Flash! Friday # 51

** 10 Days Until the Flashversary!! The party runs Dec 2 -6: YES! YOU HEARD RIGHT! FIVE WHOLE DAYS to write & submit your stories for hold-the-prizes-in-your-hands glory. And global (minor) adulation, of course, and the envy of dragons everywhere. Don’t miss it!

WELCOME TO FLASH! FRIDAY!  I’m feeling a bit contemplative this weekend: I am attending a get-away-from-it-all retreat sans internet and cell phone. While some days I’m not sure whether it’s possible to survive such a deprivation (meeting me now, you would never believe I grew up barefoot in a tiny village without telephones at all!), part of me is curious to see how three full days away will change my perspective. So I thought it only fitting to share that contemplation with you today.

(Find the meditative contest rules here.)

You will be accompanied on this week’s thoughtful stroll through the Muse Garden by outgoing SVW judge and Thinker Extraordinaire Beth Petersonwho suggests using the senses may be an effective way to catch her judgy eye. Be sure to check out her judge page to learn more.

And now:

Word limit: 150 word story (5- word leeway) based on the photo prompt. Short but powerful, see? 

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (145 – 155 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 is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post SUNDAY NIGHT 

Prize: A decidedly NON-introspective e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a partyingly pensive winner’s page here at FF, a subdued yet mysteriously mischievous 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME grown in the elaborate hedges of labyrinths around the world (so to speak). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s as-often-as-I-can-get-to-it Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/cell phone deprivation survival tips. Oh wait. need the tips. SPILL!  And now for your prompt:

Monk (Thailand). Photo courtesy of Shuco.

Monk (Thailand). Photo courtesy of Shuco.

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114 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 51

  1. Deep Thought, by Tinman
    151 words
    (Still no Twitter account)

    His parachute was still wrapped around him.

    The Glastonbury authorities allow concert-goers access to the giant stone circles, but the Stone Bedstead of King Arthur is off-limits. You don’t want people trampling on the bed of the Once and Future King, in case the “Future” part is actually true and he comes back really annoyed.

    So they had put barbed-wire around it, but hadn’t reckoned on anyone arriving from above.

    He hadn’t known that there was a tree so close to the bed. He had had to catch the large branch, flip around it and spin off like a gymnast leaving the parallel bars. He’d even done the little step forward that they do upon landing, trying to make it look like part of their routine.

    Anyone seeing him now would have thought that his head was bowed in contemplation, but in fact he was simply waiting for it to stop spinning.

    Anyone seeing him now would have thought that his head was bowed in contemplation, but in fact he was simply waiting for it to stop spinning.

  2. Choosing (152 words)
    Ian Martyn @IBMartyn

    The path is straight and yet my head will not allow my feet to take a single step. I stand confused although the choice is simple, forward or back. But as for the path, so for my life. This strip of gravel with its restraining fence, forces upon me that stark reality. There can be no deviation, no compromise. To choose one excludes the other. Forward to a life of devotion, inner peace and contentment, but without the love of the person that is dearest to me. Back to that love and a life in the material world with its competition, striving and values I have come to question. As darkness descends the path in both directions becomes indistinct, playing tricks with my mind. Only by stepping one way or the other will more be revealed. I will stay until the light returns and pray that with clarity of vision comes enlightenment.

  3. Samanera
    By Allison K. Garcia
    154 words

    The heat of the day was oppressive. Samanera Niran moved into the shadows under the leafy tree and breathed out. Luang Pho Anun taught him how to start his mindfulness practice. First concentrate on breathing, then on relaxing the body, then on the world around you.

    Niran listened to the air entering and exiting his body. He felt the temperature cooler as he breathed in and warmer as it left. The air brushed against his lips as he exhaled. He slowly opened his fists and leaned his head in a prayerful position, feeling a bead of sweat trickle down his newly shaven head.

    All he had to do was clear his mind. If he could manage this, he could move up in the ranks, get a new title. Navaka Niran, he thought. That would be better. Then one day Luang Phi. His smile dropped off.

    His mind never stayed clear for very long.

  4. Nirvana

    ***

    Klahan Metharom caused his vessel to walk along the narrow path leading from the sacred gardens to the inner temple, utterly focussed on maintaining the void in his mind.

    The void was everything, being nothing at all. It filled the skull of his corporeal form and was held there such that nary a stray thought or emotion manifested there. He walked, but in the manner of an automaton. He was aware of birdsong and wind rustling through leaves, but only vaguely, for these things had no individual significance.

    No individual significance, yet collectively, they were all connected to each other; he and everything else was connected as one, all was connected with the void. All was the void, the void was everything; all was nothing.

    He paused, struck dumb by the realisation that he was the void, and the void was he, that he was one, balanced.

    Nirvana.

    **

    @theimaginator20
    148 words

  5. The Picture

    I miss her with ever fiber of my being.
    I keep holding, on to the only thing that is left of the live we have spend together, the only thing I own – a picture of her.
    What would live have been like if she would not have walked down that alley? The choices she made, the death she endured, let me to here. If I can not spent the prime of my life with the love and reason for my life, it has become devout of meaning.
    Maybe it’s meaning can be found again here, in the stillness of this place, in the connection with faith and nature.
    But to experience that I must let go off you, and I will never be able to let go off you, not with the depth required of me.
    I wonder if they know?
    How can they not know?

    © Copyright Claudia H. Blanton 2013

    Word count 155
    @homeschoolwitch

  6. Erin McCabe
    155 words
    @disturbiakiss

    Liminality

    Tenzin stood silent and still, slowing his breathing in an attempt to clear his troubled mind; but the act, which should have come as naturally as intake of air, did not re-establish his serenity.
    This new, wholly unpleasant sensation of disconnection and tangible separation was the opposite of the allusions of ubiquity fundamental to Buddhist dharma.
    The death of his Guru had been cruelly sudden and disturbingly unremarkable.
    With this unforeseen extinction had come unquenchable desire, to erase this passing; extending his suffering.
    Tenzin struggled; as a monk, the realisation of impermanence was elemental and yet he could not accept this loss or the accompanying pain.
    Firmly closing his eyes he concentrated on the sorrow now flowing though him like movement of wind through long grass. The moment brought comforting clarity, astounding him momentarily; having avoided desire and suffering for a decade, he had forgotten that such dysphoria could make him feel so exquisitely alive.

  7. Brotherly Love
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke)
    155 words

    Echoes of his past life drew him there today.

    No sounds had disturbed the air. He was accustomed to silence now, but then it had been deafening. Or perhaps just he had been rendered senseless. Unable to hear. Unable to see. Only able to lash out in hopes of striking something, anything, that would resonate, that would make him feel.

    That day it had been a throat. His brother’s throat. It had split instantly, forever dividing his world between before and after. His brother’s eyes had burned his as he’d fallen. No judgment, only acknowledgment.

    He had new brothers now. He’d sought forgiveness; it had been given. He’d sought absolution; he had found it.

    Birds sang in the trees. The wind whispered in his ears. But in his heart he only heard one voice, the voice of his brother: “Peace be with you.”

    “And also with you,” he answered. He bowed his head, giving thanks.

  8. Dear L,
    I will not begin with the usual felicitations, as I know, at this time, you are suffering. I am quite ashamed it has taken me so long to correspond.
    I have been distracted by modern ways. In the garden, I realised in a rare moment of still, how fast we expect everything to move.
    Our expectations are at their highest and, surely, their lowest! All is instantaneous!
    But how rash our words must be, how artificial our sentiment. I saw in this how remiss I have been, and that you, Dear Letter, are a very special gift from one to another.
    The written word contemplated and crafted in one’s own hand; there can be no substitute.
    So, I vow, from this moment, that I will take up my pen in correspondence once more.

    My constant companion, my old fashioned and well fashioned friend, so glad to have found you again.

    Yours truly
    Katherine

    (155 words)

  9. Connection
    155 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    “Communication with the unseen.”

    He glides slowly down the gravel path, seeing beauty in the salmon pink and silver of the brick factory wall.

    It is not the majestic beauty of the mountains, but that is the price he has chosen to pay.

    “Connection to the infinite.”

    He pauses to watch a tiny ant carry a large crumb of food across the path to its swarming fellows.

    In his silent, still observation of the creature, words begin to float serenely across his mind. Words that speak of strength of purpose; of feeding and sharing.

    He stands, eyes closed, envisaging his words. Mentally penning them, character by character.

    He nods.

    It is right. He saw it.

    He smiles. His heart is full, overflowing.

    From under the tangerine folds of his robes, he gets out his iPhone. He taps the small blue bird, and his thumbs work silently to share his 140 character message with countless others.

  10. “Legacy” by Mary Cain (word count: 152)

    The silence outside the palace was unnatural unsettling to the guards who stood by with their large spears. A sudden breeze shook the trees, a small howl growing then fading, carrying with it the fallen leaves and faint whispers that drifted towards the lone figure amidst the weeds.

    He could still see the boy dressed in fine silk robes running about the gardens in late Spring, when the scent of awakened peonies and orchids lingered in the air while the songbirds made music.

    Hot tears trickled down Zhan’s cheeks.

    “My Lord, the banners have been burned by your orders” a woman said in a timid voice.

    “Melt down the throne.” Zhan ordered.

    “But sir! It belongs your dynasty! Your family!” She protested.

    “They are not my family.”

    He felt his mother’s soft arms embraced him while his father would remind the little prince of his future.

    “And I do not need one.”

  11. THE COFFIN OF PREDESTINATION

    Ong Lek had been a very naughty Buddhist indeed.

    That is why the other monks had sequestered him in the two by four patch of garden surrounded by ankle-high barbed wire. To repent. But Ong Lek did not feel like repenting. He’d had it with this religion.

    Buddhism had many virtues yet choice was not one of them. With each passing day in the monastery Ong Lek had grown a bigger grudge against the cult of predestination that gripped the others. With each passing day he had rebelled more. He wanted to prove the other monks wrong.

    That is why he’d done his shocking deed. To hammer an obtrusive nail in the coffin of predestination. He did it once and he’d do it again.

    Ong Lek bowed his head. From under his garment he produced a sharp knife.

    He desperately hoped he’d be right and prayed he wouldn’t reincarnate as himself for the second time.

    155 words – @dieterrogiers

  12. FORGIVENESS

    Thailand, it evoked images of oriental splendor and exotic pleasures. josh had come here with a far different purpose in mind. He bowed his freshly shaven head and tucked his hands inside the orange Monk’s robe he now wore.He stood in the Place of Contemplation. he concentrated on the breathing exercises his mentor had taught him. He let his Awareness expand out and enfold the Universe. Wordlessly he sought the forgiveness he so desperately needed. He remembered the accident caused by the drunk driver. The horrific screech of the collision, the heat of the flames, the stench of burning flesh, and the screams of agony. He remembered fiercely open the car door and gently pulling out the tiny, broken, charred body. The desperate attempt at resuscitation that failed. Peace flooded his being. He heard a child’s voice sweetly say. “It’s all right Mr. Fireman, I know you tried to save me.
    153 words @EmilyKarn1

  13. The Transition

    Withered fingers dig into the damp soil mixed with decayed leaves. Breathing in a lung-full of earthy richness, he sighed.
    Bones creaked as his head rested against upon the earthen bed. Emerald fronds waved over his face in the breeze. The tiny veins interweaving along the ferns underside were a shadow of his long life lived. A series of crossed paths and chance meetings, journeys down twisting and turning roads. In the end, they all returned to the earth and she welcomed them, making them a part of her core.
    Above, black branches decked in yellow shimmered against the blue expanse. He contemplated his folly. The incessant planning, scheming, striving… only to return here in the end. He should have simply breathed in… and out… and in… and….
    Out.
    Release from the earth’s constraints. Bindings broke. He extended wider and wider to accept what lay beyond. Free.

    150 words – @Jackie_Castle

  14. Parting of the Ways

    By Scott L Vannatter

    155 words – @SVBookman

    Siang stood contemplatively looking at the velvety carpet of grass beneath his bare feet. To a casual passerby Siang would have appeared as a statue, his form unmoving in the light breeze. However, Siang was, instead, meditating over a puzzle which had real consequences for him.

    He thought back two years when he had delivered a package to the local market. He had given the owner, Mr. Mako, the offering and waited. As he stood there, Siang noticed movement in the far corner of the store. His eyes landed on Mayon, daughter of the owner.

    Since seeing her, Siang had not slept well nor been able to concentrate. Now, he found out Mayon was leaving the area in two days’ time. Siang had been thinking.

    Realizing that he had to find out what might happen, Siang folded his outer monk’s tunic and walked quietly into the unknown to tell Mayon of his love for her.

  15. It Just Is (152 Words)

    The gentle breeze washed over him bringing memories that cooled his skin, leaving behind the faint aroma of saffron and patchouli. Cordite.

    He had left that world behind for the safety of the walls of the monastery, but he knew his respite was only temporary.

    The Master said, “Give up struggling to make sense of it all.”

    When he stood in the garden he almost believed it was possible, but he knew soon the army would find him. War did not disappear. Only he could save the monastery now. The army would destroy the monks for offering him refuge.

    He knelt among the blooming herbs and breathed in their fragrance.

    ‘There is no why,” the Master always said. “It just is.”

    He loosened his orange robe and lowered his eyes.

    “It just is.”

    The sun glinted off his blade and blood stained his hands. At last he understood what the Master meant.

  16. The dead speak, though most choose not to hear. I stood among them in the silence of the dawn, but in truth, I heard them everywhere. They clamored for release, for a surcease of eternity. The living fear death and the dead fear the meaninglessness of forever. What was perfection but the absence of need?

    I came to free them from their prison, to bring an end to that which does not end. I committed my life to the gods not for their elevation, but for the salvation of the dead. My fellow priests knew not of my purpose. They would not have chosen me for this position had they been aware. But there was no shame for them to bear – I had to deceive even the gods.

    I could not pray for the power I needed, and nature herself cried out against me. But the words of the dead cannot be denied.

    153 words
    @drmagoo

  17. Introspection

    It’s enlightening. To look at oneself.

    I am Sarah. Forty years old, five foot six, slim. I am a good teacher, a loving mother, and a dutiful wife. When you see me you’ll witness a confident smile, a stride, the airy breeze of carefree personality ruffling my titian hair. I smell of Coco Chanel and baby wipes.

    But look a little closer. Come on, lean in and see me. That twinkle in my eye is a flashlight of fear that my life is draining away. My fulfilment no longer comes from climbing the ladder but from getting through the day without tears. I am no longer subject to aspiration but to desperation.

    Do you see me? I do. I throw myself a rope, ‘Come on, Sarah! Escape!’

    I flex my hand to reach for it and close my fingers around the palm of my child.

    145 words
    Sarah Miles
    @_sarahmiles_
    http://supperandsyntax.com

  18. THE PATH by T. J. Blake (151 words)

    Gravel crunches under my feet. The gentle breeze smothers my surroundings; making the leaves above me chafe, the barbed wire fence scrape against the wood, and press my orange robe against my body.
    I amble whilst staring at the wicker huts and small mountains ahead of me. Birds glide above me in the dark grey overcast. Slithers of glowing light occasionally bursts through the clouds lighting the dim skies. A deep roar sounds in the distance and echoes towards me, chattering the specs of dusted gravel by my feet.

    My eyes glance back to the path, lapse of concentration will kill me.
    A man in a black robe stands not far from me, his head hidden in the darkness of his hood.
    I slip my arm into my orange robe and feel the handle of my sword.
    As I approach him, he opens his robe revealing the glint of his blade.

  19. Alive Again

    Surrounded by tranquil earth and trees, I stood head bent, back bowing. The sinister screeches of cars on tarmac, endless rush-hour beeping, peddlers selling no one cares what… all these sounds washed away as a wave washes the shore taking all the odds and ends on the beach to the dark depths to be long forgotten.
    The silence was warming, serene; it was more than welcome.
    Once all the chatter and clatter had died, I inhaled deep.
    It was by far the most fragrant and energetic breath I’d inhaled in a very long time. I felt life gush through my veins as though I were a half-dead human, being awakened from a long life of hypnosis and routine.
    Another breath and I could soar.
    I opened my eyes. The sounds of life hurled and stabbed at all my senses, but I was different.
    I was alive again, ready to face and embrace the world.

    @NadaNightStar
    154 words

  20. The Order
    150 words
    @jujitsuelf

    To appreciate peace one must first shake hands with war. A man who contemplates the facets of universal accord overmuch may forget how insidious are the claws of conflict.

    So it was with my master. A peaceful man, honourable, devout, convinced of the sanctity of the Order and the necessity of peace. He gave too much thought to the cherry blossoms in the garden and forgot that disquiet often grows from within. Whether he did not see the breaking of the Order or whether he chose to ignore it, I do not know.

    But my master is no longer of consequence. His death ushered in a bright new dawn. The Order will march and make glorious, bloody war. Time and tide will remember my brothers and I as the men who remade the world in our own images. And my master’s blood will feed the cherry blossoms until we return.

  21. The Calling
    152 words
    @CharlesWShort

    Wing knew he was given a great privilege.

    He had been raised in the monastery. His parents had offered him to temple service, not for religious reasons, but because he would be well fed.

    It was an honor to be selected.

    Yet he wearied of the teaching. He was taught self-denial, prevent indulging himself. The desire for adventure must be eliminated.

    He couldn’t dishonor his parents.

    He found excuses to take this path between buildings. It became a symbol of his life, a narrow path guarded by barbwire. Just outside the path was the little blue flowers and green grasses. He could smell the earthy aroma of the trees and fallen leaves. He could feel the warm sun or drops of cold rain. He might hear a bird sing, or an insect buzz. Everything outside the path called to him.

    Still, he would remain at the monastery. He respected his parent’s choice.

  22. The Garden of Atonement
    Laura Carroll Butler
    154 words

    And just like that, the pain was gone. Adam sensed more than saw the dazzling man in white.

    “Where am I?” Adam asked.

    “Where you wanted to be: at peace.”

    There were others around the man, noncorporeal, aware. Adam knew them, though he did not recognize them. He felt their joy. There was no physical barrier that he could see, but he couldn’t move forward.

    “Close your eyes,” the man said.

    Adam did. He saw now the wire in front of him. Star-shaped flowers grew all over and laurel surrounded an apple tree beside him. He remembered the pain, the anger, the powerlessness. He also remembered his wife, his child, his family and he knew how much his decision would hurt them. There was no wire behind him, but he could not go back. He was stuck again.

    “What do I do?” he asked.

    “You know what you must do.”

    Adam knelt and prayed.

  23. Burnt Orange
    @vbholmes
    154 words

    Every day, at precisely five minutes to nine in the morning, I come to this garden and find a holy man has preceded me. He’s deep in meditation by the time I’ve seated myself. I envy his devotion and sit quietly, trying to emulate him.

    While his piety inspires me, it’s the tone of his robe that fuels my introspection. Dyed in burnt orange, its coloration symbolizes my life: a fire that’s burned too bright and too long, smoldering now, about to be extinguished.

    I am old, and I harbor many like-hued memories: the tangerine hair of my first love; pumpkin scarf of my ex-wife; melon nail polish of a hapless hitchhiker, and finally, the orange fruit of the grove where I laid their desecrated bodies in unmarked, shallow graves.

    Daily, my visit to the garden reminds me that my sins will follow me into death and I’ll never know the peace I seek.

  24. And At The End (Let Us Meet Here)
    154 words

    In this place where the living and the dead collided one could hear the voices of those long gone if they listened hard enough. The wind dancing through the leaves sang a ghostly lullaby that caressed the ears as the grass reached up, trying to offer their embrace to those who were weighed down by grief.

    This was a place of sorrow and love, of death and rebirth, even the children who played in the monastery knew that. They’d lower their voices and bow their heads as soon as the fences came into view and if ever they ventured out across the land the only words on their tongues would be prayers for those long gone. Every beat of their young hearts was a promise to the dead that lingered beneath their feet, a vow that someday they would be together again but until that day they would meet here and they would wait…together.

  25. A Riddle

    Each morning he accumulated barely a mouthful of rice. All the other novices returned with an alms pot overflowing with curries, and sweets wrapped in banana leaves; the pockets of their robes jangled with coins.

    He’d tried everything. He smiled; he remained somber; he bowed, his hands in Namaste. Yet people hurried on their eyes cast to Smartphones.

    He was not disfigured, unless you considered one blue eye and one brown a disfigurement. But no one did. In fact, his village considered him good luck.

    It was his father. He meant for his son to take over his business. When instead he chose to become a monk, his father became enraged. He began to threaten everyone in the village who offered his son morning alms. No one dared to disobey.

    Each morning the son prayed for enlightenment. For a solution to that impossible, universal riddle of how to bear the suffering of parental expectations.

    154 words
    @B4Steph

  26. The Photograph
    152 words

    The monk returned daily to this holy spot. The energy from the soil moved quickly through his bare feet like a blanket of neutrality healing him. It felt like a hum and then turned to light filling him with peace. As it rose to his chest it threatened to take his breath away but did not succeed. The light had shapes like spheres and colors. He fell into the void between them and floated. His hands became warm. The silence was loud here. Maybe it was an echo or maybe a whisper. He stopped breathing and became one with the universe. He was the light. He was the sound.

    “Click”. The sound of the shutter made him smile.

    The photographer had captured the photo. He captured the moment as it was seen by the camera. The photo was created by the light outside which had no power over the light within him.

  27. Devotion

    I held open my cloth in front of her. It was my regular route. As usual, my gaze was fixed to the floor under her dainty feet. I heard a rustle of silk. A faint fragrance wafted in my direction. I held the cloth with steadfast determination. She knew the rules. She leaned over to offer the alms, a fistful of dry lentils. I spread the cloth, so she could drop the beans without scattering them to the wind. She leaned closer and put her soft fingers on mine. I did not yield, but I have not slept a wink since.

    I went to confess this to the head monk. His room was fragrant with a familiar scent, and then I saw her dainty feet peeking through the curtains.

    It was not a pretty sight when I left, but both of them are at peace now, and so am I.

    150 words
    @needanidplease

  28. Confession

    I am the last.

    Standing underfoot, the bones my brethren are silenced—I am the last of the prudent.

    We are a dying breed.

    As I look upon these decrepit ruins, I remember you, my brothers: I remember our practice, our promise, our peace, our palace. The purity, the splendor, the power. I remember the vows we made to him, the allegiance we made to one another—we were the last of the pure.

    In your shadows, the mountains rise. In this valley, we die.

    I am the last, my brothers.

    By others we were destroyed: not by a hand but by its hands. Society didn’t mourn: we left ignored—we were a dying breed.

    We were the last of the wise. We were the keepers of the peace. We.

    I tried: My brothers—I failed.

    I have failed you. I failed him. I failed me.

    In this valley, I breathe my last.

    @nXgWVteacher
    153 Words

  29. Family Ties
    @nzstelter
    153 words

    This not a peaceful place. The high walls and the barbed wire are reminiscent of a prison. It is in fact his father’s memory, which traps him. And those burnished robes. To me, they look so burdensome; I know he feels their weight too.

    We have loved each other all our lives. In me he discovered his joy and peace. His family shunned him when they found out, so I became his family. I cooked for him and washed his clothes. I bathed his brow when he was sick. I used to dream of the tinkling laughs of our future children.

    Last winter his father was killed, violently, in this place. So he took the robes, as his father had always wanted, to bring his mother comfort. One day, the old woman will die and he will come back to me. Until then, I will wait here patiently, quiet as a church mouse.

  30. Legacy

    Almost as one, the monks stilled.

    Jessica stopped a fraction of a second later, matching her breaths to the wind. She shut her eyes, listening for the rustle of robes that would signify the next part of their procession. After three years hidden away in the monastery, Jessica had memorized their movements.

    Despite the encumbrance of their robes, the monks moved nearly silently. She hadn’t learned to do that, so she’d turned a torn robe into pants instead. It wasn’t cheating – it was resourceful.

    Even with eyes closed, Jessica knew which direction each monk faced, where her next steps should take her. Pack on her back, she crouched barefoot, waiting for the shifting pressure in the air that would signify her next move. Three steps to the wall.

    She sprung forward, barely touching the ground, ready to be free.

    Out of nowhere, an orange robe materialized, stopping her short. Sighing, she bowed to Master Junari.

    (155 words; @AriaGlazki)

  31. Dreaming of Things That Never Were

    On this day, the lama reminded me of dukkha, the first of the Four Noble Truths.

    “This suffering shall pass, because all human experience is transient,” he said. “But you suffer because of your attachment to what might have been.” Then, he suggested a corner of the garden where I might meditate upon my “excessive desire.”

    In my heart, I knew he was correct. On a day like today, I thought my new faith would shelter me, but this, I understood, was craving, the path to dukkha. I had wanted to be spared suffering, and in that wanting, I suffered more.

    At least I understood how to make dukkha cease, even if I was still mired in my attachment. Though I could see the eightfold path before me, these words would always block my way:

    “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

    153 words
    Maggie Duncan (outgoing judge)
    @unspywriter

  32. Where and When?
    155 words
    @acmarkz

    “Liam, haven’t you ever studied chaos theory? The larger and more complex you make a system, the more fragile and fragmented it becomes. The ability to manipulate the flow of time allows that ultimate computer system to fill some of those holes, but it can’t fill them all. We still manage to squeeze through” Luellen must have still seen doubt in Liam’s eyes. “Alright, actions speak louder than words. Where and when do you want to go?
    “What?”
    “You heard me. What time and place could I take you, that you could never imagine the computer or the agents allowing?”
    Liam though this over. He had a few ideas. One could not be a time traveler without having ideas about where one would go unrestrained. Which place would convince him that Luellen was telling truth? “My deathbed” almost passed his lips, but he quickly suppressed that impulse. What if she really could do it?
    “Hiroshima”

  33. Tsukumogami

    Beneath the Acolyte’s hands, the fenceposts squirm in happy recognition. Old granite, worn smooth by the brush of countless fives of fingertips that count them as a rosary down the path from the temple to the cemetery, they nuzzle against his palm.

    The Acolyte gazes upon the tombstones in the forest. Under his caress, the newer marble ones are chilled, still too new and bearing others’ names. But the ancient ones? They sing with a life beneath their lichen skins. The kanji on their faces has long since fallen away or filled in with time, allowing them to take on new personalities in their invidual growths and leanings.

    Old Man, Happy Traveler, the Lovers.

    In Shingon Buddhism, a tsukumogami is an object that has reached its 100th birthday, thus becoming alive and self-aware.

    Smelling the cedars, the Acolyte sighs. His body will never live to be one-hundred.

    He may never grow a soul.

    @GordonBWhite
    155 words

  34. Picture Perfect Peace
    (150)

    Destroying grandmama’s vase (and the sound of shattered shards echoing down the hallway had been glorious!) meant cleaning the attic.

    “Crickets on a pogostick!” My foot throbbed.

    “What’s going on?” the screech pierced my eardrums. “You’re too noisy!”

    With a smirk, I upended the now ruined box. “Sorry.”

    “Don’t test me, girl!”

    “Whatever,” I muttered. “It’s not like you even know what’s up here anymore, ya daft old bat.”

    “I heard that! You can clean the garage, too!”

    Resignation filled me. When would I learn to keep my mouth shut?

    Beside my foot lay a photo, the man’s brilliant orange robe and serene posture catching my eye. “How’d he manage to look so peaceful?”

    “Finish up!”

    I sighed. “Easy. You didn’t have grandmama to deal with.” I tossed the photo toward the rest of the pile. “Lucky you.”

  35. The Path to Nowhere

    Caught between one second and the next, the monk paused. The path was an illusion, not that it really mattered. The only thing of importance was what would happen next.

    “Old man, I asked you a question,” the soldier growled, pushing him to his knees.

    The monk smiled and turned. “And I told you, you are on the wrong path. The temple holds many things; the temple holds nothing.“

    “Tell me where it is and you live.”

    “Follow the path and you will reach the temple. Force it, and you are lost.”

    The soldier pressed the muzzle of his rifle to the monk’s head. “Stop speaking in riddles, fool.”

    “You will understand,” the monk assured him as the moment arrived.

    One shot, two souls: one found its way to the sacred; the other remained on a path bound by barbed wire. The path to temple died with its guardian and the soldier took his place.

    155 words
    @mishmhem

  36. MIA

    His eyes blinked and the world came into focus. He was cloaked in the shadow from the tree he was leaned against, and his body was wrapped in a strange orange sheet. He stood on weak and shaking legs, using the tree’s trunk for balance. He wondered where he was and how he had come to be in a place such as this—with its tall trees and dirt paths. It hadn’t been long, or so it seemed, since his squadron had landed at Korat Air Base for the annual Cope Tiger exercises. He remembered landing. He remembered that first night of sleep. But here he was, struggling to stand—lost and clothed in an orange sheet. From somewhere far off, a chanting came to him. He decided he would follow the sounds and begin his search for answers.

    Elsewhere, in offices at Korat, paperwork was being signed to send home. He was officially missing.

    155 words
    @nomadshane

  37. Peace
    155 words
    @todayschapter

    This is it, the last resort. I’ve tried everything else, regular therapy, hypnotherapy, church confessions, drugs , alcohol, the lot. I’ve yet to find anything to slay the demons, to still the churning dark waters inside me.

    The old man smiles a toothless grin, “Put on these robes, they are to remind you that appearance is not important.”
    They are itchy in all the wrong places. I stare longingly at my designer suit as it is carefully folded away. A stiff breeze catches my new outfit and whistles through it. I feel exposed, vulnerable. I don’t like it, I’m used to feeling powerful. He points to a grouping of trees, “You must stand still like a tree, calm your mind until it is as quiet as the breeze.”

    I try what he asks. I close my eyes but see only their faces. There is no peace from what I have done, my breeze is a tornado.

  38. Singing a Dragon’s Praise

    The monk paused on the path, savoring the cool breeze. It carried the scent of jasmine and a hint of rain. It would be a good growing season for the villagers.

    He drew a deep breath and knelt and on cobble stones, letting his golden robe flow around him as it shifted from cloth to scales, and the man became a young dragon.

    ~My son,~ he heard a low voice rumble in his mind. ~What news do you bring from the outlands?~

    ~They search,~ he answered as he took another breath and savored the taste of wood fire cooked meats on the air.

    ~Do they sing our praise?~

    The monk opened his eyes, browns fading into gold. ~Sort of.~

    ~Sort of? What do they say?~

    Muzzle to muzzle the dragons faced each other, as the younger began to sing

    “Lung, Lung, bo-bung
    Banana-fana fo-fung
    Fee-Fi-mo-mung
    Lung…”

    ~They are strange beings, these humans~

    ~Indeed~

    153 Words
    @mishmhem (Sorry… I couldn’t help myself)

  39. @FlabbergastedMa (I’m texting so this’ll be best guess)

    After my first year in silence, I found myself draw back to the simple graves again and again.

    The sky above me, the earth beneath me and the circle of life in process – breaking down the bodies in the graves under my feet.

    I have worked past shame and now I seek forgiveness and enlightenment.

    This was not a path I intended to choose. Though through it perhaps my soul shall be redeemed.

    Once I was poor man. Berefit of hope and faith. No family to my name. I lived by my wit and sheer luck.

    Using false identities, robbing passerbys, scamming tourists if I strayed into more populated areas.

    Until last year.

    I didn’t mean to kill him. He ran, I followed, he fell.

    So now, my old identity is dead, buried here and I am a new man.

    Living another man’s life.

    Taking his dream.

    Being saved by his faith that has become my own.

  40. It is Imperitive for the State that the Ruler Have Blackberry Pie Always
    (155 words)

    The town had been occupied for so long, children there grew up feeling safe.

    Marta and Nory, as they did every summer, snuck to the barbed wire fence surrounding the military compound where the park used to be. The blackberry bushes were full.

    As they plucked, an infantry truck jostled near beyond the fence. Nory crouched but Marta didn’t. He teased, “If they see you, they’ll take you.”

    Grim eyes stared as the truck passed; Marta stuck her tongue out.

    They took their berries under a tree, where they ate and tried feeding caterpillars. A cloud-gazing Marta remarked, “I hope we grow up fast.”

    After they left, a uniformed man emerged from a tower in the compound and strode to the fence.

    “Kids,” he grumbled. He counted the bare protrusions on the blackberry bush, and in a ledger bearing the children’s names, address, and names of their parents, increased his tally toward a predetermined total.

  41. ‘A New Way’ – Tom O’Connell
    152 words @Conveniently_So

    Jed stood, head bowed and palms linked, in the shade of the old Elm. A passing breeze gave him goose pimples. This freshly shaven head would take some getting used to. His attempts at prayer were hopelessly ostentatious. He just couldn’t find meaning in the practice. He raised and lowered his arms, like a bird flapping in slow motion. He smiled, imagining his sleeves were wings.

    The sound of a nearby stream inspired him, plunging him into the pretence of meditation. His sister was wrong; he would find inner peace here. But that wasn’t to say it would be easy. He’d misled his new community; he had joined the ranks of the Shaolin with a broken heart — not a clear one. He was also far less disciplined than he’d let on. Already he’d broken his vow to abstain from sex and alcohol. Discipline, he hoped, was something he’d pick up by osmosis.

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