no longer scared or confused him. It was a natural consequence of living with the eight-year-old girl and her family.

He remembered the storm, the flood, being separated from them during the evacuation, but she kept him calm.

Then he turned the corner and caught sight of the shelter, the gymnasium of a high school. She was waiting outside for him.

“Toby!” He could hear her this time. She was screaming and jumping up and down with joy.

He broke into a run and didn’t stop until she was grabbing his wet fur, hugging him. He jumped with her, barking and then licking her face.

“I missed you, Toby. Please stay with me always.”

“Okay, he’s back.” Daddy’s voice echoed in her thoughts. “We’ve got to go before we’re discovered.”

I wrote this for Week 38 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner photo challenge hosted by Roger Shipp. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Given that the dog is walking in water and the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, I thought I’d make my heroine a flood victim…as well as a mutant telepath.

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

The Greeter

umbrellas

© Dale Rogerson

This had to be a dream because Jae didn’t remember how she got here, and who would decorate a room like this? At only five foot two, the slender Thai co-ed felt tiny in such enormous surroundings.

“Hurry up.” The deep, masculine voice was coming from the shadows ahead.

“This is my dream and I’ll come when I’m ready.”

“You’re not dreaming.”

“But the last thing I remember was going to bed.”

“That doesn’t mean it was the last thing that happened to you.”

“Wait. The car accident…”

“Yes. Welcome to the afterlife, Jae. I’m here to sign you in.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The image looked surreal to me, so that’s how I wrote it. With only 100 words to play with, I could only vaguely develop my idea. Poor Jae.

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

Seeking Justice

the chelsea beach bar

© Michelle DeAngelis

Jeannie and Richard met outside the Chelsea Beach Bar in Atlantic City, their hometown. She had barely been able to hold in her tears, but became hysterical when he’d gotten out of his car and walked over to her. There was nothing left for the PI to do but hold his old girlfriend and let her cry. The Marine veteran’s instincts never let him tune out his surroundings, such as the multicolored para-sail against a dull blue sky and the sound of the wind blowing through the grass.

“You’re going to find them for me.” She’d finally stopped sobbing.

“I figured that’s why you called me after so long.”

“We were going to get married. He wanted to wait until after tomorrow’s boxing match in Vegas to announce it.”

“You know when I find them, it won’t help. He’ll still be dead.”

“I know. But he deserves justice. I don’t trust the cops on this one. I think they’re in on it. Habib thought the fight was rigged.”

“I know. I’ll find his killers.

I wrote this for the 183rd FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I looked up The Chelsea Beach Bar since it’s figured prominently in the photo, and found it is in Atlantic City. I looked up the local news and discovered that Atlantic City boxer Qa’id Muhammad was found murdered yesterday near Las Vegas. I decided not to use Muhammad’s name in my story and to fictionalize the crime out of respect for the grieving family.

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

The Next Soldiers

nuclear winter

Depiction of the effects of a nuclear winter” – Found at the New York Times

Abracadabra,” enchanted fourteen-year-old Elazaro Motyka as he sat under an almond tree overlooking the Port of Haifa, but the sea breeze blowing into the park overlooking the old University was still too cold. Even the magic word his American neighbor taught him didn’t work against the last vestige of nuclear winter, but he hadn’t expected it to.

It had been thirty years since the last war. He managed to avoid most of the stories his zayde told him of whether it was India or Pakistan that fired the nukes first and then pulled in the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans, blah, blah, blah. It was bad enough that they taught about it in school. The present worried him a lot more than the past.

That made him rather atypical among his classmates, since most of them loved to listen to any of the people who were alive during the Third World War. It was a reminder of the last time that even in stupidly killing millions, humanity had been free.

“Hey, Elazaro!”

He looked down to see Inaya making the arduous climb up the hill to his lookout. She was a grade behind him but liked to brag that she was more mature than he was, as if that made her better than him.

“Hey, Inaya. Did you bring lunch?” On days when they didn’t have school, they met in the park to eat and talk.

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The New Dragon Saga: Steve

handgun

Handgun image from freeart

Chapter 4: “We’re ready.” Steve was another member of the resistance, and like Landon, not only was his control collar inoperable, but he could use elemental magic. Steve looked human, a lot of the other soldiers didn’t, not quite, but the seventeen-year-old had never been aware of him back on Earth. Landon had been able to sense a lot of magic users by the time he was sixteen, but somehow, Steve had managed to elude him.

“When do we strike?” They were walking on the parade grounds. Landon’s limp was almost gone and Dr. Swanson, also a member of the rebellion, would have to declare him fit for duty in another few days. It was the same with Steve whose arm had been broken in a medieval combat simulation. He was slightly taller than Landon and a few years older, dark hair and eyes, medium complexion. He said his Mom was from Mexico and his Dad was from “someplace else,” which probably meant another dimension.

“Tomorrow at dawn. All of the magic users have been alerted. We’ll be the first wave, taking out the Master and the top echelon. Once we disable the control mechanisms, the rest will be easy. We must outnumber them a hundred to one.”

“Dawn.” Landon and Steve stopped at the flagpole and saluted. On the flag was a representation of the ancient Roman god Janus, the two-faced god who represented beginnings, gates, transitions, passages, and time. It was a curious symbol for a group of extra-dimensional players, who used intelligent life forms as pieces in their bloody war games. “What about the people in play? There will still be thousands in the different simulations.”

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Baobab

baobab

A baobab tree in northern Ghana.

Brian Fletcher was startled when the lithe, green-eyed Ghanan woman stepped out from behind the baobab tree.

“I wouldn’t pick the flowers. The gods cursed the baobab. Picking even a single white flower is bad luck.”

The hunter defiantly plucked one, then two more flowers, and then held out his arm. She took a step backward, and he laughed. “Stupid superstition.”

“You will meet your fate, Mr. Fletcher as you have sent many elephants to theirs…poacher.”

“How did you…?”

The dark woman dashed back around the tree’s large, twisted trunk.

“Wait a minute.” The muscular, middle-aged man threw the flowers to the ground and ran after, but it wasn’t a woman he found on the other side.

He only had time to notice that the lioness possessed the same green eyes before she tore him apart. The gods had again wrought terrible justice against one who would desecrate their lands.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bamboi, Northern Region, Ghana. I couldn’t find anything on Bamboi in a casual Google search, since it kept trying to redirect me to “bamboo.” I did look up Northern Region (Ghana), and there I found the Baobab Tree, and more importantly, the legends and myths about it. There are numerous myths, so I chose one, leveraging information about poaching in Ghana.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire

burning cabin

Found at ComicVine.com

Spider silk clung at the doors, over the windows, across everything she had left behind. It was the one place she had allowed to remain, had not purged with fire, the first home she had ever known with Mommy and Daddy.

But that was over twenty years ago. She and Daddy had abandoned their small mountain retreat after Mommy died of cancer. It, along with everything else Daddy owned, had passed down to her in trust when he died. She had only been five at the time, and Daddy’s boss, billionaire Keyne Harlan, took care of everything for her, adopted her, provided her with the finest of everything, home, clothes, education, everything a little girl needed to grow up. Everything except love.

“I wish I didn’t have to do this.” Twenty-five year old inventor and heiress Alise Egan was standing on the front porch of the new dilapidated cottage in the High Sierras, thirty miles from Yosemite National Park. Keyne and his usual entourage used to rent several suites at the Yosemite Valley Lodge twice a year as she was growing up, Spring and Autumn, taking her to the park for their biannual bicycle and music festival, but it was the closest she ever got to the Egan’s vacation home up until now.

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The Grayland

spectral

© Sue Vincent

At first Alise Egan thought she had been trapped in a cursed painting of herself facing an ocean wave, but then she realized it was an interdimensional gateway to another reality. In the painting, the twenty-two year old MIT graduate looked much as she appeared in real life, tall, what her billionaire benefactor, the painting’s owner Keyne Harlan and men of his generation would call “curvy,” long, blond hair streaming behind her along with her extravagant crimson gown, a ostentatious gift from said-benefactor, the man who adopted her after her parents died.

But once across the chaotic field of alabaster and sapphire, she entered the realm of the dead. Well, that’s what they had wanted her to believe, all of the non-corporeal entities who inhabited that realm. Two of them had initially passed themselves off as her dead parents, but then she saw them for what they truly were, invaders intent on using her as a bridge from their world to hers for reasons unknown and undesired.

But one of them said, “Physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic.” That’s when she realized she could do anything, and so she did. Alise pushed back, at first driving a few away from the threshold, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally all that there were, millions and tens of millions.

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What It Means to be Free

truck, pumpkins, flag

MorgueFile May 2018 1413924415vgvbk

Young Nate had a blast running through the cornfield and picking out pumpkins, but then the little boy saw his Grandpa standing by an American flag next to the field.

“What are you doing, Grandpa?”

“Remembering when I was your age and we kids said the Pledge of Allegiance in front of the flag every morning.”

Nate looked down if he were embarrassed.

“What’s wrong?” Grandpa put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

The fourth grader looked up at Grandpa. “Some kids at school say we should kneel instead of stand in front of the flag because of racism.”

Grandpa knelt down. “I know that our country has done bad things and we still have problems that need fixing, and if people want to kneel, that’s their right. That’s what makes America free. But it’s never been about what’s wrong with America, but about our ideals, who we are when we’re our best. I’ll always stand. People who forget that will always live in fear. The flag is a reminder of what freedom is, and when you’re free, you’re never afraid.”

The old man was kneeling in front of the flag, but only so he could hug his dear grandson.

I wrote this for Week #37 of the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks against our nation, and America still carries a lot of collective pain from that day. I wrote a wee fictional tale honoring the victims and those who survived them, so the feelings are still fresh within me.

I wish I had more than 200 words to express what I’m trying to say. I know that there will always be people who will kneel in front of the flag as long as they perceive there being social injustice in this nation. That’s their right as American citizens. That’s what it means to be free. But what I tried to say today echos what I recently wrote in a longer essay a few days back.

Right now, a lot of people are afraid of that guy in the White House. They’re afraid about who will be the next Supreme Court Justice. They’re afraid of a lot of things, real and imagined. But I choose not to live in perpetual fear. Yes, I get scared of things sometimes, but both my identity as an American and my faith in God help me realize that I wasn’t born to be afraid. Isaiah 43:1 says “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

The Almighty was addressing Israel, not the people of the nations, but through faith to the King of Israel and by his merit, the rest of us can also be called children of God. Presidents are temporary. God is everlasting. If you don’t believe, that’s fine. We all negotiate our relationship with the Creator in different ways. I’m just glad I live in a country where people are free, both to kneel in front of the flag and to pray to and have faith in God. It’s the same country, and it’s the same freedom.

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

P.S. Don’t forget to contribute your own story to Roger’s linkup. Thanks.