Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 41

Howdy, folks, and welcome back to another rip-roaring, fresh-outta-the-box Flash! Friday! And speaking of out of the box, it’s my sincere hope that y’all will gnash your teeth at me over today’s totally cliched prompt. And then write about something else altogether. More than one judge has commented in recent weeks on their attention being consistently drawn by the stories that “stand out” from the pack. So I dare you to look past the surface, past the obvious, and write the story lurking offstage.

It’s a real pleasure to introduce you to the magnificent castle in Syria known as the Krak de Chevaliers (Qalat al-Hosn). This place is something else. Built into its present form around 1200AD it’s, yes, a Crusader castle, and invaders simply could not bust their way into this place (take a look at its walls!). And now, you are saying, please explain how you arrived at this glorious castle On This Day In History. –Well, I’m so glad you asked! On this day precisely 80 years ago, Bruno Hauptman was arrested in New York for the murder of Charles Lindbergh’s little boy. And that put me in mind of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (have you read that? love it), and suddenly I found myself in Aleppo at the Baron Hotel, where she wrote part of that disturbing tale (I’ll have thirteen orders of justice for takeaway, please). And now you have arrived with me at the Krak, where I will watch safely hidden in the curtains as you wend your mysterious way onward.


Wending her way onward on a daily (offbeat) basis, because that’s how she rolls, is returning judge Betsy Streeter. Excellent flash, she says, is all about economy and detail. Read the translation of that curious phrase here.   


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.   

Now, grab a battering ram 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 “Lawrence of Arabia'”):

Include a marriage proposal

***Today’s Prompt:

Krak de Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin.

Krak des Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin.

779 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 41

  1. Persistence
    by JM6, 156 words, @JMnumber6

    Relaxing on the bed, he had to admit: it was a hell of a view, an ancient castle as seen through a hotel room window. Then again, she was probably there when it was built and she’ll still be around long after it crumbles back into the dust and sand from which it rose.

    Unless it already had. He couldn’t really be sure how much time had passed, here inside the bottle.

    She entered from the balcony, as if she had been just around the corner, there but unseen. “Hello, my love. Have you reconsidered, yet? Will you marry me?”

    He stood, pleading with her. “I’ve told you. I’m already married. Just let me go. Please.”

    The djinn shook her head. “I can’t do that. I hold the key to your freedom, my love, and you hold the key to mine.” As she faded from view, she said, “You’ll come to see it my way, eventually.”


  2. Josh Bertetta
    157 Words


    Life is a darkroom.

    They say it’s not a black and white thing, that we can’t divide things and frame them is such neat and tidy ways. I thought they were right and in believing them I could capture some semblance of life. I thought I could develop my life into something worthwhile, maybe even contribute something..

    But now in my hotel room, exposed to the war-torn streets, peering out my window toward a history no one will ever know, past a history that in time none will remember, I wonder, were they right?

    Life is black and white.

    Isn’t it?

    I asked her a simple yes or no question. She said no.

    Those outside don’t ask “maybe” or “I’ll think about it” questions.

    They ask you yes or no questions.

    If you say yes, you’ll live.

    If you say no, you’ll die.

    The guns fire bullets as fast as my camera shoots frames per second.


  3. Kathy Maffei
    151 Words

    From The Bed

    “We still stand little man”.

    His eyes caress the high walls. Looking for some weakness. Anything. He sees nothing. Only solid stone. And dust. Dust on everything. A slight breeze and it blows around and settles again. He turns from the window, looking to the plaster ceiling. It’s cracked and peeling in the corner. He looks to the table. His watch, a pack of smokes, a matchbook from the café across the street, several empty wine bottles and that hateful ring; shiny and mocking.

    “No.” The cold word hangs in the air days later. The skin still feeling the brush of a last kiss.

    ” I would break those walls for you. Those impossible walls will fall. If you would just be
    mine!“ He remembered gesturing over the city, pleading.

    He looks back to the window. His eyes closing as he settles into the air vibrating with the laughter of dusty walls.


  4. Then

    When he was a younger man. That is what he thinks of now.
    Years that burst with vivacity, fresh cracked pepper verve and sharp cedar lust. Years that allowed for leisurely, decadent hours spent in bed, thinking, composing a life’s song to be danced across the streets of every corner of the world. Decadent hours that belonged to him alone when he preferred and with company when he did not.
    This man did not know how many hopes won’t bear fruit. He doesn’t know of whom he will fall in love.
    Chocolate and tobacco. A scent so like his own and so different in its origins.
    Secrecy and shame over something that feels like the essence of him. He knows that for them there is no marriage proposal, no family life there. The world he wants to see does not want to see them in return. So he leaves. And continues his bittersweet composition.
    Now, a story, nothing more.

    159 words


  5. Song of the Night Owl
    155 words – @scturnbull

    Bright sunshine bleached the castle white and painful to look at. Lilith turned to the wall.
    Adam watched her, flinching as another mortar round crumped near-bye.
    “You can’t do this. We’re married,” he said.
    She remained facing the wall. Her voice was quiet, but firm. “We were joined. It wasn’t a marriage.”
    “How can you say that?”
    She turned back.
    “‘Here, you’re married’ is a fait accompli, not a proposal. I was never asked. Never asked.”
    “I’m asking you to stay married to me. Begging you.”
    Gun fire rattled in the street. An explosion pummelled the air. The room shook, dust drifted from the ceiling. They looked at a dirty cloud rising from the castle and drifting on the breeze.
    A corner tower was slumped down the hillside. The sun cast a deep shadow on the exposed interior.
    “They bombed the castle,” Adam said.
    “Everything is being destroyed.”
    “Some things were already rubble.”


  6. Freedom
    151 words @lsunil

    My princess will be now getting ready to meet me. I look at the tickets in my hand, tickets to freedom. Mom had asked me, “Is she a real princess? Why does she want to be free?” She isn’t a real princess, but she is the princess of my heart, of my life. I want to take her far away from slavery, get married, start a family.
    Princess looked across the window of the castle at the swanky new hotel. Putting on her earrings, she looks at the mirror. She looks at the unused broom at the corner of the room. Today, finally she will escape from this castle. The curse will be lifted. The curse which said, “Only a man who truly loves you, can set you free”. She waited over 600 years for this day. She smiles demurely into the mirror. The image in the mirror laughs back wickedly.


  7. Like a Dali Painting

    Three months in the hotel and he hadn’t been inspired to write a single word. He spent the days lying in bed fully dressed, except for his oxfords which he kept by the door.

    His fiancé frequently called, and he’d tell her, “just a few more days.” But the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. He started forgetting why he’d come to the hotel. He’d proposed then promised to write her a vow that would make even the apathetic weep; that, he was certain of. But what he wasn’t certain of was why it mattered. He wasn’t even sure what his fiancé looked like anymore.

    Replacing the memory of her was the vista; the long, languorous curtains, the sharp angled doorframe, textures of the distant castle, and the surreal curves of terrace guardrails. It was like a Dali painting. Lying there he felt forgotten by time, and he was content in letting forever pass him by.

    159 words


  8. Dream Wedding
    160 words ….@lsunil

    ‘Why for god’s sake do you want to get married in this castle?’ Jim demanded.

    ‘I have always dreamt of a castle wedding?’ Gina reasoned.

    ‘It’s costing me $50K!’ he shouted. ‘Are you listening?’ he followed her.

    ‘Don’t you love me honey? You said you will get me the brightest diamonds, the most expensive gifts when you proposed. I am just exercising my rights.’

    They hurried to the wedding room setup in the castle among family and friends.

    Jim hesitates as he suddenly hears a booming voice in his head. ‘You will be a poor man in 3 years’. He calls out to Gina. ‘Sorry dear, I can’t marry you. I can’t let you spend my money like this’, he gets into his car and drives off to the nearby hotel.

    Gina smiles and thinks, ‘Good riddance!’. She marries her true love Tim at the castle and sends the wedding bill to Jim. Anything to make a dream come true!


  9. A Fairy Tale Prince?
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    158 words

    It was so simple when we walked hand in hand along that golden beach our hearts warmed by the tropical sun. She was my princess and nothing in the world would keep our love apart. But then I hadn’t seen her stepfather’s castle. What’s more these sheets don’t feel that strong to me. I could plummet to my death just climbing down from my window.

    We were carried away by the romance, the story that would begin our fairy tale lives together. A knight of old carrying away his lady fair against the wishes of her evil guardian. However, I hadn’t appreciated the height of those walls and no doubt there will be guards, armed guards. Yes, I want to be in arms of my beloved, but dying in those arms tonight is less appealing. No, no, I’m no coward, but there’s no point in being a foolish, dead hero is there? Hey ho, win some, lose some.


  10. @pamjplumb
    94 words

    ‘Love Hurts’

    She left while he wasn’t looking. Head turned away, overlooking the city, pondering the history and its people, forgetting her momentarily; he never even heard the door. Focused on the wedding white walls of the castle, he hadn’t listened properly.

    Now, in the silence of her wake, all he could do was listen; listen to the echoes of his own vacuous promises of love, of marriage that she rejected with each shake of her head.

    She left nothing of herself, no tokens of a lost love, only the precarious digital imprint in his camera.


  11. ‘Til Death Do Us Part
    (158 words)

    His favourite shirt. His favourite trousers. His favourite view. The process was almost complete.

    He proposed to me on the balcony of this hotel room that he had carefully selected.
    A well travelled, history buff who knew all there was to know about sport, and an artistic, scientist who knew all there was to know about film: we were a match made in quiz team heaven.
    He’d tell me I was all facts and hourglass figure. I’d tell him to whisper in my ear the dates of historical battles while we made love.

    I knew from the outset I could never bear losing him. I’d never find anyone else this perfect for me.That’s why I started studying the ancient art: an insurance policy of sorts.

    Once satisfied, I swung open the balcony doors allowing the odour of the formaldehyde out. Finally, I perched between his fingers the last cigarette he’d dragged on – a little breath of life.


  12. @avalina_kreska
    (160 words)


    Martin’s gaze fell on the castle, still standing after 814 years.There was something about its grandeur, its fortitude, its refusal to crumple and fall. It was a difficult decision to make. On the darkened desk in the corner lay the proposal. Did he want to take a leap in the dark despite his inner warnings? No different from a marriage, once you’ve signed the contract there’s no going back without a heck of a lot of heartache and paperwork.

    England and Scotland have been divided before. The old wounds still suppurated in secret, the haves and have nots, divided hearts never sit well until someone demands the surgeons scalpel. Shouts rise. Hammers fall. Neighbour stands with fists, ready for blood. Oil flows between us all.

    Martin walked to the desk and picked up the pen. Momentarily his hand wavered. Shaking, he ticked the ‘NO’ box. He placed the vote in the envelope.

    ‘The castle stands and always will.’ He thought.


  13. From the Window
    145 words

    They met in the Baron Hotel again, in the beautiful suite with the view of the castle. They lay entwined on ruffled sheets, the breeze from the window cooling their sweat-slicked bodies and carrying the sounds of the market below. He ran his fingers over her copper skin, never seen by another man let alone touched.
    “Marry me,” he said.
    “Come back to England with me and marry me.”
    “Please stop. You know I can’t shame my family.”
    He turned away, the illusion was broken. He felt her rise from the bed and begin to dress: to hide her beauty from the world.
    “Will I see you next week?” she asked from the doorway.
    “Yes, I’ll look for you from the window.”
    Now he waits in the Baron Hotel, in the detestable suite with the view of the castle. Will she ever come out?


  14. Castle of the Kurds
    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog
    160 words

    They come on horses, numb from the weight of armour. They carry swords stained by the red liquid of life, extinguished. They come on tourist buses, dragging their wheeled suitcases, bang-bang-bang over my cobbled streets.

    But…it is I that watches them.

    I stare at them through my battlements adorned with ancient text. My towers of worship and pain scan the streets and hotel rooms, peering in; looking for him. I’m tired of crusading knights; driven by obliteration and the glory of their god versus all others.

    Yet, one day he came to me. T .E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. He was worthy. A knight who rejected the glory of knighthood. The embodiment of charisma, passion and bravery. He knows forbidden love, as do I. He gazes at me, and I at him. A proposal of marriage, we’ll be entwined by prose and verse.

    Immortalised in ink; scribed the on thin pages of deadened trees. Our love, eternal, will never die.


  15. @avalina_kreska
    (158 words)


    Martin’s gaze fell on the castle, still standing after 814 years.There was something about its grandeur, its fortitude, its refusal to crumple and fall. It was a difficult decision to make. On the darkened desk in the corner lay the proposal. Did he want to take a leap in the dark despite his inner warnings? No different from a marriage, once you’ve signed the contract there’s no going back without a heck of a lot of heartache and paperwork.

    England and Scotland have been divided before. The old wounds still suppurated in secret, the haves and have nots, divided hearts never sit well until someone demands the surgeons scalpel. Shouts rise. Hammers fall. Neighbour stands with fists, ready for blood. Oil flows between us all.

    Martin walked to the desk and picked up the pen. Momentarily his hand wavered. Shaking, he ticked the ‘YES’ box. He placed the vote in the envelope.

    ‘What have I done?’ He thought.


  16. Ram

    It’s my fault.

    After less than a day, her skin turned pink and her hair started clinging to her neck in sweaty loops, but she was still beautiful. So beautiful.

    It’s my fault.

    We’d eaten. There’d been wine. I just asked her, right there, by the side of the road. One knee, and all, but no ring. No ring.

    She said ‘yes’, and everyone around us clapped.

    It’s my fault.

    She spotted a junk-stall across the road. Tourist tat, souvenirs, that sort of thing – and rings, plastic ones with fake gems. A modern woman buys her own bling, she’d laughed as she dashed out.

    She forgot which way to look.

    It’s my fault.

    Now I am the besieging army, and I am the fortress wall. I shore up the cracks as quickly as I make them, but the assault never stops. It can never stop. I will not let it.

    It’s my fault.
    It’s my fault.
    It’s my fault.

    160 words


  17. As a Good Man Does
    149 words

    Please forgive me, Antonio, my love.

    I know this is all my doing. In my fervor, I discounted your warnings, your pleas. I believed better of them. But of course you were right. You always were, amour. They didn’t understand, didn’t want to, didn’t try.

    I was naive, the trance of a blissful future only broken by the flashes of torchlight against their blades. And for that, I am alone, whilst here you lie, wed instead to the earth that covers you.

    I have been hiding for days, waiting for this moment to be alone with you one last time. I will leave tonight, to find another village, another home, another existence. Someday, I will find a wife, as a good, upstanding man does, and we will have so many children no one will question again. This is all I can do to repay the debt of your blood.


  18. Dwayne III’s Bargain

    May 8, 2149

    Corporal Dwayne Charles Hicks III lay in bed, gazing upon a land that appeared not to have changed in thousands of years. Just a kilometer away from this tableau out of the Arabian Nights sat the mighty spaceport controlled by the United Federation of the Middle East.
    A little over two weeks from now, Dwayne would be on the planet Cronos 7, which was near the constellation Taurus. He hoped his team would find nothing, but he couldn’t help wondering if the sinking feeling stomach was something more than acid reflux caused by the awful fare served up by the Military.
    “If I come home,” Dwayne bargained with whatever deity might be listening, “I’m going to propose to Stacey, and I’m going to retire from the Military. Don’t know what I’ll do for work, but it’ll be better than making her worry every time I go away.”

    150 words
    Thalia from @UndeadNether
    Also published at http://hickswyliedna.blogspot.com/2014/09/dwayne-iiis-bargain.html


  19. A World of Waiting

    John shut the curtains on both view and sun. They were for later. It had seemed simple at first. So few words to create; a minute – micro – task, really. Instead, he was staring at the current blank page, sitting in silence, wishing he were anywhere but shut away from distractions, waiting for the whispered words to rescue him, crumpled papers mounting in the bin by the bed. They were slow at it, though he knew they would be there. They always were, somewhere, hidden away. Until then, he and the room were wed together; the simple proposal – proving anything but – accepted on opening the door. He would not leave his world of waiting until they were documented. Only then could he consider other offers. Tempting though they might be, he would prove himself faithful. He hoped they would hurry though. He wasn’t keen on the concept of a forever commitment, vow aside. He liked life outside four walls.

    (160 words)



  20. Bishop to Castle Four
    by A J Walker

    The Count was doing it all as it was supposed to be done. Nice meal, champagne, flowers and then down on one knee. He was thoroughly delighted when, after an appropriate pause, she agreed to be his wife.

    Julia had looked down on him, as he struggled to balance his knee on the stone rampart floor, thinking how pitifully small he appeared in the moonlight. All the clichés, quite endearing and yet embarrassing too.

    The Count couldn’t believe his luck, the elegant woman had come from nowhere, stolen his heart. Everyone in the town was enchanted by this mysterious beauty.

    Across the bay from the castle Malcolm lay in the hotel room wondered how Julia’s night was going. His wife always seemed to close the deal, but there was inevitably an element of doubt. His phone buzzed on the pillow, the message simply read, ‘I’m getting married, again.’

    Malcolm smiled and reached out for his wine. The con was on.

    (160 words)


  21. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 159

    Castles of Air

    I’d known her since that time I pasted mud across her face, when we made pies in the gutter and called them chocolate. Her pigtails morphed to ponytails, and then her hair swung low across her back. I proposed marriage to her in the apple orchard when we were nine.

    She baked apple pies for the reception instead of the traditional wedding cake. We made plans, she and I, for the honeymoon—a trip to Europe, to walk the old ways through history as we tour the ancient architecture, visit graves and smile at the Beefeaters in London’s Tower.

    Fate called her before her time, left me to walk alone, to finish the pages of this book we’d begun. The pictures blazed in full color until she went; now their edges are tinged with brown.

    I went to Europe anyway, painting the chapters with washed-out colors, gripping my aching brush to render the unfinished stories, building castles in the air.


  22. The Crusader


    The stark light of the mirror betrayed the price. Line etched eyes, echoing the slashes Elijah had scarred into faded grey walls. Counting days in a life outside time, insubstantial to the staccato world lying beyond the bars.


    An existence spent subjected to threats, propositions and fears. Strengthened only by cherished memories of Krak Des Chevaliers’ twilight interior. The caress of interlaced fingers, of shared pulses racing. Walking in shadow, the pain of longing giving them courage. Seeking escape, seeking their true self. Stolen clandestine moments, lips entwined, shared breath.

    That fateful morning, whispered promises of a future, a ring slid onto Elijah’s finger.

    Walking outside together, apart, the police waiting in the morning light.


    Elijah rested his elbows on the railing of the balcony. Chavaliers lay before him basking in the afternoon light. The hotel door opened, Firas entered, older, hurting, still beautiful. Wearing those very clothes he wore three years ago.

    Fingers interlacing.



    160 words


  23. The Fairy Tale

    She defeated the cab driver, who drove away cursing. She put her trusty smartphone back into its case and gazed up at the soaring tower. Just inside, the concierge pinned her with a fierce glare. Undaunted she swept on. She’d try every door if she had to. Mounting the staircase she made for the top floor. She guessed where he’d be – he’d always built castles in the air and dwelt among them. In her bag, the phials of precious liquid clinked.

    The scent of him drew her along the passage ‘til she paused, hand on heart, outside his room. Inside she slipped through the shadowy quiet to stand by his bed. His eyes did not open but his lips curved. When he’d asked her to marry him, all those years ago, she’d thought that he was rescuing her. Slowly she bent and kissed his damp forehead, removed the empty syringe from the cover beside him.

    156 words


  24. Scheherezade’s Dream
    160 words

    That’s the view he likes best, he tells me – that specific perspective. The foreground obscured, truly a castle in the air.

    That’s reality, I want to tell him. Ancient stone constructed on the firmest of foundations. We are the fairy tale in this modernity. That’s what I want to tell him, but I won’t. Why disabuse him? I need him to be the romantic, the dreamer. How would it work otherwise?

    He maintains a parody of relaxation, his chiaroscuro mood. How they like to be in control, for it to appear effortless! His jaw keeps flinching, chewing my question over.

    My proposal.

    It makes it sound like a business proposition. Makes it sound like what it is. But he doesn’t need to know. Let him see the fantasy, let this rich man dream of rescuing maidens and living in castles if it buys his name. What’s a name to me? Just a breath of air. Names are easily disposed of.


  25. Crusading on a Sunday afternoon
    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog
    160 words

    She’d left him, again.

    She’d be back.

    He’s a catch.

    Sure, she moaned about his bedroom and the Power Rangers bedding. She complained about the once-white socks now covering the floor like permafrost. She wore gloves while picking up the radioactive coloured half-eaten cheese-puff packets.

    She even nagged about the lack of intimacy, caused by his mum’s sonar hearing and the subsequent banging on the door, “Geoffoooorrey! No more hanky-panky.”

    Geoffrey (or Pug_Face9 as he liked to be called), wasn’t born for this mundane existence, or stressy girlfriends.

    He was a crusader. A king of lands. Master of civilisations. Destroyer of beasts. Creator of worlds. Minecraft pioneer.

    Who needs glass windows, when you can have a flat screen TV? Any view you like at the touch of a button.

    On the screen, the creation that had taken months. The castle of Krak des Chevaliers. And in the sky, clouds that spelled “Will you marry me?”

    She looked.

    She ran.


  26. Mea Culpa – Judge’s Entry, Just for Fun!
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke)
    160 words

    He’d been promised glory and honor, a place in history as a defender of the true faith. What he got was mind-numbing boredom. An impregnable castle and months of nothing but marching and stewing and raging at the enemy.

    So he’d impregnated something else. Not on purpose, of course. The market maidens had been a welcomed distraction for lonely nights and lonely knights. How could he have known Marisa’s father was a sorcerer, a practicer of dark magic?

    He’d done the noble thing. He’d asked her to marry him. But that had not been enough to appease Ahmad.

    Eight hundred years into the future, Ahmad had thrown him.

    The women in the marketplace still cast surreptitious glances at him, appreciation for his face evident in their eyes.

    He never noticed. He only had eyes for the castle. Besieged by remorse, by loss, by the sense of what might have been.

    “Forgive me, Marisa, for I have sinned,” he whispered. Daily.


  27. The Vanishing Wedding
    Evan Montegarde
    160 words

    It was to be a quick proposal and immediate wedding, choreographed to accommodate a Wall Street schedule, Krak des Chevaliers seemed the perfect place for the ceremony; until it became clear it contained a roaming wormhole. Brando proposed as scheduled on the ramparts then vanished when Sheila merely turned away to add blush. The entire Mariachi band imported from Guadalajara for the reception was missing, only their fabulous sombreros left behind. The tussled Mother of the Bride insisted she had just made ravenous love to Benjamin Franklin in a colonial Inn behind Independence Hall.

    Only Shelia’s Dad Alastair seemed unfazed as he staggered to the highest tower of the castle, He opened the ancient wooden door there and walked through. Seconds later, he walked out clutching a dark green bottle capped in wax.

    “Now that is well-aged single malt,” Alastair exclaimed as he opened the plug and drank deeply from the bottle Rob Roy had handed him a minute earlier.


  28. Wrong Motives
    160 words

    Mira liked history, otherwise he wouldn’t be here. Walking out to where she stood on the balcony, he stared out at the massive castle walls. So huge and beastlike, they scared him even more than the plan formulating in his head. And Mira wasn’t exactly calming, either. Squinting through her glasses, chattering about how priests had been martyred at those very walls. Of all the things to talk about.

    Abruptly, he grabbed her hand. “Do you want to get martyred?”

    What? No! Wrong word.

    She stared at him, the reflection from her glasses almost blinding. “What?”

    Ready to puke, he corrected himself, “Do you want to get married?”

    He regretted asking as soon as he uttered the question. He knew what she would say. It wasn’t fair to have asked.

    A huge smile. “YES!” she nearly shouted.

    Crap. Now he’d done it. But she was a good cook and he was so very tired of eating his own burnt food.


  29. Grooming
    149 words

    The proposal took me weeks to write. You don’t often get the chance to apply. As soon as I saw the ad, I chased referees, called in favours, bartered wildly. Anything to escape the drudgery.

    Life in the palace: that’ll be different. You’ve got status, as a husband. Perks. French cuisine. Library card. You can just go for a run, outside, whenever you feel like it. I mean, look. Even this holding room’s got a window. That sun. It’s so bright.

    It’s been a while, now. I wonder how the assessment’s going. They’ll be in again, tomorrow, the two of them, on those chairs next to the fridge. They ask the weirdest questions.

    I think I’ve done OK, so far. The next round’s practical. Tasks, tests, group work. I should be all right, as long as I keep my eye out. Can’t have anyone pushing me down the stairs.


  30. The Newsroom
    @voimaoy #flashdog
    160 words

    I wanted to be here. Outside the window, the City of the Butterflies. The Crusaders fortress. The calls to morning prayer.

    I had an assignment here. I was covering a war.

    She stood framed on the balcony. My muse, here. Kim. Asian cheekbones, black hair, photographic genius. We could work so well together.

    But she wasn’t my partner. She was with Jeffrey. At first I thought they were father and daughter, but they were a couple. Why?

    “Wake up, Rick.”

    “What a sight to wake up to. Marry me?”

    “Stop it. It’s time to get up.”

    “I’m serious. Marry me.”

    “I’m serious, too. Jeffrey sent me. We have to go now.”

    We headed downstairs to the newsroom, typewriters clacking away. Jeffrey handed me a cup of coffee. “Here, drink this.”

    “What’s up?”

    “Butterfly migration. Look out the window.”

    Yellow butterflies were everywhere, swirling over the towers. Kim started snapping pictures.

    “What’s that about?”

    Jeffrey smiled. “An omen of peace,” he said.


  31. Broken Window
    156 words

    Jim threw open the blinds and took a deep breath of fresh air. They were finally on vacation! He knew Steve was going to propose somewhere romantic. He hoped it would be on the beach –

    He blinked.

    “Was there a castle yesterday?”

    Steve set down his book and came to the window.

    “What the crap?” Steve said eloquently.

    Jim closed and reopened the blinds. The castle was gone and in its place long-necked dinosaurs ate leaves off of tall trees.

    Impossible, real-live freakin’ dinosaurs.

    Steve’s eyes were wide.

    “This window is teleporting us through time! We could see history unfold before our eyes! This is amazing!”

    Jim pulled the cord twice more.

    Outside, a T-Rex devoured the castle from earlier.

    Twice more.

    A pterodactyl dressed as a clown threw a pie at the window.

    “On second thought, I’m going to ask for our money back,” Steve said.

    Jim thought that was probably for the best.


  32. I Take Thee
    160 words
    This isn’t a ‘Death Be My Lover’ kind of tale. Not that he hasn’t tried – he has, on his terms. Then, one irrational night when I was sad and scared and sought comfort in his embrace, I knocked on his door.
    “Elope with me,” I begged.
    He turned me away, saying, “It’s no fun like this.”
    So, now Death and I, we have an agreement. His promise of forever I will accept sweetly only after a life of hard running. He’ll give me chase over land, sea, and air; I will taunt him as befitting my nature, because no creature mocks Death as well as I.
    He will laugh, indulging my hubris even as he haunts my mortality, and I will run for so long when he appears for the final time my first instinct will be to run, again: even as I’m grateful; even as I’m tired; even as I say yes to forever.


  33. A Dangerous Game
    John Mark Miller – 150 words

    “Madame, would you do me the great honor…of becoming my wife?”

    Evelyn’s cheeks had glistened with soft tears as she whispered, “Yes…my knight.” Her radiant eyes had warmed his soul, and with a shock, he realized that he had fallen hopelessly in love with Evelyn Devereaux.

    But it’s a dangerous game, courting a thief.

    Now he lay in the hotel room for a long moment, gazing at the impregnable walls of the old castle and savoring the memories locked within them. A few feet away, in the hotel safe, lay the heirloom diamonds he had quietly lifted from Evelyn’s dresser.

    Hot tears scalded his face. He had slipped through Evelyn’s defenses, but had not emerged unscathed. Her heart was surely broken, but his was forever lost.

    It really is a dangerous game… courting a thief.


  34. The Crusade

    Henry was kneeling when Marion made her proposal, scrabbling in the dirt beneath her furious gaze.

    “I want a divorce.”

    He ignored her, eyes down, brushing away at the curved edge of a drinking bowl.

    “Did you hear me? I’m done with your stupid quest!”

    He tugged at the rim of the cup, forgetting his archaeological training in his need to not hear. His fingernail tore on the metal and his blood splashed into the plain looking cup.

    And then he knew.


    Marion stepped down into the pit, crushing priceless antiquities with her thoroughly unsuitable shoes. Henry stood, swung the bloodied cup and added a fresh jet to the draught it already held.

    He buried her in the dig site, then returned to their room, overlooking the Templars’ last redoubt. He was lonely, but he knew he needn’t stay that way.

    Not anymore.

    “Marion,” he commanded.

    The blood in the Grail shivered to the sound of her answering laugh.

    160 words


  35. Cardboard Castles

    I unpack my suit and shoes, and lie back on the bed for a rest.

    So, this is it.

    I position my gaze out of the window while my mind’s eye wanders restlessly. I smile, suddenly remembering the day when she asked me to marry her. She was rather indignant when I declined- in fact, I just laughed, of course, and laughed.

    But today, she will become the princess that she always was. Her transformation will be complete; this is the end, the happily ever after. The girl that I remember will be gone.

    “Hello there!”

    She pops her head round the door. “Found your room okay, then?”

    There is already a tiara twinkling in her hair.

    “You look so…so grown up!” I whisper.

    She just laughs, of course, and laughs: “Well, I am twenty-six you know, Dad!”

    My memory is clinging to candles and cakes, to fairy-tales told, to cardboard castles built.

    I don’t want to give her away.

    160 words


  36. I don’t expect to win anything for this, really. It was more for my satisfaction than anything else. Twistless fluffy stories are usually outside my range…

    The Glory of Gloria
    A glorious day it was, and he lay on his back, basking in the sunshine that streamed in through the wide, open window of the castle… thinking, as always, of Gloria.
    She permeated every fibre of his being, every second of the day. And it had been so for years. Many warm years, since he had fallen completely and irrevocably in love with her.
    Today was a special day, and today he thought of her more than usual, which was saying something. Four years ago, on this very day, he had proposed to her. It had been a grand affair, with a ballroom full of rose petals and himself down on one knee, gazing into her tear-filled eyes with such love shining in his eyes that a mother’s love for her daughter would be rivalled.
    On this day, four years back, he had asked her, ‘Gloria, will you marry me?’
    The answer had been glorious indeed.


  37. Fairyfail
    160 words
    Dear suitor,
    Hello! Thank you for your engagement application. This is a task many a man would die for. First and foremost, physical fitness needs are paramount in order to be successful, and as such, we urge you not to give up based on a few pesky hurdles.

    Requirements are:
    -Travel resilience
    Must be able to ride or walk for days at a time
    -Shrewd judge of character
    Lately, pirates have been seen on Twitter (#showmethemoney) bragging about tossing passengers overboard to keep the fare and avoid the island.
    -Be Species Conscious
    Knowledge of endangered Draconis Occidentalis anatomy required for sedative suppository to be effective
    -Peak Reflexes
    See previous requirement
    -Fireproof clothing
    No waking the Princess while singed naked
    -Good time management
    Must get in, get out, and get off the island before sedative wears off

    Let us know when to expect you,
    The Queen and I

    Your Highnesses,
    Nope, nope, nope, fuck you, and nope.
    Prince Charming


  38. Tourists vs. Ex-Pats
    by Nancy Chenier
    159 words

    Tourists vs. Ex-pats

    The first time Ari visited, I pegged him for a tourist. He clutched his mother’s hand when Mina nosed his pockets. No native kid from here to sunrise was intimidated by goats. I linked fingers with him because we shared an age and an incongruity.

    “Deema, leave them alone,” Ommah said, rolling out flatbread.

    “But they’re like us.”

    She sighed. “They are and they aren’t.”


    Ari returned at the time of conquest, when a citadel crouched over the shepherd camp. Bolder, he clambered up the slopes to stroke the coarse hides of the animals. I greeted him, startling him, our shared language emerging from my sunbaked face.


    He visited one last time, when bombs crippled the walls that centuries never shattered. Goats abandoned, I took cover in the village.

    “I came back for you” he called, leaning from the hotel balcony.

    The ground growled under my feet.

    “We’re alike,” he said to my hesitation.

    “We are and we aren’t.”


  39. The Curse
    157 words

    My brother Frederic used to be a loner. He wasn’t looking bad – he was just shy. He rather stayed at the hotel to read than going out with me.
    This changed when we got off the plane in Syria. A beautiful girl was there to get us to our hotel. Frederic was as smitten with her as she with him. On the fifth night, he asked Sariya to marry him. She looked at him with big sorrowful eyes.
    Sariya told him about her family’s curse. Whenever someone proposed, the family member was catapulted back into the thirteenth century – exactly 13 minutes after the words were spoken. If they touched at that special moment, both would live together happily ever after. Frederic held her hand, ready to change his life. He sneezed at the wrong moment, and Sariya was gone.
    Frederic never forgave himself, staring hard at the Krak des Chevaliers, grieving for his lost love.