Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 26

Welcome to Flash! Friday! In recent weeks we’ve gone from the burning desert of Area 51 to cool garden waters. It only makes sense this week, at least in my (admittedly mildly unhinged) view, to see if we can’t combine both. Fire and ice, as they say. Or at least fire and a gorgeous bell tower surrounded by lush greenery, a tension surely allowed for in a creative alternate reading of Frost’s famous apocalyptic poem, right? In any event, it’s a meeting of opposites. Is there anything more delicious in literature than that??  


Hard to believe, but the 2nd quarter of Year 2 is winding down. This means we’re faced with the unpleasant task of saying goodbye to the current (fabulous) panel of judges {{Note: the panel for the 3rd quarter will be introduced June 20}}. First it’s a huge thanks and a fond farewell to today’s judge, Pratibha Kelapure. Pratibha, I hope you’ve had as much fun judging as we have benefiting from your keen perspective! New writers and curious returning writers, be sure to check out her judge’s page for tips regarding what she’s looking for in a winning entry. 


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings 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(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word “arson'”):

Include a fire ***Today’s Prompt:

Bell Tower of Guadalest, Costa Blanca, Spain. CC photo by Anguskirk.

Bell Tower of Guadalest, Costa Blanca, Spain. CC photo by Anguskirk.

220 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 26

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    146 Words


    Heat sears the air,
    Shimmering distortion vibrates a sandstone roof.

    The fire of afternoon brilliance
    Shades the dips and dells of
    Craggy rock and verdant moss.

    It melds heat into the sun-kissed bones
    Of citizens below.
    Unconcerned, they while away treasured moments,
    Chatting with the Reaper
    Above the gong
    That tolls their final hours,
    Sun-blinded and unprepared.

    Light flees across the slopes,
    Lining leaves and roots
    With golden shadow.
    It plays in the crevasses and ridges,
    Chases the darkness down the cracks
    Before dancing away,
    Flirting with the whelming blackness
    Of Shadow.

    Like a laugh that dies before it is heard,
    The colors fade.
    Amber, then silver, then gray,
    And purple.

    The citizens turn their faces skyward,
    The knell sounds its clanging strokes.

    Four hours left,
    Three, two, and one,
    And then,

    Blackness waits.

    The night
    Sweeps over once more.

    And there are no stars tonight.


  2. Salvation from above

    “Father, the fire is dying.” The young boy looked worried, his tiny hands shivering in anticipation.
    The priest glanced up from his bible, “Throw some kindling on it then boy.”
    John’s teeth chattered, “There is no more wood.”
    “Nonsense, there are plenty of trees outside.”
    “They are frozen solid and we already burned the axe handle.”
    “Are you telling me there is nothing left to burn?” The priest glanced around and confirmed that assessment. He caught the child eying his bible hungrily, “You will burn this bible over my dead body. Ring the bell, the Lord will hear our prayers and provide salvation.”

    John reluctantly obeyed. He tugged on the rope and ice cascaded from above with a clang. There was a loud snap, followed by a bell crashing through the ceiling. It crushed the priest in an instant, the bible rolling from his limp hands. John stared at the heavens and shrugged before tossing the book into the flames.

    160 words
    Facebook Authors page – https://www.facebook.com/CraigAndersonAuthor


  3. The pair of intrepid explorers climbed the mountain with little difficulty, enjoying a light banter during the ascent.
    “This is a good planet. Everything’s fresh and new. No inhabitants to maim us. No gangs to graffiti our ships or burn the forests. It’s perfect!” The captain cheerfully mused.
    The ensign sighed and muttered, “Yay. A whole new planet for us to destroy.”
    Rounding the corner, the ensign nearly ran into his captain when the older man stopped short. His eyes followed his leader’s gaze and fell upon the bell tower.
    “I thought you said this planet was uninhabited?” The ensign inquired in halting speech.
    The captain frowned. “I was given every assurance that there were no intelligent signs of life here.”
    “Yeah? Well, what about unintelligent signs of life? Sometimes the stupid ones are worse.”
    Suddenly the bells inside the tower clamored, clanging and jangling together in a deafening chorus.


  4. About That Boy

    Drake walked along the cliff edge holding his arms out horizontally, ironically, in a very cliche way. He was headed this way to meet a friend–no, an associate, they’re anything but friends. No, that’s not quite the word either. Rivals. Yes, that’s the word.

    He looks up at the tower and sees a fire. He recalls a very short letter sent to him on a previous day.

    Dear Drake,
    Meet me at the Bell Tower of Guadalest. When I get there, I will light a dark fire so you don’t have to wait for me.

    Drake stopped walking and fell sideways off the cliff, then soared straight up as he unfurled his mighty 17 foot wings. He felt the wind tearing at his hair as he shot towards the tower at 175 mph, then landed on the ledge below the window.

    “Now, about that boy,” George said with a mischievous glimmer in his completely black eyes.


  5. ***Judges Entry*** | ***Ineligible***
    150 Words

    For over four billion years trees have been the guardians of Mother Earth. Tempered by growth, wizened with age, they follow Father Time in his steady pace. Fiery tempests strike lightening into the hearts of forests, burning acre after acre until the scorched land releases smoky cries into wailing winds.

    Renewal. The cycle of life.

    No such cycle exists for man. We are born, and we live, and we die. Some of us are forged in battle, blessed with strength and tenacity. Few are imbued with the gift of extra sensory perception, sight for the future or an ear for the tune of nature. For those like me, those who can breach the void between believing and knowing, the ache of belonging is exquisite.

    Standing atop the bell tower overlooking a Spanish forest, I give myself over to that longing. The trees, tempered by growth, wizened with age, forgive me.


  6. Reblogged this on Write This Way and commented:
    I just added my entry (Ineligible for the win) for this week’s Flash! Friday competition. It’s Pratibha Kelapure’s last week, let’s give her a good one, folks!
    ***Judges Entry*** | ***Ineligible***
    150 Words

    For over four billion years trees have been the guardians of Mother Earth. Tempered by growth, wizened with age, they follow Father Time in his steady pace. Fiery tempests strike lightening into the hearts of forests, burning acre after acre until the scorched land releases smoky cries into wailing winds.

    Renewal. The cycle of life.

    No such cycle exists for man. We are born, and we live, and we die. Some of us are forged in battle, blessed with strength and tenacity. Few are imbued with the gift of extra sensory perception, sight for the future or an ear for the tune of nature. For those like me, those who can breach the void between believing and knowing, the ache of belonging is exquisite.

    Standing atop the bell tower overlooking a Spanish forest, I give myself over to that longing. The trees, tempered by growth, wizened with age, forgive me.


  7. Word count: 160

    Title: A gallant quest

    Horatio could feel the blazing heat of the sun on his cheek, as he spurred his steed on. The canopy of trees had only protected him for so long. He looked at the bell tower looming before him, taunting him from its peak.

    Reaching the foot of the cliff, he surmounted and keenly scanned the wall before him. There was a way to get up there, but it would be tricky. Drawing his gloves on, he placed one foot after another on the treacherous, broken face. Hand over hand, he climbed, steadily, not looking down. Not once. His beloved awaited. And he didn’t have much time. The sun had almost set.

    With a last effort, he hauled himself up to the window. There she sat, attired in blue, a vision of loveliness. Their eyes met and she smiled sadly at him, while looking at the sun. In a sudden burst of flames, she disappeared, leaving behind a charred, blue ribbon.

    Shailaja V
    On Twitter: @shyvish
    On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/movingquill


  8. To Remember
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    156 words

    To be chosen was a mixed blessing. On the one hand the brothers had deemed you fit to join their company. On the other, the trip was arduous. Father Bertol lead the way, small but strong in a wiry sort of way that came from working the land in his previous life. John toiled behind wishing he had warmer underclothes. Through the night they climbed with the cries of strange creatures who inhabited the dark hours all around them. Finally, they reached the tower as first light silhouetted the distant hills.
    ‘Half an hour,’ Father Bertol said, lighting a small fire.
    They drank the warming tea and John examined the blisters where his sandals had rubbed.
    ‘Every year?’ John asked.
    Father Bertol nodded. ‘Who else will remind them that their freedom was bought by the sacrifice of others.’
    As the first of the sun’s rays struck the ancient bell its mournful toll echoed across the valley.


  9. The Forger
    (158 words)

    Thorne’s grey hand clung to his knotted staff.
    He reached the wooden door that lay ajar- an invitation?

    ‘Two days left,’ said a voice that seemed to scuttle across the room and along his spine.
    Thorne spluttered, ‘How can you tell?’
    ‘The stench of rot,’ said an old man stepping into the pale light.
    ‘Then you know why I have made such a journey on such legs. Can you …?’
    ‘What?’ said the old man running his cracked tongue over his top lip.
    ‘…Get me one? I don’t have much time.’

    The old man played on.
    ‘What do you think an old man living his life in a remote tower might have for you?’
    ‘You know.’ Thorne said. ‘You know I need a soul. A good one. One that keeps me from Satan’s Fires.’
    ‘There’s a terrible price for that kind of work, and the ones you love will pay it.’
    Thorne nodded, staining his soul one last time.


  10. Feather’s Victory WC 149
    by TJ Marshall

    With tear-filled eyes, Feather hugged the Palladium Shard and stumbled to the door of the bell tower. Behind him, in the forest-covered valley, Humans battled Griffons, Griffons fought Dragons, and Dragons clashed with Basherhounds. Their distant cries filled the world with fire and chaos.

    He opened the door and entered. The Bell of Triumph, hung high in the center of the square room, glowed orange with the fading sun. At one side, a thick rope waited.

    The doorway exploded, throwing Feather against the far wall. The Shard skittered across the stone floor and rested in the corner.

    The Defiler screeched through skeletal jaws. “Now, you die!” Black smoke wrapped around the litch’s arms like phantasmal snakes.

    With teeth clenched, Feather leapt from the floor, throwing himself at the rope.

    The bell sounded, its sharp dong vibrated Feather’s soul.

    In the corner, the Palladium Shard cracked as the Defiler screamed.


  11. “Innocence”

    Her brain was on fire with the shadow of a man.

    But the belfry was on fire with her heartache and scorn. Cracking, hissing, spitting, popping. A firecracker of destruction against the blazing white noon sun.

    Heat melting into heat. Brilliance rising into brilliance. Stifling waves of anguish that could be felt for miles in all directions.

    A boy, scuttling along the cliff face, reaching into crevices, groping blindly for nests, felt a flutter against his sun-browned cheek.

    And then another against his arm, the tiny obsidian snowflake catching in the golden hairs, and then more, raining softly onto his hair.

    He looked up, craning his neck towards the blistering sky, blinking his long, fine eyelashes against the whirlwind of ash.

    He wondered.

    He was a boy. He thought of accidents. Of a carelessly flicked cigarette, perhaps. He thought of the doves, arcing through the smoke, turning black if they were not already cooked.

    He did not think of love.

    Steph Post
    (160 words)


  12. Waiting for the Bells
    150 words

    We gathered around the fire. The echoes of the screams blew in on the cold wind from the sea. Another attack. More deaths. I survey the haunted faces of family and villagers, their hands extended to the fire, trying to soak in the heat as if it will melt away the terror that has cooled their skin.
    I shiver, my tunic little comfort against the depths of this chill. Out on the horizon, fireballs light the sky. With each roar, I cringe, waiting for the bells.
    My sister sits next to me, eyes wide. No one speaks. No one moves. A clap of thunder warns of the oncoming storm. What else would claim the lives of our village?
    We wait for the bells.
    One chime for each dragon down. One chime for each rider killed.
    I take in a deep breath and close my eyes.
    The bells begin to chime.


  13. Three Hundred Stone Steps

    Three-hundred. Three-hundred stone steps, eighteen of cement to the entrance, sixty of wood reaches the top. Pedro, age eighty-two, three days coming, wills his first step.

    The boy, seventy years earlier, ran these steps. The girl, not easily left behind, was on his heals. From the top they gazed, ate sandwiches and played.

    Pedro’s gelatin legs bear him to the door, but can bear no more. However, Pedro, age eighty-one and determined, wills himself onward.

    His hand at age twenty-three pulled her through that door. Heart soaring, he led her up to their spot, bent on knee and offered a ring.

    Now, Pedro is bent low. This was too much for his tired, worn body. He falls to his knees, takes a moment, and pulls out a candle. A single candle over which he slips a single ring. He lights it.

    One. One candle for his one love. The girl not easily left him behind who has left him behind.

    160 Words


  14. Translation
    259 words

    For generations, the masters had been conversing with the trees. It was a slow business, as the trees kept their own time. A master might receive an answer asked by her master on a warm summer day.

    “What is fire? What is ice? ”

    The girl climbed the winding steps to the mountain temple, admiring the leaves along the path. Her name was Emila, and she could hear the trees. Not in words, but vibrations, like words in air.

    When she reached the temple gates, she told them –“Fire is the light of heaven. Ice is frozen rain”

    In time, Emila herself became a master of the language , receiving many answers from years ago. She became adept at translation. She, too, asked many questions.

    “What is life? Why are we here?”

    Emilia became a great master, and her life was many summers. One evening, as her life was ending, she heard the leaves repeating, “Days of sun, days of rain..”


  15. Monk-eying Around
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    158 words

    “You’re fired!”

    “Why? Because I was woolgathering and missed ringing the vesper bells by seven minutes?”

    “Yes. We have zero tolerance for daydreaming.”

    “But, Father, I was LITERALLY gathering wool. Brother Giovanni said we need more if he’s to have enough for weaving our winter robes.”

    “That’s no excuse.”

    “You’ve got bats in your belfry.”

    Pardon me?”

    “I’m serious – there are bats up there. I’ve figured out a way to get rid of them.”

    The abbot sighed. Brother Francesco had wreaked havoc yesterday when he’d accidentally knocked a fellow monk into the cesspit. Not to mention the time he’d nearly burned down the abbey by forgetting to extinguish the candles after midnight mass. Maybe the best place for him was up in a tower. Alone. Where he couldn’t get into anymore trouble.

    “Fine. But end the ‘original compositions,’ will you? They give one such a headache.”

    Francesco grinned. “Exactly. How do you think the bats feel?”


  16. Armageddon
    No one remembered which of the numerous warring clans had furst erected the bell tower. Rising from the craggy mountainside it had maintained its vigil over the valley for centuries. “Father Damien! Father Damien!” Jorge stumbled to a panting halt in front of the Catholic priest.

    “What is it my son?”

    “They’ve entered the pass!”

    “Send forth the warning Jorge.” The boy grabbed a smoldering torch tossing it onto the waiting beacon. Whoosh! The pitch smeared wood ignited. A smokey fire blazed up. He snatched the pull rope, tugging vigriously. Clang! Clang! Clang! The metal bell pealed out its summons.

    Father Damien turned to face the parishioners gathered before the valley’s entrance. “Armageddon has come my children, be strong, know that the Glory of God goes into battle with you against this foe.” He signed a cross over their bowed heads. They kissed their rosaries, fingered their weapons, and fidgeted nervously. A flood of demons poured into view.

    159 Words



    Born of fire; caste for events of import including fire, the ancient bell hung quietly awaiting its duty on the boulder-strewn cliff side.

    “Dare you to ring it!” peeled Yianni.

    “Oh, no! It’s only for emergency!” Pietro timorously replied.

    The ground on which the boys trod trembled imperceptibly at first. Then a resonant wave shook the rocks under their feet.

    “Hey!” Yianni tolled, “We have an excuse to hang on the clapper!”

    “We better run; Old Solfatara is waking! You remember our grandparents’ stories!”

    More violent shaking. A rain of fiery rock shards fell upon the mountainside stinging the boys’ skin and setting the venerable bell to vibrate at a low frequency.

    “The bell! Run for the belfry, Pietro!

    “Wait for me, Yianni!”

    Despite the detritus and temblors, they reached the belfry, the bell tolling its first of three loud alarm rings before the collapse.

    After the volcanic violence, rescuers heard frantic thuds from the patriarchal bell cup.

    WC = 158 excluding title


  18. An Act of God? (159 words)

    Like two charcoal smudges stacked one on top of another, the priest gazed out from the cool of the bell tower, watching the cloud on the horizon. Already ashen from his late night efforts falsifying arson at the local woodworking tool factory, even his collar was grey.

    Carlos Ramada was Viela’s appointed small god botherer. A role that had him discrediting the mischief of minor deities. The last thing the Church needed was people believing in demi-gods or anything other than the Holy Father. And so, he had a very varied and sometimes dangerous job, often working outside the law.

    The cloud began to move as soon as he stepped out into the sun’s glare, homing in on him like a giant malevolent sheep. Metal tools began to fall, their cast bodies shattering into shrapnel as they hit the cobblestones.

    Ramada groaned. “Damn you,” he said, shaking his fist. “The planes in Spain shouldn’t fall mainly in the rain!”


  19. Safe winter
    160 words

    Manir’s heart filled with pride as the chief pointed at him from the group of 12 young men assembled in their midst.  He failed to show proper decorum and hide his smile; he’d been chosen to complete the last watch of winter!

    He looked to the crowd and saw his mother, grinning,  her hands held to her chest.

    He’d been chosen!

    He felt like he was walking on air as he headed to the bell tower and, looking back once , went inside and ascended the stairs. In six hours the winter watch would end – and he’d ring in the summer.

    Six hours past uneventfully, if not painfully slowly, but the watch ended.  Now, with heart beating hard, he sounded the bell to ring out winter and welcome summer.

    The elders gathered and, upon hearing the bell, prepared the sacrifice to the gods for a safe winter passage; they locked the bell tower door and lit the fire.


  20. The Fire Goddess Gets Results

    “WHERE’S THE KEY?” the fire goddess screams.

    “I’m not telling. Just one hint: It’s in the trunk of a tree,” Marcel the Magician says. The rope hurts his wrists.

    “Tell me which tree. You have one chance,” the goddess says. Her hands glow orange.

    Marcel shakes his head.

    The goddess paces. She stops in front of him. “Fine,” she says, “you are useless.”

    She throws up her hands and hurls a ball of flame at Marcel’s head. Shortly the magician is a pile of ash. Bits of rope smolder at the goddess’ feet.

    “You forget, metal does not burn. It only melts.”

    She spreads her arms wide and sends a curtain of flames through the valley. Trees splinter and collapse, spitting up sparks.

    When the smoke clears, a glint of gold appears amid the black destruction.

    The goddess peels the melted key from the ground. Now no one can have it.

    151 words w/o title


  21. I stood peering over the top of the green carpet of trees.

    I had finally made it. 36 hours it had taken from start to finish but I was finally here.

    It was peaceful but not quite. You could hear the birds chirping , bees buzzing and trees swaying.

    I turned and for the first time see the place I would call home for the night.
    Mud and rocks smashed together made the walls and roof. It wasn’t much but it would do.

    I unpacked my small backpack of supplies, and began making a fire.

    I didn’t need to travel far to find what I needed, logs and kindle to get it started.

    It had been such a warm day but now day was turning to night and it was getting cold.

    Night fell and I decided it was time to get my head down. Tomorrow was drawing close and I had an early start if I wanted to find him.

    160 words w/o title


  22. White Flag

    Aldrith worked quickly,  counting stitches and patterns with the ancient Ruon rhyme.  The sea’s calm surface reflected flashes of sunlight to where she sat in the bell tower.  Barely a sign of the storm remained. The sky was so clear she could almost see the coast of the Sundered Lands. Smoke from a cooking fire hung in the air, but there was no time for food.

    Into the snowy cloth she worked secrets of the wind and waves,  the sun and stars, the soil of home, her longing,  her love. She made the last stitch and recited the final rhyme before cutting the silk thread.

    Wind tugged at her dress and hair as she raised the white flag.  The wind caught it, whipping the message into the air.

    Aldrith thought she could already see her husband’s ship. Even with torn sails or a broken mast her flag would guide him home.

    Words: 151


  23. Monk’s Business
    by A J Walker

    High above the isolated gorge, the Monks of No Redemption buzzed with excitement. The date, time and location of Judgement Day had been foretold by Daniel ‘the Certain’ centuries earlier and their monastery constructed to overlook the scene.  Since then the monks had retold the prophesy in their songs, books and paintings.

    Now, just moments to go.

    Brother Pious ‘You Better Believe It’, from Doncaster, loved the stories of the millions trudging forward for their final Judgement, shaking in the knowledge of their own failures. Charlie ‘the Almost Perfect’ smiled at young Pious, ‘A beautiful day, brother,’ before turning to face the gorge.

    After decades painting fire and brimstone, Fredrico ‘the Botherer’ (the best of the No Redemption painters), could barely contain his excitement for the sights they were to see.  

    Fredrico sensed the first unmistakable signs of smoke tickling his nose.

    “It’s here!”

    Kevin ‘the Forgetful’ hurtled off down the stairs to the kitchen.

    The Redemption Cake was ruined.

    160 words


  24. To Rescue a Princess – 158 Words

    “If you think you are going to waltz in here on a white horse and save my ass – you got another thing coming Mr. Prince Charming!” Selma climbed higher into the bell tower.

    “I’m going to save you anyway.” Kalb dashed after her.

    She had a sharp retort on the tip of her tongue, but swallowed it back with a cough. Something to the effect of how small brained men were usually small in other areas as well.

    They raced to the top as the smoke thickened.

    “The fire will kill us both you dumb princess!” Kalb hollered. He could almost reach her.

    “Only you, my desperate prince. You couldn’t even trap me here by starting the fire.” Selma slammed wooden shudders open and flung herself outside.

    Kalb leaned out, gasped in air, and watched her disappear into the trees below.

    Next time he would have a better plan. For now he needed to retrieve the body.


  25. The Vanished Legion
    Evan Montegarde
    156 words

    Before the old Tower stood history was made in this parched dry land, now forgotten and forever lost to time….

    The watch fires had been lit, the sentries there now probably dead.

    Imperator Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa tightened his breastplate grimly; the dying sun’s light glinting off the gold-encrusted eagle of rank.

    “Will we die today sir?” The Centurion asked calmly.

    Marcus stopped and turned toward his ancient comrade Marcellus, “yes, indeed we shall my friend. Viriathus will show no mercy just as we have shown none to him.”

    Below the darkening hillside, in the valley now covered in shadow the soldiers of the Legio IX Hispana stood silently in perfect ranks.

    “And what shall I tell the men sir?”

    Marcus picked up his chipped yet well-oiled and sharpened gladius, “tell them today the Hispana will stand as one and we shall all die gloriously in the sight of the Gods. And they will remember we lived.”


  26. Bird Dreams

    My dreams. How are they not my real life?
    It makes more sense to be a bird in flight, soaring above sweet verdant land on endless wind streams. This life seems clear. Clean.
    What my mind provides my body believes and I wake with my arms stretched wide across the dirty stone floor. 
And I feel a weighty thud as my soul understands that this body will never take flight.

    I have never seen a bird of the forest that someone did not remark upon its beauty.

    Beauty and freedom. I did not appreciate them as I should.
    Careless words. I paid for them.
    Fire stole my smooth skin and my long dark hair.
    Now I am a knotted map of mistakes and only a desperate sprout of sharp black spikes have tried to grow from my head.
    I have been put in the stone tower to spare the world.
    Perhaps I will take flight.
    There is a window.

    159 Words


  27. Fin
    By Laura Carroll Butler
    160 words

    The concierge told them of the little village fortified by an ancient, impregnable castle. “You will not see a more beautiful view,” he assured them.

    The towers were stunning white against a cerulean sky. Tourists outnumbered the natives and no one was in a hurry. Rick absentmindedly took the bite of bread smeared with sweet honey Susan offered and smiled as if caught sleeping. “We can leave,” she offered, but he shook his head.

    They came to the door of the church whose bell they’d seen as they approached the village. “Would you mind?” Susan asked and Rick again shook his head, but he did not follow her.

    Susan dropped a euro into the box and lit a candle. She knelt and prayed for guidance and strength and discernment. When she looked toward the doorway, Rick’s back faced her, but she could see his shoulders tight and his arms folded protectively over his heart. There would be no happy ending.


  28. Death Match
    John Mark Miller, 159 words

    After stumbling blindly through this wasteland for days with no water – nothing but one last match in her pocket – she assumed the bell tower was a mirage. But the cool white stone felt firm under her grasp, and she crawled up the eerie steps.

    They were all dead now – her entire expedition team, violently murdered. And with each killing, the bell had tolled its ghastly announcement. She kept climbing.

    The tower smelled like death, and he was on her in a flash, squeezing her throat with powerful fingers.

    “I knew you’d come,” he sneered. “Just like the others.”

    His voice was hard as ice, and she struggled to speak.

    “What was that?” he spat, loosening his death grip.

    “You’re…on fire.” She gasped.

    His eyes went wide as she shoved his flaming body over the ledge.

    The bell rang sweetly, masking his final shriek.


  29. Servitude

    His breathing loud and laborious, sweat dripping from his craggy face, he heaved himself up the last few feet till he came level with the door. The large metal key lay heavy in his pocket, for generations passed down from father to son; God had seen fit to provide him only with daughters, fine robust females who could kill a deer with one stare. Everyone marvelled at their devotion to their father until last year. One died of syphilis, one got gored by wild boars, one ran off with the local butcher and his favourite charmed by the devil joined the local convent. Her head shorn like his sheep in the spring. Climbing the 150 steps, each one a sharp stab in the heart, like a fire in his soul, reminding him of his loss. He’d ring the bells to welcome the rising sun but today its rays would bathe all over the Count; he’d serve his Master no more

    160 words



    All I smell is burning.
    My watch tower is ablaze, struck by lightning. Looking around I see the hatch leading down to the salvation of the mountain path is engulfed in angry flames. I’m trapped.
    I want to ring the bell and draw the attention of my brothers in the town below but the rope is gone. I push the heavy bell and scream as my palms turn to mush.
    Heat forces me back to the edge of the nearest window. I’m going to burn alive unless . . .
    It’s a long way down to the forest below but I believe I can make it. I believe that my God will make the mighty trees catch me. I must believe.
    I close my eyes and leap.

    * * * *

    My chest tingles where the branch has punctured it. I struggle to breathe and I can’t feel my legs. I am cold.
    I can’t believe anymore.

    Brian S Creek
    157 words


  31. The First Mistake (May Be Your Last)
    160 words

    They locked her in the tower…it was their first mistake.

    For as long as she could remember she’d been hidden behind brick walls that kept her safe from the monster that had devoured her family.

    They wove stories that stoked her fear and banked the warmth within her chest.

    She couldn’t remember her parents, all she had was a picture that showed stilted smiles and a passing resemblance but she was sure she must have loved them.

    They told her that the tower was a haven, not a prison.

    It was easier for her to spot the lies of omission as she grew older but she said nothing when they asked why she no longer smiled.

    Their second mistake was failing to keep the truth from her.

    It was so easy to shed her human skin, easier still to let the flames devour her whole.

    They locked her in a tower and as the bell tolled…she let them burn.


  32. 0.198

    The photo album in his lap told a story. Amaretto cake smeared on their faces, the image capturing the playfulness of young love. The family at the zoo, Anna and Jacob speaking gibberish to the catatonic leopard. The little league games, school recitals and vacations under the Florida sun. A montage of bliss from a time before his lapse in judgement, the day the camera lost focus. The empty cellophane on the last page wove a tale of distant apparitions.

    He sparked his lighter on this album of shame. The aroma of smoldering plastic and charred remembrances enveloped the room. He inhaled then ripped the lavender curtains from the rod and fed the assassin.

    The fire gorged itself on the fuel of cloth, oxygen and atonement. It consumed.

    The flame spoke: I’m still hungry, Stephen. You tried for years to unring the bell. Free yourself.

    He sat peacefully as talons of orange clawed at his psyche and blistered his Everything.

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    160 words

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Homecoming

    Shivering in her thin nightdress, the only clothing she had thought to snatch up when the summoning bells rang, Lian watched as the first of the grey men reached the village gates. Under the silent gaze of the crowd, he was met by his mother, a brittle thing of bone and hope, who took his hand and lead him tenderly towards the square.

    The others streamed in silently behind him, all washed out and translucent, like the shed skins of the boys who had marched out. Lian moved amongst them, peering into their bandaged faces and empty eyes, searching. She saw her brother and his friends, countless boys from her childhood, but Liu was not there.

    And so, as the smoke from the homecoming fire began to sting her eyes, as the other wives delivered their returning men to its sanctified flames, Lian allowed herself a tear or two, and a hope;

    Liu was still at war;

    Still fighting;


    160 words


  34. Gypsy Encounter

    The weather vane span left then right. It flamed blue into the thunderous night, and down below in the four-walled room the gypsy lady danced her trance. She danced slow to the screech of the twisting vane and the groaning swing of the humming bell, she danced a flamenco in the candlelight with her boys plucking notes from the air so tight.

    Her lithe form burst into beseeching moves drawing me into her mystical world, while the guitarists’ fingers were a smoky blur, and the vino warmed my head and heart. As she twisted around upon the dirt, whipping dress and clapping hands, her shadows joined her in the frenzy, she laughed aloud to see me burn.

    The last I remember was her whipping hair, long and dark and full, her eyes like coals, I lost control, but now I’m here alone; alone in the bell tower without shoes and billfold… and without regret.

    @CliveNewnham – 154 words


  35. “The Old Ones”
    160 words

    At first, the whispering came only at night. As I fell beneath the shroud of sleep, the sylvan terrors gripped me with antediluvian power- and I was lost to Their will. The draught the surgeon prescribed helped, sending me to an oblivion even the Old Ones could not reach. But either it lost its efficacy or They grew in boldness, for it was not long until They called again.
    With each passing age, human achievements multiplied- fire, bronze, masonry, farming. Gone were the days where we lived in fearful reverence of the creatures that came before. I don’t know why They chose me to remind my fellow men of the creeping, gnarled gods lurking just beyond the firelight.
    I try to resist, but a cowardly heart poisons my resolve. First, the belltower my family has stewarded these many years. The whispers guide me- awaken the flames, lock the doors, relish the screams. I turn toward the village, torch in hand.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden


  36. The Thinness of My Existence
    (158 Words)

    A strutting horse carries the king through his ranks. Poorly resplendent, he shouts challenges of war.

    The tower bell calls the hours as the king shouts, “Victory at dawn!”

    He returns to his tent to be attended by naive officers and poor nobles. It is a refuge of ignorance, nervously alive with the uneasy music of clanking goblets and feasting boasts in anticipation of battle.

    Outside, a different anticipation finds a fitful rest amid cold dank fires. Comrades lay waiting for a sleep escorted by empty stomachs and coughs in frozen air.

    I am the only soldier amid the innocent militia, unready virgins to be raped by war. I am calmed by campaigns on cat and weasel under other kings.

    Our white rocked foe was strengthened by labor and mountain. Its weapons are seasoned men with bows and oil pots. Silently, it stands above our heads.

    I stare into the fire and examine the thinness of my existence.


  37. Watching the Dance

    He lies in an inflammably drunk stupor amongst the flames that flick and kick all around him; chaotic orange chorus lines that grab onto his clothes and dance, ragged and vigorous, across his body.

    I cry, and I laugh, and I watch the dance.

    Dance for me, he demanded.

    He sat back and watched the scarlet flashing of my skirts, the stamping of my heels, the loud snapping of castanets in my hands.

    Don’t stop, he hissed, as I swirled and twisted, as he grinned and poured more fire down his throat, as he laughed and reached out, searing my flesh with his grip.

    And though he held me down, still I danced; thrashing and kicking even as I choked.

    The room is dancing now. It stamps and snaps, it shakes its roaring bright skirts.

    I could run. Seek sanctuary, in the tower, from the consequences of revenge.

    But I will watch the dance, until it ends.

    Or does not.

    160 words


  38. The Messenger

    From the bell tower Arcane watched orange flowers bloom in the twilight. One after the other, a constellation of beacons spluttered into life. Sending their plight to the capital.

    There was nothing else he could do. Arcane slumped down by the bell, whose rough rope had flayed the skin from his hands. He had tolled The Sentinel till his shoulders had ached, her solemn declaration almost overwhelming the screams and sounds of battle that emanated from the village.

    Tolled till orange flowers bloomed.

    The sound of wood giving way to force stirred Arcane back to reality. The invaders had gained entry. Soon they would ascend the worn stone steps to find the young scholar.

    Shoulders complaining Arcane took up his axe and buckler. He had hoped the invaders would have moved on, or that the Capital’s knights would arrive in time.

    But such thoughts were that of a child.

    Now he had to die as a man.


    157 words


  39. The Bell of Guadalest

    Anacleto clasped between his trembling thin fingers the silver cross piece that beforehand hung loosely around his neck. His parched lips kissed it thrice, while he kept his eyes tightly shut in a fervent, frightened prayer. His mouth breathed heat, which made his whisper hoarse and his tongue burn. There was another epic shriek and another powerful Ur Ah! Their stomping feet echoed in the ancient stones.

    Anacleto crawled in the tight space to the small window of the bell tower.

    He peered over, a gust of ash carrying wind blowing the stench of torched skin into his face. His eyes went teary, but the droplets evaporated right on the corners of his disbelieving eyes.

    The army marched and the serpent that flew over them was on fire, gliding in the hot burning air.

    Shacking, he grabbed the rough rope of the bell.

    Padre nuestro,
    que estás en el cielo.
    Santificado sea tu nombre.

    Crying, Anacleto rang for the village.

    160 words


  40. The Last Watch

    We’d known for years because technology is grand. All those telescopes and satellites and probes. We knew the day, the hour, almost the minute, and that gave us time to dig and drill and mine and build underground.

    The irony is not lost. Hominids first congregated in caves for protection from predators, and the act of leaving the cave and building upon the surface was seen as civilization.

    I’ve always wondered if seven billion people will fit underground and how many generations will it be before we forget we ever lived above the ground.

    These are the things I think about when I have the watch. Random things. Rhetorical things. I have nothing else to do. Well, one very important thing.

    At first it’s a small dot above the horizon; then, it blossoms to fill half the sky, but I do my job. I ring the bell, the signal to seal the caves, even as the sky burns.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    158 Words


  41. Hate and Desire

    Perfectly smooth marble, upon closer inspection, became blocks of ice, each fitted within grooves worn deep by hate. The chill that emanated settled within joints and bones, causing an ache that would not go away. Stairs slick through icy indifference made one’s footing uncertain, where a single misstep could send you collapsing with no hand rail to save you.

    Air rasped through tortured lungs, the only sound in the frosty silence, as the pilgrim approached the top.

    Within the heart of the tower, the bell stood frozen within mid-swing.

    In supplication, the pilgrim knelt, placing items beneath the bell: love letters, sonnets, lyrics, apologies.
    Striking a match, and with infinite patience, the pilgrim nursed the flame, ignoring cold shoulders and aching knees.

    A rose was placed upon the pyre; ice melted and dripped from the bell’s clapper like tears.

    A prayer. A plea. The bell shifted with a groan, tolling a mournful note.

    The ice began to crack.


  42. Lost Time (160)

    Once you reach a certain age, society’s attention wanders from you. And it wandered from Cosmo and the others.

    It was like a wheelchair graveyard in Seaview Nursing Home – the wheelchairs just happened to be populated by blinking corpses.

    For most of them, their day consisted of getting helped out of bed, plopped into their wheelchair and going a few feet beyond their room; to gaze at others, to watch the walls, to hopefully see someone young and vibrant.

    Cosmo was one of the few roaming bipeds at Seaview. He didn’t get far, didn’t move fast, but he wasn’t tethered by the wheeled menace.

    “I’m gonna get there some day,” Cosmo said to Renee, a nurse, pointing at a portrait of a bell tower situated within a mountainous landscape. As he did every day.

    Renee knew the portrait was just a painting.

    But for Cosmo, it was the fire in his old belly that kept him alive.

    Kept him moving.


  43. Good Fortune
    160 words
    K Orion Fray / @KOrionFray


    There had been a time before—before the pain, before the fire, before the wandering. There had been a time before Maria as well, but that time didn’t bear thinking of.

    /The cliffs are high, but I must scale them./

    High upon a cliff in the city called the Eagle’s Nest, there is a tower which has kept watch over the children born at its feet for as long as time has been measured. In that tower is a bell, said to bring good fortune to all who ring it.

    My feet are aching, my body howling in protest at every motion. My palms are bloody, my face wind-burnt.

    /The cliffs are high, but I must scale them./

    The summit met, I slammed one hand into the metal, making my mark as the note rang true.

    Now shall I return down—swift as an eagle in the dive. May my good fortune come quickly, to be reunited with my Maria upon landing.


  44. Morning Prayer
    160 words

    Carlos ascended the mission tower as he had every morning, give or take, for, well, he couldn’t remember how long. He’d once been young, he thought, although he thought that more because everyone starts out young than because he remembered anything about it.

    And as he had every morning, he looked out the four windows, praying to the gods who dwelled there. Taldin to the north, and he threw his offering of ice – well, frost – out with the requisite words. Taldin’s sister, Amala, to the west, with her offering of loam. Their daughter, Missa, to the south, with the bird that flew away on the morning breeze and returned in the gales of the night. To the south, the one who called for Missa’s hand but was rejected. Ista, he was called, and his offering was flame. Only this morning, he needed no offering, for as Carlos looked southward, he saw the beacons of war. The nameless one had come.


  45. the bell rings in my head
    (159 words)

    the bell rings in my head.
    it echoes a peal to action not
    respondent to reason. the bell
    may not exist except
    in the reality of flames. flames that dance
    in an ever-changing reality
    felt. flames never
    remaining in the same-moment
    unlike the bell only changed
    by the next strike that vibrates
    its existence out of the eternal stillness,
    broken again by the next strike.

    am i doomed to hear the bells
    and see the flames
    by my creation and existence? maybe,
    it was my mother’s over-whelming
    frantic nervous smother or
    my father’s isolated being and
    couched calm permissiveness that
    caused the bells to begin and
    the flames to dance.

    these pills silence the bells and
    extinguish the flames. the doctor
    is such a nice man.

    i look down to white washed
    walls from heights above
    onto the reality of all that is.
    perception is no hermit on the ledge
    just wide enough for my ass
    but nothing more.


  46. Weaving the Fabric of Night
    154 words

    Dayton tensed, listening to the strangers talking.

    “I tell you,” one insisted. “I saw a dragon here last night.”

    As the others scoffed, Dayton stood gesturing towards the tower.

    “That’s the thing: in daylight, you see the world as it is, but at night– oh, at night the shadows come alive, and the fire in the tower goes from an instrument of warmth to eyes staring at you from the hills.

    “The mountain becomes a dragon, wrapped around the tower, its serpentine neck rising and falling along the hills as far as the eye can see.” He nodded knowingly.

    “In the dark, your mind weaves your imagination into the fabric of the night, and in the morning, it all fades to dust.

    Nothing more.

    He watched the strangers walk away, laughing at his imagery. When they disappeared around the bend, he turned towards the rise. “You owe me,” he said in a disgusted tone.


    • Rich imagery, and I love the implication in the last line. What’s funny to me is realizing how much is in a name – when I was a child, a boy named Dayton mocked me mercilessly, so upon seeing the name I had an instantly negative reaction. Great writing overcame that, but I just had to share. 😉


      • Thank you– I realized that when I’m cutting out words and editing a lot of the descriptive narrative is the first to go… but this once… I wanted to keep as much as I could.

        It is funny about names. To me Dayton is usually a less serious person– sometimes a bit pretentious. But… I’ve found myself using Ethan too often and wanted something different.


  47. I hope I made it in time.. It’s been a while
    @NadaNightStar – 147 words (without the title)

    Once Upon a Forest

    The setting was perfect: green was everywhere, high and low. The air was fresh and vibrant, untainted by humanity.
    But beauty is often short-lived.

    It was a bright and sunny morning near the bell tower. Birds flocked to their daily routines. Nature was performing its daily task of staying beautiful and carrying on with life.

    Until horrible a snake of orange and black appeared below, raging amidst the trees and flowers. The green quickly dissolved as the snaking colours consumed all that is organic that crossed their path.

    It was late when the tower bell sprung to action, ringing the highest it could. Had the bell been a son of nature it would have rung much sooner and much louder.

    The sun set red that day, and as it did, its light fell upon barrenness and mourning for the green was no longer verdant and alive.


  48. Willow’s Wrath
    (160 Words)

    Willow sprinted through the old forest, flames licking her heels. This was her final race–the bell tower, her goal.

    Tears streamed down her face–she cried for the trees, for the animals, and for the spirits.

    She stumbled up the stone steps towards the tower. At their summit, she summoned the last of her strength to ring the bell. Its peals echoed through the hills–a warning of approaching danger.

    Willow murmured a final prayer for her people and flung herself from the tower. Eyes closed, she welcomed death.

    Her eyes opened in the spirit world–but nothing had changed. She rode the wind, untouched by the fire as it consumed the forest.

    As her village came into view, she willed the wind to turn south–it hesitated, unaccustomed to following orders. She strengthened her resolve and commanded the wind to change direction.

    Seeing her village was unharmed, she searched for the pale faces–they would not escape their carelessness, nor her wrath.


  49. Windmills Passing
    [151 words]

    Tourists called this place a land of enchantment, but Gwen Cooley found nothing enchanting about a forest reduced to smoldering remnants by an arsonist.

    As she was climbing back into the Fire/Rescue truck, though, something caught her attention. Up above the cliff face, far above the burned woodland, stood a stone structure.

    A Spanish bell tower? That had never been there before. She was about to radio her Fire Captain when a voice called out.

    “Greetings, fair Gwendolyn! Welcome to my kingdom.” The old man was something straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales.

    “What are you supposed to be, some kind of Ren Faire royalty?”

    “I am King Califo. My subjects and I are grateful for your presence.”

    Gwen rolled her eyes and donned her fire helmet once more. “Forget it, King-o. I’m no princess.”

    “We already have a princess,” said the King. “What my kingdom desperately needs is a hero.”


  50. Regenesis

    The breeze plumped and shifted my hair, gently caressing the greying strands. The valley I had lived for stretched below, finally vibrantly verdant. The wash of life carpeted the scars of war etched into the land.

    My scars had found an uglier comfort, puckering and pulling at my skin. But inhaling the tangy bite of the surrounding vines soothed my once-rampant vanity.

    My degenerating body had served me well, fighting to carry me back to my one-time home and newfound haven, even if the bell-tower was all that now remained.

    Once, this had been Castle Creagh.

    Once, I had been its princess.

    Once, dragons had ruled the sky.

    Now, amidst the ruins and foliage, only I remained.

    Ignoring my provisions, I watched the sun paint my land in its descent, allowing forgotten peace to droop my eyelids.

    Until a flicker of fire reanimated my drained form. A second flicker reminded my lips of their former curve.

    They were home.

    (159 words; @AriaGlazki)


  51. Burning for the Bell
    @SVBookman – 160 words

    Johannes made the trip up the long, wooded ladders the top of the Bell Tower overlooking the “Forest of Wonder.” He pulled his small, unpadded stool near the window having the broadest view of the green landscape below and took out his knife. He began peeling the potatoes, apple, and pear that, along with a small crust of bread, would be his afternoon meal. This was his second year as Keeper of the Watch. His job was simple: he was to look out for raiders and other enemies who might seek to overthrow nearby Kochordan by moving stealthily through the forest. This had never happened; the job had been easy.

    Johannes began eating his apple. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He looked up and saw the cause: smoke was rising up from the center of the forest. He lost no time sounding the large alarm bell to warn of this attack from a different enemy.


  52. From the Fire Comes

    Kalinda watched as fighter crafts descended from the sky. Artillery streaked through the air. The refinery’s walls burst outward into the roads. People scattered and screamed in the chaos while an cracked bell in a temple tower rang out a warning. The sound was flat and didn’t echo through the valley.

    As she scanned the horizon searching for an escape from the onslaught, a small silhouette caught her attention. In the same moment an explosion quaked the ground and covered the shadowed image of the child. Fire raged where the child had stood.

    Kalinda rushed to the little girl. In her place was now a pile of rubble. The woman clawed at the broken pieces of wall. A small hand shot up from the debris.

    “If we make it through this little one, I’m renaming you Phoenix. You will certainly have risen from the ashes.” Kalinda grabbed the little girl in a fierce embrace and jerked her free.

    158 words


  53. The Bell Tolled
    260 words

    “Where are we?” She was so tired of running, but she knew that if they stopped, if they rested, they would be caught and sent back to their separate villages, never to see each other again. Her feet hurt, her back ached and she had a thirst she never before knew was possible.

    He put a finger to his, urging her to be quiet. He looked around one last time before tensely settling down beside her. He gently wiped the sweat from her brow. His touch reminded her of how a single spark had started the feud between their families. Love. Is there no greater fire?

    Her breath was hot against his skin as she leaned on his shoulder for a moment’s support. She knew the time too soon would come to move again. The furnace of the jungle pressed against them almost as hard as their pursuers. There were moments when she doubted their reasons for fleeing, but when he placed his hand in the swell of her belly, she knew they had made the right decision.

    Her breath had steadied. He seemed to sense that she was rested enough to travel again and his warm hand grasped hers just as they heard a rustling in the foliage. Her heart thudded loudly in her ears. His hand was hurting hers. Her father broke through the dense tree line followed by his. They were caught.

    Sometimes all it took was the tiniest of sparks to ignite a nation against you.

    A bell tolled. Even God was exposing their sins.


  54. Ellen Staley

    Ready or Not
    154 words

    The signal fires penetrated the pre-dawn gloom. Not a lone fire, but a grouping of three, the highest alert. Edmund switched to the eastern arch of the bell tower, binoculars focused on the valley floor miles away. There, a grouping of two. His heartbeat ratcheted up and he hurried to the southern view. No fire. The western? Three fires.

    Letting the binoculars swing free from his neck, Edmund grabbed the rope and yanked the tower’s bell to life.

    Every quarter century they attacked, driven by a voracious hunger.

    Edmund joined the residents in the frantic race to gather the harvest safely underground, beyond the jaws of decimation that would descend upon them within 24 hours. Wind traps and indestructible nets were set up while the pit fires were fueled and lit. Before the next dawn Edmund’s mountain hamlet was prepared . . . for the biggest locust roast ever, barbecue sauce at the ready.


  55. Something Borrowed

    “Please, Josefa, don’t go. The priest, he will not wait!”

    “But Maria left it for me. Without it we are doomed.”

    “Don’t let superstition keep us apart…” Francisco pleaded.

    Josefa smothered his words with her kiss then ran down the hill toward the village. “I will wait forever for you to return,” his sobs rang in her ears as she ran.

    By the light of the moon Josefa removed the loose stone from the well with her left hand as she snatched the contents with her right. She wove her hair through the shell comb as she raced back toward the hill.

    “Have you lost your way, my little one?” The voice spoke as the arm encircled her waist, dragging her away.

    The mourners robe hid her as she hobbled up the path, the comb in her graying hair. As she wept, fire ignited from the borrowed comb, slowly reviving the stone figure that waited below the tower.



  56. The bell tolled ominously, warning the people of the onslaught soon to come. The great beast roamed the starry sky, fire bursting from its maw, the light illuminating the night with a sort of terrifying beauty.
    “Ready the black arrow!”
    One man shouted in the midst of the chaos, his demeanour that of a soldier who knows what the upcoming battle may bring.
    At a signal from his accomplice indicating the arrow had been readied and was now aimed at its target, the man took a deep breath, knowing this was a final chance to rid themselves of the beast which had haunted their dreams all these years.
    He raised his arm and threw it down with a strength one can only muster in the worst of times. And with the sight of the arrow flying true, he whispered, “If this is to end in fire, then we’ll all burn together.”
    151 words


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