Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 39

Thanks to another staggeringly awesome round of entries, results will again post Monday. Thanks y’all!

Well, HOWDY there, and welcome to September! In the United States this week means the start of the school year for many as we wend our way toward fall; meanwhile, our Aussie friends are kicking off spring. Yet here we are, all together. Isn’t the Internet miraculous?! Thank you for setting aside a few minutes, regardless of season, in honor of flash fiction. May today be a fabulous one!  

As for today’s prompt: This past week marked 84 years since the hauntingly remote islands of St Kilda were formally abandoned after two thousand (give or take) years of human habitation. Do you know this story? There’s not much to it, and yet….  Read some of the official stuff here; but what you really want is here, especially Chapter 6.

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Returning as judge today is the exceedingly brave Craig Anderson who, if he were anyone else, would be quaking in his boots after last week’s out-of-this-world showing. Since he is not anyone else, however (at least, so far as we know), he is whistling a merry tune and eagerly awaiting your tales. A reminder he’s over the moon for clever titles and witty banter; but what really makes his day is a story hinting of Something Bigger Than What Is Seen. Can you pull that off? Ha. Like there’s any doubt. Read more about Craig here.   

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday (unless you go nuts again, in which case look for results Monday). 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, as often as possible, appears our feature #Flashpoints, in which one of your stories gets munched on (think chocolate, not vampires).  

Now, grab a seabird 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. Probably.

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 “Hirta'”):

Include a baby

***BONUS optional challenge: totally optional, not required, nor do you net extra points except in our unabashed respect: in honor of faithful and enthusiastic dragon stellakateT, who cannot write with us today: name a major character Stella.

***Today’s Prompt:

St. Kilda, Scotland. CC photo by Neil Wilkie.

St Kilda, Scotland. CC photo by Neil Wilkie.

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563 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 39

  1. Birthplace
    by JM6 (155 words)

    It had been abandoned a long time ago. Only windswept landscapes and tumble-down cottages remained … along with an age-old instinct.

    Stella knew she had to be careful. She’d already avoided the notice of two security patrols. No one lived here anymore; the authorities wanted to avoid any pretext of ownership claims based on where somewhere was born. In spite of the law, she had returned to this place, determined to give birth to her child in the ancient homestead.

    “Not long now,” she said to herself. Choosing a cottage which seemed to provide marginally better shelter than the others, she knew she wouldn’t have long to wait. She’d felt the twinge of the first contraction.

    Her phone implant beeped in her ear. “What are you doing?” the familiar, too arrogant voice demanded of her when she answered.

    “Sorry, Avram,” she said, “but you always knew I wanted my baby to be born here, on Earth.”

  2. The Builder

    The cairn is our home.

    For untold generations, we have been safe in the rocks.

    It’s the perfect home—nutritious grass, water from the sky and others of my kind.

    It’s true, the sky occassionally has a kite, but, if we are vigilent, we will be safe in the Cairn before they get close.

    In the past we always believed someone gathered the pieces into a pile. The rocks are stacked so carefully. It is all so well planned for our purposes.

    We decided we owed the builder a debt of thanks.

    Now our leaders are teaching our young that the rocks got here by some natural process. They believe our adoration of a builder is silly. They make us feel stupid.

    Soon my babies will be born. I worry about them, growing up in a world without appreciation for the builder. I fear they will grow up believing the rocks fell into these stacks.

    155 words
    @CharlesWShort
    http://www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com

  3. How It Began (160 words)

    I’m pretty sure I was born between a rock and a hard place. The rocks formed the rounded walls of my home. The hard place was everything outside on the barren, howling hills.

    It was an unforgiving place.

    My mother died of childbed fever, they tell me. I was lucky to have survived, nursed by a woman whose own bairn had been stillborn. Since her man was dead too, she became my new mother.

    It was a rough life.

    It was little wonder, that when the old man came and told me he could teach me magic, I took his hand and went with him.

    “I can teach you to make the world a different place,” he told me.

    “With trees?”

    “With a forest, if you wish. ”

    “And a river full of fish? We never catch any.”

    “Rivers of salmon. You’ll never be hungry again.”

    He smiled. “What is your name?”

    “Ambrose,” I told him.

    “I’ll call you Merlin.”

  4. Not Yours
    @goldzco21
    156 Words

    “Look at the fog.”

    “It’s mist, not fog.”

    “Fog. Mist. It’s all the same, Stella.”

    “Yeah, OK,” I say. It’s not the same.

    “Look at this place, it’s beautiful. This is exactly what we need.”

    “Yes, it’s nice.” It’s the last place on Earth I want to be, especially with him, but I don’t say so.

    “Alone, out here, we can really move forward, honey. We can put your little incident behind us.”

    I don’t want to hear his arrogant voice so I agree and stare at the empty, rock hut—a void in the center of the island. Apart from the stone hut, it doesn’t appear the hills were ever occupied. Everything feels dim and grey and empty.

    “What are you thinking about Stell?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Come on honey, you have to be thinking about something. How about we go inside that shepherd hut-thing?”

    “No!”

    “Stella, what’s wrong?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Honey?”

    “He was my baby, not yours.”

  5. Star of the Morning

    When I was sure you were coming, I started gathering. I was daft, they said, going around the island collecting rocks, but I just smiled and carried on.

    ‘Buildin’ a cairn, Aggie?’ they laughed. ‘Stayin’ forever?’

    We’d voted to leave, but this island was the blood and bones of me. Oban was no substitute, but I had no choice.

    Especially not now.

    The day we sailed I had all I owned: my crate of soil and stones from St Kilda, and you in my belly. I watched the island vanish into the mists.

    ‘Do you see her, baby?’ I whispered. ‘The land o’ your mothers.’ I rubbed a handful of soft, dark earth over the bump, barely there, that was you. High above, a star winked.

    ‘You’ll be Stella,’ I told you. ‘Star o’ the mornin’. An’ the first soil your feet touch will be soil of the island.’

    I was as good as my word.

    @SJOHart
    156 words

  6. @avalina_kreska (160 words)

    Auld wives and pike staves

    ‘North Easterly, it does it every time.’
    Magnus nodded watching his wife attempt to manipulate the tiny weak lamb back to life. Laying in water overnight was a sure killer.The lambs mother stood guard until the last, occasionally sniffing its doomed offspring, its udders at bursting point.

    ‘Nope, we’ve lost it. So that’s six in total last night.’ She stood back, the wind nudging the hood from her face.
    ‘Why don’t they use the shelter?’ Magnus shrugged, he was pissed off, hungry and cold.
    ‘Ok, this one’s called Stella then.’ Magnus rolled his eyes. This play acting at being crofters was wearing him down. Surely it’s not enough to just throw some sheep on a hill.

    They walked back, thankful for the wind pushing them from behind. Every time she did this, naming dead things, like last night, she attempted to manipulate something else back to life too. He knew it was doomed when she kept calling it her ‘Mr.Bobo’.

  7. The Wanderer
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    158 words

    I have wandered this timeless land without so much as my shadow to keep me company. A spirit trapped between worlds. The swirling mist veils features revealing only the path it wishes me to tread. I thought it was playing with me, leading me in intricate circles, a merry dance of which only it knows the steps and to a tune I cannot hear. Then piercing the silence, forcing its way through the wall of fine droplets comes the insistent cry of a child. The damp curtain opens in front of me and closes behind, at the same time enticing me on whilst allowing no retreat. For it knows that I approach that place with both excitement and trepidation for what is to come. With each step the cries become more insistent. I can sense the need, the desire. A life without a soul is no life, a soul without a life is.., well, what I have been.

  8. On fertile ground
    @geofflepard 160 words

    ‘What is it Dugald? You look like a ghost.’
    ‘Bairns. Oozing…’
    ‘Come in. You’re rambling. Here,’ Jamie offered Dugald a can. ‘Stella. All I have.’
    After Dugald had sat and swigged to the bottom, he said, ‘I was sheltering in the old bothy. This cold cloud gripped us. Orange and pink it was. Unnatural.’
    ‘It’s just another release from the plant. It catches in that dip in the ground. Chemicals and sunlight.’
    ‘Aye? And the bairns?’
    ‘What bairns?’
    Dugald stood. ‘Come and see.’
    The men tramped across the moor. Jamie heard those familiar noises, torn on the wind; he knew what he would see before he entered. Dugald stood back. Six babies lay on the wet earth. The seventh was emerging from the soil, its wet stained face puce with the effort.
    ‘Told you.’ Dugald belched. ‘That’s what comes of voting Yes to Independence.’
    ‘Eh?’
    Dugald picked up a mewling infant. ‘Like the man promised – Birth of a nation.’

  9. After Pompeii
    @Making_Fiction
    160 Words

    After Pompeii, they banished me. I’d protected them for centuries, but humankind needed to find comfort, reason and blame. A god of fire and wing was an easy target.

    I watched fertile land birth a thriving city. I watched the sins of greed, the exchanges of coin for touches of flesh, and choice of ignorance over the obvious.

    I watched from my volcanic skies, weeping, as pumice grinded, lava flowed, and choking dust cemented lungs. I watched the prophetic storm unfurl. Now they gaze, in surprise, as immortal concrete icons.

    The survivors drove me to the isolated cold, believing I could do no harm here. From St Kilder, I witnessed the same mistakes of ignorance. This time, death from starvation and disease. Distended bellies giving fleeting life for tetanus take it back – infected knives ripping at umbilical cords.

    Not today. For this child, born under the sky of shimmering stars, is under my protection. I will call her Stella.

  10. Bird Island
    (160 words)

    Gavin’s eyes were black beads in a blue complexion. The biting winds of the cliff face had sculpted an old man across his own.
    Little more than a babe, he had joined Father for the bird harvests. Dangling from rope, his toes and fingers seemed to curl round air as he scaled land that was created for birds.

    He didn’t want to leave, but it was what had happened to the dogs that made him hate Father.
    The yowling took him to the water. Father was securing stones round their necks before launching them by their bound legs into the sea.

    Gavin had witnessed the steady hand and pace of their executioner.

    The morning of the evacuation, I heard screams and ran to the kitchen.
    I saw Gavin’s lips mouth, ‘Mother’, but all I heard was a squawk.
    ‘Don’t do this to your father!’ Mother said to what was left of him, but he pounced and swiped with his claws.

  11. Biting Down
    160 words

    Mary curled her fingers in her skirts, ignoring the cool air that brushed her skin like a shunned lover seeking forgiveness.

    Her family told people that she needed time away on St Kilda, time to mourn her bairn but Mary wouldn’t mourn that creature because she’d never loved it.

    She remembered the way it clung to her teat, dark eyes watching her knowingly. That thing had never been a baby but Mary could never admit it to her family because if she did she’d have to admit her sin.

    Clasping her hands before her she pressed her lips to her thumb, the Lord’s Prayer riding her breath.

    She held her pose, even as tiny fingers tugged at her skirt.

    Mary wouldn’t give it the satisfaction of looking at it, knowing that all she’d see was the gaping maw hidden beneath human skin.

    “Mama,” it whispered and Mary laughed.

    She didn’t stop laughing even when sharp teeth pressed against her breast.

  12. Cast Away

    That final evening, after dusk, villagers saw a figure standing at the cliff edge, casting something into the sea below.

    Jeanie spent the afternoon sitting small on the hillside overlooking the bay. The Highland wind blew her worries to the Eskimos and she knew that when they all left the island tomorrow, their secrets would remain hidden amongst the rocks and heather.

    Life moves forward, but it can be as brutal as death. She had witnessed them, yesterday, hurling their dogs from the cliffs; rocks around their necks which they prayed would snap before the hounds plunged into the hungry sea.

    Everything had to go. Everything.

    Jeannie walked slowly down the wilding hill and, like Orpheus leaving the Underworld, knew that she must not look back. Not for a second. She entered their house where her mother waited for her, cradling the baby in her arms. Ignoring the tears that watered her cheeks, she stepped forward and took her child.

    160 words
    @_sarahmiles_

  13. Rock Monster

    It pounded over the crest of the hill, oblivious. It grazed with a doorway mouth, snuffled around for new stones to add to its body. It seemed so peaceful. Stella saw no bones draped across its back, no goat entrails spewing from its cracks. If anything, it kind of looked like a goat: meandering, eating, minding its own. How could this thing be the Scourge of St. Kilda?

    ‘Permission to engage.’

    ‘Are you sure, sir? It looks-‘

    ‘Engage.’

    She fired up the manipulator. Fields buzzed and spat into life.

    The creature froze. Rubble skittered and crumbled from its flanks. Stella took a tentative step forward. The creature lifted its front end off the ground, as if sniffing the air, as if tasting her. A low grumble came from its mouth, echoed far deep in the distant mist.

    ‘Stella, abort!’

    Her heart thumped like falling rock.

    ‘Stella do you read? This thing is the baby. The Scourge is coming, get out!’

    @DHartleyWriter
    160 words

  14. The rocks rose up like islands
    @voimaoy
    160 words

    In my dreams, I had come to this place, before I had ever seen it. I had dreamed of him before I ever saw his face.

    I was running in the city with the wild boys, under the empty eyes of the billboards overlooking the expressway.  It was always overcast there. We never saw the stars.

    He had come from the south, where the plague was ravaging the cities. He had come for me, he said. What girl hasn’t heard that line, but this time it was different. When he took my hand, I knew  with the certainty of gravity, the rightness of it,  the falling in the grass of it. The rocks rose up like islands.

    This new world emerging from the mist.

    There are a few of us here, where the island meets the sea. At night, there are the stars.  My belly swelling with the moon.

    She will be the first of the new ones. My star-child, Stella.

  15. @pamjplumb 160 words

    The Power of Love

    Undisturbed below the sweet tufted grass that fed the sheep and hid the rabbit holes, under the ancient peat where moles and worms made their secret soil cavities, deeper than the ice burrowed in winter, lay mother and baby. Sheltered from the proud wind their bodies became skeletons. Over time their flesh dissolved into the surrounding earth, each layer breaking down to reveal the bony whiteness that would shine bright if ever light would penetrate their bier.
    *****
    Wrapped like a gift in swathes of mist, he whooped at the sight of it. ‘Stella, we’re here. I’ll get a fire going.’
    Stella nodded, her breath coming in short gasps. ‘Let’s hope this works, Toby.’
    He watched as she ran her fingers over the stone walls, garnering power from the ochre and green mosses. Never a believer in magic, he would do anything to give Stella the baby she craved. Even this.
    They lay together, bound by love and hope.

  16. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 159

    Mother

    When the wind sweeps o’er the moor,
    And the heather rustles, disturbed, ‘neath the weight of it,
    When the rich scent of peat coats the forty green shades,
    And the wee folk chatter in the deep mists of evening,

    I return to the cairn to dance with the babe
    Stolen from me, the night the banshee screamed.
    We cavort on the stones that mark the bones,
    Dancing our lullaby, our Danny Boy,
    To the tempo of the gales
    That wrench our breath from our lungs,
    Mine healthy and pink, hers gray with ash and rot.

    We frolic and gambol in our own wild art
    Through the night when the gray dawn lightens the mist
    And the cairn claws my baby back to its cold breast again.

    They say I am spirit, the woman of the mists,
    Who wrings her hands while treading the moor.

    Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am simply Mother.

    Till next eventide, my babe.
    My Stella.

  17. Ben Miller
    @NomDeBen
    Word Count: 159

    Blame

    Furious at the Knight who stole the affections of his princess, the Sorcerer cast the ancient spell. Compelled by magic and the blood of innocents Gaia pushed forth the blister of rock and dirt, trembling as she ejected her infant spirit from her womb.

    The mud golem’s ruby eyes glared with hatred at the enslaving Sorcerer who commanded “Imprison the one who defies my desire for the princess in this hole until their bones turn to dust.” The golem thundered towards the unsuspecting castle.

    The Sorcerer waited, gleefully imagining the broken and humbled face of the Knight, hostage to the immortal golem.

    When the golem returned with the princess the Sorcerer impotently shouted, “No, you fool!” as he realized the mistake. The knight had so enamored the princess that she, herself, defied his desire. She was cursed to die in the earthen womb. The Sorcerer ignored her pitiful pleas turning towards the castle. The Knight would pay for this!

  18. Through Frozen Fog

    by Katrina Ray-Saulis @kraysaulis

    Mother rowed with strength and expertise.
    “Where are we going?” I asked between the rhythm of the oars.
    “Home.” I could not remember home.
    The air was cold in my lungs. Colder than on land.
    I held the seat to keep from going overboard on a swell. Mother pointed, smiling.
    The fog began to swirl and spin. It pulled bits of ocean up and shattered them like an icicle dropped on stone. With each shattered bit of water the fog thinned. Each breath seemed warmer and the sky grew bright.
    The shore ahead was peppered with people. Naked babies clung to parents and older children ran barefoot. They worked to pull us ashore and I looked into their faces. My hand flew to my pointed ear.
    They looked like me.
    “Welcome home,” mother said, pulling off our coats. She tucked her hair back, exposing her own pointed ears. Pale yellow wings unfurled from her bare back.

  19. The Senile Baby Collectors
    160 Words
    @_HannahHeath

    “I don’t like this place,” Clara announced decisively as wind whistled through the crooked rock walls. “It brings out my rheumatism.”

    “You should’ve thought about that before you murdered him, dear,” Stella said cheerfully. “We have to hide somewhere. People don’t like it when old ladies murder people.”

    Clara looked shocked. “Oh, but I didn’t murder him, darling!”

    After careful consideration, Stella said sweetly, “I think that shooting someone who ends up dying counts as murder.”

    “But I didn’t mean to. He should have given it to me when he saw I wanted it. He wasn’t very gentlemanly,” Clara shook her head disapprovingly.

    “But we’ve got so many already.”

    Clara didn’t respond, but only smiled down at the baby nestled in her arms. A piece of moss fell from the roof onto its nose. It began to cry.

    “Oh, look at the tiny thing,” Stella cooed.

    Clara laughed gaily. “You know, I think it’s the most beautiful one we’ve taken.”

  20. The Stone Crumbles: A Writer’s Journey

    The baby’s beaming smile ignites Stella’s soul.

    Excitement, energy, and enthusiasm suddenly swirl around her, pushing her, prompting her to create.

    Ideas, images, and impressions dance through her head, taking shape, trickling onto paper.

    Love, laughter, and longevity—her community becomes alive, vibrant, and real.

    The people are beautiful. She’s proud of them, and of herself. Hard work has forged a heritage, a new history unwinding back through the ages.

    Nervously she welcomes visitors, invites them into her community, to stay and learn the song of her heart. She’s sure these experienced travelers can help her fledgling community prosper and grow.

    “Life here’s too slow and the people are too nice. I’m bored,” they say, turning and walking away.

    Her community crumbles, just like that. Her people flee, leaving behind only the stone skeleton of a life once filled with magic and wonder, now obscured with heavy gray fog. The dancing has ended, the excitement has gone.

    (157 words)

  21. A Sooner Tomorrow

    My swollen feet waver on the trail. I shouldn’t run, but I can’t help it. After miles we’re finally here. Moisture pools as my hand reaches to support my stomach. Fellow villagers—or what’s left of them—crowd. I yelp out in pain. The line behind me is forced to stop. Everyone stares at my belly. Blood threatens to surface through the scuffs caused by the gate. Only yesterday my growing child was our people’s hope for the future. Now she has made me too large for a chance of tomorrow. The enemy announces their whooping call. I nod at my wide eyed audience and step to the side. The stones gnaw my back as I slide down to the earth alone. Stella tumbles inside me. My eyes release a teary hello. Another sharp pain digs through my flesh. Much harder than the last one, I wilt over. Perhaps a safe tomorrow isn’t too far away.

    @meganbesing
    156 words

  22. Sacrifice
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    160 words

    “A wild dog,” the priestess had said. “Catch one for my sacrifice, and I’ll free you.”

    Stella searched for days, stalking the nearly mythical creatures. Shadows coursed along the ridge. Dogs, hunting in the mist? Was she the center of their chase, prey rather than predator?

    Pointed ears poked beyond a stone mound. Stella crept over, finding three puppies battling over a gory bone. Wild dog babies.

    Shrieks erupted as vultures assaulted, lured by the bone. Two puppies disappeared in the flurry of beating wings. The last puppy snarled at the gnashing, bloody beaks.

    A bird gouged Stella’s arm as she snatched the puppy and rolled into the stone mound for protection.

    The baby dog burrowed against her.

    Tears filled Stella’s eyes. She stroked soft ears. The puppy could buy her freedom, but having saved it, Stella hated to sentence the animal to a senseless, unnatural death.

    “I’ll say I couldn’t find one.”

    It seemed the only sacrifice to make.

  23. Love

    She makes her way, slowly, up the beach; exhaustion bearing its weight so heavily down upon her. It takes her every effort to keep from scraping her swollen belly and unborn across this coarse sandy beach. The adrenaline left her blood hours ago. The salt water purged from her lungs, only minutes ago. The water from her womb, seconds ago.

    She drives on, she must; a structure is near, she can see it in the distance, stones upon each other, a cave; shelter, topped with the same soft and comforting grass that cushions her feet as she makes her way up the slope a little way, panting from an exhaustion that must not overcome her.

    Finally, she’s here, sanctuary, a womb for her to retreat into as she gives birth from hers and into a dark and stormy world. A breath is gasped, then another, cries are heard, two pups are born.

    John Tate
    @johndotpy
    152 words

  24. Broken thread

    I met the man beside the stone house. He came at sunset, the baby in his arms. He didn’t have to explain; I knew exactly what happened. She was chosen. That was all there was to it.

    “Her name is Stella,” he said and looked up at the swirling stars. As he did so I wrapped my cloak around me, hiding me from his sight. It was better this way. In the morning no one would ask after the missing child. It was the same with me.

    I stepped into the stone house; our halls. Some called us faeries. If only we were. But someone had to do the work.

    The other women looked up from their looms for a moment. Only mine was empty, the last thread broken at the moment Stella’s mother gave her last breath.

    One day I’ll have to tell her how we are chosen. I’ll have to tell her that it was my fault.

    Words: 159
    @CarinMarais
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  25. Margaret did as she was told, carried her baby across the moor to St. Kilda’s Barrow. She’d named him Ian, after his father.

    She had to be brave, like Ian’s father, brave Father Macquaig. How he had trembled when she brought the baby to his rectory door, when she told him the child was his, when they prayed together; when he told her, then, of the baobhan sith and how it could only be sated by the blood of the chosen child—this very child!—sacrificed in the barrow of St. Kilda.

    The barrow was close now, an island in the mist…

    Something was not right. Father Macquaig had instructed her to remove the entrance stone, but the stone was already gone.

    Inside the barrow, Margaret found another village girl, Agnes, cradling a bloody bundle.

    “The chosen child,” she cooed. “His own daughter…”

    “Whose?”

    “Brave Father Macquaig’s!” Agnes said, weeping reverently.

    Beneath Margaret’s cloak, Ian laughed for the first time.

    John Murray Lewis
    @ozmodiargh
    160 words

  26. Sionnach
    by Nancy Chenier
    @rowdy_phantom
    160 words

    A screech claws the moorland like metal talons over bedrock. A sound more terrifying than Sweepers.

    Halted in hunting, Rainche’s ruddy head pokes up from the heather.

    “What’s that?” I ask.

    She bolts, an orange streak aimed at the rock dens.

    “Wait! Sky-drop soon!” Sky-drop sweeps the land of prey—foxes only sometimes prey. Still, I follow my mate.

    In the den, the shrieking deafens. Rainche snuffles at rags where a bald cub squirms, its face squeezed red. It smells of fresh grouse.

    “Human,” she declares.

    I spin a startled circle. “Impossible!” Humans were swept up long ago.

    “Quiet it,” she says, “before sky-drop.”

    “Eat it.”

    She bares her fangs, yellow eyes deadly.

    I swipe its belly with my tongue. Rainche growls. The cub’s wails cease, face softening.

    A rumble lowers from the clouds.

    Whimpering, Rainche curls around the cub. It grips her tail, mewling. I curl with my mate, concealing the prey, as the sky drops over the den.

  27. No Caving – *** Judge’s entry, just for fun! ***
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    159 words

    There’s a hole in my heart caverns-deep. You carved your way through me, never minding where your touch left scars, where your smile wreaked havoc, where your eyes, greener than the greenest grass, seared my soul.

    I long to build a fortress, stone by stone, walling myself off from the pain, the memories, the world. I want to blacken the windows into my self, so that no one ever sees the mess you left me. I want to become my own island, my own stronghold, my own walled-off castle.

    I will do none of those. I will walk on. I will climb out. I will create a space, an embrace, a small opening for this life that even now is weaving its magic through my body. A tiny heartbeat echoes my own, giving me a reason to go on, reminding me this place is no longer yours for the taking.

    And we are no longer yours for the breaking.

  28. ***Judge’s Entry, For Enjoyment Purposes***

    BABYHOUSE

    I am a caterpillar, wriggling my way uphill. You can hear me coming if you listen carefully. The stones clatter, the grass makes a fffft-fffft-fffft sound.

    No one listens for me.

    I am coming for you.

    I am not ready yet. As I go, I gather the stones. I pull them in, one by one. As I move up the hill, I grow. One row of stones at a time. A little taller, a little wider. My mouth gapes open a little more.

    When I reach the ridge, I shall be twice the size I am now.

    Are you afraid?

    When I reach your village, I shall be monstrous tall. And you shall be asleep. The stones clatter, the grass goes ffft-ffft-ffft. You shall not awaken.

    Your last realization shall freeze your face in a silent bug-eyed howl as I entomb you.

    I am the Earth. You are in my way.

    151 words w/o title
    @betsystreeter

  29. Stella lurched over the last hill, clutching at the front of her dress in agony. She reached the stone domicile just in time; she could feel the bairn being coaxed out by the cool fingers of mist riding low in the air. She ducked inside. Into the black heart of a home, dug into a green hill.

    She left her body on the floor, momentarily, when the Tacksman’s bairn finally shuddered out with a single prolonged wail. His face was sweet and red, still slick with her oils. She studied its shape for traces of the Tacksman- she could find none. He was hers alone, at least in possibility; it was possible that the Tacksman’s imprint had stopped short of her son. Given time, the boy could grow to resemble the man that he would call his father.

    Or else, the scarring on her heart could heal… but over time, men only grow into their monsters.

    Allie Lahn
    @allie_lahn
    156 words

  30. Hollow
    John Mark Miller – 159 words
    @JohnMark_Miller

    “Will you be my bonnie lass?”

    The words stung my memory as I tipped the boat’s captain and stepped onto the island. My island.

    Grey fog drifted across the desolate hills. It was all so beautiful, so familiar… and so lonely.

    My feet carried me to the small, stone hideaway that frequented my dreams. If I closed my eyes I could still hear the cheerful folk dances of my youth, could feel the wild abandon of a first kiss, and the caress of my Kedrick as his intense, green eyes eclipsed the glowing moon.

    “Will you be my bonnie lass?” His passionate whisper tickled my ear.

    The eerie stillness reminded me that this was but a hollow shell of the place I knew, and I felt the emptiness within the very depths of my soul. But my answer would never change.

    “Aye,” I told the quiet walls.

    I felt Kedrick’s laughing eyes, and together, we danced the night away.

  31. She Protects Those Who Attack Her. (153 Words)

    The house, Stella, endures all attacks. Fog smears its greasy hands over her, rain, with fists flying, pelts and pleads to release the secret within. Storms have their way with her, but the rape of high winds can’t topple down her structure. But, this new thing that crawls upon the grass, like bacterium, a germ upon the highlands is a threat.

    The threat creeps in an unnatural way. Two sticks, legs, plod upon the fields, tripping, clomping. Stella hears shrieks and yelps that form some strange language, echoing off the hills. To Stella, this is a violation of innocence. The hills support her, make it possible for her to withstand the elements.

    These legged things enter her belly, digging, placing objects inside her and around her, as if studying her very existence, her history. They will, eventually, find the secret, the tiny baby skeleton which Stella protects. The child’s spirit cannot be unleashed.

  32. We Three Kings

    Nostrils flared, eyes wild Thunderstruck was ill at ease. Connor gave his mount a pat on sweat wet flanks. “I know I smell them too. ”

    “I told ya we needed men” offered Ferguson. “If yer bent on riding in’ta a trap don’na do it alone.”

    They edged toward a small hovel of stone and sod no more than a wart on the highland slope.
    From over the rise came the Dwarven king bearing armor older than the hills. From the direction of the sun came the resplendent, high king of elves. All converged at the poor man’s hut. Each greeted the other with curled lip, narrowed brow or the odd grunt. Awkward, they made their way inside.

    It was Connor who spoke first, on bended knee, before the newly born king of Fey.

    “From the race of man I bring our finest spun lambswool.” He peeked over his outstretched hands. “It is in the tartan of me very own fathers.”

    160 Words
    @ToddStrader

  33. Condemned

    “So nobody lives there anymore?”
    “No, sweetie!”
    “Is it like a vacation home?”
    “Not really.”
    “Can we visit there sometime?”
    “People don’t visit that place.”
    “Why not?”
    “They just don’t.”
    “But Mom, in this picture, it looks like a fun playhouse. Milo and I love it.”
    “Milo’s just a baby and you won’t like it there. You don’t get any toys or food there. There are no shops.”
    “Then how did Gramps live there for so long?
    “He kind of had to.”
    “Why did he have to?”
    “People didn’t like Gramps.”
    “Was he a bad guy like Lord Voldemort?”
    “No, sweetie. He was a gentle loving man.”
    “Then why didn’t they like him? Did Gramps like them?”
    “He loved everyone.”
    “I don’t get it. Why did he live all by himself?
    “People were afraid of him. They always suspected that he had bombs.”
    “Did he have bombs?
    “No, he never did. He just looked like a terrorist with his turban.”

    Pratibha
    @needanidplease
    160 words

  34. SHE LEFT

    Brian S Creek
    157 words
    @BrianSCreek

    “Stella!”

    “We have to go,” I begged. Our baby son cried in my arms.

    “I’m not leaving our daughter out here,” she said as she stepped away from me.

    I pointed towards the hills. “The mist is closing in. We won’t have time to make it back to the village. If she’s in that then she’s already gone!”

    Her lip quivered and tears ran down her face. I looked around and saw a cliet a couple of hundred yards away. “Let’s get inside and wait out the mist. They can’t get us in there.”

    Her heart struggled but her mind agreed. We started to run to safety and that was when we heard a scream from far behind us.

    “Stella?”

    Before I could stop her she’d turned and ran back towards the mist, towards her death.

    Helpless, I scurried to the cliet. Seconds later I heard her scream too.

    I sat inside and held my son tight.

  35. DOUBT

    Brian S Creek
    140 words
    @BrianSCreek
    (sorry, had two ideas this week)

    He heard it again.

    No doubt it was a baby, its wincing wail escaping the stone hovel and echoing across the moors.

    From his mount, the rider saw clear to all points of the compass. Alone, ‘cept his horse and the source of those cries, he closed cautiously on the hovel, experience moving his hand to the hilt of his sword. The distressed infant resided inside.

    As a father himself the rider was unable to ignore the cries and abandon the infant in this desolate landscape. Mission be damned, he couldn’t ride on by.

    He dismounted and stepped up to the entrance. The darkness inside was eternal. The rider drew his blade and entered.

    The crying stopped. The rider was dead before he could gasp.

    The demon was fed.

    It would be a while before the wailing would begin again.

  36. Title: Shut Up So I Can Sing
    Word count: 160
    http://rashatayaket.wordpress.com/

    “Shut up, Stella! It’s your horrid singing that got us kicked out of Scotland.”

    “Yes, it was my singing. Had nothing to do with the fact that that you broke into the mayor’s house?”

    “I have half a mind to ask the judge to exile me alone instead of with my ‘loving’ wife! They’ll send you back to the mainland where you can bother other people with your cacophonous voice.”

    “Charles, you didn’t used to mind my singing.”

    “I didn’t used to mind you either but things change.”

    “Yes they do. I married a gentleman and now I’m the wife of a criminal. Times certainly are different!”

    “I never would’ve gotten caught, Stella, if you had warned me the police had arrived! You got distracted by some baby in a carriage! If you had warned me I would’ve gotten us enough money for us to leave Scotland.”

    “Well, we’re out of Scotland. Happy? Now stop shouting so I can sing!”

  37. Silence

    @jujitsuelf
    160 words

    Alone I am now. Silent and abandoned.

    Here I have dwelled since before time began. My devotees knelt at my grassy altar, worshipped at the cliffs, the hills, the ravaged shore. They heard me in the wind, saw me in every smile, praised me as each newborn babe wailed.

    A mother goddess I was. Many felt my fingers upon their brow, saw my face as their own lives faded.

    So full of warmth were my people, alive and vital. How cold is my temple without them.

    Time and tide wait for no man, I know. Men must live and they hunger for more than my rocky paradise can provide.

    So I wait, solitary and friendless. My island temple is deserted yet I hear laughter still.

    They will return, one day. Those truly loyal will remember their Mother.

    I will linger here for them. Old gods never die, they simply sleep and dream of remembrance. I will wait, I am forever.

  38. Home-coming
    @Van_Demal

    159 words

    They chided him. Tears over a dog, indeed! Stella hated water. He couldn’t drown her, couldn’t bear to broach that slow cruelty. Da never forgot. In hospital, reaper’s rattle in his lungs – promise me, he rasped, find her grave, his eyes deliberate as flints.

    Grass swallows my boots. Salt-tang and skirling birds on the air. I step onto a rock sunk in the swept green blades. Clothed in lichen, it hunches a shoulder against nature. I gather memories; I was a babe in arms back in ‘30. We survived, but we never grew.
    Home, my heart new-born. This is my foundation, my magnetic north, these chips of rock in the sea. Above the bay the stone shelters, stones of my ancestors – weather-worn, mottled with creeping life – like a rosary in the landscape, tell the distance we’ve come.
    I place the Hirta pebble Da pressed on me, a votive on Stella’s haugr. That leaving persisted in him all his life.

  39. A New Star Is Born

    Out of the Highland mist emerged three camels. Their riders, white bearded men wearing oriental gowns and a turband, were quarreling.

    ‘You may be a wise man, Balthazar, but you skipped the geography classes, didn’t you?’ Melchior lashed out.

    ‘Oh really?’ Balthazar replied, with a smug grin on his face.

    Before them appeared a cleit, from which emanated the soft, inviting light only a campfire in the middle of winter can produce.

    The men dismounted and went inside, where they found a baby in a crib, flanked by the mother and the father.

    ‘Is this The One?’ Caspar asked. ‘We are looking for a baby that will face many challenges, but that will ultimately change our world.’

    Without blinking an eye the father retorted: ‘She’s a Scottish lass. She won’t take crap from anyone.’

    ‘What’s her name?’ Melchior asked.

    ‘Stella,’ the mother answered.

    ‘Stella,’ the three men whispered simultaneously, in awe.

    They started unpacking their gifts.

    @bartvangoethem
    156 words

  40. ‘Ghost of a Chance.’
    David Shakes
    @TheShakes72
    160 words

    The cries of the baby and the cries of the gulls intermingle – a shrill cacophony.

    Ghosts sweep down the mist covered hillside, drawn longingly to the heady sound of humanity.
    In their final moments they had wished they’d never left the island. Death heard, binding them here beyond time and tide.

    Their spirits glide through derelict homesteads toward the miraculous birth.
    They’re moths to a flame, longing to bask in the heat of new life.

    They’d watched the girl from the mainland arrive. Noted the swell of her belly; her anguish.
    Saw her hide from the angry voices and searching torches of the men that followed.
    “Stella!” the one had cried until his voice was raw.

    In the broken down bothy the child’s cries have ceased.
    Panicked, they rush through the holes in the stone wall.

    The girl has the child suckling.
    She looks them in the eye, as though they were corporeal.
    “Welcome. We’ve been waiting.” she says.

  41. Abandonment

    The bitter whine of the wind whipping across the deserted landscape was suddenly broken by the wail of a hungry newborn. The sound issued from one of the stone cleits topped with turf scattered across the isle. The cry increased steadily in volume as the child’s distress grew. Only the moaning wind replied to the infant’s demands.

    The sturdy stones of the building shivered and grated. Dirt puffed out into the air from the joints between the rocks. The cleit quivered, spalls of rock peeling from every surface. Huge cracks spiderwebbed their way across the stones. The babe’s cry was a constant high-pitched shrill.

    The newborn’s tone filled with rage as well as hunger. Tremors rolled across the surface of the island, till the ground quivered like jello. Stone fractured. The cleit burst open like a rotten fruit, spitting forth seeds of jagged rock. The infant fell silent, waiting. The island waited with it.

    152 Words
    karnemily@yahoo.com

  42. Run
    160 Words
    @CaseyCaseRose

    Again I dreamt of rolling green fields and stone hewn houses.
    And that sound.
    The mist from my dreams places a cold tendril on my heart.
    Doubt.

    I did my duty, I moved the people. They were not my neighbors but my fellow countrymen and we could not leave them to be felled by invaders.
    I did not know the jigsaw pieces of their families.
    A disheveled woman pulled at my sleeve at begged to help her find her baby.
    “She’s not had a babe in ten years. She’s gone mad, just push ahead,” said another villager walking by.
    She cried and pulled but I pushed her on to the hurrying crowd.
    I could see the outlines of military horses on the hill above.
    I mounted my horse and urged the crowds forward.

    On the wind I heard a cry.
    Wee but strong.
    Small, demanding lungs.

    The sound was swallowed up by angry hoofbeats and I didn’t dare look back.

  43. Time to Leave

    “It’s time.” whispered Rob.

    Time. After hundreds of years, and generations of my family living in the same croft, climbing the same hills and cliffs . . . now was time for us to leave. My Ella would be the last baby born on this island. My kind-hearted, innocent, bonny wee St Ella of St Kilda would not know her home.

    Daddy always told me as we walked to the church meeting house each Sunday morning that we were caretakers of the island: “God gi’ us this land t’ mind. We tek care o’ the land f’r Him, and the land will tek care o’ us.”

    We hadn’t taken care of it. We killed the land when we changed the way we farmed, and now it would no longer sustain us.

    The last of us left an open bible and pile of oats in each house, and boarded the boat for the mainland, our eyes laden with tears of repentance.

    Word Count: 157

    @faithunlocked
    http://faithunlocked.wordpress.com

  44. Beginnings

    Stella snuggled down. ‘Tell me the story again, Nanna.’
    ‘Twas a windy day when we sailed away, on the sea to Scotland.
    I was a babe in my mother’s arms.
    We waved goodbye to the home we knew.
    Our sheep were sold, our houses cleared.
    All we had was packed up tight in boxes stowed at the stern.’
    Stella’s eyelids were drooping.
    ‘Old and young, lads and girls, husbands and wives boarded the boat to the mainland.
    The boat was heavy with all of us and pitched and yawed, but on we sailed, and sighted land -’
    And she whispered, as Stella slept ‘- and cheered that we’d come to Scotland.
    I was three when we left, in a Navy sloop.
    The dogs were weighted down, and drowned.
    They didn’t know I saw it all.
    Scotland was where my life began.’
    She glanced at the view of Central Park, and gently closed the door.

    @lizhedgecock
    152 words

  45. “Happy”
    by Michael Seese
    160 words

    Burial mounds are never merry places. Except for today.

    The denizens of the small town in western Ayrshire County arose in collective joy, as if under the spell of magic. Even the newborns saw fit to exchange their colicky cries for contented squeals.

    The bells of the church, normally reproachful and condescending, rang gaily this morn. The parishioners filed faithfully into the nave and settled into their favored spaces. The priest rose, gazed upon his flock with loving eyes, and delivered his sermon with a single word.

    “Happy.”

    Then the preparations began. Homes were tidied, picnic lunches were prepared, hearth fires were extinguished, and affairs were put in order.

    Hand in hand, with voices in collective harmony, they marched to the glen. There, the witch directed them to the shallow sepulchres she had impelled them to dig a fortnight ago. Still singing, they stepped in and began burying themselves alive.

    And thus was “born” the appropriately named town of Beòcairn.

  46. Into the Lair
    by Nancy Chenier
    @rowdy_phantom
    160 words

    “What? Moira, you can’t be here. Mamadh’s working.”

    “Help get the shiny circles.”

    “Why aren’t you home? Where’s Dadaidh?”

    “Want to get circles.”

    “Coins. I’ll bring you some. Now, go home.”

    “Can help Mamaidh.”

    “I don’t need—Wait! Moira!”

    “It’s big, Mamaidh. It’s big.”

    “Shush! Yes, it’s very big. Now go back to Dadaich. He has honey custard for you.”

    “Dragon sleeping.”

    “Great Skatha! Moira, get back! It’s waking up.”

    “Those are the dragon’s eyes. Hi, Dragon!”

    “M’Lady, please don’t be angry.”

    “Mamaidh’s on the ground.”

    “Moira, come back to Mamaidh.”

    “Dragon can sing.”

    Leave now, slave. I accept your offering.

    “It’s not so noisy. Ooo, sparkle tickles!”

    “Please—oh, Mighty One, eat me instead.”

    I don’t intend to eat her, wretch. I intend to foster her.

    “But—”

    Begone, Moorlander, before I change my mind and incinerate your entire brood.

    “Mamaidh’s crying.”

    “Oh, my little star…”

    “Bye-bye, Mamaidh. More magic!”

    Listen closely, little one, and learn your own magic.

  47. Pioneer

    Another one, off to their grave. Margaret and her daughters covered their ears as ambulances with roaring sirens sped down the lane towards the tiny hospital. A mysterious and merciless virus had wiped out almost the entire population of this once thriving village. The hope for the village rested in the competent hands of Dr. Stella Richmond, a scientist from London. Margaret and her girls had no electricity in their primitive country home, but they had a radio that they kept on at all times.
    “Mama, Dr. Stella is on the radio!” screamed the youngest daughter, Lilith.
    “My fellow countrymen, I am proud to announce that the vaccine I procured from England has cured an infant of this virus that has ravaged our population,” Dr. Stella announced triumphantly. “I am happy to report that all who have been stricken will now be cured!”
    Dr. Lilith Smithson held her great-grandson’s hand as they placed the flowers at Dr. Stella’s grave.

    @peacesong464
    159 words

  48. Stella meandered through the pea-soup fog. It felt as if she had been hiking for days. As she crested the hill, Stella spotted the ancient stone hut. Her only hope was that the fog would conceal her. She quickened her pace as the fog lifted. The winter sun would soon shed its light on the world.

    The structure became clearer as she approached. It appeared to be an ancient shepherd’s den. A thick blanket of moss covered its roof. Shrieks and wails emerged from the stone structure, and she wondered what battle was raging. Stella took a deep breath and touched the pearl-inlaid handle of her dagger.

    A tired-looking woman wearing a nondescript cotton dress stepped out, cradling a baby. “Stella, you’re finally here,” she yelled over the child’s wails. As the woman handed over her charge, Stella envied the fog for its ability to disappear so quickly.

  49. Tom Smith
    @sunderland101
    We Found It
    160 Words

    “Told you I’d find it.” The hike had moistened their brows and stolen their breath, but Stella still found the energy to be superior. “That’s 50p you owe me.” Rachel never agreed to the bet, but handed over the money anyway.

    Rachel offered an explanation for the ramshackle house in the middle of the field “I heard he’s homophobic.”

    “You mean claustrophobic.”

    “No, he thought the towns were full of “gays” so he built a house in a field to get away from them.”

    “Wrong. His Eskimo wife died whilst giving birth to their baby so he built an igloo to honour her.”

    “He hates gays!”

    “He collects a widows pension!” Stella didn’t appreciate Rachel fighting her corner. “Let’s ask him.”

    He saw the girls approaching, he knew it would work; all he had to do was create intrigue and wait for the kids to verify the adults rumours. He’d be long gone by the time their parents missed them.

  50. The Nameless Child

    Marie sang, hoping to drown out the distant screams of the dogs, as she swaddled the child in grandmammie’s shawl, folding in a hearthstone and tieing the loose ends to hold it securely.

    The child scrutinised her coldly, with her father’s eyes, and Marie shivered.

    The path to the harbour lead past his rude stone shelter and the babe mewled, but Marie knew he slept during daylight. Still, she hurried on.

    Looking into the grey waters, she saw the dogs, tails swaying like kelp fields, heads pinned by weighted collars. She held the child out over the waves, arms straining at the weight of the stone. Seeing again the constellations scattered across the black orbs of her eyes, Marie smiled.

    “If I could keep you, I’d love you forever and call you Stella, for the stars in your eyes.”

    Then the weighted child tumbled end over end to the sea, and sank to the forest of dogs.

    For now.

    159 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  51. The Office Outing

    “You’re yampy Stella; that’s never a baby!”

    “So what is it?”

    May’s mouth flapped like that silly singing fish screensaver she’d put on Eric’s PC, she didn’t know what the noise was, but she’d never say.

    “We’ll go,” she snapped. “I’ll show you.”

    Getting down the cliff was difficult, but Mother used to say that easy things weren’t worth the effort. Course, she said I was too old to be messing around with fellas too, and that was years before she moved into the urn on the mantlepiece.

    We made it though, and May was ecstatic to find screeching seabirds, nesting in a ruined crofter’s cottage.

    “See?”

    The driftwood left splinters in my hands and a muddy mark on my Marks’s blouse, but it did far worse to May, and I had to clamber up the cliffside alone.

    But when the tide comes in, she’ll be gone, and I’ll be on the ferry home, sharing Eric’s Fruit and Nut bar.

    160 words, plus a very humble apology…

    @Karl_A_Russell

  52. The Remains of the Days
    by A J Walker

    Moira knelt down to touch the quartz block at the base of the cairn. It seemed only moments ago she’d placed it there. Quartz, a fleck of light in the bleak monument to such a short life. It felt greasy with rain and lichen as she closed her eyes to remember. Stella had died so young, had never even walked on the island.

    The arthritis in her knees made Moira wince as she creaked herself up and she leant against the monument grateful for its solidity. Wiping away at her face she left a gritty smear across her cheeks.

    They had to leave the island and their way of life behind. She would never see it again; only their ghosts would remain. She worried so much now about where she’d go for her weekly talk with Stella.

    Then she was stood above the sheer cliffs looking out across the brooding Atlantic, feeling the wind, as silent waves crashed below her.

    (160 words)
    @zevonesque

  53. Labor Pains

    “Captain, the planet is undergoing some sort of geologic instability. The epicenter appears to be half a kilometer to the west.”

    “Dammit! I’ve spent my whole career looking for a place to retire, and I’m not leaving this planet unless I have to. Can we stay?”

    “Unclear. The quakes are short-lived, but the time in between each is decreasing.”

    “Fine. Let’s take the shuttle and fly around for a bit until they settle down. I hope the valley doesn’t collapse.”
    ———–
    Stella (for that is how the planet thought of herself) was having a bad day. She’d thought she’d given birth to her last moon billions of years ago, but these Stellaquakes couldn’t possibly be anything else. Oh, that hurt. Wasn’t she too old for this?

    Obviously not.

    Stella let the next quake open the cave near the northern edge of her largest continent. She hoped not too many creatures lived around there, because giving birth was really quite messy.

    @drmagoo
    159 words

  54. Joshua Bertetta
    160 Words
    @JBertetta

    Theology

    “Is it in there?”

    “I don’t know.”

    They giggled as children should.

    “I wanna see.”

    His hand a loose fist, he slid his thumb to the side and peered into the dark. “Darn it!”
    “Try to catch it again!”

    Suckling their newborn brother at her breast, Aife chuckled here where for countless generations women brought children into the world. Here in this womb in the land of mist where until the invasion people did not ask questions in black and white for words like “yes” and “no” did not exist.

    She’d call the baby Lugh, she decided, because the light of the sun spilled through spaces between the stones the moment he passed through and set his tuft of red hair aflame.

    The very same light Lugh’s brother and sister, still giggling, still tried to catch.

    “Keep your hand right there Stella,” she said. “There. See? You can hold the sun beams with an open hand, not in a fist.”

  55. Daily Shorts
    @2020Hines_Sight
    Word Count: 158

    Harvest Time

    Hirta knew the stone hut with its mossy grass roof was the perfect place to raise the children, until they reached maturity.

    Anders matured first and Stella was sent to fetch the warden. When they returned Stella was perched on his back, as she was too weak to walk.

    “Anders,” Hirta yelled. “Come get this child!”

    Hirta chided Stella as Anders lifted her from the warden’s back. “The warden is never to carry you.”

    “She ran out of the life tea,” the warden advised calmly.

    “She had enough for a week,” Hirta bellowed. “Go! Prepare the tea,” She commanded Stella.

    As the warden was inspecting Anders, Stella emerged with the life tea.

    “Anders is strong and well built. He’ll make a good worker,” he said sipping the tea. ” However this one will never mature. What shall we to do?”

    “Send her to be harvested for the hungry and make sure I get two fresh eggs by weeks end.”

  56. The Survivors

    The dingy slid through oily waters, treacherous waves causing Isabelle to cling onto the ornate box in her lap. Muttering a prayer to St Ellard, Isabella looked back at the sullen isle. A sanctuary that over time had lost its way, traditions discarded, community replaced by dissent and mistrust.

    The awaiting ship was vast, callused hands helping Isabella aboard. No cabin for privacy, just the darkness of the hold, weakly resisted by a lantern’s flaxen light.

    Settling in a corner, Isabella ignored the mute stares of her fellow evacuees. Their ignorance had caused this, their lack of appreciation, of respect.

    A man, emboldened by shadows, whispered that Isabella and her kind would soon reside within the forest of bones on the seabed. A woman’s trembling voice hushing him.

    Isabella ignored them it was time to feed the baby. The blade drew scarlet across her wrist. Isabella lifted the box’s lid, resting her hand within.

    A rough tongue lapped hungrily.

    159 words
    @imageronin

  57. The Shepherds

    I remember that morning: damp, foggy, still.

    We had chosen a place near a young couple’s farm: they started their mornings here, tending the sheep. They were good people.

    We weren’t good people.

    We were on the run, owed many debts, had angered many: she was only a few weeks old, born at the last full moon. So much innocence.

    She deserved better than the repercussions of our poor choices. Here, she’d be safe.

    The note was hardest. Simply: “Take care of Stella. She seems to like the sound of rain…”

    Rain…there it was, gently falling now.

    A tear drifted down my cheek as I swaddled her a little tighter and placed the basket inside the rocks on a cushy, morning-moist patch of moss. I kissed her head. My husband squeezed me tightly.

    “It’s the right thing, Marie.”

    I nodded, accepting the emptiness that consumed me, knowing this was best.

    Knowing that someday the fog would lift…

    Word Count: 157
    @WHealyWrites

  58. The Writing on the Wall
    (159 Words)

    I’d always been a skeptic, until I found Geata– the Gateway. After unearthing the fabled tunnel, I crawled in to get a better view of some ancient carvings. I was already planning my article, heck my book. That’s when I noticed the carvings were not ancient Gaelic, but modern English. I pulled myself the rest of the way, baffled.

    It was the find of the century, too bad it banished me from mine.

    I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take time to adjust. I can’t count how often I dove back through the tunnel (now wiped of all writing) to no avail. Eventually though, I accepted my fate and built a new life. How many women can say they’ve got a Ph.D. and survived childbirth in the 6th century?

    If you’re reading this, it’s too late to turn back. But fear not, Geata only takes you where you need to go.

    Best of luck,
    Dr. Stella Gray

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  59. Fallowfoot’s Revenge
    160 words
    @AbrahamWolfgang

    Hobart Fallowfoot lived alone in his grand hall, under the biggest hill, with the most beautiful oak door that no one bothered to enter except for the marquis.

    “You have no heir.”

    “Soon I will marry.”

    But he was rejected, and the marquis was persistent.

    “I will adopt.”

    But no one would trust him with their child, and the marquis was furious.

    “You will forfeit your claim to this hill!”

    He left that evening, lantern in hand. The townsfolk all looked down on him, like he was beneath them. Even the stable boy looked on with disdain as he laid out hay for the horses.

    The grass that had grown dry after months without rain crunched under Hobart’s feet. He peered out over the green hills, through the haze of smoke that billowed around him, and made out a small stone hovel in the distance.

    “This will do, for now.”

    He could still hear the distant screams echoing around him.

  60. The Darkness Within

    William gazed at the house over the foggy landscape. Ever since he was a baby that old stone building had stood there. That was what caused the mist. Because somewhere deep inside the crumbling ruins dwelt something dark and evil. An ancient and malicious being that poisoned the land. But no more. William braced himself and walked down the mountain towards the seemingly innocent structure.

    Stopping in front of the vile place, he stared into the gaping doorway. He heard a terrible shriek emanate from within. His blood ran cold at the sound. William drew his sword. Escape would be impossible once he entered the maze beneath the ruins of the small house. A labyrinth larger and more dangerous than anyone could possibly imagine. William raised his sword and charged, sword aloft, to the place that no man had dared enter before. There was no turning back.

    (147 words)
    by Ian Phillips, age 13

    • Ian, I like the idea that from the outside the structure seemed innocent and that it caused the mist. I like the building mystery… there is no turning back…(but I want to know what happens when William takes the plunge to enter the maze beneath the ruins…)

    • I love the concept that such a terrible evil could exist beneath such a beautiful and lonely place. I hope William triumphed in his quest!

  61. Mood Changes (160 words)
    @brett_milam

    Grace Moody let the scratchy tentacles of the billowing grass fan over her sun-burnt face. She arched her back on the green canvas, as she squinted into the sun.

    She stood and returned to her baby hut forged with rocks. A wool blanket covered the far ground, a pot of boiling plants she’d rummaged from the hillside gurgled in the corner and a berry-painted portrait of a man adorned the left wall.

    “Not today, Avery, not now,” Grace said to the rock wall.

    With her pointer finger, she dipped into a canister of crushed blueberries, swirled and then dragged her finger across the dirt ground. No discernible shapes; squiggles.

    “Why do you always get on my case, Avery? I didn’t leave it all behind to hear that cantankerous tosh.”

    Grace had told her mother she was dead, merely a corpse covered in posh skin. Then left. Without her pills. Without her weekly doctor appointments. Without watchful eyes.

    “Okay, tomorrow, Avery.”

    • I like the sense of freedom that turns to discomfort. You raise a lot of questions regarding freedom for Grace. I want her to be free of that posh-skin-covered corpse, but wonder how she might fare in the hut. She seems happy now, probably much happier than living with her mother. In such a short piece, you manage to create a lot of ambiguity. Well done.

  62. FREE WILL

    The emptiness, dank and cold. The loneliness, stone-like and cleft from the others. This hollow, once filled with sustenance, now hungry for the accoutrements of beings. Begging, gape-mouthed in steely wind: low resonant tone, wailing at peak force.

    Why not this cleit? It exists for the ages, open for the taking, safe from what flies in on serrated wing to rob nests on rock face and grass. For no protective arbors exist in this barren land. Why not this cleit?

    The gannet chooses as if granted free will by the Stellar Creator. It flutters on black-tipped wing to the rock orifice, entering as if being swallowed. But gustation is nil as gannet prepares her cavity. Palette and lingual stone provide the perfect refuge.

    And in good time the cleit will speak the language of the gannet. A coal black youngster will burst forth from this granite mouth, softening its existence with youthful chirps: the words of fulfillment and togetherness.

    WC = 159, exclusive of title

  63. The Coming Darkness
    [Judge’s entry – for entertainment purposes only]

    Once upon a blue moon, Gramps talks of his Island boyhood. There he sits on his rocker, staring across the foggy glen, facing the rising sun.

    “A bonnie day. Quite like that last mornin’ on the Island.”

    From what I gather, the official history is a cover. Legends tell of unspeakable horror. Sheep sacrificed. Dogs drowned. An island abandoned.

    “Even as a wee bairn, I felt the rumblin’ of the Accursed Coming.”

    Since the time of Druids, its high cliffsides concealed the Island’s dark secrets.

    “I dinnae ken how we survived the hellish creature that was born that night.” His voice is a thousand miles distant. “But I’ll remember that bonnie mornin’ till the day I die.”

    After the evacuation, young Gramps enlisted for the war effort. He met Gramma Stella on deployment. The rest is family history.

    Gramps insists on a toast. Brown liquor flows. He raises his glass wearily. “To last days. And firsts.”

  64. The Executioner
    Evan Montegarde
    (160 words)

    “Please forgive me Mam,” is all I could mutter as I knelt before the Queen.

    She smiled and turned her blind-folded head toward me and in the ancient tongue whispered “Dominus vobiscum.”

    I wanted Elizabeth’s vengeance to be quick and painless, but the monster Walsingham conspired to dull my axe. I quickly grabbed my whetstone and attempted to sharpen the edge while the proclamation was decreed. I knew her story; it was Scotland’s story, ascending to the Throne as a baby having drawn a mere six days of breath. Betrayed by the English scum she had entrusted.

    But the time had come as the sun was swallowed by brooding clouds and my axe landed clean; it would take two full blows to sever her head.

    “I am so sorry” was all I could say as tears streamed down from my hideous mask, the bloody axe I had once glibly named Stella falling to the deck never to be held again.

  65. “Colossus Stymied”
    Word Count: 160
    By Elisa @AverageAdvocate

    Princess be rollin’ down my hill again.
    I laugh, ‘cuz Princess gives me tickles when she goes a-hillin’.

    I call her Stellalina. We’uns need to be a’namin’ the princesses. But the others say I be a baby, cryin’ on, making pets out nuthin’ but fleas.

    I sing, “It don’t matter what they say, I be layin’ here all day– Stella’ be my Special!”

    Princess be tired. Princess be hiding in Molehole when she be tired, tossin’, turnin’, and givin’ me the itches. But I don’t want to scratch or she be dead. No more Stellalina.

    My sweat coils in thick steam down towards Molehole. I hope it be fresh– I want Stellanlina to love my luscious expanse and stay.

    I might just be a giant carcass of land. But if I ever pry-up from my stone prison, I’d still carry this little’un with me, trompin’ worlds. And if she like, I’d let her go a’hillin’ and giggin’ whenever she want.

  66. 160 characters
    @cylemmulo

    The Mortal Penance.

    Marin’s bare feet rushed up the rolling, dew covered hill. She felt cold diminutive hands clutching onto her arm. There was no recollection of why she was marching this direction, or why she would be so far from the farm with her sister.

    Reaching the peak of the hill, Marin spotted a solitary stone shelter. She knew somehow, this is where her mind beckoned her. Tiny Stella was cradled, bouncing in her arms, grasping up at Marin’s face. The luminous green eyes gazed up unknowingly.

    Marin reached the door. Every bone in her body pained to enter this timeworn hut. Unaware, she nudged open the tattered wooden door, holding Stella closer.

    A hunched figure was in the corner, lit by a single candle’s flame. An angular, bedraggled hand rose up from the creature. “So, you’ve come with your penance.” A voice of countless years croaked out. “I told you, all thefts are paid back to me tenfold.”

  67. Heart of Stone

    @hollygeely
    155 words
    The little stone hut was all alone in the world. The people had gone away and the other huts had crumbled long ago. Once he’d been the baby and now he was the last. He wished there was someone to complain to. Back in his day, he’d say, people broke their backs to make beauties like me.
    “Stella, come look at this! There’s a hut still intact!”
    You’re darn right I’m intact, he said, and then he realized that there were people – real people! They touched him and he felt loved again. They sat in his shelter and he kept them dry while it rained.
    “Kind of an ugly thing, isn’t it?” asked Stella.
    Ugly? I’ll show you ugly! he said. He growled, rumbled and fell apart on their heads.
    “I think you hurt its feelings,” said the man.
    “Stone doesn’t have feelings,” Stella replied.
    That’s what you think, he said, and then he slept.

  68. From Peat to Pearl,
    (WC 160)

    “The babies’ names are Aonghas, the boy, and the girl’s, Marcail,” gifted the father.

    Two beautiful babies swaddled in a once single worn wool blanket torn in two. They were born seconds apart inside a room, stained black by peat; soon, these two were marked, as well.

    “Dirt and mud, you wallow in, like pigs, your house a pen,” is how the other children teased them about the mud and peat of the boc-mona.

    The heard all this, but voiced no reply. He always frowned, inside she cried.

    One day, an enemy plotting to kill the King felt the cut of Aonghas’ treisgeir.

    “Come live in my house, Aonghas ‘the chosen one’ and you Marcail ‘the pearl.’”

    The peat stains wore off and their beauty showed.

    “Behold,” replied the queen in tears swaddling her child like a jewel in silk, “black peat to precious pearl.”
    .
    The King laughed. Her brother now always smiled.

  69. THE LAIR
    By Adrienne Myshel@amyshel7 (160 words)

    The General glared at her, frigid air billowing from his nostrils.

    “You seek coin in exchange for location of the monster’s lair,” he spat. He grabbed her dirty, mud-flecked braids. “Where is it? If this is trickery, you’ll meet not reward in this valley, but a gutting.”

    Stella pointed at the hill behind them . “There.”

    The General’s troops, their horses agitated and bucking, flanked the green and arrived at the perch. The stoned hovel appeared through the mists.

    “The creature nestles her young inside,” the guard said.

    “She sleeps during the day,” Stella added, then looked backwards at the breadth of soldiers on the field. “Did you bring the entire King’s army?”

    “Of course,” the General said, sneering. He turned around. “On my command—“

    Stella screeched with a satisfied laugh. “My mother sleeps in daylight, but I do not.”

    Dark, scaled wings blew out from her shoulders as she ballooned into her true nature, giant, ravenous and mercy-blotting.

  70. *** Judges entry – just for fun! ***

    The Hunt

    The clouds whip by in a blur and Stella tightens her grip. She isn’t ready. The white gives way to blue, then green. Without warning or encouragement, her Mother lets go. This is it, her very first hunt. She tumbles, plummeting towards the ground beside the other baby dragons. There is no time to think, only fly. This is how dragons learn, with fire devouring the fear in their hearts.

    Her wings catch the wind mere inches from a tiny stone house. She glides silently, scanning for the creatures. They are supposedly tall and gristly, hardly any meat. There is no sign of them, they must be hiding. The backup plan is the small white fluffy balls that are supposed to be everywhere, but there is no sign of them either. Stella’s stomach growls in protest.

    There is only one option left. She eyes up her fellow hunters and licks her lips. Let the hunt begin.

    156 words
    @todayschapter

  71. Kildaing me softly
    @mishmhem
    160 words

    The time had come, after generations of tending the land… it was time for us to leave–

    Long before memory we were charged with protecting St. Kilda and those who called the island home: the birds, the sheep and those who watched over them. Our job was complete and the island would become a haven for vanishing species of birds.

    On the great day of leaving, we rounded up the animals and prepared for our return. The sheep would be sold to pay for the journey, and we– our task complete would finally be going home. Our children would know the taste of the salt sea and the pups– too young to have known any other home will be the first generation to ride the waves of the Northern Sea as natives.

    As for the the animals who thought to kill us rather take us, or simply leave us behind in peace?

    They are safe now and we are free.

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