Flash! Friday # 31

And we’re CLOSED! Thanks so much for joining in the battle. Judge Dan Radmacher’s decision will post Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. Gets a dragon thinking Big Thoughts about freedom and independence and courage and heroism (and, obviously, that most patriotic of themes, the barbeque).  What is worth fighting for? What is courage? What makes a hero? We thought it would be a worthwhile challenge exploring those themes for Round 31. These, and of course Mayhem and Utter Desolation.

(Here are your contest guidelines).

This week’s noble undertaking is judged by dauntless SVW member Dan Radmacher. (Be sure to check out his judge page to learn what he looks for in a heroically winning entry.)

Art thou ready, worthy competitors? Then GO!

Word limit: 200-word story (5-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (between 195-205 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 New York time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A valiant e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a courageously designed page for you here at FF, a fearless 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME on the Flash! Friday Heroic Wall of Heroic Heroes. 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/tips on what to pack for heroic journeys.  And now for your prompt:

Castle in Venezuela. Photo courtesy of David Mark, Pixabay

Castle in Venezuela. Photo courtesy of David Mark, Pixabay


49 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 31

  1. ill-tempered – 204 words

    The liquid glowed red like a sunset as it poured from the melting pot. The Smith wiped his brow with a thick leather glove to prevent the sweat from trickling into his eyes. He carefully guided the substance into the mould under the watchful gaze of his captors. They frantically made notes, studying his every move so as to eventually remove his usefulness to them. The only way to prolong this miserable existence was to keep them guessing. He changed the process again, this time pouring cold water onto the sculpture. It hissed and spat in protest as they scribbled away.

    The ugly one with the moustache barked at him in broken english, “Why you add water?”
    “It settles the metal quicker, makes it stronger. Allows you to pack it with more gunpowder, to fire further.”
    Ugly smiled a wicked one-toothed grin. It would take several days for the metal to cool, and several more for them to ship this evil contraption to the castle. By the time they tried to fire it he would likely be dead, but he would get the last laugh when the weakened steel exploded in their faces. This would be his final contribution to the rebel cause.

  2. @StephenWilds
    “Broken Serenity” – 204 words

    She stopped abruptly, walking along the top rung of the old castle wall. Alita froze in place when she saw the cannon, afraid of it. The loud noise it made, the shaking it caused, and the smell of the powder were not what bothered her, it was the reason why they were needed.
    Nico’s touch caused her to jump and stifle a yelp. Alita swatted at him playfully, wondering how long he had been watching her.
    “You scared me,” she whispered.
    “Nothing to fear, I will protect you.”
    Nico smiled and wrapped his arms around her to go along with his comforting words. She pushed him off slightly though, unsure of how comfortable she felt now.
    “Shouldn’t your patrols be your top priority?”
    “It is all too quiet, and rather dull,” he assured her, a hand still lingering around her waist as the two looked over the wall.
    There was a moment of silence.
    “What troubles you,” Nico finally asked her.
    “They’re over there, the creatures.” Eyes fixed on the mountains in the distance, a chill ran down her body, which Nico felt, coming back in to hold her again, not being shoved away this time. “They wait to attack, watching us like prey.”

  3. Defiance
    All the soldiers were dead; most had been trampled on the battlefield beyond the castle walls, while those who remained died of starvation with the rest of the populace as the giant laid siege, laughing maniacally and brutally stamping on any who dared try escape.

    He stayed a while after, because he knew there was one more human inside, one who managed to survive and was now loading up all of the cannons along the walls, one by one.


    Still, the human continued, and the giant sat about quarter of a mile away, occasionally slamming his hand down on some hapless cow and stuffing it into his bearded maw. Eventually he got bored and stood up, walked over to the walls to see if the human was ready to fire the cannons or was loading crossbows and trebuchets.

    To his great surprise he saw that in fact the human had apparently done just that, and now all of the weapons were rising up in the air, floating to meet his head…

    “In nomine quatuor ventis surgunt, et dimitte!” the human shouted in his puny voice.

    The giant’s eyes widened as, in an instant, a hundred projectiles slammed into his skull from all directions.
    204 words

  4. Equipped. The figure slips from the room, backpack over shoulders, head down, face concealed.
    Tucked in, one shoulder grazes the walls of ancient buildings until wall runs out. Here, the village opens out to a square.

    Men are busy. Keep moving.

    The skeleton of the market place is being etched out, by mid morning the stalls will be dressed and laden with lentils and spices while fast talking stall holders will fill the air with promises.

    The figure leaves thoughts of this behind, moving onto hillier terrain. Wading through the heat of early sun, the nylon straps of the backpack find their way through the light layer of material to dig at skin.

    Up. Up.
    Two trucks are parked on the road side. Soldiers poised with morning cigarettes lean their heads back against the vehicles. One young soldier’s still fresh lungs splutter at the sun. The others laugh.

    The bus rounds the corner. The soldiers are distracted. No questions today.
    The bus’ final passenger hurries inside. She rests the backpack on her lap and bids good morning to the four other girls who have made it.
    School begins if and when they arrive: the next part of their journey.

    201 words

  5. Title: Lady Liberty
    Word count: 201 (excluding title)

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

    As well my Thomas might, for all the hours he toiled over that sentence that shot through the heart of men across this land like a loaded cannon.

    “…that all men are created equal”

    Sister Critta say Sal it don’t hurt none to think likes a free lady in the mind, Thomas won’t see. But there ain’t nothing wrong with his eyes, they spotted my mulatto behind and they took what they liked.

    “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”

    But he left out Monticello where our half-caste babes existed in limbo, wanted by none but me. Critta say the Lord rewarded me the day Thomas set them free.

    He’d have given me liberty, if I let him. But then his daughters, who hissed jezebel at me, they’d have sent me away.

    And liberty is born of guns and cannons in his mind –so he’d have liked this one I reckon. Battle suited him, it was peace that disturbed him. He’d have gone mad inside quiet fortified walls like these.

    So I kept my peace and my place. I just wish he could see me now, travelling like this, like a real free lady.

  6. Conflict Unending

    The blackened barrel of the cannon, its carriage broken and missing, lay loosely-oriented to the east…to the mountains…as if it were some sort of iron finger pointing with outraged accusation to the source of its demise. Of those who’d had purpose for its gunpowder-inspired wrath, no evidence whatsoever remained.

    When he’d first spied the crumbling bulwarks, a roiling sickness had surged up and Flynn had little reason to believe the defenders would be found. To abandon either living slaves or the charred husks of dead potential food was not the way of the Fire Serpents. Relentless, methodical and infinitely unforgiving, they wasted nothing of those they conquered. This latest bastion of resistance, broken and charred, would most certainly prove no exception.

    Nevertheless, as his troop drew closer, his silent hand signals conveyed his intent for them to spread out and search the ruins…for survivors first and foremost and, barring that, for the much-needed supplies that could be scavenged. The prior three days had seen hard riding punctuated by hard fighting and rations had been short.

    As darkness fell, fatigue and frustration overwhelmed him and Flynn slipped into an uneasy slumber, his dreams haunted by a war that seemed, at once, both unwinnable and yet unavoidable.

    205 words @klingorengi

  7. Evening the Odds
    by James Mender

    I looked around at the defenders. Youngsters barely able to shave. Oldsters who’d prefer a brave end to slow senility. Women who’d never seen battle but whose strength would be needed. The few lieutenants were left behind by the main army because they were, to be honest, incompetent.

    I turned to the castle itself. A dozen old cannons without wheels, likely as not to explode. There wasn’t even enough ammunition or powder to load all of them.

    We knew where they were, at least. Their sorcerer was herding the clouds over the peak to the southwest. He’d hide their numbers and keep them shielded until there was too little time to adjust the cannons’ aim. They’d be at the walls by dawn tomorrow, ready to kill us all.

    “Time to go,” I said.

    “You’re abandoning us?” Marya asked. She was furious with me, but then she was always furious with me, even in our bed.

    “There’s nothing I can do here … right now.”

    “Coward,” she said. “Go ahead and flee into your DUST.”

    I grinned and kissed her. “I’ll be back … with some toys. I want to see how one sorcerer and a bunch of marauders handle a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and some AK-47s.”

    ~ ~ ~
    Author’s Note: 204 words. @JamesMender
    More author notes and other stories at my blog.

  8. Silence wasn’t something to welcome. It signalled the start of a futile search for survivors. Strewn across the once lush green fields was the endless sight of carnage. Not one surviving groan could be heard across the wisps of smoke from the smouldering corpses.

    Covering his mouth from the overwhelming stench of death and with a heavy step, Kyle began the grisly task of recovering dog tags and weapons; ammo was dangerously low and he knew peace was just a respite.
    Not many of the enemy had been hit but even one should be seen as a slight victory; one less predator in the skies, one more chance of surviving the pointless war.

    Kyle looked to the mountains; the enemy’s unbreakable territory where under the advancing shadows of dusk they came, flooding the sky with ferocious fire and sharp talons that ripped flesh from bone.

    Nothing stopped them.

    But this was their land, their territory. Kyle was the warring invader, sent on an impossible mission to defeat and conquer for the riches and minerals buried deep under the mountains.

    A dragon soared, silvery wings splayed as he circled over the massacre, letting out a mournful cry. Kyle understood completely.




  9. The Glory of Battle

    The old songs and ballads always painted glorious images of bravery and courage. Nobody sang about the whimpering cries of the dying or the screams of the wounded. The old songs cleansed the gore off glory’s banner.

    When the castle finally fell, the world turned hellish red as the city burned.
    Rikard leaned against the side of a crumbling wall and tried to catch his breath. Sweat-soaked, he breathed in the smell of burning flesh.
    Finally he stood and trudged off to find a captain to give him an order. He’d partaken in enough butchery for one day. From a nearby tavern a band of royal solders burst through the door carrying great barrels of ale and four sobbing women.
    He kept walking, trying to shut out the howls of human misery.
    For three months these men had laid siege to the castle, living in squalid tents, wallowing up to their knees in mud, and breathing the stink of rotting flesh. Tonight they would have their due.
    Rikard fought for his king in battle, not for this. He’d always been an honorable man. What was he now?
    He continued walking through the ruined streets, but found no captains, only death.
    (200 words)

  10. There be dragons

    You imagine how the world slides away from your gaze just for a mere moment and your breath catches in your chest. You grip to the ancient foundations to steady yourself. You imagine in this mischief moment of a Godless world, of a lifeless universe, of stillness and horrid clarity something emerging from behind the pinnacles of the sky kissing mountain. And you gasp when there comes a distant rumble; an eruption of rock and scales before your eyes, swirling, expanding, closing – taking over your view. There you meet the emerald eyes glimmering with abysmal antiquity, piercing with the sharpness of nightmares to come. As the tongue slips out to taste the newborn world you feel the repulsing heat caress your skin. Then you shiver as it toys around the iceberg sized teeth. You dare not move for the beast might tell you’re there. You’re not certain it doesn’t already know by the loudness of your heartbeat. It stands erected, claws hard dug into the surface of the mountain, wings spread, tail swinging restlessly; like a giant whip cutting the air. The clouds manifest upon it and the scaled beast becomes nothing more than a shadow. Then comes the mighty roar, shifting the world back.

    205 words; twitter @Raptamei

  11. “Alrighty, I’m gonna fire.”

    “You sure about this?”

    “Look, we already discussed it. At length. Today’s the day. Hand me the cannonball.”

    “Okay, but… aren’t you worried?”

    “Worried? Dang, that’s not the point. Worried. Everybody worries. Point is, do you have the guts to do anything about it.”

    “But what if what’s on the other side is worse?”

    “Worse than what? Sitting here, doing nothing? Look, that there in front of us, as we have established without a shadow of a doubt, is a backdrop. Very nice. Very realistic. It’s got trees, and clouds, and nothing, NOTHING ever happens. Ever. I think the question is, how can you not want to know what’s on the other side?”

    “I don’t know, we’ve always been safe here. Nothing bad’s ever happened. Isn’t that worth something?”

    “Tell you what. You stay. Go to the other side of the castle. Pretend nothing happened. I am firing this cannonball, blasting a big hole, and going through.”

    “Can we think about this?”

    “I’m done thinking. I’m done dying inside. It’s this, or I leave this life some other way. What you don’t understand is, this for me is already a hell.”

    “Now, give me the cannonball or leave me alone.”

    204 words

  12. The Truth of War (202 words)

    The ground shook as more cannons fired at the approaching army, blasting back the unfortunate men whose death came swiftly through black powder and fire.

    Five more men down, Sebastian thought.
    They continued to advance.

    It did not matter how many men fell, just as long as they kept marching towards the walls.

    Is that what we are? Just expendables and numbers?

    History would remember the battle, but what about the men lost? The men who died for freedom, change or whatever force spurred the moment. They would not make it into the history books, only what was won or lost would matter.

    But what about the men? Hist comrades had names. Adam Hanson. Thomas Webster. Robert Buckley.

    Yet they were now only numbers, casualties of war, a loss.

    The thunder from the instruments of war continued to ravage the ranks, sending them back, blood soaked and torn. The men lay decimated, waiting for death to claim them, or already accepted their fate.

    Sebastian and his comrades reached the walls, now opened by their own cannons. Enemy soldiers poured out from the wall like ants.

    A bayonet through the stomach.
    He fell before his men, along side his foes. No, his brothers.

  13. This is no war.

    For 17 days Pfc. Matthews sat. He sat with the cannon, cleaned the cannon, attempted to draw the mountains. He would, occasionally, talk to the cannon.

    His orders were to keep his gun trained on the the mountains. Also, make sure the 30 pound cannon was ready to fire. It was a relic. A far cry from his ERMA SR-100. He was confused by something so low tech. For a guy who could castrate a gnat at a mile, this was paleolithic by comparison. This mission sucked. This war sucked. And the damn mountains sucked.

    If he had a hard target to scope, he might be happier. Some sort of surveillance. Break the monotony. But living in a picture perfect postcard made him sick. Born in Hells Kitchen. Spent his life in the slums. Clean made him nervous. As did nature. He was not a happy camper.

    But for the lack of company, this was a cherry job. But for the lack of company, he was telling the cannon everything. A weapon of war turned father confessor. Yeah, he had lost it. There was nothing to be seen in the pass, he rubbed his finger against the cannon and smudged the wall again. 18 days..

    205 -title.

  14. I wrote this the other day, but it’s a perfect fit with this photo!


    There was the sound of muffled cursing, crude and revealing, breaking through the heavy night. The sound of muffled cursing, quickly followed by the gentle, crunching thud of meat, muscle and bone slammed into more meat, muscle and bone.

    There was a hiss, a sharp intake of breath. The Captain, making it known that she was unimpressed, counting the seconds between the element of surprise and the measurements of failure. Silence was what was called for. They should have known better.

    There was the hidden echo of meat, muscle and bone collapsing, the chattering clatter of a table and chairs. A second, cracking thud of leather and iron, of boots against a shattering jaw. The vicious, savage kiss of steel, carved across a windpipe – straining, struggling, yielding.

    The gargle was answered by the whispered shriek of a sword drawn slowly, threateningly, from its scabbard. The shadowy, primitive retort of a pistol, smothered by the snapping, cracking canvas overhead, the patter of blood against oak, and the fighting began in earnest.

    The great bell clanged out, its brass voice the call of the gods of war.


  15. Grano de Mostaza
    By Allison K. Garcia
    (202 words)

    The lyrics of the song that had rung out of the chapel on his walk home echoed through Jorge’s mind.

    “Si tuvieras fé como un grano de mostaza, esto nos dice el Señor.”

    Faith. Jorge shook his head. He had lost that long ago. Sometime between his mother’s death and the financial crisis. Each day seemed a little emptier, a little colder. He came up to the tower, because it was the only place he could feel a connection. To what, he wasn’t sure.

    “Tú le dirías a la montaña, muévete, muévete.”

    He stared towards the mountain range and smiled. The probability of that mountain moving seemed greater to him than that of God accepting him back. In these last years he had strayed farther than he could have ever imagined. Watching the clouds drift overhead, their bright white contrasting against the deep blue sky, he prayed there was still a chance for him. Some possibility for redemption. One mustard seed worth of faith left in his heart.

    “Y esa montaña se moverá, se moverá, se moverá.”

    Maybe it was the way the light fell in shadows on the cliffs, but Jorge swore that mountain moved ever so slightly to the right.

  16. Hide & Seek

    Chloe’s giggle echoed around her. The others would never find her in here!

    Her lilac glow lit the air, casting shadows as she stretched in the near darkness. There wasn’t quite enough space for her wings to expand, but she could always just crawl out. The rough pattern of the walls entertained her fingertips as she waited.

    “Chloooeee!” Strum sang somewhere outside.

    She pursed her lips and held her breath. Strum’s hearing was the best of all of them, and sounds were amplified in here.

    Thuds vibrated through her hiding place, and Chloe yelped, then sighed. Leave it to the humans to ruin their fun!

    A shadow blocked the round entrance to her hideaway. “Gotcha!” Strum announced.

    Another thud knocked him off his perch, and he tumbled in, crashing into her. His fiery-golden glow joined hers, blending the colors against the perfect backdrop of the darkness. Both giggled at the beauty.

    “Shh!” Chloe chastised. “They’ll hear us!”

    “The humans? They never hear anything!” He settled next to her. “Great hiding place! You think the others will find us?”

    A fizzing filtered into the iron tube.

    “What’s that?” Chloe asked, scrambling toward the exit. She didn’t hear Strum’s answer.

    Strangely colorful mist trailed the cannonball.

    (204 words, @AriaGlazki)

  17. ~ 204 words

    I could redecorate this room in my sleep. In fact, I have many times. The walls are always hot pink with butterflies fluttering from the ceiling, but no matter how I try I can’t get rid of that cool, stale smell that haunts me. I’m fighting a losing battle and my family is the only thing giving me the courage to continue on. In their fantasy land, I’m going to be alright…I hope their right.
    Waiting makes me think, and it’s always about my family. Will they be okay without me? Did I do enough good for them to remember me that way? Will they forget me? The door beside me clicks open. I’m called to receive the news that I already know. My knees buckle and my legs threaten to give out one me; but I refuse to let them. I will be strong for my family.
    Another room that’s too familiar. The warm, homey feeling it’s supposed to give off makes me want to cry. Dr. Bleeper stands behind me asking me to have a seat. His usual cheery face has been replaced by a blank non showing face.
    “Mrs. Evans, I am pleased to inform you that your cancer is gone.”

  18. Imagination by @KaySully7
    204 words

    “What do you think it is, Jaime?” Marie asked, pushing her bangs back as she leaned over the black object nestled on the wall. Her brother came closer and touched the cold metal thing. They examined it, ages seven and six, marveling at what such a thing could be. Marie peered at the shape. “Maybe it’s a telescope!”

    The two children scurried to the end of it, pushing and tugging and finding that it did not move. “Looks like they sealed it shut!” Jaime said.

    “Why would the grown ups do that?”

    “Maybe there are monsters that live on the mountain!” A giggle of delight sent the two siblings back to the wall. They curled their fingers around their eyes for binoculars looking for Jaime’s favorite thing. They sought a scaly tail or the hint of a horn in the distance.

    “Here you are!” said their mother, “Lunch is ready.” The two children jumped down from the wall to take their mother’s hand. They walked from the old fort at the park to the picnic blanket spread out by the lake. The children regaled her with the monster hunting telescope they found. She saw no reason to tell peaceful children what it really was.

  19. The Shadows

    The curtain moved. The queen shivered.

    “Who’s there?” Grant!” She called out.

    Grant, queen’s private guard, graceful under pressure, hied without missing a step.

    “Get Marsden, and Mashkant! Gather the entire force. Capture, slay! Fire the cannon! Do what you must, but no shadow must come within fifty paces of me.” She roared.

    The border guards had failed to keep the shadows at bay. The foot soldiers had failed to stop them from advancing. The moat was rendered useless. Lately, the queen had begun spotting shadows inside the castle. The anxious clouds engulfed the town.

    “Slay a shadow? How?” The troops wondered.

    The town was on alert. Every person, turtle, ant, and speck of dust was accounted for. No living thing or inanimate object could have passed without detection. The queen ought to be safe.

    The queen lay in bed, but sleep eluded her. She faintly recalled having seen a shadow in the garden when she was four. Restless, she arose and paced. Her face gazed back at her from a crystal window pane. The shadows swirled around her in the mirror; they were emerging from her head. One of them looked like the one from her childhood garden.

    200 words

  20. Comment: The judges don’t seem to like my historical stuff, but what can I say? I’m an historian who writes historical fiction. Here’s the story:

    A Fresh Perspective

    They told him how thick the walls were, how many soldados it held, how many cannon guarded it. Truly, a formidable fortification. Why, then, did the port still have the problem of piratas? If not English pirates, there were French. If not French pirates, Spanish ones plagued them.

    None other than the magnificent Simon de Bolivar himself explained the fort was the height of military engineering, but general after general had not put a stop to the piratas. Because he, Ernesto Chavez, fought alongside Bolivar for Venezuela’s independence, Bolivar had picked him as the latest commandante of the incredible fort. An honor above all others.

    Bolivar, it was known, had some admiration for Los Estados Unidos, and had heard himself called the George Washington of South America, a sobriquet he accepted with little humility. Bolivar put his faith in Chavez, who had studied at the Virginia Military Institute, to finally rid the port of its bane.

    Commandante Chavez thanked everyone for the information, praised its thoroughness, then asked to be taken to his new command. There, he saw why no other general before him had succeeded. His first command was to move the cannon.

    “No pirate,” he told the bewildered men, “attacks from the mountains.”

    205 words (sans title)
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)

    soldados = soldiers
    piratas = pirates
    commandante = commander
    Los Estados Unidos = The United States

    Simon de Bolivar indeed was called the George Washington of South America, but Ernesto Chavez is a figment of my imagination.

  21. “This had better be important!” Wilhelm grumbled as he ascended the spiral staircase that led to the top of the tower. The watch had been known to make a mountain out of a molehill. He pushed hard on the rough, wooden hatch and it smacked the roof with a satisfying crack. “REPORT!” He bellowed while he climbed onto the roof.

    “Sir! There’s a… Well… I mean…” Gideon took a deep, shuddering breath.

    Wilhelm glared up at the young man from his knees and shouted, “Spit it out!”

    Gideon bit his lip and pointed a trembling finger over the edge of the wall.

    Wilhelm sighed and stood, freezing half-way up and staring out at the mountainside before him.

    “When did…? What…?” He cleared his throat and stood strait. “Think, Son, did it appear or approach?”

    Gideon stood straight in response, “It approached, Sir.”

    “You couldn’t call a warning before it arrived?”

    Gideon cleared his throat and brushed his hands down his jacket, “It moved quickly, Sir, and I… didn’t believe it.”

    “How long has it been motionless?”

    “Shortly after I sent for you.”

    “Well, aim your cannon toward it, soldier. We must protect our people against anything.”

    “But, Sir… It’s a mountain.”

    201 Words

  22. Heritage
    Word Count: 205
    Twitter: @Mishmhem

    “But, papa, it’s just a rusty old cannon,” Joey whined and would have kicked it if his father hadn’t stopped him. He was annoyed. Instead of going to the amusement park, his father had taken him to an old fort in the middle of nowhere.

    “That, rusty cannon, is our heritage.”

    Joey shook his head, not understanding but smiled when his father knelt down and explained.

    “200 years ago this cannon saved our village.”

    Joey stood transfixed as his father told him of a distant relative, his great-great-grandfather’s father, Philipe who manned the cannon and kept the invaders at bay for two hours, firing until there was nothing left to fire.

    As he listened, Joey swore he could hear the cannon’s roar echoing across the valley. Then he saw the plaque.

    “But, papa, it says here that the fort fell to the English in 1815.”

    “Yes, the fort was taken, but Philipe slowed the enemy down, allowing our people to escape into the jungle. They survived because of his sacrifice.”

    That night Joey dreamt of cannons and blood and finally understood. History was not stone walls, and boring facts: it was the story of sacrifice and bravery, and it lives on inside each of us

  23. The Lost City

    Crossing the mountain had been easy. Mastering the jungle, however, was difficult.

    All around overgrown foliage challenged her, keeping her from pressing forward. Cora had long studied tropical vegetation, but everything here was different: otherworldly, beautiful, enchanting. Ahead, Cora heard the thunderous roll of water. To her right, she examined flowers that dangled like bells, their blue petals seemingly tinkling in the afternoon breeze. To the left, trees with leaves larger than a dinner plate reached, fanning sparkles of light on the forest floor.

    Cora walked for a long time, her boots sinking in the spongy undergrowth, leaving unnatural footprints in the otherwise untainted wild. And then, she saw it.

    Time was frozen here. On either side, two waterfalls poured into the center reservoir, branches reaching from the basin like delicate fingers. She tugged on her ponytail, biting her lip as if trying to determine if she was in sleep or awake.

    Every inch of her surroundings gleamed, the pyramid catching the sun like chimes at midday. The towering palace gleamed under the afternoon sun. Layers upon layers of steps shined in gold.
    Cora smiled to herself, understanding now why no one had returned from here.

    “El Dorado,” she whispered to herself.

    203 Words

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