Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 29

WELCOME to the final Friday of the 2nd quarter of Year Two. Hasn’t it been a doozy!? Our newest judge panel kicks off next week aaaaaaaaaand…. I am now at liberty to announce the coming of a bonus contest, the Dog Days of Summer, complete with CASH prizes (thanks to our sponsors! y’all are AMAZING). Dog Days will kick off July 8. It’s going to stay open so much longer and allow so many more words, some of you might actually faint. More details next week.


But first: on the deep, dark, depressing side, we are forced, FORCED, I tell you, to say goodbye to our final 2nd quarter judge, Jess West. Dear Jess! You were part of the FF family long before you stepped up as judge, but now your name will live on in draconian infamy. (Er, you’re ok with that, right?) How good it’ll be to read your stories here again. But BUSINESS FIRST: if you’re a newcomer and don’t know Jess’ preferences, pop over to her judge page to learn how she chooses her winning entries. 


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 words “nuclear thermodynamics'”):


***Today’s Prompt:

Nuclear Winter Recon. CC photo by Paul Hocksenar.

Nuclear Winter Recon. CC photo by Paul Hocksenar.

155 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 29

  1. Patience (160 words)

    Countless days, endless nights.

    The slow click of the Geiger counter.

    Awkward, stretching silences.

    The flicker of electric lights, the hum of the generators.

    The stink of diesel, of unwashed bodies.

    We opened the door onto snow – snow, in Brisbane! – and had to fight the urge to run out, into those wide-open spaces. Who knew what waited for us, out there in the snow. The little ones had never seen the sky. They sat, terrified, huddled inside the fallout shelter.

    Their fear was infectious.

    The second day: Hoarfrost lay in the doorway, the Geiger’s voice shrill, chirruping. Deformed trees cast stunted shadows, skeletal fingers reaching out to snatch away our shelter, our security. The corpses of cars and collapsed houses, long ago picked clean by drifting looters.

    We had heard their cries for help as they bang bang banged against the heavy steel doors.

    We raised our voices, to drown out theirs.

    To drown out the past, and sing in our future.




  2. “Stacked Like Jenga”

    Dr. Farley found her body under the bare oak tree. Fear still gleamed in her flat gaze, cutting past the fallout that dusted her face like fireplace ash. “Found another one.” The words left his lips as if he’d discovered a sock missing its pair. There was once a time where the smell of death and rot made the hairs on the back of his neck dance in despair. But that was two mushroom clouds ago.

    Farley’s partner hauled over a creaking cart carrying more bodies. Together, they piled the woman’s body on top of the others. When they dropped her, a silver cross necklace slipped through her fingers falling like sand. With a gloved hand, Farley picked up the necklace. “God did so much for her,” his partner said, sarcasm cooling his words.

    “More than most. It gave her hope,” Farley replied.

    His partner’s gaze fell to the tangle of corpses stacked like Jenga blocks. “So much for that.”

    Words: 160


  3. Perfectly Safe by Laura Emmons (160 words)

    They said nobody would get hurt. Ages ago, beginning my military career in a secret meeting three sublevels below the E-ring, I believed them. Nuclear weapon testing in Antarctica was perfectly safe.

    Their bomb blew 278 square miles off Pine Island Glacier. The project hastened the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet and sea levels rose twelve feet. Sixteen trillion metric tons of methane gas was released, thickening the greenhouse gas ceiling, increasing hurricanes, typhoons and tornados.

    First responders everywhere were pressed beyond their limits; transportation became difficult, which actually slowed the spread of the prehistoric virus also released from the glacier. Disease spreads far in fifty years when climate change hastens economic collapse and health care is untenable for most people.

    Now I’m back, a patient man, taking radiation readings around the abandoned proving ground, to see if this outpost can become the last safe haven for humankind. After all, global warming has made the place quite seasonable.


  4. once-Earth

    The Elders said this day would come. As he tended their tanks, monitoring their cryo-levels and checking their blood purity, he thought of their words: EVENTUALLY, THEY WILL DESTROY THEMSELVES. WHEN THEY DO, WE WILL BE WAITING.

    Over generations, the creatures of the blue planet had revelled in their own filth. Again and again, The Elders thought their time had come, but they were thwarted; some of the creatures fought, hard, against the dying of their planet.

    But they knew – they all knew – it was doomed from the start.

    Then, nuclear war had wiped the blue planet white, and The Elders had begun their long wait for it to heal. In their circling ship, they watched in semi-stasis.

    GO, they finally told him. MAKE THE WAY FOR US.

    And so he walked once-Earth’s surface, testing every inch. Finally, he removed his mask and faced the yellow sun, breathing the air of a free world. Yes. They would be happy here.

    160 words


  5. A Funny Old Year
    (160 words)

    Mum had left us on Christmas Day. We limped into the year of 1981. My dad didn’t speak for the whole month of January. It was at the end of that month the drills began. Unpredictability would foster our readiness- midnight, torchlit parades to the cellar were not enough. He’d prepare hot meals and wait until we had settled at the table before sounding the signal that would take us away from our upstairs world. In our downstairs world, we could barely move for provisions, yet our stomachs rumbled as we longed for the all clear- some arbitrary point in time that would see us resume our meal.
    A life of interruptions changed us. I showered rather than bathed. Turned pages of books with a bookmark, never had other kids over, never sat for long. My brother shuffled playing cards, his fingers in perpetual motion like a nervous typist’s.

    Then,1982 brought with it doctors, hospital visits and Aunt Monica.


  6. It won’t happen

    “It won’t happen.” This was the mantra we lived by.
    Guess what? It happened. We ran our usual tests in our subterranean laboratory, discussed our results, dined, and watched the evening news. At least we wanted to. The usual shows, movies, etc were as usual. No news, though. Professor Carlton tried to reach several contacts. To no avail. It had happened.
    Two crew members set out in full gear. The Geiger counter confirmed the long isolation ahead of us.
    Two of us went out each day to collect values. The values slowly decreased. Luckily our tests had comprised the underground growth of cereal, vegetables, and fruit as well as the artificial production of water and milk.
    We continued our tests, checked the radioactivity – no longer counting the days. “We’ll all get out when the target value is reached,” Professor Carlton promised.
    And we got out to be sucked into a black structure hovering above.

    156 words


  7. Contained
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    160 words

    Fifteen hours on a packed flight and then another twelve to get from the airport to the security point. Everything was closed down for miles. Debris littered the roads. The landscape was encapsulated in clouds of smoke. Disaster.

    Devices searched aimlessly for a signal. Nothing. All the towers were down. Some of the satellites, too. Lines of soldiers in gas masks and submachine guns marched on either side of our vehicle, their heavy footfalls creating an eerie rhythm.

    It was time.

    For the hundredth time that trip, I checked my suit and mask, as the gauge on the meter clicked upwards to dangerous levels. The thick plastic suit clung to my sweaty skin, like a scared child squeezing his mother’s leg.

    My heart thumping in my ears, I stepped onto the ashen earth. The unnatural heat strangled me. Then I felt it. The acid air burned through a weak spot in the suit’s lining.


    Nothing could contain this demon.


  8. Working Clothes
    150 words

    He had tested the mask thoroughly. He had painted it in gravy. He had dangled sausages from the end. He had had a friend, a baseball pitcher, hurl haggises into his face.

    He had plunged face-first into a bowl of porridge, though only because he had fallen asleep during breakfast, so hard had he been working on perfecting the mask.

    He was the ultimate vegetarian, so anti-meat that he felt uncomfortable having a beef about it. It had never impacted his job before. Until today.

    When he arrived there were giggles from his peers, and muttered unfinished sentences that began with “what the”. He knew that he looked daft, but kept reminding himself that he wasn’t the weirdest-dressed person there.

    He took a deep breath, causing his mask to momentarily contract like a dying balloon, then stepped forward, microphone at the ready, to interview Lady Gaga in her meat dress.


  9. Shells

    The first mushroom cloud held a sick beauty. We watched as billowing death darkened TV screens. On the beach white foam sparkled between shells. I wanted to hold your hand, but tousled your hair to make you laugh.

    More mushroom clouds. More cities turned into mass graves. More people huddled together to survive. More lashed out violently. I wanted to hold your hand, but made a silly joke.

    Darkness consumed the world as we fled to shelters. Death spread in ash and clouds and black masks. I couldn’t see your eyes behind the fogged lenses. I promised you I wouldn’t leave.

    One by one millions of voices fell silent to be remembered only somewhere in the midst of the dead or the fearful memories of the living.

    Only broken shells remained. Shells of cities, shells of people, shells of souls, shells of prayers for forgiveness whimpered into the dark sky.

    I’d waited long enough.
    I slipped my hand into yours.

    Words: 160


  10. Waiting
    (144 words)

    Fingers reach from beneath the frozen blanket of death, as if begging me to save them. Not a scrap of flesh remains.
    Asking who to blame.
    Dying for someone else’s cause.
    They cannot be saved.
    Seventy years we have waited.
    Seventy years we have wondered.
    We trusted them to protect us, to put our safety above their selfish greed. We trusted the wrong people.
    War torn. Radiation poisoned.
    A race endangered. A planet diseased.
    We cannot be saved.
    Rations are running low among a dwindling population, disparity is running high.
    The Geiger meter knows we cannot escape, underground we must stay. Waiting for the ice to thaw.
    How many years will this winter last?
    How many days will I search for a home?
    When will we learn to change?
    I am afraid I will not live long enough to see.
    I cannot be saved.


  11. One Day
    148 words

    Mommy says no one goes outside the dome. Inside, the air is fresh and clean. Outside, a dirty fog clings to see-through force field. I don’t understand how it all works—yet. When I grow up, though, I’ll know that stuff.

    Daddy said he will be the first person to step outside the dome in over 100 years. That’s a long time. My dad is an important person—he’s a scientist. And, he lets me tag along.

    I watch as he pulls on the white uniform—it covers his whole body. Then he adjusts the black mask. He says it’ll help him breathe. I just think he looks funny.

    I plop down in front of the dome, watching, waiting. Any minute, Daddy will pass by and wave at me. He’ll be on the OTHER side. I can’t wait.

    One day, I’m going to be just like my dad.


  12. The Way We Were


    152 words

    There was a long line to get into the exhibit. The children waited patiently. They held each others’ hands.

    Miss Wilson, the teacher, held the guidebook. She motioned for the others to follow.

    There were dioramas, scenes from years ago. A man in a gray business suit. A woman in a lab coat.

    “This is the way we were,” she explained.

    There were film clips of cities, bombs falling. Bodies on beaches. Bodies in jungles. There were biohazard suits, gas masks, Geiger counters, weapons of many kinds, vials of inert viruses.

    “The world has ended any times,” Miss Wilson said. “It took a long time to remake it.”

    The children stared with wide eyes. Some were crying.

    Thousands of years had passed since those scenes. These were the children of the future. It was their world now.

    The children dried their eyes. Some had one, or three. They held each others’ hands.


  13. The traveller (144 words)
    I told them it would happen. They did not believe me but I prepared. I ordered the equipment and, when it happened, I was ready.
    Now I walk the Earth searching for a safe haven. A place where humanity can start again, free from the radiation that blights us all. It’s a hard life. I’ve walked thousands of miles. I take my readings and move to the next possible location. It takes a lot of patience.
    One day, I’ll find a safe place. It’ll be a sanctuary where children can play without dying from hideous cancers. I can’t watch that happen again. Until then, I’ll endure whatever life throws at me.
    I don’t care if they say I’m mad and try to throw me in jail. I know the danger they are all too blind to see. I take my readings and I know.


  14. Erin Mccabe


    169 words

    Post Apocalyptic Cut Prices

    “I hate the Supermarket!” Kate moaned, pushing the trolley up another chaotic aisle.

    “It’s not that bad.” remarked Dave, “You just need a little more patience these days.”

    Turning the corner into the Dairy aisle, each carefully avoided the body on the floor, clearly drowned in low fat yoghurt.

    “Bread?” Kate gestured towards the bakery, now spectacularly ablaze.

    “Nah, we’ve still got at the bunker.” Dave stopped briefly to allow bakery staff to run past in a murky shower of smoke and expletives, each desperately gasping for breath.

    “It’s too crowded.” Kate shouted, side stepping an old man stumbling blindly towards her, his eyes smeared with Corned Beef.

    “You would have thought a nuclear meltdown would reduce these damned shopping queues!” Dave laughed loudly before pausing to watch an elderly woman batter another equally old dear to death with a radioactive Turkey Crown.

    “Right, we’re done.” smiled Kate. “Checkouts?”

    “Checkouts.” Dave nodded, adjusting his gas mask and removing his gun from its holster. “I do love a good bargain!”


  15. Ever After

    Words: 150

    “Is that an alien?” Katie asked me, crawling into my lap.

    “No, silly, that’s a mask.” She reached out her tiny fingers towards the picture and traced the figure.

    “It looks like an alien,” Katie insisted.

    “Nope. That is this man, actually,” I said pulling a different photo out of my pocket.

    “You mean the bug man is daddy?” she asked. I nodded. “Is he in heaven?”

    She had one hand on the masked face, the other on her father’s face. And I slid the needle into her neck.

    Katie’s father had promised us happily ever after. The preacher and doctors told me I needed to be patient and we would see him again. But I am not a patient woman. Katie did not feel any pain as she met her father. I felt her heart stop before injecting myself to join her. We would get our happily ever after.



  16. “We Were”
    John Mark Miller – 151 Words

    Captain’s Log: 3065 AD

    The Intrepid IX arrived on the planetoid called Pluto three months ago. Only eight survived the 32-year space voyage, and upon arriving we discovered that just as we feared, the sun has gone supernova. Nobody on Earth could survive such broiling heat.

    We wear thermal suits and weighted boots to protect us from the extreme cold (375 degrees below zero) and the weak gravitational pull. We thought the suits would also protect us from space radiation. Then our hair started falling out.

    I advised my crew to hold on – that others would come. They maintained hope. And one by one, I watched them die.

    Now I’m alone. I write this now so there might be some evidence of humanity. What shall I say of us? We lived boldly and loved well, but in the end, the universe grew weary of us.

    Oxygen…failing…world ……cold………

    unyielding……but we………



  17. Half-life

    Walter emerged from the depths of the cave, shuffling in his protective suit. His breath rasped loudly in the gas mask. He blinked rapidly, eyes watering. He had been warned about snow, but was unprepared for its glaring whiteness.

    He froze, panting. The sky was so…huge. The horizon stretched for miles. He swallowed nervously, grateful for the tranquilizers. He performed the relaxing exercises he had been taught. Slowly calm returned. He extended the sensor wand, reading the results. He shivered reflexively as the cold wind bite through his clothing. Mission accomplished, he eagerly trudged back into the close, comforting darkness.

    “Well?” The General barked.

    “The radiation is still too high.” Walter lied as the other scouts had for years.

    “Just you wait! One day we’ll retake our rightful place on the surface!” The white-haired man growled impatiently.

    Walter ignored his great-grandfather’s words. Only a crazy person would want to live in such a terrible place.

    160 Words


  18. DON’T MOVE

    Brian S Creek
    154 words

    Cloaking devices are great.

    Light forced around my figure prevents me being seen. If I was to move even a fraction of an inch then I would become visible, a man-shaped blur. This is why I’m standing statue still as the man in the haz suit walks past.

    It was a rookie mistake leaving my time skiff in the open but, when chasing a fugitive through the continuum it can be hard to plan your parking. Now, with the fugitive dead and the timeline repaired I just need to get back to my skiff and return home.

    The haz man me passes me again as he tries to pinpoint the energy readings making his Geiger counter go click, click, click. He’s gets so close I can see his eyes through his mask’s shaded lenses.

    Now if the haz man and his government team would please leave the area because I really need to piss.


  19. Beep
    (147 words)

    The plane had landed safely.

    We where all out, waiting to be tested. Would the trip of a lifetime turn into the last trip of my life?

    So many faces starting at that one man who had the answers, he held all of our destinies in his hands.
    Its hard to belief we where all on this tiny plane that lies in front of us here.

    I think I understand, no beep your safe, your going home, your seeing your loved ones tonight, you live!

    I couldn’t wait to see my family, I just thank god they aren’t here with me today.

    He moves in front of us one by one scan and pointing.


    He is in front of me scanning, looking, you can’t see anything behind the mask. Does it effect him the job he has to do?

    Then I hear it.




  20. Recon

    Schmitt stared at the Predictor in his hands, his face grave.

    “Well?” his partner asked.

    Schmitt continued staring, rubbing the screen with his gloved hand.

    “I can wait,” Cal Cooley said, resting his ass on what was left of the Rover. He stared at the sunless sky.

    Time passed.

    Or, at least Cal thought time passed. There was no way of telling, as it had been dark for forty-two days, thirteen hours, and forty-seven minutes. Cal shifted his position and continued waiting. He’d worked with Schmitt long enough to know when to keep quiet.

    Finally, Schmitt sighed heavily.

    “How bad?” Cal inquired, toeing a bit of dirt near the Rover’s bad wheel.

    “Predictor says at least two centuries until the ash has cleared.”

    “You mean—“

    Schmitt nodded.

    “It has begun, Cooley.”

    The two men stared in silence, knowing there would be no easy way to tell mankind he was about to serve a two-century sentence underground.

    158 Words


  21. Rough but Poetic Justice

    157 words

    “Our product is guaranteed, as you can see.” Giselle smiled, her teeth too shiny and lipstick too red, pointing at the hologram on the wall.

    A form in a biohazard suit and gas mask waved a Geiger counter around a barren wasteland. From the frantic clicks which resonated around the room, that planet wouldn’t be habitable for the next hundred thousand years.

    “No planet, system or galaxy will pose a threat. Anyone can be subdued when you hold all the aces.” Her eyes glinted. “Or rather, when you hold the key to universe-wide nuclear war. Five million warheads.”

    Garron shuddered. She was a calculating bitch.

    “Price?” he asked, hoping he sounded rich and evil.

    “Six billion UniCredits,” she replied smoothly.

    “Done.” Garron nodded. It was a fortune but it was worth it. Giselle; arms dealer extraordinaire, taken out by her own warheads. It’d be rather poetic. He just hoped he’d be the one flicking the switch.


  22. Resolution

    Traditions are wonderful. There’s something comforting in the routine of a long established tradition. Routine means predictable.

    I crouch in the shadows above the giant metal doorway, counting down. All the food’s in there, in that giant tin can buried in the mountain. The others claw at the door, but I know better.

    As I hit zero there is a deep whoosh and flames engulf the crowd below. When the fires have died down the door grinds open to reveal a solitary figure. He’s in full hazmat gear with a gizmo. It clicks and clacks like a dance recital. I wait until he’s clear and I drop down silently, slipping into the shadows of the airlock. He returns and the door locks with a hiss of clean air. The inner door opens to reveal more food than I could ever eat. As I bite into the first person, I am thankful for traditions. It will be a happy New Year!

    160 words


  23. I Am Invincible

    ‘Test. Test.’

    The man spoke into the microphone through his gas mask. The green LED lights lit up. The orange and the red didn’t.

    ‘Sound level is okay. Can we start?’

    ‘Sure,’ I said.

    ‘How are you feeling?’

    ‘Fine,’ I answered.

    It was the 37th day of the nuclear winter and there I stood: legs spread, arms crossed, wearing nothing but my army green shorts and my black Nikes. Somehow the radiation had made me incredibly healthy. It had also made me into an anomaly. A freak. But I didn’t care.

    Out of the deadly clouds a snow flake fluttered down on my naked shoulder.

    ‘Oh, look,’ I said. ‘Nice. I was wondering if we’d get a white Christmas.’

    I looked at the man in his protective suit. If anything could kill me, anything at all, it was the piercing stare of his beady eyes.

    ‘Sorry. What’s the next question?’

    150 words


  24. Tamara Shoemaker
    @Tamara Shoemaker
    154 Words


    White, pure ice-crystals stretched in translucent, shimmering splendor. The blistering clarity of frigid shards stretched as far as the eye could see.

    I knew the heights of innocence. I could see the lack of color, of squalor, of deprivation. Blanketed beneath a shivering blanket of colorless oblivion, the abomination refused to taint the landscape. The mass of humanity, of which I had no part or partiality, congealed in languid listlessness beneath its frozen shell.

    I peered through the black rims of my goggles, down to the numbers as they counted slowly down to zero. To destruction. To desolation.

    With a click of the button, just a touch, I wrangled power in my gloved, sealed fingers. Ten, nine, eight . . . conscience pricked as I stared at the landscape soon to change so dramatically. Still, nearly there.

    Four, three, two . . . I pressed the button.

    Blackness and flame engulfed the white, and gray ash veiled my sight.


  25. Patience: (160 words)

    Raynes probed the soil, checking the radiation levels.

    “Well?” Barron asked, his voice scratchy through the Comms system. “What’re the readings?”

    “Approximately five million rad. We’re taking a risk just standing here, even wearing these Hazmat suits. Maybe we can try again in another few thousand years?”

    Barron stamped his feet impatiently. “Damn it. I was hoping we could be the ones. The first people to dig here. Perhaps even unearth a few artifacts.”

    His companion shook his head, his grief palpable, even through the thick material of the protective suit. “I’m sorry, Doug. We were never going to be the ones. Even if the levels had been a million rad, anything we found would have still been too hot to bring off planet.”

    The two archaeologists stomped back through the dust, resigned to returning home empty-handed. Maybe their descendants would have more luck.

    Planet Earth would have to remain off-limits for at least a few millennia more.


  26. Weathering the Storm

    You are ice once the words are out, before my mouth can catch them. Still, I take the reaction for passing storm, not full blown freeze. Lord knows, we’ve weathered worse. The chill encases you; impenetrable, though I try to chip away at it. Thus, I alternate, applying heat, instead of force, then back, then forth, again; again. Throughout, you remain buried down deep, where neither I, nor words, can reach you. With the passing days it is clear; the cold will not pass swiftly, not now, no norm applicable. You are still; rendering us silent strangers, occupying the same space, together apart, our nuclear winter an unfathomable expanse set in, the no man’s land between us. It cannot – will not – be breached, not by my artful artifice. No hazmat has layers sufficient to block that realisation. Salt drips down my cheek unbidden, caught before it solidifies heading floor bound. Then I know the thaw has set in at last.

    (160 words)


  27. Laughter

    We’d been practising for years, laughing at all the palaver of putting on the suits, synchronising breathing to maximise the oxygen in the back packs. They’d sent us all over the world so we’d be used to every terrain, thick snow, dusty deserts, steep inclines, you name it we’d been there. We used to laugh and wonder where they’d send us next. We did lots of laughing in those days.

    “Breathe slowly and deeply”

    I tried to do what Captain Buckley was telling me but it was difficult.

    “Remember what you’ve been taught, it’s the difference between life and death”

    His patient words were calming me down and I felt my breathing regulating itself.

    Last time I saw Captain Buckley was in the shallow grave I’d dug for him and my comrades. He was the last to succumb to the radiation sickness, unashamedly I cried, mourning my loss. Then I laughed hysterically in remembrance of my nickname ‘The Omega Man’

    159 words


    • Judges note: I copy and paste my short list entries, the ones that will place, into an Open Office document by themselves. At that point, I check the word count. I only count them by hand if I come up with a discrepancy that’s outside the given limits. 🙂


  28. The Accident
    150 words

    They said that it was supposed to have been an accident.

    They’re telling the people that the government had planned to test the bomb in Antarctica. However, somebody miscalculated and instead we killed thousands of people in Moscow, ushering in an Armageddon-like Nuclear War.

    Who is going to seriously consider a story like that?

    Pulling on my suit and stepping out onto the snow, I wonder at the colossal force that must have been needed to create such a scene. Corpses half-covered in ash and snow surround me, the remains of charred trees filling the air with smoke.

    I wave my Gieger about, waiting to hear it chirp. It remains silent. I hold my breath.

    “CUT!” the director screams. “What’s wrong?” Running over to me, he bangs the Gieger against his palm. It lets out a few crackling beeps. Glaring murderously about him, he growls, “Alright, let’s try it again.”



  29. “A Bad Day”
    By Michael Seese
    159 words

    The Geiger counter was silent.

    Phew, I thought. That’s a relief.

    I was ready to call it a day and go home. I wanted to put this one far behind me. A nice quiet dinner with my wife and kids, and then a glass of wine by the fireplace would go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

    We all have our bucket lists. I suppose to some extent we (consciously or not) also have an “un-bucket” list. Things we hope never to do.

    Like sitting paralyzed as the pressure gauge rockets to the red line.

    I never did like those hazmat suits. They tend to creep people out. With good reason, I suppose.

    “So we’re good?” I said.

    “Hold on,” he said. At least that’s what I think he said. It was hard to understand him with the hood covering his face. “Open your mouth.”

    I did. The thing started squealing like a pig.

    “I’m sorry,” he said.


  30. ‘Grand-Guignol.’
    160 words.
    David Shakes.

    I have long dreamed of this.
    I’ve had my doubts, my worries.
    Perestroika tried my patience, but I persevered. All good things to those who’ll wait.
    The problem was ego, my sense of scale.
    I played a world stage when the action was on the fringes.
    I wised up. Whispered in the ears of the young, the impressionable. The nonedescript.
    Such joy in those final days.
    You know when you’re hungry, and those tantilising smells drift out from the kitchen? When the kisses become more urgent and the breath begins to labour?
    When the present is passed and you make that first tear?
    I dined on charred remains in war torn cities.
    I kissed the lips of the damned and made love to ideolgies.
    I gave the gift of armageddon wrapped in the paper of holy books.
    And I sat back and watched as my geiger counter sang.
    I wept at such beauty, though the blast waves dried my tears.


  31. If You Were The Only Girl In The World…

    Her voice sailed in on waves of lonesome static.

    “Doc? You there?”

    He rolled over in his bunk, opening the mic before he was fully awake.

    “Hey Red. How’s tricks?”

    “The usual. You?”

    He tapped the rad counter on the bunker wall, watched the needle waver and settle in the deepest scarlet.

    “Looks like another hot one. Maybe go sunbathing later.”

    Her laugh was loud and joyous, even over the tinny speakers; He loved how it echoed from the metal walls.

    “You helicopter spotting today?”

    “Mock all you want Doc, but they’ve gotta come.”

    He pictured her watching the skyline, filled it with whirlybirds for her, imagined her
    smile. They’d never met, but he knew she was beautiful. She couldn’t be anything but.

    “Just gotta sit tight?”

    “All’s we can do. Take care Doc.”



    “You… You take care too. G’night.”

    He cut the connection, saving the batteries for tomorrow.

    Then he’d finally tell her how he felt.


    160 words


  32. The Important Thing (160 words, no Twitter handle)

    “So you see, the important thing,” Julie said through her radiation suit and gas mask, “is patience. When you’re around potentially radioactive material, move slowly, deliberately. A tear in your R-suit would be bad.”

    The journalist shifted uncomfortably. “What happens if you have a tear in your suit and that geiger counter starts clicking like mad?”

    “We’re five miles from our vehicle, over rough terrain. That’s two hours before we even get to the road, let alone the three hour drive back to base. It’s better to radio in and wait for help to arrive.”

    “How long does it take NEST to get here after you call?”

    “Here? Nearly an hour,” Julie replied, “but to be honest, you really need to get to a decontamination unit within a few minutes. So, does that help your viewers?”

    “Yes,” the journalist replied. “And I’m sorry.”

    Julie nodded. Twenty-three minutes until help arrived. So far, the duct tape on her R-suit was holding.


  33. The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke)
    156 words

    “Oh my God!”

    They pushed the door open and peered into the room.

    “It’s a swirling vortex of chaos, isn’t it?” He chuckled.

    “I can’t even see the floor! It’s all Legos and Barbies and stuffed animals.” She pointed toward a twisted object lying amidst the ruins of her daughter’s room. “What IS that?”

    “Don’t know.” He pinched his nose. “But I’m thinking she left an apple core in here again. We might need gas masks to enter.”

    She sighed. “Will this room ever be clean? I’m starting to think we’re in an episode of Hoarders.”

    He settled his arm over her shoulder, gently squeezing her close. “Patience, grasshopper. One day – and it won’t seem long – we’ll stand here staring at a clean floor. An empty room. And we’ll be missing these days and longing for that little girl again.”

    She put her hand over his, her eyes welling up. “You’re right,” she said, leaning back into his familiar warmth. “You’re right.”


  34. The Time Of Death

    The images are grainy now – too much ash on the cameras’ lenses. Dirk, booted feet on desk, watches the screens. Beyond the bunker’s entrance is Medusa’s lair, bodies frozen amidst the twisted remains of armoured assault; and the snow of nuclear winter is falling again. When it snows the Geiger reading rises. It’s hot out there.
    A diode is flashing, triggered by an external vibration sensor.
    Dirk observes the approaching ragtag convoy – the stragglers of humanity trying to live on, desperate for food. The lead tanks swivel on their tracks and their gun barrels bear on the bunker’s entrance. The bunker could fight back no more. He ought to alert the president, but…
    Security had failed. He can almost see the uranium-enriched shells, before the shock waves pass through. Dirk swallows the bitter pill. From the day of the first retaliatory strike he’d known that Death was waiting.

    @CliveNewnham – 150 words


  35. Waiting to Talk

    I hate the clumsy suit and looking out through this triple glazed safety, but I love the job. I’m privileged to get so close to a Sphere.

    It’s hard to remember now when they weren’t here, now so central to our culture.

    They weren’t here; now they are. Thousands of these perfect identical red spheres dotting the globe. Of course now they are all sealed off, since they were announced to be radioactive hazards. The powers that be though want them hidden, hoping they’ll be forgotten – out of mind.

    I monitor one of them, patiently waiting for changes. I long to touch it, really touch it once, without protection. I yearn for its heat, to feel its reality. Sometimes I wonder if it’s drawing me in.

    I hope that one day it will switch off its deadly crackling emissions so I can find its truth, indeed communicate with it. For they are surely sentient – they’re here for a reason.

    (159 words)


  36. Self-possessed

    “No. Way.”

    Kaira focused on the air flowing through her sinuses, down her throat, into the cavern of her lungs, stretching the membrane against the inside of her ribcage.

    “It’s not going to happen. Who knows what’s been in there!?”

    Consciously, Kaira reversed the movement, emptying the bottom of her lungs, the center, the top, until her throat burned lightly with the need for oxygen.

    “Kaira, tell them!”

    She repeated the cycle: an influx of vibrant life; an ejection of all darkness, anger. Frustration.

    “I’m not going to do it, and that’s that!”

    Movement, images, sensations all blurred outside Kaira. The rhythm of the flow remained. Uninterrupted. Steady.


    “It smells in there!”

    Exhaling sharply, Kaira launched from her seat on the couch. “Oh, for crying out loud, Shana! Just put on the friggin’ mask so we can shoot the scene!”

    (141 words; @AriaGlazki)


  37. The Snow Age, 2094.

    Princess Stella was born with golden hair, and the sun in her amber eyes. In fact, the sun had shone relentlessly every 27th of June since 2064. Considering it a lucky omen, the King and Queen threw legendary parties annually for all the children, in the city square, to mark the anniversary.

    At midnight all the lights were turned off for the firework display. The little girl must have fallen into the fountain, or perhaps she was pushed in by a jealous guest. Later, they discovered her body floating in the water.

    The Queen yelled. The sun shut down. Within minutes, the square was covered with heavy snow, and all the children turned into ice statues. The emergency services, who had been warned of an approaching ice-age, supplied protective clothing, and weapons.

    Nobody knew how long the snow age would last. When they asked, the Queen replied, ‘Patience, the snow will melt when Stella returns.’

    155 words. lucciagray.com


  38. Last Physicist’s Waltz
    [156 words]

    I’ve heard it said the English slow waltz is the most beautiful to behold. Dancers in constant motion, pairing, twirling to the music. They swirl across the dance floor like snowflakes in a winter breeze.

    Thorium-232 has the slowest of waltzes. Invisibly, infinitesimally, its nuclei dance to the rhythm of the weak nuclear force. With a half-life of fourteen billion years, the nuclei step out their slow, patient Geiger rhythm.

    Impatient men failed to see the natural beauty of the slow waltz of atoms. Impatient men upped the tempo, changed the dance, taught Thorium-232 to tango. Nuclei whipped into a frenzy, gyrating helter-skelter across the landscape.

    I’ve heard it said the English slow waltz is the most beautiful to behold. In the aftermath of the last dance, the nuclear beat goes on. The snow falls furiously now. There’s no one left but the atoms, and me; all dressed up to enjoy the dance in quiet solitude.


  39. Gunny (160)

    As my furtive eyes scanned the landscape for survivors, I heard dad’s fist connect with mom’s flesh. Kinda like the noise kissing makes but with more of a thud.

    United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant Davon Porters was back between tours. And his fists craved more flesh; the brown Afghan variety had lost its luster. Some days his skin still smelled of gun powder.

    My thumbs worked the controller, trying to navigate the surveillance drone over the bombed out area. Radiation controls on my dash were pinging over and over again.

    “Do you know what I did over there for you two? And I come back to this disrespect? If a rag-head treated me this way, he’d have a goddamn grenade between his teeth,” dad said.

    Then another thud.

    “You okay, Spence? Your drone’s been going in circles,” my friend Fin said over the headsets.

    “Yes, sir.”


  40. Decontamination

    His eyes were hidden behind the gas mask, but I could feel his stare. I stood naked before him, still dripping wet from the scorching decontamination shower, desperately trying to cover myself with my hands. He was scanning me, with multiple devices that bleeped and ticked, for the tenth time today.

    There had been hours of repeated showers, blood tests, scans, injections and meds. Hours of bleeping machines and this man in his gas mask and hazmat suits. Hours of trying to stay calm whilst being so afraid. Hours of trying to be patient when no one would talk to me.

    I didn’t want a conversation. I didn’t want to pass the time of day. I didn’t want to know his name. I wanted to know if I was infected. I wanted to know if this was the end. I wanted to know if this gas masked stranger who stared at my naked body was the harbinger of my death.

    (160 words)


    Side note: Hi, I’m Colette. Long time lurker, first time poster 🙂


  41. We All Fall Down
    (158 Words)


    “How’s that old rhyme go? Click goes the Geiger, the counts are getting higher .” Gemma’s voice is muffled by the life-sustaining contraption obscuring her face, but I recognize the tune.

    “Stop it.”


    “Scared? You should be. No one has been to the mid-western sector in how many years? And for good reason. Alpha, beta rising, you’d better start hiding .”

    “It’s just a stupid story, nothing could survive in this without a suit.”


    “Then why are you shaking? The beast is patiently waiting-”


    Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!

    “Soon your bones’ll be breaking!”

    The counter taps away violently, something is rising from the desolation. An unnameable horror, born of the irradiated bleakness. Or maybe the stories are true, and this writhing, squelching thing is what brought the world to ashes all those years ago. Gemma is screaming and I am too, but there is nowhere to run.


    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden


  42. Mindfulness

    Procedure here is all important. The temptation is to throw on the anti-radiation suit and get to the surface to sample the soil and air. Checkers must don their protective gear with slow, calm deliberation. A single, unseen hole or tear is a death sentence.

    The samples over the past two years have crept steadily toward optimum. Every Checker wants to be the bearer of the good news, and it fell to me. I checked and re-checked the readings, but I could reach only one conclusion: In a few months we could return to the surface.

    Back inside, I remove my mask, hoping my smile will herald the news, but I see the technician back up, hand over her mouth. My lip just below my nose itches, and I rub it. My fingers come away bloody. The technician closes the airlock.

    I’m alone on the surface, awaiting the inevitable with slow, calm deliberation.

    Procedure here is all important.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    160 words


  43. The Museum
    Evan Montegarde
    160 words

    “10, 9, 8, 7….” the automated female voice droned calmly.

    After the crash the Araxis had been almost utterly destroyed, but on the bridge there was still life.

    “Can you…can you make it Erol?” A female gasped from behind the crushed helm.

    Erol was crawling across the ruined bridge, his bloody legs dangling behind him, “I’m trying Sara, I’m trying but…I’m bleeding badly.”

    “You have to make it, please…please, press the button.” Sara pleaded.

    “I’m there Sara, I made it, I….”

    A sudden, silent white flash fades to black.

    So it was the nukes then.” Ipslixtor said as he examined a shard of what appeared to be an exploded warhead.

    “Yes Ips, exactly, hey keep that, the Director may want it for the museum.”

    Ipslixtor stopped and looked at Grenox, “so what happened here?”

    Grenox frowned, “they never truly grew-up and ran out of patience with each other.

    “Failed world, “Ipslixtor said flatly.

    “Yes Ips, failed.” Grenox nodded, “maybe reseedable…maybe.”


  44. Patience

    A tool slips from my hand. I had practiced splicing this cable for months while waiting for the radiation to drop to an acceptable level – there would never be a safe level again in my lifetime. Patience.
    It’s fixed. My tools are much too hot with radiation, I leave them behind. I walk back to my shelter through a field of mummified bodies. They laughed at me and my fallout shelter, but when the bombs came, they begged to come inside. When I turned them away, the cowards cut my cable. Patience.
    Inside, I take off my suit and lock it in the lead box, never to be used again. A long shower gets any dust from the suit off. Patience.
    Dressed in fresh clothes, I sit in my chair, turn on my computer and it boots up. My patience pays off. I’m back on the Internet.

    Tony Dingwell
    (147 Words)


  45. @hardwurkindaddy
    157 words

    Another day, Another Dream.

    The fires happened again every night.
    As a 5 year old she was unable to control the mind ripping terror. Awakening was to allow training to take over. The mantra was crucial.
    “Said, woman, take it slow It’ll work itself out fine, all we need is just a little patience. Said, sugar, make it slow and we come together fine. All we need is just a little patience”.
    The images of destruction eased and her heart slowed. A deep sigh ripped from her with a slight sob as she flung herself into the day. Officially “Salvage Operations” but with her title came the duties of tracking the radiation storms. Surface operations were dangerous, but worse; the heart wrench when recognition flickered. Those old memories tortured her, and there was not much left to recognize.
    She suited up and headed through the subways to surface exits. The motto “working for a brighter future” was painted above the entrance.


    • I like this. The fact the reader understands the imagery better than the person in the story. However, I do think the piece is a bit disjointed. I had t read it a couple of times to really understand what was going on. THat isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I do think a rewrite would help tighten it up a bit. However – I understand this is a challenge only for the day so some leeway should be given 🙂

      I wonder why a five year old is doing this job…


      • Trying to do it in 160 words left some of the thought out…I was going the title would clue the reader in. Looks like it needs work to be sure.



    Nevada winters sting with night temperatures dipping below zero. Monochromatic scenery blends with a white sky, devoid of sun in the daylight.

    “Mama, how far? I’m hungry. I hope Daddy has dried food.”

    “See the butte? Just beyond. I’m hungry, too, Little One. Bear up.”

    Like disembodied hands, buttes reach upward, groping for help in this moonscape. The travelers slog through the frozen sandy grayness, hands clutching their outerwear against the promise of impending death.

    “The closer we get to the butte, the louder my stomach gets, Mama.”

    “You have endured a lot, Love.”

    As they reach the far side of the butte, slow stuttering ticks nick the gray air. A lone worker and his Geiger counter greet them with the loving enthusiasm of one who foresees the end of a human season.

    “Thank God, you made it around the worst area.”

    He pulls from his backpack a plastic nutrition sack, and the family dines on desiccated bugs and spiders.

    WC = 160 excluding title


  47. The Campaign Manager
    (160 words)

    Call me a jack of two trades: politics and ghost stuff. I was a star in the former until a rampaging muskrat turned me hideous.

    When I saw on Craigslist that some undergrad paranormal club got the estate of the late Senator Cromwell to let them in for a night of spooky study, I volunteered. I showed up in a biohazard suit so everyone would think I was an idiot.

    They assigned posts in the mansion, and at moonrise I snuck outside to the old greenhouse that Cromwell repeatedly called Eden in his memoirs.

    “America needs your leadership,” I told the shimmering form. “But have you resigned to the ghost’s aspirations of entertaining children and restoring lost mementos?”

    “No. Universal freedom and justice motivate me still.”

    I tingled with satisfaction then.

    “It will take an eternity to convince voters a ghost belongs on the ballot,” he cautioned. “We must exercise patience.”

    “I don’t have an eternity, Mr. President. Let’s begin.”


  48. Carlos Orozco

    Close Enough
    (159 words)

    “We came out too soon, didn’t we?”


    “Do you think there’s a chance we’ll make it?”


    “What’re the signs of radiation poisoning? My head hurts and I feel like puking. Are— are those the symptoms?”


    “What are you looking at?”

    “It looks like snow. I’ve never seen snow before. Have you? ”

    “Who cares what it is we’re gunna die and your thinking about snow. It’s probably radiation laden ash. My head hurts. Oh my God, my head hurts.”

    “I’ve never seen snow. I always wanted a White Christmas. I’d ask Santa for it every year as a kid, and then I’d pray to God for it.”

    “Are you serious? We’re dying and all you can think about is snow and Christmas. God’s not here. He left us. Besides, it’s sometime in July and it’s not snow,” He said before he started puking.

    “Close enough,” The other man whispered as he lay down to die.


  49. Postcards on the edge of destruction
    160 words

    So, Mom… I’m recording this in the hopes that you’re still around to receive it— that there is still a way of receiving it. We really don’t know any more. I guess that’s one of the problems with recon during a nuclear war: we come in after the fact and there’s no telling what we’ll find.

    As you can see there isn’t much left of the fleet. The man before me is Rudi, you’d never know by the containment suit and gas mask… but that’s him

    On the bright side, we’ll be long gone by the time you’re worrying about fall out. Truth be told, I’m kind of relieved. I never was the patient sort.

    I hope this missive finds you well.


    Mitch signaled Rudi: that was all there was. To his surprise Rudi removed his gas mask and smiled. Mitch screamed as he realized just right he was. The last thing he saw were hollow alien eyes.


  50. Dust to Dust (147 words)

    Dust to dust. Repeating this makes my job easier. I’m the hero. The good guy, right? Yes. Definitely. Good. Right. Wrong. Lines blurred long ago, before the snow. Before the moon burst, giving birth to thousands, no, millions, of baby moons and proving, beyond a doubt that the first law of thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed… but it can destroy, especially when triggering a nuclear reaction.

    Before us, the collective elite, moved into shelters, witnessing the others die… nauseatingly. The lucky burnt like charcoal doused in gasoline in the first flash.

    Others, those I dissolve to dust with hydrofluoric acid in an act of mercy, had their lives leached in clumps of hair, teeth, bile, fingers, toes. Eventually blood. Them. Those less intelligent, important, necessary to preserve humanity, die. Slowly. Grotesquely. Agonizingly. Unless I save them. So I do. I’m the hero. The good guy.

    by Nick Kording

    Hi all… I know I’m just under the gun… saw Ben W posting on this and was too cool to not try…


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