Flash! Friday # 38

CLOSED! Comments, of course, always open and welcome. Judge’s results will post Sunday. Thanks, everybuddy!

Welcome to Flash! Friday battle # 38. With reluctance I am leaving the babies behind this week and moving on to grownups. I suppose whether the apparent Innocents in this week’s prompt are as adventurous as the babies or will face similar fates remains to be seen. Either way–you are most welcome here, and I can’t wait to read your stories. Thank you for coming!  

(Don’t forget the contest rules!)

This week’s contest is judged by SVW member Dan Radmacher who, despite spending suspicious lengths of time in his basement, is a strong writer with a keen eye for extraordinary storytelling. Be sure to check out his judge page to find out what he looks for in a winning entry. Short version: he likes crisp writing, a good story, and as much character development as can be squished into the word count. 

And now:

Word limit: 250- word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt. (Feels almost novel-length, doesn’t it!)

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (240 – 260 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 Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post SUNDAY 

Prize: A world-traveling e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a personalized explorer’s page here at FF, a star-following 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME splashed by mermaids across the seas of the world (so to speak). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s occasional Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/advice on how to sail with a dragon aboard.  And now for your prompt:

"Where Next," painting by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1846 - 1902). Public domain.

“Where Next,” painting by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1846 – 1902). Public domain.

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130 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 38

  1. On my phone again. Here goes!

    ‘Directions’ (258 words)
    @Conveniently_So

    ‘Jim, dear, I’m afraid we’re lost.’
    ‘I can see why you might think that, Margaret, but I’m sure we’re on the right path. You see, I recall that distinct set of mulberry bushes a few miles back.’
    ‘Oh, you and your vague landmarks …’
    ‘I’m sorry?’
    ‘I said, “Yes, oh brilliant husband, I’m sure you’re right.”‘
    ‘Excellent. Now wait here. I’m going to purchase some coffee from that there vendor … I say there, my good man! Frightfully sorry, but I wonder if I might trouble you for two cups of Joe?’
    ‘Comin’ up.’
    ‘Thank you kindly. Oh, and not to be a further imposition but, since I have you here, might I trouble you with directions to …’
    ‘Ain’t no tour guide, mister.’
    ‘I understand that. It’s just … Well, you’re the only person we’ve seen in miles, and I … I can’t bear the thought of admitting to my wife that we’re lost.’
    ‘Aw’right, fine. Where ya headed?’
    ‘Heaven, sir.’
    ‘Heaven!? Mate, you gone about a thousand miles the wrong way; you in Hell.’
    ‘You’re joking …’
    ‘Ain’t joking — you think they got coffee this good on the outskirts of Heaven?’
    ‘Aha, Jim! I knew you couldn’t be trusted with the map! You can’t even find my erogenous zones! What made me think you could guide us to the afterlife?’
    ‘Margaret, I … I’m sorry. What should we do? Turn back?’
    ‘No, Jim. I’m tired. Let’s … Let’s just see what Hell is like, okay?’
    ‘But Margaret, I …’
    ‘Don’t fucking argue with me, Mr Navigator Extraordinaire.’

  2. @StephenWilds
    “Flights of Fancy” – 260 words

    “But, where would we go?”
    “Anywhere to get away from my father,” Emily said as she leaned over to see the map more clearly.
    William placed an arm around her shoulder, feeling how tense his fiancée was. He was lost in her eyes for a split second before noticing she was pointing at the map.
    “Fancy someplace near India? Uncle Warren has told me amazing stories from around there from his Navy days.” She looked at him hopefully. “We could make it work.”
    William hated to disappoint her, as he knew it would, but this decision needed to be made properly.
    “I can’t go somewhere that the people barely speak the Queen’s English, darling, if I am to support us with my teaching.” He didn’t mean to sound rude, offering up a solution. “The South of France is lovely.”
    “Lovely, of course,” she replied with a serious look crossing her face, “and full of men under my father’s influence.”
    William had no response to give. He turned to his love, with his free hand resting on her side. Their eyes rested inside each other for several moments, becoming lost willingly this time. The birds outside the window were the only sounds made for several moments before William spoke.
    “If we leave, he will know it is I you left with.”
    “And he will find us,” Emily assured.
    “There must be somewhere we can go.” He grew closer, touching her face, “The Orient or the Americas, anywhere for you.”
    Emily smiled and kissed him, with her father already one step ahead.

  3. image
    Dear reader, I am sat in the casement with the curtains drawn slightly to hide me from view. I haven’t long to rest for my dear brother will look for me soon. I have watched months of planning and of Edward growing increasingly excitable.

    It had all started with a wager, as these things do and Edward was determined from the start to prove he could succeed. Still its a beautiful warm day and I have ten minutes at least before I am needed to assist with his preparation.

    “Lizzie dearest, I’ve been looking for you for ten minutes, where are you?” Edward said on entering the drawing room,
    “I’m here dear brother, in the casement.” I emerged from my respite cocoon in front of him.
    ” I’m sorry my dearest sister, I’ve neglected you entirely of late , come sit by me and I’ll talk you through my navigation and then we’ll take a drive by the lake and a picnic.”
    “ok I am all ears dear Edward, perhaps we can take dearest Jane with us, I am sure she has missed us.”
    Dear reader, I watched Edward grimace slightly at my last words. I knew I was correct and he still held a torch for Jane but this journey had cast aside their romance and I, mischievously perhaps, had been trying to bring it back on course. I found it insufferable to watch two people I care so deeply for throw their love aside all for a fear that she wouldn’t wait for his return.

    255 words
    Charley_001

  4. WILLIES HERE WE COME (256 words)
    @ifemmanuel

    See her staring at map with her canary face like she know what she looking at.

    Woman woke up one morning, read some magazine ‘bout some Island of Angels and tell husband

    “Honey, we’re going to the Island of Angels for our vacation”

    “Where is that located?”

    “The magazine says it’s on the southern end of the Caribbean”

    Me don’ blame her, me blame master. Since he marry the lady, he be acting like she tie his brain to the ring finger. And me blame maid who tell her my granpa work on a ship, ‘cos the following morning she tell me

    “Samuel, you’ll be accompanying your master and I on a trip to the Caribbean, so tomorrow, come with your grandpa’s map”

    Ol’ man don’ teach me navigation to die on some island, he teach me so I do my sums correct. That maid be damned.

    This morning after six months sailing without finding no angels, she discover she can read map.

    “So Samuel, what next?”

    “This the last Island we can go to ma’am”

    “Samuel come on, there’s a Willy island on the map” master say

    The last man who returned from that Island came back with a bad case of the willies, granpa say it affect the whole ship, that why he mark it on his map as ‘Willy Island’. Maybe that what I need, the lady gon’ look fine with some willies.

    She look at me and she say “Samuel what do you say, we sail southeast?”

    “Yes ma’am we sail southeast”

  5. I promised myself I’d never do ‘fanfic’, but the picture forced me. At gun point! May the Goddess forgive me…

    “A Rose by Amy other name”
    by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
    [250 words]

    –FanFic story {hopefully temporarily} hidden by magical Dragon Invisi-Wand to prevent copyright violation lawyers from eyeing the Flash! Friday lair–

  6. Boat trip

    ***

    “Oh Harold, it’s simply wonderful to have our honeymoon on this beautiful island in the Mediterranean; I’m ever so happy!” Constance simpered, laying her hand delicately on his forearm.

    “Rather! Though it is somewhat warm isn’t it? Though we’ve just finished breakfast, and it’s only half-past ten, it’s getting hot already!” he replied, adjusting his tie and flapping the lapels of his tweed jacket.

    “I know; why don’t we go on a boat ride?”

    “Capital idea! The sea breeze will cool us down, and we may even see some dolphins!”

    “Dolphins? Do you really think so?”

    “Oh yes, quite common around here, so I gather.”

    “You are ever so clever Harold. What will you think of next?”

    “Well, we could take a hamper, could we not? We could ask Mrs Dimitriou to make a basket up for us.”

    “Oh yes, do lets!”

    And so, armed with a basket of bread, cheese, wine, and a jar of Mrs Dimitriou’s olives, they secured a boat and set out for the open sea.

    “I say,” remarked Constance, “this breeze is simply delightful!”

    “Indeed! And did you ever see waters so blue? I wonder how deep they are…”

    “Abaht eight hhandrad fathohms” interjected the skipper, gruffly, from behind his coarse wiry beard.

    Harold peered over the side of the boat into the depths below. After a few moments, his face blanched. “By crikey, what in the blazes is that?!”

    “What is it Harold?”

    Two gigantic tentacles covered in suckers shot out of the waves and flopped over the sides of the boat, pulled hard…

    ***

    @theimaginator20
    260 words

  7. DWAYNE III AND STACEY’S WIBBLY WOBBLY TIMEY WIMEY HONEYMOON

    –FanFic story {hopefully temporarily} hidden by magical Dragon Invisi-Wand to prevent copyright violation lawyers from eyeing the Flash! Friday lair–

    Aurora from Team Netherworld
    @UndeadNether
    250 words

    Note: Mine is a Dr. Who fan fiction, so if that exempts it from the running, that’s okay. However, that’s what the picture inspired! Whether it’s up for consideration or not, I do hope folks enjoy it.

      • It makes me sad that everyone hates fan fiction so much. I feel like I’m a pariah because that’s practically all I write. 😦

      • While walking the dog, I’ve been thinking about my discomfort with fanfic. I’m going to write a blog post about this, if you want to discuss it further in the comments, but how about we both submit another story – you can have two #flashfridayfic entries – that doesn’t have the Doctor in it.

      • Dearest fanfic writers!! We don’t hate fanfic, and you are no pariahs! –or, if you are, you’re the sort of pariah we’re fond of and welcome here. BUT…. as far as I know (which isn’t far), Dr. Who and its characters are the sole copyright of the BBC. At FF we assume you own the rights to any work you submit. I’m going to wave my Dragon Invisi-Wand over them for now until I can do some digging to make sure we’re all hunky dory here. ❤

      • If it needs removing please do what’s necessary. I’ll check myself but think if it’s not commercial it will be “fair use”.

        There are Dr Who fan fic awards…

  8. @NadaNightStar
    Memories – 254 words

    “We were young and in love with the world ahead of us. Seamen told tales of raging seas and sea monsters and gold and new worlds. It was like a fantastical dream. Michael and I wanted our own adventure, our own tale to tell. I remember him one fine summer’s day showing me a huge map with all the lands that we’ve heard people return from. It was magnificent really, so many places to see. He had his arm around me and we had hopes and fantasies like everyone.”

    “Tell us more, grandma!” The children said.

    She sighed as the memories flooded back.

    “India was under British rule at the time and America was called the New World. People said it was rich with gold and beauty. We were young and in love.”

    A tear trickled down her face.

    “The world was full of promise”. She paused to wipe her face. “We wanted to live the dream, get married and have children. We journeyed, through pain and hardship, to the New World. We were young and in love.”

    “Keep going, grandma! Tell us more about grandpa!” The squealed excitedly.
    Wiping her eyes again, she said “I’ll tell you more tomorrow. Now off to bed. Your mother won’t forgive me for keeping you up.”

    They left unhappily but with make-up fantasies of their own, while the old lady sat in her rocking chair by the window and let the memories flow like the smooth water of the lake before her.

    “I miss you my Michael!”

  9. Treasure Hunt
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    248 words

    Charles and Catherine sat in the dining room of their bungalow, overlooking the warm Indian Ocean. The sun had just risen and a purple hue still hovered above the horizon. Fishing boats dotted the seascape, and the scent of Indonesian spices wafted through the air.

    Still, with all the beauty that surrounded them, their hearts could not be lifted. They had searched the country far and wide with no avail. Their treasure had moved on to another land.

    Draping his arm around his wife, he pulled the faded map towards their weary eyes. “That fisherman said they might have taken her north, towards the Philippines.”

    “Yes, dear, but the merchant said the captain had mentioned India. Something about tigers.” She took a sip of chai and pointed to a small dot of land. “Perhaps Borneo. We have yet to try there.”

    Ten years of traveling, twenty-seven different countries, three continents. Their treasure was passed from hand to hand, ship to ship. Perhaps tarnished and broken. To them, it didn’t matter in what condition she was when they got to her. They hoped for the best, though worried the worst. They only wanted her back with them.

    Catherine leaned her head against Charles’ hand and sighed, a tear sliding onto her shoulder. “Sometimes I think she wants to stay lost forever.”

    Charles kissed the top of her head, playing with a lock of her curly, strawberry-blond hair. “Don’t worry, dear Catherine. One day we will find our daughter.”

  10. @JakeKuyser

    Here is my effort for this Friday. 🙂

    “Agent Iris”
    240 words

    Agent Iris was a fool and she knew it. Sitting with his hand gripping her shoulder too tightly as he made plans on the map for their day together. She knew she loved him too much. He was a monster of a man with a fair face and a kindly manner. His personal power as a prince was seductive. So easy to forget what he was going to do.

    “Shall we row round to the west bay and lunch under the pine trees?”

    Two dozen of their house slaves would have to row them under the burning sun and under the lash. She was here to help save the slaves and all of her people.

    “Sounds delightful darling.”

    Slave workers had been brutally forced to build their idyllic holiday home-from-home out here. She felt safe here in his arms. Fool. Agent Iris hated him for what he was.

    “Or we could stay here and picnic on the lawn.”

    Last night the Assault Team had sent a message that the attack would be this morning. He had to stay here.

    “It will be good to go out. I tire of lazing even with you my pumpkin. Lets go.” His arm around her pulled her up roughly. Part of her enjoyed his strength. Most of her wanted to seal his fate.

    “Why don’t I give you a massage.”

    “Yes. And then?”

    She winked at him. Agent Iris hoped they would kill him before she let him screw her.

  11. Accountability
    259 Words
    @West1Jess

    “You’re certain we’re permitted to walk amongst them, Yama?” Shani cast a dubious glance to the map, rising from her seat with restless unease.

    With a reassuring smile, Yama draped his arm across his sister’s shoulder. “Of course, my dear. This city is ripe with sinners who must be brought to task. If we don’t deal with them now, we’ll find ourselves overwhelmed later. Now look here,” he said, grasping the corner of the worn map to shield it from the glaring sun. “The city of New Orleans is heavily populated, with many vagrants roaming the streets. We’ll rent a house near Bourbon Street, right in the thick of things.” The map drifted back to rest on the table as Yama briefly consulted a vision, making a fist. “We must restore order to the anarchy that has overrun the city.” Yama straightened with purpose, satisfied with the plans laid out before him.

    “Yama, what happens if we can’t convince the sinners to change their ways? We are not allowed to end their lives prematurely.”

    Shani’s worried brow struck Yama as amusing. “Dearest sister, what do you think will happen? We are children of the sun. What harm could these mortals possibly do us?” Yama turned away from the table and it’s bothered occupant. “We’ll simply come home, and wait for them to come to us for judgment and consequence.”

    With a bewildered glance to the map, Shani asked her twin brother, “Why New Orleans?”

    With familiar arrogance, he replied, “Isn’t it obvious? I am the Guardian of the south.”

  12. Newly Wed

    Their eyes journeyed along countries and oceans. Her delicate finger began tracing the compass rose:
    ‘I can see why they call it a rose. I never saw it…until now. It is rather romantic.’ She blushed a little at the sentiment. ‘Do you think that’s dreadfully silly?’
    He took her hand in his and brought it to his lips kissing the gold and sapphire wedding band, ‘Not at all, Mrs. Higgins. I think you see the best in everything. I fear I do not deserve you.’
    ‘Oh,George. You judge yourself harshly. We are greatly matched despite what your horrid uncle says. Now, let’s play a game. I will close my eyes and point to somewhere on the map and wherever I point, is where we will for head first!’
    ‘Wherever! Why, be sure to stay clear of the ocean!’
    ‘Oh, do play along! You know how I like games!’
    Her indefatigable zest for everything made him love her and worry for her all at once.
    ‘Very well! You know I cannot refuse you!’
    She laughed and pretended to close her eyes. For which he loved her more. Circling her wrist theatrically like a magician’s assistant, she finally placed a finger on a spot on the map, ‘I….chooooooose….here!’

    ‘Ivy, even your fingertips have exquisite taste,’ he said amused. ‘The city of the rich! Where better to be newly wed!’

    ‘Where better to be newly widowed?,’ she thought kissing lips she knew she’d poison.

    247 words

  13. A Familiar Ugliness
    250 Words
    Lisa V. Tomecek

    Agnes had not expected Venus would be so warm. The ship that had brought them up from Earth, rising through the chill of the aether, had seemed interminably cold for all the long weeks of the transit, and it seemed to her any place in it must be just as cold.

    But the broad oceans and lush jungles fixed all that. Tucked beneath bands of golden clouds, save where verdure gave way to the shimmering strand at the edge of the water, it was a paradise. Profitable, too, her husband had said, and made great plans.

    But to Agnes, mostly it was beautiful—save for one thing.

    The Venusians came shambling down the beach every morning from their huts of sea-grass, their slick skins green and sweating in the heat, to enter the clear water in search of, well, whatever it was they ate.

    Agnes found them hideous, like frogs gone up on two legs. They babbled in their frog-talk and brought up strange pearls from the deep as gifts, but it didn’t make up for the smell of them or the way they marred the view with their little comings and goings.

    “Must we endure them?” she asked her husband.

    He laughed. “Only until the legion arrives. Steam-tanks and electro-guns will handle it just fine. After that, we can begin.” He unfurled the map and showed her the plan, already drawn along the beaches.

    “An Earth away from Earth,” she said with a little sigh. “As it should be.”

  14. This may just break the rules, but that picture got me thinking of two songs about travel- Crowded House’s Better Be Home Soon and Every Fucking City by Paul Kelly. I mashed them together for my story. Apologies to Paul Kelly and Neil Finn, but it seemed like fun at the time.

    Every f—ing city (240 words/ @dmcahill)

    Neither of them knew where they were going if the truth be told.
    “Somewhere deep inside, something’s got a hold on you,” she said.
    “You know you’re right.”
    “And it’s pushing me aside… For the first time in my life.”
    “Well we argued on the Channel train to Paris. The vin rouge helped us make it sweet again. And by the time that we got down to Lyon, everything I said was wrong, and you cursed me in the rain,” he said.
    “Don’t say nothing’s wrong…’cause when you get back home, maybe I’ll be gone.”
    “I was hoping that this break would make things go a little better for us and for a little while, it almost did.”
    “It would cause me pain if, if we were to end it.”
    “Foolishly I followed you to Dublin. Like a ghost I walked the streets of Temple Bar. And all the bright young things were throwing up their Guinness in the gutter and once I thought I saw you from a far.”
    “That’s why I tell you…”
    “And I’m trying hard to forget your name.”
    “But I could start again, you can depend on it.”
    “So I headed north until I got to Hamburg. A chilly city suits a troubled soul.”
    “Well- you better be home soon.”
    “And I can order sandwiches in seven different languages- every fucking city looks the same…”
    “That’s why I tell you- you better be home soon.”

  15. Map Reading

    I fluttered my eyelashes as Sidney spread the map out. What a bore this man was! Had we only been married three days, it felt like forever. Beneath my practised sweet smile I gritted my teeth and thought of his money.

    “Are you sure you’re feeling well enough for this my precious, you look a little pale?”

    “I’m sorry Sidney, being close to you my darling always makes me feel light-headed. Please go on.”

    “I was just saying, my dearest, this is a map. Don’t look so worried, I wouldn’t expect you to understand it or be able to follow it, I just wanted to show you the route I’ve planned for our excursion this afternoon.”

    “Oh Sidney, you are so clever.”

    I snuggled up closer and gave him another of my girly looks. Sidney carried on.

    “Well my precious, if you look carefully you will see that parts of the map are coloured blue, that’s the sea. This wiggly black line is the route we will take along the coastal path. I’m not going too fast for you sweetheart, am I? You look a little puzzled. Probably best we leave it at that for now.”

    I squeezed Sidney’s arm and thanked him for his kindness.

    Stupid man! If only he knew of the time I’d spent yesterday poring over this map. I had a clear picture of the route we would be taking. Even more important, I knew exactly where poor Sidney was going to have his fatal accident.

    @mj51day
    250 Words

  16. Where Next?
    By Charles W. Short
    @CharlesWShort 250 words exactly

    She studied the map, he studied her. Red hair, green eyes, and a bright intelligence had captured him from their first meeting. He felt blessed.

    “Where next?” She said it in a soft, thoughtful voice with her hand marking their location.

    He noticed his hand on her shoulder and thought to himself, “Where next, indeed.”

    “Jack, where are you thinking?”

    “Perhaps, down under?” He kept his voice from revealing his mischievous thoughts, but his hand betrayed him as it made a slight movement down her back. He corrected himself and hoped she had not noticed.

    She raised her head and spoke gently, “Husband are you thinking of our trip, or are you thinking of your hand.”

    He glanced around. He felt a slight panic, trying to avoid her perceptive eyes. He had been caught. “Maybe a little of both.”

    He was embarrassed. Rightly so. “Well, my bride, I told you when we got married I would let you go anywhere you desired.”

    She turned and faced him. His hand stayed on her shoulder so that it wrapped around her in a loose hug. He was not accustomed to this closeness. It made him dizzy. But it was a most delightful dizzy.

    She stared at him. He settled down and returned the gaze. Then she intentionally glanced at his hand on her shoulder and said, “And I told you, my dear husband, I would let you go anywhere you desired.”

    They both thought they had the better half of the deal.

  17. The Honeymoon Is Over
    by Margaret Locke
    @Margaret_Locke
    (259 words)

    “If he’d just stopped to ask for directions, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” she exclaimed, stiffening her shoulders.

    “Directions? How does one ask for directions while on a ship, my dear?” he said. “I hardly think the captain intended to wreck upon this island.”

    Setting the map down, he looked out the window. “Not that here is a bad place to be, darling, don’t you think? I can smell oranges in the air.”

    “What about those bizarre things on the beach?” she interjected irritably. “They look like giant Easter eggs.”

    “True,” he conceded. “But what luck to stumble on this hotel! Have you ever had such fresh cream?”

    Agatha let out a loud “Harrumpfh!” This was not how she’d imagined her honeymoon. They were supposed to be exploring the churches of Florence and walking the streets of Rome, not stuck on some God-forsaken island peppered with bizarre statues.

    Waving her hand in front of her face, she muttered, “There aren’t so many mosquitoes in England.”

    Chester stroked his wife’s fiery red hair and dropped a kiss on her forehead.

    “You’re right, my dear.” He started to chuckle.

    She gave him a questioning glance.

    “…But England does have your mother.”

    She felt a smile tickle the corners of her mouth.

    “And she’s a far more vicious bloodsucker,” he added.

    She burst out laughing. “Indeed. Perhaps we should never return at all.”

    “That’s my wife!” he laughed, pulling her in close and raising the map. “So, after this, where to next?”

    “Anywhere with you,” she said softly. “Anywhere at all.”

  18. The Honeymoon

    Blake sat in the corner. He was of average height and looks. He had brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a plain brown suit, a white shirt, A lighter brown waistcoat, a simple green tie, and a gold watch chain. Lenore sat beside him on the bench. She was also average in appearance. Her light red har was dressed in a simple bun. She wore an ivory sprigged muslin walking dress lightly spotted with pale flowers. Therwas a sinle layer of short lace at her wrists and neck. The bustle of her dress was small and discrete. A blue ribbon fastened her collar. nA single red rose was pinned to her left shoulder next to her collar. She leaned forward eagerly against Blake. His left arm wrapped tenderly around her, his hand resting on her shoulder. Her head brushed against his as they considered the map he held in his right hand. Her right index finger vpointed elegantly at their next destination. Her lacy white scarf and plain straw hat were drapped on the back of the side chair. The remains of their breakfast littered the far end of the table. A gentle breeze laden with sweet floral scents wafted onto the sunny porch. The surf pounded gently in the background. “This is the best honeymoon evder, Dearest!” She said enthusiastically. These Human Realms are so interesting!”
    “Anything for you Sweetheart!” Blake gallantly replied. The two Demons beamed at each other in delight as they contemplated the next place they would terrorise.
    254vwords emilykarn@yahoo.com

  19. Man’s Last Stand
    by A J Walker

    Lord Fotherington-Smythe poured over the old map with Alice, who clapped her hands.

    ‘I do love maps Fothy darling,’ said Alice.

    ‘Aye, they’re so enticing,’ said LFS, ‘The names and forms just shout out stories new and old to me.’

    ‘I think it’s time for a wee bit of an adventure away from the town, where should we go first?’ Alice said.

    LFS pointed near the centre of the map, ‘This valley looks interesting. Probably be about a week to do the return trip I reckon. It is properly in the middle of no where, so we’ll need to take plenty of provisions.’

    Alice peered at the packed contour lines showing the steep sides of the entrance to the valley, ‘Gaping Gully. I like the sound of that, it looks like a proper gorge too. Should be beautiful, I will have to take my paints.’

    ‘Looks like it will be limestone with all those caves. And look here at the river that disappear, the “River Nonesuch” such a fabulous name.’

    Alice squinted at the emblems and names around the isolated valley; Hell’s Kitchen, Lover’s Dive, Peak’s o’ Purgatory, Dragon’s Gate, Bloody Waterfall. She noticed a hand scrawled note close the top of the valley, next to the start of the river, ‘What does that say?’

    ‘It looks like “Man’s Last Stand” to me,’ said LFS, ‘Some sarcastic comment no doubt.’

    This little note taken together with the blood stain around the torn corner of the map should have served as a warning.

    (253 words)

  20. The breeze blowing in off the sea was chilly, full of portents of autumn and death, and it rattled the map the Professor and I were trying to read. Fading ink and irregular creases were too much for her aging eyes, but finally I saw it, the mark of King Anchilor, nestled along the southern coast of Itraina. The double cross looked suspiciously like the markings for a small forest, but once seen, it was undeniably what we were looking for.

    “Oh, Jon, you’ve done it!” The Professor’s eyes had grown weak, but her voice was strong, and I heard an echo of the young woman who’d first circumnavigated the globe in her fervor. She turned to me and took my hand between her gnarled fingers. “You’ll be the first, you know. The first to see the sacred texts in three eons. But there will be others, and you must be vigilant.”

    “No, Professor – that honor will be yours. I’ll be there at your side, of course.”

    “Nonsense. This journey is yours. Sixteen hundred leagues, overland? Twice that by sea? If I was but ten years younger, you wouldn’t be able to stop me.” She sighed, her white eyes filling with tears. “Really, it’s enough to have found the map, to have discovered the location. There were many nights I despaired of ever coming this far.”

    She turned to look out over the water, pulling her coat tight around her slender form. “I always loved this time of year. Autumn holds so much promise for rebirth.”

    256 words
    @drmagoo

    • I really liked this! I was a little confused at first who was who because neither looked old, but the gender eventually came out! 🙂 I LOVED how you developed the professor and her passion for her search. So well done. I wanted to cry with her!

  21. Plans
    by James Mender

    “See here? This is where there’s a colony of semi-intelligent velociraptors. And then over here is a vicious swarm of genetically engineered wasp hybrids.”

    Aliera shook her head. “I can’t believe you were obsessive enough to map out DUST worlds like this.”

    “Oh, I wasn’t,” I replied. “Do you know Tereshkova Lee?”

    “Teri? Sure. I think she has a thing for you.”

    “I know. Poor kid. Her mentor in the Free Travellers was the one who assembled most of this map from his own journeys. I just added a few of the more … interesting … places.”

    “What about that DUST world with the saber tooth tigers? You could use those again.”

    “That’s over here, with the X through it. Unfortunately, I could pull that stunt only once. It was funny but I just wasn’t expecting things to come to a head this quickly.”

    “So that’s why you’re mapping the arrival points outside of DUSTER headquarters?”

    “Exactly. The HQ is too well protected now. We’ll need to break them through attrition in smaller attacks.”

    “Let’s hope it works. What’s this world over here, with the star on it?”

    I smiled. “That’s for after. Do you like this place?”

    “A bit too Victorian, maybe, but it’s been wonderful.” She leaned in close and I put my arm around her shoulder.

    “Well, that place? It’s *better*.”

    She kissed me, then said, “So let’s win this kisirien-forsaken war and go there. What’s on this world over here?”

    “That’s a weird one: tornados filled with sharks.”

    “Ooh, I know *just* where to send those.”

    ~ ~ ~
    Author’s Note: 258 words.
    @JamesMender

  22. Lady Lucky

    The rhythmic roar of waves had always been a calming influence over her, ever since she was a young girl. The warm ocean air mingled with aromas of roasted, tangy, cool snacks of the Juhu Beach, the smooth touch of shiny broken shells under her feet, the persistent pleading of seaweeds hugging her ankles, the stuff the memories are made of! Above all, she longed for the faraway places beyond the red-orange horizon that snatched the sun away.

    Sitting in her ocean front cottage, she longs to be that young girl with the possibilities. The cottage, the luxury of running water, the 360 degree view of the ocean, the satins and silks! She is the most envied woman. It is so peaceful here; visitors always say when they visit her on their whirlwind trips. It is indeed peaceful here. Not a creature stirs, ever. Occasionally, Edward (That’s Sir Edward), utters a word, usually to say how upset he is that she botched up the evening meal. Yes, one more thing, there are no servants at the cottage.

    She still longs. Sometimes, she brings out the map. The map she bought when they first met. She had drawn pretty pink hearts over the places that she had read about. She points to the southernmost forest cradling the ocean on its rim. Edward dressed in the evening jacket, nods and signals that he is ready for dinner.

    There are no sounds expect for the clanking of the cutlery. It is peaceful here.

    250 words (Sans title)
    @needanidplease

  23. ______________________________

    “Another Adventure”

    250 words – Twitter name: SVBookman

    “Oh, Georgie!” Abigail sighed, looking over the newest version of Archson’s world map. “Where can we go now?”

    George Rockman pushed his magnificently crafted Grabow pipe farther into his mouth as he gazed from Abigail’s beautiful countenance to the map and back again.

    “Abby, my dear,” he began, “there is nowhere we can’t go. In fact, there is nowhere we shouldn’t go!” He put his arm around her, giving a tight squeeze while waving his other arm.

    “I never dreamed it would be this much fun, so gloriously delicious to hunt. I am so very glad we met and you pushed for me to get started.”

    George was happy, too. He was very glad to have been able to show Abby the basics of the bow. She had taken to it like a fish to water, and, in no time, had been hitting her targets’ center each time she let a shaft fly. The two of them made a great couple. Neither made a sound and the pair was deadly to behold. This would be their twelfth outing together.

    “Let’s see, Abby, we’ve been to Montana, Quebec, and even New Zealand. Where to next?”

    “How about Chicago?” the lass inquired.

    “That would be quite a challenge,” George mused with a smile.

    Abigail went back into the house and down to the basement with the trophies. She looked at the mountings. She liked the blonde from Montana, but the brunette from Quebec put her to shame. Yes, Chicago would be fun.

    ______________________________

    Namaste,

    Scott L Vannatter

  24. The time traveler’s daughter
    (260 words)

    He’d have me seated beside him on our white Spanish terrace overlooking the sea and he’d open an old map with names barely readable, holes forming where the edges met; it always seemed magical to me with its untraceable lines and curves, nameless mountains and ancient rivers, distant cities and marvelous capitals. My father would then say “Point somewhere, anywhere, and we shall go at once.” And I did, thrilled to have this little adventure of imagination…
    I regretted not visiting my old father for many years after that; one summer though, I went back to Spain.
    “It seems you haven’t changed at all father.”
    He smiled.
    “The Spanish sun does me wonders my dear Ophelia. Come now, sit with me – I have your tea and our map settled.”
    I had, secretly hoped to play our little game again, though I knew by now the limits of travel and the vastness of the world.
    He stretched the map and for the first time perhaps I noticed how indeed old it was – the material resembled papyrus and all the contours were needled in, fine thin laces of horse hair. I gasped.
    “Any place you’d want to visit, now, just like old times.”
    I traced places familiar and not and chose the distant sands of Egypt; the mysticism of Cairo.
    My father then did something I did not recall from before – he took out a beautiful compass from his inner pocket; it spun as he opened it, glimmering, pulsating in golden, and madly searching….searching for Egypt.
    Then the world became a blur.

    @Raptamei

  25. Erin McCabe

    259 words

    The Siren

    “Limitless possibilities” the phrase echoed in his head, which felt addled and weary. Attempting to banish the feeling, he re-focused on the map now thrust in front of him.

    “You could build a magnificent port here, with all the slave labour you would need.” She gestured towards the South of the island enthusiastically, her red hair glistening in the sun now enveloping them both.

    His body was heavy and stiff, how long had he been here? She was staring intently, presumably expecting a response.

    He glanced towards the calm seas; there was no sign of his ship, nor his shipmates.

    “Yes” he muttered, the words slow and cautious, he steadied himself by grasping her shoulder.

    “A signature is all I need; the island would be yours.”

    Her words poured over him, rhythmic waves of persuasion, powerfully subduing and intriguing; he found himself reaching for the pen.

    Appending his name on the map he felt increasingly disorientated, the sun was vanishing, the white paint of the villa now peeling a sickly brown. He groaned as his limbs tightened, throat constricting, brain rattling about his skull as his nervous system endlessly burned.

    “You failed” she whispered with unconcealed satisfaction, watching the bright light fade from his eyes.

    She had grown bored of ripping them mercilessly from their ships, fighting in the raging storms, watching so many men scream and cry like small children lost forever to the sea. This way was so much simpler; empire building was in their blood which tasted so much sweeter when not diluted by sea water.

  26. Saucy Jacky
    255 words
    @MarissaAmes

    “Constantinople!” Emma slapped the map, giggling.

    Richard smiled and picked it up again. Oh, she exhilarated him.

    “Marrakech!” She flounced in her new and proper dress. “Say we can go to Marrakech. Please?”

    “Anywhere you would like, my dear,” Richard replied. He would take her anywhere. Constantinople, Marrakech, or the West Indies.

    He would do anything for her. Lift her up from the dregs of society, give her a hot meal and a bath and a life off the streets. Richard had found her huddling in the Whitechapel district, trading favors for farthings.

    Richard was a physician, a man of esteem, but Emma sat upon a pedestal. He could not abide the stories she told, of the mockery from Mary and Annie and Catherine. When she suggested revenge, he proved his love. He showed her how.

    She took well to it, showed no remorse.

    Scotland Yard sought a man. Richard’s letters ensured that. In lieu of Emma’s illiterate hand, Richard narrated the murders, promising to clip ears and claiming to fry kidneys. Saucy Jacky gained notoriety within the Manchester Guardian. The Leather Apron, The Ripper. Not Emma.

    Richard took Emma’s hand, wrapping his fingers around her healing wounds. The last one had fought. Mary Kelly invited Emma into her home, forgetting the torment she had once delivered upon sweet Emma. Richard watched then stitched up Emma’s hands.

    Mary’s heart would nourish the child. If grace prevailed, it would grow up to be just like Richard’s sweet Emma.

    Pointing and bouncing, Emma squealed, “There! New Orleans!”

  27. “A Unique Property”
    by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
    [250 words]

    The third clue had Edward and Blanche Beamish stumped. They had found it tied with ancient red ribbon to the roof timbers of the hotel veranda; the location which the second clue had revealed quite quickly. As honeymoons went, stepping back sixty years, in the hope of retracing a journey someone else had planned but never started, was as romantic as it was tragic.

    The first clue had been inside a wedding gift from Blanche’s great aunt, whose name was also Blanche. First class tickets to Egypt had been provided to help them “To find the beginning of their adventure”, or so the label read.

    The elder Blanche apologised and admitted the trail might end quickly, as it had been set by her father many years before. “The chances of the rest of the clues still existing are slight, but my father was a resourceful man. I have faith you will find what he had intended me and my fiancé to seek.” was the only hint of what the gift contained the old woman would provide.

    They repaid the spinster with thoughtful thanksgivings, and imaginings of at least a ‘Grand Tour’ of the Empire. Edward, a writer, promised to document their travels. Blanche agreed to send drawings and paintings when she could.

    Later, the couple had time to discuss their benefactor’s sad history. “She never did marry.” the bride explained. “No one really knows why.”

    “Or will not mention.” her new husband added. “Let us hope we succeed for her.”

    • As you say a bittersweet gift, and a joyous adventure. (Good thing Graddad left everything open ended) Of course, now I’m curious to see where it takes them (as long as its not the fields of Trenzalore.)

      • Sshh. This one isn’t a Who story. Travelling back sixty years was metaphorical. And it was Blanche’s Great Grand Father. So, Trenzalore is right out. My own Grand Mother spent much of her youth in what is now Afghanistan an India with her parents before the Great War.

  28. “Where next,” he asked, his brow creased with anticipation.

    It was the fateful moment.

    My dear Lawrence spread the map open. I scanned dots marking exotic towns along the Mediterranean coast. Typical of Lawrence, always determined to please me, he’d worried over every detail of our honeymoon. I was more content then than I would ever be on that sunny morning in Santorini, as the mild breeze carried the scents of salt, verbena and lavender. We had been travelling for a month, and had seen some of the most beautiful places in the world. Ohio had none of that vibrancy. Yet, I was growing tired and longed to see my family.

    I pointed.

    “There,” I answered him, with conviction, “Barcelona, and then Southampton, and home.”

    “Are you so weary of me already?”

    “I shall never tire of your company, Lawrence,” I assured him, laying my hand over his, “but a month is a long time for me to be away from home and for you from work.”

    He grunted in agreement. What else could he say?

    We boarded the largest luxury cruise ship ever built on April 10 in Southampton harbor. You’ve seen the movie. Women in first class were placed in the boats. Men had to stay behind. At the time I thought I was particularly susceptible to seasickness, since I was not only ill in the morning, but all day long.

    You were my miracle baby, the passenger I didn’t know I carried, and you survived. You are my last link to Lawrence. I will always cherish you.

  29. TO BOLDLY GO

    “How about Mykonos?”

    He pretended to be interested in the place on the map his wife’s finger was pointing at but he wasn’t. Each year, at the end of their holiday they repeated the same ritual. His wife would get out a map of the Mediterranean and they’d settle on where they’d vacation the following year. And by settle he meant that his wife would choose and he’d go along with it.

    Truth was, he didn’t much care for the Mediterranean. He instead longed for more adventurous summers. To circumnavigate the Earth. Cross the Americas by train and scoop fresh Himalayas snow from a hot air balloon. As his eyes wandered from the map he imagined diving to the bottom of the ocean with a megalomaniac Indian and exploring strange new worlds at the centre of the Earth.

    Of course that would never happen. Not with two stepchildren in tow and a kid of his own on the way. Not with a flourishing law firm that at most allowed three weeks of vacation a year. It saddened him deeply that his world would never expand beyond the Paris arrondissement he resided in and his yearly Mediterranean sightseeing tour.

    “I’ve finished your story,” his wife said, awakening him from his daydream. “It is quite good, you know. Silly, yes, but fun. You should find a publisher.”

    Jules kissed her on the lips, beaming.

    “So, whereto, my love?” his wife asked.

    “To the future,” he replied. “To the future.”

    247 words – @dieterrogiers

  30. Free (225 words)

    “The world is ours, my darling. Come closer and look.”

    Edward held up the map, and Jane shifted closer to get a better look, smiling as if she adored him. He leaned closer, his breath smelling of blood pudding and stout; his dark eyes filled with desire.

    Why not? Their marriage had cemented two great fortunes and made her a prisoner. Her wishes no longer mattered, but it was a good union for their families.

    “Where would you like to go? Paris? Italy? Perhaps India?” His voice sounded ernest, and she wished he weren’t so fawning.

    “Oh, Edward, wherever you choose will be perfect for me.” She gripped the small vial of poison in her pocket. Soon Edward would begin to feel the effects, and she would be free.

    She stood and pushed back the green curtains to look down at the ocean smashing into the rocks below. She wished she could turn into a bird and fly.

    “Stand on the bench, you’ll see better.” Edward took her hand.

    With Edward’s help, she clambered onto the wooden bench. At first she felt a little dizzy, but the view was magnificent. The wind ruffled her hair, and she spread out her arms.

    “Free,” she thought.

    She was hurtling towards the rocks long before she registered the push in the middle of her back.

  31. Silenced Voices

    Slowly he unfolded the map; the sea breathed noisily in the distance, sighing. The ancient paper felt soft, furry, beneath their calloused fingertips. An emerald sea stretched out before them, the wind carving eternal waves through the long grass as they traced impossible paths into the interior. The map whispered as they turned its ancient paper, joining with the muttering of the waves and the shrill warning of the wind, together they whispered the old promises of exploration – fame, glory, escape.

    As if there could be an escape.

    He turned to face her, and the pain written across her face fluttered before she looked away.

    The sun set, dropping into the sea, extinguished.

    A light blazed above them while the landscape faded to black, and still they pored over their map before, begrudgingly, they slept.

    Dawn broke, and again the sun sprung up above the sea. No songbird greeted its passage. They woke, together, at the same moment, and the day’s silence began again. He caught her hand as she stood, imploring her to wait, to stay. They couldn’t, and he knew it. Soon the snuffling would begin again behind them, soon the Island’s paths would replant themselves, tracing new courses through the blue moors. And so, on again. They moved, still-soft feet aching, complaining with each step.

    “I love you,” he whispered, to her back as she stalked the chalk-paths rising into the highlands. “I love you,” he whispered, his voice the droning of bees. She smiled, briefly, before putting her finger to her lips. Theirs was a jealous God, which is why they walked this Purgatory alone, together.

    His gaze swept out across the bay, and in one motion he leapt, taking flight, momentarily, above the crashing blue-white death below him.

    She sighed. Now tomorrow they would have to begin again.

    (303 words. Mine’s too long this week, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to share!)

  32. “Where to Next?” (Word Count 258)
    The ocean breeze ruffled the curtains and napkins upon the table. Edmund unfolded the map of Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Victoria’s eyes widened as she noticed the markers Edmund had placed on the map to indicate where he had been on his travels.

    “Did you really travel to all these places, Edmund?” She asked, taken aback.

    “Why yes, dear Victoria. Did you doubt the letters I had sent you?” he answered, staring into her green eyes.

    “Oh no, sir, it is only…” She drifted off, lost in thought as her hand lightly traced over the map. Oh how she longed to visit the lands and cities far beyond the small northern island of England, where discoveries lay calling out to her like the Sirens that did once enrapture Odysseus. The many cities and landmarks called to her.

    “Edmund,” she said in a soft voice, her cheeks turning red.

    “Yes, dear Victoria?”

    “When do you depart and where to?” She asked, clasping her hands together, looking away from him.

    “In two days time to Egypt. I fear my business takes me there. Why do you ask, madam?” He eyed her with curiosity as the breeze came again, ruffling her hair and dress.

    “Tis’ nothing, just curiosity.” She sighed.

    Edmund cupped her chin in his hand and smiled, “Victoria, I would be ever delighted if you would accompany me to Egypt.”

    Victoria’s eyes lit up, “Oh Edmund, I shall!”

    He placed his arm around her shoulder and drew her in.

    “Then my dear, tell me, after Egypt, where next?”

  33. Professor Endeavour and The Secret of Crumpet Island

    (260 words)

    “You dashed fool Endeavour! You dashed blind fool!”

    Camellia rushed into the sitting room as her husband swept the breakfast things from the table, sending towards her a pot of gentlemen’s relish which she caught with unnatural ease.

    “Henry, my love, what is it?”

    The Professor ignored her, unfolding a voluminous sheaf of parchment which covered half of the table.

    “How could I have missed it?” he murmoured, tracing pathways and circuits across the surface of the vellum with a fingertip. “I honestly thought it was a map…”

    Camellia frowned, stroking his feverish brow.

    “Really Henry. You shouldn’t excite yourself so. Doctor Meerschaum says –”

    “Doctor Meerschaum is bound for England with the rest of the crew, along with several of your island women, just as your blasted priestess planned.”

    Camellia opened her mouth, feigning shock, but Endeavour silenced her, pulling her to his side.

    “You may drop the act my dear, if your programming allows it. It’s quite clear now.”

    He found on the map an array of small rocks, then gripped his young wife’s shoulder tighter, pressing against the matching cluster of tiny moles which he had seen for the first time only the night before, in the wedding chamber; the blemishes which he now knew lay in this self-same spot on all of the crewmembers’ island brides.

    Camellia cried out, then her head drooped forward with the soft sound of flywheels grinding down.

    “Now for that diabolical automaton building priestess,” Endeavour declared, reaching for his cane, “Though I doubt her off switch will be so easily found….”

    @Karl_A_Russell

  34. The Assignment, ~256 Words, @LadyPutz
    __________________________________________________

    It was a simple assignment: Get close to Daniel, Lord of Wiers, and kill him.

    ***
    “No problem,” Micah I’d said I’ll have it done by end of summer
    “End of summer!” He’d exclaimed. It was still winter then, when Micah offered me the assignment.
    “I want to spend at least a little time enjoying that villa,” I laughed back.
    ***

    Now, with the peak of summer passing and Daniel draping his arm over my shoulders, I wasn’t certain anymore this was a simple assignment.

    “We could go to Madrilla, perhaps, or maybe Harin,” he was saying. Sunshine illuminated the map splayed out before us—held up with one hand, the breeze ruffling the edges. How could this have happened? How could it be possible for sunshine to whisper of treachery, for a warm breeze to sing murderer?

    “It depends on whether you’d rather chase this sunshine south or relegate ourselves to hearths and bearskin rugs and blizzards.”

    ***
    “It will be simple,” Micah said. “Get close to Lord Wiers and kill him. Then take the Red Book.”
    I never even asked why. I never asked why.
    ***

    “It’s simple,” he said before I could break my silence, “we go west. No one ever goes west. No one will come looking for us west.”

    I twirled the map’s red string in my hand, feigning deep thought on destinations for our autumn. Behind me on the ledge, the Red Book called. The weight of the dagger hidden in my bodice thumped like a second heart.

    “It’s simple,” I agreed. “We go.”

  35. Searching for Life
    By Miss Hannah
    @littleditte (250 words)

    Sarah’s thoughts were solely occupied within a delicious frenzy of excitement brought on by an invitation. A most spontaneous and wildly unexpected invitation handed to her by her own reserved, simple, loving husband. He asked if it would please her to help plan and accompany him on a journey to various destinations.

    It happened as he was making his usual commute home. A secret within him confessed itself so loudly it was impossible to ignore any longer. He was failing his own existence, living in servitude by the rigors of society, lingering at the club, smoking cigars, conversing in stubborn, restrictive, dull talk. The world was progressing rapidly towards a fantastic future, richly diversifying, discovery and reinventing itself in endless possibilities. And he longed to join in. His only worry was about Sarah understanding.

    Sarah’s mind was dizzy and dreaming of the cultural opulence of the East. The rich smells, feasts of color and sweet sounds of incoherent languages she had long been enchanted by from stories she read, kept tucked in her Hope chest. Her husband must have observed her desire. He was offering to revive her oppressed soul and rescue it from a suffocating, mundane society, freeing her existence to finally roam unbridled through the world outside of their dictated life.

    They were giddy over the maps, pointing and talking excitably and settling into a unison of fresh, exciting emotions, pouring out in a comfortable manner, happily exposing each others secrets, now understood are one and the same.

  36. Sanctuary

    “Could we go here today?” Delilah’s carefully manicured finger landed gently on the map.

    “Of course. We can go anywhere you want.”

    She settled at Nicolas’ side, relaxing under the easy weight of his arm on her shoulders. “You’re so good to me.”

    He allowed the map to fall onto the table. “You’re my wife.”

    He sipped the remains of his coffee. A warm breeze tinged with salt floated through the windowless breakfast room, ruffling her collar and teasing Nicolas’ hair. He had spared no expense for their voyage. The picturesque, seaside villa surpassed her every expectation.

    Meeting the Marquis had been extraordinarily fortuitous; marrying him even more so. Delilah straightened the cravat that peeked out from his vest before flattening her hand on his chest.

    “Shall I speak with the coachman?” he asked calmly.

    Delilah hummed in affirmation. “I could consult the cook. Perhaps we could bring a picnic basket?”

    “If that will make you happy.”

    “Being with you makes me happy.” The safety of his embrace ensured her affection, even if Nicolas didn’t resemble the husband she had once envisioned for herself. A child’s fantasy.

    “Well you have me all to yourself, dear one.” He planted a passionless kiss on Delilah’s waiting lips. “For a few more days, that is.”

    “Couldn’t we prolong our stay?”

    “I’m afraid not. The real world awaits.”

    “More reason to enjoy this haven while we can,” Delilah decided, standing. With the protection afforded by their association, she could almost enjoy their honeymoon.

    If only this marriage were legal.

    (255 words; @AriaGlazki)

  37. Lost Without You

    “Charles, you’ve dropped a little dollop of butter on your trousers, just there.” Catherine leaned toward him and pointed.

    “Caty dear, you’re not even looking at the map! I was thinking of following the river to here.” Charles reached around and hugged her shoulder closer to him as he flipped the large map in half and pulled it toward them.

    “But, Charles, you can’t go anywhere in such a state.” Catherine pulled out her handkerchief and wiped gently on his thigh. “Oh, dear. It’s left a stain.”

    “Then follow this valley north to-”

    “Charles,” Catherine interrupted. “Did you hear me?”

    “Confound it all, Caty, no one will notice a small grease stain on my trouser leg. Especially where we are going.” He batted her hand away.

    Catherine pulled her hand back, lower lip quivering, eyes pained.

    “Now, Caty, there’s no need to cry. We’re going to make history today!”

    “In stained trousers? Is that the impression you want to make?” She stood and turned from him, clutching the handkerchief to her breast.

    Charles stood and rested his hands on her shoulders, “Catherine, Dearest, I shall put on new trousers. Please don’t be upset. You’re right, details matter. I should’ve remembered that.” He turned her around to face him. “Is that all?”

    She looked down at the handkerchief in her hands. “It’s just that- Well- Sometimes I wonder if you even need me anymore. You always have your head in one of your maps.”

    “Oh, Catherine, maps help me find my way, but I’d be lost without you.”

    @lissajean7
    257 words

  38. Manhood
    @todayschapter

    “Are you absolutely certain it’s that way?”
    Hank grimaced, “Of course, I have an innate sense of direction. Don’t insult my manhood!”
    “I see, well I was just in the bathroom and based on the puddles I am not so sure your manhood has the best sense of direction either.”
    “In my defence I was drunk. You’re lucky I was in the bathroom!”
    “I told you not to drink so much at the meet and greet.”
    “I wanted to fool our competition into thinking I was an incompetent drunk.”
    “Well it was very convincing!”
    Hanks forehead creased with concentration. Laura waited patiently and then whispered, “You know we could just ask someone…”
    “What did you just say?”
    “A local. They’d know where it is, I’m sure they do this every year.”
    “I do NOT need to ask for directions. Not now, not ever. I got my orienteering badge at Scouts you know.”
    “That was a long time ago. I don’t recall the rules saying we couldn’t ask for help.”
    “It doesn’t say we can’t murder the other couples either. Should I fetch a cleaver?”
    “Now you’re just being silly.” Laura tugged at her midrift, “Honestly I don’t know how they wore this stuff, it’s like a hippo’s sitting on my chest.”
    “You think you’ve got it bad, it feels like these trousers are made of scouring pads. I think the previous owner died in them.”
    A voice came over the speaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, two minutes until the start of the old fashioned treasure hunt. A reminder, no iPhones allowed!”

  39. The treasure of Bonnie Read
    253 words
    @mishmhem

    There was something in the way the couple moved that drew the house detective’s attention to them.
    There was no doubt that the two were very much in love, one look at how they moved together told him as much. No, what bothered him was the way they studied the map; the way the woman carefully measured the distance with the ribbon she’d taken from around her neck.

    There was a confidence in the way the worked together. These were not the usual treasure seekers, following maps they’d purchased, or historical accounts of the pirates who’d sailed these waters some 200 years earlier.

    If he didn’t know better, he’d have said that the map was merely a formality and these two already knew where they were heading, a formality or bait.

    Looking around he realized he wasn’t the only one who’d taken an interest in the couple. Two of the town’s ‘bad element’ had taken to watching them as well.

    Still, the detective waited. He could afford to. If the couple found the treasure, he could simply confiscate it on legal grounds. If, on the other hand, it was taken from them, he could step in and heroically save the treasure. It was a win/win scenario.

    Three hours later, he found an option he hadn’t expected… when the boys made their move, they learned the hard way that the man was actually a woman in men’s clothing, and the lady was no lady at all.

    He decided to let them keep their gold.

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