Flash! Friday # 26

Aaaaand we’re done! Flash! Friday Round 26 is tucked in bed with its lovey, dreaming of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails. While the judge deliberates, we welcome you to read & comment on the stories. NOTE: Results will likely be delayed this weekend while the Lair undergoes an unavoidable Internet outage. Back online as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Howdy, and welcome to #FlashFridayFic Round 26! and the last day of May, no less; frightening how much of 2013 is already behind us. ‘Fess up now. Where did you put the first five months of the year?! Ah well. Bygones. As ever, here are your warm & sunny with clear skies guidelines.

Our judge for Round 26 is our own sunny-with-a-chance-of-a-dark-and-mysterious-superstorm SVW member Anthony Marchese. (Thanks, Anthony!) Be sure to check his judge’s page to see what kinds of entries make him swoon. 

Everybody ready?

Word limit: 350-500 -word story (minimum 350, max 500) based on the photo prompt. We’re going looong today! Giving you a crazy wide range in case your story kicks and screams and won’t stay put inside a smaller space.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (between 350 – 500 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday’s on Key West time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A blazingly stunning e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a radiant winner’s page here at FF (we’ll throw in virtual aloe for free), a not-a-cloud-in-the-sky-oh-what-is-that-on-the-horizon 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME transcribed in toasted marshmallows across the back yard of the world (so to speak). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/dragon bbq recipes.  And now for your prompt:

Abandoned boy. Photo courtesy of Toni Frissell.

Abandoned boy. Photo courtesy of Toni Frissell.

49 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 26

  1. @StephenWilds
    “Pensive” – 495 words

    “Cut, cut… CUT!” Max yelled loudly out of frustration as he began to rub his forehead. He couldn’t take it anymore. He was going to shoot someone. “This is all wrong,” he said into the palm of his hand as Miles attentively came up to his side.

    “What’s wrong, Max? Was something wrong with the shot?”

    “Com’ere Miles,” Max said sliding out of the flimsy director’s chair.

    He put an arm around his DP and lead him across the set to the young man that sat on the partially demolished wall with the oversized coat and stuffed animal. Max paused, wanting Miles to take it all in for a second. He looked at the child actor then.

    “What’s your name kid?”


    “Miles,” Max said looking back at the DP. “Why does Justin here look out of place?”

    “Well he-“

    “No, no, shhh,” he said putting a finger up to Miles lips. “Let me. Justin here is supposed to have just lost his parents. His mom and dad were just put on a train and everyone he loved was snatched from him, now he’s left here with nothing but this stuffed animal to comfort him.” Max shook his hand for emphasis. “This should be one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching moments of my film, Miles.” He paused only a moment, taking in a deep breath. “But this little twerp looks like he’s just lost in Macey’s. It looks more like he took the last cookie out of the jar and daddy might be a tad upset. This kid should be crying,” Max’s voice raised, “like he just found out Santa Claus was his bum of a disappointing father, but yet he’s sitting here with god knows whatever the hell type of animal that stuffed piece of shit is supposed to be,” Max shouted and pointed at the stuffed animal.

    “But, Max.”

    “I’m not done! I wanted-“

    “You told me to look pensive,” Justin broke in. Both men paused and turned to look at him, Max’s finger still raised. “If you had wanted tears and the works,” Justin continued in a calm tone, looking up from his seated position, “you should have specified.”

    Max stared at the child for what felt like an eternity. Miles was waiting for the infamous director to have another explosion and storm off the set. Max’s eye was even twitching.

    “He’s right Miles,” Max stated, surprisingly calm.

    “He is?”

    “Yes,” Max said, fully facing the DP. “You really should have been more specific with our young star here. He depends on you for guidance when I am not available.” Max looked back over his shoulder at Justin. “Frankly, you’ve failed him, and I am disappointed. Don’t let it happen again.”

    Max slapped Miles hard on the shoulder as he looked at the rest of the crew.

    “Alright people, let’s reset and try to make up some of the time Miles has cost us, and let’s get a different stuffed animal please.”


    • Cool story! I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the professionalism of the young actor. Two things I think would have helped me as a reader, though — I had to look up what a DP is on a film crew; it would have helped if you would have written it out fully as Director of Photography the first time you mention it. The second was that using two first names that are so similar (both 1 syllable and beginning with an “m”) made following who was saying what just a tad confusing. But then… perhaps you were looking for that subtle response to keep the reader slightly off-balance?

      Otherwise, brilliant! 😀


  2. Marissa Ames
    “Tattoo” – 493 words

    “You call that a tattoo? That ain’t jack!”

    Jashel Aschersohn raised a thick white eyebrow and glanced toward Table #5. He had heard many versions of the same conversation. His grandson’s diner sat along the interstate, attracting many bikers. Tattoos danced along biceps as customers sipped hot drinks. Monogrammed knuckles rapped the table, summoning Jashel with his stack of menus.

    “Check this out, bro! Skulls and daggers!”

    Jashel turned his back on the dining room and stacked hot plates on a tray. The boys probably thought those tattoos made them manly. They didn’t know jack.

    A plate slipped from Jashel’s scarred fingertips and clunked on the steel counter. Syrup sloshed from the little white ceramic cup, and the scoop of butter slid down the surface of the upper hotcake. He rubbed his hands on his stained apron and gripped the plate again.

    “Hey,” one of the tattooed hoodlums called out. “Where’s my food, man?”

    Huddling in a new leather jacket, with razor nicks on both sides of his mohawk, one of the hoodlums sneered as Jashel approached with his laden tray. “Took you long enough, old man,” he said, grabbing his plate before Jashel could set it down. “Damn!” He jerked his hand back, dropping the hot plate onto the table. The syrup cup tipped over and poured sweet, hot liquid around the salt shaker.

    Another hoodlum complained, “What the hell, man? We ain’t payin for that!” He flipped about a hand with “REBEL” scribbled across the back of it. A snake slithered around the kid’s forearm, with enough color for a year of Sunday comics.

    Jashel took the sticky plate. As he gave the plate to the cook, he glanced back to see a man with graying hair slide into the booth beside the hoodlums. The kids scowled as he rolled his sleeves up.

    A regular at the diner, the retired police officer showed his tattoos to the hoodlums. Jashel listened as the ex-cop described how he had gotten one tattoo after a shootout that left a dead little girl. The boys’ eyes widened as he pointed to a silhouette of a child and told of a busted prostitution ring.

    Ceramic clattered against steel again. Jashel reached back and took the new plate of hotcakes.

    As he approached Table #5, the retired officer nodded and slid out of the booth.

    “Barimer,” Jashel said in Yiddish, enunciating through his thick accent. He set the hotcakes down. “In my day, we did not brag about our tattoos.”

    The ex-cop paused and folded his arms over his faded tattoos, watching with interest.

    “Oh yeah?” the REBEL challenged. “What kind of tattoo do you have? A rocking chair?”

    Jashel raised his left arm, allowing his white sleeve to fall back. Stretched out from growth, wrinkled with age, and skewed by an unskilled artist, six digits marked his forearm.

    The hoodlums squinted at the tattoo. One muttered something. Their eyes bulged.

    “No,” Jashel said, “just a number.”


  3. A Boy and His Teddy

    The unknown boy sat amongst burnt out ruins clutching his only belonging; a stuffed toy. He looked grubby and malnourished like any victim of the Sky Wars but he wore a constant half smile, his eyes full of innocent sparkle, unlike other children with eyes dark and empty, whose lives had been ripped apart by unknown enemies haunting the skies.

    The boy didn’t speak to passersby. He didn’t take offerings of help, ignoring the scraps of precious food left by his side. No one knew who he was, where he lived or where he had come from. Travel had ceased since the skies opened in a blitz of fiery lasers, destroying large areas in seconds.

    When the assault started again, the boy still sat, unharmed as each precision laser disintegrated building after building, leaving nothing but dust where a thriving community once lived. People who fled in desperation were cut down; only a scorch mark left to show their once existence. But still the boy sat, clutching the stuffed toy.

    The all clear sounded and a suspicious crowd gathered around the boy, keeping their distance but curious all the same. A thick set boy known as Pug; his nose had almost disappeared due to very pink, fat cheeks, picked up a pebble and threw it at the boy’s feet. There was no reaction. Feeling brave and spurred on by the crowd, Pug moved closer, picking up a stick and jabbing the boy; still no reaction. Pug then jabbed the stuffed toy.

    Immediately, the stick burnt and sizzled to ash, leaving angry blisters on Pug’s podgy fingers causing the crowd to take a step back as Pug hopped up and down, cursing the boy and his ‘stupid teddy’.

    “Who are you?” A voice finally asked over the frightened crowd. The boy didn’t speak. He stood up. A hush fell. The boy’s small, pale fingers pressed at the stuffed toy.

    “It’s a machine!” Pug yelled realising the boy was pressing buttons on the stuffed toy. “It’s him! It’s his fault all this is happening!”

    The stuffed toy revealed its true purpose; a control panel of flashing lights and menacing buzzers and buttons. The boy pressed a button and from the sky a laser beam of burning hot light shot down onto him, turning him into a blazing torch; too hot to approach as his flesh melted in pools around him. The smell of burning rubber permeated every nostril, scratching throats as the thick plume of black smoke dissipated.

    The crowd gasped, terror in their unsuspecting eyes as the alien form towered above them where the boy once stood.

    “You can run now if you like,” the alien creature hissed. “It makes the chase exciting!” He pressed more buttons. Instantly, small boys appeared everywhere clutching their stuffed toys. The crowd fled in horror as every boy, hugging a stuffed toy, pressed their buttons.

    480 (excluding title)


  4. “Look at those kids running riot and screaming. It wouldn’t happen in my day. Quiet we were. Oh crikey what are they up to now. look love they’re climbing up the furniture now.”

    Sara just rolled her eyes she knee what easy coming. Her father in law just moaned all the time and it was the same old whine every time! “Those kids are messing around again!” He didn’t appear to get it that children had that confidence now!

    Well She knew differently because she had travelled and seen things that would make even the hardest individual cry their eyes out. 1945 was the toughest year mainly because the rules dictated she must not change anything. She hadn’t meant to go to that year but her mini had stopped there. She had just had a brilliant time back in the 1800’s and the dancing was splendid. Ever since witnessing 1945 though she had become so tolerant of her father in laws rants and behavior to the distraction of their neighbours. They would never understand, how could they? A few of the older generation had an inkling.

    On arrival in 1945 London the first thing she registered was shock followed by panic. She had to hide her mini it was far too contemporary. After hiding it she wandered around town a bit and looking for something that’d tell her when she was. That’s when she saw him. He was just sitting there, staring with a strange small smile clutching his stuffed cuddly. There were a few people around but at a distance from him as if they were discussing what to do and where people were. She knew the boy at once. Her youngest son had the cuddly animal on his bed and he loved it. Tears fell freely as she saw the moment that her father in law had stopped speaking. The dreaded moment in any child’s life, but particularly one in 1945, when a familiar adult told them that both their parents were dead. George just sat there, there were no tears from him just a knowing look on his face. Almost as if in those split seconds he knew and had dealt with it in some way.

    But he hadn’t. George hadn’t spoken a word from that day in 1945 to the day he married he sweetheart and then the day his son and then grandson were put in his arms. How he managed to court Mary you could only imagine but she always said it was very romantic. Now, back at home, He rarely spoke but would leave little notes for the ones he cared about and had proudly presented his favorite childhood stuffed animal to Sara’s first born with the words “every boy should have a stuffed toy” her son loved it but those words had meant the world to Mary, Sara and Jack. Witnessing that day was the day that it all fell into place for Sara and she would be forever tolerant, no matter what George moaned about.

    (499 words) (charley_001)


  5. Alone no longer

    Safe. Finally. It’s been a long, scary night. I fell out of bed when the sirens went off, just before the drone of plane engines were heard. People were screaming and shouting, scurrying around, quickly grabbing coats and boots and things.

    But I was forgotten. Hiding on the floor by the bed, I was too scared to move, or even shout for help.
    Then the explosions started. It seemed as though the whole world was coming apart. The ground was shaking; the sound seemed to rip through me. It was terrible, mostly because I was all alone.
    I hate being alone. I need to have someone there, to hold and let me know everything is going to be ok. But I had no one, and nowhere to go. I just huddled by the bed.

    Then, the building fell. Just sort of toppled over like falling blocks, but much louder. I was lucky I guess. I was thrown clear of the wreckage instead of buried in it. Now instead of safe in my home, I was in the street, but I didn’t recognize it at first. The street was covered with piles of rubble, and didn’t look much different from where the buildings were supposed to be.

    Out in the open, the night was scarier than ever. The explosions were even louder, their harsh lights lit up the sky; the planes were roaring overhead, and machine guns chattering away. I saw no one.
    After forever, the sounds started to drain away, the explosions farther away, fewer planes in the sky. I was still in the street and I still didn’t know where to go. I was surrounded by darkness and piles of rubble. I would have tried climbing one of those piles, but my legs are short and I was scared of moving in the wrong direction. It was better if I stayed where I was. So there I lay, curled up in the street, alone, my family gone. I’ve never felt more alone in the dark, the dust, and the cold.

    I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually I noticed that the darkness was fading into a dull gray dusty light. The piles of broken buildings were a little clearer, and I was glad I hadn’t tried to climb any of them. Then, I heard footsteps. Light, shuffling steps. A little one slowly came into view. He didn’t say anything, but my heart lifted as he picked me up and held me close. Finally, I was alone no longer.

    He smelled different to me. I had not met him before when I was with my family. He was dusty and dirty cold, but so was I. The whole world was dusty and dirty and cold.

    I didn’t mind. I had someone to hold me, and let me know everything was going to be alright. He sat on a broken wall, and we sat there silently, comforting each other with our presence, waiting. Safe. Finally.

    497 words


  6. Brave

    ‘It’s okay Humphrey. You can open your eyes. The airplanes are definitely away. They won’t be back for a while. Sure, I’m sure. Try not to shiver so much. I’ll wrap you up in my coat, see? That’s better. Mother wouldn’t want you to be so scared. She’d want you to be her Brave Little Man.
    We’ll be alright. I am sure I have an aunt Ethel somewhere mother talked of. She’ll look after us. Of course there will be room for you! My aunt will love stuffed toys, I just know she will. She lives out in the countryside. That’ll make a nice change, now, won’t it? It’s bound to be quiet out there, and there’ll be plenty of space to run around in. A Hippo like you needs a lot of space.
    There now, try not to cry Humphrey. It will be okay. You can be a brave Hippo, can’t you?

    I am going to miss Albert too. There, there. It’s alright if you had a fall out with him before we left today. Of course it is. I know he was like a brother to you too. He wouldn’t want you to feel bad, now. Try not to think about it, Humphs, it will only make you sad. You don’t want tears coming down your face when we talk to the Warden, do you? You don’t want them to think you’re a baby? Aunt Ethel might not want us if we look like we’re going to cause her trouble.

    There’s Mr. Leonard, from the corner shop. Let’s see if he can help us. He’s sitting down, now. But I think he might be crying. Maybe we can wait a few minutes before we go over.

    You know, I can be brave for the both of us, Humphrey. Just you wait and see what good care I can take of you.
    I really don’t think Mother is coming for us. I think we really do need to go to Aunt Ethel’s. We need to find the Warden, now. But we’ll be okay. I’ll look after you.
    Promise – you see if I don’t. Look, Humphs: cross my heart and hope to die.’

    363 words


    • A very poignant and tellingly sad portrayal of loss and sorrow. The boy voices all of our thoughts to his sole or soul companion, Humphs. The reality of war through the eyes of the real victims, children, the future. I was moved by this.


      • Thanks for reading. That photo is so moving. I found I couldn’t really get away from what the boy might be feeling.


  7. “My Son”

    This is my son.
    Almost 60 years ago, but this is my son.
    We always said he was an old soul, but we had no idea. He is 6 now, this happened last year. The Art Museum was doing a retrospective on WW2 photography, and he was with us during the opening preview night. He walked right up to the picture and said “That’s me. Same age as now, that’s me.” The museum director eyeballed the two kids; one frozen, the other animated.
    “You know… I’m no expert but, as far as I see… yeah, same kid. ”
    That from a man who is trained to spot a forged painting. Who my wife knows well. Who has known my son since he was 6 months old. Whom I rely upon for my business.
    I own 2 restaurants, one here at the museum, and one across town. I work 14 hour days, but I know every detail of my sons face. My wife is an executive at the bank which kept the museum afloat for a few years, actually she was the one who kept it afloat. We are both detail oriented people, but what my son said next threw us.
    “That’s me with my toy hippo. Fred. I haven’t seen him in a long time. I miss him.” His eyes were distant, but wet.
    Our son has a good imagination, although more in line with the modern idea of imagination. Short and simplified. This was a complex and richly harrowing bit of imagination. Ordinarily a good sign, but this… and what came next….
    “Mommy daddy? Did the Nazi’s win here too? Because when I was there they won. Then I died a grown up.”
    At that point I had to walk away from the whole scene. My wife had to sit. And the Director, he went white.
    That was over a year ago. Now we have a small framed print sitting on the mantle, and we have heard many stories of his life then. We have been recording them to compile in a book. Something for his college fund, if we decide to publish.
    He’s a good kid though. Takes it all in stride. He will make a great chef one day, at least that’s what he tells me.

    374 -title

    The kid in the photo actually DOES look like my son.


  8. Jean and Hippo
    481 Words

    Jean had never known anything different. Piles of brick had always been his playgrounds and towers of lumber his forts. The radio had said a new dawn had come and the war was finally over.

    “You can play outside now, if you wish” his mother whispered through joyous tears she long thought would never come.

    “Okey dokey” Jean said as he skipped out of the house holding his oldest friend, Hippo Bogart. Jean had never seen a hippo in real life, but imagined they were not far off from the hairless gray blob he held day after day. Hippo Bogart had been with him through the loudest nights and the days when the sky hummed overhead.

    “Hippo,” Jean excitedly said to his friend as they leaped off the porch stoop of their home, “the radio said the war is over. Do you know what that means?” Jean could hardly contain his delight as he jumped over bricks from buildings he once frequented for candies and books.

    He ran through the streets and saw the smiles of his neighbors. They waved to him with grins from ear to ear. For the first time in his memory, the street was filled with laughter. “No one is angry today, Hippo” he noted to his stuffed friend. “They must be happy for it too” he was too busy jostling his too big overcoat into position to finish his thought.

    As was often the case with the exuberance of youth, he noticed little else during his jaunt to the rail yard. There were sounds of buildings crumbling even still off in the distance, causing great booms and tremors as their walls hit the ground. Armored jeeps and tanks pushed eastward on a road not far from Jean’s home, their rattling and cranking far too loud to go unnoticed by adults. Jean had one simple goal for the day though; he was in no state to notice such mundane things as instruments of war.

    He slid down a small hill near the outskirts of town taking care to hug Hippo close to his chest, as their last slide resulted in mother giving Hippo a bath. The bottom of the hill gave way to a clean shot at the rail station. His eyes shot wide open as he saw cars and engines parked at the station master’s quarters.

    “Those aren’t what we’re here for, Hippo” he confided to his animal, “but it’s a start.”
    The little boy sat down near the rails and looked up and down the track with an unrivaled eagerness.

    “Mommy said when the war was over, your friends would come back, Hippo.” He rested Hippo on his leg so both could view the tracks.

    “We’ll wait here for them. ‘The circus will be back after the war.’ That’s what mommy said” Jean and Hippo sat with smiles and waited to see the circus return.


  9. Our Finest Hour

    From the day I spotted him on that heap of rubble, clutching that misshapen stuffed toy, he latched onto me. He wouldn’t speak, and I understood that. God knows what he’d probably seen.
    No one knew him. No one claimed him. The relief workers shooed him away. Sarge told me to let it go because in a few weeks we were going to ship out for something called Operation Overlord.
    That kid needed help now, so I hid him in our barracks and fed him part of my rations. My buddies understood and gave up some of theirs and their chocolate, too. They’d been with me when the telegram came, the one telling me my boy was gone, taken by a case of the flu the local doc couldn’t handle.
    Because the Army censored our mail—so we wouldn’t give away secrets on our side and so we wouldn’t get any Dear Johns to put us off our game—I didn’t get the news until long after he’d been put in the cold ground. Marlene, she was probably angry as hell with me for that, and I might get home to find her gone because of it; but I’d make it up to her somehow.
    I knew that was why this kid meant so much to me. He was around little James’ age, and I couldn’t let him become another casualty.
    At camp he was my shadow, and his instincts were good. He always managed to be elsewhere whenever the Sarge was around. I worked hours to try to get a smile out of him, tried to get him to tell me his name, to no avail. I couldn’t name him because I knew I’d call him James, and that would be wrong. Not wrong, maybe, but not right either. Maybe I just didn’t want to call him by the name of a boy who died.
    By the end of May 1944, we knew we’d leave soon, and we knew as well a lot of us wouldn’t come back. I’d saved money from my pay, enough to keep the little guy in food and a bed with an older couple who had taken a like to us Yanks. One of the hardest days of my life was walking away from him, afraid to look back and see his tears, to let him see mine.
    A year later, I was home, headed to the little house Marlene and I shared before the war. She’d stayed, and I was a lucky man for that and for the little hand clutched in mine as we walked. No one ever claimed the boy from the Blitz, and though it took some doing with the British government, I got to bring him home with me.
    When Marlene opened the door, her embrace was all I had dreamed of, and she looked at the boy then at me, confused as all get out. Then, he stretched out his hand and said, “Hullo, Mummy. I’m James.”

    499 words
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)


  10. 1945, London

    Brooke had a blessed life. Born into a family of means in England, living in an estate on the outskirts of London, she wanted for nothing. At 18, she was wise beyond her years, likely from her proper upbringing, although she was full of joy and embraced life within the bounds of decorum.

    Having been shielded from her family’s history which, of course, included war torn London, she feared asking questions. One day, while alone with only the staff who kept themselves invisible, she wandered into the library where she often browsed the classics for something new to read. A frayed scrapbook on an upper shelf caught her eye, something she’d not noticed before. Carefully she slid the wheeled ladder to where she could climb to retrieve it, making sure not to step on her hem or otherwise snag her handmade garment.

    The scrapbook was heavier than imagined but she managed to balance it in one hand to plop it on the top of the ladder and move it down with every few steps until she was back on solid ground. She curled up in the chair by the sunlit window overlooking the rose gardens fingering the worn plain leather cover in wonderment before opening it.

    She recognized her parents in their youth but most images were of strangers even though likely relatives since they appeared in the album. Yellowed newspaper articles of the war were tucked between pages along with some handwritten notes. Mostly Brooke was interested in the photos.

    Within the pages of the scrapbook she found a photograph of a family. The note on the back of the photo indicated her father’s parents had taken them into their home for sanctuary during the war…a Jewish family. Why wouldn’t her father want her to know of her heroic ancestry? The next page stunned her. The odd stuffed animal she had been given as a child was being hugged by a young boy in what appeared to be a war ravaged place. The note on the back: 1945, London. Below was written 1935 – 1950. Polio. Brooke could see that the boy resembled her father from her father’s childhood photos.

    Continuing through the scrapbook she found a photo of the two of them together. They had been twins. Bobby and Brooks. Her father only ever was called Robert during her lifetime. She sighed and felt so sad for her father, but also realized her name went from being ordinary in her eyes to one of honor.

    After returning the album to its “hiding place” and moving the ladder back to its original spot, Brooke went to her room and curled up with her very worn but favorite stuffed animal waiting for her parents to return.

    Words: 444
    Twitter: grace2244



    You never forget something like that, the sudden silence of a dying Doodle bug.

    Mum was screaming into that quiet, screaming “Run, Arty! For Christ sake! Come on!” She was sprinting and pushing Lizzie in the bouncing pram.

    But I couldn’t – I’d stopped. Panting I stood there watching, as she disappeared around the corner into the air raid shelter, watching the bomb as its nose fell toward us.

    It was gliding through twelve seconds of silence.

    The houses of the street beyond disintegrated in a blinding flash, and a dragon’s roar hit me with its heated breath. Its force bowled me over.

    When I pushed myself back to my feet there was no street, no shelter just small fires and piles of bricks and rubble and a smell of warm dust.

    I looked at my hands. They were grazed, beginning to bleed, just a little, not much. I could have cried, but I didn’t. Instead I was looking at the skin of my arms and my naked legs and chest. The explosion had blown my clothes right off.

    Out of the cloudy sky a fine red powder was settling upon my whiteness.

    Then there were shouts. People running to where the shelter wasn’t, crunching over fractured glass and slate. An ARP warden was shouting out instructions; a nurse, a soldier, our baker, all running to help.

    A man, perhaps not quite a man because he looked that young, ran by then stopped. From the debris he pulled a cloth shirt, came back and buttoned it on me. He tore off his jacket and thrust my arms into its sleeves, rolled up the cuffs a little, kept saying, “You’ll be alright.”

    I looked down towards his shoes, not really seeing them. He looked at my feet. He sat down beside me, untied his laces and pulled off his shoes and socks. He tugged those warm socks over my cold, red toes.

    His big feet disappeared back into his shoes. He tied his laces; stood. He ruffled my hair dislodging more dust. “You’ll be alright.”

    Then he ran toward the crowd who were tearing at bricks with bare hands, where the shelter had been.

    I shuffled after, but a girl came up. She sat me down, again on the rubble; told me to stay. “You’ll be alright.”

    She went to join the crowd, but was distracted by something on the road, something grey with a brown patch on its back. She brought it to me and pushed it into my arms. Then she went to help recover the bodies that were trapped.

    And that bloody elephant that she’d found lying amongst the rubble with its ears blown off, I clung to that hapless elephant. But I wanted my mum.

    I stayed where I’d been sat for a long time. Ambulances came and went. The crowd thinned. But I waited until the policeman came to me.

    Mum wasn’t there; nor was Lizzie.

    And that elephant has clung to me.

    497 words.


  12. Tommy, I need to talk to you. I need you to listen to me now, okay? Can you listen? I need you to look at me.
    Honey, something very bad happened here. Can you see this? These are houses. These used to be houses. Where people lived.
    You know, like where you and I live, Tommy. Where you have a room, with your things, and we eat breakfast. Right? These used to be other people’s houses, with their things and their breakfast.
    Some of them might be kids like you, Tommy. Do you understand?
    Tommy, look at me. Right here. Are you listening?
    Do you remember Grandma’s house? It was grey, and had a little front porch, and a big tree in the yard that you liked to climb on? Maybe you were too small, but I bet you remember running around in the sprinklers. We had a lot of fun doing that. And she always had these really big ladybugs on her camellias.
    Tommy I’m going to tell you something important, so I need you to look at me now.
    I think you know what happened to Grandma’s house. Right? That it’s not there any more either.
    That was just one house, Tommy, and Grandma wasn’t home. Grandma was safe. She lost her things, and that was very sad. It’s important to understand that losing her things made Grandma very sad. People keep things like their pictures of their family in their house, Tommy. You can’t get those back.
    So I’m not saying it’s okay, that Grandma’s house isn’t there anymore.
    But this, this is a lot worse. This is a lot of houses. Are you listening? Do you know how many houses this is? Maybe ten, twenty. That’s ten or twenty of Grandma’s house, all gone.
    Now, we’re going to go to a special place. You have to come with me, okay? I’m your mommy, I’m the one who will take care of you and look out for you. If you come with me, it will be alright. But if you don’t, honey, I don’t know what they’ll do with you.
    So I need you to listen to me very carefully now. You come with me, we go to the special place. They will help you. And I will stay there with you. You won’t be alone. They will teach you how to keep from doing this again.
    Please honey, I need you to help me now. It’s not a secret, any more. People can see what you did. We can’t just tell a story or pretend there was a fire, like we did with Grandma’s house.
    We can’t have any more houses go away. Do you understand?

    451 words


  13. Aftermath
    By Allison Garcia

    It was the day after my birthday. I dream it nearly every night. Sometimes I see it when I am awake. It is ever with me. Though I was a young boy, the memory clings to me. It won’t let go. Even after so many years.

    “He is young,” Uncle said. “He will forget.”

    But, I haven’t. The bodies of Mama, Papa, and my sister, Liza, are ever burned in my mind, like a permanent scar on the back of my eyelids. I remember the whiz of the bomb in the air, the look of fear on Mama’s eyes right before she covered me with her body. Then a noise so loud, it drowned out the world for what seemed like an eternity.

    Even now, loud noises bring me back to that moment. My heart races, I can smell my mother’s scent mixed with the burning in the air. Certain images or sounds or smells, they rip me from reality and hurl me into the past. Always to that day.

    Strong hands pulled Mama from the rubble and then me. I saw the man check for her pulse and shake his head. They carefully placed her body next to Papa and Liza on a pile on the side of what used to be the main street. I wanted to run over to them, but a big man picked me up and kept me from them. I struggled and kicked and bit, but he only rocked me and spoke soft words into my ears. I screamed as the soldiers moved the bodies onto the truck and hauled them away from me.

    The next thing I remember is waking up in a bed, a pair of eyes staring at me. Viktor. Mama had sewn him out of an old sack and a few patches of clothing and given him to me for my birthday. A little dusty and charred in a few places, he was the only thing standing in the house. I clutched him to me, hoping I would wake up and it would all be a dream.

    But, I haven’t woken up. The nightmare never ends. It only continues, day after day, haunting me. I am broken, incomplete. A ghost.
    (words 370)


  14. Hidden

    It felt like the end of the world that day. It was in a way. The end of my life… as it had been.

    They didn’t expect them to reach us that far north, you see. They thought they’d target the south; ports and the capital. Not up there. Not where me and Annie were.

    If it hadn’t’ve been for Mr Trueman, the man from the flat upstairs…

    Oh the noise, Bea: sirens wailing, slicing through the night, rumbling growls of aeroplane engines, bombs whistling down, the explosions tearing through your ears, then…then the screams and sobs.

    He’d come and woken me; Mr Trueman. To this day I don’t know how he got into our flat, or how he knew it was coming.

    He woke me up, told me who he was, gave me his old coat to put on. It smelled comforting; stale tobacco and brylcreme. I wanted to wake Annie too, but he said there was no time. I grabbed Barnaby, and he carried me, over his shoulder, like a sack of coal, out into the black night. That was when the symphony of noise began…

    I remember screaming for Annie. Put me down! I shrieked. But he didn’t. Not until we got to the shelter. We only just made it. One whistled up overhead, and the last thing I saw was the street where we’d been living, exploding into the brightest light. The shelter door swung shut behind me leaving Mr Trueman outside; I cried and cried.

    I didn’t realise until later, that they were after me, you see? It was me they were trying to get. They’d hidden me in plain sight, they said, thinking it was the safest place for me.

    Oh I’d known we were different; me and Annie. Not like the other children sent up there. We pronounced our ‘t’s’. Even old Barnaby was a give away – far bigger than any of the other children’s toys.

    I owed my life that night to Mr Trueman. Only I hated him too for leaving dear sweet Annie.

    I tried to track him down a few years later. With all the resources at our disposal, I had people everywhere searching for him. What would I do? Thank him for saving me? Punch him for leaving my Annie for dead?

    But they said he never existed. No one found any trace of him. Imagine that!

    Oh Bea, forgive this old man his ramblings? I’m so tired now. So very tired.

    Beatrice looked at her father. He’d been drifting in and out of consciousness for days, talking nonsense.

    But this time it was different. She wrapped her slender fingers around his bony wrist.

    He’d gone.

    She rang the bell and the maid entered. What was her name? Elsie? Blinking back the tears, she whispered, ‘Elsie, the King is dead’, before falling to her knees, sobbing.

    She didn’t see the maid, nod towards her, almost imperceptibly. And she didn’t hear Elsie Trueman whisper back, “Long live the Queen”.

    500 words


  15. “Safe”

    He waited.

    Still and quiet, holding on to the only thing he had left in his life, he waited.

    Some asked if he was okay. If he needed anything. If they could take him home and give him a decent meal.

    “No” he replied. “Mama’s coming.”

    She told him to run. “Run as fast as you can, my son. Run fast and don’t stop. Run until you get to Grandmother’s. Don’t stop until you’re in her arms. Papa and me, we’ll get to you. Now go. Run!”

    He ran. His heart was racing, his lungs ached worse than he’d ever known but he ran as people watched.

    When he stopped, he was sure this was Grandmother’s home but there was nothing. Rubble. Grown-ups everywhere, heartbroken, confused, but his grandmother wasn’t there. Her flower pots by the front door were gone. Her front door was gone. Everything, gone.

    Only one tear fell. Only one. His mama would come.

    He waits.

    He holds tightly to his only possession, sitting in the rubble, waiting for Mama and Papa.

    They watch him.

    “He must have a home somewhere.” They whisper. “Do you know him?” They shed tears for him. “Is he one of Ida’s? He’s sitting by her house. Surely he must know she didn’t make it.”

    He’s sleepy.

    He misses his lumpy bed. He misses his Mama’s kisses and he misses his Papa’s big hugs. He misses his grandmother’s soup that always makes everything better. This needs to be better.

    He needs to be better.

    A young woman wanders through the rubble, searching for signs of her family’s existence but finds nothing. All of it gone. She walks down another street and sees a little boy, alone, scared, trying his best to be brave.

    She walks to him, slowly, carefully, because she doesn’t want to scare him. “Hello. I’m Anna.” She smiles her best smile and holds out her hand.

    He doesn’t move. “Mama’s coming.”

    “May I wait with you?”

    He looked up at her and barely lifted his shoulders in a shrug.

    She takes off her shawl and places it beside him before sitting. “I’m waiting on my Mama too.”
    They wait.

    Darkness begins to surround them before she speaks again. “It will be cold tonight.”

    He nodded.

    “My home is over there” Anna says and points off into the distance. “It is okay. No damage.” She watches him to see if he gives her a sign he’s listening. He nods again. “We can leave word and wait in my home where it will be warm. You’ll be safe.” She paused. “We’ll be safe.”
    He looked at Anna and one more time looked off into the distance, searching for any sign of his Mama.

    They won’t come. Can’t come and he knows that now. They’re gone. Grandmother’s gone. Everything is gone. Anna is here and she will care for him. Thomas sees kindness in her eyes as he slowly moves his tiny hand, resting it in her delicate hand.


    498 words


  16. Naga & Anon
    413 words
    “Have you managed to get that thing away from Anon, yet?” Sylvie asked. She toward the head nurse, Hannah, and continued, “The thing stinks to high heaven like rotting eggs, and it’s started attracting bugs. Come nighttime, the damn thing almost looks like its dancing because of all the cockroaches that get inside it.”

    “I know, I’m worried its going to make some of the other orphans sick, too. Anon has that terrible cough, but the stuffed animal is the only thing that keeps him relaxed enough to sleep at night without hacking up a lung.” Hannah said. “I’m not sure what to do. If we take it right now, I’m worried he’ll get sick without having the toy to calm him down.”

    “Maybe we should put him in his own room and take it one day while he’s asleep once his condition improves.” Sylvie said.

    “Mmhmm,” Hannah murmured softly, “that’s probably our best bet, right now.”

    Drake tensed in his cot. Slowly, he felt the room in his lungs for breath dwindle. He began to take shallow, choppy breaths. He had to calm down and stay quiet, otherwise he’d lose the only friend he had in this world. The constriction in his chest increased sharply at the thought, and a panicked gasp slipped out. Immediately Drake stilled, wondering if the nurses had heard him.
    Across the room the voices grew distant the faded altogether. Relieved, Drake exhaled. A cough began to burn at the back of his throat. He swallowed it down, and took labored breaths as best he could.
    By his side, one of Naga’s limbs twitched. Gently, Drake unfastened the cloth at the end of the leg and pulled the toy close.

    A snout, dark red with deep ridges, appeared just inside the entrance. Thin smoke tendrils drifted outward from the nostrils. Drake closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The burning in his lungs subsided. His breaths grew deeper. Grateful, the boy rubbed the skin just above the snout and sighed, “Thank you, Naga.”

    A forked tongue darted out briefly and caressed Drake’s cheek, then receded back into the stuffed animal. The child couldn’t help but smile as the snout disappeared. For a second the toy’s stomach bulged, then the back leg twitched and the stomach flattened out.

    No matter what they try they won’t take Naga from me, Drake thought, even if it means running away.

    Holding the stuffed animal close, the child smiled and drifted off to sleep.


  17. The Magi

    They surf the tides of history, washed ashore, this time, on a sea of red and black and white, washed ashore on the promise of the Master Race.

    They feed on blood, on war, on terror.

    They feed.

    Vienna, 1913. A young man, a war hero, chest decorated with a cross of iron.

    An artist, failing.

    Spite and anger well up in his chest, the promise of war, soon to be unleashed.

    He speaks in huddled whispers, his voice growing, changing. The art of the liar, the orator’s gift.

    A putsch in the beer-halls, a night of long knives, blood-stained.

    Crystals shatter, the world is doomed.

    They surf the tides of history, hungry for the blood of the innocent, gorging themselves on plumes of smoke and tongues of flame.

    Shadows race around them, promising violence.

    They rode this wave, of red and black and white.

    They rode the promise of future violence, of cities alight and of fresh blood spilled, fertilising battlefields where only weeds will grow.

    This is the only known image.

    A little boy and his stuffed toy – one the Magi, thirsty for blood.


  18. Title: God’s Legos

    I woke up in a different place that somehow looked the same. My bed looked the same, if only dustier. I lived on the third floor of an old rundown apartment building. The boy that laid next to me – I had never spoken to him before but I know he lives on the sixth floor. We both lay on my bed, which lies on top of a field of rubble as far as the eye can see. But even the debris was strange: crafted into strange cubes and scattered across the landscape. I could only figure someone had got ahold of God’s Legos and could only hope he hadn’t laid the world to waste.
    The boy had a creepy surreal aura in his sleep –not unlike our current environment. The boy had a teddy bear tied to him with a piece of string; both the bear and the string were dried red. I left the boy in my bed; if we are the only ones alive, it might be the only luxury he’ll have.
    The world just seemed to constantly echo “THE END” into the ears of my mind. The only constant thing in the chaos that used to be my hometown is the smoke that curled around my feet and kept my pace at a crawl. It clung close like inquisitive puppies; constantly checking to see if I was a threat – to check if I belonged.
    I had walked about seven blocks under the fractured sky before deciding the whole city was all the same. I started to return back when the fog decided I was no longer welcome. It groped me as it rose. Running back through felt like swimming – and I don’t know how to swim that well. As I near what used to be my home, I see the boy jumping on my bed. In his innocence, he seems our ground zero as a wonderland. He sees me and he waves as the fog swallows me whole.
    I wake up in a cold sweat and my mother is nearly breaking the door down. She’s asking me to babysit a child on the 6th floor. I feel like this has happened before, and this just feels like a bad idea.

    373 words/ @JSHyena


  19. The stuff of fathers

    It was a hard year in 1932. Nobody knew that more than my father. He was a fisherman on The Columbia River in The Dales, Oregon.

    Fishing is already a hard job, but with the rest of the country in a depression, it was even harder.

    Getting up before the sun and going out onto a cold river was not my favorite thing to do, but I did it for my pops.

    Mom died having me, and I think my pops kind of blamed me a little bit for taking her away from him.

    Still, he kept food on the table, a roof over my head, and gave me a bed to sleep in at night with some of mother’s old quilts.

    All that aside, something kept telling me that he only took care of me because of mom. Like, he felt she was watching from Heaven, and he wanted her to be happy when he finally got to see her. I never really thought he actually loved me.

    One day I was pulling in the nets with him. I was about ten years old, and it was a little before 10 AM. It was time for us to get our catch to the market. So, we headed back to the marina, took the nets full of our silver-eyed meal tickets, and put them in the back of pops’ truck.

    When we got to market, we sold everything. It was actually a pretty good day, and pops had some extra money, so he told me to go play for a little bit while he took care of something.

    I thought he was going to pay a bill, so I left and went to the general store. My brown shoes crunched on some leaves as I made my way there. Inside, was a stuffed gray hippo. I really liked it, but I knew I’d never get it. The shopkeeper’s name was Max, and he’d let me play with it in the store, but when I had to go, I had to leave it.

    I went back to the truck, but pops still hadn’t shown up yet, so I got in and waited for him. The leather seat beneath me was worn, and there were cracks from where my legs always sat.

    When pops finally arrived, he had a brown paper sack. He got into the truck and put it between us. He didn’t say anything for a moment, and then after I asked him if something was wrong, he reached into the sack.

    Into my lap, he put a gray stuffed hippo. . . the one from the store!

    “Thanks for all your help. You really make me proud with how hard you work. . . so I wanted give that to you.”

    That day, I knew pops loved me. He may not have been the most obvious about showing it, but I kept that hippo my entire life, always knowing the real truth.

    Word count: 489
    Twitter: @critical_kurt


  20. Not a Potato

    Stephen looked up from the mangled frame of what had most likely been a bicycle before the bombing. There was so much damage around them that it was hard to know where to start, let alone what, if anything, could be salvaged. Rock dust hung in the air as the trucks came to haul away the debris.
    He wiped the sweat from his forehead and let out a slow even breath as he took it all in. Everywhere he looked there were piles of wood, and stone that needed to be sorted. Even now the men of the village gathered, unsure where to begin.
    They would rebuild, Stephen was sure of that, but the losses were too many to count. He turned, hearing an angry cry from his son, Ethan and saw him sitting on one of the ruined walls, glaring at his sister, Lily.
    “It’s not a potato!” He heard his son declare angrily as he held his stuffed animal close to him. It was one of the few salvageable things they’d found in his wife’s parlour. He was once again thankful she was not there to have seen it, thankful that she had been visiting her sister in the country when the planes had come.
    Sitting on the edge of ruin, when everything around him had been destroyed, Ethan clung to the familiar while his sister teased him about it; something she had done since the boy had found the stuffed donkey at the market over a year ago.
    Now, with its head and neck missing, Stephen had to admit, the stuffed toy looked even more like a potato than it had before.
    Drawn by his children’s argument, Stephen strode over; tears and anger fighting for control. After everything they’d been through the two were fighting over something so trivial. He was ready to yell at the both of them when he saw his beloved Martha reflected in his daughter’s eyes as she impishly teased her little brother.
    He saw the love and the tenderness—and realized that his daughter knew exactly what she was doing. With their ‘fight’ his son was focused on his sister rather than the loss of everything else.
    He saw himself in the way his son refused to hear anything Lily said about his beloved toy, seeing only what it could be, rather than what was. They were the best of everything he and his wife had, and out of everything they could have lost, the most important endured, and God help him they were fighting over a stuffed animal.
    Lovingly he picked up his son and held him close offering his hand to his daughter.
    “It is not a potato,” he agreed as he focused on what he had, rather than what they had lost. “And this is not the end.”
    He turned to the others and gave a determined nod. “We will rebuild.”

    Word Count: 482
    twitter: @mishmhem


  21. Bloknom stood in the middle of the street among the crumbling buildings watching the black smoke fill the sky. The smell of burning buildings and burning flesh tickled his noses. His brothers stood guard while a long line of shackled fleshy human men and women were forced to march towards their warship.

    “Reports are in, Bloknom. This continent is ours,” Jumtul said, joining him in the street. “We will get these mature humans onto the ship and convert them into fuel.”

    “How long until we are ready to attack the next continent?” Bloknom asked.

    “I believe we can take our time. This race is not united in any way. No other sovereign state on this planet mobilized their armies to help this continent. Our scouting reports were correct. This planet is fractured and still fights among itself.”

    “Excellent. Our overwhelming defeat of these humans will show the rest of them that hope is lost. The Council will be pleased that we have added another planet to their empire.”

    “And what of the fledgling humans?” Jumtul lifted a tentacle and pointed it a pile of rubble. A number of young humans sat around, watching their shackled parents as they were forced onto a ship. Liquid fell from their eye holes leaving long streaks in their dirty, ash-covered faces.

    “We will treat the human children as we treat every other youngling. They are still undeveloped and malleable. It will not take much to bend them to our will, to condition them into our service, to turn them into blood thirsty savages. Humans are no different than any other species we have encountered. Before the rest of the humans know it, they will be facing off against an army of their own young.”

    Bloknom slithered across the road, stepping over the scores of dead humans that littered the street. He stopped before the children and stretched his tentacles to make himself as big as possible. His long shadow fell over all of them. The sight must have been something out of one of their nightmares, Bloknom decided.

    “Hello, young ones,” he said. “Your progenitors are going away now. We will now be charged with your growth and development. Doesn’t that sound really fun?”

    The children looked at their feet and played with their hands while trying to fight back the tears. Bloknom made himself smaller and squatted to be at eye level with a young male. The little one wore a fabric far too big for him his body and clutched a filthy plaything.

    Bloknom looked the little one in the eyes. “You are going to enjoy us. We will take very good care of you. How does that sound?”

    The little boy’s lip trembled and a drop of liquid rolled down his cheek. He sniffled a few times and wiped the liquid away. “That sounds stupid,” his high-pitched voice said. “Screw you!”

    480 words



    “It looks like a potato…” Sally commented. Iain could tell she was trying not to sound mean, but his feelings were still hurt.

    “It’s not a potato. It’s a dog.”

    Actually, it wasn’t a dog. It was his brother.

    At four years old, Iain had only a vague idea where babies came from. The blobish thing had popped out from under his Mummy’s skirt. She screamed, fainted, and nearly hit her head on the kitchen table. The blob had toddled over to Iain, then smiled and waved in a very friendly manner.

    Iain hadn’t realized his mother was even pregnant. But like a good big brother he took the baby to the bathtub, cleaned it up, found one of his old baby snuggies and dressed the infant warmly. When it tried to leave the house, Iain kept it safely inside.

    The men in white coats carted their mother away s short time later when she ran screaming out the front door.

    Iain had heard that all babies were adorable, but something about his baby brother made other mothers recoil in horror. The poor baby was deformed or something. Iain named him Addison after their father, with the middle name Potato because he looked like one. For short, Iain called him Adipotato, or Adipo for short.

    “It’s a weird looking dog,” Sally continued, sounding less nice. Iain knew she suspected something, but people seemed to be more accepting of Adipo if they thought he was a dog. Everyone was nice to the dog. Dogs could be ugly and still be adorable.

    “There you are!” a strange man stepped out of a blue box, and Adipotato leapt out of Iain’s arms and ran to the man.

    “That’s Iain’s dog!” Sally proclaimed, her hands on her hips.

    “Let go of my brother!” Iain yelled at the same time. Soon, Mummy and Daddy would be home. It simply would not do for them to return only to find that Iain had lost his little brother.

    Sally gasped.

    “Oh, dear…ummm…” the man stammered. “What’s your name?”

    “Iain,” he answered dutifully. There was no call to be rude, and Adipo seemed to be happy in the man’s arms.

    “Well, Iain, your mum was only babysitting him for his parents, you see. He needs to go home to them now.”

    “Mmmm Hmmm!” Adipo nodded happily, and waved goodbye.

    “Oh!” Iain felt very confused.

    The man held up a badge. “I’m from Misplaced Child Services, and I’ve been looking for him all day. Thank you so very much for taking care of him!”

    “Oh…all right then.” Iain gave Adipo a hug. “Goodbye, Addison Potato Hartford. Be good!”

    The strange man walked away, chattering happily with the newborn the whole way.

    Iain and Sally looked at each other.

    “Want to come to my house? I have a real little brother,” Sally said.

    “Sure,” Iain answered. “What’s for dinner?”


    480 words @USNessie

    When I saw the thing in his arms, my mind went straight to a certain episode of Doctor Who…


  23. Papoo

    “Do you think they suspect, Papoo?” The little boy whispered to his stuffed animal. A truck rumbled behind him through the rubble. Streams of wanderers stumbled, eyes glazed, through the devastation.

    “They say a bomb went off.” He stroked the matted fur, ash and dust drifted unnoticed to the ground. He shifted slightly to the left, something sharp – probably a piece of brick from the building that used to stand here – was poking into him. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself by brushing it away.

    Officials arrived a few minutes ago. They were asking questions. It wasn’t time yet for the world to know. He wondered if the officials would dismiss him because of his youth or find him suspicious somehow. Either way a little boy, all alone, would draw attention.

    “They’re coming this way, Papoo. No need to worry.” The officials approached the little boy, boots crunching the debris of brick and cement and metal and wood.

    The lead official squatted in front of the little boy, rubbing his brow and swallowing audibly. “Hi kid. What’s your name?”

    “Jax.” He whispered.

    “Nice to meet you, Jax. Where’re your parents?”

    “I don’t know.” He bit his lip.

    “Okay.” The man paused, “Are you hurt? Can we check to see if you’re hurt?” He motioned to another man who knelt and reached a hand toward him.

    Jax held Papoo tighter to his chest and leaned away, “I’m fine.”

    “We’re not going to take your toy away. We just want to make sure you’re alright. He’s a nice stuffed animal.”

    “He’s special.”

    “He sure is. Does he have a name?”


    “He looks like he may have gotten hurt. Can we check and see?”

    “No. He’s fine. I’m fine.” He rocked back and forth slightly. “I just need to wait here for my parents. They’ll be here to get me soon.”

    The men looked at each other for several long moments then the lead one shrugged. “Alright. You wait right here. We’ll be around if you need anything.” They stood and moved to a woman crying nearby.

    Jax sighed loudly. “Papoo, that was too close. Are we almost done here? Did we get what was needed?”

    Papoo responded, “Affirmative. Target confirmed dead. Transporting in five, four, three…”

    377 words


    • I really like how you pulled me into this, with a hint of ‘something is up’ and kept me reading, kept me wanting to find out what that ‘something’ was. Well done


  24. The magenta-hued sunrise frightened Timmy, but Mister Woofs said that the sun was okay. It was just the strontium in the air, and besides, this was the color of the sky on Mister Woofs’ home planet. Timmy knew that Mister Woofs had come from very far away, and was very old and very smart. He always did what Mister Woofs told him. When he was younger, that meant that sometimes Mommy or Daddy got angry, but then Daddy died and Timmy had been in his closet fortress when the soldier men had come to take Mommy away, and the fighting stopped.

    There weren’t many people on the street this morning, and those who Timmy saw looked very scared. When they saw Mister Woofs, they turned very pale and ran away. Timmy didn’t understand that, because Mister Woofs was his best friend in the whole wide world, but Mister Woofs told him that these were bad people who knew they would get punished, and so that made sense.

    Timmy had never walked this far, and his feet were very tired. Mommy would not let him cross the street on his own, and she had told him he was never allowed to play in the woods, even with a friend. But Mister Woofs said they had to hurry, so Timmy ran. He’d never heard Mister Woofs get angry at him, but he knew that this wasn’t playtime, and he’d better do what he was told. The woods were dark, and the magenta glow made the trees look like they were moving. Mister Woofs told Timmy to stop being silly, that the trees were just trees, and he needed to watch where he was going so that he didn’t trip.

    The hill in the center of the woods wasn’t tall, but it was a very high hill to Timmy, and his feet hurt so very much when they got to the top. There was a rocket at the top of the hill, and Timmy saw that he was not the only child there. There were lots of boys and girls there, each carrying their own Mister Woofs. They were lined up to get on the rocket, and Timmy knew that he would be going on a great adventure.

    He made his way into the rocket and found a seat next to a girl not much older than him. Her Mister Woofs was pink, with a big bow on its head, and she and Timmy pretended to have their Mister Woofs talk to each other as the rocket took off. Had Timmy been tall enough to see out the window, he would have seen that as his rocket climbed high into the stars, other rockets were falling down. Later that day, the sky no longer glowed magenta, for there was no sky anymore. Mister Woofs was glad.

    473 words


  25. Waiting for Mommy

    Dresden, 1945

    “Whatcha got there, son?”

    His eyes were uncertain. He didn’t trust me.

    “I had a friend like that when I was your age.”

    I lit a cigarette, taking a puff and exhaling a circle. The boy shifted, angling his body a little towards my own.

    “Millie. Stuffed puppy.”

    His eyes brightened.

    “Millie was with me always. Used to play with me in Granny’s sandbox. She’d ride in the dump truck.”

    The little boy bit his bottom lip and scooted closer to me.

    “We’d build sandcastles, moats. Boy things.”

    He placed the ragged, plaything on my lap. I nursed the cigarette.

    “Ulrich. He’s an ephalant.”

    “I see that now. Have you and Ulrich known each other long?”

    “Since I was a baby. He keeps me safe,” he tightened his hold on Ulrich.

    “That’s great, son. What’s your name?”

    ” I’m Karl.”

    I blew another smoke ring.

    ” I’m Colonel Bach.”

    I gave the boy my hand, and instead of shaking it, he laced his fingers in mine and began swinging his legs. We sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Karl spoke again.

    “Mr. Bach?”

    “Yes, lad?”

    “Can I tell you a secret?”

    “I’m here to help you, Karl.”

    “Ok,” Karl paused, kicking a piece of rubble, “then I need to tell you something. ”


    “Mr. Bach, I’m scared for Ulrich. At dark time the sirens went off and then Ulrich and me had to go in the ground to stay safe ”

    It was my turn to shift uncomfortably. The boy was talking about the two raids that leveled his city only hours ago; he had spent the night in a bomb shelter, crowded, perhaps alone.

    “Karl,” I choked, “where are your parents?”

    “Well, Mr. Bach, a nice man wearing clothes like you told me my parents were lost when the planes started dropping things on our city. He said I should wait close until they found them and that they’d probably just gotten scared and confused when the buildings started falling. I listened to the nice man and stated right here to wait for Mommy.”

    I couldn’t take it any more. The tears started slipping, my helmet hiding them. I’m sure the officer handled Karl’s situation as best he could, but this lad could not be more than four, and here he was, waiting for the mother he would probably never see again.

    “Mommy was friends with Ulrich, too?”

    “Sort of, Mr. Bach. She has Ulrich’s medicine, and I don’t want him to get sick.”

    Karl had not yet lost any innocence. He had no idea how cruel his world was. He exemplified all we fought for.

    “Well, Karl. Then I’ll wait here with you until your Mommy isn’t lost anymore.”

    “You are a nice man, Mr. Bach. Ulrich says thank you.”

    Karl curled up against me, the American flag under his head.

    And I made myself a promise: I’d keep this little boy safe always. Or, I’d give my life trying.

    Words: 498


  26. I know I missed the deadline but I loved the prompt so I wrote a story anyway 🙂


    “I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sleeping, dreaming of Christmas and the Chocolate bar I had asked Santa for. I’m sure you’re thinking what a rubbish present, but believe me little one, things were different in those days. I was woken by a bang and a rattle at my door. I had always been afraid of monsters, coming for me in the night. I reached for my comforter, the cuddly toy my Mum had made for me. It had started as a whale, but I cried and cried that a whale couldn’t survive out of water so she turned him into a guard dog instead. His name was Godiva, named after the lady that had protected our fair city many years ago. As I cuddled him the sirens started. I did not panic, I waited patiently for my parents to come and take me to the shelter like they always did. I waited and waited, the bangs got louder and more frequent, but still they did not come. I called out but there was no answer and I was too afraid to leave the safety of my bed. Suddenly there was a bang so loud it shook the dust from the roof and I jumped right out of my bed and slid under it. I wasn’t afraid of the monsters, I had Godiva to protect me. There was so much noise I had to put my hands over my ears whilst the tears ran down my face. I don’t know how long I was under there, it felt like forever, but when I took my hands away the bangs and the sirens had stopped. There was light coming through my window, night time was over and the monsters were all gone. I still clutched Godiva as I opened my bedroom door. Everything was wrong, the hallway was gone, the stairs were missing, there was empty space where my parents bedroom used to be. I couldn’t get down, there was a ten foot drop onto nothing but rubble. I started to cry again and a nice man in a uniform saw me. He found a ladder and came to rescue me. As we reached ground level I looked down the street but didn’t recognise it, half of the houses were missing. A small part of me still expected my parents to run around the corner to scoop me up in their arms. My rescuer looked me in the eyes and told me not to worry, I would be ok, I was a survivor.”

    She stares at me with her big blue eyes, “I don’t understand Grandpa, what happened?”

    “It was the Blitz sweetheart, the time when our beautiful city was reborn. I’m afraid one day you will be old enough to understand war, but I am glad it’s not today. Now you can understand he is so important to me and why I want you to have him. He will keep you safe from monsters.”

    She nods as she hugs Godiva more tightly than ever as I kiss her goodnight.


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