Flash! Friday # 32

CLOSED! But lots of time to add your comments on these tales. Thanks for playing–look for the judge’s ruling Sunday morning this week. 

I’ve been thinking recently about perspective and how what we as individuals bring to a situation (or story prompt!) so heavily influences our conclusions. We see that so often in writing contests like Flash! Friday, which present a single prompt and challenge writers from all walks of life in all parts of the world to share the story they find in it. And that’s what inspired the selection of today’s prompt, because that’s what this photo’s all about: perspective.  

(As ever, here are the contest guidelines).

This week’s contest is judged by an SVW member with her own particular (peculiar?) perspective, Maggie Duncan. (Be sure to check out her judge page to find out what she looks for in a winning entry.)

And without further ado (because don’t we have enough ado already?!):

Word limit: 250-word story (25-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (between 225 – 275 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 Miami time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A stunningly crowded e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a personalized urban page here at FF, a sky-scraper-like 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME sounded out in the impressive beeps and honks of a glorious  three-mile traffic backup. 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/recommendations regarding public transportation for the non-winged (or environmentally aware winged) among us.  And now for your prompt:

Urban sky. Photo courtesy of David Mark, Pixabay

Urban sky. Photo courtesy of David Mark, Pixabay

231 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 32

  1. @StephenWilds
    Captive – 274 words

    The walls of the Chambre de la Souffrance were tall and imposing. The four walls of the courtyard boxed Michael in with its glorious original architecture. The new guard towers on the facility were the only real eyesore for those who could appreciate works of art. When the wind blew hard it over the rooftops, catching the edge of his boxed in cell, it made a strong and oppressive whistling sound.

    Michael set with his legs crossed on the grass, away from the stone bench he refused to use, a small act against conformity. It had been seven weeks, judging by the markings on the wall. He lost track of time, but knew that his meetings with Dr. Moore were every Monday morning, so after each he would make a new mark on the wall to the left of the corner that wasn’t a ninety degree angle.
    The wind caused him to twitch uncontrollably, occasionally sending an odd chill down his spine. Michael had to grab at his arm whenever this happened, bracing against further attacks.

    They would come soon to take him back to his home, away from the cell that taunted, with its blue skies and bird sounds. Clouds sometimes swirled angrily and struck at him, the abuse was everlasting it seemed. Often, Michael would have a thought, a plan, a way out, but it was so common that his memory failed him. He would say his name again; call it to the heavens, as if commanding his mind to remember the idea as he slithered up the walls, all the while staring up to that rectangle of sky that taunted him.


  2. Title: Mama
    Word Count: 250
    Twitter: @MarissaAmes

    Jason groaned. As he lolled his head to the side, the back of his bumpy skull roiled along the studded pavement. Sunlight clawed through his eyelashes and pierced his brain with white needles.

    Someone called his name. Two people, three. They laughed, saying words he would never say to his own mother, words to describe him. Between the ringing in his ears and the jeers of the other guys, his own voice echoed as a memory: “…Has so many teeth missing, it looks like her tongue is in jail.”

    He cupped his palms over his eyes and savored the darkness for a sweet moment. As he rubbed his hands down his cheeks, his fingers snagged his tear ducts and pulled them tight.

    “…Feet so big, her shoes need license plates!” The taunts reverberated through his head.

    Jason groaned again and raked his fingers along the pavement. He flexed his clicking jaw. A tooth rattled in his mouth, and salty slime rolled across his tongue. He turned his face and spit.

    “…Got so much dandruff, she needs to defrost before she combs her hair.” Which taunt had gone wrong? It had started out in fun. Jason only saw a flicker of emotion on Andrew’s face before a brown blur snapped his head aside.

    He opened his eyes and challenged the sun. Between him and the sky, Andrew’s curly black hair silhouetted like a mangled Slinky.

    Spittle landed on Jason’s face as Andrew said, “Don’t you talk about my mama like that.”


  3. She felt the animal shiver.
    ‘Cold?’ She said not giving into the idea of fear.
    ‘It won’t be long now,’ she said. ‘Help will be with us soon. They’ll be looking for us. They’ll have search parties out. The whole works.They won’t leave us here.’
    The big, brown eyes drawn to her voice brought a lump to her throat. She looked down, trying to steady herself.
    Her brain, tumultuous with a riot of regrets, ached. One hand gripping her companion, she used the other to knead her scalp and the skull underneath. She rubbed and rubbed trying to erase the pain of the morning’s upheaval and the darker thoughts that would have her panic.
    She turned to the sky for inspiration, for it was calm now. Its sudden clarity soothed the tossing and turning of those riotous thoughts. In this moment, she wasn’t lost, she hadn’t hurt anyone, life wasn’t spinning out of control.
    She was floating in the blue. The aching in her head subsided and her shoulders loosened as did her grip on the terrified creature beside her. It yelped as it felt itself slip from her, but in a moment she had snapped back to be with it and her grip was strong.
    This time she was focused.
    ‘Right, Toto. Buckle up. I am going to get us back to Kansas even if I do need to steer this house with my bare hands.’

    238 words


  4. A Memory of Sky

    ‘Yes, but… how does it work?’ asked the child. Her hands were planted on the windowsill, her fingers wedged into a crack in the stone. She held on tight.

    ‘I think it might be magic,’ I smiled.

    ‘Don’t believe in it,’ she sniffed, looking down at the shining swirls of blue and silver far below. We stood in a third floor window, leaning out. The breeze that made her hair dance was hot and stale, pumped in from God-knew-where.

    ‘Well, what do you think?’ I asked her. She was quiet for a long time.

    ‘It’s a memory, in’tit?’ she said, eventually. ‘A memory of sky.’

    I looked up. Far above us, there was nothing but a sheet of featureless dark, smooth as a liar’s face. The sparkling glow of the courtyard floor wasn’t even strong enough to reach it; nothing illuminated its surface. The sight of it sucked at my eyes, and made me dizzy. I looked down again, hurriedly, to the swirling blue sky, and immediately felt better. Steadier.

    ‘You might be right,’ I murmured. I’d heard them, late at night, polishing the courtyard floor with soft brushes, suspended above it in harnesses for fear they’d step upon the surface and crack it. Nobody knew I’d spied; I kept it quiet. In here, in New Bedlam, if I spoke up, I knew all I’d get would be something to take my sight away, permanently.

    ‘But why d’they do it?’ the child asked, sucking on her lower lip, frowning. The sky was reflected in her eyes.

    To keep us prisoner, I thought, but I just shrugged, and made her no reply.

    271 words, excluding title


  5. One Good Thing
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    (275 words)

    Claudia felt them behind her. She shifted her backpack and sped up.

    “Why the rush, Chulita?”

    Her heart rate doubled the pounding of her feet on the sidewalk. If she just kept moving…

    “What? You deaf now?” A few of them chuckled.

    She swallowed a dry lump in her throat and held her chin high. Only one more block.

    “Why you ain’t stoppin’? You think you gonna outrun us with that little Catholic schoolgirl shit you wearin’.”

    Someone got close enough to flip up her skirt and Claudia jumped, giving them time to reach her. Someone ripped her bag off her back as someone else pulled her into the alley by her hair. Her head connected with the brick wall and white flashed across her eyes.

    The crowd of girls surrounded her. Their leader, Ana, grasped Claudia’s neck and pushed her against the wall with a well-manicured hand. “You think you’re too good for us now. Going to that private school?”

    Claudia shook her head quickly. A shock of pain pulsing through her skull.

    “Good. ‘Cause you still ain’t nothin’.” Ana squeezed harder. Her charcoal eyes burned into her. Releasing her grip, she spit, smirking as Claudia gasped for air and wiped off her face with a shaking hand.

    “We’ll take this.” Ana smirked and held up Claudia’s bag, giving her one last shove before walking away with her group.

    On trembling legs, Claudia made it to her secret spot and lay down in between the four apartment buildings, looking up into the square of blue sky and smiling as the clouds rolled by. At least there was one good thing left in this world.


  6. The Provider

    The Provider, his father insisted, was not to be questioned. Since time immemorial all of the People’s needs had been met. They lacked not for food or water or shelter and were even blessed with wondrous amusement objects The Provider gave. To doubt, to question, or to complain was to court The Provider’s wrath. And yet, Ethan did doubt, did question.

    He had heard the Oldsters speak of a time when the Habitat of the People was a very different place indeed. They spoke of when the Abovespace parted and the land was inundated with “fresh air” and “sunshine”. They insisted there was an entire world beyond the Habitat and one even claimed to have once seen the hand of The Provider.

    The time came when Ethan could no longer feign conformity. He must go out and learn the truth of the stories. That had been seventeen long days ago and for the first time on his Quest, Ethan let the poisonous seeds of doubt and despair blossom in his mind. The ever-present landscape of buildings continued on and onunbrroken and the abovespace remained a solid, unbroken blackness the Uncharty and headed off into the unknown. belie and the Abovespace remained a solid, unbroken blackness.

    Bereft of hope, near-dead from thirst and hunger, he fell and did not try to get back up. At length, Ethan died and, with his last breath, he cursed The Provider as an evil and false god.

    Later that day, Steve popped open the habitat lid. With an exasperated sigh, he reached in gingerly and removed the small body from the miniature cityscape. He couldn’t help but wonder what had led it to wander so far away from the others. Sometimes, keeping pets could be so frustrating.

    275 words @klingorengi


  7. The Crawl

    Why, why must they bang on the glass like that? With every blow, my feet slip. I squish myself into a corner and wait until this lady loses interest. I’m on the outside of the glass, anyway. I’m not bothering anybody.

    Kids love to see me lose my grip and drop to the windowsill. Bang bang bang, and then they squeal with delight. I hate kids.

    I’d stay on the bricks, but it’s so boring. The windows, each one of them holds a story. Here’s a man, reading the paper, a little too attentively. He’s avoiding conversation with his wife, who is staring at her laptop and tapping her pen.

    Next storey up: here’s a nursery, empty, but all the signs of a long night are in evidence. Spitup rags draped over the back of the chair, blankets on the floor and not in the crib, open package of diapers… they’re all crapped out in the big bed across the hall I bet. At work today their heads will hum and fill with cotton from lack of sleep.

    I take a shortcut along the mortar between the bricks and the window. From here I can peek in without the exposure of the glass. It’s fixing to be a warm day, someone might slide open the window – and there I’d be squished. Best not to risk it.

    I move toward the light, I can feel the air now. On the top floor, a lady flips channels. Television, at this hour? Why can’t humans live without noise?

    Finally, the roof’s edge. I let fly a stream of silk and float up into the breeze.

    274 words (incl. title)


  8. Reginald
    274 Words

    Reginald Worthington was an old man afraid to die.

    He had spent the entirety of his life in the tenement called Rockport. Three stories of dirt and grime and people too defeated to move away. The walls were once brick, but were now mostly mortar patching holes and binding together what was once a marvel of architecture. The windows were cracking and barely held out the wind anymore.

    Rockport was home though. Reginald had been born in apartment 3C. He grew up in 3C, raised a family of his own in 3C, and today he knew he would expire in 3C. His children had moved to towns far from this home and his bride had long ago gone away to await him on the next plain. He had no qualms of making her wait a few extra years. Rockport was his truest love. He knew every corner of the tenement, every little curve in the hallways, every flickering light bulb; this building was all he knew.

    Mustering what energy he had in his old bones, he made his way to the courtyard. He played baseball here as a child and taught his son how to throw a ball in the same place. They broke the sliding glass door of apartment 1B a few times during those lessons. Reginald smiled as he looked upon the window.

    Thunder clapped overhead. “Okay, I’m coming” he muttered.

    He walked to his favorite bench and sat. The clouds were beginning to drop warm rain on him. He smiled widely, looked up, and closed his eyes.

    Reginald Worthington was an old man on a bench at peace with saying goodbye.


  9. The bell tolled. Every pitiful moan, desperate cry and aching scream ceased for the tolling of the bell as it escorted a wretched soul to its fate. Once the bell fell silent, a rousing cheer echoed through the walls, down every passage, through every cell to where Jack lay on a bed of straw, not moving other than his chest heaving slowly as he stared up at the stone ceiling.
    His shackled feet were bloody from sores that were left untreated; dried up, crusty blood covered the chains and the floor which made a tasty treat for the rats that scurried around freely without fear, even nibbling at Jack’s toes before he violently kicked them away. Other than that he was still, counting the tolls, imagining the drop as the rope tightened around his neck, wondering how long he would swing before he was no more.
    He shuddered.
    But, he had no one else to blame. It was his fault entirely that he lay inside the four walls of the prison without seeing the blue sky since his arrival, which he guessed was seventeen days ago going by the meagre lump of rock hard, stale mouldy bread he was given once a day.
    But was it worth it? A wry smile crept over Jack’s dirty, handsome face, remembering how he was most feared, most talked about and most admired. The bounty on his head had never been seen before. That was cause for celebration, not commiseration.
    He was the famous highwayman. He would live on, long after the tolling bell. With that thought, Jack spent his last night sleeping peacefully.



  10. Dreaming of Flight
    by James Mender

    One of the great disappointments of DUST travel for me is that I’ve never found a world in which people figured out how to fly without airplanes. No one developed antigravity boots. No one invented a zero-balance belt. Hell, no one ever managed to figure out how to build commercially viable flying cars.

    Think about that. Airplanes, hang gliders and balloons are all that anyone managed. There are lots of places where those technologies haven’t even been invented yet, or were invented and discarded, or were outlawed.

    I’ve never even found a world with low enough gravity to make human powered wings feasible. There’s something in planetary science about gravity and atmosphere and human viability if you’re interested in the details. All I know is that my Waystone won’t open a Waypoint to a world which is nonviable for life, even if I’m wearing a spacesuit. So, no wings either.

    On all those worlds, people stare into the sky. Some stare in wonder, desiring the sky with their whole being. Some stare in jealousy at the birds. Some stare in fear because of laws, civil or religious against flying, or because of the bombs that airplanes drop on them during wartime, or because of predators in the sky.

    I saw a modern pteranodon once. Scary sucker. At least there aren’t any of them here.

    All those people, staring at the sky, dreaming of flight.

    Damn. I hope someone comes by with a rope soon.

    ~ ~ ~
    Author’s note: 244 words, @JamesMender


  11. Flight

    One night, I dreamt I could fly. I lifted my chest and put out my arms and willed myself up, battling, until I could see school and Kay’s house and the bus station and the park and across the gentle valley to the tower blocks beyond, and the Ever Ready building on the horizon. The wind swatted me; I gasped for breath and fought on, and my life grew smaller below. Those girls, waiting for me on the corner. Dad, late home again. Next door’s dog, straining through the gap in the fence.

    I thought my life would grow, and I would expand to fill it. I moved, and worked, and tried. I experienced, and dared, and challenged myself. But I’m still here. It’s still me. Walled in, like Rapunzel; peering through an arrowslit, while the world carries on without her.

    I force open the sash and put my head out into the breeze, looking down into the courtyard. Cobbles, begonias, potted pansies. Two cats pretending they can’t see each other. Tea mugs, fag ends, the Sunday papers.

    I turn my chair round and lean back. Now I can rest my head on the sill. The clouds blow. With one foot, I push the sash as far as it will go. I lift my chest and put out my arms, and step effortlessly up into the sky.

    (227 words, excluding title)


  12. Cineraceus

    “Am I falling?”
    The gusting wind beside my ears, whispers vulgar, mocking hisses. I do not want to hear. I am afraid of the spoken words. They maybe accuse me, disown me. Their weight is the gravity pulling me down. I can feel the first tears stinging my eyes, and I do not know whether I’m crying from the sudden burst of wind, or the coldness of the air through which I’m falling, or if my heart is broken and my soul is lost and I cry for myself. Unloved I am.
    “Am I dying?”
    I can feel distance, the sky pulling further away from my outstretched arm, my fingers gripping nothing, but desperately reaching towards an invisible thread, to catch, to cling on to, to be saved. I see nothing. The smoke drawn clouds float without time. Almost transparent. Almost showing me the Eden above, the Universal glimmer so far away now.
    I fall through ashes, the world upside down, a spectrum of grey, white and black. I feel its thickness. I feel its music, chanting my dying chorus. The sounds of today. The sounds of tomorrow. They make my stomach churn and my lips twitch, my mouth opened to shudder an unhuman cry. Have I, been truly abandoned and robbed?

    My vastness begins to shrink. Time slowly loses me, and I reach the final fall. The distance is enormous now. I cry for home. Here I descended without grace, without a future, my concrete tomb awaiting. From windows demonic faces glare at me. What an illusion this world is – another one lurking behind it. Bricks and stone, dirt and worms.

    There be my grave.

    ~275 words


  13. “I am Batman…” Bruce’s voice rasped from beneath his cowl. His cape refused to flutter in the narrow confines of the deep well.

    He reached up along the stone wall, feeling for just the right grip. Once found, his toes located the corresponding places closer to the ground. He was not the first to attempt this.

    Inch by inch, he made his way higher and higher. Sweet freedom was still far above his head. Dread misery lay below, a misery from which no one had ever escaped.

    He slipped…just one tiny mistake, and he crumbled back, landing hard on the unforgiving floor. His backside, recently mended, begged him to give up and return to the darkness, to embrace the endless torture as all the others had done.

    “No!” he declared, reaching into his eye-hole to scratch an itch. It was awkward, but such was the price one paid to conceal one’s identity. He thought too late that he should have used a little baby powder to soften the friction.

    Once more he placed his fingers in the proper grips in the stone. Once more, his feet found their place. Once more, he inched ever higher, this time being more than simply conscientious about his hold. This time he meditated on each little move.

    He reached the place, the place where he needed to leap, an act of faith…

    “BRUCE! Get down from there this instant!”

    Meditation interrupted, concentration shattered, he fell. The hero was returned, not to the familiar darkness embraced by the others, but to a far more sinister hell.

    Even after the rest were free, he remained.

    In detention.

    271 words @USNessie


  14. “Rebellion”
    By Adrienne M. Byers
    274 words

    I rolled over on my back, pain slicing across the inside of my left wing. I squinted against the windowed swirl of purple sky, where I’d been frolicking only a short time ago. An amber tear trailed down my cheek, and I wiped it away, hurt and angry. Do. Not. Cry.
    I sobbed. Don’t orphan me!
    It happened in other clans, especially the smaller ones where lineage extinction was real. Tykes my age abandoned for blunders, now looking for new family. Good luck. In these times of the human rebellion, trust wasn’t squandered on non-kin. You did anything to endanger your own clan – be it as harmless as giving your loyal human pet a ride, or turning a playful somersault behind your parents’ backs above the old castles on Twostone Mountain — and you could be turned out.
    A thousand times Dad had told me, no air-play where cross-currents meet in a low-pressure zone. But I did it anyway. Just like that, wind caught me and I jettisoned away from them as if hit by a fireball. Spiraling, I fell, black feathers from my useless, flapping wings dropping with me to abandon.
    How long had I been here? Clearly, they weren’t coming back. What had Mom always said? When you make a mistake, and you will, don’t belabor what you did wrong. Think your way clear. I lay there for a while, regaining my orientation, feeling the cold bricks on my legs and tail. I lifted myself up, and limped along the cobbled walk, towards the purple sky window, peering out. Mom and Dad hovered just outside, arms folded, tails waving, irritated but forgiving.#


  15. Janey looked at the imposing but still fairly comforting walls. She’d always been a quiet, pensive child. The one that noticed things and didn’t say anything to anyone about what she saw! Although now she thought about it remaining quiet hadn’t really helped! Sighing Janey stared at the walls of her house again and wished that just for once she could feel the sun and rain on her skin.

    Janey wandered up to her room and sighed. The sky looked grey and thunderous and she was inside for the habit of staying dry. Janey hadn’t got caught in a storm in many years! Staring out of the window Janey felt so lonely and she missed her family. They had been gone for years. Well she missed most of her family, her brother wouldn’t be with them now though either. He was so jealous of every one and wanted everything to himself. Janey could remember hearing her parents discussing his behavior and saying he’d have to be watched. The trouble was they hadn’t watched him that day had they!

    Janey had seen and, scared witless, she had ran out of the room as fast as her legs would carry her. Hiding in the courtyard she crouched hoping her brother wouldn’t find her!

    Janey shuddered at the memory. She was stuck here in her inherited family home but couldn’t live a normal life for the fact that spirits don’t as a rule! She needed closure but until she found her brother and told someone what he had done she would remain prisoner in her courtyard and house of her family home for all eternity.

    (twitter: @charley_001 )


  16. “The End” (word count 256)
    She always wanted to fly, just like dragons soaring towards the clouds.

    In the apartment living room, a muffled yell grew louder as it came closer to the door. Elizabeth stopped dancing the rag doll in front of little Jane. She pulled her sister close to her, guarding her like a mother would.

    The door burst opened and Uncle Edmund staggered in, the scent of alcohol pungent. Poor Jane whimpered then started to cry.

    “Shut ‘er up!” Edmund yelled.

    The cries turned to wails. Elizabeth shushed Jane, but she couldn’t stop her tears.

    “Oh sod it! I’ll do it me’self!” He marched towards the girls, but Elizabeth moved Jane behind her. She glared at Edmund.

    “Strong as a dragon,” Elizabeth thought, “Like in the old fairy tales.”

    “What you think you’re doin’, girl?” Edmund demanded, stopping just a few feet away.

    Elizabeth picked up Jane and like a dart, bolted past Edmund. She was only ten, but fast. Her short legs carried her to the door, but Edmund grabbed the back of her dress, yanking her back. Flailing, Elizabeth screamed. Edmund pried Jane out of her arms.

    “No!” Elizabeth shouted. Edmund turned to Elizabeth and shoved her into the window. The glass shattered and gave way, and the little girl plummeted down towards the earth, wind rushing past her each second.


    Elizabeth lay on her back, staring at the sky. All sound began to fade, and the cold began to creep in. As she watched, a shadow approached her from the clouds.

    “Dragon…” She smiled.


  17. Elsewhere

    Sadie crept past the man passed out on the floor next to her mother. She couldn’t remember his name, but he was just like all the others with his leering eyes and his overly familiar hands. Quiet as a mouse, Sadie opened the apartment door and slipped into the hallway, gently pulling the door closed behind her. And then she ran.

    Down the hallway to the stairwell. Down the stairwell to the alleyway. Down the alleyway to the park. And through the park into the old part of the city.

    For a while, Sadie wandered through the streets, basking in the sunshine and her freedom. She tried not to think about going home. About the state her mother would be in, or the wandering hands of her mother’s latest companion. She tried not to think about the way the apartment stank of stale cigarettes and old sex. A prison filled with desperation and apathy.

    Sadie stopped. Immersed in her anxieties, she hadn’t paid attention to where her feet were taking her, but she found herself standing in the middle of a courtyard. The sky overhead shimmered like the surface of a lake and Sadie felt waves of peace lap at her, cleaning away all her worries. She stared up at the sky and wondered.

    Around her, dusk began to creep, casting strange shadows across the courtyard. Sadie knew it was time to make a choice. And so, with tentative hands, Sadie reached up into the shimmering sky and poked her hands through the clouds.

    And then she jumped.

    Words: 258
    Twitter: @Lucid_Editing


  18. The staff and the mirror


    I had been following him for weeks, following the same routine day after day, week after week. There had been a spate of robberies from museums and art galleries; he fit the profile and was the closest lead I had.

    09:30 the old man sat at his usual table at Mary’s Diner, had black coffee and scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast, read a newspaper. 10:15 went to the library, bought a hot dog for lunch at 14:30, fed birds in the park till 16:30. 17:00 went to his apartment, watched TV. 23:00 turned TV off. Weekends were the same, except instead of the library he’d visit museums and art galleries. He barely spoke to anybody.

    Then one day everything changed.

    I followed him to an art gallery; there was a special exhibition – the staff of Rasputin, the mad monk. I lost the old man in the crowds; the alarms went off and I knew he’d taken the staff.

    I ran out of the fire exit door he’d left ajar and chased him up a fire escape, thinking I’d arrest the old fool on the roof. When I got to the top I found him waiting there, staff in hand, smiling. He mumbled some words, waved the staff in a deasil fashion, turned and jumped off before I could grab him.

    I saw him fall into what looked like a huge mirror which covered the ground between the surrounding four buildings, into the blue sky and clouds reflected there…and vanish.

    250 words


  19. Twenty eight steps, turn left. Forty four steps, turn left. Twenty eight steps, turn left. Twenty one steps – step to the side to avoid the guard, one step past, then step back – twenty three steps, turn left. I counted because I did not look where I was going. I did not look where I was going because I only had one hour a day to see the sky, and I did not want to waste it looking at walls, guards, or guns. There were no other prisoners here, not in this place, and so I walked unimpeded.

    One hundred and forty six steps per lap. Fifty laps per hour. Afterwards, my neck would hurt from looking at the sky for that long, but it was worth it.

    Once, the guard thought he would trick me, and stuck his leg out. I tripped, and then ate his lungs. They couldn’t kill me, and they couldn’t let me go. So they let me walk.

    Most days the sky was grey, filled with clouds that reminded me of the smoke which had billowed from the villages I visited.

    And some days, it was blue, the blue of flame, burning hot enough to consume all it touched.
    But my favorite days were the days when the fog was just lifting, and the grey was tinted with a deep blue. On those days, I was not trapped by these walls, but instead kneeling outside the village hall, pouring gasoline into the straw, seeing my future in the liquid.

    One hundred and forty six steps per lap. I wonder what the sky will look like tomorrow.

    270 words


  20. The View From the Ledge

    From my seat near the half-open window I let the breeze wash over me and watch the courtyard below. It’s all so quiet in the afternoon, except for someone playing the violin across the court.
    Most of the people around here work, except for the old woman two floors down who sits on her couch most days and watches TV. She’s waiting for her daughter to come visit, but her daughter ran off years ago.

    I like to visit Marta when she gets home from school because she sneaks me food, and I’m always hungry. But Marta’s late on Wednesday because she takes dance lessons.

    I hear angry voices, and a door bangs open. The apartment next door, Marta’s apartment.

    “You didn’t think I’d notice, Sam?”

    “Nothing’s going on.”

    “Oh, please. I saw the texts on your phone.” Her voice is high and raw. “I know about your trip to San Francisco.”

    “Julie, she . . . it doesn’t mean anything. I love you. I love Marta. Can’t we just . . . talk.”

    “Ten years. Ten years. I put you through school. I put everything on hold, and now this?” I hear banging. A window opens then the air is filled with photographs. They flutter into the sky and float down like leaves to the earth.

    “Enough,” she says. “I’m getting Marta and going to my parents.”

    “You can’t just leave.”

    “Watch me.” The door slams once then twice.

    The wind shifts, and the sky grows darker. Marta won’t be coming today. Maybe never.

    No more breadcrumbs.

    I feel a fat rain drop and huddle against the ledge.

    (270 words sans title)


  21. Blighted

    These four walls have encased my life for the last several months. My enemy has left me in a wheelchair, and continues to eat at my bones. Every doctor has said the same thing, “You have until the end of the year.” Strangely, the fact that I will die by the end of the year isn’t what torments me the most. The bane of my life is instead the place in which I live.
    I live in the heart of a city that has expanded like a virus. The neighborhood trees have been ripped and torn out of the earth to provide room for new buildings. The grass has been plucked and replaced by concrete roads and sidewalks. Even the sky has been tainted grey from the parasitic ways of us down here. I have no desire to waste the remainder of my life outside these four walls, wandering in a decadent city. Instead, I just stare out my window on the top floor.
    I can see the crippled clouds flying overheard, desperately seeking shelter from the depraved world that it floats over. I want to go with it. I wheeled myself closer to the window, but I can’t get close enough. The cloud is dispersing quickly. I’m running out of time. “Take me with you,” I said in a weakened voice. Pulling myself out of the chair I dropped myself onto the sill. I closed my eyes and leaned as far forward as I could and reached toward the fleeing cloud. “Take me with you.” I started to cry when the last thing I could feel was the sensation of falling.


  22. Jack Be Quick

    Jack didn’t end up inside these walls for being a good boy. What’s more, nobody stayed within these walls by being a good boy, at least not alive.
    Inside was the trash and the jailers; nothing in-between, and nothing good.
    Jack was a tea leaf; you have to start somewhere – a loaf of bread, a sausage roll, when the baker wasn’t looking. He’d graduated to clearing silver, but not legit like the banks. Desperate situations called for desperate means – he’d hurt three policemen on his arrest.
    But in this borstal they made sure you hurt more.

    In the dorm Jack assaulted the stooge. Broke his nose and bust an arm before a warden could reach them. There’d been bedlam and pain, but eventually three wardens had subdued Jack with the swinging and rapping of their sticks. They’d dragged Jack out. It would be “The Courtyard” for him.
    Few came back from there.
    But as Tuba the fat one unlocked the Court Door, Jack’s elbow stabbed out felling one of his guards. Shoved out by the other Jack snatched Tuba’s stick – he’d hurt one before he died. But the door slammed shut and the bolts slid leaving him under the freezing sky. They’d finish him off in the morning.
    Left alone, Jack drops his trousers and unties the five former spoons from his muscular thighs. Using them as pitons in the brickwork, he begins to climb. Reaching the overhang, he uses the guttering and pipe to carefully negotiate clear of the sky.

    @CliveNewnham – 254 words


  23. Passing Time

    The ground pressed against him each time his lungs expanded. Clouds floated languidly above him, framed by the perfect rectangle of the silent courtyard’s buildings. Light glinted off a smattering of window panes. A single attic window broke the symmetry. A diagonal slant in one corner drew his attention next.

    Jay closed his eyes. A graying replica of the walled-in expanse above him echoed in his mind. He focused on drawing in a clean breath.

    Maria… Flashes of her sensual lips and electrifying eyes replaced the innocent clouds. He could melt away into her smile.

    Jay dug his fingers into the patchy grass below him and raised his eyelids. The picture had changed. The rest of his life could be spent watching new images, framed by the rooftops, appear between blinks.

    He had to move.

    Determined, he pushed his torso up, clenching fists in the earth. Starbursts colored the picture above him as the walls faded. This wasn’t right. His shoulders dropped the few inches back to the ground, and blackness covered the sky.

    Children’s shouts forced his eyelids open again. A smeared face appeared in the picture. A blink later it had disappeared.

    He couldn’t stay there.

    His hands flattened against the ground, ready to lift. Shaking muscles strained to raise his torso. His palm slipped in the stickiness that had seeped out of him as clouds had danced in and out of his vision.

    Jay slumped to the blood-coated ground.


    (243 words; @AriaGlazki)


  24. “… But do not all Earthbound dream of flight?”

    Three blinks and the billowy wisps of the retreating dream were beyond the grasping fingers of her consciousness. Warm rain kissed fleeting courses down the slope of her lightly freckled cheeks. From Lydia’s supine repose, the luminous, silvery vortices of the summer sky made a dizzying mural upon the far wall of the airy chamber.

    “The abbess will not be pleased,” she thought.

    The abbess remained behind the lofty window, observing the young girl. “Asleep in the courtyard again,” she mused. She regretted her earlier harshness with this gentle child. Did not the Lord preach temperance? She decided that she had taken an unjustified dislike for the freeness of the girl’s spirit. She had not, at once, known what to make of this dainty orphan with her wide, startlingly green eyes and questions about the nature of an angel’s flight. “Not all people,” she reminded herself, “Are meant for life within stone walls.”

    Lydia wondered how long she had slept. This was the fourth time in as many days that she’d come to the courtyard to watch the stars and fallen asleep on the hay piled there. She wondered what she had been dreaming but figured that she knew. She dreamed always of soaring above the walls of the abbey and out over the sea with the gulls that nested on its roof. She would do it some day. She had been studying their flight. She enticed them to the window of her attic dormer with breadcrumbs and observed. In dreams, angels showed helped her design flying machines. Now, I build them.


  25. Title: Curse of Life
    The pain is even worse than last time, and last time had me getting shot. I can’t feel my spine, my legs are facing the wrong way, and the world seems to have lost its color. Old man, if I get out of this, I’m writing “I told you so” with permanent marker.
    “You all right, you wanker?”
    I watched my pursuer (and possible murderer) taunt me from the top of the building she chased me onto before pushing me off of it with her magic. To make it more demoralizing, she was dressed in one of those naughty nurse costumes while blasting me. No matter how this ends, the word ironic will be used in the survivor’s recollections.
    “I just wanted to scare you away, but this works out too. I’ll just tell Teacher that we were just sparring and I lost control of a spell.”
    “That’s bull; he’ll see right that. He told me you never lost control of magic in your whole life.”
    “Well, you won’t be there for the performance of a lifetime. I’ll even let me mascara run.”
    Normally, all of the students have to show off all their powers at the beginning. I was told I didn’t have to, and this pissed a few people off. But now, she forced my hand. As I grasped her ankle, she felt her life being stolen. My injuries became hers; she collapsed like a ragdoll due to the pain. While she begged forgiveness, I called the old man and told him to bring the others. They wanted to see my power so badly; well, here it is.

    @JSHyena – 270 words


  26. Harlem Airshaft (270 words)

    Well, its at least a nice view. Thank God I landed on this moldy mattress.
    Once a tuberculosis hospital. Plenty of porches and windows, open air was thought to cure TB. One of the few still standing in New York City.

    Down the center of the building, a large air shaft. Teens and homeless have used it as a dump. The windows are at least 15 feet up..
    I should be dead, impaled on some rusted thing that littered the bottom. But I hit the one mattress. The only one. Hmm, no cell service. Crap.. No calling for help here.

    I remember a small door, rusty, but not rusted through.. Should be here. Once my heart stops racing, I might be able to budge it.

    OK, I’m standing. This is good. Painful. Crap, camera’s busted. OK, I need a MacGuyver tool here. Plenty of rusty steel. Well, if prying the door doesn’t work….

    OK.. now to find a…

    Aw hell. The door is welded shut! From the outside! Ah crap. Crap! CRAP!

    OK OK OK this is bad. Bad.
    Wait… someone up there? The fuck??? Gasoline, what the hell! Who the hell dumps gas on someone? I gotta get…
    The fuck?! A propane tank? Now they drop a propane tank. Oh Go!. Its a damn death trap! There IS no place to hide! What the hell is that? A flare? Hey asshole! I’m stuck down h…

    “We have breaking news for you right now, happening live. Our traffic chopper is on scene at a large explosion at an abandoned building in Harlem. Let’s go to Chopper team 4 live…”


  27. Retribution

    It had been years since she’d seen anything more than this small slice of sky…years since she’d seen a flower bloom, dipped her toe into a cool stream, or dug in and turned the dirt, or picked a tomato off a vine she’d cultivated from seed or sprout. It had been years since she’d bit into its flesh, still warm from the sun, letting its juices drip down off her elbow in a scarlet river.

    The last time she’d dug in the dirt is what landed her here.

    The Brighton Women’s Correctional Facility, smack in the heart of her hometown’s downtown, was supposed to be a place for rehabilitation and learning. But what really happened beneath that small slice of sky, through which seldom a bird or plane passed, was neither rehabilitation nor learning. She supposed you could call it “learning” to survive in one of the roughest, most rank women’s prisons on the planet. Learning how to get fed from one meal to the next, by bargaining or stealing or unsavory favors. Learning how not to get shanked for looking cross-eyed at no one. Learning which ball-busting guards to avoid or befriend, and learning precisely what it would cost you.

    She could still smell the loamy spring soil, and feel it’s coolness in her hands. She remembered waiting for the perfect moment to do what needed doing, however much she didn’t want to, and however much she did. Once he’d touched her baby sister, daddy had to die. Every day under that small slice of sky was worth it.




  28. The Storm
    By Lisa McCourt Hollar

    The courthouse was full of them. Jim called them Walkers, but they didn’t really walk, so much as shamble. They shuffled around until there was nothing left of the grass or the flowers. Grandma would have cried if she’d seen what they did to all her hard work. She was the gardener in the building. But she was among the first to die. Most of the apartment building was bitten before we figured out how to get them into the yard.

    I watched them from the top of the building. I wonder if they were as concerned about the storm as we were. It would be the first since the apocalypse. The generator kept the power going, kept the doors locked and kept them out.

    It was Jade that noticed the clouds. I knew if any of them did, it would be him. He stopped walking and turned his head up, studying the sky… not me, as the others would have, had they thought to look up. Their minds would have registered meat. Jade though, he was smart when he was alive. I think some of it stuck after death. I saw it in his eyes when I helped shove him outside, avoiding his bite. I saw it every day when he systematically tested the doors, looking for weakness. The others just shambled. He thought. He was thinking now.
    Suddenly the sky opened up and the rain fell. The wind blew, lightning struck. Its aim was true. I saw the lights flicker inside the building and then go out. And I saw Jade turn towards the doors.

    Word Count: 267


  29. Through the Looking Glass
    Word Count : 273

    Falling: Officer Cortez realized that was exactly what she was doing. What she couldn’t quite get her mind around was the fact that the sky was rushing towards her.

    Falling from a fourteen story building was bad enough; falling from the roof of a fourteen story building towards the sky had to be a new record. She’d been chasing a suspect across the rooftops, only to tackle him at precisely the wrong spot. Now instead of cuffing him, they were both falling, only they were falling the wrong way.

    Vertigo swept through her as everything seemed to turn itself inside out and upside down. The building’s outside walls were now facing her, forming a courtyard and the sky lay both above and below.

    She took a deep breath and began counting last few floors. She wasn’t sure what would happen when they touched the sky, but she had a suspicion it was going to hurt. She watched as the sky grew closer and closer. Suddenly saw two forms falling towards them, as if on the other side of a mirror.

    A moment later she gasped as the four falling forms collided and the serene sky shattered around her. It wrapped itself around them and as she flailed she felt her partner’s hand grab hers and pull her safely away from the edge.

    “Cortez,” he yelled. “You are one crazy SOB!”

    It took her a moment to realize she was in the pool in the courtyard of the Berkshire Apartments.

    As her partner handed her a towel, she shuddered. She didn’t have the heart to tell him she hadn’t known the pool was there.


  30. @WendyStrain
    Freedom is a Matter of Perspective – 253

    Dezzy’s body draped across the concrete bench in the lifeless courtyard of yet another orphanage. Two more years and she’d be done with this routine. She wondered how many more of these places she’d see before that day arrived.

    It never took long for the rumors to catch up with her. Already she was hearing whispers in the hall. Teachers could never keep themselves from talking about the strange story in her file.

    Dezzy was about 12 when she began seeing things a bit differently. Once she started acting on her new way of seeing things, her mother flipped, babbling some insane story about lovers made out of smoke. It wasn’t long before Dezzy’s mom was removed to the mental institution.

    Since no one knew who Dezzy’s father was and her mother didn’t have any family either, Dezzy became a ward of the state. She dreamed of an unknown father sweeping her up in his arms and making everything better.

    All she ever felt was the wind, tugging at her hair and sweeping the leaves back up toward the sky.
    She wished she could just walk out of here, but the only way out was straight up.

    Although … from where she was, looking up at that open space above, she noticed how much the walls appeared like the walls of a box.

    All it would take would be to shift that box on its side for her to walk straight out the open wall. A shift of perspective and she was free.


  31. Solitary Creature
    260 words

    I listen for the island children, willing the briny breeze to snatch just a piece of their happiness as it spills from their lips and over these towering walls.

    I understood why they never asked me to join their games, though it did little to lessen my longing.

    I was a lost boy.

    That’s what the lettering said on the inside of my right arm, “Pan 183 – Property of Lost Technologies”.

    I often wonder what my life would be like if I were a regular boy.

    Would I have friends to play make believe with, like pirates or indians? Would my father pick me up from school, ruffle my hair and ask me how my day went? Would my mother read me bedtime stories and tuck me in at night?

    I suppose I could ask Wendy. She’s the only real girl I’ve met.

    She’s the researcher’s daughter, the one who gave me a kiss before leaving the island. She slipped it under my door, a tiny piece of chocolate wrapped in shiny silver paper. I kept it hidden for three whole months before eating it. It was the best thing I’d ever tasted, even if it did make my stomach hurt.

    That was over a year ago, when she was ten. I’m not really sure how old I am, but I don’t think I’ll get any older. Seems awfully silly, Wendy would say, creating someone who can’t even drive.

    But I can fly.

    Perhaps I’ll fly over this small patch of sky to Wendy someday and get another kiss.


  32. A Fresh Point of view
    Word Count 249

    Sensationalized, scandalized and satirized, the ‘Berkshire Apartment Murder’ as it had been dubbed, had come to a complete standstill. That was when Cortez and her partner Martinez had been called in.

    As she reviewed the case files, Martinez studied the crime scene photos.

    The case was fairly straight forward: a body had been found in the apartment’s inner courtyard and no one from any of the apartments whose windows faced the courtyard had seen anything. Additionally, the security footage failed to show even the victim entering the courtyard.

    The reports revealed nothing new, so she joined her partner at the computer. He’d been studying one of the photos, and she could tell from his expression he’d found something.

    The photo in question was an artsy shot, showing the top two floors of the surrounding buildings, and the sky above.

    “Have you noticed,” Martinez asked as he sat with his nose to the screen and then slowly pulled away. “That you can get a stereo-optic effect in the clouds?”

    Cortez smiled, knowing he’d found something.

    She looked at the screen repeated his action, noticing something out of the corner of her eye.
    “The shadow?” she asked. “Kinda looks like a phoenix?”

    The homicide investigator moved in, frowning. “You’re saying a phoenix killed the victim?”

    Martinez shook his head. “No, I’m saying something cast a shadow that looked like a phoenix.”
    When the detective moved closer Cortez pointed to the shadow. “Find what cast the shadow, and you’ll find the killer.”


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