“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.
One of the perks of being “unstuck” in time and space was being able to re-experience things long gone such as a “lead burger” at that greasy spoon just north of U.C. Berkeley. Jonathan grasped the massive bun and bit down, mustard oozing over his fingers. It was a warm July evening in the East Bay, but his real destination was France a few days in the future.
Days ago from his perspective, he discovered that he could dream about fixing problems in the timestream of different quantum realities. He lamented that he couldn’t do anything about the Islamic revolution in Iran or the hostage crisis that would begin in less than four months. Six-year-old Etan Patz was kidnapped in New York at the end of May and his disappearance would remain a cold case until 2010. He couldn’t do anything about that either. In fact, he couldn’t even prevent the deaths of Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. However, he could track down the ODESSA member who planted the bomb in their car and reveal the location of his confederates to Interpol.
Jonathan Cypher dipped a french fry into his catsup and waited.
I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner Week 10 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 193.
I am again leveraging my character Jonathan Cypher who you last saw earlier today in Our Honored Dead and before that in Tikkun Olam. In that tale, it was revealed he is a soul or “neshamah” of a dead man who now has the ability in his dreams to travel the timestreams of different quantum realities correcting flaws or problems introduced by human free will in the created multiverse.
When I saw the burger, I was reminded of a burger joint I used to eat at in the late 1970s on Euclid Avenue just north of the U.C. Berkeley campus. I set my tale in 1979 and then searched Wikipedia for some likely event I could insert Jonathan into.
The one I chose occurred on 9 July:
A car bomb destroys a Renault owned by Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld at their home in France. A note purportedly from ODESSA claims responsibility.
A lot of other things happened including the rise of the Islamic Revolution that year including the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis.
Unfortunately, on 25 May:
Etan Patz, 6 years old, is kidnapped in New York. He is often referred to as the “Boy on the Milk Carton” and the investigation later sprouts into one of the most prolific child abduction cases of all time. This is a cold case until 2010 when it is re-opened. Pedro Hernandez is later charged with strangling him after being sentenced to life in prison for murder and kidnapping in April 2017.
Jonathan can’t change everything, but I did allow him to do some damage to the ODESSA organization, which was a group of Former Nazi SS members who aided in the escape of Fascist war criminals after the end of World War Two.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.
READ THIS: This writing challenge is re-emerging after a long hiatus so if you are so inclined, please contribute a story and help popularize it again. Thanks.
The Passchendaele Battlefield – World War I – Found at World War One Battlefields Blog
I’m dead. I used to be a man, a husband, Dad, Grandpa. Now I’m a corpse. Maybe my body is still lying in the hospital bed where I died, maybe it’s at the Funeral Home by now, or it could even be six feet under. I can’t tell how much time has passed since time doesn’t mean anything to a dream.
That’s what I really am, a dream but I’ve got a problem. I used to be a man in a coma dreaming myself into different versions of people’s lives, in the past in other countries, and even in the future on another planet. But then the dreamer dreaming me died so how am I still here? Who is dreaming me?
Whoever it is, I should thank them I suppose. I mean it’s a really nice dream. I like the ocean. I used to live not far from it, maybe seven miles. Today, I’m walking on my own private beach. It’s a bright, sunny summer day and there’s not a soul in sight. No roads, no buildings, nothing show that anyone has been on this beach ever except me.
I can hear the sound of the surf, sea birds overhead, a breeze blowing through tree branches on my left, but no traffic noise, no talking, no airplane or boat motors. It’s like the world was created just for me. Lucky me.
Brain scan images found at PositiveMed.com
“I’m sorry but I don’t see much hope, Kathy.”
She turned from the neurologist to look down at her husband. He’d been in a coma for five weeks now following the car accident and still wasn’t showing any signs of brain activity. The machines and drugs kept his lungs breathing and his heart beating, but as much as she didn’t want to believe it, her husband of thirty-five years died when the garbage truck ran a stop sign and crushed the driver’s side of his car.
“I just need a minute alone with him, Doctor Schiavo.”
“Sure, I understand. I’ll be right outside.”
Kathy heard the door close behind her. Except for the usual medical monitor noises the room was silent. She was alone. It was a horrible decision to have to make. Their four children, spouses (three out of four had married and Lizzie had just gotten engaged) and eight grandchildren were right outside. How could she take their Daddy and Grandpa away from them?
© Jeff Simpson
The Raven Queen was ancient, perhaps as old as the Flood of Noah or even older. She had possessed many names and many guises over the long millennia depending on which people she chose to bless or curse, their languages, traditions, and the like. She had her favorite identities so when apart from the places of men, she would adopt one that pleased her.
She was also very moody. She could create, deceive, protect whole nations, or murder Kings. It was just a matter of which side of the celestial and metaphorical bed she woke up on in any given age.
“What shall we do today, Kutkh?”
“Call me Ishmael,” the archetype perched upon her shoulder replied.
“You jest certainly. Quoting a work of man again? Melville won’t write that line for centuries.”