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.”
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.”
“Raven, where am I?
“Jonathan, there’s a terrible famine here. You must save these people.”
“With what? All I have is an old-fashioned camera.”
“The person who was supposed to photograph this tragedy is ill. By the time he recovers, the opportunity to show the world the horrors here in Bengal will be gone. You must take his place.”
Jonathan Cypher, a man out of time, turned away from the bent fan and stepped off the hotel porch. Seeing the three starving and dying children, he raised the camera to his face, focused, and pressed the shutter release.
Victims of the Bengal famine of 1943. Copyright is or was held by The Statesman newspaper of Kolkata, India. According to that country’s Copyright Act of 1957, the image is now in the public domain (photographs are protected for 60 years from the date of publication), but it may still be under copyright in the United States.
I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take the image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98.
To the best of my knowledge, the person who provided the photo is from India, so I wanted to start from there. The yellowish cast of the photo made me think of pollution or chemical warfare, so I decided to see about India’s history during World War Two, and if I could devise a fictional Nazi plot in 100 words. What I discovered was much worse.
You can read all about the Bengal Famine of 1943 by clicking the link, but the black and white pimage just above was part of a photo spread published in the Indian English-language newspaper “The Statesman” on 22 August 1943, and those photos, which made world headlines, spurred government action, saving many lives.
I decided to bring back Jonathan Cypher and Raven to illustrate that sometimes you just have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills or tools in order to be a hero.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
“I can’t believe we finally made it, Kent. We’ve made it to the tomb.”
“We aren’t there yet, Bethany. We still have to make it across this field.”
Kent and Bethany had been traveling by horseback for weeks, following the ancient maps and clues left by the Predecessors. They weren’t entirely sure how long ago the Predecessors lived or when the original maps had been created. Certainly it was in the time before the fall, before the plague that was rumored to have killed billions, before the return of the remnant of mankind to their simple farms and fields.
They stood a moment reviewing the scene in the mid-morning sunlight.
“There’s not much left. I mean, the reproduction of the map of this area showed more tombs and graves, many, many more.”
“Time, weather, a multitude of other factors have destroyed all this, Bethany. The Pilot’s tomb is supposed to be one of the few left.”
Mick knew he only had a few minutes left. His son Tyler couldn’t stop the bleeding from his throat. Mick looked up and smiled. He wished he could tell him how much he loved him, Tyler and his little boy Jimmy.
Mick knew tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal would taste like ashes to them, to Tyler’s wife Jenny, three months pregnant with their second child, a grandchild Mick would never know.
He knew they would find it hard to be thankful, but Mick was thankful.
He was thankful he’d stopped the son of a bitch from taking Jimmy.
The bastard had been preying on children all over Orange County for a year and a half, sneaking into houses at night, forcing a window or coming in through an unlocked patio door. He’d been taking children, probably followed them home from school or spotted them playing in front of their houses, cased their homes, set up a plan so he could kidnap them, rape them, and murder them.
Not this time.
The Eighth Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series
Four months ago.
The little Ambrosial Dragon was totally outmatched by the huge Shadow Dragon. Somehow, his mortal foe had detected him crossing the spaces between worlds and had pursued him. The smaller dragon was already almost exhausted. He had been hiding out from Shadow Dragons for months, moving from one realm to another, barely staying ahead of them.
Tonight, his luck had finally run out.
“You will die like all of your kind, golden one. Perish in agony, fool!”
The larger dragon used a combination of magic and brute force, striking his smaller opponent again and again. The little dragon was getting weaker. Fighting back would be useless. He couldn’t even begin to penetrate the dark dragon’s defenses in the current circumstances. But if he could open a doorway into the world he detected earlier, the one where magic almost does not exist, he could escape. The portal would allow only the smaller dragon through. The Shadow Dragon would be much too big to follow.
The Ambrosial Dragon was getting dizzy. It was hard to focus the spell, but if he failed, he’d die.