Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 36

Soooo glad to see you again! I really miss y’all during the week; we should hang out more. Thank you so very much for making sure to spend part of your Friday here. Here’s hoping it’s an especially good one today!

Following Queen Margaret’s lead of last week is Queen Tamar of Georgia (crowned co-regent at 18 and then sole monarch at 24; how’s that for fast-tracking?!). On this day in 1185, the “king of kings,” as she was known, dedicated the extraordinary cave city of Vardzia. Though an earthquake not too long after made this massive hideout permanently public, it stands today as a testament to ingenuity and utterly magnificent craftsmanship. Wow.   

 ♦♦♦♦♦

Looking all judgy today is FOUR-time Flash! Friday winner Betsy Streeter.  Like Queen Tamar, Betsy adores ingenuity and craftsmanship. Let words be few yet voluminous, she says. She’s simply nuts about rich, hardworking language. Read more here.  

 ♦♦♦♦♦

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. And on Mondays, one of your own glorious stories may very well be in the spotlight at #Flashpoints.  

Now grab a chisel and 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 name “Georgia'”):

Include a thunderstorm 

***Today’s Prompt:

 

Vardezia, Georgia. Public domain photo.

Vardezia, Georgia. CC photo by Ben van der Ploeg.

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252 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 36

  1. Terror Bedroom
    (160 words)

    My sister storms in and snaps the rock crystal I’ve been growing for a month. She runs and kicks over my bridge spanning the creek; it’d taken forever to set all the trestles and she wrecked it like kindling. (She has stinky breath, though. Must be from all those sweets she hides in her room.) Oh, and my loving sister flooded my flowerpots with bleach. Blue, yellow pedals—ever hear of Mendel, sis? Alleles, hello?

    My latest project is bugs. I don’t kill bugs, I find them dead, then mount them on Styrofoam. What am I, a monster?

    “Kids, get inside,” Mom yells. Thunderheads looming; looks like somebody spilled India ink into the clouds. BOOOoooommMM, booommmm…

    Candles in the house. Blackout power out. Sister, you’re snoring. Excellent.

    Under her bed (loving sister!) goes my ripe and juicy ant farm. A silent slide and there goes its plastic window.

    Now I, too, will know the fun of undoing my hard work.

  2. @Making_Fiction
    159 Words
    “Acceptance”

    The caves contain secrets and imprison the shadowlands.

    They say that the walls run red, the floors are moist, and bleached bone frameworks jut, jostle and gape at obscene angles within the ceilings.

    I am but a child, I cannot possibly understand the caves, they say. I cannot even work, they scold.

    I watch the caves and seasons through fractal patterns of encroaching ice, smell the blossom carpets, feel the vengeful summer sun and the hear whispering autumnal thunderstorms.

    Two suns ago, I released my precious offering down the well and said my prayer to the spirit-guide.

    I run my bony fingers over my legs, full of disease, I do not seek cure – just acceptance.

    Today, I return to the well. I have stumbled. Above me, a girl, more beautiful than sunlight on clear water. She holds her hands out to pull me up; she is the first girl willing to touch me.

    “I am Tamar,” she says.

  3. The Falling Asleep

    Lucy marveled at the rabbit hole cave structure on the hill before finally stepping into the Church of Dormition. She’d waited years to witness these wall paintings. She recalled the words of the man in her dream,

    ‘Of sixteen names. One in red. Vardzia. Echoes’.

    She placed her palm against the wall in sanguine expectation. Her eyes scanned the faded images, breathing history dictating a moment of recognition.

    Blinding light threw her onto her knees and a sound like splitting stone echoed around the virtuous chamber. She threw her hands over her ears. A man appeared, hand outstretched, his red robe whispering truths. Another flash, through her closed lids she heard his solemn, gentle voice. She didn’t understand. A foreign tongue carved images of men piercing wonder, the message bled. Deep emotion overwhelmed all logic.

    Ted rushed into the Church.

    ‘Lucy!’

    ‘Oh Lucy, it’s just a thunderstorm. It’s ok. Silly thing.’

    It wasn’t OK. How can suddenly believing be OK?

    @avalina_kreska
    160 words

  4. Le Château de Tromperie

    Clouds gather, dark laden beasts distorting the world. Even now, as the storm reaches its crescendo I stand on the precipice, burdened by the knowledge that the fortress we have built is crumbling around us.

    It had been majestic at its height, polished stones and glistening metal marking our certainty. However the foundations we had lain together was built knowingly upon treacherous sands. A deceitful bedrock, wrought with fissures, that this storm has torn asunder.

    Hot white sears across my head, my hands clasping my temple. The lighting consumes everything, filled with rage and frustration. I’m shocked to realise it’s my voice, his rage responding thunderously. Before either of us realise the fortresses ramparts give way, revealing hidden catacombs from which spill our secrets and resentments into the night.

    Then the storm abates.

    Silence. Broken by the dull drumroll of his wedding ring hitting the table.

    I look up, tears streaking his face.

    Then he walks out the door.

    159 words
    @imageronin

  5. Thunderqueen

    Boots half-tied, goggles hanging loose, I run.

    Laughter trails my clattering way up and down steps, rattling railings in my rush. I keep my eyes on the Grand Chambers above, yawning into the early morning, and pray. I can’t be late – not today.

    ‘Tamar!’ I skid in, heart pickpockpicking.

    ‘Sir.’ My tongue like stale bread in my mouth.

    ‘Shouldn’t you be at your station?’

    ‘Sir,’ I agree.

    He stares, eyebrows raised.

    ‘Sir,’ I nod, taking off again.

    I slide, windless, into my booth. Precip levels good; speed good. My fingers shake as I switch switches and flick levers.

    The alarm drives everyone to their seats; strapped in, we wait.

    The guttural boom of the storm-seed deep within the Chamber makes us start; then, there it is, curling forth like smoke, its dark heart already alive with lightning.

    Our first thunderstorm of the season, and it’s looking fine.

    ‘Tamar!’ crackles my radio. I jump, and press ‘Release.’

    ‘Sir,’ I whisper.

    @SJOHart
    159 words

  6. The Future
    (145 words)

    They thought us hideous creatures, and so The Collections began. We did not fight them- their thunderous raids were met with calm. Hooded and bound they brought us to the caves and cloistered us in this Dark City- a place where our decay would go unseen, and our deaths unnoticed.

    We were not born this way, but the sight of us abhorred them, for we bore the scars of age upon our faces and the weight of it in our eyes.

    They were the young and beautiful. We were the reminder.

    When The Collections were carried out with greater frequency, the faces of our own sons and daughters began haunting these unlit catacombs.
    It was then we worried for our captors. We knew we had failed them. We had taught them our own vanity, and we could not help but fear for their infant world.

  7. Fierce Beauty
    (159 words)

    Outside, lightning cracks the sky. The flash echoes through the dark caves where the children huddle together, eyes wide. They still did not understand the safety of our homes, chiseled into the rock face that the wind and rain could not tear apart.
    I tucked my child under my arm, watching her silent tears.
    “Is God mad at us, Mama?” she whispers. Thunder boomed, shaking the cave.
    “No, child.” I give her shoulders a squeeze. “The storm is a reminder of the strength and fierce beauty God possesses.”
    “Beauty?”
    “Have you not watched the way the lightning illuminates the sky? The haunting beauty that is there and then gone in an instant.”
    She shakes her head.
    I hoist her to her feet and point to the mouth of the cave.
    She looks over at the other children. No one made a sound.
    With timid steps, she moves to the entrance and waits.
    Light blazes throughout the cave.
    She gasps.

    @RaleneB

  8. Erin McCabe

    @disturbiakiss

    160 words

    Necromanteion

    It waits, gaping in the light, passageways wide and aching.
    It forms, hidden by the night, catacombs warm and inviting.
    Scorched, desiccated landscape chosen with cruel precision, cements a deadly alliance forged between rock and sky.
    On a bed of all that seems uncertain and weak, it stands tall, firm and immovable, accentuating the brutal illusion now whispered in the wind; “You will be safe here.”
    During this season of life and death, Monsoon and mountain conspire.
    Air rumbles, clouds bunch and as the sky ruptures, thunder claps its sadistic applause.
    Trickles and drips endure, embrace, drench and destroy, just as nature intended.
    Men and livestock predictably flee, racing towards the sanctity and safety of the caves.
    They huddle together, shivering in near darkness, relief-soaked and vulnerable.
    The cold stone sighs and shifts, sealing its breaches air tight, banishing the light.
    Never knowing the face of their captor or accomplice, they die as they were born;
    feeble, quivering and screaming.

  9. “The Catacombs”
    John Mark Miller – 160 words
    @JohnMark_Miller

    The caverns wreaked of death. At first Tobias drew back, then forced himself to breathe again. Beside him, his mother wept softly.

    “Don’t do this,” she pleaded. “Perhaps it’s not too late, perhaps we can talk to the Senate…”

    Tobias glanced at the darkening clouds, and thought of the storm of Roman soldiers sweeping the nations. He shook his head. “No, I made my public confession, and there is no forgiveness for Christians in this Empire.”

    His mother had always stood tall and proud, as the wife of a Roman centurion should. It pained him to see her broken now.

    “You will die here, Tobias. Your entire life – erased. There is a reason they’ve chosen to dwell in a tomb.”

    Her son smiled. “I lose fortune, to gain eternity. Not a bad trade.”

    Her tears dried, and he walked on, embracing the darkness.

  10. @Making_Fiction
    157 Words
    “Celestial Rumba”

    “It’s been a while,” she says, “shall we?”

    He says nothing. A gentleman must always let a lady go first.

    She streaks across the sky. Her arc a sensual fan. Her movement a fluid Alemana. She is as blindingly beautiful as when they had their first dance – before the lands, before the oceans, before time had meaning.

    “Impressive,” he booms excitedly, “show me more.”

    He watches his acrobat of the firmament.

    “Those people in the caves – I scare them.”

    “No, my dear, they see your beauty. They fear my song!”

    He crescendos and they oblige, hiding deeper in the caves. He lip-reads their silent counting…One-
    One-Thousand…Two-One-Thousand…

    “Quicker this time…”

    She dances.

    He sings.

    Yet there is always a distance between them.

    “Shall we let the kids out?” she asks.

    “Rain and Gale already play,” he rumbles, “and lets not risk letting Hail and Fire loose again.”

    They dance until they are exhausted, then they rest…until next time.

  11. *** Judge’s Entry, just for fun! ***

    The Fulgurite
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    159 words

    They say it was a mighty bolt of lightning that darkened the stones surrounding his doorway, but I know better. It was his blackened heart, oozing out to contaminate everything he touched. Including me.

    My heart echoes like thunder, beating a frantic rhythm, calling out for him to soothe its cracked and jagged edges. A storm of frightening intensity has taken me prisoner, tossing me back and forth between the rocks on a daily basis. I am withering, poisoned by his disregard and my own foolishness, drowning in a rain of tears, a flood of my own making.

    Beware the angry clouds when they are low and rumbling. Heed the warning, and take cover.

    They say you can see my form, sitting just below the archway, hand up, beseeching him to come back. I know better. He has rendered me once and forever invisible. A mistake. A remnant of yesterday. Just another weathered block in his wall of conquests.

  12. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 152

    Atonement

    I grasp the rope, flinching as the rough braid burns through my fingers.

    Clang.

    One ring for betrayal. The bell’s deep-throated cry rings out through the arches, rolls across the caves and walls and slopes, echoes over the chaos in the valley, vibrates through my guilty being. The rope burns.

    Clang.

    One ring for threadbare hope. In the valley below, the twisting, writhing storm of armored humanity rumbles with menacing thunder as, like a turgid stream of volcanic lava, they wend their way closer, eating the tattered strands of hope with each step. The rope burns.

    Clang.

    One ring for repentance. I will die today, there is little doubt of that. I, the informer, who betrays my people—I cannot atone, but by some small measure, my warning may bring a shaft of light in the dense darkness of my own creation. The rope burns and brands my conscience that awakes too late.

  13. 160 words @pamjplumb

    The Visionary

    Her back felt burned by the thousand eyes that watched her walk across the desert. Hidden in the curling cleaves of the rock, unseen by strangers, her kinsfolk feared her departure from their honeycomb city as much as they doubted her return. The few that had left before her had never found their way back. But Tamar knew her destiny; she had seen it in the blue white light of the storm last summer. She knew she would revisit the city, make it proud to have sired her.

    In her vision she was queen. The crown of gold, amethyst and ruby fitted as though made for her. Rich silk robes slid over her bare shoulders so often her handmaids had to secure them with gold-capped brooches decorated with tiny butterflies. Her hair had been longer, softer, braided with flowers. A far cry from her rough grey shawl and shoeless feet that took her onwards, past the end-lands, to her future.

  14. 155 words
    @van_demal

    Conquered

    Framed in the arch against the roiling sky she is perfected. Arms outstretched as though she commands the wind, rain coats her face, paints her tongue. I lick my dry lips, cower against the clammy walls. She looks at me and is illuminated, coruscating. Her voice is the storm’s declaration. It reverberates up through the tunnels, through the very mountain. She offers her hand and I draw her away from the edge.

    In the cave’s recess lightning finds her in my arms. The thunder inhabits me now. I gabble at the terrifying silence. Imagine building such an impregnable place, I say. Everything you’d ever need to hide from the world.
    Nothing’s impregnable, she whispers. From her mouth the taste of sweet dates. I lift my eyes to meet hers. If you’ve got the will to tame it, she adds.
    Though the thunder is gone I feel the tremor still in my knees. I am conquered.

  15. Back To The Stoneage

    John gave a shout of relief that was echoed by the ragged, stumbling, drenched column of fellow survivors as he saw the gaping maws frowning out from the mountain’s face. The ancient city carved into the stone that his grandfather had whispered of was real and not just a story. “Quickly everyone! We have to be undercover before They come back!” He yelled urgently, waving the crowd forward. He swung his six-year old daughter onto his back and lent a hand to his wife toting the baby in her arms, helping her scale the water slicked rock. His followers scrambled gratefully into the beckoning shelter. Lightning strobed, thunder rolled continuously, and rain pounded down. He raised hating eyes to the sky, filled by the enormous storm created by the asteroid impacts and shook his fist in rage. “You may have knocked us down and driven us back into the caves, but we will not remain there!” He screamed defiantly at the Angels.

    160 Words
    karnemily@yahoo.com

  16. Jacob watched the lightning light up the sky as the thunder rocked the canyon walls. He knew the river raged along the canyon floor and once more stripped his wife’s flower garden from the ground.

    The Embassy cut into the rock of the canyon wall. The only access was by air, to the small helipad a hundred feet above him. It was one of the concessions the Dragons had made with people, to save the human race, and all life on the planet.

    Briefly, the thunders voice became more of a roar. He knew the Dragon emissary was near. His eyes spotted the black dragon as it drifted effortlessly through the dangerous air currents the storm caused. The Dragon effortlessly landed on the balcony. “Greetings, Jacob.”

    “Greetings.”

    “I am afraid, my friend, your spouse will have to replant her garden.”

    “Indeed,” Jacob smiled, “Let’s walk.” It was time for the weekly meeting between Dragon and man to begin.

    158 Words
    @LurchMunster

  17. See Rock City
    @voimaoy
    160 words

    Dr. Alice Read did not weep for lost worlds; she explored them, studied them, catalogued them. An archeologist finds patterns in the shards.

    Rock City had been abandoned after an earthquake. Now there were trees growing out of the cliffs. The stone steps were slippery, as Dr. Read and her assistant, Daniel, made their way up to the caves. The sky grew gray as wet stone. Thunder rumbled. She felt the first drops of rain.

    Like the people who had lived there, they took shelter in one of the caves carved out of the rocks. They put down their backpacks. Daniel turned on the flashlight. How long had it been since eyes had seen these walls?

    The walls were covered with paintings, astonishing depictions of animals, fires, rocks tumbling. And there were giant flying creatures, like whales with wings. A dragon?

    The light beam caught a flash in the dark recesses of the chamber beyond. A golden eye? It winked.

  18. Storm Child (156 Words)

    Lightening forks down from the indigo sky while thunder roars loud enough to shake the stones beneath our feet. We tremble, falling deeper into the mountain fortress and praying to the gods for mercy.

    The gods do not listen.

    Instead, the clouds open, and rain pours in a torrent so thick that life beyond these caves becomes a memory. The wind shrieks with glee. Pieces of rock break and smash into the raging ocean below.

    The priests cower with the rest of us until the child rises and walks to the edge of the cliff. She is no one. But she raises her arms to the sky and cries, “I am ready.”

    For a moment the wind lifts her and folds her in its embrace before setting her down. Then the clouds begin to roll back, and the rain slows. A ray of sun slips through the darkness, and she catches the light in her hands.

  19. The Place of Shadows
    158 words
    @_HannahHeath

    People say that all who live in these caves have shadows in their souls. They are right.

    Cassius flinches as the sky is rent apart by lightning, momentarily casting shadows on the harsh faces about him. Three months he has lived with these men, waiting. They say he doesn’t belong. Never murdered, never stolen. They are right to believe that he has no need to hide. But they are wrong to think that his heart is not clouded with shadows.

    The man had been drunk, but it didn’t matter. He had murdered Cassius’ parents without thought or reason. Not his first crime, but the only crime Cassius cares about.

    Lightning strikes again, the flash illuminating a teetering figure walking the edge of the cliff outside. One push. That’s all it will take.

    Cassius rises and steps out into the storm, lightning searing the land a bright white. Then it disappears, leaving Cassius in the shadows where he will soon belong.

  20. Whatever Way the Wind Blows
    (159 words)

    I used to watch her set up her paper house, observing her recycle the sides of discarded cardboard boxes that on a previous day had housed some lucky owner’s creature comfort.
    She designed her outdoor home a different way each night-
    whatever way the wind blows.

    Her bedtime reading was the patchwork of newspapers she’d knit together. She’d smooth them out with fingerless gloves before slipping between the sheets. Some ritual from the past, had her wind up an old alarm clock- as if there were any danger of sleeping in.

    On cold nights, I’d think to take her hot soup, but I never did. I failed her more than most since I thought of it and didn’t do it.

    On nights when thunderstorms illuminate the shop fronts and the alleyways- horror movie snapshots of the city’s fat rats and strays I still wonder what it was that made her bring her life right out onto the street.

  21. RETURN OF THE KING

    Brian S Creek
    157 words
    @BrianSCreek

    CRACKOOM!

    The air buzzes around me as the storm draws closer. Rain drops tap my back and hairs stand on end. I remove my sandals before starting the climb; I want to feel the bare stone beneath my feet once more.

    CRACKOOM!

    I can just about remember playing in these streets. I would join the other children, unjudged by them, and we would scamper around the busy market stalls spreading mischief.

    CRACKOOM!

    My father deterred the treasure hunters from our land, the outsiders seeking to take that which was not theirs. An army, however, is not so easily repelled. My people never stood a chance.

    CRACKOOM!

    I have bared more pain than that of a hundred lifetimes; through war, through slavery, through elements I once never knew existed. My people are gone but I have returned to the city of the mountain so that their King will once again sit on the throne.

    I have come home.

  22. “The Cave Dwellers”
    by Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    @kristenafc
    160 words

    “Tell me about the cave dwellers, Grandmother.”

    I knew the story well:

    How they didn’t really live in caves.

    How at first, they were like us. They swam in rivers and oceans, played games in parks, welcoming the sun on their skin. They met neighbors, sang songs by fire and read poetry aloud to lovers.

    How, slowly, they withdrew into “caves,” communicating through air-wires.

    How they took pills to simulate sunlight and happiness.

    How they grew corpulent and silent, sallow and lumbering. They knew everything and nothing all at once. Their eyes and ears were deadened to poetry or music.

    How they never saw it coming.

    I waited. Grandmother spoke:

    “Then, the thunder. It severed the air-wires. The cave dwellers blamed their neighbors and turned on each other.”

    “What happened?”

    “What always happens. They began to rebuild.”

    “Isn’t that a good thing?”

    Grandmother sighed. She gazed off through the trees.

    “What is that tower they are building, Grandmother?”

  23. Three Lessons (160 words)

    I looked up to the towering mountain, as water and rocks gushed out of its ruined caves.

    ‘Why have you brought me here, father, in this thunderstorm?’

    ‘Tamar, first Queen of Georgia, built this cave monastery over 900 years ago, to preserve our religion from the invading Mongols. There was a secret tunnel starting here, at the river, and leading up to our sacred place.’

    ‘What happened?’

    ‘There was an earthquake and most of it collapsed, although monks have been living there up to this day. Why did God allow the earthquake to destroy his monastery?’

    ‘Perhaps God didn’t like the way they worshipped, and he wanted to punish them for building this stronghold?’

    ‘No, my son. God wants to teach us three lessons: firstly, that the forces of nature are stronger than man; secondly, that nothing on Earth is permanent; and thirdly, that we can and must always be prepared to start again from scratch and rebuild our dreams.’

    @LucciaGray

  24. Every Week
    160 words
    @_HannahHeath

    Every week I try, but I never win. My family always reads my work, convinced that it is the best story out there. Convinced that I will triumph.

    Sunday comes and I wonder. Did I win? Please say I won. But then the names are put forth, and mine is never there.

    ‘I didn’t win,’ I tell them. “Next week, though.”

    I feel like I’ve let them down.

    I take my story to the pock-marked cliff by the hiking trail not far away. I climb into one of the caves, reading my writing and wondering where I went wrong. I listen to the thunder and lightning that is usual for this time of year, determined to never enter the competition again. If those judges don’t know good writing when they see it, then that’s their loss.

    But by the time the thunder stops roaring, I climb out and walk back home, convinced that next time I will win it all.

  25. Title: And the Thunder Rolled
    Words: 153

    Billowing, bloated clouds briskly approached the cave. The balmy breeze kicked up dust creating beastly illusions in the darkened shadows. Every black crevice of the cave seemed to be breathing as the cavern dust bloomed into beings of boys’ nightmares. The bedrock of the bluff convulsed as the booming, crackling thunderbolts barraged above. Below, the briny deep pounded upon the boulders at the base of the cliff. Bundles of pebbles and rubble tumbled into the blue water as breakers beat down the layers of the crag. The battery of rainfall cascaded in blasts. The thunderous claps crescendoed as the clouds balanced directly over the caves, building up for the cacophonous culmination of its belligerent bombardment. Rain bludgeoned the cavern roofs. Breaking waves battered the boulders at the base of the bluff. The dust cloud beings brought on by the cantankerous breeze besieged the shadows and corners in the cave. And the thunder rolled.

  26. On The Prowl

    Only three days left to get hot guy on our vacation tour to ask me out. We’ll go for coffee. He’ll find me funny. Ask me to stay in Europe with him, and we’ll live happily ever after. It could work. See, he looked at me. Crap! Now, he’s coming this way. What do I say?
    “Hey.”
    “Hi.” Perfect! He has straight teeth. Mom always said you can tell a lot about a man from his teeth.
    “Do you…Wow, that was a gigantic lightning bolt. Let’s get under here.”
    Yes, let’s. And please finish your question….
    “Rachel, there you are. Where did that rain come from?”
    No, go away! I’m working on hot guy here. Seriously, Leah, you had to wear a white t-shirt today, of all days.
    “Hey, want to go get some coffee?”
    “Yeah!”
    Typical. Why did I bring my perky best friend again? I should have brought my mother. Now, where is hot guy number two?

    159words
    @meganbesing

  27. Sacrifice

    The mountain of the dead loomed over the battle-stricken city as a thunderstorm drenched the streets and split the sky. Aldwin crept along a labyrinth of tombs, coffins, and hoards long since rusted and rotted. He had no choice; the oath had been sworn long before his time. In times of dire need one would be chosen to go to the queen. He would be honoured after death.

    In the deepest crypt stone knights stood around a stone slab. At their feet were trinkets and wilted or wilting flowers. Upon the stone, untouched by time, the queen lay dressed in armour. Trembling, Aldwin spoke the waking spell.

    “My queen, the battle has come.”

    “Your sacrifice will be remembered,” she said with sad eyes. She knew the cost of the oath too well.

    Aldwin held his sword in his hands as he changed and tried to look brave. A new stone knight guarded the tomb when the queen strode into battle.

    Words: 160
    @CarinMarais
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  28. A Queen Among Men
    by Rachael Dunlop
    @RachaelDunlop
    (153 words)

    In the darkness, it cannot see, only feel. The stone is pock-marked by erosion, powdering under its touch as it feels its way along. It is afraid. It calls to mind the icon of the sainted Queen who made these caves into churches. Such strength in the flatness of her face, grey against the gleam of her crown, but the image more alive, though just paint and gold leaf, than any living thing. Grey skinned. Non-human. Not a ‘her’ at all, for they are not gendered in that way. But a Queen, oh yes, a Queen.

    These caves, these hives, these sleepy drones. Waiting, so long, for their Queen. A flash of blue-white light and the cave is suddenly illuminated. They see each other, so many, awake at last, moving towards the daylight. The thrum of deep-distant thunder rings through the stone walls, disguising from the humans the roar of the returning Queen.

  29. A Blurring of Gods
    by A J Walker

    Nature carved these caves; with acid.

    Ancient man used them, modified them. Made them safe, then comfortable. Turned them into homes.

    Then they became sacred.
    Places to pray, to marvel at this world.
    Paintings; splashes of heaven on the very earth itself.
    Carved now by man, not be nature, in a blurring of gods.

    Then the earth shook with a violence.
    And man left these sacred holes disillusioned, shocked at god’s anger at his temerity to create.

    Generations passed and time smoothed the jagged edges to roundness, leaving the pockmarked cliff like a decaying beehive.

    Now the gods were fighting, lightning flashing brighter than daylight, shadows dancing and mocking throughout my temporary shelter and the ground shook gently with the rumbles.

    Trapped by dangerous torrents I chip away absently at the cave wall modifying the space. Perhaps I should bring paints and grand ideas next time. Start the cycle again. This concert of earth, gods and man.

    Creation, destruction. Creation.

    (160 words)
    @zevonesque

  30. He Whom the Gods Would Destroy
    160 words
    @drmagoo

    Tag groped along the slick granite, searching for the handhold he knew had to be there. His fingertips were numb from the cold rain, and he’d already missed one hole, dangling precipitously from while the wind buffeted him against the rocks. A timely lightning flash had saved him, as he’d seen that his hand was just an inch or two from its target.

    He’d thought of letting go, but didn’t want to give Mai the satisfaction. Her laugh as he’d found her in bed with Kal echoed in his mind, louder than the ranting of the thunder gods, and he knew it would be a long time before he would sleep without hearing that in his dreams.

    It would be longer before he didn’t hear her begging for mercy, he thought, or the sound of Kal’s head cracking open on the floor. Tag climbed on towards home, the driving rain cleansing the rock of blood. The gods were indeed generous.

  31. “The Farm”
    by Michael Seese
    160 words

    The clap of thunder sent them scrambling for safety. Up, down they hurried, scurried, traversing the steps carved into the unforgiving rock face.

    Fear creased their weary eyes as they huddled in the remote recesses of the caves. The parents hugged their children, hushed them, reassured them that everything would be fine.

    But would it? Had they made the gods angry? Would the earthquakes return?

    Nights, after the children had gone to sleep, the parents would gather and talk quietly.

    Of escape.

    Of freedom.

    Of a life beyond.

    They never spoke these words in front of the children. False hope is cruelty.

    On the other side of the glass, Worker 1421 clicked his mandibles excitedly.

    “They are so cool!” he said to his fellow drone. “I’m going to ask the Queen for a People Farm for my hatchday.”

    “They are fun to watch. And so industrious. Still, I think I’ll shake it up and make them start all over again.”

  32. Send Him Glorious
    @geofflepard
    Word count 156
    Every boy wanted to be the Shield and save the Caves. It was the ultimate honour. You might be an Oil Bearer and anoint the Shield; a few became Escorts and led the Shield to the Ledge. But only the best became the Shield.
    Once oiled and robed, the Shield walked the one hundred paces to the Ledge where the Priest stood watching the approaching Thunderstorm. The Escorts moved aside, eyes covered, ready to help the Shield.
    The Priest began the count, while the Shield and his Escorts waited. On fifty, the Shield would fly from the mouth of Glory into the storm and quell its anger. If the Shield hesitated – every boy knew how the excitement might root the Shield to the spot – the Escorts would help him on his way.
    Every boy wanted to be the Shield until the moment he saw the thousand faces trapped in the thunderstorm silently screaming to be released.

  33. The Excavation
    Laura Romero
    (147 words)

    The excavation had been going well but they had hit the proverbial wall. Lucy was left alone to puzzle things out. Why build a room with an entrance from above? Why no windows? Was it a dungeon? Was it a food cellar? A well?

    There were no artifacts to be found. The rest of the team had long since given up but Lucy was stubborn that way. She examined the walls more closely. Peculiar half-moon shapes littered the sides of the claustrophobic space.

    A drop of water fell on Lucy’s head. Then another. Suddenly the sky unleashed a torrent of hell fire and Lucy’s screams went unheard by her team. The room began to rapidly fill up. The storm slammed the hatch to the entrance shut. In pitch black, she started to grasp frantically for purchase in the half-moon shapes in the wall.

  34. @stellakateT
    160 words
    A Spray of Pepper

    The thunderstorm had left me looking like a drowned rat, hair plastered to the sides of my face, my blouse transparent and my jeans heavy with the deluge. I delved into my rucksack to find the orange cagoule to cover my modesty. The Georgian guide had already undressed me with his eyes and touched my blonde hair laughing with the other guides. It didn’t bother me too much. I’d travelled the world picking up tips on self defence. I carried a pepper spray that is outlawed in Britain hoping never to use it.

    I marvelled at the caves, the religious murals were magnificent. I felt a hand touch my shoulder, my senses heightened. Spinning around I sprayed the grinning face. He toppled backwards and fell with his arms extended as if he was flying.

    “Mother of God accept this offering” I whispered before hysterically screaming that he’d touched me. Not telling anyone that I’d slept with him the night before.

  35. Troglodyte

    ‘Don’t go near the edge,’ they say. ‘Light is dangerous.’

    It takes years to handle full daylight. I am a novice, a twilighter. We gather sticks and roots and berries, slick and glistening with dew, and hurry in, before the light fries us or fails us.

    This is something new. It shook me awake; it shivered the ground and bounced around the cave, calling me.

    Does it want to play? 

    I sat up. The world seemed to be asleep, or cowering under its covers. 

    At the end of the passageway, fingers of light creep in, and then flash!

    I cannot help it. It pulls me forwards. It may fry me, but I have to see outside!

    ***

    In the plastic shelter, the party stare at the caves.

    Suddenly a girl runs out. She is pale, bone-thin, and in rags.

    Some of the party cry out. A few take pictures on their phones.

    ‘Stay behind the rope! Stay back!’

    Liz Hedgecock
    @lizhedgecock
    158 words

  36. “Memory Garden”
    155
    @fcflrailway
    http://www.fcflrailway.com

    I fly the memories up, up, up to the secret place and plant them like seeds in a garden, then tend them until they bloom the only way stone can, into structure.

    Knock on one door, you’ll find me with Mommy, not in my memory garden but the green garden, teaching me to plant and tend, singing silly songs until sunset. That’s a happy door.

    Another door is Daddy, but it’s the only Daddy door, an old memory and Daddy can’t make new now.

    The dark doors, the crumbly doors, are when Daddy hurt mommy and the darkest is the time Daddy hurt Mommy then slept while thunder roared, and while he slept I flew his memory here.

    And now you ask me for the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about that and you climb with your questions, but the secret place is up, up, up too high for you to reach.

  37. “Swig of Fear”

    http://irkatstories.tumblr.com
    @iRkat525
    Words: 160

    The fear in his blood tasted stale. Surprised, the dragon’s gaze shifted to the man between her teeth. As she beat her wings, lightning unzipped the sky, illuminating his rain-washed face. The beast could feel the quiet rise and fall of the human’s chest against the roof of her mouth. Her tongue squirmed under him, studying his bland flavor. She wondered if betrayal tainted his blood. If a women from the cave village severed his heart’s strings, leaving it to rot the blood coursing through it. Perhaps it was his father beating him with words and stinging hands. Maybe each lash bruised his soul, cudgeling every swig of fear out of him.

    Gaze vacant, he stared at her slivered pupil, watching her third eyelid skimmed across. With a quivering hand, he patted her snout. Jagged scales warmed by his gratitude, her throat shrunk but she swallowed anyway. His body and blood shrugged into her stomach and seared its empty pit.

  38. Mia’s Little World

    The ants scurried from countless tiny holes in the dark dirt of the farm.

    Mia watched, imagining they were people, the mountain they lived in pockmarked by caves and carved entrances. She thought too of the water tumbler on the desk. Enough to drown them all.

    Carefully, she splashed a little into the farm; a dozen tiny lives ended.

    She shuddered, realizing how easy it was to destroy small things. Emptying the tumbler, she drowned the farm in a biblical flood. The sodden dirtball floated, disintegrated, struggling bodies spilling across the desk to the bedroom floor.

    She crushed them there.

    So that’s how it feels.

    “Mia?”

    She froze, no longer a goddess, just a scared little girl who should have been asleep, or at least pretending, when he came home.

    She threw a shirt over the ruined world, threw herself into bed and prayed that he would pass her room this time, his every step the sound of approaching thunder.

    160 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  39. DON’T CROSS A DRAGON

    That’s the trouble with sacrifices; you can never be one-hundred-and-one percent sure. Always someone’s looking to make a profit.
    But I’ve moved into this luxury apartment block now, so’s I can keep a better eye on the Castle-in-the-Valley-O.
    I suspected I was being cheated when, instead of sending the usual virgin bride, they sent that George chappy to do for me. But he wasn’t interested in any cleaning. Just wanted to stick funny red candles all over my place – as if I need candles!
    Stuff started going missing too; a jewel here, a gold goblet there, tax revenue…
    Then one day he turns up in black armour leaving trails of black powder all over the place, especially to the candles. When he put a torch to his trails, that’s when I realised he was the Dark-and-Stormy-Knight. Well, he may have done for my nice cosy cave, but in the resulting thunderstorm I did for him…
    …can’t stand tinned food.

    @CliveNewnham – 160 words

  40. Change

    Ani stood beside her mother, staring up into the angry sky. She tensed and pretended the low grumble was her stomach.

    “Don’t be scared Ani, there’s a storm brewing.”

    Ani’s eyes sparkled as her lip twitched. She cast a glance back into the cavern, into the dim, flickering darkness.

    Clouds blustered across the slate grey heavens, billowing and roiling like smoke from an exiled dragon’s belly. Ani thrust out her arms letting the gale roll across her tingling skin. Her mother smiled and spoke as her skirts whipped about her legs. “It’s like something’s waiting to happen…”

    Ani swallowed her giggle, twirled, and hurried back inside. The dark corner beckoned and Ani swept her own skirts beneath her as she sank to the floor. She pulled back the ragged cloth and stroked the lightning bolt crack running down the marbled egg. A sharp intake of breath behind her made her jump. “Don’t be scared Ma,” she said. “Change is brewing…”

    (160 Words)
    @LastKrystallos

  41. “The Storm of Fire and Iron” by Mary Cain (Word count:160)

    The city of decayed stone had long gazed at the terror of the western sky. Sinister black clouds crept towards the eastern horizon like a plague, destroying the bright colors. Thunder echoed across the landscape like the deep voices of the old gods.

    Caylinn never liked to stare into the Western Sea. Knots tightened in her stomach when the black sails emerged like phantoms from the misty sea. A chill in the air made her blood go cold and the city was silent.

    Silence before the first strike.

    Even in her armor, the steel plate mail could not hide her from those sails. She tightened her grip around the pommel. The knowledge that her sword was by her side gave her comfort, if only for just a moment.

    She couldn’t falter.

    The black vessels drew closer, and with it the storm. Faint cries rang at the water’s edge. A boom shook the world and fire and iron carved through stone.

  42. Into the womb
    @dieterrogiers – http://www.300stories.net – 160 words

    Eons of rain had chiselled the mountain into a majestic labyrinth that provided a safe haven for petty thieves, smugglers and outlaws. Cairfax Munroe was one of them, a charismatic con man who had cheated naive villagers out of their inheritance.

    The footsteps of his pursuers ricocheted against the cave walls as if to make ominously clear that escaping their wrath was impossible. But Cairfax knew these hollow halls would protect him. And indeed, the sounds subsided, until just the echo of his own breath remained.

    As he counted his bounty, the yellow bolts of a violent thunderstorm raging outside lit the dusky caves in erratic intervals. Cairfax did not get worried until the lightning slowed down and then stopped altogether, even as the thunderclaps still boomed regularly above.

    ***
    That night the infant son of a conned villager was treated to a new nursery rhyme.

    The Mountains of Vardez,
    A comfortable womb.
    The mountains of Vardez,
    Yet sometimes a tomb.

  43. Solitude (160 words)
    @brett_milam

    Dorje sat in the long-abandoned monastery with his brown cowl melting around his head. Tears splattered the rocky floor and his quiet sobs echoed against the walls for nobody to hear.

    All of them were dead. Except for him. Vandals had raided the mountainside. They were the kinda people that smelled fear bubbling in your chest and got off on it. The terror was more exhilarating than the bloodletting. And there was much of that.

    From his hiding place at the time, he heard many screams. Still heard them now.

    When he came to the monastery, he’d been given the name “Dorje,” which meant something indestructible that can cut through anything, often equated with “diamond” or “thunderbolt”.

    But on that night, he didn’t feel indestructible. Didn’t feel like a powerful thunderbolt at the epicenter of a thunderstorm.

    He felt like a dandelion; all of him puffed into pieces floating in the air, mixing with the death throes of his brothers.

  44. Overtime
    @zombiemechanics
    150 words

    The contractor didn’t seem to notice the displeasure—or disbelief—in the King’s face as he handed over the parchment and quill.
    “Sign here,” he mouthed around the crushed throkili leaves in his cheek. “And here. And here.”
    King Rogard held up his hands. “The right is fine. Beautiful.” He moved his hands. “The left is great. Nice workmanship.” Then he pointed his hands right at the problem. “What the blazes happened in the middle?”
    “I don’t follow.” The contractor shrugged.
    “You don’t follow?” The King shouted. “Look at it!”
    “Okay, okay! It’s a little rough. We let apprentices do that section. I’ll put in on the punch list. Couple of days extra. Tops.”
    “Fix it!” King Rogard screamed. “Or the royal wizard will conjure a thunderstorm over every job…”
    The contractor threw down the parchment and erupted in anger, “Excuse me! Union guidelines clearly prohibit magical delays and furthermore…”

  45. A Stab in the Dark

    I squint into darkness. There’s no time to wait for the next flash of lightning, I have to move. I edge forward quietly, using the wall to guide me, feeling the cool damp stone beneath my fingers. My other hand grasps tightly to my last sliver of hope. A drop of water lands on my arm and my heart races. Adrenalin surges, heightening my senses.

    It’s getting closer. If I hold my breath I can still hear breathing, a shallow panting that stops momentarily to sniff the air. It has my scent, it’s only a matter of time. These caves will be my tomb, of that I’m sure, but I don’t intend to rest here alone. I turn to face my hunter, staring at the empty nothingness and wondering if I am already dead. Then there is a sudden flash. It’s caught off guard, hunched over, ready to pounce. I charge into darkness, hoping my knife finds flesh not stone.

    160 words
    @todayschapter

  46. Solemnity
    (wc 156)

    The monks’ journeys never leave the silent walls. Their travel mapped by small, dancing flames bouncing in a steady partnered rhythm; ever constant to their final destination. The pairs split into separate rows in practiced harmony and the hours rise from aged memories. In darkness, the light of the candles reflects their many years.

    Over time, the flames blink out and the voices become silent. No new candles light the night. Only a lonely cracking voice remains to sing praise.

    “I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to God’s house.’”

    A flash of lighting signals the coming change. Between the light and darkness, the last flicker of a candle is seen. The climax of the prayer precedes the applause of thunder.

    God is revealed to all in lightning flashes of revelation. And humanity sits in a cave afraid of the thunder’s praise. A baptismal rain falls in the darkness on an empty monastery.

  47. A Bastard Prince
    159 Words
    By Charity Paschall
    @CharityPaschal2

    Darker than the belly of a beast, the night swallowed the lone traveler; a black speck on a blacker hillside. Lightning flashed jagged across the sky illuminating the runaway princess and her burden. Thunder crashed as the clouds let loose a torrent of rain and wind.

    Princess Ariana stumbled, and her burden slipped in her grasp. Clutching the babe tighter, she hurried toward the honeycomb of caves revealed by the lightning. She knew these caves, and she knew it would be easy to get lost in them–which made them the perfect hiding place.

    Palm against the rough cave wall, she felt her way back to the abandoned throne room. Here, she could light a fire and warm herself and the baby. Conceived out of wedlock, this baby should have been killed–bastard children could attempt to lay claim to the throne when they came of age.

    Her son was considered a bastard–though his father was the king.

  48. Heed Me
    (160 Words)

    I returned to the excavation site unaccompanied as the clouds began to rend and crack into luminous, soaking life. Darting for cover beneath the long forgotten archway, I felt the same call that had drawn me from my bedchamber to the hillside city whose finding had been my life’s work.

    Deeper. I had to go deeper.

    I’d almost lost it all, funding, reputation, in the search for what all else assumed to be but a myth, yet here I was. My fingertips traced the sooty walls as if they knew the way, and as they reached a bronze doorknob, I feared they did. In my fevered, half-waking state I didn’t recall deciding to turn the knob, yet my knuckles tightened and my wrist twisted.

    I stumbled into the chamber, lungs choking with dust older than all remembering. Before me stood my master, the owner of the voice that had been urging me to him for decades.

    Now, he was free.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  49. A Gulf Between Us
    @mishmhem
    160 words

    Angela fought to remain calm as Everet led her, blindfolded, toward the edge of the cliff. She had never been more aware of her own heartbeat as she was at that moment.

    The roar of the surf below told her how close she was to certain doom and despite herself she tensed.

    “We’re almost there,” Evert promised, his words made ominous by the boom of distant thunder.

    To her relief, he stopped a few steps later and guided her to the left before tugging off the scarf and letting it drift on the wind.

    She gasped as her eyes adjusted and her vision cleared enough to reveal the ruins of an ancient city built into the cliff face that Everet had wanted to share with her.

    She watched as the scarf drifted past the ancient doorways and countless stairs that made her think of Escher. “Who?… what?”

    Everet smiled, handing her a club. “It’s the world’s best miniature golf course.”

  50. Didi’s Lucky Day
    Evan Montegarde
    160 words

    Professor Didi Suleli was perplexed as she stood in the muck of the upper chambers of the vast cliff city.

    “Oops,” She thought. “Didn’t think of rain; guess we should have shored-up.”

    The afternoon thunderstorm continued to inundate the hillside as rushing streams of water, mud and stone cascaded down into the valley, undoubtedly drowning hundreds of the bellowing sheep below.

    The Director of the Institute had just arrived and was briskly ascending toward her; Didi prepared for the inevitable, the loss of ancient treasures was her fault, her career was drowning as well. She might as well jump and join the sheep.

    It was then she saw it, a massive carved rock door exposed by the rushing water; she ran over and her hands traced the golden engravings.

    When the Director crested the final step she confidently walked over and hugged him, “I found her, I found her glorious tomb!”

    The Director’s jaw dropped, “You found the Holy Queen?”

  51. THE TAMING

    The City of Granite lives to spite the lofty City of Lightning.

    Nestan, The Chosen One, holds the brilliant torch of unyielding leadership. Born of Lightning’s storms, her scepter strikes new living spaces for rock dwellers, softens the crystalline lines of boulders, and polishes veins of precious metal. Nestan has groomed others to tame the blinding light. And one day another will be chosen for the taming.

    The City of Lightning pelts the mountain side with hateful, driving rain. But the dwellers watch, protected, within the expansive lightning-lasered rooms of The Granite. They enjoy the tempest at arms distance, the staccato flashes and echoing bass, as if its sensual displays have been created for rock dwellers’ entertainment. And Nestan nods her head: all is good as long as the scepter and The Granite hold the City of Lightning at bay.

    WC = 140, exclusive of title

  52. Elisa @averageadvocate
    160 Words
    ————————————–
    WORMWOOD

    Did we give them credit? Of course not. We are Life, they were bottom-dwellers.

    They labored. When the storms and thunder came and went, when the sun burned and set, we paid them no mind.

    Why would we? Wormwood was the least of our concerns. The Kingdom had the vicious Wyderhosiens, sleazy Mebas, and the violent race of Zyesis to worry about. The Larvi were said to be non-toxic to society as long as left to themselves. (And when not, they were known to bite visitors apart.)

    When we migrated the populations from the dying planet, we left them in a boring useless sector where the Larvi could be forgotten and eat dust in peace.

    But we do not have the talent to coexist. By the time we returned, the Larvi had transformed the tough, hewn rock walls into a masterpiece. Then we followed command, slaughtering the slimy peach creatures.

    These new headquarters will suffice. Until we find something better.

  53. “Well men, there it is. We made this costal cliff into a secret city,” said Captain Krenschkii.
    A wave of ooh’s and ahh’s broke through the crowd.
    “Let’s get the woman and children so they can enter?” yelled a man.
    Krenschkii replied, “Now let’s think about this, men. Sure we can let the women and children in first, but did they help build? No, we did—the men. Think of the example we’ll be giving; that they can reap rewards without work. That’s a terrible thing to teach. No, we enter first. Maxii, Saii, wait here until we’re inside, then you can let them in. Hurry men, a storms coming.”
    **
    “I can’t believe the boom of the thunder brought the cave down. No survivors. We’re lucky Maxii”
    “I didn’t feel lucky a while ago, but I do now. Now what will we do?”
    I don’t know, but whatever we do, it will be women and children first.”

  54. (Judge’s entry — just for fun)

    Georgia was born in the Second Year of the Thunderstorm. Growing up beneath the artificial lights of Escher, she splashed in the puddles near the exits, ate the reclaimed food, and rarely thought about the torrential rains outside the cave.

    Her first Sunday changed all that. She remembered her ten-year-old self being awestruck by the receding floodwaters — and blue skies. The people of Escher flooded out of the caves, joined by their sister colony across the valley.

    She remembered laughter, warm sunshine, and building castles in the mud with a boy from Dali. He stole a kiss, then ran away. That first returning clap of thunder broke her heart.

    Years passed. Each night she dreamed of sunlight on her face.

    On the day that first sunbeam peeked into the main cavern of Escher, she rushed outside. A young man splashed across the valley towards her. As they embraced in the blue-white sunlight, Georgia’s heart and worries melted away.

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