Pretending to be One of You

city at night

© Pamela S. Canepa

The night. So dark, so comforting, especially in the early Autumn. But it’s too busy, too many people, too much traffic. I’ll wait until later.

In the meantime, I’ll pretend to be one of them. A man going home after working late at the office. Someone commuting to her night shift job. A young couple going out to dinner and a movie. An older couple off to see a play. I’m just one of them, a nameless person in the crowd, moving along the sidewalk, past businesses and apartment buildings. Waiting for the light to change, crossing the intersection.

Finally, the crowds thin, the pace slows, the night deepens. No one can see my scars. Her house is just ahead. She used to be my wife. They used to be my children. But then war changed me. They said “go home, go back to your old life.”

The war changed me. The man I was died. I am only a soldier. They call me a “homeless vet,” like it was a badge of honor.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of September 19, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The challenge is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 175 words long. My word count is 174.

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

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Scattered Thou Across the Ages

anubis

Burial sled of Anubis from King Tut’s tomb, on display at the Egyptian Museum – Cairo, Egypt.

The Egyptian Museum – Cairo – December 22, 2016

“Here’s what we’re preparing for our 2018 exhibit, Gordon.”

Archeologist Gordon Ashe was being given a private tour of the new wing of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo by his friend Dr. Tarek Sayed Tawfik, the general director.

“This is truly astounding, Tarek. I have to admit to being more than a little envious. All five thousand of the artifacts that had been discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb will be displayed together for the first time.”

“You shouldn’t be envious, Gordon. After all, you’re here almost two years ahead of schedule, and you didn’t even have to pay the price of admission.”

“I guess being a personal friend of the director helps.”

Both men laughed. Gordon and Tarek had become friends at Oxford as undergraduates some decades ago. Both had a passion for antiquities but their lives traveled along highly divergent trajectories. Tarek had eventually gone into administration and Gordon gave up life as a field archeologist to work for the U.S. Government, though of course Tarek wasn’t sure exactly what services the esteemed Dr. Ashe performed for them.

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Why I Came Back

apartment building

© John Robinson

He could feel the blood seeping down his calf from his injured knee. He wished he could enjoy the morning air, but he had to finish this.

Just go over the bridge to the apartment complex, find which one is her’s break in, and then wait. She left for university over an hour ago but she’d be back by noon.

He pressed different buttons on the intercom and as each resident answered, he said, “It’s me.”

Only one opened the door for him, but that’s all he needed.

He had found a first aid kit in the pantry, bound his wound, and cleaned up the blood. He was sitting in a kitchen chair when he heard her unlock the door.

She didn’t see him at first in the darkness. Then she turned on the light and gasped.

“I won’t hurt you. Please sit down.”

“Who are you?” She was trembling.

“Please sit down. I need to tell you what happened to your parents.”

She stood in the middle of her living room. “My mother. She shot my father and then committed suicide.”

“No, Nika. I killed them, but that was a long time ago. I’ve come back to tell you why.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction of September 17th 2017 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is exactly 200.

I think it was in the film The Bourne Supremacy (2004) that Jason Bourne confessed to a young Russian woman why he had killed her parents when she was a child. It was his first kill, and one where he was specifically manipulated to forget what he’d done. When he finally started recovering his memories, he felt he owed it to the young woman to explain that he had murdered them rather than have her continue to believe her mother murdered her father and then committed suicide.

When I saw the photo prompt, it reminded me of that particular sequence in the movie, so I decided to recreate it. I know that’s horribly unoriginal of me, but it was the very first thing to pop into my head.

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

Eye of the Storm

ancient jerusalem

Jerusalem in the time of King Solomon – found at keyway.ca

Somewhere in that vast throng of revelers was Rachel Aiyana Zheutlin, a woman out of time. Gordon Ashe, Ross Murdock, and Travis Fox stood looking down at Jerusalem. King Solomon had dedicated the Temple of Hashem, God of the Hebrews two days ago, and from what Ashe recalled, blood ran exceedingly freely as 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were presented as peace offerings.

Now was the great feast. Even if somehow they could get into the city already packed with hundreds of thousands, then finding Aiyana would be a miracle. Gordon chuckled to himself as he regarded the newly built Temple, clearly visible from their vantage point, and imagined it to be a house of miracles as well as prayer for all nations.

“So what now, Gordon?”

“We can’t hope to find her by going in, Ross. We’ll have to wait. I told Kelgarries as much over the radio link.”

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The Wrong Temple

columns

The Rostral Columns at Vasilyevsky Island, St. Petersburg

“This isn’t how I remembered it, husband.”

“I believe we’ve lost our way. Come.”

“No!” She shook off her brother’s hand. “Something’s familiar here, yet alien. This can’t be my temple.”

“It’s been thousands of years.”

“Take your hands off of me, philanderer. Which slut were you with last night? Artemis? Circe? That whore Aphrodite?”

“Sister…”

“Don’t you sister me, Zeus!”

“Olympus awaits, Hera. You shouldn’t have returned. We’re forgotten.”

Tears formed in the eyes of the goddess of women and marriage. “I suppose you’re right.”

Then she turned on him in anger. “I still think you want to get back to Olympus because you’re screwing another immortal harlot.”

“Please, wife.”

Hera consented allowing Zeus to escort her back to Olympus, missing the gleam in his eye as he gazed at the fetching St. Petersburg lass admiring one of the Rostral columns. After Hera was settled down, he’d be back.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to take a Google street view image of the location presented and use it as the inspiration for crafting a story of no more than 150 words. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Petersburg, Russia. I had to do quite a bit of searching and clicking around, and I even changed my story idea completely before settling on what you’ve read above. Go to Wikipedia to read about the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns. I drew my inspiration from the columns being styled after the Temple of Hera at Paestum. Hera was the Greek goddess of women and marriage who married her brother Zeus, and has always been jealous of Zeus’s other lovers. Here, I had Hera getting a little lost, mistaking these columns for her temple. On the other hand, Zeus seems to know exactly what he’s looking for.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com. Don’t be shy. If an image of St. Petersburg inspires you, contribute a wee story of your own.

The Hiroshima Legacy: From Tales of the Yūrei

Hiroshima

A mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan – Atomic Heritage Foundation

“Five minutes out from target, Colonel. Altitude three two three three three feet. Local time zero eight one zero.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. Status of the package, Captain Parsons?”

“Parsons here, Colonel. Package armed in flight. Lt. Jeppson took the final safeties off 25 minutes ago. We’re set down here.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. We are a go for final approach and delivery. Descending to three one zero six zero feet.”

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr. looked out the cockpit window, first to the left and then to his right. The Enola Gay was accompanied by two other B-29s, The Great Artiste was carrying instrumentation for measuring the heat and radiation of the blast, and no-name ship contained the latest photographic equipment to record what has about to happen.

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Yūrei

Kawanabe Kyōsai’s “Boatman and Funayūrei”. An example of a funayūrei rendered as an umibōzu-like yokai.

Taketoki Washizu had been Captain of the freighter Tsukimi for almost a year. It had been a year to the day when the Tsukimi’s former master Noriyasu Odagura had perished at sea, swept from the desk of this very ship during a storm. The official board of inquiry determined his death to be a tragic accident, yet every last member of the crew suspected murder.

By rights, the Tsukimi should have been Washizu’s in the first place, or so said his wife Asaji. Ever ambitious for her husband, she kept harping on Taketoki how he had been cheated, that Nippon Supply, the company that owned the Tsukimi, should have promoted Taketoki instead of Noriyasu. She was almost fanatical that Noriyasu had used his family connections and influence with Nippon’s upper management to unjustly gain command of the freighter.

For the longest time, Taketoki didn’t want to believe it. He and Noriyasu had been friends since childhood and he was happy to be Noriyasu’s First Mate.

But Asaji kept after him, hounding him, saying she had a cousin in the CEO’s office, how she’d seen memos about Noriyasu and Taketoki, that even though Taketoki had more experience, Noriyasu was favored.

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Day Three

shadow man

Image: jimharold.com

The worms are back, eating me inside. I can feel them nibbling, inside my back, my right side, feasting on my flesh, my organs.

They’re doing something to my skin. I itch all the time, especially when I’m trying to sleep.

Sleep seems hopeless. I lie awake at night scratching and worrying and feeling myself being nibbled away at. When I feel myself about to drift off, my wife tells me to stop snoring. Then I can’t sleep.

I go out to the sofa. It’s an old sofa. It endured our children growing up. Now it sags and endures me. It’s no use.

I get up and try to read, do something productive. That’s when I realize how tired I am. How I wish I was asleep. I can’t concentrate.

I try to talk to God, but my mind wanders. I read the Bible earlier when my mind was clearer. Glad of that because now when I try, I end up reading the same verse over and over again.

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I’m Leaving You For 1966, Dear

colbert

© Provided by Variety

“Where are you going, NaCumbea?”

Martin Fields watched the woman he had fallen in love with put on her skin-tight temporal transfer suit. Both of them were reluctant time travelers, recruited by extra-dimensional beings for the purpose of correcting time anomalies in their little corner of time-space.

She’d gone through hell and was just now beginning to come to terms with her new life. First of all she had died at the age of fourteen, but that was over 700 years ago. She was resurrected by “them” as one of their time travelers, but a rogue “them” named Vanir had captured and tortured her in an other-worldly realm for centuries.

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I Want To Make It With You

bread

© Kelvin M. Knight

“It’s my year to choose our wedding anniversary theme so just put on a happy face.”

“We weren’t married until 1980. How about a band from then?”

“Hush. We met in high school in 1973. This was their big album that year.”

“It ruined the senior prom.”

Jean pressed “play” and the vintage CD stereo begin soft sounds of “Make it with you.” She took his hand. He pulled her close. They danced.

“Not bad, eh lover?”

“Never bad with you, Baby.”

He still thought the band Bread was awful but after all, it’s the things you do for love that count.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. After a lot of editing, I got my submission down to 100.

I admit that I found the photo far too schmaltzy for my tastes, but while I was cooking breakfast, I had an epiphany. Yes, I too can’t stand that 1970s band, but a piece of bread with a heart cut out in the center seems to describe them perfectly. Oh, in 1973, their hit album really was The Best of Bread and the lead track on side one was Make It with You.

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