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.

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Flowers and Scars

wreath

Photo credit: Goroyboy

“Aren’t they pretty, Eva?”

She kept the name the nuns gave her. She had little in common with them, but they made occasional allies in her fight to take the children away from the depravity of the streets.

“Of course they are, Malika. Where did you get them?”

“The old man said he was closing his cart for the day and they wouldn’t sell.” The six-year-old waif nodded vigorously.

Eva trusted few men, but she had been watching the vendor for months with an eye that sought evil. So far, she had seen nothing from him to threaten her children.

“I wanted to give you something as pretty as you.”

Eva smiled weakly and was brought closer to tears than she wanted to be. A child of the streets herself, although now an adult, she bore a multitude of invisible scars and some physical. Suffering from rape at age three, she could never bear babies of her own. Yet her shelter was full of the laughter of all the children she would ever need.

I wrote this for FFfAW Challenge 163 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 174.

This is part three in a small series that starts with The Downfall of Eva and continues with Whatever Happened to Eva. I’m trying to give her a happy ending, but as you can see, even healing leaves behind some scars.

For more stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Dark Mirror

shack and mirror

© Yinglan Z.

When Chance Bailey returned to his deceased father’s estate, he found nothing but refuse and rubble. The woman he had a “chance” encounter with in that dive bar on the wharf had been his long-lost sister, and she had taken the bulk of the old man’s wealth, which should have been their shared inheritance. Now all he had was a single 18th century gold coin and his father’s ruined land.

There was an old shed and a strange black mirror, which he had never seen before. Yet when he presented his coin to father’s solicitor, he was told vast riches could be found here.

It didn’t look like glass. More like iron filings swirled by magnetism. Chance reached out with recently washed fingers and touched.

Then he was in a cave on an island hundreds of years and thousands of miles away. There were chests full of gold doubloons, all the wealth he would ever need. This was the secret of the old man’s fortune. The mirror was the greatest treasure of them all.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of April 10, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Yesterday, in response to a different challenge, I wrote The Pit Fiend Promise in which a man who had lived a wasted life after being rejected by his wealthy father, finds out via a mysterious messenger (his long lost sister, though he didn’t recognize her), that “the old man” had died, and his inheritance was there for the taking (half actually, since sister had gotten there first).

In today’s story, though it seems at first that Chance has inherited nothing but ashes, he discovers the secret to how his father built wealth in the first place. Now how will he use it?

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

Returning to Life

ferry

Photo credit: Dorothy

They seemed just two more Asian tourists sitting on a bench watching the ferry at Angel Island.

“When did you die here?” During her lifetime, she would never have asked such as direct question of a man, but death is very liberating.

“1899.” He was staring at the ferry and the multinational conglomeration of visitors, all happily chattering and oblivious to the history they were walking upon. “I had been a dock worker and got the plague. They sent me here for quarantine, but I was also sent here to die. You?”

“1922 when the island was an immigration station. I was suspected of having a disease, but I actually got a parasite from another Chinese immigrant. I suffered on the island eighteen months before I died.”

“How many others like us do you think are here?” He turned toward her finally, noticing that like him, she was dressed in modern clothing.

“Too many, but most won’t let go of the past.”

“If you’re ready, we can rejoin the living.”

They stood and held hands. “Yes, let’s.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge Week of April 3, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I was stuck about where the photo was actually taken, so I made something up.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I visited Angel Island many times. It’s accessible by ferry and you can take bicycles and ride around the entire island. It has a very interesting history, some of it very grim.

You can read the details of both when the island was used as a Quarantine Station and later as an Immigration Station (people could be held on the island for anywhere between two weeks and two years) for the context of my two characters.

In this case, I’ve given my couple a second chance at life, though I’ve kept the mechanism of how deliberately vague. If you can learn to let go of the pain of the past, you might find your way back to a new life and the rest of your future.

Guilty confession. I read this story before crafting my own and yes, it influenced me. My bad.

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

Surveillance

camera

© Enisa

“Citizens. You are being watched. It is now safe to cross the street.” The simulated voice from the cross walk camera sounded both melodious and ominous.

“I think it’s creepy how the government is allowed to put up surveillance cameras everywhere.” Joan was complaining to her co-worker Fran as the two of them continued their lunch hour walk.

“It’s to keep us safe. No one can carry a gun or a knife anywhere without being seen.”

“But even in the bathrooms? It’s embarrassing.”

“Only robots using algorithms to detect dangerous activity are watching. Besides, you can’t have everything. To be safe, you have to give up something.”

“I can’t even make love to my husband anymore without feeling guilty. Why do they have to be in our bedrooms, too?”

“Excuse me.”

The two women stopped as they were approached by a police officer.

“I’m Officer Jill Conrad. Our monitors detected what could be interpreted as subversive speech during your conversation. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of March 27, 2018. The idea is to use the image above to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 168.

The photo looked kind of sterile and “futuristic,” or more like how the future was imagined in the 1960s. So I wrote a small, dystopian tale about how “Big Brother” (see George Orwell’s novel “1984”) was everywhere, watching all the time, including in our bathrooms and bedrooms, all in the cause of keeping us safe.

Am I being ridiculous? There was a time when I thought I could travel by commercial air without having my genitals either photographed or touched, and yet we all seem to accept that as “normal” now.

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

The Mask Crumbles

path

© Yinglan Z.

Their High School Drama club had adopted this section of the path through the forest near their campus to clean up every quarter. Derek, the most unpopular student in class, brought up the rear while everyone else had already picked up the more easily found garbage and litter and moved on.

Cynthia and Stephanie decided to take a break and sit on the grass and they saw Derek looking under the wooden path as if he were puking. They started giggling at the sight, calling out “Doofus Derek.”

“Those stupid girls, I can hear them. They think I care…hey, what’s that?”

Something was moving in the shadows. “Probably just a cat or a squirrel.” That’s what he thought until the long dormant blackness leapt into his face.

“Oh gross!”

“What is it Steph…oh gross. Derek what did you do to your..?”

Nothing had happened to his face except his mask fell away finally revealing all of the rage inside. The berserker he’d become rushed at the teens. They were just the first pair to die.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of March 20, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

It was tough to come up with a story based on the image. The guy really did look like he was vomiting and the expression one of the girls seemed to indicate shock or horror. I built on that, leveraging school bullying and how being pushed too far can finally send even the mildest person into a rage. In this case, Derek had a little supernatural help, and his response was beyond deadly.

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

Sparks Ascending

sparks

© Enisa

The plane crash! He was falling with flaming debris all around him!

Wait! It didn’t hurt and he wasn’t falling. More like he was going someplace important.

The debris was glowing but not on fire like he thought. In fact, it wasn’t pieces of the plane. What were all these sparks around him?

He caught a glimpse at himself and was shocked to see he was glowing too. Were the other sparks people-shaped?

Trying to call out to the others, he realized he didn’t have a mouth let alone a voice. He didn’t have hands or feet or limbs or any sort of body he was used to. He just was.

“Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”

He heard a voice telling him something he already knew. There was a plane crash, he did die, but he wasn’t dead. He and all of the other sparks around him came from the Divine and were returning to the Divine.

“We’re finally going home.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of March 13, 2018. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

The photo reminded me of a belief in Judaism that we are all “Divine sparks” issued from our Source to be born into the world and when our lives are done, the sparks seek to return to that Source.

Imagine at the point of death, you experience yourself as an incandescent spark flying upward with so many others seeking out your Source, being overwhelmed with the need to return to it.

I briefly remembered the opening to Philip Jose Farmer’s novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go which was the first of the “Riverworld” series (great series beginning but fizzled at the end). The image doesn’t really fit beyond the superficial, but imagine us all belonging to the Almighty, made in the Divine image. I think death will reveal that to us.

Oh, the Bible verse I quoted was from Luke 20:38 (New American Standard Bible).

By the way, on another one of my blogs, I wrote something like this, only it wasn’t a fiction piece and it was somewhat expanded: Searching for Sparks.

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

Starting Small

tiny writer

© Goroyboy

“Oh my god, look at those cuticles. Your nails need help, Larry.”

“Hush, Violet. This isn’t about my nails. Worry about your own nails.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s with the tiny quill pen. Miniature calligraphy?”

“My long suffering wife, you know my handwriting sucks.”

“Then what’s up, dearest but daffy husband?”

“Hand me the itsy-bitsy inkwell, will you?”

“Sure, but you didn’t answer my question.”

“I think my fingers are cramping.”

“Larry!”

“Okay, okay. Don’t shout. You’ll break my concentration.”

“Ha, it’s been broken for…”

“I know what you’re going to say.”

“Well?”

“You know how I’m always saying I want to write this epic novel.”

“Right, and six years later, no novel.”

“Agreed with chagrin. I’ve finally realized that I can’t go from nothing to epic.”

“So you decided to start small. This is a bit literal isn’t it?”

“Yes, but I just finished my first small project. Want me to read it to you?”

“I’d be delighted. Let me get my coffee first.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge of the Week of March 6, 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 165.

Yes, the first thing I noticed was the condition of the cuticle on the writer’s thumb and how the nail was cut (not dissimilar to my own) and only then the tiny quill pen. I decided to let the literal describe the state of many of us in the blogosphere, authors with grand dreams desperately trying to crawl off the drawing board or the sheet of paper.

You have to start somewhere and often that somewhere is a very small place.

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

When David Met Ana

dutch windmill

© Fandango

“King’s Day, Ana?”

“King’s Day, David.”

The young couple was standing near the base of the Queen Wilhelmina Windmill at the western edge of Golden Gate Park. It was their third date and after brunch at the Cliff House, they decided to go for a walk. Ana Janssen was introducing David Silverstein to one of the City’s annual festivals.

“Every year in April the Dutch community has a celebration here just like in Holland in honor of the King. It’s a lot of fun. They always need volunteers. How about we do it together?”

“On one condition.”

“Name it.”

“You come with me to celebrate Purim next Sunday at the JCC.”

“What’s Purim?”

“Every year all over the world, Jewish communities celebrate our victory over a plot to destroy us in what is now Iran. It’s a lot of fun, probably a lot like King’s Day. Didn’t you ever read the Book of Esther?”

“No, but I’d love to learn. You teach me about it and I’ll tell you more about King’s Day.”

“Deal.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge of the Week of February 27, 2018. The idea is to use the image at the top to inspire authoring a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words. My word count is 174.

I cheated. I know where Fandango’s photo was taken. I used to live in San Francisco back when normal people could afford to and I’ve been past the windmills at the western edge of Golden Gate Park countless times. I looked them up and discovered that every April, the Dutch celebration of King’s Day is celebrated there. Sounds like a lot of fun, but is it a story?

I was sort of reminded of the Jewish celebration of Purim (which begins at sundown this coming Wednesday but was observed as a community event at San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center last Sunday) so I decided to talk about both of them through a young dating couple, with David being Jewish and Ana being of Dutch descent.

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

My Memories Are In The Water

in the water

© Enisa

“You say your Dad used to bring you here all the time, Keith?”

“Yeah. There’s some great fishing in the lake about a mile north, Jerry. The old man loved fishing. I went because I loved him.”

“Lucky you. I was grateful when my Dad would take me to the neighborhood playground. We never hit it off like you and your Dad.”

Jerry glanced over at his newly wedded husband and saw “that look.” “You dreamed about him again last night, didn’t you?”

Keith looked down at the flat stones in the shallow water all around him remembering. Dad taught him how to skip rocks across the pond when he was seven. “Yeah. He was standing in our bedroom door asking how we were doing.”

“I’m sorry. I know you were really close.”

“I just wish I’d have come out to him before he died. I thought we had more time.”

“He wouldn’t have been like my Dad, Keith. You know that.”

“I know. I mean I know now. I really do miss him.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of February 20, 2018. The idea is to use the image at the top to inspire creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I had a completely different story in mind until I saw the second figure on the left. Then I was stuck.

I had a dream within a dream last night (very rare for me). I dreamed I was dreaming about my Dad. He died last April and my wife just helped my Mom move into a senior care center. The missus brought back some of Dad’s jackets, hats, and stuff including a pair of Air Force flight gloves. He had a bunch of them going all the way back to when I was a kid.

Anyway, two guys in a pond in summer. I put it all together and came up with the story you just read. No, I’m not gay, but my Dad did die suddenly and you always wonder what you would have said or done differently if you have more time before the end.

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