Flash! Friday # 14

This contest is now closed to entries, but always open to comments/feedback. Thanks to everyone who worked their grey cells to death trying to explain the foggy field. The decision by judge Beth Peterson will be posted tomorrow (Saturday).

Welcome to Flash! Friday (new hashtag #FlashFridayFic) Round 14, sweet and/or savory dragons and friends! (Here be the rules if ye need ’em.) Today’s judgification is provided by exceedingly sparkly SVW member Beth Peterson.

Let’s get right to today’s contest:

Word limit: 200 word story (10 words’ grace on either side) based on the photo prompt.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday) morning

Prize: A fiery e-trophy badge, your own fancy winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and WORLDWIDE GRATITUDE AND MARVELLIZATION (or as close as we can get ya to it). NOTE: Non-winning stories remain eligible for inclusion in Monday’s Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for the latest news/announcements/dragon teaching ideas (hint: cave walls, yes; books/crunchy young teachers, no).  And now for your prompt:

Foggy field

WRITE, darling dragons, WRITE!

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80 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 14

  1. SCORCHED EARTH

    John stood at the open barn door and stared out across his land, the way he had every morning he could remember. He was the seventh generation of his family to farm here – it was his birthright, his identity.

    It looked much the same as it ever had. Soil so dark and rich that it was nearly black, tendrils of steam rising from the furrows as the rising sun warmed the moist earth. The tractor shed stood at the far end of the field, its metal roof and walls the only straight line in a landscape painted by nature.

    But…

    There should have been bird song…whispery rustlings of tiny creatures…the comfortable rumble of domesticated animals. No sunrise was ever truly silent.

    Until now.

    Word had gone out – the enemy was coming. They couldn’t stop them, but they could make sure the soldiers wouldn’t benefit from the bounty of their hard work. If they couldn’t find food they might turn back before they reached the cities.

    John closed his eyes and felt the silence beat press in on him. His heart, so closely tied with the land he loved, faltered.

    He’d done what was required.

    “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

    200 Words
    @RavenNC

    • Ooh! I love the feel of it. At first it seemed like a set-up for something more, but then when you got to “they could make sure the soldiers wouldn’t benefit from the bounty of their hard work” it all came together as a complete story.

      I’m glad you could come and play today!

    • Really love what you did with this. The heartache, the desperation–painfully poignant. Nice job, Geri.

  2. The morning after

    He shivered as he surfaced from the warm fuzzy cocoon of his slumber, felt the shock of the frigid morning air as it caressed his naked skin.

    Grey light filtered though his lashes as he opened his sticky eyelids just a fraction, hugged his arms and legs closer to his body. His mind was a blank, but he knew that he hadn’t been here before, shouldn’t be here now. Where was he?

    He lifted his head off the concrete floor, pain struck in the centre of his brain like he had been hit by a hammer, and looked about him. It was some sort of barn or something.

    He took a deep breath through his nostrils as he reached down with his hands, uncoiled and rose to one knee. The barn smelled of dung, of cattle and…what was that? Bitter sweet tang in the air…

    The barn doors were wide open, the fog was rolling in from over the black loam furrows of the fields, chilling him and glistening on his skin.

    That smell…it was stronger now. Where was it coming from? Left…he saw the blood, the cow; skin flayed, it’s body eviscerated.

    There was a full moon last night.

    Word count: 200
    Twitter: @theimaginator20

  3. **Cankers Field**

    It was Tom’s idea to hide in the shack. He said we could hole up there for as long as we needed. He said they wouldn’t think to look for us on the other side of Cankers Field. He said if we could be brave we would be safe.

    So we packed in secret – water, bread, blankets – wrapped our feet and legs in as many layers as we could find, covered our faces with the dampened dishcloths we’d pilfered from Ma’s kitchen, our hands with the pink rubber gloves she wore for cleaning.

    By the time we reached the field, the sun had risen and the fog burned so bright it stung our eyes. It must have hurt Tom’s more than it hurt mine because when he looked down at me, I saw tears vanish beneath his make-shift mask.

    “Don’t be scared,” he said, taking my hand. “We just have to keep moving. Don’t stop.”

    “Keep moving,” I whispered. “Don’t stop.”

    Half-way across the field, we heard a shout. “Boys! Boys!” It was Pa!

    I tried to turn around, but Tom yanked me on.

    “Boys!” Pa’s voice didn’t shake the skies like it usually did. It sounded small, weak. “Come back, boys. Please come back. I’m sorry.”

    Word count: 209
    @nembow

    • “Cankers Field” …the name evokes something distasteful, unhealthy. I’m wondering whether they are of some race that can’t take the sunlight (vampires?) or whether this is post-nuclear-holocaust and there’s radiation everywhere…

    • This story stayed with me long after I’d read it. I love stories that take up lodgings in your mind and make you wonder ‘what, exactly, did I just read?’ I wish this was the beginning of a novel. Great work.

  4. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools…

    I had thought them all killed following the scourge.
    The electric light said different.
    I crept in. Dangers lurked here. There! A cough! I entered the damned light, the stone floor clean and cold against my torn, dirty feet.
    He sat in a chair with wheels – and an engine!
    Sightless, milky eyes in a grey sweating face followed me.
    “I knew you’d come if you saw the light.”
    “Extinguish it, or you will surely die!”
    “Too late. I’m already almost there. I’m using the last of my battery power. You’ll light my way.”
    “No! ‘I am the way, the truth and the light’…”
    “Not in here. I’m the light, or rather the wind generator is. Not enough juice for my chair anymore. Damn lithium batteries.” He coughed wetly and dabbed his mouth with a red flecked cloth.
    “Blasphemy! ‘Shun the evils of the machine…’ ” I intoned
    “Oh save me the ‘technology brought the scourge’ sermon! It was a viral pandemic. Bad sure, but we’d have recovered eventually – but for you idiots.”
    “Sinner!”
    “Yeah. I’m a sinner.” He closed his eyes and dipped his head. “Come on Boy, I’m ready. Do what you came to do.”
    “For the wages of sin is death…” I raised my club.

    208 words
    @nickjohns999

    • Now THIS is post apocalyptic! “Nightfall” is one of my favorite old stories (OK, about as old as I am lol!) I can easily believe the theory that religion will gain a greater and more…dangerous role in people’s lives after a disaster takes away everything.

      • Thanks AmyBeth. The emergence of vague but powerful anti-scientific trends in recent times may be only a short step away from ignorant, knee-jerk blame reactions and eventually pogroms. People in crisis need to believe in something, whether or not that belief is rational. It also panders to my somewhat jaundiced view of human nature 🙂

    • What a powerful piece of writing. This story frightens and thrills me in equal measure. I can imagine it happening – it *could* happen so easily – and that makes it all the more frightening. Memorable, beautifully written, and perfectly paced. Great work.

  5. Simplicity Restored

    She trudged along, uncertain how the mage could have any concept of where they were, much less where they were bound. Yet, he knew where they were and, likewise, knew where they needed to be with calm certainty.

    She was one of the few children blessed to have been chosen as an Apprentice, and yet, her greatest desire was not to learn the mystical art of Restoration. Food, shelter and security were far more paramount concerns to her than matters arcane. For those gifts she would do as the Masters bid.

    The Voidmaster stopped abruptly, motioning for her to unpack the elements necessary for the ritual. He assumed the posture required and began a low, sonorous chant while sprinkling the contents of various containers forward into the impenetrable fog. With unexpected finality, the mists parted to reveal a bare, fallow field, some sort of outbuilding and a single scraggly tree.The Voidmaster slumped with weariness and she could not help but wonder why such effort was made to Restore something so…mundane.

    As if reading her thoughts, he looked up at her, a tight smile gracing his normally-stern visage. “Sometimes, it is the simplest things that are the hardest to reclaim.”

    200 words @klingorengi

  6. Bette breathed deep, the damp musty scent of fresh earth burning her lungs. Something about that scent, that promise of new life to come, was always irresistible. The fog hid the city beyond the fields; the city she had left nearly a year earlier when the call came. The plague had wiped out nearly everyone and a return to the fields, unused for generations, was the only hope. Return to the earth, work the fields, bring forth the harvest.

    Bette smiled at the arrival of the other survivors. They stretched the length of the field, one for every four sprouts expected. They strained their eyes for signs of the first growth. A moment later a shout of joy erupted as the first were spotted. With giddy laughter they filed into their places, marveling over the yellow, brown, red, and black tufts now dotting the earth. The survivors took their places across the field and readied their knives. A quick bite into flesh and Bette fell, knowing that in a few hours the harvest would mature. Fed by the blood of the survivors the next generation would spring forth with all the knowledge of the last, ready to rebuild the world.

    Word Count: 200
    Twitter: @thorns_n_claws

  7. First Contact

    “Wake up. It’s time”

    She thrust a steaming cup of coffee in my direction, it sloped over the edge. Droplets of warm liquid on my bare chest made me wince.

    Nodding I took the cup and set it down, knowing it would be undrinkable, not fit for my palate.

    As I hastily got dressed she stood watching. I’d got used to those innocent eyes observing my every move.

    The car key appeared to hover above her outstretched hand. I reached out hoping just this once to touch her but she swiftly withdrew.

    We drove far out of town, her internal compass guiding us left and right. There were no clues to our location; you couldn’t see much beyond the end of the car it was so foggy.

    There was no sky and no stars. I wondered if there really was life out there at all.

    “Stop!” she cried suddenly. “We’re here.”

    We stood together beside a freshly ploughed farmer’s field, maybe it had already been planted with crops, what did I know about such alien things?

    The mist was beginning to lift as her craft landed, sleek and silent.

    I never realised I was crying until the moment she touched my face and my teardrop sizzled like hot coffee.

    209 words (excluding title)
    @reravelling

  8. Rebekah regarded the landscape with satisfaction. Little was left, except for a shack, the charred ground and a single tree. Only a small amount of grass was still alive.

    Her followers had been equally successful around the globe. People, refusing to believe what they were seeing, had frozen in their tracks, only to become human barbecue for the host of invaders.

    Buildings had been burned and skyscrapers that had remained standing had been swatted to the ground and then burned.

    Although the final battle had only taken a few hours, the attack had been developing for centuries. In addition to the tactical plans, there had also been the propaganda campaigns designed to keep the invaders’ existence shrouded within the realm of mythology and fiction.

    When they had emerged from their caves, flying in formation, they had been spotted by military satellites. Even Google Earth had picked up their movements, but it was too late and there were too many of them. None of the world’s armies had been ready for such an onslaught.

    Now, the embers – along with the people – were dying.

    “To Hell with zombies,” Rebekah snorted smugly as the smoke drifted across the land and she thumped her tail in triumph. “This is my DRAGON apocalypse!”

    208 words
    @LupusAnthropos

  9. Death Comes in the Morning

    I am dying. I can smell freshly turned earth and when I look up, I see the tree.

    “Meet me at the tree at dawn,” she had said.

    I went. Even when I knew what it would most likely mean, I went.

    I walked over the moistly crumbling dirt through the misty wisps of morning fog. I could smell Spring and new life as I moved toward my destination.

    She stepped out from behind the tree as I drew closer. I couldn’t make out her facial expression, but her arms were open for me. At that moment, I dared to hope.

    When I was steps away from her, I heard the gun go off and felt the bullet fly into my back. I stumbled and pitched forward on my face. I heard her weeping as she turned me over, brushing dirt from my face with gentle fingers.

    He moved into view, jerking her away. He looked down at me and grinned maliciously, then he spat in my face. He shot me again through the throat. I heard her scream and then a slap.

    “Get yourself to the wagon, girl.” I hear her feet as she runs, sobbing.

    Now as my vision dims, I hear my grave being prepared.

    208 words
    @Angelique_Rider

  10. Consecrated Ground

    The freezing mist settled on the humps and hollows of the land. She’d known cold days here before, but somehow it had seemed bearable, then. This new coldness had a blade in it.

    The old house still stood, but another family lived there now. Another mother who’d looked her in the eye with kindness, a father who’d clutched her hand in his.

    Her grand-daughter lent an arm as they stepped foot into the field, and she knew, immediately, what the Bible meant when it said ‘his blood cries out to you from the soil.’ She fought the urge to sink to her knees and lose herself in the rich black loam. The cold dark earth.

    Her grand-daughter was speaking; praying, probably. She didn’t hear. Her mind was with the memory of her husband, carrying three of his children out here into his own field, burying them with his own hands. He’d filled their graves with his tears.

    Lost before they’d lived, the priest said they’d never see Heaven. Unbaptized, unwanted by God, there could be no burial, no Mass, no requiem. No rest, and no eternity.

    Their tiny faces lost to her memory, and their bones to the land.

    198 words (excluding title)
    @SJOHart

    • I so love your last line. Grouping “tiny” along with “lost” and “bones” feels so wrong, so tragic, so horrible. It makes the grief almost palpable.

    • Wonderful, powerful imagery with a lilting lyrical quality and novel phrases. ‘..coldness had a blade in it.’ Lovely, apposite use of the biblical quote. Strong sense of character. Fine example of rhythm & repetition in the penultimate sentence that drives home the narrative. For me the only jarring phrase in the whole piece was ‘as they STEPPED foot into the field’ (‘set foot’? / ‘stepped into’?). This may be a US / UK usage issue, however. Loved the last line. Thanks!

      • Wow, thank you very much. I did wonder about the ‘stepped foot’ for a while; I heard it (or read it) somewhere before and thought it sounded nice. But you’re right – it sounds strange to some ears, and jarring. But thank you so much for your very kind comments. I’m really glad you liked it.

  11. Irene plants her feet on the back stoop, and cups her hand up to her mouth.

    “Bill?” she shouts.

    “What?” comes the reply. The speck high in the tree moves, a little.

    “Dinner’s ready. Can you come in, now?” Pathetic dinner. But it’s all they have.

    “I’m busy.”

    “You can go back up, later.”

    “I’m busy, mom.”

    “Bill, your cousins are here. It’s not polite.”

    “But I’ve almost got it…”

    “Really, Bill…”

    “No seriously mom, I’ve almost got it. Come see.”

    Irene sighs, brushes her hands on her jeans, and stomps across the dead soil to the tree. Just go and see, then maybe he’ll come in.

    She peers up into the branches. “Okay.”

    “Watch, mom,” says Bill.

    He pushes a button on a device on his belt, touches wires together, fiddles around, does a couple other things she can’t quite see.

    A fresh, green, baby branch sprouts in front of him.

    “See, mom, I got it.”

    Irene’s eyes grow wide. “Do it again.”

    He does it again. Another baby branch. Fresh, bright green leaves.

    “Bill,” Irene looks around her, at the soil where nothing has grown in months. “Bill, you’ve done it.”

    “That’s right, mom,” Bill says, and grins.

    Irene’s eyes fill with tears.

    205 words
    @betsystreeter

    • A lovely, intriguing tale, that takes the reader seamlessly from the mundane to the magical. This is skilfully handled, and leaves me both wanting to know more, at the same time as giving me a strong inpression that I know a lot about the story already. A fairy tale in the very best modern sense, reminiscent of Charles De Lint’s writing.

  12. Memories

    Brian inhaled deeply and smelled the manure. It did not assault his nose, but was still present, as if it had been laid down a week ago. He could feel the moisture in the breeze, passing over his bare palms and his cheek where it was not obstructed by his jumpsuit.

    Looking down, he knew he was standing on a solid surface, but it did look like his feet were pressed into the brown soil of a recently tilled field. Brian was impressed by the detail. He knew that the shed and the tree in the distance were just images, but he felt he could run out and place his hands on them. The computer had selected a cloudy day. Perhaps bright and sunny would not have been real enough for the location he wanted to visit.

    Within one or two generations, a mere eighth of the ship’s full voyage, sights like this would become unknown to the populace. As the first generation died off, memories of open fields and growing crops would be replaced with growth vats and rows of artificial UV lights. So it would remain for half a millennium.
    Brian’s exhalation became a sigh at the thought.

    Word Count: 200
    @acmarkz

  13. Crop Circles

    “Zork, you’re an idiot,” said Blanc, not for the first time.

    “I swear, I was here just a few days ago and this field was flowing with tall, wavy grain!” Zork defended himself, kicking a clump of dirt. “It’s not my fault!”

    “It’s a good thing for you there’s a fog rolling in. We’d be ducks in a barrel if it wasn’t for that cover, and I can tell you from experience that folks around here shoot first and ask questions later.”

    The two of them stood there, peering through the light fog without finding anything of interest.

    A soft lowing drifted on the air from somewhere behind them. “Hey! Cows!” Zork said, heading towards the sound.

    “Cow tipping? Is that your idea of excitement?” asked Blanc.

    “Hey, it’s better than nothing. Come on!”

    The rail fence proved to be only a small impediment. It took a little clumsy grunting, but they both made it over eventually. “Hey, why’s there only one? I thought these things were herd beasts?” asked Blanc.

    “I dunno. Maybe this farmer’s poor. Maybe the cows are down the hill somewhere,” perused Zork, heading for the creature. “Maybe they ate all the grain.”

    “Why does it have horns? Is it a mutant?” asked Blanc, hanging back, grabbing the fence, ready to climb over if the situation warranted.

    The bovine snorted, then stomped one hoof in the dirt. Zork slowed down, attempting to sneak up on the beast.

    The bull grunted, pawed the dirt again, and charged.

    Zork screamed, tentacles flailing as he tried to make it back to the fence. Blanc secreted his juice sac as he scrambled over the rails. He didn’t stop screaming until he heard a gunshot from the direction of the farmhouse.

    Scared into silence, Blanc looked at the fence where Zork’s body was squished. His torso pod had exploded on impact, but two of his main tentacles were still writhing.

    Blanc grabbed the body parts that were still moving and raced back to their saucer. He threw the bits of his crewmate into the copilot seat and revved up the magneto for takeoff.

    “ ”Hey, let’s buzz Earth” you said. “We’ll make some crop circles, scare the locals,” you said. “It’ll be fun!” you said! Well, you’re not saying much now, are you?”

    Blanc cursed as a ping sounded on the hull. “Great googlie mooglies, we’re under attack!” Ear buds were already forming on the growth-sacks of each tentacle. Blanc would need to toss the pieces of his friend into some juice soon, so they’d have the medium they needed to grow.
    “And now I get to explain to your mother why I’m bringing you home in more pieces than you left in. Sheesh, Zork, your Dad’s never going to let you borrow the saucer again.”

    Twitter @USNessie

  14. An Expected Phenomenon

    The cool, overnight air had coaxed mist from the new-plowed ground, an expected phenomenon. As the fog lifted, the unexpected phenomena were the tree and the out-building, for years now only seen in fading photographs.
    From a window of the farmhouse, which had welcomed her return, Anne watched a man emerge from the out-building then stand, arms akimbo, to survey the turned earth. He made no beckoning gesture, but Anne went anyway, not surprised when she stood an arm’s length away and could see the incorporeal shed through her father’s ghost.
    “I knew you’d come back,” he said.
    Anne shook her head. “I’m only here until the realtor gets this place on the market.”
    “Why’d you plow the fields then?”
    “Simon did it on schedule. I had nothing to do with it.”
    “This was always the best ground,” he said. “You could bring a handful to your nose and smell the growin’. Try it.”
    “Look, Brother didn’t mind your haunting, but he’s dead and gone…”
    “I know.”
    “…and I’m selling.”
    “No, you won’t because I won’t leave, and I’ll make sure no one wants to buy a haunted farm. You stay, I’ll leave.”
    Anne returned to the house, defiance only a fleeting thought. Daddy would win. He always did.

    209 words, sans title
    @unspywriter

    And hello from AWP13!

  15. A Tree

    In the night, as part of his escape, Freddie had soothed his brother’s ears with a careful network of awe-dreams. A trip with their mother to the Hall of Mechanics; cog-rides and a labyrinth gilded with the ornamentation of the City. James had been too deep into the slumber before he realised its untruth and forced himself awake to the disappointment of morning. Father downstairs stomping his hobnails over kitchen floor, spitting swears and crushing the morning’s flies with quick-snap claps that sounded to James like bones snapping.

    And, of course, Freddie gone; neat, flat sheets in his place on the bed. James held his breath and slid to the window. Outside the remnants of his brother’s spells hung like mist. The dirt fields spread ahead and in the centre, a tree, just like Freddie promised. No leaves or fruit, but a great living oak nevertheless, splayed over the grey sky like frozen electrics. James let out his breath.

    ‘I hear you boy!’ came Father’s voice a moment later. ‘Come fix your brother’s ills.’

    And so they headed through the cold to that silhouette, axes on shoulders, Father muttering punishments, ripping out stubborn tufts of grass and crushing them to dust in his fist.

    206 words
    @lonlonranch

  16. A Faithful Friend

    It was a mean fog that stretched along the field that morning as Daddy dug the grave for Rosie. It wet the blue towel he had wrapped her in. I felt the cold creeping up my legs to my aching heart.
    Wiping my tears with my coat sleeve, I wound the twine around the sticks to make a cross. I choose our favorite spot beside the tree near the hen house. We sat here most every day. She was my friend and I told her all my secrets. I think I knew Rosie better than anyone.
    When the grave was covered, I said my favorite prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep..”
    I cried on Daddy’s shoulder all the way back to the house. We washed our hands and ate breakfast. Feeling so sad I only ate three and my bacon, of course. Even the little end pieces that I would have fed Rosie.
    I heard him whisper to Mommy, “I can’t believe I just buried a rooster named Rosie.”
    “It was her first pet and her first loss. You did the right thing.”
    “Our daughter was the only the only one he didn’t peck.”

    199 words

  17. The fields were indeed empty, as he’d suspected, but the destruction was so much more than he was ready for. The earth still smoked from whatever had been used to set fire to the nearby villages, and the air was filled with the acrid stink of chemicals. One by one, the six of them climbed free of the bunker and began the trek to the next safe point. The umbrella’s direction sense was unerring, and it guided Simon from its perch on his back with subtle nudges.

    The band walked past a charred oak, the last sign that anything had ever lived in this field. Two short lengths of rope, as black as the rest of the tree, hung an arm’s length apart from a stout branch a few feet over their heads. Emily could remember the sounds of the children who’d lived in the farmhouse echoing through the night as they’d secreted themselves in the bunker, and shuddered. She dropped a hand down to her stomach and decided that she’d tell Simon tonight, although she was worried how he’d react, especially now that he had so much responsibility on his shoulders.

    192 words
    @drmagoo

  18. Surprise

    If I was a stronger woman I would have found a way to stop them. I would have stopped them from tearing up our fields, from stealing everything, from kidnapping my sister. I would have taken that moment–that brief moment–when their backs were turned… I would have driven a knife into all of their hearts.
    They came like ghosts in the night, quiet and frightening. We didn’t know they were there until they were already inside, until they had already killed our father. My brothers ran at them, but they didn’t even have weapons. Why would they have? We’ve never needed them before. Who comes here to loot? Who comes here to kill? Maybe I wasn’t weak; maybe I was just surprised.
    It was over so quickly. I was left alone, surrounded by death and fire. I spent the entire night trying to salvage anything, but they had taken it all. My family, our food, everything we had all worked so hard for. Everything. For once, it was a blessing that my mother was long dead.
    Now, I stand here in the morning mist, looking over the fields. I might not have been a strong woman, but I know I will become one. I will not be surprised again.

    209 words
    @stammily

  19. Frank stood next to his tractor, looking over what had been his wheat field last night when he went to bed. Now, it smelled something awful, and had steam rising off it in the early morning light. The night had been quiet. No clouds in the sky. No storms. No lightning. The field hadn’t burned. If it had it would smell better.

    The whole field smelled like shit.

    Frank shook his head and knelt down to take a better look at the edge of the field. Sucker had been plowed right up. The whole field had been turned over. Almost silently. In the middle of the night. There wasn’t a tractor made that could do that. He’d have heard any tractor that came through. Besides, he’d tilled that sucker up himself. He knew how long it took. It would have taken four, maybe five tractors to turn that whole field over in the few hours he’s slept. And the field would have smelled better.

    The whole field smelled like shit.

    Frank looked up at the clouds, shook his fist at the sky, and screamed in frustration, “Damn Dragons!”

    Yep. The bitches had used his wheat field as a litter box.

    205 Words
    @LurchMunster

    You wanted dragons, @postupak… You got dragons… 🙂

  20. Aaron lay on his back in the newly opened furrow. He was still small. They wouldn’t find him there even if they thought to look. He had on his black down jacket, like a ninja. It was getting dark, but he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t even afraid when the branches of the tree near the barn shook and dangled in the cold breeze like a Halloween skeleton.

    Had they stopped shouting long enough to realize that he was gone? He supposed not or they would have called his name. Then the blaming would begin. He was their push me-pull you toy always at the center of their accusations.

    He watched the fog roll over him and thought of that time at the beach when he almost drowned. Stuck in the undertow he’d watched the waves curl and crest above him as he was ushered out to sea. Then his father was hauling him up to the surface, and he was almost sorry. Beneath the waves there was only silence.

    The back door slammed, and his father screamed his name, without anger. Aaron heard the worry in his voice, but he did not move. He would lie there all night as the land froze around him if he had to.

    209 words
    @B4Steph

  21. Fog rolled across the land as she stepped onto the freshly tilled earth, digging her toes into the soft loam. Spring was a time of new starts, fresh beginnings, and the mornings reflected that as the air woke up slowly. There had been many mornings like this when she was a child as she stood beside her father, but now she stood alone.

    Bending she broke off a clump of dirt, she rubbed it between her fingers, turning her head as her foreman stopped beside her. “It’s about ready,” he commented.

    “We should start as soon as the fog lifts,” she answered. “The east field first.”

    “Your father always started in the south field,” he reminded her.

    “I am aware of that, but I want the east field planted first.”

    “It’s your decision now.”

    “I appreciate you supporting me in this. And I appreciate you supporting me in everything over the past year.”

    “Your father was a good man, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not doing what you think is right for the farm.”

    She tilted her head smiling up at him. “Thank you.”

    “Now the east field, you said? I should get the boys and get them started towards it. Fog’ll lift soon enough.”

  22. Gabriel finished his morning prayers, making his way around the steaming earth that held the hopes of the world, or would have if they’d known of it. There would be sprouts tomorrow. Finally.

    A tingle went up his spine. He turned to see the lad running like a hare hunted.

    Jonas tumbled to the ground at his feet, gasping for breath, “The river. They’ve found a way though somehow…”

    “No.” Gabriel breathed and glanced back at the tilled earth in frustration. “I need more time!”

    “Then ask for it.” Fear and trust warred in Jonas’s eyes.

    “I’ve already asked for too much…Another miracle would be…”

    “Necessary?” Passion contorted his face. “Perhaps there is no such thing as too much. Perhaps we’re supposed to ask for everything.”

    “But…That’s not tradition. I’m not prepared! I haven’t completed the rituals…”

    “If you don’t ask, we’re dead! What have we got to lose?”

    “I don’t know…”

    Jonas grunted in exasperation, “I’ll do it then.” He began to pray.

    Gabriel took a deep breath and placed his hand on Jonas’s shoulder. “You’re right. Forgive me.” He bent to pray. Together they begged for another miracle to protect the first – For a way, yet again, to save the world.

    The earth moved…

    @lissajean7
    206 words

  23. Shudra kept moving although she couldn’t see. Crap, she thought, gloomy surroundings really mess with me. She couldn’t lose her way now; she needed to get to safety. A roaring sound like a flushing toilet followed by a river was near. She never saw that river but experienced the effects of it, she was sure. Borisu was not as certain. He was no better at seeing through the clouds and fog but had a tendency to reject all her theories.

    They were both working together…supposedly. They were in charge of making sure the connections were maintained, especially during this sort of climate. Borisu liked to play around more, too, and Shudra had to refrain from mothering him. Stupid boys. All they ever wanted to do was play. It was a challenge to get the work done in this huge labyrinth as it was, just the two of them. But with one only half in it…well it just sucked. She finally reached the cottage where they were meeting.
    “Borisuuuuuuuu!” she called. No answer.

    Trudy awoke with a start. Did someone call her name? Ugh.

    She had to get back to work, but her brain was still in such a fog.

    @dailybipolar
    199 words

    • The mist rolled in like whisper, cloaking the fields once tilled with an air of hope and fruitfulness in despair. The air felt heavy and confining. As Johannah walked, her bare feet sinking into the dark soil, she watered the ground with her tears.

      Not enough to salt the land, even if she wished to. But with each step she took, she whispered. Her head bowed, as if in prayer until the words grew louder as the rage became uncontainable.

      “When Mr. Moser comes to collect on his note, all he will get will be the land.”

      She had set what was left of the livestock free and now, as she circled the only remaining building, she set it alight, still speaking, her words as strong as her beliefs and her resolve,

      “I swear by my life and by the lives of my family,” her voice caught for a moment, as her hand traced over the single stone which marked three graves, “I ask God to punish those who have wronged us, and I shall remain here, in spirit, watching, just as the tree shall remain, until vengeance is wrought.”

      Johannah stepped into the flames and, despite the pain of burning, was silent.

      @FlabbergastedMa
      205 words

  24. She had never been on a working farm before. The sight of the freshly turned earth and the pungent smell of manure made her want to turn around and run back into her mother’s arms. She wasn’t so old that she understood the need to face the consequences of her actions.

    The open expanse in front of her seemed too big, too far from the carriage wheels on cobblestones that lulled her to sleep at night. Here there was silence and not a single building aside from the barn. There were no boys to coax her into cloakrooms. Just gray fog and brown dirt. She rubbed her belly in a slow circular motion. The farm was her penance. She had been traded, sold to the highest bidder in an arranged marriage. Her family would not take her back.

    She heard her father at the front door talking. Footsteps approached and her caught her attention. She spun around to see a brown-haired, green-eyed boy with dimples who made her stomach drop and her blood quicken. She smiled and tucked her sweater around her burgeoning belly. She would have to remember the lie that she was a widow.

    “Are you Abe?” she asked hopefully.

    “No.” The boy smiled. “He’s my brother.”

    209 words
    @thedharmadiva

    • This was so clever! I love the concluding sentences. Your writing style is natural and graceful, and I feel so sorry for the girl. A really affecting story, where a lot of action is packed into a tiny space.

    • I agree with the other comments. You make us feel very sorry for the girl, until we have that moment of hope that she’ll be happy with her arranged marriage. That’s not to say she won’t be, but the last sentence definitely shows how her journey of difficulty has only just begun.

  25. Elijah Thompson ran through the burnt field scanning. The smell of burning flesh was overwhelming.. The bomb had dropped and scorched everything within ten miles. . . the North Koreans weren’t bluffing.

    The only thing that kept Elijah safe was his sister’s ring. He looked down at the silver band with a mysterious blue stone in it and remembered when she slipped it on his finger, right before the bomb went off.

    He literally watched, unharmed, as the explosion blew apart their house and sent her flying outside. He didn’t know if she had enough magic left to protect herself, and that terrified him.

    Elijah finally found her at the edge of the now-scorched woods. She was barely breathing, and he focussed, summoning his own magic. She was covered in burns but apparently survived the initial blast.

    Putting his hands on her stomach, he sighed, and her wounds began to heal.

    “When did you learn-”

    “Sssshhhh. Don’t interrupt. My skills aren’t like yours,” he said.

    He did his best, then he picked his sister up, put her on his back, her auburn hair hanging over his shoulder. As far as he knew, they were the only survivors of the detonation, but all he cared about was his older sister’s recovery.

    Word count: 210 (you said we could take a 10 word leeway 😉 )
    Twitter: @Critical_Kurt

  26. Charred Fields of Green

    Smoke rose into the sky but Dani had hope that a few samples made it. It was a strain of marijuana that she’d been excited about trying for weeks. But, as they drew nearer to the farm her hope slowly diminished. Shakespeare put his arm around her shoulder and drew her near to him. She wasn’t normally for PDS, but his arms made her feel better.

    The van stopped. They stepped out. The fields were black from the fire, and the smoke was stifling. The crop was gone.

    In the distance Dani spotted Gabriel Ash, owner of the multimillion dollar marijuana company Ash&Burns. He saw her too, waved her and her team over. “Smiles and Smoke Inc. had their eye on this strain since it leaked to High Times! One of their associates called me just now and confessed to helping with burning these fields down.” He shook his head, smiled. “No big deal. We’re searching the ground for seeds. Be sowing again in no time. And, to top things off, we’re filing a lawsuit against those assholes. Got a witness who’s even going to testify given that she’s paid enough.”

    Dumbfounded, they were silent and stared.

    “Come on, guys!” He gave two thumbs up. “Smile! We’re still on top!”

    210 Words
    @thewritermegan

  27. No, it’s just a field. There’s nothing special about it.

    The tree is just a plain tree, with some dead leaves on it. And nothing else worth mentioning. Maybe, on the far side of the tree, where you can’t see it from the road, there’s half a hemp line tied to the big bent branch, where my brothers and I used to swing. Uncle Jacob brought that from his ship in the navy. If he comes back, he might bring us a new one, father says.

    But no, that’s just a broken rope. It’ll not be interesting to you. Look at the smoke instead. There’s a fair lot of it, if you notice. Did you bring it with you? It follows along with you sure enough, like a pack of hunting dogs, like my brother Will says he saw once though I wasn’t fast enough to run and see them, only hear them over the hill.

    Can’t hear the smoke, only smell it. It scratches in my nose, and makes me want to sneeze. But Will says I shouldn’t. He says, there’s nobody in the stable, the building’s empty. We’re not hiding here, under the straw, and the baby isn’t crying.

    Please, keep riding.

    204 words
    @FraserMcFraze

    • What a brilliant finish… chilling! I loved this. When read to the end, the menace you set up so well from the beginning clicks into place and transforms the whole story. Great.

  28. Twelve years married: A happy journey of partnership with Dennis. Pensively, Glynn dodged clods in the fallow field adjacent to the barn. The morning mist lay low on the non-productive soil. A slight breeze sent the fog roiling about trees in the distance. The gray scene piqued an occasional sadness in Glynn’s sunrise routine of gathering chicken eggs and stock feeding at the now proximal barn. Glynn stepped from foggy environs to the Timothy-musty atmosphere of the old red structure. She crossed the floor, deftly hooking feed buckets in the crooks of her strong arms as she headed for the coops and paddocks for fecund animals in a kind of yearly merry-go-round, yet no gold ring for Glynn.

    Her feeding and watering complete, Glynn gingerly carried eggs in her coat pockets. The eggs warmed her worn hands. Hands that lovingly caressed the dormant garden; that softly patted pudgy, newborn pups; that smoothed calve’s cowlicks, and held Dennis’ face in a daily dance of deep commitment.

    Eight AM, and the sun rose burning off the grayness about the lifeless fields. Dennis’ voice proudly trumpeted above the rumble of the tractor: “Glynn! Doc says we’re gonna have a bull AND a heifer!”

    (200 wd ct)

  29. Even through the morning mist Edgar could make out the tree’s branches, gray and desolate despite new spring leaves. The hour was early yet, the fog unwilling to release its hold. Dampness hung like laundry from invisible line, trapped with no breeze offering release. The cloud invaded his nostrils, tore at his throat, competed with breaths exhaled, refusing acknowledgement that he continued to live.

    Thick, yes, the mist was unable to climb its way into the upper reaches of the tree that had been hers, and Edgar imagined her force still there in its boughs preventing obscurity from overtaking it, like it had her.

    He welcomed the mist, because it disguised what lay beyond the tree, beyond the shack whose walls deceptively hinted at insides that were empty. Beyond the barren field in which he stood was the void that haunted his nights. In the early morning fog, he could imagine that the fallow land that lay ahead was only a patch of fertile ground and not the devastation left after the meteor had struck — after the earth had been torn open before his very eyes, as he stood helpless to prevent her falling from her tree into the cloud below.

    201 words
    @josettekeelor

  30. It was the perfect morning.

    Lottie found beauty in the fog while her family complained about how they couldn’t see the fields. Lottie simply wandered across the farm to see anything important.

    She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she exhaled. The land smelled the same even though her family left it alone long ago. No one stopped by anymore, but Lottie could still hear laughter and voices from Sundays of her childhood.

    As Lottie opened her eyes the laughter disappeared along with the memories. Things will never be the same once she walked away and began her new life. Lottie turned away from her Grandma’s favorite tree where they sat as the older woman read to her.

    Tears slid down her cheeks and she swiped at them staining her face with mud. Lottie walked around the corner of the house past the front porch where she sat long ago with her Granddaddy and a flyswatter. When she reached the car she closed the trunk. As Lottie strode to her door, she couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped. Her plan worked perfectly.

    They won’t find his body for years. Her cousins cannot agree to sell and refuse to work the land.

    It was a perfect morning.

    209 words
    @baseballmama621

    • Oh yes, I wanted to second what Reb said. Wonderful frame–and I LOVE how you completely twisted the meaning of “it was a perfect morning.” Too funny, and very well done.

  31. Nothing Grows here

    Patience and composure wavered as he stepped over an old scarf, ceramic pieces; old cigarettes, just some of the debris. He grumbled quietly about the dirt collecting on his polished black shoes. Why did he have to wait in this field for a taxi? The fog crept up, the flat gray fading into mid-evening. Staring distantly at a dead tree in the foreground after he checked his watch for the sixth time, he squinted. A woman formed out of the fog seeping through the earth.
    Slowly, more figures appeared in the mist as it thickened, shadows growing about him. It must be fatigue, he thought. He had always hated appraising land in these desolate, hillbilly-ridden places. Where the hell was his taxi?
    The fog grew thick and solid, the panic encompassing him. Fog people surrounded him, wispy, ghostly. Frantically, he ran for the farmhouse, but tripped over the lumpy overturned earth.
    ‘Great, dirt. On my suit.’
    Pushing his arm down to gain leverage, he cried out in surprise. His arm sank. Flailing, the earth pulled him inside, hungry, eager. The faces of the mist stared down at him smiling, fading as his sinking unearthed old human bones.
    Nothing grows here he recalled as his consciousness slipped into the earth.
    209 words (I know they are ineligible since its after midnight, but posting anyways!)

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