Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 40

SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU!!!! Thank you so much for coming back to throw your writing skillz into the fiery ring of competition here at Flash! Friday. I sure miss all you people the other days of the week! And I’m counting the minutes til all your juicy tales are in our grubby little hands. (Margaret rolls her eyes and says, Speak for yourself; my hands are soft and smell of roses.

We’re now moving into the wonderful fall marathon season here in the US. I’ve never done a full marathon myself, unless you count the two halves…? heh. Anyway, I love running, and since today in 490 BC is the date usually noted as the Battle of Marathon, well, you see how I had no choice this round for both prompt and dragon’s bidding. And I hope y’all will appreciate with me the irony of a long, difficult endurance race as the theme of one of the world’s quickest, briefest writing contests. Isn’t it just yummy??? 

 ♦♦♦♦♦

It’s a pleasure to have as judge today beloved and familiar writer Margaret Locke.  She begs you to pack in the emotion in your stories and make her feel things. Go beyond the obvious. (Dragons have wars! Martians have wars! Dystopians dream of wars!) Write cleverly, dear ones, as you always do, and win the battle of this judge’s story-hungry heart.

 ♦♦♦♦♦

Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays. We are currently reworking the weekly schedule, but occasionally you will also see our feature #Flashpoints, in which one of your stories gets munched on (think chocolate, not vampires).  

Now, grab your Asics 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 Monday.

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 “Artaphernes'”):

war

***Today’s Prompt:

1896 Olympic marathon. Public domain photo by Burton Holmes.

1896 Olympic marathon. Public domain photo by Burton Holmes.

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544 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 40

  1. Report from the Front
    by JM6 (158 words)

    This is Hemmings Pyle, reporting.

    The fortieth anniversary of the start of the war is fast approaching. I’m here, covering the latest conflict between the three remaining battle-capable nations. Of the fifteen-man teams which started The Race for the Truce, only one runner from each nation remains. The others are all dead. Some stepped on long-forgotten land mines. Others perished from sniper fire by belligerent separatists unable to field a team of their own. Combat between runners accounted for the rest. Only these three remain, grim, determined, desperate. The prize for the winner is a six-week cease fire, during which the other two nations have agreed not to attack. It is believed that ….

    Wait! There’s an incoming missile! The runners are diving for cover!

    Folks, it’s over. We couldn’t see which nation’s markings were on the missile but the race is over. The war will continue. Repeat, the war will continue.

    This is Hemmings Pyle, reporting from Marathon.

  2. Hi, I am participating for the first time. Hope you like the short story and I meet the criteria.

    The race of Life (160 words)
    How long before I put my head to a soft pillow and sleep? How many more years before, I get a complete, undisturbed long sleep?
    I started working at age 13 after I lost my family to war. I am 63 now. What has changed? What did I achieve? I have been working hard to make ends meet. At 13, it was survival from one day to the other. At 63, it is survival one week to the other. That is all that has changed. No family, no friends. Achievements include getting off the road into a ‘sleeping bed’ which I call home. ‘Sleeping bed’ is the bed I have rented that I can use for 6 hours till the next occupant of the bed comes in.
    There is no more strength in my body, no will in my soul to achieve anything to win this greatest endurance race of life. I am looking up to the almighty for solace.

  3. The Winner’s mistake.
    155 words
    @cylemmulo

    The Bullet Run: they organized it like children toying with insects.

    Me and Stykes were just lowly Staff Sergents, and I could tell this jackass Butter Bar wanted us to take the fall. He kept mentioning our “duty”. Too bad for him, my duty back home usually involved extensive running.

    We lined up, an explosion of an RPG signaled our start. Assholes. We sprinted the tiny unused runway, Stykes and Butter Bar not knowing how to pace themselves.

    I decided to stop tooling around and dashed ahead, I wasn’t about to take a bullet to the head for them, even if Stykes had a newborn back home, call me selfish.

    They had strung finish line tape up ahead, a nice touch. The others about 20 yards behind, I noticed something on the tape. A device. That’s when I realized: they didn’t want to get rid of the slowest ones, they wanted rid of the fastest

  4. The Art of Finishing

    Sven’s body moved measuredly, untroubled by the torments of the marathon. The cries of the spectators, ten deep, spurred him on as Wembley’s ornate arches crested the horizon.

    “London 1948” flags fluttered from atop the cage ahead, soldiers thrusting bayonets within. The crowd’s energy intensifying as the cage sprung open and the newest participants spilled out ahead of Sven.

    He dug deep, everyone else had fallen these last untermensch were nothing. Muscles responding, Sven increased his pace, passing under the archway, into the stadia, the finishing line in sight.

    They were metres away now, a frantic maelstrom of shaved heads and tattered rags cloaking skeletal limbs. Sven threw an elbow as he went past, sending one sprawling.

    Arms spread wide; Sven crossed the line to the pulse of photoflashes. A microphone thrust in his direction, the crowd quieting.

    Sven paused, teasing back perfect blonde hair, raising his fist in triumph.

    ‘FOR THE FUHRER!”

    The crowd’s euphoria made the stadia tremble.

    160 words
    @imageronin
    #flashdog

  5. JOIN

    Brian S Creek
    152 words
    @BrianSCreek

    It wasn’t far now, thought Stefan. Just over the hill to the next town.

    His brother ran on his left while his uncle ran on his right; each silent, each filled with an anger that pushed them on despite the agony. Their ignored their aching feet and dry lungs.

    Stefan struggled to block the memories of the last twenty four hours but the sounds of explosions and the screams were too much. Families lost in the blink of an eye and his village now nothing but a smoking ruin.

    The three men knew what they had to do now. Yesterday they had been farmers, but now that the bombs had fallen they had to leave the old lives behind and become soldiers. And while they could not defend their village anymore they would surely stand up and avenge it.

    All they had to do was get to the recruitment office before sundown.

  6. THE CONTEST

    Brian S Creek
    156 words
    @BrianSCreek

    (Sorry – had two ideas again)

    “You’re going down,” said Stripes. “I am the fastest runner in the valley.”
    “So,” said White. “I have endurance and will still be going when you are emptying your stomach by the roadside.”
    Black didn’t say anything because he was a mute.
    “You fool,” said Stripes. “My Mayor will have the prize of the most beautiful woman in the valley tonight. Your Mayors will be sleeping with pigs.”
    “Ha!” said White but then he stopped to think about it. “Wait. Do we ever get anything out of this?” asked White.
    “Not really,” said Stripes.
    Black shook his head.
    “Then why are we the ones doing the running?”
    “Honour?,” said Stripes.
    Black just shrugged.
    “You know what?” said White. “I might skip this year. I’m going back to my farm and having a nice glass of red wine.” And with that he turned and walked back towards his home.
    Black followed.
    So did Stripes. “Is it far?”

  7. The Dreamer
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    159 words

    ‘Leave me, Sergeant. Let me sleep, let me dream.’

    ‘Why? Because in my dreams there is no stench, no fear, no death, no cold damp misery.’

    ‘What do I dream of? Life, Sergeant. My life, when I used to run with two of the greatest friends a man could ask for. We were the best, the only ones who could beat us were each other. They’re gone now. Ypres and The Somme claimed them. I’m glad they’re dead and not maimed like so many.’

    ‘Yes glad, Sergeant. We feared maiming more than death. For then we might never run again, have to watch as others win our races. If I survive I must run for all three of us, carry them with me in each race. Then how can I lose, with the strength of three?’

    ‘Thank you Sergeant. In my dreams I run with them again, barefoot on dusty roads, for the sheer pleasure of running and friendship.’

  8. Price of Desertion

    The motley group fled the camps; the sounds of their feet beating the road mimicked the retort of nearby assault rifles. Every man escaping was a deserter, but not every man fought for the same side. Those who started as enemies were now allies clad in agony, wanting only a moment of respite.

    The dusty path led nowhere, but the band of men raced as if the gates of heaven awaited them. The long, miserable war was not a battle of strength but one of endurance, and their endurance had long been exhausted. The hunger and pain and suffering took a toll on their resolve until their broken wills could no longer bear the burdens of their nations.

    They knew the price of desertion. The decaying smells of bodies piled high reminded them of it. The bitterly embattled sides always called a truce to execute the deserters. This time 26 shots resonated in the hills past the plains.

    @goldzco21
    158 words

  9. The Battle Looms
    158 Words
    @marthajcurtis

    “Stupid bird! Can’t you take a break, already?”
    One final coo, then all was silent. Too silent. Dread washed over me as moon light flooded through the window, illuminating two empty cots, one on each side of me.
    I leapt from my cot and out the open window, stopping for nothing. Shoes will slow me down, anyway. No matter they left before me. The two figures zoomed in toward me as the space between us narrowed.
    Stretching into the jump, I eliminated the space between us and landed between Philip and Juan. Now we ran as one—the battle lay before us—just over the next rise.
    One final burst of speed carried us up the hill and propelled us over the top as we raced for the bunker and our weapons.
    Back to back we stood, guns loaded. We walked ten paces, turned and emptied our airsoft pistols at each other.
    Me one—them zero. Round two.

  10. No Surrender

    He made sure to choose men from the places worst hit, places on which more bombs had fallen than there were people to kill, and where even the dogs in the streets were armed. Men who could endure.

    Each carried a copy of the truce document. Communication lines had long been cut; this was the only way. But slowly, the King’s runners had fallen, until only three were left. The war raged on, but still they ran.

    On a rubble-grey day, they rested. One of the runners drew out his copy of the truce. Sweat-stained and dusty, it sat in his hands like something already broken.

    ‘Can you read?’ he asked the others. They shook their heads. No.

    Unfolding it, he saw his King’s signature. The rest was meaningless.

    ‘He chose his messengers well,’ he said. ‘Is it peace we carry, or eternal death?’

    Silently, they buried the papers. They slipped, each alone, into the shadows. None looked back.

    @SJOHart
    159 words
    http://sjohart.wordpress.com

  11. The Enemy Within
    by Rachael Dunlop
    @RachaelDunlop

    Pounding. Feet on sand. On gravel. On rock. Wince when a sharp point hits your soft sole. Wince, but don’t stop running. Hit your stride. This is war.

    Breathing. It’s all in the breathing. Smooth it out. Don’t let the panic tighten your throat. You can do this. You know your enemy. Better than anyone.

    Stopping. Why are they stopping? Man down. Can’t help. Swerve. Lean into the curve of your stride, let it lengthen, keep your centre of gravity low and push on. Push on.

    Settle into it now. It’s beautiful here, you’d hardly noticed before, some day you’ll come back, and walk, not run, live in the moment, savour each breath, taste the air, stop racing against your own need to succeed, succeed, succeed.

    But not today. Snap back into focus. You’re your own worst enemy. Remember that. And run.

    And run.

    And run.

  12. First – timer here! Hope I got this right! 🙂

    Blood in the sky, blood on our fate

    Our feet thudded on the sandy desert floor as we ran. Shy thorns peeped from the ground beneath us. The sky was blood red and the setting sun cast an orange light on the expanse.
    Time was running out.
    We had to get there before nightfall, or the villagers would be slaughtered in their sleep.
    We ran until we couldn’t breathe. And then we ran harder. We ran with the fury of racehorses in their last lap. This was, in a way, our last lap. Then it would be decided, for better or for worse.
    The edges of my vision began to dim, but the village was just a stone’s throw away. I didn’t stop.
    I bolted right into the Circle, around which the ramshackle houses were built.
    Then, my feet slipped. I slid into a pool of blood.
    When my eyes closed, it was for the last time.

  13. Perpetual Motion
    (160 words)
    and it’s the priest saying starter’s orders, we take off running past the cheering congregated crowd, towards narrow quarters, side by side, flushed, going in the same direction, breathless in each other’s company, dizzy with each other’s pace, rubbing elbows, until I carry extra weight and swollen ankles, and I we need to spread out through suburban terrain, my stout shoe ill fitting, you thrive, get up a faster sprint, these surroundings suit you, you see us bigger stronger, distance grows between us, on my slow motion legs I watch trees and traffic in time lapse, faces disappear from the crowd, distraction makes me lose my focus, but before I trip, burning hellfire blisters at my feet reminding me of the course, and you’ve waited up ahead, there’s an easier freer stretch I we with outstretched arms embrace, not finally our bodies wage war against us, we put a fight up for each other’s place, we are not finished yet…

  14. This is Suicide (But You Can’t See The Ropes)
    156 words

    He could hear them, could almost smell their rancid breath curling around him as he forced himself onward.

    To his left, a runner went down in a screaming mass of shadows and limbs.

    Blood splattered his feet, cooling the burn of his exhaustion for nothing more than a second before it was gone, soaked up by the thirsty earth.

    This was no longer just a race. It wasn’t a chance to win honour for Queen and country. It was a fight for survival and the only way to win the war was to reach the finish line.

    The thought made him freeze, his limbs locking even as he stumbled and fell to the ground. He could hear them milling around him, creeping closer but he just laughed. He laughed until tears poured down his face because he couldn’t remember being told where the finish line was.

    They’d lost the race the very second that they’d started.

  15. The Battle of Marathon
    @Making_Fiction
    159 Words

    1990, London

    “This is so much more than that song.”

    “What song?”

    “Tom-ay-toe. Tom-ar-toe. Pot-tay-toe. Pot-tar-toe. Who the hell says pot-tar-toe anyway?”

    The Home Secretary knows better than to argue with the PM.

    Prime Minister Howard stands proud and addresses this sacred home of democracy.

    “Mr Speaker. They have gone too far. They’ve declared war on our culture. Our American cousins might think we’re pompous, sure, but we have a right to protect our heritage and what makes us this great nation. Today this, tomorrow we’ll be saying elevator, faucet and spelling things without the letter U! Sure it is just a chocolate bar, but our national identity depends on it.”

    He holds aloft the Marathon chocolate bar that they want to rename Snickers.

    They erupt in cheers. The vote won. Britain has protected her future.

    The nation celebrates by munching Marathon bars, and dancing, and running through the fields, forgetting, just for a moment, that they are British.

  16. My granddaughter asks me why I’m running in the photo – Was it for fun? Was I scared? Was it a race? I tell her it was a race and that it was also for fun. I was young, I explain. We did those things. She asks who took the photo. I examine it. Must have been your grandmother, I say. She asks if we were married then. No, I say, just dating, but I wanted to marry her.
    My granddaughter takes the picture back. Did grandma run, she asks. I tell her that girls didn’t really run back then, but that her grandma was the best swimmer in town. I like to swim, she says, but I like to run too. She hands me the picture. I wish we could have run together, grandpa, she says. I look at the picture one more time, then tuck it into my pocket.

    Twitter: @very_very_red

  17. To the End
    @mishmhem
    158 words

    The trio stood stock still, waiting…

    At the sound of gunfire, they ran. Whether they were running ‘from’ or ‘to’ ceased to matter. All that mattered was the path beneath their feet.

    The three ran together, as they had every day of their lives. Their hearts raced as they reached the first bend in the road where everything would change: the view; their lives; their future.

    Not one of them slowed.

    They were running for the joy of it now– the promise of what was to come.

    Sparse trees gave way to cresting waves, lonely paths revealed a gathering crowd and the road continued, and so they ran, each turn showing them what their lives could be if only they slowed down. Promises of glory, of death, pain and joy followed them at every turn until they reached the final straightaway.

    Looking at each other they smiled and dug in. Only one could win, and this meant war.

  18. RUN!

    ***

    Run you dogs, RUN!

    You’ll keep going if you know what’s good for you.

    Number Three! No slowing down, keep up with the others or I’ll have your hide. Number One’s older than you and he runs as fast as Number Two. If they can do it, you can do it.

    What’s that Number One? Did you say something Number One? Got something to say have you? Don’t mumble Number One, shout it out. What was it Number One?

    Nothing?

    Good, then shut up and run.

    This is war lads; don’t let anybody tell you different. This is for your country, your people.

    RUN!

    FASTER!

    Number Three, why are you limping? Got a stone in your shoe? Take your shoe off and shake it out, but keep RUNNING. What was that? Your ankle is sore? Want your mother to kiss it better? Well your mother isn’t here is she Number Three?

    I’M here.

    Now.

    RUN!

    ***

    @theimaginator20
    155 words

  19. Mama told me to come away, to come back inside, but I couldn’t.

    The first ones ran.

    I stared, from my perch on the broken fence, as they hurried past, their concentration on the dusty road and their footfalls, not on me, a grubby child by the wayside. They ran so fast even my blistered legs curved below my torn skirts failed to move them. I winced as I changed position.

    There were more, still running, always running, kicking up dirt and ash in clouds behind them as they hastened on. Then they slowed and I stared. Sunken cheeks, dull eyes, scorched rags, and blistered skin…like mine.

    He was one of the last, walking, dragging, mumbling and stinking of anguished sweat. I backed away as he reached my fence, and I stared with mistrust in my eyes and escape in my legs.

    “War is over,” he slurred. “War is over, my child…”

    Tears streamed as my eyes met his. “Papa?”

    (160 Words)
    @LastKrystallos

  20. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 160

    Vain Race

    One runs from fear, the monsters of his past slavering at his heels.
    His father’s fingers press against his throat,
    Anger distends his features, twisting, purpling, panting—
    Daddy’s familiar face the scene of a monster.
    Death from fear or flight to freedom? Nightmares cross the finish line first.

    One runs from love, tears and kisses shrouded in but a memory
    The taste of her lips haunts his dreams,
    Shivers across the flesh of his arms.
    Mea culpa, my Father. I have sinned in the arms of a married woman.
    Death from vengeance or flight to freedom? A bullet crosses the finish line first.

    One runs from death, the Reaper’s cold breath shimmering in the darkness behind.
    The pain creeps into his lungs, pulsing, aching.
    He inhales, and a knife slices down deep inside.
    He coughs, wipes the blood that bubbles past his lips, speeds his pace.
    Death from bleeding lungs or flight to freedom? Cancer crosses the finish line first.

  21. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 151

    Mirror Mirror

    Who do you think can lose the race first?
    Who’s got the form that sprints this path the worst?
    Who is the sorry one who brings up the rear?
    Who is the one that runs from her fear?
    Who’s the girl who cowers from the fans?
    Who’s got the milky flesh of one who never tans?
    Who’s fat, and ugly, and pimply, and shy?
    Who’s the one who asks the mirror, “Why?”
    Who’s the girl that hides behind the crowd?
    Who failed so many times to make her mama proud?
    Who slits her wrists and cries out from the pain?
    Who cowers in her bed and waits for day to wane?

    Who is this girl who stares back at me,
    Who reflects, just a moment, what all of them must see?
    Who’s blind, it seems, to the heart that lies within?
    Who thinks her true beauty is just another sin?

  22. Refugee
    @Van_demal
    157 words

    They didn’t ask for any of this. Every day it stuns me that they’re here, that they’ve even got this far. You tell by the dust rising. That’s always the first thing, then the vibration. You’d never guess a mob running could make a Jeep shake. Every day they’re thinner, but still they come. How much longer can they last? Another year? Two? Who knows how far down the road we are this time – it’s a guerrilla war we’re fighting, insurgency. It even sounds like a disease. And they’re the collateral damage.
    You have to gun the engine, start the vehicle moving when they come else you get swamped. The hoard thins with every food parcel you dump, but they’ll chase until they’re sure there’s nothing left. Every day a sprint to feed their family. It never ends. Every day their prize is another day. Every day another milestone in the marathon.

    And they call us heroes.

  23. Marathon Of Death

    We ran to spread the word of war, we ran for our lives. Lungs pumping like bellows, muscles twitching with exertion, every bone and joint straining from effort, we ran. No one had ever outrun any of the Plague Survivors, but we were going to try. We three had been chosen because we were all former Olympic Marathoners.

    We paced each other, running steadily. Aethon stumbled to his knees. Ioses and I turned to help him.

    “Get up Aethon, get up!” Ioses yelled. The ragged, shambling mob trailing us lurched closer.

    “Hurry Aethon, hurry!” I urged.

    “I’m trying Nikias, but I’m so hungry!” He panted, his empty stomach growling.

    “I know, but They hate us! If we stop to eat They will tear us apart! We must run!” We heaved Aethon back onto his feet and started running again.

    Humanity might triumph, but not without us Zombies putting up a fight!

    158 Words
    karnemily@yahoo.com

  24. Your Dragonyness, Could you pretty please put an “unbold” after the second They? Change the lower case “m” in the title to an upper case “M”? And change “aethon” to “Aethon”? Proffers chocoltae. Emily Karn

  25. That Old Idiom

    @hollygeely
    158 words

    Steve tried to catch his breath but it got away from him. He dropped to his knees in the dirt.

    “Hurry up,” Alphonse said. Levi was watching their backs, tapping his foot with nervous energy.

    “Dude,” Steve said, and it managed to convey the depth of his pain. He hacked up a lungful of…something.

    “You ate it, didn’t you?” Alphonse asked.

    “So what? This isn’t our war. Humans shouldn’t be involved.”

    Alphonse and Levi exchanged a look.

    “They fed you the ‘nip, man. Once you eat the ‘nip you’re one of them,” Levi said.

    Steve could feel it going to work inside him. “Help me, guys,” he begged, but it was too late.

    He started hacking again and produced a ball of fur the size of his head. He looked up at his former friends with fiendishly yellow eyes. He swiped at them with sharp claws.

    “Run!” Alphonse shouted. “Our only hope now is to join the dogs!”

  26. @avalina_kreska
    (160 words)
    It’s not war it’s HARMAGEDDON!!!

    …and it’s neck and neck for these victorious flab fighters, an astonishing TWENTY stone lost between them as they race for the finish and a well earned triple decker hamburger, humdinger fries with low-cal mayo, Anthony comes in at a new slim-jim weight of twelve stones, beside him, James, who confessed to eating sixteen filled bagels a day shifting a stunning SIX stones, his wives were delighted, finally, Mikey the Milkman, no, we’ve just lost Mikey, yes, to confirm, Mikey has a stitch, he’s out of the running, the battle rages on, Anthony and James, two amazingly determined men who…JAMES IS MAKING A BREAK FOR IT, BUT OH -MY -WORD! Anthony must have found some spare chocolate, AND IT’S AN AMAZING WIN FOR ANTHONY! Anthony, a software manager from Southport has…WOWSER, this is not a pretty sight, not sure I’ve ever seen a man fit a whole hamburger in his mouth, NO WAIT… AND FRIES…AND…

  27. The War Inside
    @_HannahHeath
    160 words

    Isabella’s controlling emotion was always anger. Not pain, not fear. Anger. And so she ran. Every morning she would run, run until her body burned and her mind numbed. Until she could feel nothing…until she couldn’t feel the anger.

    She stepped out onto the asphalt and began. Right foot…left foot. Right…left.

    She remembered reading the letter because her mother had refused. “We regret to inform you…”

    Right foot…left foot. Right…left.

    Gone. Just like that. And she had not felt sorrow. Only anger. Dad had died fighting somebody else’s war.

    Right, left.

    And yet her brother had run off to fight. Missing in action, they said. And she did not feel pain. Only anger.

    Faster. Right. Left. Right.

    The doctors told her she had cancer. Said it was too late to fix it now. No fear. Anger.

    Go faster. Faster. Right! Left!

    She had only…months. She wanted to…to win. To kill this anger. Win this war inside.

    FASTER. GO FASTER.

  28. Runners

    For the first few miles he remembers the war.

    He remembers the sounds: sudden cracks, distant shouts, belching mud, coughs, splutters, sobs, the metal clatter of their guns as they walked. He remembers smells: clay, mould, smoke, cordite. And with each blink he relives a vision.

    ‘Keep pushing.’

    After that, once the crowds have fallen back and the adrenaline has caught up, he’s released and he’s free. The pound and rhythm of his feet beat it all away, peace and solitude reign. He sees faces: men he has forgotten, reconstructed in his mind and smiling.

    ‘Ease off for now.’

    At halfway they join him, Abdul and Ikechi. They keep pace, whisper encouragement and say nothing of the war. They are just there, reunited, and beneath his feet the world feels balanced again and still.

    They cross the finish line a trio, triumphant but in no mood to celebrate. When he has caught his breath, Abdul and Ikechi are gone.

    @DHartleyWriter
    159 Words

  29. Search Engine History
    (151 words)

    One Day Ago

    Jelly pots
    Balloons
    How to decorate child’s birthday cake
    Marathon registration form

    One Month Ago

    Keep on keeping on: A Marathon Mentality
    Planning your one year old’s party

    Two Months Ago

    Basic guide to servicing a car
    The Long Haul

    Three Months Ago

    Single parents’ forum
    Eating for Life: Top 26 Tips
    How Bad is Fad?
    Can running actually kill you?
    Key stages for babies nine months

    Four Months Ago

    Find hardware stores in your area
    Pushing on through the pain barrier.
    A Guide to exercise and child care
    Does chocolate help you exercise!!!
    Key stages for babies at eight months

    Five Months Ago

    Parents at war and the effects
    nail files
    plasters
    Anti-chafing gel
    Top 10 recommended running shoes
    Key stages for babies at seven months

    Six Months Ago

    The Hurt of Separation
    discount price running shoes
    top tips on jogging
    Key stages for babies at six months

  30. “Surrender”
    Hammlington
    Word count: 160

    He runs.

    “Artaphernes! Brother! Has Miletus fallen?”

    He’s always run. That’s who he is, what he does. He runs.

    “Have we lost, then?”

    He’s not the fastest, not the most graceful. But he understands what it means to run. There isn’t enough strength in all the world to carry a man over mountains, through deserts, across barren battlegrounds.

    “Do they come in vengeance for our siege?”

    Breath catches, muscles seize, hunger and thirst cripple.

    But when he runs, he flies.

    “Artaphernes! Where do you flee? If we failed at Miletus, we must hold the citadel!”

    His breath weakens him. His muscles will not carry him. His hunger, thirst, fatigue only burden him. He relinquishes their hold.

    “No, do not follow the man. My brother is dead. Come, we march for glory.”

    He pulls free of himself, legs rising and falling with barely a whisper of a thought, his strength coming on the wings of his dreams.

    “We march for war.”

  31. Collateral Damage
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    155 words

    The first blast hit at dawn. At first Zaj thought it was a storm brought on by angry Spirits.
    Then the second blast hit. Fire speared the jungle trees. Monkeys screamed.

    Tuam emerged from the family’s hut, wild-eyed, shirt unbuttoned. “Hurry, we must run!”

    “What about Leej?”

    “He’ll catch up.”

    They raced down the rice-paddy road lined with empty, windblown trees.

    “Don’t look in the water.” Leej fell into step with his brothers as they sprinted beside the irrigation ditch. “It holds evil.”

    Back in the village, babies and mothers wailed until gunfire brought silence. A mechanical flying beast pummeled the sky, its blades stirring unnatural winds.

    Despite his brother’s advice, the murky ditch drew Zaj’s gaze. He flinched and looked away, wishing he could unsee what lurked beneath the water’s surface.

    “Who did this?” Zaj’s voice trembled.

    Leej scowled up at the flying beast. “Ghosts. Cooked white ghosts who know nothing of the Spirits.”

  32. The Leader
    @voimaoy
    160 words

    From the balcony, they could see the runners in the street, shouting the news. “Victory!” “Freedom!” Cheers went up in the plaza.

    Enrique turned away, turned to his two friends, Andres and Jorge. They were grinning, white teeth in dark beards. We look so young, he thought. Why did he feel so old?

    It had been a long time since the three of them were boys, running barefoot down the dusty street of the village. And one day, running from the village, burning, the day the Leader came to clean out the rebel forces. It was a Tuesday, he remembered. The sky was blue.

    There were rebels in the hills. From that day on, they were rebels, too.

    A knock on the door, the hotel manager with a bottle of champagne. “Vive la causa!” Everyone shook hands.

    “To victory!” said Jorge.

    “To freedom!” said Andres.

    Enrique watched the bubbles rising in the glass. Was this what the future tasted like?

  33. The Winner

    “It’s not about winning; it’s about taking part,” he says, shaking my hand.

    I smile. Which, I think, is pitching it about right. Coz if you ask me, reciting the slogan of the Completely Non-Competitive Games to your fellow participants just says LOSER.

    “Jim,” says my coach Sarah, “are you sure you’re really…erm…ready for this?”

    “Hell, yeah!” I yell, punching the air.

    “Ye-es,” says Sarah. “Well…don’t forget to check around you as you reach the finish line, PB or no PB.”

    (Yeah. I’d lost focus in the qualifiers, and made a dash to cross the line first. If the guy I’d knocked sideways hadn’t insisted that it was “quite alright, really!”, I wouldn’t have made it through.)

    “Don’t worry!” I grin. “I got this! Participation before ANNIHILATION!”

    I walk off, whooping and cheerfully slapping the backs of participants around me as I go.

    I glance back proudly at Sarah.

    She is standing very still, with her face in her palm.

    160 words
    @Donnellanjacki

  34. Oracle
    160 words
    by Nancy Chenier
    @rowdy_phantom

    “Three runners from three different kingdoms,” my daughter says from the balcony. The sun washes her upturned face, her lashes flutter.

    “Yes,” I say, pride and regret contend in my breast.

    “The middle one counts his strides as stones his little son places on the window ledge. The left, as ebony strands of his lover’s hair.”

    It’s her first Telling. Why couldn’t this one fall to me?

    “The right”—her smile falters—”in drops of his father’s blood.”

    She opens her eyes, grips my hand. Mine is cold in hers. She brings it to her cheek. I remember the toddler who lined up her own stones on the Temple steps. I need to be strong for her, for us.

    “I’m ready, Mother.”

    Ready to truth-tell? Or ready for what her first audience will do? There are no winners in war.
    I watch her descend the stair. Then, I can’t stop the tears.

    In war, truth is the first to perish.

  35. 2161 Mars
    Everyone was Ready. All 5000 of us. This was a race to end all races. To traverse the whole of Mars with just what you had in your Geo- Thermal Suit. At the end of the race there would be Three of us left, maybe.
    All of us were from the top of our fields, Super- Olympians. Training for Five years in the rigorous Outback of Mars. Scientists who couldn’t resist the challenge. Construction workers, like me, who put this planet together bolt by bolt. Waging war on this planet , so we could call it home. There were also the adventure seekers from Earth, they were no threat , that I could see.
    The Red Planet. Red as far as the eye could see dropping off into an ebony pit of darkness.
    There was only one outcome for the race: Survive.
    The three of us looked at each other as the light cannon shot off into the inky blackness signaling the start of the race.

    154 words.
    Lissette

    • I like how you used Mars–the war god’s planet–for the setting. (Did you know 5000 in numerology corresponds–via the 5–to Mars?). I like how the war is essentially against the planet itself.

  36. Press On
    by Alissa Leonard
    @lissajean7
    160 words

    The race for our lives seems a trite statement, but my heart beats out its truth, pounding in my ears, reminding me of life. Of her. I desperately navigate obstacles, crushing dreams beneath my own, leaving carnage in my wake.

    I don’t have the luxury of losing. Melana needs this.

    Her diagnosis hit hard, but we fought. Drugs. Treatments. Surgery.

    Each labored breath reminds me of hers.

    Nothing worked. Battle after battle, the doctors faces grim and determined. Until that last battle, when he came in shaking his head, tears in his eyes to match our own.

    How long?

    No.

    Research. Phone calls. Hope. Experimental treatment.

    Insurance won’t cover it.

    Begging. Fundraising. This race. Prize money. It will be just enough.

    I have to win.

    My muscles quiver with exhaustion as I crush another. I look ahead; the way is clear.

    Her love carries me across the finish line.

    The war’s not over. Until her last breath, we will fight.

  37. Pain
    John Mark Miller – 159 words
    @JohnMark_Miller

    “Pain is deception!” Luka’s coach had barked. Now he clung to those words as his feet pounded the dirt once again.

    He willed his screaming muscles to fall into a steady rhythm, carrying him one more step… one more step…

    His beloved city of Serres lay in ruins, causing his heart to ache far more than his feet. Greece claimed to be a neutral territory in this cursed World War, but that hadn’t stopped the Bulgarians from invading their borders.

    “I feel like hunting,” one soldier had said. “Go dogs!” And as he fired his rifle, Luka had obeyed.

    What the Bulgarians didn’t know was that Luka was fast – fast enough to compete in the 1896 Olympic Games – and that his hunting rifle was buried a mere twenty yards away.

    By the time they took chase, he was ready. They screamed as the first soldier fell, crying for mercy. So much pain…

    But pain is deception.

    Luka fired again.

  38. Mind Games

    Exhale. Left, right, left. Inhale. Crap! Pain in my side, pain in my side. Lift up your arms. Good. Okay. See. It’s better. You can do this. It’s just another day. Right, it’s just me and my buds, enjoying the air. We’re out stretching our legs. Kick out your feet more. Don’t want to have shin splints. Going to make Momma proud, yep, and Dad said I’d never amount to anything. Well, his angel son went and drown the family business. His whipping boy is about to win a medal. Scratch that, it’s just another day. Water, water would be good about now. No, when it’s over. You’re almost there, almost done. Ha! I see it. We’re going to win. Wait. Is our pace slowing? Stay with the plan. Bring our country honor with a three-way tie. Ah, that French dude is coming. No, screw the plan. It’s not just another practice day. Race day means war.

    @meganbesing
    157 words

  39. Runner’s high

    No idea how far to go, how long I’ve been running. I look at my watch. Numbers are hazy, sand in my eyes.

    They bombed the supply shed overnight, blew our hideyhole right open. Jeeps, food, everything. ‘We need help.’ Captain pushed the words out of his mouth. ‘You can run.’

    Training runs were best, rock in my earbuds, reeling the miles in a silver thread, smiling at nothing and everything.

    Every step I listen for a plane or the click of a mine. Nothing but gasping, feet scuffling dirt. Pain in my chest, blood in my shoes.

    Got company. Can see them either side out the corner of my eye. One in stripes, one in black, pacing me. I put my head down, charge the hill.

    They’re still there, but so is the outpost. Soldier lowers his gun.

    ‘Bombed…no casualties…supplies gone’ I pant. My knees give way. ‘Thanks for sending the runners.’

    ‘What runners?’

    @lizhedgecock
    157 words

  40. @jujitsuelf
    159 words

    Nice Work if You Can Get It

    “Run!”

    I was already running, Ahmed and Ibrahim at my heels. Behind us the troll roared his fury.

    The ground shook as he tried a few lumbering steps after us but trolls aren’t designed for running and we were experts. Case of having to be, the Humano-Troll war had decimated the troll population and the survivors hated us humans.

    Ahmed gasped, clutching the stitch beneath his ribs. “D’you get ‘em?”

    “’Course,” I replied. I was less out of breath than him. Ha.

    “Can’t believe we did it,” Ibrahim panted, slowing down.

    I grinned. “We’re gonna be rich.”

    The stolen diamonds jiggled in my pocket. Trolls liked shiny things. So did I.

    “They’ll feed my family for a year,” Ibrahim said. Ahmed nodded.

    They’d feed us all. Stealing from trolls was dangerous work but if it kept my family alive, it was worth every second of bowel-loosening terror and every lung-busting run. On to the next one.

  41. Tom Smith
    @sunderland101

    War On Fat – 160 words

    “Look how skinny I am” The King stood proudly inside a pair of slacks that lived up to their name, holding the waistband out as far as his arm would allow, showcasing his weight loss.

    “Why are you are still wearing them?” The journalist asked.

    *

    Sweat that once dribbled now oozed from their foreheads. What started as a wall of men and women, 100 hundred deep and 200 wide, was now a trio.

    *

    “You lose weight then decide to declare war on fat people, is that fair?”

    “I’m helping the country”

    *

    “I can’t run…”

    Phhtt.

    Such an un-intrusive sound, the sound of a bullet leaving a silenced gun. Two men left.

    *
    “Helping? You make towns run all day to lose weight and if they stop you kill them”

    “I’ve solved the obesity crisis, haven’t I?” There was no point arguing with him, he stood up to leave.

    Phhtt.

    Such an un-intrusive sound, the sound of a journalists girdle breaking.

    “Shit”

  42. Never Surrender

    It was always the same nightmare. Grasping for breath, Alicia struggled with her I.V. pole, flailing her arms to signal a passing nurse. Her silent screams echoed only in her head. Her alarm clock buzzed next to her bed as he realized it was the same horrific dream. Breathing deeply to reassure herself, Alicia stared at herself in the mirror while splashing her sweat drenched forehead. She carefully attached her bra while avoiding the pink scars where her right breast once was. She fought the war against cancer and won. It was a bittersweet victory, losing her breast, but she didn’t have time for her usual morning self-pity. Today she had somewhere to be. Fort Wadsworth in New York City, to be exact. Alicia gobbled a banana and threw her Asics in her bag. She knew all about marathons but this one would show her old enemy that she never had any intentions of waving the white flag.

    @peacesong464
    160 words

  43. The Dream
    @StellakateT
    160 words

    It had always been like this, neck and neck. We’d won many races together, we’d even won battles. I remember Ashok begging my father that he’d look after me when we wanted to race in the Olympics. My father shrugged his shoulders and declared us both mad but let me go. I never saw my father or my homeland again.

    We travelled to Greece; the journey was long and arduous but we each had a goal. We knew we would eventually die and be buried in this alien soil. The years between were good and plentiful. I married a pious catholic girl; we had lots of strong children. Ashok never married he said we were brothers in arms and we ran everyday together. The older we got the slower we ran.

    We told all who would listen that we ran in Athens, we were Olympians but we never were. Ashok had the dream. I was just wanted to get away.

  44. It Is Enough
    154 Words

    Years of battle over an idea had dwarfed nations, slain charismatic leaders and laid waste to Earthly bounty. Before these last remaining ruins of humanity disappeared, another desperate idea finally appeared, one on which they could all agree.
    A run to the death.
    The strongest warriors of remaining tribes began a final test that would make Pheidippides weep with equal parts pride and dismay. A battle waged of sinew, sweat and stamina, as warriors literally chased death in the only measure adequate to determine the strength of their belief. As the number of racers dwindled, hearts were lodged in throats as minds were myopically unified on a single question: “Whose belief is superior?”
    The final answer was found in the unexpected sight of the remaining warriors finishing the race unified, side by side. They nudged the world into reconciliation with a single word before death: “Enough.”
    No final victor, only a victor’s final command.

  45. Too Late
    147
    http://www.FCFLrailway.com
    @fcflrailway

    Five miles out five miles back, soldier. Full gear – boots, pack, helmet, rifle. Hour-and-a-quarter to get it done, son, so have fun.

    No quit in me sir, no cheatin’ up there in the dark woods, no turnin’ back early or hitchin’ a ride with a girl, no sir not me sir I wanna live a life of danger, I’m gonna be an Airborne Ranger. Hard miles and lots of ‘em pick it up-two-three-four. Nothin’ back home in Loo-Z-anna but beets and I wanna see the world, I’m only seventeen and it’s already ’45 so Truman you keep this war alive. I’ve run too far to let the Japs collapse without me.

    Hey buddy where you runnin’? Today we dropped the big one an’ you don’t have to go. Hop in the jeep, beep beep, beer to drink before we sleep, we’re goin’ home.

    No thanks. I’ll walk.

  46. No way back
    @geofflepard 151 words
    They said it was ten miles and he had to run. They said it was through the enemy’s lines and the war would not stop for him. They said it was too dangerous to drive. They said they would give him two guards, strong men, good runners, to protect him. They said he would be a hero. They said the princess and her family would die if he didn’t reach the town by nightfall. They said only he could save her. They said if he saved the princess and her family the war would stop. They said that his wife would love him for ever and his son would grow to be the most respected elder and the richest man. They said only his blood would save the princess and her family. When he had looked at his wife and seen her despair, he knew what it was they hadn’t said.

  47. Running to War
    158 words

    We ran for the thrill of it, for the glory, for joy, for the lightness of the wind and the road. We ran singing from our homes, from our mothers and fathers and lovers. We were running to war.

    We ran lightly, poor as we were, two hunting rifles, a pistol, and a butcher’s knife between us. Paolo’s father had given us what ammunition he had, a dozen bullets. “Twelve dead fascists!” Paolo laughed, blood filling our legs, our lungs filling with the sweet air of the countryside and the faint scent of gunpowder.

    When we arrived at the battleground we found a graveyard of boys, fertile earth salted black by bombs and blood.

    We saw a farmhand we knew, Sandro, his legs dead and useless.

    “What happened?” Paolo cried.

    “We’ve been routed, brothers! The fascists are regrouping now for another charge.” Sandro pointed toward home. “I am lost, but if I were you, I’d run.”

    John Murray Lewis
    @ozmodiargh

  48. WE ALL RUN
    (WC – 159)

    WE
    ALL
    RUN

    i hear mumbling of unrest and war

    we all run some way
    Phidippides
    ran a marathon

    children running afraid
    old women running anxious
    old men running tense

    we all run some way

    too many times
    young become soldiers
    running only inside the fear
    held in their innermost self
    standing as heroes in duty

    we all run some way

    running soldiers of stone
    side by side in unison
    in lines on manicured ground.

    running tears etch faces
    six feet above heroes
    sleeping in hallowed ground

    i hear mumbling of unrest and war.

    running on roads spoken straight
    over hidden crookedness
    selfish preaching disqualified
    by the innermost self that makes others heroes

    we all run some way

    knocking
    Phidippides
    tells those who answer
    of their soldier of stone

    we all run some way
    Phidippides
    ran a marathon

    running in the last breath of war
    is an inexact message
    joy to you – we’ve won

    WE
    ALL
    RUN

  49. What a turn! With such economy, you’ve shattered the idealist vision of war. The imagery grabbed me: “fertile earth salted black” “graveyard of boys” to contrast the “sweet air of the countryside”.

  50. Revelation

    “What in hell did we do to deserve this?” panted the thin one, his dark shirt flirting with the ribs of his chest.
    “Dunno,” wheezed the pale one, “but I am tired of them; tired I say!”
    The man of wounds laughed as they ran.
    “Always you laugh,” spluttered the pale one. “Why always you laugh?”
    “Ha! I can tell you it is not because of our conversations, which are beyond the borders of boredom.” His feet described the incessant circle that kept him and the others running. “Both of you are so weak, compared to Them.”
    “Them!”
    “Them!”
    “Yes Them. I laugh at Them because they amaze me with their inventiveness in finding new ways to kill and maim, and yet despite your best efforts we are all still here running this … this… this… ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
    “What if,” hissed the thin one, “they just stopped killing each other?”
    With a collective sigh, War, Pestilence and Famine stopped running.

    @CliveNewnham – 159 words

  51. “At War”
    by Michael Seese
    160 words

    Serhan was at war with his lungs. His entire body, in fact. His legs were ready to abandon him. His heart threatened to spill over its cramped borders. His mind had long since seceded.

    “The Olympics is war without guns,” their coach had screamed. Daily.

    He had to win.

    Serhan forged a hasty alliance with the rebels, and pressed on. Through painful eyes he spied Geōrgios, the reigning champion, slightly ahead.

    The weary combatants trudged into a small grove, the finish line less than a mile away. Serhan and Meriҫ exchanged glances. Here, they had agreed in advance, one would trip Geōrgios. Then, “May the best man win.”

    The unexpected happened.

    Geōrgios’s knee buckled oddly. He crumpled to the dirt. Serhan and Meriҫ looked at each other as if to say, “What now?”

    Serhan knew.

    He slipped the shiv out of his pocket and buried it in his brother’s side.

    “War without guns,” Serhan gasped as he sprinted to victory.

  52. Silent Struggles

    We have been at war now for a while, you and I. Struggling silently; fighting for precedence. Have come at last to know each other intimately, one with each other, as you coax me towards your finish line, sweat browed and queasy. I will not rush to get there. I know how this race ends. Still, sleep shuts you out, sometimes – until I wake again to light. Once more round the track, perhaps?

    Our exertions have pared me to planes and edges; a featherweight run ragged by the battle; not yet down and out for the count. Not beaten. Not yet, my corporeal competitor. Not yet – though I lag behind a little, breath rattling. You are in front, back to me – a challenge in target. To reach. To move beyond. A marathon endurance without training enough to accomplish the feat, so it seems. I am no Olympiad, I know. Your path stretches out before me. Still. I crawl forwards.

    (160 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

  53. Josh Bertetta
    142 words
    @JBertetta
    Brothers in Arms

    We run because we ran. We had to. Not because of what we looked like, but what we thought.

    Time drips slow now and sometimes water is heavy. Running brings rain to the land the clouds forget.

    The land where the son of Eve committed the first murder. This land calls for blood and we shed blood. We have always shed blood in the land where brother killed brother. It seeps into the ground, feeds our trees, and fills our wells. Like water the blood evaporates, and condenses. The first storms were of swords and it rained arrows. Today it rains bullets and missiles and bombs.

    We do not run to forget. We do not run from the past, for when you are born in war, live in war, and die in war, you can never, even when the storm subsides, escape.

  54. Running Mates
    by A J Walker

    It was a plodding pace, but at least they were still going. There were just the three left now, the other unfortunates left far behind.

    “Nearly there,” said Johan. “Don’t think about it.”

    The other two said nothing. Trying to retain every bit of energy; such tiny margins.

    Johan smiled at the ease of the run, his hobby coming in useful. He could keep up this metronomic pace forever.

    Meanwhile Max could feel the burn in his lungs expanding like a supernova, he was struggling to gasp a breath. He tried to think of nothing, but could only think of raging fires and pokers; and stopping.

    Stefan could feel his head rotating erratically like a broken whisk, but could’t help it and his right calf felt like a block of timber. He wasn’t going to make it.

    Turning the corner the motley trio finally saw the check point in the distance. Only then did they all believe they’d make it.

    (160 words)
    @zevonesque

    #flashdogs

  55. The Endless Race

    He could not feel his legs. The pain had gone beyond sensation now, to a realm where his brain could not, would not let him face the damage he’d done.

    But still, he pushed on.

    With every step, every yard and mile and completed marathon, he raised another dollar, another dime, another moment’s respite from the slow-waged war against his own rebellious cells. The struggle against a silent invasion, genetic fifth columnists turning his own body against him, was a battle he could not hope to win. Perhaps though, with enough running, enough awareness raising, he could arrest their forward movement, create a No Man’s Land around his lungs and hold the line.

    Perhaps.

    If he ran far enough.

    Fast enough.

    And enough people saw.

    So he ignored the pain, the lack of feeling, the bleeding and blisters, the threats and promises of partners and doctors and friends.

    The clear scans and the diagnosis of Munchausen’s Syndrome.

    And he ran.

    160 words
    @Karl_A_Russell
    #FlashDog

  56. The Kotov syndrome
    @dieterrogiers – 159 words – http://www.300stories.net

    See them run, pushing the boundaries of their weary bodies.

    Smell their toiling sweat.

    Watch them suffer.

    Somehow they have convinced themselves there is still time. If the messenger is intercepted, they reason, perhaps the inevitability of it all is suspended. Perhaps they, their sons and brothers won’t have to enlist in an unwinnable war. Perhaps their families won’t starve from hunger this winter.

    Have they not noticed the machinery is already turning? Do they not understand that wars are not started or avoided by scraps of paper but by pieces on a politician’s chess board and that the sacrificing of pawns has already begun?

    Surely they can hear the thunder of the cannons behind the hills, they can see black smoke rising? Or do they simply block out the impending conflict? Do they cling to fantasy, rather than acknowledge the reality of war?

    See them run, still.

    Watch how they delude themselves with visions of peace.

    The fools.

  57. What Might Have Been in the Ditch
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    158 words

    Paaj promised a kiss to the winner, swishing her embroidered skirt as she pointed out the finish line at the irrigation ditch. Three youths jostled to race. Kisses were scarce commodities.

    The boys took off, bare feet pounding dirt, laughing as they ran.

    Two strange figures stepped into the road from behind the lemongrass. They wore mottled greenish skins and shells on their heads. They grasped tools like hatchets but not like hatchets at all.

    Paaj and the boys froze. Buzzing insects cut the silence.

    *****************************

    “Fuck this.” PFC Houghton stared at the teens. One was a girl. And those damned bugs never shut up.

    “Sarge said no guns,” Caruso muttered. “They may look like innocent kids, but they’re militants carrying bombs or messages.”

    He raised his commando blade and lunged.

    Caruso slashed with abandon, Houghton with reluctance.

    “Hide ’em in there. Quietly,” Caruso cautioned.

    But the insects screamed as Houghton heaved a mangled body into the ditch.

  58. Snake in a Bag

    Lucas sat on a metal bench in the vacant park, his familiar brown paper bag at his side. He welcomed the solitude birthed from darkness, when the shrill harmony of exuberant innocence was muted. He preferred the sights and sounds of his own mind, a mental reel of torment.

    The tiny girl in a violet dress wearing her mother’s face. The squeak of chains as she was pushed high into the air, her extended legs carving the humid air. A blur of feet running on the dense grass, her ponytail bobbing as she chased invisible monster’s and mottled butterflies. That effervescent smile as she flew down the plastic slide, her eyes leaking sunshine. The high-pitched cackle of laughter when her finger punctured soapy bubbles as they floated towards freedom.

    Lucas reached for the King Cobra and took a massive gulp of the cheap malt liquor. He marched into his war of attrition, hoisted a white flag, saluted his captor, and drank.

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    160 words

    • Very emotional piece. I could feel the man’s pain and his isolation as he immersed himself in memories. I loved this line: “The tiny girl in a violet dress wearing her mother’s face.” Nicely done!

  59. Untouchable

    The three brothers never stopped running.

    When that beast took their parents, when he did those unspeakable things in front of their eyes, they ran and they ran and they never again stayed in a house long enough to call it home.

    Later, when they were older, their relationships became a parade of anonymous faces, their jobs a succession of means to an end: to keep moving, further and further away from the horror, without caring where they would end up.

    Sometimes they ran with their arms stretched out in front of them, their fists punching away everything and everyone on their path, three merciless bulldozers, trapped in another day long marathon of pain.

    War was raging inside their head, them against the beast, so close behind their heels the foul stench of his breath made them nauseous.

    They never stopped running.

    @bartvangoethem
    142 words

  60. Death Throes (160 words)
    @brett_milam

    Alp didn’t have chest hair yet because he was only twelve, but he did have eleven pounds of dynamite strapped to his chest with coarse wire.

    The sweat from his chest caused the stack to slip down near his waist and he’d hoist it back up like he was cradling a difficult baby with unparalleled collected rage.

    He liked to sweat when he was chasing his younger brother, Hande, until mamma yelled at them both. But this sweat felt hotter, thicker. The dirt path fielded most of the sweat bombs.

    Eleven pounds. Odd number. But for Alp, the more important number was three. The three words he was to say after lighting the fuse:

    “Muradbeşte, bizim halife.”

    The Ottoman Empire was in its death throes and Murad V would use the Olympic stage to suggest otherwise.

    War was always egotistical.

    Struck match. Three runners on the dirt path ran for a different reason now.

    And Alp said his three words.

  61. Fireteam Zebra
    158 words (Judge’s entry and ineligible)

    Corporal “Bulldog” Bautista’s body was a well-oiled machine. He strutted proudly along the mud-covered road, leading Fireteam Zebra on its daily patrol.

    “Private Asim, you’re lagging! Are you tired of my scenic countryside already?”

    “No,” Asim panted along on the corporal’s left. “Just… tired, Corporal.”

    “Pick up the pace! We’re only halfway there — another thirteen miles before you sleep.”

    To his right, Bulldog heard Private Bundok hopping along on bloodied and blistered feet. “What’s your problem, Stripes?”

    “Corporal,” Private Bundok asked, grimacing with each pained step, “why can’t we have uniforms? Or weapons? Or food? Or boots?”

    “Shortages happen in wartime. Get used to it — and never let an officer hear you complain.”

    “There are no more officers,” Asim reminded him.

    “No more enemy, either,” Bulldog agreed. “Shortages.”

    “Seriously, Corporal,” huffed Asim, “we’re the only ones left. How long will we keep patrolling?”

    “Until I receive orders otherwise, Private.” And the machinery of the military rolled ever onward.

  62. Ghosts
    (150 Words)

    They are coming, hearts poisoned by hate, fingers caressing triggers. Our families must be warned.

    We cannot stop.

    Rakesh thinks maybe they can be reasoned with. But there is no reason in a mind fueled by war. Bullets are their only reply.

    We cannot stop.

    Blood pools in our worn-out shoes. Their shouting is getting closer. They scream, boasting of what they will do to us. Our wives. Our children. If only we were faster, we could get there first. But their shoes are new, their bodies well-fed and well-muscled. The screams are closer still.

    We cannot stop.

    Sahil’s ankle buckles. His chin jars against the gravel and he screams for help.

    I cannot stop.

    Guilt and the sound of gunshots rattle through my brain. They are so close I smell their sweat mingled with the blood of my friends. My white shirt blooms red.

    But we can never stop.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

    • Wow, this is very powerful! “If only we were faster, we could get there first. But their shoes are new, their bodies well-fed and well-muscled” reminds me of a recurring nightmare that I had about someone very fit chasing me while I was exhausted. I just couldn’t escape. So this story really gave me chills. Nice work. Great ending! (Although luckily I always woke up before I got to that part.)

  63. The Great Race (160)

    In the end, it had been a mistake to send a brontosaurus.

    Had there not been a state of war between the t-rexes and the velociraptors, the choice would have been easy. A stegosaur was willing, but there were fears he would forget the message by the time he arrived.

    The burning thing had fallen from the sky. The ground shook. Smoke, flames, darkness—those nearest to the impact fried. Pterodactyls plummeted down in flocks. On the great plains, clouds of stinking gas hung low, making huge purple tongues of fog that crept in every direction.

    By the time the lumbering brontosaur brought his news, it was too late. He perished, along with most of the dinosaurs on earth.

    Millions of years later, his descendent, a hairless ape, would give a desperate race to deliver a message a name: marathon. He too died, but the meaning would be the same.

    Run, damn it, run.

    Death is what is chasing you.

  64. Apocalyptic War
    (369 Words)

    It’s been five years. Five years since the scientists discovered a disease carried by moles. People called it rabies. but it was much, much more. It was the start of the war against humankind. Five years ago, people said that there was no way any apocalypse could occur. Technology was far too advanced for anything like that to happen. But once the moles were taken out into the open, they began to spread it. People got infected as soon as they were exposed to the disease. It traveled through the air, and the people who wore masks got bit and changed as well. The people who hid underground got trapped there, and died of hunger. The people who hid on islands were found, and had no way to escape. The only ones who survived were those who ran. The people who found life behind the wall. Those who were brave enough to venture out and get food survived. People like Marvin Quincey, on old Olympic champion in 2090, Shawn Fence, a personal trainer, and scientist West Trey. My name is Morgan Loui, I used to be reporter for the New York times. I’m going to tell you what happened to these three men and what they accomplished during this war against humanity.

    They were the only ones brave enough to venture out into the world of what we call, the Inferior humans. Or just the Inferior. They brought us food and water, time and time again. But yet, Dr. Trey wanted to do more than just survive the war, he wanted to finish it. He got his chance five years after the start of the war. When he was gathering food, he saw an Inferior wrestling with a goshawk. The goshawk, a white and black bird that looks slightly like a hawk version of a snowy owl, struck out at the Inferior with its beak. The Inferior began its transformation into a small girl. Dr. Trey took her into the shelter of the walls and began testing. He did some testing and found she was completely cured of the disease. Now, for the first time in five years, things are looking up.
    This is Morgan Loui 11/11/3000

  65. Eagles Vs. Titans
    158 words
    @JamieRHersh

    Calvin fastened the strap around the Milford Eagles’ mascot statue, then turned to his friends, Mark and Carl.
    “Everything’s good,” he told them, “let’s start a war.”
    The three friends grabbed the loose end of the rope and pulled.
    The pulleys squealed in protest as the trio heaved with the rage of a thousand unavenged wedgies.
    The statue toppled, landing with an anticlimactic thud.
    Carl surveyed the scene they’d staged. Titan Blue paint on the steps of Milford High relayed the message: “TITANS FOOTBALL RULZ!” Toilet paper hung from the surrounding foliage. The Milford Eagle lie in three broken pieces on the school’s front lawn.
    No one was going to suspect three scrawny geeks from the chess club.
    The boys recovered their pulley system, and hid it in Mark’s garage. Then they ran, laughing, to Calvin’s house, to toast their victory with shop-lifted malt liquor, and to celebrate with popcorn and a Lord of the Rings movie marathon.

  66. “Tracker”
    By Adrienne Myshel@amyshel7 (160 words)

    Surrounded by oblivious blue-collar guys and waitresses, the quartet lounged in the bar’s dark corner.

    I alone recognized their tell-tale reptilian stench. I am the Northern Hemisphere Tracker.
    World-Enders, they had begun with nine.

    Trackers had been successful, but not enough. Now their remnants were here. Eretria, Michigan.
    I grabbed my bourbon, left hand inside my jacket, and moved towards them.

    They’d arrive in peasants’ clothing and run marathon across a planet, never stopping, adjusting to each terrain’s gravitational force. Their pestilent footfall wrought havoc, conflagrating territories, instigating wars, erupting earthquakes, crashing moons. When Mars ignited last year, cremating itself, scientists dismissed it as meteor.

    The World-Enders meant to decimate our solar system.

    Not on my watch.

    Striped-shirt sensed me first. They rose, but I caught the slowest and delved my glowing left hand into his chest, immolating him. The trio blurred past me, and seconds later, I felt the Earth’s first tremble. At least I had saved our Sun.

  67. Photojournalist Hits the Wall
    David Shakes
    @TheShakes72
    160 words

    Is there bravery in instinct?
    With dust clogged lungs and piss running down your leg?
    We ran.
    They ran at my lense, effort writ large – like marathon runners at the twenty mile mark.
    They’d hit the wall but instinct propelled them forward… in to the smoke… in to hell.
    We ran.
    Lungs spewed forth fire and piss stains dried in the heat.
    We ran.
    They ran for their children in the school being shelled.
    They ran because the fires of their homes were like beacons of despair.
    I ran to capture it all, so the world might know; war might end.
    At first I stood back and snapped until something snapped in me.
    I lifted stone and steel, hands scrapped raw.
    I pulled her from the rubble, a rag doll barely breathing.
    I’ll never forget her father’s face when I placed her in his arms.
    I’ll never forget because someone else photographed it.
    And that’s what my paper ran.

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

    Run for your life

    I don’t remember what it was like to walk anywhere, it has been so long. Those damn shuffling corpses, they move just quick enough to catch you unawares if you’re daft enough to amble. I know the news keeps saying the soldiers will win, that the war will be over soon, but they’ve been saying that for years.

    It’s certainly done a lot to thin out the population, both numerically and literally. Not too many fatties can outrun a horde of ravenous flesh eaters that don’t sleep, at least not for long. The ones that managed it didn’t stay fat for very long, what with the constant exercise and stingy food rations.

    Still, it’s not a bad way to live a life, at least we are fit! Certainly helped to cure that impending obesity crisis. I suppose mother nature has a sense of humour after all. Now if we can just find a cure for blisters, we’ll be all set!

    @todayschapter
    160 words

  69. I Ran
    160 words

    The bombs thundered in the distance while I ran. There was nothing to run to, only the dreadful reality that I ran from. Fighting against the wind, I ran alone, too frightened of the now to be afraid of the future. My family dead, I ran alone, unable to absorb the loss. My possessions incinerated, I ran alone, the only baggage I carried was in my heart.

    My road joined another road, another runner. He ran alone, fighting the wind. He ran alone, frightened by the now. He ran alone, overwhelmed by grief. He ran alone, carrying no bags.

    We ran together. Together, we fought the wind. Together, we began to brave the now. Together, the numbness eased. Together, we could subsist without possessions.

    A third joined us. With three, we could encourage each other. With three, we could brave our pain. With three, we found that the lack of baggage made us free.

    We ran alone, together.

  70. OJALA

    “Ojala que corren rapido, mis amigos!”
    “I hope you run fast, my friends!”

    The five danced as shards of granite spit out around their feet on the high mountain ridge. Nothing but rocks ahead. And nothing but hope to carry them.

    Ten feet padded in staccato tempo. The mountain air crackled as shocks searched for the innocent four.

    “Corren! Run! Or we will be of the Disappeared!”

    The three had performed medical treatment on victims of war. Victims know no sides in their time of helplessness, and the two brought hope.

    Thin mountain air strained their breathing, slowed the pace, but not the echo of pursuants’ weapons.

    Hope drew them forward. Hope would meet them at the border. Two charged forward amidst the rain of hot metal.

    “Corren, mis amigos!” And one doctor reached the border, and safety, and hope.

    WC = 140, exclusive of title

  71. Mistaken

    We raced the wind like Hermes, but after the twenty-fourth mile, my lungs had begun to stage a revolt. I gasped for air, but Jose and Derek didn’t show any sign of fatigue.

    I quickly peeked behind but didn’t see a single member of the posse. I gave the thumbs up sign to my partners and continued to ride the wind. I could almost see the shanty houses at the edge of the town.

    We were almost home; we had almost won the war.

    “Stop where you are!” A booming voice came from a distance. Derek was the first one to fall. Jose stopped in his tracks and spun around in an eerie pirouette and was hit before I could come to a full stop. I lifted my hands above my head and faced the voice.

    Sheriff Johnson came forward and recognized me. Too late now, my partners were down.

    I handed the confiscated drug stash to him.

    158 words
    @needanidplease
    Note: Muse is unruly today and time illusive!

  72. Switching Relays
    150 words
    @mishmhem

    It was supposed to have been a relay race, but someone had decided at the last minute that a marathon would make for better excitement. Ben wondered if the ‘Powers That Be’ had caught wind of the plan and changed things up just to make things interesting.

    Ben hated ‘interesting.’

    The plan had been a simple one : a trio of couriers who were to have relayed the secret plans to the finish line where they would be delivered to him.

    If things had gone according to plan, he would have known who had the plans and any given time, now it was anybody’s guess who had the plans. This meant Ben would only have one chance to pick the right courier.

    As one they crossed the finish line. Ben paused, took a deep breath and made his move. One shot, three couriers and the Cola wars were finally ended.

    • I always love little sarcastic comments like: “Ben hated ‘interesting.’” This made me smile. I don’t really understand the ending, but I want to. Could you please clarify it for me?

      • They were spies, smuggling out a secret plan (in this case recipe). Ben was, presumably supposed to be receiving the plans but it turns out he was supposed to stop them before they got the plans to their intended recipient… If they hadn’t been side by side, he would have only been able to take one of them out before the others scattered…

        Since they were all together… he took one shot taking them out. The last line was to imply that rather than some secret maneuver or weapon… it was the recipe for a cola that was going to be replicated…

        The problem with keeping the fiction so short is the reader has to draw conclusions based on what’s written and sometimes… that requires more than 160 words… and the writer’s point of reference/inference isn’t always the same as the readers.

        Hope this helps.

  73. Elisa @AverageAdvocate
    “War Legs”
    WC 160
    —————–

    Run. Run faster.

    They galloped east. They skittered west. Now they trampled south.

    Let those legs fly!

    It always got tricky when they ran south. The dark trees spiked from the ground, a landscape barren but full of what mattered most- terra firma.

    As their feet pounded down, the powdery dirt collected their energy. It was genius, really. The equation was this: Directional Movement x Strength Expended = Fight Power.

    (As if a war was won any other way.)

    And so they ran for their children and their mothers. Their sweet sweat translated into security. At least, as long as they could bound on.

    Eventually, when they reached the power of ten in all four directions, the ground would shake, earth tumbling over itself, thrusting the enemies aside.

    Only then did the land rest at peace and these inhabitants in garbled socks and wool trousers kicked up their feet, pull their daughters in their laps, enjoying iced mint tea once more.

    • Oops, I mis-edited this while copying to post. The last sentence was supposed to read as such for better clarity and tense:
      “Only then would the land rest at peace and these inhabitants– in garbled socks and wool trousers– kick-up their feet, pull their daughters into their laps, and enjoy iced mint tea once more.”

    • I like your take on the prompt! The concept of the earth collecting the energy of the runners’ love for their family and then redirecting it as a means of protection is a great idea. “And so they ran for their children and their mothers.Their sweet sweat translated into security.” Very well-crafted piece!

    • Imaginative and compelling! Love this: “As their feet pounded down, the powdery dirt collected their energy. It was genius, really. The equation was this: Directional Movement x Strength Expended = Fight Power. ” Well done!

  74. I don’t see my comment submission from yesterday, so I am re-posting. I know it’s too late now for the contest, but I want to share it anyway. I haven’t participated in a long while, so I want to jump back on this horse at a steady gallop.

    I really enjoyed reading everyone’s submissions. I hope they, likewise, enjoy mine.

    Second-best
    160 words

    I had come to collect my mother’s things and handmaidens from the mountain, but that was all. We had almost finished when, at the entryway, someone tied a young woman to a post.
    I rubbed my temples and sighed.
    A voice spoke, “Hon-hon-honor the peace we had with your mother! Accept this wretch for her sin of vanity!”
    The girl mewled softly, resigned. Three men stepped into sight. Behind me, blocked from view, I heard the handmaidens weep.
    I gripped the chin of the closest man, one squeeze away from crushing his jaw, “How is it that a dragon treats your women better than you do? Two of you, tell the village. I’m not my mother. I take my meals in battle. And, now that you’re here, I’m growing hungry.”
    “Ta-ta-two?”
    I grinned, “The second fastest home gets the treatment you expected me to give her, so season yourself well as your run. I can’t stand the taste of cowardice.”

    Now, I’m off to comment on a few entries that stuck in my head! Great job on this one!

    • Hi Brittni–I am so sorry about the submission problem. Not sure what happened; I don’t see it stuck in spam. If you run into problems next time, please tweet or DM me and I’ll do what I can to help. Thank you for posting today so people can still get a chance to read your work.

    • Hope to see more of you then! I really liked this idea of their misconceptions about dragons, especially “How is it that a dragon treats your women better than you do? Two of you, tell the village. I’m not my mother.’ Fantastic and unexpected. …”so season yourself well as your run. I can’t stand the taste of cowardice.” What a great line!!

  75. Call for empathy!
    W.C 160 words
    @priyanka14

    While I was rushing fast to win my morning marathon the TV news flashed. A bunch of hooligans pelted stones over army men. It made be dumbfounded. Kids were ready for school. I passed on Tiffins, kissed goodbye and made minimal movement. There was no war, except the one that is on from decades. The flooded river had blocked the whole valley and the natives need help. They need food. They need rescue. Men in uniform amidst all the resistance are vying to help the needed. However few who can neither extend help nor bolster the rescue chose to run behind the guards.

    The sudden thump, made me reach my yesteryears. From a zealous writer I have willingly confined myself into my home. Am I holding back a hand of help? Am I giving back the due? Do I need help? Perplexed I looked at the clock and switched on the laundry as it was time to get that done.

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