The Way Home

leaves

The leaves made a long-forgotten sound as she walked across the field. Danielle took a deep breath and let it out, watching the white mist sail out in front of her. She wasn’t used to the cold. She’d spent nearly a decade in the desert helping the dragons reclaim what was theirs. The war was finally over. The dragons won but Danielle had lost so much. Her brother died defending what was right. She came back home and discovered Mom and Dad died in a car accident.

Now she was going back to the only home she had left. Grandpa had grown old but he was still alive. Ten years ago, she sat on his lap and he read her the first story about the dragon’s quest, how the demons had taken their homes and put them into exile. She was only a girl when she found the stories were true. She was barely a teen when she stepped through the portal to help.

Now she was back. There. His cabin. Smoke rising from the chimney. She could almost smell his pancakes. She opened the door. He never locked it. “Grandpa, I’m home.”

“Darling. I’ve missed you,” he replied smiling.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for September 24th 2017. The challenge is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is exactly 200.

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

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Why I Came Back

apartment building

© John Robinson

He could feel the blood seeping down his calf from his injured knee. He wished he could enjoy the morning air, but he had to finish this.

Just go over the bridge to the apartment complex, find which one is her’s break in, and then wait. She left for university over an hour ago but she’d be back by noon.

He pressed different buttons on the intercom and as each resident answered, he said, “It’s me.”

Only one opened the door for him, but that’s all he needed.

He had found a first aid kit in the pantry, bound his wound, and cleaned up the blood. He was sitting in a kitchen chair when he heard her unlock the door.

She didn’t see him at first in the darkness. Then she turned on the light and gasped.

“I won’t hurt you. Please sit down.”

“Who are you?” She was trembling.

“Please sit down. I need to tell you what happened to your parents.”

She stood in the middle of her living room. “My mother. She shot my father and then committed suicide.”

“No, Nika. I killed them, but that was a long time ago. I’ve come back to tell you why.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction of September 17th 2017 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 exactly 200.

I think it was in the film The Bourne Supremacy (2004) that Jason Bourne confessed to a young Russian woman why he had killed her parents when she was a child. It was his first kill, and one where he was specifically manipulated to forget what he’d done. When he finally started recovering his memories, he felt he owed it to the young woman to explain that he had murdered them rather than have her continue to believe her mother murdered her father and then committed suicide.

When I saw the photo prompt, it reminded me of that particular sequence in the movie, so I decided to recreate it. I know that’s horribly unoriginal of me, but it was the very first thing to pop into my head.

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

The Faith of Parents

flood

© A Mixed Bag 2013

“Thank God we stocked up on supplies before it got bad, Rick.”

“Must be the frustrated Boy Scout in me. Never want to get caught with my shorts down.”

Rick and Rachel Norman turned when they heard the giggling behind them. Their daughters, five-year-old Amie and her two-and-a-half-year-old sister Hannah were laughing. “Daddy’s shorts down,” Amie chuckled. The girls thought the idea was hilarious. As long as Mom and Dad were with them, they had nothing to worry about.

“You two squirts want breakfast?” Daddy pretended to chase the now squealing children while Mommy turned back to look out the window. The food wouldn’t last forever and the news said the devastating series of rainstorms assailing California had no end in sight. Years of drought and now this.

“No power, so it’s cereal again, kids.” Daddy served them with entertaining flourish getting the milk from the cooler. Like Rachel, he was worried too. They had to hold out until the rescuers came. News radio said Police and Firefighters were making sweeps of the different neighborhoods by boat, but they could only go so fast.

“Soon, God. Make it soon for the sake of our Babies,” he uttered his silent prayer.

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction for September 10th 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200 even.

My wife is out of town and my son works weekends, so I spent all Saturday and Sunday with my two grandchildren. They can be a handful, especially my two-year-old granddaughter, but they are definitely worth it. Monday morning and back at work again. I won’t see them for at least another week, so of course they’re on my mind.

I know it would probably have made more sense to choose Houston, New Orleans, or any place in Florida as the scene of my disaster, but given the long-standing drought California has endured, I thought I’d “spread the wealth,” so to speak.

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

Melvin’s Basement

© A Mixed Bag 2012

It had been two years since their divorce was final and Melvin finally had his basement set up. It was the toy room he dreamed of as a child. Space, the final frontier, and all of the aircraft, rocket ships, and space stations he thought would be reality in 2017.

“I was promised my moon base.” Melvin murmured. “Where is my moon base? Where is my rotating ring space station? Why haven’t we colonized Mars yet?”

When he was twelve years old, Star Trek first came on the air and Melvin dreamed. Then he got older, went to college, got a job, got married, and had kids. Jeannie had been the practical one in the marriage. She detested clutter, so out went his models, his comic books, his scifi novel collection.

Married life became an exercise in control and being controlled. That ended two years ago to the day. He had spent a fortune to rebuild his paperback and comic book collection.

“I’m free.”

Melvin sat down near the basement door and admired his toy room. Now if only he had someone to share it with. Melvin was free of his family and now he was free to be alone.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Writing Challenge for August 20th, 2017. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

I think anyone who’s been married for any length of time knows that there’s quite a bit of compromise that goes into a marriage. Sure, you need to live out your dreams but you also need to make room in your life for what your spouse needs. Apparently, that didn’t happen between Melvin and Jeannie, but then again, we haven’t heard her side of the story. Sadly whatever happened has left Melvin a very lonely man.

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

Visiting Home

small town

© J Hardy Carroll

The young reporter stood at one end of a torn up sidewalk in the heart of his home town. The place was going through growing pains again as city workers discovered it was worth a longer commute from rural towns in exchange for affordable housing, a lower crime rate, and cleaner air. There were times when Clark wished he could move back here too, but his career kept him in the midst of the city, the world really.

He tried to come back once a month to visit Ma, but as always, he’d never be able to stay long. He had his job to think about, and then of course he had his other job that was continually demanding his time and effort. He was fine with the fact that the world would always need Superman. Sometimes though, he wished they’d let him have just a few days so he could have the freedom to visit Ma and to be just a country boy who was raised in Smallville.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fictioner photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 169.

This photo looked like a small, rural town being forced to grow to accommodate an influx of commuters. There are plenty of places like that near where I live in Boise, Idaho. But a growing town doesn’t sound particularly exciting, at least to me, unless you consider that just like any small town kid, sometimes Clark Kent wants to hang up his cape for a few days and go home to visit his Ma.

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

The Synthetic Men of Mars

alien head

© A Mixed Bag 2009
[Synthetic Alien Head from the National Space Centre, Leicester, UK]

“So why bring me here to see a bloody fake alien head, Ian?”

“It’s synthetic Dolores, not fake.”

“What’s the difference?”

“The difference, you silly twit, is that fake means it’s totally not alien. Synthetic means it’s an artificial head made by aliens.”

“Now that’s just stupid.”

“No it’s not. Listen. I was talking to the Professor and…”

“The Professor is just some homeless bloke who lives in the park and who’s been off his nut for years.”

“He’s smart, I tell you. He says he’s done his research on the head and it belongs to a race of synthetic men created by aliens to take over the Earth.””

“Oh is that so? Then why didn’t they take over?”

“Turns out that the old H.G. Wells novel wasn’t entirely fiction. The synthetics had no immunity to our diseases. They all died out because they caught the cold.”

“You are so gullible, Ian. Now take me to the cinema like you promised.”

The National Space Centre curator Patrick Moore had been listening to the conversation. “Damn kids came too close to the truth. I see sacking the Professor wasn’t enough. I’ll have to take stronger measures.”

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for July 30th 2017. The idea is to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long based on the image above. My word count is 195.

Since the caption read “synthetic” rather than “fake,” I thought I’d take my cue from that for my story. The title is from the old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel Synthetic Men of Mars which is the ninth book in his “John Carter of Mars” series. Of course, I’m also suggesting that the H.G. Wells novel “War of the Worlds” had some basis in fact. But it’s just all for fun.

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

The Mission

mission

A Mixed Bag 2009

The tall man with white hair wearing a conservative business suit opened the door of the amusement park ride and stepped into what looked like a spaceship. The park was deserted which is exactly what he expected. Under the seat was a tape recorder and an envelope. He opened the envelope and turned on the tape.

“Good morning Mr. Phelps. What you see is a schematic for the craft you are sitting in. Although it’s disguised as a carnaval ride, it is really of alien origin. If you accept this mission we want you to determine who built it and what it’s purpose is.

As always if you or any of your team are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow your actions. This tape will self-destruct in ten seconds. Good luck, Jim.

Jim Phelps set the tape recorder on the floor, and as the tape smoked and burned, his brilliant mind began to create a plan.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – July 23rd 2017 (which by the way is my birthday). The idea is to use the photo prompt above as inspiration for a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 157.

For some reason, just seeing the image reminded me of those odd location where Jim Phelps would have to go to get his next Mission: Impossible assignment. Because the image looks both like an amusement park ride and a spaceship, I thought I’d have a little fun.

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

The Artifact

the white horse pub

© A Mixed Bag 2014

Ross Murdock sat in Dover’s White Horse Pub sipping ale, silently cursing Gordon Ashe for staying behind. Ashe was the archaeologist. Murdock, a former thief, was Ashe’s student and did what he was told to avoid prison.

“Is this seat taken?” The tall man, dark hair, full beard, spoke heavily accented English.

“Pull up a chair.”

“Merci.” The Frenchman sat, putting his glass on the table. “I’m Alex Besnard. You were expecting me.”

“Ross Murdock.” Neither man attempted shaking hands.

“Actually, you were expecting this.” Besnard reached into his pocket and pulled out something wrapped in cloth. Murdock took it and unwrapped the “prize.”

The stoic cynic’s eyes widened. It really was a Forerunner artifact.

“Dated to 2,000 BCE, give or take. Found a few kilometers from here.”

Murdock put the object into his pocket and then used his mobile to send the payment.

Besnard checked his cell. “Merci beaucoup.” The smuggler stood and walked away.

Concrete evidence the extraterrestrial Forerunners visited Earth over 4,000 years ago. Ashe would be able to date the artifact more accurately so the time portal could be set. It was now a race with the Soviets as to which one would reach the Forerunner technology first.

NOTE: To read the next story in this series, go to The Traders.

The first story in this series is The Recruit followed by Escape.

I was able to identify the location in the photo above as Dover after magnifying the image and reading the sign in front of the White Horse Pub. Archaeological finds have determined that Dover has been inhabited since the Stone Age, which gave me my hook.

When I was in Junior High (many decades ago), I discovered a book in the school library called The Time Traders. It was the first of a series of science fiction novels written by Andre Norton (pseudonym for the late Alice Mary Norton). The first novel was published in 1958 with the premise that a race of advanced alien beings, later identified as “the Forerunners” had visited Earth sometime in the last ice age.

Thief Ross Murdock is recruited by the government for a team, along with archaeologist Gordon Ashe, to travel back to Britain’s Bronze Age posing as traders in order to gather information and maybe direct access to a Forerunner ship. The problem is the Soviets also have time travel technology and know about the Forerunners, so it’s a race against time (literally) as to which side will acquire advanced alien technology first.

I updated this cold war thriller to suit my purposes. I still have copies of “The Time Trader” and its immediate sequel Galactic Derelict. I did manage to read one of the more modern “Forerunner” novels some years back, but there was such a gap between the late 1950s stories and the one I found at my public library that it was more frustrating than satisfying to read.

I wrote this in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – July 9th 2017 challenge. The idea is to take the image above and use it as an inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is exactly 200, cut down from about 306.

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

Thurren’s Cairn: A Brief Love Story

the dragon and the princess

© A Mixed Bag 2011

“Now we can be together forever, Charlotte.”

“I hold you dearly in my heart, Thurren, but you are a dragon and I am a Princess. We can never be together, forever or otherwise. I will grow up and one day be Queen. You will grow large and mighty and be a prize sought after by every Knight in the realm.”

The two, secret companions since childhood, sat by Thurren’s Cairn, their favorite meeting place. The roses were in bloom and the vines crept up and around the stone pillar speaking of a love which could not be.

Charlotte we really can be together forever. Come away with me.”

“But how can I abandon my responsibilities, no matter how I may feel for you?”

“Actually Princess, but you already did, the minute we fell in love.”

Thurren’s Cairn stood near a pond. He took Charlotte’s “hands” and led her there to her reflection.

“It’s like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in reverse. Your love for me has freed you.”

Charlotte gazed at her reflection with a combination of horror and fascination. She was now a dragon. She and Thurren would have to flee quickly to escape her Knights.

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction for July 2nd 2017. The idea is to use the photo prompt as the basis for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is exactly 199.

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

The Funny Looking Bird

eagle

© A Mixed Bag 2012

Generalissimo Ramon Carlos DeLaVega, his revolution successful and his dictatorship now well established, ordered his family symbol placed upon all government buildings to inspire the public’s fear and awe of him.

The largest one was placed on the wall over the main gates to his compound. He had lights and cameras positioned to record how everyone reacted when seeing the powerful avian predator.

“Why are they laughing?” DeLaVega asked the same question day after day as he reviewed the morning videos showing the children walking to school. They would all stop in front of the gates, point up, and laugh, then gleefully skip along.

Unfortunately, Generalissimo DeLaVega’s family symbol bore a striking resemblance to the muppet Sam the Eagle. The children loved muppets.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – June 18th 2017 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 123.

Yes, the first thing I thought of when I saw the photo was the muppet character Sam the Eagle.

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

sam the eagle

Found at muppet.wikia.com