She Rides a Pale Horse

skull

© Sue Vincent

Ed slowed his stock horse as he approached the bleached cow’s skull. “Easy there, Chester. Let’s have a look.” The aging rancher stiffly swung a leg over his mount, planted it on the grassy field, and then slipped the other booted foot out of the stirrup. He squared himself on the ground, hitched up his gun belt, then looked into the cloudy autumn sky. “Looks like rain, don’t you think?” The horse was impassive.

He slowly walked toward the vacant stare on the ground. “How long have you been here, old girl?” He pulled his hat down tighter on his gray head. “Bet you’ve seen a lot in your time.” Ed looked over his shoulder. “The way of the world, Chester. It’s the way of the world.”

A cold wind blew across the plain, but Ed didn’t take any notice. For a reason he couldn’t explain, he was captivated by the worn remains at his feet. Then the first drops of rain began to fall, lightly kissing the brim of his hat, his boots, even the skull. He turned back toward Chester and froze. His companion was standing stoically, patiently next to the body on the ground, Ed’s body.

“What in…?”

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Death Wish

death

Photo credit: Kaia Pieters

“Hey, Sam.”

“Hey, Death. How’s it hanging?”

“Same old, same old. You know how it goes.”

“Not me. What do I know about being Death?”

“Yeah. Guess you’ve got a point. Want a smoke?”

“Nah. I got what I want right here.” The twenty-two year old lifted a gallon jug of Jack Daniels to his lips and gulped down a couple of swallows.

“Mind if I?” The spectral figure in black held out his left hand while his cigarette still smoldered in his right.

“Go ahead.” A lot of people thought Sam was goth because of his clothes and make up, but it was all to honor his BFF.

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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.

The Other Side of the Storm

malestrom

© Annija Veldre

Alise Egan’s scarlet gown fluttered behind her like a great cape as she faced the maelstrom. When she’d first seen the painting in Keyne Harlan’s private collection, she recognized herself immediately, even though she had never met the anonymous artist. But she assumed that whatever the woman was confronting was an ocean wave. Now she knew that the plasma field was the conduit between her world and another.

Long, slender legs walked forward with surprising confidence as her blonde hair, like her dress, billowed behind her, blown backward by an unseen discharge from the phenomenon just three meters in front of her. One moment, she had been admiring her billionaire benefactor’s painting and listening to him recite the legend and the curse attached to the artwork, and the next, the mystic tale had come to life, and she was inside living it.

“I’m here, Alise.” The familiar voice echoed out of the swirling energy ripples.

“Daddy?”

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It’s Not a Scarecrow

scarecrow

© Anurag Bakhshi

“You know, I don’t think the flower bed is in danger from crows, Lindsey.” Kurt stood with his six-year-old daughter admiring their handiwork.

“I know that, Daddy. I just thought the flowers could use some company when we’re not around.” She stood, hands on hips, pride written all over her face.

“Well, you sure made good use of those old clothes we were going to donate to the thrift store.”

When she didn’t answer, he looked down and saw tears in her eyes. Kneeling, he put his arms around her and Lindsey held onto him tightly. “I know you miss her.”

“Why did Grandma have to die?”

“That’s why you wanted to make this, didn’t you? So we wouldn’t give away her clothes.”

“I miss her.”

“It’s okay. I miss her, too. We’ll keep anything of hers you want. I promise.”

I wrote this for the August 19th edition of Sunday Photo Fiction. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 141. I know. I usually push the word count to the limit, but I didn’t need so many this time around.

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

Fairy Dust

stacks

© Sandra Crook

He had let the garden go after she died. Erin was six when she was hit and killed in a crosswalk. She believed fairies sprinkled magic dust on the plants to make them grow.

After Jared and Paulette divorced, it had been just the two of them. Now he was alone in the backyard at night.

At first, he thought he was dreaming when he saw them. He walked closer to the stacks and got on his knees. They were little people with wings spreading dust. One came nearer, right up to his face. The little fairy smiled. “Hi, Daddy.”

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

My wife buys a lot of things at yard sales because they’re cheap. This includes a ton of children’s books for our three-year-old granddaughter. We have several books in the Pinkalicious series (no, I’m not kidding), and my granddaughter loves them.

In one of the books, Pinkalicious believes fairies come every night to sprinkle dust on their garden to make it grow, and she and her brother Peter, not only camp out in the backyard at night to see them, but build the fairies a pretty impressive little house.

That’s where I got my basic idea.

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

One Last Hill

uphill

MorgueFile April b5afa0fad12c0fc6b1d0bf8cc983d6e4

The hill seemed to get steeper everyday, but then, it really wasn’t the hill, it was him. He was getting older, always older, each and every day. He couldn’t remember the last time he could actually ride his bicycle up the hill on his way home. Was it last year? No, maybe it was five years ago? How old was he? It didn’t matter.

“Half way up.” He huffed and puffed. He got out of breath more easily these days, and he was just pushing a bike up a hill. “Have to make it home.” Home was at the top of the hill. If he could get there again, he’d be safe.

“Wait. Need rest.” He leaned against the wall. The old man couldn’t breathe and there was a terrible weight on his chest.

Then he was six years old again and racing his bike up the hill with his mates Jerry, Tommy, and Little Sam. They were all laughing and zipping between the parked cars. He made it. He was home. He was free.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge for 2018, Week #22. Once again, the idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 175.

I couldn’t read the sign in the photo, even magnifying the image, so I couldn’t use that to influence my writing. Instead, I concentrated on the (presumably) old man pushing his bicycle up the hill. I let my mind drift and this tale is the result.

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

As always, you are invited to contribute a wee tale to this linkup.

If You Don’t Believe In Me

destroyed church

St John Church in Benwood, West Virginia (Photo: CNS)

Darwin Oliver Starling stared down at the smoldering ruins of the Vatican from the window seat on Flight 3076 which had taken off from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport ten minutes ago. Police agencies all over Europe had been investigating for a week, but so far had no clues as to the method used to initiate such mass destruction, or who had perpetrated such a heinous act.

“Heinous.” Starling whispered the word to himself. It was the worshipers of the Christian God who were heinous, and the Secret Order of Athéiste had been dedicated to wiping them from existence for the past two-hundred years.

It wasn’t just the Catholics, of course. In spite of what the news and entertainment media seemed to be pushing on the uninformed masses, Christianity wasn’t represented only by a bunch of child-molesting Priests, and American southern televangelists with big hair and greedy pocketbooks. They were everywhere.

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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.

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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