Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 18

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaappy Friday! Today’s prompt is brought to you in honor of dangerous dragons @TodaysChapter (aka Craig Anderson) and @Karl_A_Russell (aka Karl Russell), who have demanded to know just what (mis)adventures prevented a timely posting of results last week. Rather than tell you straight out (because what sort of writer tells a story straight out!? horrifying prospect!), I am passing the honor to youdear ones, should you feel like taking a guess at it.  Special prize this week to the writer who comes closest!

 ♦♦♦♦♦

I’m delighted to welcome to this week’s judging booth Worldbuilding Queen Alissa Leonard.  Not only is she a FF winner in her own right, and not only can her quick brain spin out textured universes faster than any writer I know, but she is one of my dearest friends in the world. As for what she’s looking for in a winning story, she says, I love stories that make me laugh, or make me cry, or make me sigh with longing, or sadness, or hope – that make me feel something. I love characters I can connect with and feel with and journey with. I am not the biggest fan of cliffhangers; I much prefer a story that feels complete and satisfying. I do love world-building – what lies before or beneath or behind the characters in your here and now – interesting places and times and settings, adding depth and mystery and showing me that the world is bigger than this moment and the character is more than this event.

Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday (for real this week). Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own stuff sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”   

Now let’s get to it!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the names ‘Meriwether and William'”):

 

***Today’s Prompt:

 

Mill Creek Watershed

Mill Creek Watershed 1949. Public domain photo by Helmut Buechner.

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86 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 18

  1. Women’s Work
    160 words
    @CharlesWShort

    “Weather is setting in fast.” She said it without fear, and I wondered how she managed. She was a prayer warrior, a fearless, faithful servant of the Most High God.

    “We have to find shelter.” I tried to sound calm. I feared we would freeze. She knew it was likely, but pressed on.

    Our lives were backwards. She was the giant of faith, but I was the itinerant preacher who received the accolades. Congregations looked to me for strength, but I looked to her.

    “Work downhill toward that river.” She pointed the way.

    I lead us, following her direction. We would survive because of her; but she would never take credit.

    Down below we found the church in the trees. I am too late to preach, but the worshippers will stay together to ride out the storm.

    While waiting, she told how God had delivered us. She told it as if I had been brave.

    It was a long night.

      • Thanks for commenting. I am not really sure I packed into this story what I wanted too. I purposely made her a strong woman, but not so much strong willed. Perhaps the opposite of will? Can greater strength be found in the humility of putting others first?

      • To be fair, I read this on public transport and perhaps didn’t read closely enough. I only said strong-willed because she was adamantly pushing onwards, but I suppose the ending insinuates that this was God’s will as it was enacted through her. Probably still have it wrong! Regardless, it was some nice writing.

  2. To the Amusement of Chronos

    Inspiration would not come. She stared at the photograph and tried to think of what to write. There was always the literal approach; say what you see, find the story. But she liked to see through the picture, what or where it was and to reference it subtly in her story. Maybe she should use the prompt as a hint, a whisper, a nudge to the abstract, show some lateral thinking, deeper meaning; skill.

    She decided to think on it and return to it later. Perhaps the day would inspire her, all 150 words would come to her in a flash of genius.

    She could not have foreseen the heavy fog and getting lost on the way to her sister’s. The rescue party who found her huddled in her car, furiously typing on her iPad, racing the battery which gave up before she did.

    Finally home, she finished her piece and uploaded it. She checked Washington DC time.

    Saturday 00.01.

    160 Words
    _sarahmiles_

  3. Out of Time
    (154 words)
    ‘We’re only a fraction behind them by the looks of this Base.’
    ‘Look. It’s time I said this. You know we’re gonna keep being behind them, don’t you? We didn’t make it. We didn’t make it, Bill.’
    ‘No, I don’t believe that. We can catch them, make it up somehow. Maybe there’ll be another window.’
    ‘We said that yesterday and the day before and the day before that. They’re out of reach. We need to be here for each other. Now.’
    ‘I can’t. Nor can you despite all your talk. They’re just beyond.’
    ‘And they might as well be a year, a decade, a universe away! You won’t catch them. Time chasing isn’t a life. You know that. There are no more opportunities. Be grateful that they made it.’
    ‘It’s driving me insane! They’re a breath away. A blink. I feel like I can almost hear them.’
    ‘But you can’t, Bill. You just can’t.’

  4. Rendezvous

    Icy claws grabbed my throat. Cold fingers wriggled through the threads of my thin clothes. We’d walked for days, using the weak sun as a clock, and now we were here – but they weren’t.

    ‘We’re too late,’ said Cathryn, crouched beside me. She lowered the binoculars.

    ‘Look again.’ I shrugged into my collar. ‘Maybe they’re delayed, or waiting –‘

    ‘No, Joss. They’re gone.’

    ‘But they promised they’d bring us,’ I whispered.

    Cathryn rose, slowly. Heavily. ‘They have to survive, too. Nobody can wait forever.’

    She turned to me just as the first howl rang out, loud enough to turn blood to stone. Then, another. Closer. Her eyes widened.

    ‘Go,’ I told her. ‘Now!’

    ‘But –‘ I silenced her with a kiss, and she turned, stumbling, away. She wept, but she went, as fast as she could.

    I wouldn’t last long, but I knew it’d be long enough.

    I’d never see my child, but I could die knowing she would not.

    @SJOHart
    160 words

  5. The Rendezvous

    The coldness seeped into her bones as Astrid trained the binoculars on the horizon. Behind her Max whistled as he unpacked the flares. Astrid glanced at her watch, Mickey’s yellow gloves pointing to midday.

    Maybe they had missed it already.

    ‘Anything?’ Max’s muffled voice cut through the stillness. Once she had hated his voice, resented the man it emerged from. Now it was the one thing she needed to hear before falling asleep. The whole end-of-the-world vibe played havoc with a girl’s taste in men.

    Astrid remained silent, focussing on the dot now emerging on the horizon. Soon she could make out the pilot and two others within the craft. She looked back, Max was oblivious, busy creating yellow snow.

    Her heart sank, there would be only room for one more on the helicopter.

    Max realised too late, his head erupting with the bullet’s passage.

    Astrid lit a flare, turning the world crimson.

    @imageronin

    157 words

  6. December 5, 1949

    Dearest Anne,
    I have to leave for a brief assignment. Pictures and surveys. It has been expressed to me that it is of serious concern to a particular branch of the government or else I wouldn’t take it.
    I promise that I will be back before the 9th. I know that you won’t consider my proposal until after your father meets me. I will be there.
    I love you.
    Lionel

    December 10, 1949

    Lionel,
    You missed dinner. I am beside myself. I don’t know what was more upsetting, sitting at the restaurant with my parents, waiting for you while they grew angrier or realizing that you didn’t care enough to be there.
    I can’t forgive this.
    Anne

    April 10, 1963

    Ms. Smith
    We sincerely apologize for the late delivery of this important telegram. See inclosed:

    December 15, 1949
    Miss Anne Smith
    Deeply regret to inform Lionel Danvers died on assignment. Official report to follow.

    157 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  7. Please note I had too much fun writing the story this week and just couldn’t bear to cut any of it, so this one doesn’t count in the competition, it’s just for giggles 🙂

    One Paragraph at a time

    Hi I’m Flasher Girl. Yes, you can stop sniggering, I have heard it all before. Should have thought that name through more before I ordered that extra large box of business cards. Anyway, my super power is nothing to laugh about, I am saving the world from bad writing. Why does everyone always make that face when I say that? It’s a legitimate power! Seriously, writing defines us long after we are gone. Do you want future generations to think we couldn’t string a sentence together?

    I kind of adopted a whole gang of sidekicks to help with my quest. I may have forgotten to mention the quest part to them, so mums the word. It’s a weekly meeting kind of gig, like AA but with more booze. We have a schedule and everything. Unfortunately every now and then my super work gets in the way. Take last Sunday for example, I was happily typing up my winners post when my niece texted me. I could hardly believe my eyes, she swapped some of the letters for numbers! I hopped right in my car and drove over there to lecture her on the importance of good grammar. Sure she lives seven states away, but it was worth it. You can’t let six year olds think they can get away with that kind of nonsense. Anyway, I had to be vague in my explanation of the delay to the sidekicks, I don’t want them all knowing my secret and thinking they can move into the dragon cave with me. If anyone asks it was a power cut something or other, or maybe a broken laptop. Yes, that has a nice ring to it, broken power laptop cut. Ok, thats my alibi sorted. Now I am off again to save the world, one paragraph at a time. L8TR. Wait, what? Nooooooooo!

    159(+a ‘bonus’ 150) words
    @todayschapter

  8. Newsticker: Patrol found weird bag at the dam

    “Why does it take so long? The explosive charges should have been fired two minutes ago! The patrol car is due any minute!” Jim was mad. He and Brody had infiltrated the company who had enhanced the dam, helping it become a fully functional and secure dam for the Ohio. Now, only months later they finally had the opportunity to free the river from its limitations – the dam.
    “What the hell are they doing?” Jim ranted, handing Brody the binoculars.
    Brody curiously took a peek. Charley and Dave stood there as if they were kissing a woman. Then, they sacked to the ground, slowly dissolving.
    Brody felt a tap on his shoulder. He lowered the binoculars and turned around. There was a beautiful woman, almost transparent, smiling at him. From the corner of his eye he saw Jim lying on the ground, nearly invisible. He felt the woman’s embrace, her kiss, and then nothing.

    154 words
    @okiewashere

  9. Crossroads
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    165 words

    “My wife was right. We should have asked for directions.”

    “The devil is in the doubting, my man.”

    “But we’re not dressed for this.”

    “You have gloves on. What’s the problem?”

    “I…I…I was supposed to be home hours ago to help my son with his algebra.”

    “Oh, come on. Where’s your sense of adventure? It’s not like opportunities like this come along every day.”

    “You call wading around in the snow without food, water, or proper outerwear opportunity? I can’t even feel my ears anymore.”

    “Good God. You’re such a baby.”

    “Fine. What do you see? Are we close?”

    “Just over that mountain.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “I’m sure moving forward beats going backward. The devil is in the doubting.”

    He paused for a moment, settling his weight onto his left leg as he squinted into the distance, trying to see the promise his companion saw. He thought of his disapproving wife, his whiny children, his monotonous dead-end job.

    “Lead on, Beezlebub. Lead on.”

      • Really? Here’s the 160 word version:

        Crossroads
        Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
        160 words

        “My wife was right. We should’ve asked for directions.”

        “The devil is in the doubting, my man.”

        “We’re not dressed for this.”

        “You have gloves on. What’s the problem?”

        “I…I was supposed to be home hours ago to help my son with his algebra.”

        “Oh, come on. Where’s your sense of adventure? It’s not like opportunities like this come along every day.”

        “You call wading around in the snow without food, water, or proper outerwear opportunity? I can’t even feel my ears anymore.”

        “God, you’re such a baby.”

        “Fine. What do you see? Are we close?”

        “Just over that mountain.”

        “You sure?”

        “I’m sure moving forward beats going backward. The devil is in the doubting.”

        He paused for a moment, settling his weight onto his left leg as he squinted into the distance, trying to see the promise his companion saw. He thought of his disapproving wife, his whiny children, his monotonous dead-end job.

        “Lead on, Beezlebub. Lead on.”

  10. Done in a bit of a hurry, but I really wanted to get something posted this week!

    Erin McCabe

    @disturbiakiss

    160 words

    Headlines & Deadlines

    At the top of a hill, two newspaper hacks, unaccustomed to such environments, surveyed the bleak white landscape.

    “Anything?” Frank asked.

    “Nothing” Sammy replied disappointedly.

    “We’ve only got until sundown to get this damn yeti story!” Frank scuffed his feet; he was freezing, dog tired and sick of missing print deadlines.

    “This one will be big, bigger than all the others!”

    “The others.” Frank scoffed.

    “What?”

    “Unicorns, with aids?” Frank raised an eyebrow.

    “One of my most successful articles!” Sammy puffed his chest out like a frosty pigeon.

    “Sammy, a carved plank of wood, glued to the head of a tranquilised horse, a Unicorn does not maketh.”

    “With aids.” Sammy corrected. “And what about…”

    “Your wife wasn’t abducted by aliens, she left you!” Frank’s shouts echoed across the barren hills.

    “I don’t know why you joined the Enquirer!” Sammy blustered, stomping off down the hill.

    Frank meanwhile was left to admire the yeti-less landscape and contemplate yet another missed deadline.

  11. Best Seats for the Final Show
    (150 words)
    @Reckoner67

    “How much time do we have?” Tom asked. Murray shrugged the weight of his heavy pack to his other shoulder and glanced at his watch.
    “We’re two minutes late,” he answered, the ground beneath them punctuating his statement as it rumbled again.
    Tom looked over the rolling hills in front of them. “So we won’t make it on time. This is it, then?”
    Murray swung his pack around, pushing the heavy rune stone aside and retrieving his camera. “This is it. The end of the world starts here.”
    Both men stood silent, all sound aside from the building rumble in the distance muted by the freshly-fallen snow. Tom thrust his hands in his pockets.
    “I had a list, ya know. If I knew the world was going to end. A beer, a blonde…a hamburger.” Murray squatted and looked through the camera’s viewfinder.
    “I’m taking a picture nobody will ever see.”

  12. Morty crouched down, squinting to see through the early-morning haze. “I don’t see her.”

    “She’ll be here.” Warren yawned. They were thousands of feet above a ravine filled with hundreds of things – some animate, some not – that could kill them in an instant, and he sounded like a man wondering if he should mow the lawn tomorrow.

    “We’d have seen her by now, don’t you think?” If she didn’t show up, they’d never get the key, and if they never got the key, they wouldn’t be able to open the lock, and if they couldn’t open the lock…well, they needed to open the lock.

    “She’s a dragon. You think she’s survived this long by being easy to see? Sure, she’s big, but she’s magic.”

    “I guess you’re right.” Morty sighed.

    On the other side of the world, the dragon shifted in her sleep, her perception-altering magic not enough to prevent her from setting her alarm clock to PM.

    159 words
    @drmagoo

  13. Butter Fingers
    (156 words)
    The frame just slipped out of my fingers, for as long as I could remember it had stood in pride of place on Auntie Lilly’s mantelpiece. I picked up the shards of glass putting them carefully in the bin and rescued the picture of Uncle Stan, my Dad’s brother.

    Hidden behind was this photograph. It definitely was Lilly on her hunches surveying the vista but as for Stan, who was as wide as he was tall it wasn’t him. Armed with a cup of tea and several digestive biscuits I mounted the steep stairs to Lilly’s chamber, she had a slight tinge of French blood.

    She looked at the photo.

    “Have you been snooping Adelina”? Her voice was full of disappointment and rancour.

    “He is your Grandfather”

    Dying shortly afterwards, she left her vast wealth to the Donkey Sanctuary. She’d always hated Donkeys. To me, her only surviving relative she left the words “Prying never Profits”

    @StellaKateT

  14. Dead Line
    @mishmhem 152 words
    Nell shaded her eyes against the glare as she tried to discern the source of a distant thunder. She had been surveying the area and they had lost precious time trying to find a decent signal, she only had a five minute window to report in or she’d lose her commission.

    As she dialed, the rumble grew closer, shaking the ground beneath her. Her eyes widened as she saw a flash of brown water crest the next rise.

    “Flood!” Her partner Eric warned as he pulled her back.

    “No… Not a flood…” she gasped as she turned and quickly pushed Eric towards the rock face to their left. “Stampede!”

    Dropping the phone, she scrambled up the wall, taking refuge on the plateau.

    “Guess I’m going to miss that deadline,” she sighed breathlessly as she watched the bison churn past them.

    “No,” Eric assured her. “I’m pretty sure the deadline just missed us.”

  15. ART SUPPLIES

    “C’mon, Miles, we’ve got to get this thing down to the exhibition.”

    “It’s not finished.”

    “God, man, it looks finished to a schlub like me. Mountains. Trees. Snow. Good. Can we take it now?”

    “No.”

    “Okay then tell me this. When, exactly, will this masterpiece be deemed ready to leave the studio? When, might I ask?”

    “I need one more.”

    “One more WHAT? Dammit Miles, you and your artist doublespeak garbage. I hate it. Get over yourself and speak English. What?”

    “One more to go right…. Here. In this spot. You see?”

    “No, moron, I don’t. Maybe you’re too scared to let anyone see it. Ever think of that?”

    “It’s not moving until I get one more.”

    “Fine. One more. Tell you what, I will go get it for you. Just tell me what you need. What is this thing made of?”

    “I need one child’s tooth. Bicuspid.”

    150 words with title
    @betsystreeter

  16. Foggy Day (154 words) @annbennett12

    Can you see the road through the fog Howard?

    No.

    We could go back. I don’t want to get lost on this hill. It’s a hell of a climb back to this outcrop of rock.

    Sam we could but the buyer wont return if we don’t deliver some roots.

    Sam sits on the ground as Howard teeters on his haunches looking.

    Howard you know the difference between a road and street is that a street has businesses and a road leads to a destination?

    Houston Road has a lot of businesses.

    Well, it also is a destination.

    Sam, I grew up in a town where it was boulevard this boulevard that. All of them were small winding two lane roads, no trees or multi-lane roads.

    Sitting in silence, Sam leans forward “Ginseng, Here’s a whole mess of ginseng.”

    “Hot damn Sam, Lets start digging, no one that can see us through this fog.”

  17. **Judge’s entry,not eligible to win.

    Deadlock

    You idiot! You were supposed to keep an eye. And, what’s with that garish suit?

    Lay off, Andy! And no, I didn’t hear or see anything. The computer bag just rolled down quietly, not even a faint screech!

    Never mind! Damn, these binoculars are foggy. I can’t miss the deadline! Let me just slide down and retrieve it; it’s not too deep. Here, hold this backpack. Can you manage that Sam?

    Sam twitched and nodded nervously.

    Andy expertly rolled himself down the slope. The crunching snow flaked all around him. A rattling thing raced him down the slope and vanished. Triumphantly, he grabbed the computer bag and pulled himself up. There! I never miss a deadline! Andy said.

    Sam hated Andy’s smug grin. At least let me drive. Sam said.

    Andy fumbled for the keys in his pockets. Damn, the rattling thing that slid down the slopes flashed before his eyes.

    I guess you are missing the deadline. Sam chirped.

    Pratibha
    @needanidplease
    160 words

  18. TARDINESS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED
    (159-words)

    Infernal Affairs deputy agent Thomas Moore gazed down into the draw, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. He snapped his Black Jack chewing gum and frowned.

    “You ever seen the like?” he asked his partner.

    Jeremiah Glover lowered his binoculars and shoved them back into his heavy rucksack. Shaking his head slowly, he lit a Lucky Strike with trembling hands, his eyes glued to the grizzly scene at the bottom of the steep slope.

    It was below freezing, and the wind kicked up ghostly snow flurries around them, but Agent Moore could feel the sweat beading on his brow and trickling down his back. He took off his white fedora and wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve.

    “I sure as hell never seen the like,” Moore muttered. Glover continued to stare. He exhaled a trail of smoke. It curled slowly above his head.

    “That’s what happens,” Glover finally said, “When you stand up the Devil.”

    @wryson

  19. Tracking A Nomad
    Chris Milam @Blukris
    159 words

    They were getting close. Boots pulverizing snow. Lungs heaving consumed oxygen. Their grave pleas screaming at the white expanse, thunderous and primal. I kept silent and extinguished the small fire with a kick of dirt and slithered further into the cave. A chameleon the hue of rock and shadow.

    There was no arbitrary deadline when hunting me down. Night would kill day but they kept searching, always locating me at some hideaway that wasn’t our home. My urge to vanish never diminished, nor did their prowess at rooting me out.

    As they veered north, away from me, relief washed over me. Undiscovered and autonomous. I cherished and loved them but the father of their youth was gone. Dissolved. Solitude was my family now, my mute companion. I craved the quiet like a hungry vein begs for the sweet needle.

    A faint echo of “Dad” bounced off the mountains and filtered into the cave. The arduous process of forgetting began. Again.

  20. There
    (156 words)

    I knew he was with me. I wasn’t angry. I half expected it. I couldn’t see him: I just sensed him.
    It was my first journey away from the others, a sort of rites of passage. I would bring back photographs, show the young ones.
    Mum and he had planned the route with me. I had put up some opposition to the trail- it didn’t seem adventurous enough.
    ‘You know the penalty for missing the deadline. Even first trip out,’ said Mum.
    ‘Baby steps,’ Dad said without condescension.
    Truth be told, I had been glad. Truth be told, he knew it.
    They waved me off . The young ones poked their noses through the gaps in the fence until I went out of sight.
    It was in the early hours of the second day, I realised I wasn’t alone. I smiled at how he’d walked in my footsteps while all the time I was following in his.

  21. Desolation

    She wished she had been there.
    To have seen them that day.
    One of the many heading into icy mountain air.
    To join the revelry & excitement waiting in the cold.
    She wished she could have felt part of that wave of euphoria.
    Heard first the lower crowds shouting, cheering, calling out names, clapping hands.
    The gradual creeping of those sounds.
    The faces begin to smile & lighten.
    Freezing cold now forgotten in the heat of anticipation.
    New friends made; Sharing a tot, smiles, gibes.
    Faces glowing with fervour & passion.
    Necks straining to get the first glimpse.
    The noise rolls up to meet them & their own words & gleeful murmurings fuel to those above.
    Flags are unfurled, waved, cameras readied.
    The cacophony increases as the colours of the first rider are spied.
    Is it pink?
    Oh how she wished she could be there.
    But she missed the bus.

    @meowclank

  22. Hidden In Plain Sight
    160 words

    To passers-by the two men atop the wintery peak were probably nothing more than dark splotches marring its purity.

    “Can you see them?” Da-rak asked his crouched companion and the withering glare he received was answer enough.

    “I told you,” El-thra hissed, stretching his skin as he shifted within his vessel. “I told you that we had to be here at dawn.”

    “You didn’t say they’d leave!” Da-rak protested because this wasn’t his fault. He’d only wanted to blend in better and the clothing they’d found seemed to be well liked by the humans they were emulating.

    “We had a deadline!” El-thra retorted.

    Da-rak opened his mouth to reply but before he could a sharp sound pierced the air and the ground beneath their feet shook, sending snow tumbling into the ravine.

    Squinting against the glow, that flooded the peak, Da-rak frowned.

    “Is that a giant top hat?!” he spluttered.

    El-thra was too busy gaping at their mother ship to respond.

  23. THE WHISPERINGS.

    “Yeah, that’s it. I can see the train line beyond the trees,” the crouching man says.
    “Okay, let’s go,” shivers the other. “This fog gives me the creeps.”
    They scramble down the mountainside, slipping on the treacherous ice and snow, struggling for balance across the shifting scree. Between curses they encourage each other. They know the train will be on time.
    I summoned the Fathers. Within the fog they whisper, as it skates along the snow, curtains the spires and the valley below, sucks at the quarry’s plumes of breath.
    The defiler runs as if in water, with the chill spirits of my Fathers dancing around him, freezing his flesh, which flakes away. He hears our whisperings, our rage – not the train’s whistle.
    The accomplice turns to urge more speed but, seeing the defiler’s fleshless skull, screams…
    The rucksack falls. An eagle grasps our Niitsitapi heritage, flaps and is gone.
    The train passed.
    The fog whispering.

    @CliveNewnham – 157 words

  24. The Calling

    It is blinding; the light around her. Brilliant white cushioning she struggles through, clogging her feet. Kate knows she must be there. Somewhere. The reason is buried deep beneath the sludge. She may find it before the end.

    They call her home. She hears them, in the distance; knows she has strayed from her path. Distracted by crystal facets; the graupel reflective of the world she knows. A myriad spectrum filling her vision – symmetry she must battle through. She is late. She knows it. They tell her, in whispers.

    Kate is saturated by it. Precipitation clings to her; weighting her down. Snow seeking to weld her to the floor; molecules attempting supercooling anew. She must not form their nucleus. Must break through the intricate barrier. Beyond.

    They need her. Want her. Her name. Her summons. She longs to answer.

    The clusters break momentarily. Kate strikes forth; wanderer with purpose. Compass set. Their love her guide. Belatedly safe from threatening storm.

    @FallIntoFiction

    160 words

    • Realised there’s a missing full stop in this in the second paragraph at the end of the second sentence. Just before the start of the third line. Is it possible for that to be inserted, please? Thank you!

      • Happy to do so–but note that it will be for readers’ benefit only, as the judge is already midway through her process. However, I am confident that a single punctuation error will not affect a story’s chances.

  25. View Through a Hidden Log Cabin Window one Spring Afternoon

    Well, my goodness. Look, at these two, all the way up here! In April!

    They’ve done jolly well, getting this close. I mean, the snow is a bit of a clue, but what even drew them to this continent in the first place?

    Perhaps my wife’s right, and I really shouldn’t wear my uniform all year round. Red does tend to stand out. (But the fur lining is so very comfortable!)

    And I suppose these dedicated proof-seekers have long realized that I’m not actually in those places where the tourists go every year. Well, not the real me, anyway! (Although I did fly in once, out of curiosity, and was surprised how much reindeer poo there was lying around. That’s not how I do things at all!)

    Perhaps I’ll leave out two candy canes in the snow tonight. See if they’ll go away satisfied. Can’t have them still hanging round with a camera come December, making me late! Ho-ho-ho!

    159 words
    @Donnellanjacki

  26. Burnt Bridges
    153 words
    @TinmanDoneBadly

    “Let me get this straight. You told our gang – the ones so dim that you’re regarded as the brains of the outfit – to blow up the bridge exactly at noon, so as to leave the posse stuck on this side?”

    “Yes.”

    “But you didn’t specifically say that this instruction should not apply if, say, we were late?”

    “Not specifically, no.”

    “I see. Well, if I hold my hand to my ear like this I can hear hoof-beats approaching, so I hope you have another plan.”

    “Better than that, I have THE plan.”

    “Please tell me you don’t mean the Butch and Sundance plan.”

    “The very one. We jump the gorge. Every outlaw knows the story of how Butch and Sundance were trapped like we are now, and jumped a gorge to escape.”

    “Almost.”

    “Almost every outlaw knows?”

    “No, almost jumped the gorge. That’s why they were called the Hole in the Wall gang.”

  27. Fog (157 Words)

    They say that climate change stuff’s gonna get us in the end. Could be. Snow don’t lay right in the mountains no more. Weird kind ‘a fog comes over them in the spring. Real fast like. Sometimes it just creeps on you like your eyes is wrapped in gauze. Then the dark comes on and the world turns blue, and it seems like anything’s possible. Like that afternoon Earl and I was out. One minute the sun was bright and yellow in the sky; the next, the world was hidden behind a blue-gray veil.

    That’s when we seen them. Walkin’ in the mountains, just across the Divide, we seen the woman and dog just walking. Earl even got his fancy binoculars to be sure. We called and called, just to check if she needed help, but the fog got real bad. When it finally lifted, well . . . she was gone. And her little dog too.

  28. The thrill of the maybe
    @dieterrogiers – 155 words

    Across the mountain pass, between the scattered trees, a shadow lurked. It had been there since they’d left Gjorahi, following them from a distance, always hiding, never gaining on them yet never falling back.

    Nabin and Bibek, chasing an interview deadline, had at first simply pretended it was not there. But with the fog rolling in and a white darkness soon about to descend on them, anxiety fuelled their curiosity.

    Through his camera lens Nabin tried to steal a glimpse of the creature while Bibek, immaculately dressed even in these conditions, opted not to kneel down on the fresh layer of snow. Instead he peered into the distance as if he were an enigmatic film noir hero, his notepad in check, just in case some story might emerge from between those pines.

    They would miss that interview deadline, in all likelyhood. But they didn’t care.

    This was what being a newspaper man was all about.

  29. Left
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    160 words

    Luke’s breath swirled around him as he sighed. He adjusted the brim of his hat and brushed snow off his jeans. “We’re losing light.”

    Becky pointed her binoculars into the vacant distance. “He knows to meet here at three.”

    “It’s near four. You think he got turned around?”

    “Nah, we’ve driven up here plenty of times.”

    “What for?” Luke’s eyes held steady on the horizon.

    Her stomach lurched. “Just getting ready for the job.”

    “Right. I guess he’ll have to find his own way outta town.”

    “No!” Becky’s voice echoed into the valley.

    “Watcha so upset about, Beck? It ain’t like you know him that well.”

    Becky studied her husband through the flurrying snow. She knew that face: set jaw, vein bulging in his neck. “What ‘d you do to him?”

    “Nothin’ he didn’t have comin’.”

    Becky groaned. “Did you at least get the money?”

    Luke pulled out a bloody hundred from his coat pocket and smiled. “More for us.”

  30. The Gamble
    by A J Walker
    (160 words)

    Samuel scoured the hills in his growing panic.

    ‘There’s no sign of anyone, George,’ he said.

    George was silent.

    The mountains, shrouded in mist, were getting colder by the minute.

    Samuel rubbed his legs trying to get some warmth into them before stiffly standing up.

    ‘We didn’t think of wearing proper gear up here,’ Samuel said.

    George looked at the scuffs on his best shoes and shrugged.

    ‘Things on our minds I suppose,’ he said.

    ‘A hundred thousand people if we’re wrong. I’m not going to to be able to live with myself,’ Samuel said.

    George peered into the valley.

    ‘We can’t be wrong,’ George said.

    Samuel turned his binoculars to follow George’s gaze.

    ‘Blowing up the dam, killing all those people for $100,000,’ George said, ‘it just doesn’t sound believable. Surely.’

    Samuel could see nothing as the mist thickened.

    ‘What time is it?’ George asked.

    ‘Just passed the deadline, they’ll know we’re not paying out.’

    ‘So, we wait.’

    @zevonesque

  31. Holding On

    The line of dissolution slid inexorably towards them, leaving in its wake a grey miasma of misfiring electrons, sundered bonds and pinwheeling quarks.

    Meri shielded her eyes, squinting into the bow wave of entropy.

    “It’s prettier than I expected.”

    Bill stroked her shoulder. Was it just his imagination, or had he begun to lose the feeling in his fingertips?

    “That’s not pretty.”

    Meri glanced up, wondering if they would waste their final moments deep in the arguments of the past.

    Then she saw the tears streaking his frosted cheeks and understood.

    “Oh, you sly, charming old fool…”

    He helped her up, straightened her pack, then held her at arm’s length, trying to fix every detail in his mind’s eye.

    “I don’t want to forget you. Us.

    She pulled him close, kissed him deeply, whispered her promise one final time.

    Then they kissed again as they waited for the dead line to reach them.

    And then, hand in hand, they jumped.

    @Karl_A_Russell
    160 words

  32. “Josephine, I Shall Be There”
    By: Patrick Stahl
    @patrickjstahl
    (156 words)

    Josephine made it clear that I was to board the airship to the country at four on Samoth’s Day Eve.

    The first sounds I heard that morning were from my hall clock; it rang out seven times. I felt the sweat of my brow freeze in place. “My ship,” I chocked.

    I telepathized with my brother, expending a full year’s worth of magical energy.

    “Bring over your carriage and a team of your fastest winged horses.”

    “Why?”

    “Josephine.”

    He swore he’d make haste.

    We set the horses to soaring, flying over leagues of countryside, to stop at last before a gentle, snow-covered rise.

    I took up my fedora and scaled the hill. Below, the most beautiful woman I’d ever beheld stood in the doorway of a tiny cottage, which floated a meter above the valley’s floor.

    “You’re late,” said Josephine.

    “Late, yes—years too late for my heart.” I dropped to one knee in the snow.

  33. Punch Out (158)
    @brett_milam

    Looking back on it now was funny. Not funny like “ha-ha,” but funny, like ironic.

    We had on yesterday’s jeans, yesterday’s underwear, yesterday’s unbrushed teeth, yesterday’s empty stomachs. But we had today’s don’t-give-a-fuck.

    They said I was whimsical with weary eyes. Punch in, punch out, and be content. Settle down.

    But there were no cubicles out there, no paper bag lunches, and no neckties.

    No stoplights. No clocks.

    Just mountain lions and avalanches and the biting cold. But goddammit it made you feel alive.

    The guy had a brown loincloth over his junk – in that weather – and a bow and arrow latched to his shoulders. Stepped right out of a storybook to pierce our flesh.

    Maybe it was funny like ha-ha because we had forgotten about nature’s deadliest predator: Man.

    I heard people’s feet shuffling. I was late, like they thought I would be. So, I climbed in. Wood pine smelled pleasant. It was dark.

    Death was comfortable.

  34. Elysium
    By Laura Carroll Butler
    154 words

    Lila had always been the one to wait. Ben was five minutes late for their first date, misjudging the amount of time it would take to walk across campus. By their third date, Lila knew she had at least ten minutes more to primp before Ben arrived.

    On his way to their wedding, Ben’s cab broke down and he was late to the chapel. He was flustered and apologetic when he showed up, but Lila smiled serenely. “I knew you would be here,” she whispered.

    Dinner was always warming in the oven when Ben came home late from the office. She woke when he came to bed, long enough to kiss him good night.

    Now it was Ben’s turn to wait for Lila. Everyday, he waited with the other husbands, peering into the mist, waiting for his wife. Finally he understood the longing she must have felt all those years she waited for him.

  35. Fool That I Am

    Fool that I was, I had missed it. The last shuttle off this rock. The last chance to leave a dead and dying planet. I was now stuck here until I died. It wouldn’t be too much longer. Not when the planet’s only inhabitants were the diseased. And me.
    My pack on my back, I stared at the landscape. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Ever since the Great War, it had become barren and cold. Few scraggly trees grew and hardly any crops. Chances are I would die of starvation long before I died of the disease.
    Why did I have to oversleep, over pack, miss my last chance to live?
    Behind me, a Diseased walked up, stood above me looking down. The Diseased, a man, looked kind enough once you saw past his face.
    “I am sorry,” he said, and I believed him. “Follow me.”
    And fool that I am, I did.

    153 words
    @ebthompson93

  36. The Rift Between Worlds
    (159 words)

    Hope and hooch only last so long. Snow stung our faces as Mount Hope stared down at us icily. The twilight was already fading.

    “Don’t hang it up yet! There’s still time!”

    The storytellers in Snowden tell of the old days of automobiles, aeroplanes, and pictures moving in black and white. They say that Man grew arrogant, and split the Atom.

    Then the Mancers emerged from their secret places. Without even a hi-de-ho, they eliminated Science and sundered the World: no one could travel between Cities, except by Magic.

    I thought it all bonkers, till Helen vanished on her sixteenth birthday. Mount Hope was our fleeting chance to rescue our daughter, but that rift was treacherous.

    “Look!” A grassy clearing appeared ahead of us. Sunlight. Warmth. Apple trees. A young woman in a sundress — Helen! “Summerland!”

    We hurried forward, but the vision quickly faded. When we got there, we found only a single golden apple, dusted with snow.

  37. ‘A Missed Deadline’ (159 words) — Tom O’Connell/@Conveniently_So

    * * *

    Molly was worried. It was twelve past six and still no sign of Julian. She raised her binoculars and crouched low.

    ‘How much longer can we wait?’

    Stephen’s hands found his pockets. He stepped gingerly from one foot to the other. ‘Long as it takes.’

    The wind pelted them with fresh snow. They withdrew into their coats, but it was futile; they were completely exposed.

    Molly hugged her knees and said, weakly: ‘I think we should go.’

    ‘You’re kidding.’

    Stephen’s head was bowed. Molly saw a frost cloud rising from the brim of his hat.

    ‘He’s your boyfriend,’ Stephen went on, his voice deepening. ‘We’re not leaving him.’ He had hoped to sound resolute, but a shiver passed through him like electricity.

    Molly’s gaze fell. ‘I’m going, Stephen. I can’t chance them finding us.’

    ‘But–‘

    ‘I won’t go back there. Stay or join me; choice is yours.’

    Stephen held his breath and looked out across the icy abyss.

    • Typed on phone again. (With surgical precision!) But I forgot to properly space out the lines (ergo it looks super cramped!).

      I wonder if there are any powerful dragons out there capable of rectifying this injustice… Don’t mind me. Just thinking aloud 🙂

      • Always dragon magic in the air around here–expressing thoughts aloud is a risky proposition!

  38. Evolution is Fast
    (160 words)

    I was working in the tiny base station of these mountains, pondering myths about Earth before the Freeze—how people “sunbathed” on beaches (ha!)—when two unfamiliar men barged in.

    They asked how to reach Guryle’s Summit. I drew a map and they hurried off. Curiosity bade me follow; they were dressed so lightly I was sure they were mad.

    But they ascended snowy paths with ease. One even lost a shoe and continued barefoot.

    At the peak the shoeless man peered through binoculars. His cohort pulled a long-barreled pistol and said, “Do I have a shot at their magma pump?”

    “Too late,” the shoeless man cried. “They’re already irrigating from the volcano!”

    The armed man collapsed. I was overcome with empathy and approached from hiding.

    “Aren’t you happy?” I said. “We’re learning how to survive the Freeze.”

    He screamed at my touch. I noticed the reptilian cast to his eyes, and understood the heat from my hand was excruciating.

  39. “The Reason”
    @SVBookman (160 Words)

    “Storm brewing, Dear.”

    Magnificence spoke over his shoulder to his lovely wife, Contessa. She knew the weather was bad; she had consulted the Oracle. Not that he would believe her now. Of course, the real problem was the literary entries. The storm would bring down most of the communication routes as well as simply making it very difficult to read the entries. Several of the copies had been blurred by early water falls.

    “I hear you, Dear. Would you be so kind as to move the wood nearer the fire place?”

    “I will gladly do so, but it’s already quite wet from yesterday’s downpour.”

    Contessa sighed loudly, shaking her blonde hair out of her eyes and covering while she wiped the tears away.

    “It’s only a simple contest. It should not be this hard,” she sniffed.

    “What was that, Dear?”

    “Nothing. I said I wondered if the rain will be as hard.” She stood and walked slowly from the tower.

  40. Cold Miscalculations
    (158)

    “You’ll only have an hour before the explosive goes off,” Donald warned.

    “No problem,” David claimed with a smirk and raced away.

    “He’s not going to make it,” Donald wheezed forty minutes later.

    Daniel detected a thread of cold pleasure and shot a scathing look at the eldest triplet, “He’ll make it. He’s fast. He’ll be in time.”

    “Maybe.” Donald stifled a cough.

    “It wouldn’t be necessary if you’d remembered your inhaler,” Daniel griped.

    Douglas shrugged. “Well, he brags enough about his speed. Let him prove it.”

    Keeping his anger in check, Daniel peered down the slope for his brother’s jacket.

    There. A flash of orange. “Ha! Told you he’d make it!”

    Without warning a muffled boom and several tons of snow and rock engulfed the youngest brother.

    “You… you said he had an hour.”

    His insides froze as Donald took a contemplative puff of his inhaler. “Oops.”

  41. “I Always Get My Man”
    159 words
    @MSeeseTweets

    Donovan peered through the binoculars.

    “I don’t like this,” he said. “The trains in this part of Europe always run behind.”

    “Don’t worry,” Jenkins said calmly. “I always get my man.”

    “You’re too confident. We shouldn’t have used a timer. We should have used a compression detonator.” He checked his watch, then stared down once again. “Damn it! That bomb is going to go in one minute. And the train is nowhere to be seen. We’re about to blow up a bridge for nothing. This doesn’t make sense. Why kill a bunch of innocents to get to one man? How does HQ even know the mole is on that train anyway? He’s a ghost. No one has ever seen him. He could be anyone. Any ideas, Jenkins? Jenkins?”

    But his “partner” was gone.

    At that moment Donovan became acutely aware of the ticking emanating from his own backpack.

    “You were right, my friend. You do always get your man.”

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