The Old Phoenix and His Ashes

Gary woke up from the nightmare in a cold sweat. It was the same dream every night for the past week. He saw a man burning. The burning man was wailing. He reached out for Gary. His flaming hand almost touching his face.

Then Gary would wake up in a cold sweat.

He had just gotten his first job out of college as a mechanical engineer. The company had him move to Philadelphia, and for the next year, he would be helping to design a new generation of popcorn maker for movie theaters.

“It’s probably just the move. I’m in a strange place. That’s it.”

Gary got out of bed, then looked at the clock, and realized it was only 4 a.m. He could sleep for another few hours.

“Nah.” He headed toward the bathroom of his studio apartment. “Just have to keep drinking coffee to keep going.”

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Duck Blind

wagon

© 2015 Yinglan Z

Glenn and Marie were told to stay in the backyard and never to go up the rise to where the old wagon rested. Of course precocious eight-year-old twins didn’t listen, so whenever they knew Mommy would be busy cleaning or doing laundry, they went up to play in it.

It was really just a collection of wood with the metal wheels barely hanging on. To everyone else, it was an eyesore, and no one knew why it hadn’t been hauled off years ago.

To Glenn and Marie, it was a pirate’s ship, a rocket to Mars, a submarine that had just found Atlantis.

However, it wasn’t an eyesore, pirate ship, spaceship, or submarine.

Inside the blind, Amnathamarz and Fid examined their last set of mental readings.

“These humans are completely unsuited to our needs. They are completely disorganized, obsessed with technology yes, but such a jumble of images. How can we conquer their race if we can’t understand them?”

True, Fid. We’ve seen enough. Off to the next inhabited solar system.

I wrote this for FFfAW Challenge for this week. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction from 100 to 175 words, with about 150 being the ideal. My story is 171 words long.

The image inspired a number of ideas, but I settled on the “duck blind” being used by aliens to assess how to best invade our world. However, to do that, they need to understand us as a race, which was difficult if the only people who got close enough to their blind were children.

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

The Monster Under Carrie’s Bed

monster

Poster from the film “Under the Bed” (2012)

Carrie heard the strange scratching sounds in the walls of her bedroom again.

“Mommy! Daddy!” She screamed out to her parents for the third time that night.

Daddy trudged into her bedroom. It had been an exhausting week. For the past five nights, Carrie kept swearing something was making scary noises in her walls. For the past five nights, her parents Bill and Sandy came in, but they could never hear anything.

Sandy thought there might be a mouse in the walls. Bill thought that moving to the new house a month ago was harder on their seven-year-old daughter than they thought it would be.

“Daddy, I’m so scared.” Carrie leapt out of her bed and jumped into his arms. He held and comforted his little girl.

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The Ghost in the Bathroom Mirror

ghost

Found at mp3ringtone.info

“I saw the ghost again, Grandpa. I saw it when I was taking a shower.” Little Josh dissolved into tears in front of his grandparents.

“It’s okay, Josh. We’re here.” Grandpa hugged the sobbing child.

“I’m right here, little one. It’s going to be alright. We won’t let any ghost hurt you.”

“But…but how can you stop it?” His voice was muffled against the old man’s chest as Josh tried to stretch both arms around Grandpa and Bubbe.

“We’ll find a way, sweetheart.” Bubbe kissed Josh on the top of his head.

“That’s right, Josh. We’ll find a way, I promise.

Grandpa and Bubbe sat their six-year-old grandson on the sofa and held him until he felt more secure.

Grandpa knew exactly what to do to get rid of the ghost. Fortunately, his son was finally beginning to come around, and was starting to realize the woman he proposed to was only a fantasy, not a loving companion.

She was the ghost in the bathroom, the manipulator in his mind, the child abuser disguised as a future step-mom. Horribly insecure, she needed to control everyone around her. She thought she controlled Josh’s Dad, but doubt had entered his mind.

She needed to control Josh, make Josh believe she would be his new mother, that she’d be closer to him than his own Mom and even his Dad, that she’d replace everyone who really loved Josh. The little boy was terrified.

Grandpa was meeting with Josh’s Dad after the young father got off of work. Grandpa would help his son stand up for what’s right, help him protect his little boy.

Together, they were going to exorcise a ghost. In a month, little Josh would never be haunted again.

Left Alone

boy alone

© Jessica Haines

Joey was softly crying. His Mommy forgot him, forgot to pick him up at the Boys and Girls Club where he went everyday after school. Now everyone was gone and he was alone. It was cold and wet out and he was scared. Where was his Mommy and why didn’t she come to get him?

Car after car went by. He looked at each one with hope and then despair. None of them were Mommy. Should he try to walk home? Maybe he could ask a policeman for help, if he could find one.

A car! It was pulling into the parking lot. “Grandpa!” He’s come to get me. He’s getting out of his car to come get me.

“Grandpa! I love you.” They hugged.

“It’s going to be okay, Joey. Your Mom was in a car accident, but she’s going to be okay.”

They went to visit Mommy in the hospital. She was going to get better soon.

Written for FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 31, 2017 in response to the photo prompt above.

The word count limit is 100 to 175 words and mine came in at 159.

Read other stories inspired by this challenge at InLinkz.com.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane

super boy

© iStock

“Jimmy! Get off of the roof! You’ll fall!”

Eight-year-old Jimmy Parker had climbed out of the loft window onto the shingled roof and stood poised to fly, dressed in his complete “Superman” costume his Mom and Dad gave him for his birthday.

“I’ll be okay, Mom. Don’t worry.”

Jimmy thought Mom always worried too much. She’d been in the backyard hanging wet clothes on the line when she turned, looked up, and saw her only child surveying the horizon.

“Jimmy! Please! You know you can’t fly.”

He bent over slightly, almost losing his balance, cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “I’ll only be up here for a minute.”

It was super cool to be standing on the roof dressed up as his favorite hero. Yeah, the guy on the Superman show said it wasn’t the cape or costume that made him fly, and Jimmy knew he’d been born in Omaha, Nebraska and not on Krypton, but he wanted to feel the wind rippling across his cape just once while he stood someplace high.

Mrs. Helen Parker, Jimmy’s Mom, was terrified, but not for the reasons most Moms would be. Jimmy’s Dad was at work at his job as a fireman, and this being a bright Saturday afternoon in April, anyone might catch sight of Mrs. Parker’s little boy. If they looked at the wrong instant, they’d take him away from her forever.

Jimmy saw his Mom still looking up at him, afraid to move. He felt sorry for her, even though he knew he wasn’t going to get hurt.

“I’m coming down now Mom.”

Just like Dad told him, he looked around to make sure no one was watching, then he blinked and he was standing right in front of Mom on the grass in their backyard.

superman

From the “Adventures of Superman” television show

“See? I told you it would be okay.”

Jimmy’s Mom bent down quickly and hugged her baby boy. “Don’t ever do that again, Jimmy. I was scared to death.”

“Okay, Mom. I just wanted to feel like Superman a little bit. I won’t do it again.”

He also wanted to see if he could teleport all the way from the roof to the ground. He’d never jumped more than from one room in the house to the next before.

Jimmy Parker wasn’t an alien born on another planet, but being a mutant born in the midwest still had certain advantages.

I really did have a Superman costume complete with cape when my family and I lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the early 1960s. I didn’t go up on the roof of our house, but I did run around my backyard with my arms stuck out in front of me pretending I could fly.

I wrote this just for the fun of it.

Two Lost Children

yacht

© C.E. Ayr

The miniature yacht and skiff pulled floaters as it drifted up channel. The yacht’s deck was covered with torn tarps from the storm it weathered the night before. The current carried the pair up river by midday. They were noticed by a lone Ranger, who called it in to the Park Service.

A small police boat pulled alongside, tied up to the larger vessel, and Officers Bridger and Kahn climbed aboard. The children were huddled in the main cabin, terrified.

“It’s okay, kids. We’re here to help.” Madelyn Kahn loved her own children, and loved everyone else’s. One moment, Erin and her little brother Matty were cringing from the strangers, and the next, they were sheltered in Maddy’s embrace.

Craig Bridger left them to search and found nothing on the yacht.

Then he used his binoculars to scan the skiff. It was another alien Time Skimmer. It used the storm to pull the vessels from the past to escape the temporal police. It probably killed the parents, but needed indigenous beings to time travel on Earth. Unconscious, they’d take it into custody and turn it over to the time authorities.

The two kids could be re-educated to transition from 1922 to 2016.

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction – January 29th 2017, which uses a photo prompt to inspire flash fiction of no more than 200 words. My wee tale comes in at exactly 200.

To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Their Only Playground

Urban Street, Buffalo, NY

© Google 2015

The elementary school on Urban Street had been abandoned ever since the fire gutted it. The city finally budgeted the money to tear it down. Twenty-four boys and girls lost their lives in that fire. The building’s destruction might bring some closure to their families.

Frank Hurley had retired as Fire Chief last year. He had been in charge of containing the three alarm inferno. His crew were called heroes for saving over two hundred children, but the screams of the twenty-four they couldn’t save haunted Frank every night.

He was inside the school now, but instead of silence, he heard children laughing and running. They were all still here, separated from the living, perpetually playing with the dead.

He had to stop the demolition tomorrow. He’d failed to save their lives five years ago. He wasn’t going to be a party of destroying the only home they had left.

I wrote this flash fiction story in response to a photo prompt provided by What Pegman Saw. The word count limit is 150, and my piece is exactly that.

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

Another Chance

goth

Image: mookychick.co.uk

Jeff and Mary Edge were getting a divorce and they didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Mary’s parents suggested that they try marital counseling, but Mary was tired of Jeff’s drinking and Jeff was tired of Mary not getting a job to help with the family finances.

They’d had it with each other and they weren’t going to talk to Mary’s parents, a counselor, or anyone else about it.

Jeff and Mary didn’t even talk about it with their seven-year-old daughter Morgan.

Jeff was at the wheel and Mary was sitting, sulking in the passenger seat after meeting with the divorce lawyer. He was going to take Mary back to her parent’s house where she was staying for now, and pick up Morgan for their weekend visit.

Jeff was sober and would be throughout the visit. When he dropped Morgan back with her mother Sunday night, he planned to go back to his seedy one bedroom apartment and get roaring drunk. The hangover he’d have when he went to work on Monday morning would be worth it.

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The Nurturing Tree

broken tree

© Shivangi Singh

Savannah hated to see the old tree taken down, but the thunderstorm three nights ago had broken its trunk, and it was a danger to her home and family.

She’d lived in the same house across from the park since she was a little girl. She had fond memories of climbing in that tree. She remembered the summer when her Dad built her and her brothers a tree fort.

She was just starting to encourage her own three little ones to explore the adventure of the tree when the storm took it away.

The tree was also a symbol of everything else Savannah had lost. Her husband Jeremy walked out of the house and family. He said he couldn’t handle the responsibility anymore.

Savannah has been divorced for four months, and in those months, she became stronger than Jeremy would.

She and her babies had lost the man they thought was their tree.

The broken tree wasn’t gone, just transformed.

Savannah’s life had been transformed, too. She would always be her children’s strong, nurturing tree.

I wrote this as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story, in the range of 125-175 words with 150 being ideal. The story is based on the weekly photo prompt. For more information go to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The word count is exactly 175.